UN chief says Gaza ceasefire requires halt of Hamas fire, Israeli withdrawal
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon said here Monday that the first step for securing a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip is for Hamas to halt rocket and mortar fire against southern Israel and for the Jewish state to withdraw from the Palestinian enclave, reported Xinhua.
Speaking at the inauguration of the first Arab economic summit, which is started here Monday, Ban underscored the importance of an efficient system at Gaza border crossings to allow the inflow of aid, and the need for Palestinians to reconcile and form a united government under President Mahmoud Abbas.
He also called on Arab states to unite because Gaza, which is now in ruins following three weeks of massive Israeli barrage, could not be reconstructed without this.
Ban expressed his "strong feeling of grief" over the situation in Gaza, saying he looked to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to continue efforts toward the implementation of a permanent ceasefire.
Mubarak presented on Jan. 6 a three-point proposal calling for an immediate ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to reach Gaza and give Egypt time to continue its efforts to help reach a lasting truce between the conflicting sides.
Ban's remarks came in the day when Israeli soldiers and Gaza militants violated the fragile ceasefire that the two sides had just unilaterally declared.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Saturday evening declared a unilateral ceasefire in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. On Sunday, exiled deputy chief of Hamas' politburo Mussa Abu Marzouk announced a one-week ceasefire in the Gaza Strip to allow Israeli soldiers to withdraw.
Meanwhile, Ban said the UN was committed to development in the Arab world, noting the UN was in a position to assist the Arab world as partner in peace and development.
He highlighted that Arab countries enjoy great human and financial resources that would be beneficial to economies of the region if rallied.
The Arab world needs to secure regional integration, water resources, cooperation in development, invest in human capital, boost the participation of the private sector and civil societies, and grant greater public access to information and technology, he added.
The UN chief had been promoting a ceasefire since Israel launched its air offensive on Dec. 27 and embarked on a week-long extensive tour of Middle East on Wednesday to press for Israel and Hamas to accept UN resolution 1860.