Vienna, 20 November 2008 Press release

Plassnik on Gaza: "Halt the spiral of violence"

Foreign Minister on the situation in Gaza

Vienna, 20 November 2008 - Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik expressed great concern over the latest developments in and around the Gaza Strip: "This is not the time to flare up violence. This could all too quickly lead to a spiral of violence and counter-violence. This does not serve the Palestinian desire for a better life and an independent state, or the desire of the Israelis for security."

"The closure of the border crossings leading to the Gaza Strip is not a suitable response. Once again, this primarily affects civilians. This is certainly not the way to win people over for peace missions in the Middle East", said Plassnik, expressing her regret over the announcement of the Israeli Defence Minister that he would not follow the call by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to open the borders for humanitarian supplies.

In view of the dire humanitarian situation of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Israel is called upon to do everything to ensure the supply of an already long-suffering population. "At the same time, the Palestinian side must do everything to put a permanent end to rocket attacks on Israel out of Gaza. The right of the Israeli people to a life in peace and security without permanent threat from rocket attacks must be guaranteed."

"Both sides are responsible for complying with the ceasefire which was tediously negotiated by Egypt and for not allowing the situation to escalate. It cannot be that the civilian population suffers the most from broken promises. Especially in a delicate transition phase in the peace process, one cannot abandon the field to extremists and hawks. What is needed now is a cool head and far-sightedness. The chance for peace that everyone is longing for in the Middle East must not be carelessly put at risk", the Foreign Minister concluded.

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