|FOREIGN SECRETARY STATEMENT ON SITUATION IN GAZA AND SOUTHERN ISRAEL (02/03/08)|
The significant rise this week in the number of rocket attacks into Israel, and the Israeli response, have resulted in numerous civilian casualties. These represent a rising toll of human misery in a region where too much blood has already been spilt, and where a fragile political process - itself the only hope for peace - needs to be supported by change on the ground, not undermined by it.
I condemn the rocket attacks against Israel. These are terrorist acts. They should be seen for what they are - an attempt to break the political process by breaking the will of those committed to peace. That cannot be allowed to happen. All sides in the conflict, and the international community, need to judge their actions by the need to keep the political process alive.
I support the UN Secretary General's call for all parties to step back from the brink of even deeper and more deadly clashes.
Israel's right to security and self-defence is clear and must be reiterated and supported. But measures taken in response to rockets must be in accordance with international law, minimising the suffering for innocent civilians, and maximising the scope for political negotiations to be restarted.
The leadership of the Palestinian Authority need support in their search for peace. I support their work to re-establish control of the Gaza crossings. But I am deeply concerned by the news they have decided to call a halt to negotiations with the Israeli government. These discussions, and swift progress in them, represent the only way of disarming the arguments of the extremists and bringing peace to the region.