Violations of international law an affront to our common humanity: SA President Ramaphosa

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Johannesburg: The violations of international law in the Israel-Gaza conflict are an affront to common humanity, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has said, calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

Speaking at the Cairo Summit for Peace that was hosted in the Egyptian capital at the weekend, Ramaphosa also called for the lifting of the siege of Gaza and the opening of a humanitarian corridor.

Invited by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Ramaphosa shared the platform with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and several heads of state.

“As South Africa, we hold the firm view that the attack on civilians in Israel, the ongoing siege of Gaza and the decision to forcibly move the people of Gaza, together with the indiscriminate use of force through bombing, are violations of international law. More than that, these acts are an affront to our common humanity,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa thanked Sisi for convening the summit, aimed at seeking a resolution to the ongoing Middle Eastern strife, but the gathering failed to reach any conclusion on easing the tensions in the region.

While Arab and Muslim states participating called for an immediate cessation of Israel’s offensive in its attempts to eliminate Hamas, Western countries largely concentrated their contributions on arranging relief aid for Palestinians.

Ramaphosa said that those at the summit had gathered there united by their deep concern at the unprecedented conflict that has engulfed Gaza and Israel and “our distress at the depth and extent of human suffering.”

“We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the release of hostages, the lifting of the siege of Gaza, the opening of humanitarian corridors and the urgent provision of humanitarian aid on the required scale to the people of Gaza. We also call for a United Nations-led negotiation process towards resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The international community has a responsibility and a duty to support peace and to create favourable conditions for negotiation and dialogue,” Ramaphosa said.

The president drew parallels to the decades of apartheid minority white rule that ended with the release of Nelson Mandela after 27 years as a political prisoner to become South Africa’s first democratically-elected President in 1994.

“As South Africans, we can relate to what is happening to Palestinians. Our people waged a brave and courageous struggle to achieve their freedom and were subjected to untold suffering, just like the Palestinians are going through. The nightmare of apartheid was only brought to an end by the relentless struggle of our people and the courage and foresight of leaders who put aside their differences and sought peace rather than revenge,” Ramaphosa said

He also called on all countries supplying weapons to either side in the conflict to stop doing so, without naming any countries.

“To achieve (peace between Israel and Palestine) steps must be taken now. We therefore call on all parties to exercise restraint and on all state actors to desist from providing weapons to either of the sides to the conflict,” he said.

Ramaphosa confirmed South Africa’s view that the only way to bring about peace was the fulfilment of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for human rights, dignity and statehood.

“We are concerned that the response of the Israeli government to the attack on its citizens will further deepen a conflict that has engulfed the region for many decades and will make the attainment of a just and lasting peace even more difficult. We are also concerned that this conflict can spread to include other countries in the region. This must be avoided at all costs,” the president said.

“Only through a negotiated settlement supported by the international community can the people of Israel achieve the security they seek and the people of Palestine realise the freedom they deserve,” Ramaphosa declared, adding that this was in line with the decisions that have been taken by the United Nations, that guarantees statehood for both Israel and Palestine based on the 1967 borders.

Ramaphosa said that as the international community, “we must call for a ceasefire, find a sustainable solution to this conflict and stand on the side of peace, justice and human rights for all”.

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