Gaza conference begins in Cairo, focuses on long-term solutions

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi inaugurated the two-day donor conference held in Cairo for the restructuring of Gaza on Sunday. In their opening remarks, participants agreed that a political vision is necessary for a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to ensure the sustainability of the restructuring of Gaza.

Attendees included Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

In his opening remarks, Sisi recounted Egypt’s efforts in mediating a cease-fire that came into effect on August 27, ending a six-week offensive on Gaza that left the city in ruins.

The casualties in Gaza are estimated at over 2,000, in addition to over 60,000 homes destroyed and severe damage to the city’s infrastructure that survived the third severe offensive in six years.

Sisi said that the Palestinian and Israeli sides would renew their talks in Cairo later this month to ensure the continuation of the cease-fire. He said that the conference should aim to reach two goals: a permanent peace and the empowering of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.

Gaza has been under the control of the Islamist group Hamas since it won elections in 2006. Hamas and other Palestinian factions, which attended the negotiations in Cairo throughout the recent war, were absent in today’s talks.

Sisi warned of these factions, calling for the empowerment of the Palestinian National Authority, which is currently in control of the West Bank, in Gaza.

“Depriving Palestinians of their rights has always created a pretext for those who pretend to defend them to plant the seeds of animosity and division, and to impose their will on the Palestinian people, pretending to support them to reach their own ambitions. We have to work to eliminate opportunities for those who use the suffering of the Palestinian people for their own interests,” Sisi said.

Egypt has accused Hamas of carrying out and aiding terrorist attacks in Egypt throughout the last year. Hamas engaged with Israeli forces on the ground during the last offensive.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the recent offensive on Gaza is an unspeakable atrocity and demanded accountability for those responsible. Abbas addressed the bigger Palestinian issue, reiterating that it is time for the Palestinian people to regain their independence and their rights.

Ban said in his opening speech that the root causes of the hostilities have to be remembered, stating that they include the occupation, which has lasted for over half a century, the denial of Palestinian rights and the halt in peace talks.

He called on the Israeli side to lift the blockade on Gaza, and on both sides to work toward a two-state solution.

Kerry pointed to Israel’s cooperation in allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza, reiterating the point that a permanent solution, rather than just rebuilding, is necessary.

Kerry said that this was the third time that the world gets involved in reconstruction efforts in Gaza following a war, and that if a permanent solution is not reached, Gaza would be back in the same place soon.

He also asserted that the US is committed to return to the negotiation table and work toward a long-term solution. He added that the US would grant US$212 million aid for the restructuring efforts.

Ashton stated that some minor emergency measures can be taken to ease the suffering of the Palestinian people, like supporting the electricity sector. She called on Israel to support these efforts and work toward a two-state solution.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby reminded the states present of their responsibility towards Palestine, as a country under occupation, calling Israel the last spot of occupation and racism in the world.

He demanded the international community take a clear stance toward a fair peace settlement that gives Palestine an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital. 

The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Borge Brende stated on Sunday that the conference succeeded in collecting US$5.4 billion, according to Al-Ahram.

In a presser with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry and deputy head of the Palestinian government Mohamed Mostafa, Brende added that the conference is an important step for the people of Gaza and will push forward peace negotiations. The Norwegian government called upon Palestinians and Israelis to seek peace and prosperity.  

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