Guterres appeals for “maximum restraint” in the Middle East

Guterres appeals for “maximum restraint” in the Middle East

Shafaq News/ UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed the urgency of supporting efforts for lasting peace in the Middle East amid recent escalations, highlighting the importance of establishing a “fully independent, viable, and sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel” during his address to the Security Council on Thursday.

“Failure to make progress towards a two-state solution will only increase volatility and risk for hundreds of millions of people across the region, who will continue to live under the constant threat of violence,” he said.

With the Middle East “on a precipice,” he appealed for maximum restraint, warning against the far-reaching consequences.

“One miscalculation, one miscommunication, one mistake, could lead to the unthinkable – a full-scale regional conflict that would be devastating for all involved – and for the rest of the world,” he said.

Guterres reiterated his “strong condemnation” for Iran’s large-scale attack on Israel on Saturday and an earlier assault on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which Tehran attributed to Israel, saying, “It is high time to end the bloody cycle of retaliation.”

Stressing that the international community must work together to prevent any actions that could push the entire Middle East over the edge, he highlighted the need for diplomacy that would lead to de-escalation, starting with Gaza.

“Ending the hostilities in Gaza would significantly defuse tensions across the region,” Guterres said, repeating his calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the immediate release of all hostages held in the enclave.

“The horrific terror attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups on 7 October, including mass killings, the use of sexual violence, torture, and the taking of hostages, were an intolerable denial of the most basic values of humanity and a breach of the most fundamental rules of international law,” he added.

Meanwhile, nearly seven months of Israeli military operations in Gaza have created a humanitarian crisis; tens of thousands have been killed, including more than 13,800 children, and two million Palestinians are now living under the threat of famine.

Guterres pointed out that Israel recently “made several commitments” to improve aid delivery, Yet “apparent progress in one area is often canceled out by delays and restrictions elsewhere,” meaning that “the impact is limited, and sometimes nil.”

The Secretary-General called for “a quantum leap in humanitarian aid” to avert imminent famine in Gaza and further preventable deaths from the disease.

“Delivering aid at scale requires Israel’s full and active facilitation of humanitarian operations, including through a functioning humanitarian notification system – and improved and direct communications between humanitarians and military decision-makers on the ground,” he said.

Regarding the violence in the occupied West Bank, Guterres highlighted “the explosive situation” with “more than 450 Palestinians, including 112 children, have been killed since 7 October.”

Guterres urged Israel to “take immediate steps to end the unprecedented levels of settler violence, hold perpetrators to account, and protect the Palestinian population from attacks, violence and intimidation.”

Regarding the situation in Lebanon, the Secretary-General said that efforts towards regional de-escalation must also address the “extremely fraught situation in Lebanon,” particularly along the Blue Line, which marks the frontier between south Lebanon and northern Israel.

“Exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Hezbollah are exacting a mounting toll on civilian communities in Israel and Lebanon. Dozens of civilians have been killed and tens of thousands displaced on both sides of the Blue Line,” he said, appealing for restraint.

He also drew attention to the crisis in the Red Sea, where Houthi in Yemen continue to attack merchant and commercial ships, disrupting global trade.

“Armed confrontations on this crucial waterway increase risks across the board: risks to supply chains; risks of an environmental disaster from a damaged cargo ship or oil tanker; risks of a serious escalation and a confrontation between major powers, with appalling political, security, economic and humanitarian repercussions,” he said.

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