x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

GCC urges UN to take action

Leaders of the GCC nations urge UN to "assume their responsibility" towards Gaza by calling on Israel to stop its attacks.

Muscat // Leaders of the GCC nations said yesterday that they would urge five permanent members of the UN General Assembly to "assume their responsibility" towards Gaza by calling on Israel to stop its attacks. The call came as Israel's military continued to pound the Gaza Strip for the fourth successive day, bringing the death toll since Saturday to more than 380. "Moves and contacts have already taken place in the past few days," said Abdulrahman al Attiyah, the GCC's secretary general, after the closing ceremony of the 29th summit. "There is work that is already taking shape." Gulf officials said Arab leaders were resolving their differences about the agenda of a planned Arab League summit in Qatar on Friday.

"The summit should be held under these circumstances," Mr al Attiyah said. "I think that we, as Arab states, should do our duty to help our brothers in Gaza avoid this situation." Yusuf bin Alawi Abdallah, the Omani foreign minister, confirmed that the sultanate would attend the pan-Arab gathering. "This is a very sensitive crisis and there are several efforts being exerted for the sake of achieving peace," he said. "Pressure is being exerted jointly [to stop Israeli attacks], but that doesn't mean there are no differences." Arab foreign ministers meet today in Cairo to draft a joint statement on the developments in Gaza.

The closing statement of the GCC's two-day summit said: "Israel is requested to stop its practice of arrogant power and mutilating the unarmed Palestinian people, and lifting the oppressive blockade." The heads of states "strongly denounce the flagrant Israeli aggression and hold Israel responsible for pushing the situation to this dangerous level as a result of its arrogant policies". GCC leaders also called on the international community to "to immediately move to stop the massacres and aggression by the Israeli killing machine and provide the proper protection for the Palestinian people".

They expressed their hope that Barack Obama, the US president-elect, would give "high priority" to the Palestinian question and peace process in a "way that leads to meeting commitments and promises to establish a Palestinian state ? and comprehensive and fair peace in the Middle East." Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, said: "The Palestinians have been left without any help or international assistance and I think that, as Arab states, it is our duty to come to their aid. It is also the duty of the Organisation of Islamic Countries to play the same role supporting the Palestinians as the GCC is playing."

The statement emphasised a need for Palestinian accord: "Palestinian unity is the shield that protects the Palestinian people." Hamas, which won a landslide victory in the 2006 parliamentary elections, wrested control of Gaza from its rival Fatah 18 months ago. Efforts to bring feuding Palestinian factions to reconciliation talks have repeatedly failed. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the second-largest Palestinian Islamic militant group, this week rejected calls by the Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to take part in these talks.

Gulf officials have been outspoken about the need for harmony among Palestinian groups if peace efforts were to be fruitful. "We all feel we haven't done enough," Mr Abdallah, the Omani foreign minister, said yesterday. "But we call for those sensible, especially the Palestinians to look for the best means to snatch their right from the occupation and to also move above the complexities of the Palestinian politics."

Commenting on mounting criticism to Egypt's reaction to Gaza's plight, Mr Abdullah said the heads of the GCC nations were confident that Egypt was taking the right steps. "Egypt is the cane the Arabs lean against," he said. "The role of the GCC countries is to support Egypt, especially with regard to Gaza." Egypt and Mr Abbas have called for a renewal of six-month ceasefire that expired just days before the attacks began on Saturday.

Hizbollah, the Lebanese shia organisation, slammed the Egyptian government for closing its borders with Gaza, and called on the Egyptian people to revolt against their leaders. hmahmoud@thenational.ae