NZ backs efforts for Middle East crisis

  • Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Prime Minister Helen Clark said today that New Zealand was strongly supporting the efforts of the UN Secretary General to bring about an immediate ceasefire to the conflict in the Middle East and to negotiate and implement a solution to the crisis.

Helen Clark said that New Zealand had made its position clear on the conflict in the Middle East in the statement delivered to the UN Security Council at the weekend.

“Together with the great majority of the 43 countries who addressed the Security Council, New Zealand called on all sides to pull back from violence, observe international law and allow international facilitators and mediators a chance to put a peace process together.”

Helen Clark said the government had also condemned the killing and detention of Israeli soldiers by the military wing of Hamas and by Hezbollah, and called for the immediate release unharmed of those soldiers being held.

“New Zealand has also asked for Hezbollah to stop its rocket attacks on Israel, and for states with influence over Hamas and Hezbollah to act for restraint in the interests of the wider international community.

“The message to Hamas and Hezbollah must be that confrontation and violence are destroying the prospects for a peace settlement in the Middle East.”

Helen Clark said that New Zealand cannot accept that Israel has reacted with due proportionality or caution.

“Israel’s attacks on the Occupied Palestinian Territories and on Lebanon, targeting militants and infrastructure, have also destroyed housing and caused hundreds of casualties, most of them of civilians. It is causing further suffering through the denial of the basic necessities of life and forced displacement affecting hundreds of thousands of people in Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“Israel must heed the many calls to restrain itself and allow full and immediate access to relief efforts. It must release officials of the Palestinian Authority whom it has detained.”

Helen Clark said that New Zealand’s statement said there has been an ongoing failure to address and resolve the root causes of the conflict in the Middle East.

“New Zealand deplores the message of extremism which has resonated where injustice, deprivation, fear and hopelessness reign. That philosophy is very dangerous for the Middle East region and the rest of the world.”

Helen Clark said that as of 1pm Monday (New Zealand time) a total of 78 New Zealanders had left Lebanon – 73 to Cyprus, two to Turkey, and three through Israel.

“As of this afternoon, there are 45 New Zealanders in Cyprus of whom twenty are expected to leave on Australian charter flights in the next 24 hours. Others have made alternative arrangements.

“Twelve New Zealanders departed on an Australian charter flight which is due to arrive in Sydney at 8pm (NZ time) tonight.

“We know of 40 New Zealanders still in Lebanon, of whom nine wish to leave. We are advising those wanting to depart to go to the port for embarkation as soon as possible. MFAT staff have been brought together from London, Rome, Ankara, and Berlin to Cyprus to help arrange accommodation and onward transportation for New Zealanders.”

Helen Clark said New Zealand provides core funding for four United Nations humanitarian agencies working variously in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Lebanon: UNICEF, the World Food Programme, the Office for The Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

“New Zealand will be contributing $500,000 to the OCHA flash appeal being launched in New York today, and will also be lifting its annual allocation to UNRWA from $300,000 to $1 million from the 2006-07 financial year.

“We are acutely aware of the very serious humanitarian situation in the areas affected by this crisis,” Helen Clark said.