Vienna, 4 January 2009 Press release

Spindelegger: "Quick ceasefire and protection of the civilian population is indispensable"

Foreign Minister on the situation in the Gaza Strip

Vienna, 4 January 2009 - "I am deeply worried that Israel and Hamas have not so far followed the calls by the EU and the entire international community for an immediate end of the armed clashes, and that the military situation is even further escalating", said Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger today. "This conflict cannot be solved by military means“ said the Foreign Minister on the Israeli ground offensive launched yesterday in the Gaza Strip. "The only possible solution is a ceasefire and negotiations. All efforts must urgently focus on a political solution."

Spindelegger added: "I appeal to both sides to guarantee the security of the civilian population in compliance with international humanitarian law. We take Israel’s announcement at its word that it will allow the further continuation of the humanitarian supply of the suffering population with food, heating oil, and fuel in the Gaza Strip."

The current development threatens the stability of the entire region, stressed the Foreign Minister. "The conflict parties must show the willingness for a comprehensive political solution of this conflict. An immediate ceasefire and a quick return to the negotiating table are necessary to replace the language of violence with the language of politics and diplomacy."

The Foreign Minister emphasized that Austria is, of course, also participating in all initiatives by the UN Security Council aimed at achieving a comprehensive ceasefire. Spindelegger reminded that the members of the Security Council had already urged the conflict parties on 28 December to immediately cease all military activities. "Unfortunately, the Security Council did not yet reach an agreement yesterday on a renewed declaration on the situation in the Gaza Strip. The discussions, however, have shown that there is a broad consensus within the Council about what the next steps must be: an immediate, lasting ceasefire respected by all sides, free access for humanitarian aid, protection of the civilian population, full support for the ongoing regional and international diplomatic efforts, and a return to negotiations over a lasting peaceful solution. These are the positions that Austria backed in the Security Council and will continue to support", the Foreign Minister concluded.

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