9 Jan 2009

Clark calls for more action to stop Gaza bloodshed

3:04 pm on 9 January 2009

The Government is not doing enough to end the violence in the Gaza Strip, former prime minister Helen Clark says.

Western powers and Arab states reached agreement on Thursday on a draft United Nations Security Council resolution that would call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, Arab and Western diplomats said.

More than 750 Palestinians and 11 Israelis have been killed since the offensive began on 27 December aimed at halting rocket attacks from Hamas militants on southern Israel.

The hostilities are creating enormous difficulties for aid agencies. A spokesperson for UN relief agency UNRWA says its operations in Gaza have been suspended until the Israeli authorities can guarantee their safety and security.

Miss Clark, the Labour Party's spokesperson on foreign affairs, said the Security Council is "fiddling while Gaza burns".

She told Radio New Zealand on Friday that Gaza is in terrible trouble while the world argues about what to do.

"There's a terrible feeling we all get watching the news that the Security Council is fiddling while Gaza burns and the humanitarian stress on the people there is simply unbearable."

Miss Clark says the National-led Government should be working harder to find a solution.

"I think the Govenment needs to be much more forceful in saying that the violence has to end, the UN has to act and everybody has to get in behind that," she said.

"There's no question that a Security Council resolution would be a very powerful tool, a very strong signal to Israel and to Hamas that they have to stop."

Miss Clark said a ceasefire would be a clear signal to Israel that it needs to modify its behaviour.

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said New Zealand is not a significant player in Middle Eastern politics but the Government is doing all it can.

He says the Government has been working with other countries and using what influence it has at the UN to push for a ceasefire to be put in place as soon as possible.