In view of the continuing violence in the Gaza Strip, Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, following telephone conversations with his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, today (30 December) called Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak and the foreign ministers of Egypt and Syria, Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Walid Muallim. Prior to this, he held a lengthy conversation with his French opposite number Bernard Kouchner to prepare today's meeting of foreign ministers in Paris.
During all these conversations Minister Steinmeier expressed his concern that a further escalation might not only jeopardize all progress achieved in the Annapolis process but also lead to the constructive interlocutors on the Arab side to lose faith in that process, thus blocking the route to a peaceful solution for years to come. In the current critical situation it was therefore vital, he said, to find ways of breaking out of the spiral of violence.
With this in mind, Minister Steinmeier's talks were aimed at ascertaining whether or not a humanitarian cease-fire was possible. This would not only make it easier to get the urgently-needed relief supplies to the people in Gaza, but also provide a breathing-space to allow diplomatic efforts towards a permanent cease-fire.
In view of the suffering caused and the ongoing, precarious situation, Minister Steinmeier also decided today to make available to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) a further two million euro in German humanitarian aid. The ICRC is currently focusing on support for hospitals in the Gaza Strip and on evacuating the most seriously injured.
The total amount of German humanitarian aid has thus increased to 11 million euro. At the end of November the Federal Foreign Office provided one million euro in emergency aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to supply the people in Gaza with the bare necessities. Next year the Federal Government will step up its support to UNRWA to 8 million euro.