13 Dec 2023

PM Christopher Luxon makes joint call with allies for a pause in Gaza

10:05 am on 13 December 2023
National Party leader Christopher Luxon

PM Christopher Luxon. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The prime ministers of New Zealand, Australia and Canada have issued a joint statement calling for a pause in hostilities in Gaza.

Christopher Luxon, Anthony Albanese and Justin Trudeau said the recent pause in hostilities had allowed for the release of more than 100 hostages and led to more humanitarian aid for civilians.

"We acknowledge the persistent diplomatic efforts of the United States, Qatar, and Egypt to broker this pause, and we regret it could not be extended.

"We want to see this pause resumed and support urgent international efforts towards a sustainable ceasefire. This cannot be one-sided. Hamas must release all hostages, stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields, and lay down its arms."

Otago University international relations professor Robert Patman told Morning Report the statement sent a strong message that showed the three countries saw eye to eye.

He said the US, which is now toughening its language towards Israel, would have been in contact with the governments of New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

Patman said it appeared the US was losing patience with Israel and was on the verge of changing its postion on a ceasefire after vetoing it in the Security Council.

"This is a clear indication that time has run out for the massive bombardment of Gaza," he said.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said while he welcomed the statement, it needed to be stronger.

"I think there's still room for New Zealand to go further," he said.

"I don't think that we should wait for the pre-conditions for a ceasefire to be there before we actually start to argue that we should have a ceasefire. I think we should be doing that now."

He said he had been working towards something similar while Prime Minister.

In the joint statement, the leaders said they mourned the loss of innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives and were alarmed at the "diminishing safe space" for civilians in Gaza.

While recognising Israel's right to exist and to defend itself, the country must respect international humanitarian law, and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, the leaders said.

They unequivocally condemned Hamas' terror attacks on Israel on 7 October, including "the appalling loss of life, and the heinous acts of violence perpetrated in those attacks, including sexual violence".

The prime ministers said they wanted the immediate and unconditional release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas.

They said the price of defeating Hamas could not be the continuous suffering of all Palestinian civilians.

"We remain deeply concerned by the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and ongoing risks to all Palestinian civilians. Safe and unimpeded humanitarian access must be increased and sustained."

The prime ministers also said they recommitted themselves to working with partners toward an enduring peace in the form of a two-state solution "where Israelis and Palestinians can live securely within internationally recognised borders".

The statement comes at the same time as Israel's major ally, the US, warned Israel was losing support from the international community with its indiscriminate bombing of Gaza that has killed thousands of Palestinian civilians.

US President Joe Biden told a campaign fundraising event in Washington: "They're starting to lose that support."

He also said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needed to change his hardline government, Reuters reported.

RNZ / Reuters

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