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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
6 November 2006

Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked the Security Council to intervene and bring an end to the escalating Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Gaza Strip, pushing for a ceasefire and requesting the presence of United Nations observers on the Gaza-Israel border, correspondents were told today at a Headquarters press conference.

Riyad Mansour, the Permanent Observer of Palestine, said the Abbas request to the Council was part of a flurry of international activity initiated by Palestinian and Arab politicians from Cairo to New York, to halt the fighting on the Gaza Strip, where more than 50 Palestinians have been killed and 250 have been injured in the last five days.

Mr. Mansour said a letter from Secretary-General Kofi Annan released on 3 November, which called for Israel to refrain from further escalation of hostilities and urged Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets at Israeli targets, “was a step in the right direction” but that more effective action was needed.  “It is the Security Council’s job to rouse up to its responsibility and adopt something to respond to the situation,” he added.

In addition, he said, intense negotiations to conclude the formation of a National Unity Government in Gaza were close to bearing fruit.  An agreement to have an independent technocrat selected to the post of Prime Minister, and mutually endorsed by Hamas and Fatah forces, was under consideration to replace Ismail Haniyeh, the current Prime Minister.  The Cabinet would also be made up by technocrats from Hamas, Fatah and other groups.

In response to a correspondent’s question as to how the ongoing conflict affected internal negotiations to form a Unity Government in Gaza, he said it was difficult to solidify negotiations for a Unity Government during the aggression from Israel.  Whenever the Palestinians get close to reaching an agreement, he said, extremist elements within the Israeli Government intensify their activities, which in turn get a reaction from extreme sectors within Palestine, he added.

“It would seem that they [ Israel] don’t want the Palestinians to get their home in order”, he said.

Answering a correspondent’s question as to whether he expected the Security Council to adopt a resolution to end the fighting, he said there was no resolution before the Security Council, only an idea that was being floated.  But, that he was very hopeful that it would be taken up by the Security Council.

Such action would be “the radical solution” to end repeated Israeli claims that they were continuing their offensive because Palestinian rocket fire kept hitting Israeli civilian areas, he noted.

According to Council procedures, he said, consultations would have to be held on the ceasefire idea, serious negotiations would be undertaken, and those would then be reflected in a draft resolution.

In addition to the request made before the Security Council, Mr. Mansour said, a draft resolution adopted unanimously by the Council of Arab Ambassadors would be introduced for a vote in the Special Political and Decolonization Committee in the General Assembly.  The Arab Council had also endorsed the call for intervention from the Security Council, he added.

In response to a question that Israel claims that weapons smuggling was continuing from Egypt to Gaza, he said those claims “were a pretext, and not a serious position”.  He said both sides needed to engage in political negotiations to find an end to the conflict.  “The situation is not better for Israel or Gaza,” he insisted.  “Only through negotiation can we get into a new situation.”

Asked to define the type of force he would envision to be assigned to the Israel-Gaza border, he said the specifics would have to be determined in the future, but that the idea of such a force had first been mentioned by Italian peacekeepers in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  The Italians expressed their willingness to participate in such a force, if the Security Council agreed to set up such a force between Gaza and Israel.  If it worked for Lebanon, it could very possibly work for Gaza-Israel.

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For information media • not an official record

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