China's UN envoy calls for cease-fire in Middle East conflict

2023-10-25 Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

China's top envoy to the United Nations on Tuesday called for "a comprehensive ceasefire" between Palestine and Israel and urged Israel to abide international law.

"A comprehensive cease-fire must be pursued above all else. A cease-fire must be achieved without delay," Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, said Tuesday at a UN Security Council briefing on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

"It must be pointed out that allowing the fighting in Gaza to drag on and escalate for whatever justification will not result in a complete military victory for either side, but will most likely result in a catastrophe that will engulf the entire region, completely dash the prospects for a two-state solution, and plunge the Palestinian and Israeli peoples into a perpetual vicious cycle of hatred and confrontation," Zhang said.

"Countries should uphold the moral conscience, rather than clinging on to geopolitical calculations, let alone double standards," he added.

Zhang emphasized that preventing a greater humanitarian catastrophe must be the top priority among all ongoing efforts.

Since Saturday, a total of 54 trucks of aid started to go through the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Before the conflict, the UNRWA said Gaza received 500 trucks every day with commercial and humanitarian goods, including 45 trucks of fuel.

"The red line of international humanitarian law regarding the protection of civilians must be upheld. The civilian casualties resulting from the latest round of conflict are appalling. Life and conscience seem so pale in the face of frequent indiscriminate attacks," Zhang said.

"China calls for diplomatic efforts for the immediate release of hostages. At the same time, it should be pointed out that the indiscriminate use of force is unacceptable, that civilian facilities such as hospitals and schools should not and must not be the targets of military operations, and that the safety of UN staff and humanitarian and medical workers must be guaranteed," he said.

Zhang said China opposed the forced displacement and relocation of the population in Gaza. "We urge Israel to comply with its obligations under international humanitarian law and to immediately rescind the emergency evacuation order for northern Gaza," the envoy said.

"Fairness and justice must be upheld. The root cause of the conflict lies in the prolonged illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, the long-standing neglect of the Palestinian people's right to independent statehood, and the lack of effective protection for their basic rights," he said.

Zhang reiterated that the fundamental approach to addressing the conflict is "the implementation of the two-state solution and the realization of peaceful coexistence between Palestine and Israel".

"China has been working tirelessly to promote the cessation of hostilities and the restoration of peace. We have been maintaining close communication with the parties concerned and playing a responsible and constructive role in realizing a cease-fire, protecting civilians, and averting a greater humanitarian catastrophe," said Zhang.

"China has no self-interest on the question of Palestine," he said. "Any initiative that contributes to peace will receive China's staunch support. Any endeavor that facilitates Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation will be pursued by China with all-out efforts."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pleaded on Tuesday for civilians to be protected in the conflict.

"It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum," Guterres said.

"The grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people," he said.

"Protecting civilians does not mean ordering more than 1 million people to evacuate to the south, where there is no shelter, no food, no water, no medicine and no fuel, and then continuing to bomb the south itself," Guterres said.

"I am deeply concerned about the clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing in Gaza," he added.

The death toll of Palestinians from Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip is now at 5,791, with 16,297 Palestinians wounded in the coastal enclave, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

According to Israeli official sources quoted by the UN, some 1,400 people have been killed in Israel, primarily from the Oct 7 Hamas attacks. More than 200 Israeli and foreign nationals are being held captive in Gaza, the Israeli authorities have said. Hamas so far has released four hostages.

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