Firing has halted in the Gaza Strip. The heavy fighting of the last four weeks claimed countless victims. Now, with mediation provided by Egypt, the two parties to the conflict have agreed on a three day ceasefire. It came into effect on Tuesday morning. Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier welcomes the agreement and expresses the hope that it can be extended into a long term truce, saying the “interminable suffering of the civilian population” needs to be brought to an end at long last.
There have been a number of attempts to put a stop to the bloodshed in recent weeks. Now, with the ceasefire agreed with Egyptian mediation into its second day, it seems the guns are staying silent.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier declared his great respect for everyone who helped bring about the truce, “especially the Egyptian Government”.
An end to the civilian suffering
Speaking on Tuesday (5 August), Steinmeier said he welcomed “the parties’ eventual agreement on a ceasefire for Gaza, which it seems is actually being upheld now too”. He continued:
I hope it can be successfully extended into a more long term ceasefire, to bring the interminable suffering of the civilian population to an end at long last. The images of the many children killed and injured should be a wake up call for everyone. The parties now need to create the right conditions to prevent a prompt repeat of this tragedy.
Steinmeier specified that the ceasefire needed to involve making urgently needed medical and humanitarian assistance available to the people in Gaza. He also emphasised the importance of swiftly launching talks on a “lasting armistice”. This would involve, he said, ending the threat posed to Israel by Hamas’ missiles and tunnels, and the people in Gaza had to “finally” be given “the prospect of a better life”.
The courage to change the status quo
Brought about through mediation by Egypt, “indirect negotiations” between the Israeli and Palestinian delegations are currently under way in Cairo.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier has called on the conflict parties to show the requisite courage and readiness “to change the status quo”. The international community, he said, was standing by to play its part.
The German Foreign Minister had previously called for a comprehensive solution for the Gaza Strip, in an article published in the Welt am Sonntag newspaper last Sunday (3 August). He wrote that this was what it would take to achieve a lasting cessation of hostilities. Steinmeier also described how living conditions for the people of the Gaza Strip could be improved, making the following declaration:
One feature of this could be an opening of border crossings, under international monitoring in order to prevent the smuggling of weapons. My French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, and I have proposed reactivating the EU border mission, EUBAM Rafah.
In closing, Foreign Minister Steinmeier underlined the essential need for a “legitimate and trustworthy partner” on the Palestinian side. This role, he said, must once again be taken on by the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas.