Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Statement: UN Secretary General to the Security Council

Relief Web, January 21, 2009 - Following are excerpts from the statement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, delivered by Under-Secretary-General B. Lynn Pascoe on 21 January:
~During my visit yesterday, I saw part of the destruction and suffering caused to this small and densely populated area by more than three weeks of heavy bombardment, shelling and street fighting. This, of course, follows on top of months and years of occupation, conflict and economic deprivation. I was deeply affected by what I saw.
~I went to Gaza to show my respect and concern for the deaths and injuries of so many people, and the thousands of people who lost family and friends. I wanted to send the signal that the United Nations stands with the people who have borne tragedy and disaster, and that we will not abandon them.
~And I visited Sderot, to meet with the civilians of southern Israel who have been exposed to indiscriminate rocket and mortar fire for too long.
~In both places, I underscored the urgent need for international humanitarian law to be fully respected and for civilians to be protected. As I made clear, where civilians have been killed and there are allegations of violations of international humanitarian law, there should be thorough investigations, full explanations and, where it is required, accountability.
~In Gaza, I met with the United Nations staff on the ground who worked bravely, courageously, heroically, during these past weeks. They have made the United Nations proud, and humbled us by their example. I cannot praise and thank them enough, and I pay tribute to the United Nations staff members and contractors who have been killed or injured.
~I also assured the people of Gaza that the United Nations will work urgently and diligently to provide urgent humanitarian assistance and to start a daunting and challenging process of recovery and reconstruction....
~I would like to note here that immediate and increased access to Gaza is key to any humanitarian effort, let alone reconstruction. In my meetings with Israeli leaders, I have insisted on the importance of increased access to the Gaza Strip. I have asked President Mubarak to ensure that Rafah is open for humanitarian material.
~You are all aware of the several incidents of outrageous attacks against United Nations facilities, and heard a briefing here last Thursday on the attack that saw UNRWA's main warehouse burn down, with much urgently required assistance lost. This attack took place the day I was in Israel, and I saw for myself yesterday the still-smouldering ruins of our facilities. From the outset, I have protested the attacks against United Nations facilities in the strongest possible terms, and have called on all combatants to respect the sanctity of United Nations premises. I must inform the Security Council that, when I was in Israel, I was given personal assurances by the Israeli authorities that such attacks would not happen again. Despite this, a mere two days later, there was an attack against a United Nations school that served as a refuge and shelter to those who had nowhere else to hide and two little boys were killed.
~When I met the Israeli leadership on several occasions, I demanded a thorough investigation by Israel into every single one of these incidents. I expect to receive a full explanation of each incident and that those responsible will be held accountable for their actions. Prime Minister Olmert promised to provide me the results of their inquiry on an urgent basis. I will then decide on appropriate follow-up action....

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