World should make immediate Gaza ceasefire a priority – regional foreign ministers

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Washington (Reuters) – There must be an immediate end to the fighting in Gaza but governments worldwide do not seem to see it as a priority, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Friday in Washington, adding that there must also be a credible roadmap to establish a Palestinian state.

At a joint press conference before meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a group of foreign ministers refused to discuss in detail the future of Gaza, saying the focus should remain on stopping the fighting immediately in the Palestinian enclave between Hamas militants and the Israeli military.

“Our message is consistent and clear that we believe that it is absolutely necessary to end the fighting immediately,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said.

“One of the disturbing facts of this conflict is that ending the conflict and the fighting doesn’t seem to be the main priority,” for the world, he said.

Humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza needed to be significantly increased, he said, adding that it is “unacceptable” that aid “is being restricted and has been restricted” because of “bureaucratic obstacles.”

A U.N. Security Council vote on a demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war was delayed by several hours on Friday until after Blinken’s planned meeting with Arab ministers and the foreign minister of Turkey. The Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee comprises ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, Palestinian Authority and Turkey.

The United States – a veto-wielding power on the council – has said it does not currently support further action by the 15-member body on the conflict. The council last month called for pauses in fighting to allow aid access.

The United States and Israel oppose a ceasefire because they believe it would only benefit Hamas. Washington instead supports pauses in fighting to protect civilians and allow the release of hostages taken by Hamas in a deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

In response to the attack, Israel has bombarded Gaza and sent in troops in what it says is an operation to destroy Hamas.

Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Robert Wood told the council that while the United States strongly supports a durable peace in Gaza, “we do not support calls for an immediate ceasefire.”

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told the press conference that if the resolution fails on Friday, it would be giving a license to Israel “to continue with its massacre.”

“Our priority for now is to stop the war, stop the killing, stop the destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure,” he said.

“The message that’s being sent is that Israel is acting above international law … and the world is simply not doing much. We disagree with the United States on its position vis-à-vis on the ceasefire,” he said.

In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for an immediate end to the war in Gaza and said an international peace conference should be called to work out a lasting political solution leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

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