Ramaphosa lobbies Brics allies to take steps to end Middle East conflict
President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged Brics leaders to use the voice of the global south to agree on "urgent and concrete actions to end the suffering in Gaza" and establish a path towards a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict in the Middle East.
“The actions by Israel are in clear violation of international law, including the UN Charter and the Geneva Convention read together with its protocols. Let this meeting stand as a clarion call for us to combine our efforts and strengthen our actions to end this historical injustice,” he said.
Ramaphosa, who is Brics chair, was delivering opening remarks during an emergency virtual Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa extraordinary joint meeting on the humanitarian catastrophe taking place in Gaza on Tuesday.
The Brics bloc leaders were joined by leaders from new member states including Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. UN secretary-general António Guterres was also in attendance.
The meeting takes place as MPs vote in an EFF-sponsored motion in parliament to have the Israeli embassy in Pretoria closed and for the government to sever all ties with Tel Aviv. The motion was debated in the National Assembly last week.
The vote comes after Israel announced on Monday night that Israeli's ambassador to South Africa Eliav Belotserkovsky had been recalled for consultations, further deepening the strained relations between Tel Aviv and Pretoria.
Ramaphosa said since October 7 when more than 1,200 people were killed in an attack by Hamas on Israel, the world has borne witness to the devastating killing of thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza, many of whom are women and children. Over 11,000 residents of Gaza have been killed.
“Thousands more have been injured. Infrastructure, homes, hospitals and other public facilities have been destroyed. More than half of Gaza’s population has been displaced. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been affected by this violence in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank,” he said.
“In its attacks on civilians and by taking hostages, Hamas has also violated international law and must be held accountable for these actions. The collective punishment of Palestinian civilians through the unlawful use of force by Israel is a war crime.”
The root cause of this conflict is the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel as reflected in UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which states that Israeli settlements constitute a flagrant violation under international lawPresident Cyril Ramaphosa
He slammed the deliberate denial of medicine, fuel, food and water to the residents of Gaza, saying it was "tantamount to genocide" and said the atrocities witnessed are the latest chapter in a painful history of suffering, oppression, occupation and conflict going back more than 75 years.
“The root cause of this conflict is the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel as reflected in UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which states that Israeli settlements constitute a flagrant violation under international law.”
He reminded the international community that South Africa is calling for:
- an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire;
- the opening of humanitarian corridors so that aid and other basic services reach all those in need;
- all countries to exercise restraint and desist from fuelling this conflict, including by ceasing the supply of weapons to the parties;
- the release of all civilian hostages;
- the resumption of a comprehensive dialogue led and owned by Palestinians and Israelis themselves and facilitated by the UN;
- the deployment of a UN Rapid Deployment Force in Palestine with a mandate to monitor the cessation of hostilities and protect civilians; and
- the International Criminal Court to urgently initiate prosecutions against those responsible for the perpetration of war crimes.
As an important voice of the global south, Ramaphosa said South Africa believes that Brics has a “vital role” in a widespread international effort to just and lasting peace.
“As individual countries, we have demonstrated our grave concern at the death and destruction in Gaza. Let us work together to realise a just, peaceful and secure future for the people of both Palestine and Israel.”
Leaders are expected to adopt a joint statement on the situation in the Middle East at the end of the meeting.
Last week South African ambassador in The Hague, Vusi Madonsela, delivered a referral letter which asked the ICC to investigate the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide to hold those responsible accountable.
Pretoria has been vocal in its support for the people of Palestine and in calling for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be investigated for war crimes.
On November 1, the cabinet decided to recall its diplomats from Israel for engagement.
This was followed by a démarche against Belotserkovsky by the international relations and co-operation department over his conduct relating to the war, said the government at the time.
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