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U.S. Envoy to United Nations Criticizes Israeli Operations in Gaza
Ambassador Cunningham says Israeli actions do not serve peace, security
Israeli operations in Gaza "have worsened the humanitarian situation and resulted in confrontation between Israeli forces and Palestinians, and have not, we believe, enhanced Israel's security," U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham said May 19.
Speaking after a U.N. Security Council vote on the situation in Gaza, Cunningham said that Israel's operations do not serve the purpose of peace and security.
The United States abstained on a resolution critical of the Gaza operations, which have left thousands homeless and demolished almost 200 homes. The resolution passed by a vote of 14 to 0.
Cunningham said that United States abstained instead of voting for the resolution because the text did not address the problem of terrorists smuggling weapons into Gaza through tunnels in the Rafah refugee camp.
The events in Gaza, the ambassador said, "serve as a grim reminder of the wisdom of Israel disengaging from Gaza."
Following is the text of Cunningham's statement:
USUN PRESS RELEASE # 86 (04)
May 19, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Statement by Ambassador James B. Cunningham, Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations, on the Situation in the Middle East, in the Security Council, May 19, 2004
Thank you, Mr. President.
We deeply regret the loss of life of innocent Palestinian civilians today in Gaza.
While we believe that Israel has the right to act to defend itself and its citizens, we do not see that its operations in Gaza in the last few days serve the purposes of peace and security. They have worsened the humanitarian situation and resulted in confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinians, and have not, we believe, enhanced Israel's security.
We note that the Government of Israel has expressed its "deep regret" for what it called a "tragic event." These events in fact serve as a grim reminder of the wisdom of Israel disengaging from Gaza, and having its security presence replaced by reformed Palestinian security forces that will -- and must -- themselves act to stop smuggling and halt terrorism. The roadmap calls upon the Palestinian Authority to "declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent acts on Israelis anywhere" and to begin "sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and organizations."
We have urged the Israeli government to exercise maximum restraint now. All parties should find a reason to calm the situation.
We intend to consult immediately with the relevant parties, which include Israel, the Palestinians, and the Government of Egypt, about effective ways to move forward against smuggling of arms into Gaza and terrorist activities there, so as to create the best possible conditions on the ground leading toward the disengagement that we continue to favor.
While we are clearly concerned about Israel's operations in Gaza, including the demolition of homes of innocent Palestinians and the deaths of Palestinian civilians, we could not vote in favor of this resolution because we do not believe it addresses sufficiently the context of the recent events in Gaza. It is clear that Palestinian terrorists have been smuggling weapons into Gaza through tunnels in Rafah. It is clear that the Palestinian Authority has not taken serious action to address this threat, or to put an end to terrorist acts as it is obligated to do under the roadmap. Because these issues are not addressed in the resolution, the United States abstained.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)