BRICS has vital role in international efforts to achieve just and lasting peace in Gaza: S African President Ramaphosa

BRICS has vital role in international efforts to achieve just and lasting peace in Gaza: S African President Ramaphosa

Johannesburg, Nov 22 (PTI) South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on the BRICS nations to combine their efforts to bring about a just and lasting peace in the war between Israel and Hamas.

Ramaphosa was addressing a virtual Extraordinary Joint Meeting of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Leaders and Leaders of invited BRICS members on the situation in the Middle East on Tuesday.

He also proposed the deployment of a UN Rapid Deployment Force in Palestine, with a mandate to monitor the cessation of hostilities and protect civilians as well as comprehensive dialogue led and owned by Palestinians and Israelis themselves and facilitated by the United Nations.

Besides leaders of BRICS countries, leaders of the new BRICS partners - Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates - also attended virtually, as did United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“As an important voice of the Global South representing a large part of humanity, we believe that BRICS has a vital role in a widespread international effort to achieve a just and lasting peace,” Ramaphosa said in his opening remarks.

“As individual countries, we have demonstrated our grave concern at the death and destruction in Gaza. Let this meeting stand as a clarion call for us to combine our efforts and strengthen our actions to end this historical injustice. Let us work together to realise a just, peaceful and secure future for the people of both Palestine and Israel,” the president said.

Describing the meeting as one called to “address a matter of grave global concern”, Ramaphosa said that since October 7 when more than 1,200 people were killed in an attack by Hamas on Israel, the world has been witness to the devastating killing of thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza, many of whom are women and children.

“Over 11,000 residents of Gaza have been killed. Many thousands more have been injured. Infrastructure, homes, hospitals and other public facilities have been destroyed. More than half of Gaza’s population has been displaced.

He accused Israel of war crimes.

“The actions by Israel are in clear violation of international law, including the UN Charter and the Geneva Convention, read together with its protocols,” Ramaphosa said, adding that in its attacks on civilians and by taking hostages, Hamas has also violated international law and must be held accountable for these actions.

“(But) the collective punishment of Palestinian civilians through the unlawful use of force by Israel is a war crime. The deliberate denial of medicine, fuel, food and water to the residents of Gaza is tantamount to genocide,' he said.

The atrocities that one has witnessed are the latest chapter in a painful history of suffering, oppression, occupation and conflict going back more than 75 years, Ramaphosa said.

Urging the international community to agree on urgent and concrete actions to end the suffering in Gaza and establish a path towards a just and peaceful resolution of this conflict, Ramaphosa shared other suggestions to achieve this.

“As South Africa, we call for, first, an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire. Second, the opening of humanitarian corridors so that aid and other basic services reach all those in need,” he said.

His comments came hours before Israel's Cabinet approved a temporary cease-fire with the Hamas militant group that is expected to bring the first halt in fighting in a devastating six-week war and win freedom for dozens of hostages held captive in the Gaza Strip.

Ramaphosa also called on countries supplying both sides with arms to stop doing so.

“All countries (have) to exercise restraint and to desist from fuelling this conflict, including by ceasing the supply of weapons to the parties,” he said.

Ramaphosa also called for the release of all civilian hostages, as well as the International Criminal Court to urgently initiate prosecutions against those responsible for the perpetration of war crimes.

He concluded by saying that South Africa appreciated the importance and value of international solidarity.

In a Joint Statement after the meeting, the BRICS leaders called for direct talks between the warring parties to end the conflict.

“We reaffirmed that a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved by peaceful means. The chair joined calls for the international community to support direct negotiations based on international law, including relevant UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, towards a two-state solution, leading to the establishment of a sovereign, independent, and viable state of Palestine.

“We reiterated our strong support for regional and international efforts aimed at achieving an immediate cessation of hostilities, ensuring the protection of civilians, and the provision of humanitarian aid,” the statement said as it endorsed Ramaphosa’s earlier remarks.

In a separate move, the South African Parliament passed a motion to sever diplomatic relations with Israel, until such time as it ceases fire, and commits to UN peace negotiations.

The motion was passed with 248 votes in favour and 91 votes against, with some of those not in favour saying that this move would result in South Africa being precluded from any international efforts to bring about a settlement in the war. PTI FH NSA AKJ NSA NSA

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