Visiting Ban, German FM Westerwelle seeking truce
By GREER FAY CASHMAN
Ban recalled having come to the region in 2009 for much the same reason, and was pained that he had to do so again.
Amid rumors and denials of an impending cease-fire, UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon met on Tuesday night with President Shimon Peres following meetings with
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign
Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Earlier in the day, the secretary-general met
with senior Egyptian officials in Cairo and on Wednesday he plans to meet with
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and with Egyptian President
In welcoming Ban, Peres said that there was no comparison
between the Gazans and the Israelis. While the Gazans target the civilian
population, especially children, Israel is very careful in trying not to hit
civilians. Unfortunately this was not always possible, the president said,
because Hamas hides behind the civilian population in Gaza.
Hamas has no
reason to attack Israel, Peres continued.
Whereas it could once be said
that Gaza was occupied, this is no longer the case, Peres stated. “We left Gaza
willingly and totally [in 2005]. We wish them a quiet and happy life. We don’t
want to see anyone suffer. But to suffer or not to suffer is in their hands, not
Ban recalled having come to the region in 2009 for much the
same reason, and was pained that he had to do so again.
Israel against sending ground forces into the Gaza Strip, saying this would only
escalate the situation and would cause greater tragedy for both Israelis and
“Now is the time for diplomacy and for both sides to reach
an immediate cease-fire and work toward peace and stability in the region,” he
said, declaring his willingness to help in any way possible.
morning, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in a meeting with Peres
confirmed his frequently voiced stance that Israel has the right to defend
“The German people and the German government stand by Israel’s
right to protect and defend itself against missile attacks from Gaza; and Hamas
has the responsibility to stop the missile attacks against Israel,” he
Westerwelle also said something that he has already stated several
times, but believes needs repeating over and over again. There are people who
are under the misconception that the missile attacks started in recent days, he
said, noting that they have been going on not just for days, weeks and months –
but for years.
In response to Peres’s warm words of appreciation for the
position taken by Germany and the international community in general,
Westerwelle said that he was not only speaking as a representative of Germany in
reference to Israel’s right to selfdefense, but for the whole of the European
Union. The foreign ministers of the EU met in Brussels this week, he said, and
issued a clear statement against missile attacks.
“We’re all interested
in a cessation of hostilities,” he said, adding that everyone was working toward
a de-escalation of the situation and doing their utmost toward achieving a
cease-fire – with one precondition: the cessation of the firing of rockets
It is the hope of the international community,
Westerwelle added, that Cairo will use its influence to work on a cease-fire. He
was optimistic that “Egypt knows its responsibility not only in the interests of
the region but in our interests as well.”
Peres repeated several times
during the meeting how much Israel appreciates Germany’s efforts “to bring an
end to an unacceptable attack on civilian life and to renew hope for peace in
the Middle East.”
The president denied that there was any siege on Gaza
other than a blockade against arms and aggressive weapons such as missiles
smuggled from Iran.
Food, building materials and other products can pass
through freely, he said.