Cairo, Egypt – There were over one hundred and fifty people killed, and eight days of brutal rocket attacks and air strikes in retaliation but at 9PM local time in the Middle East there is a cease-fire agreement.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the ceasefire announced today after a week of devastating violence in southern Israel and Gaza, and stressed that it is imperative that both sides stick to it.
“I commend the parties for stepping back from the brink,” Mr. Ban said, as he briefed the Security Council via video-link from Tel Aviv. “Our focus now must be on ensuring the ceasefire holds and that all those in need in Gaza – and there are many – receive the humanitarian assistance that they need.”
Mr. Ban noted that it is a “huge relief” for the people of Gaza and Israel and for the international community that the violence is stopping.
Here is the text of the remarks at the press conference in Cairo with Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) We welcome our guests. Yes. We’ll begin with a talk from Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, then Her Excellency Minister Clinton will address the press.
FOREIGN MINISTER AMR: (Via interpreter) Thank you. A press release, under the auspices of His Excellency President Mohamed Morsi and stemming from Egypt’s historic responsibility towards the Palestinian cause and Egypt’s keenness to stop the bloodshed and preserving the stability of the conditions and security in the region, Egypt has exerted efforts and conducted intensive discussions since the renewed outbreak of hostilities in the Gaza Strip with all parties: the Palestinian leadership, the various resistance factions, the Israeli side, and the international community, most notably the United States of America.
These efforts and communications managed to reach an agreement to a ceasefire and the return of calm and halt of the violence and the bloodshed that was witnessed recently.
The ceasefire is set to start at 9 p.m. Cairo time today, Wednesday, 21st of November 2012. Egypt affirms its commitment to the Palestinian cause and the need to achieve a comprehensive and just resolution. The Government of Egypt will continue its efforts to achieve this noble objective through ongoing attempts to end the divisions between the various Palestinian factions and to assist them in achieving Palestinian national unity on the basis of genuine Palestinian values and interests.
Egypt appreciates the role of the Arab League, the valuable contributions of Turkey and Qatar, and those of the Secretary General of the United Nations to support the efforts of the Government of Egypt to end the violence. At the same time, Egypt calls upon the international community to be engaged in monitoring the implementation of the Egyptian-brokered agreement and to ensure all parties adhere to these agreements. The agreement will be distributed to you after this conference.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Amr. I want to thank President Morsi for his personal leadership to de-escalate the situation in Gaza and end the violence. This is a critical moment for the region. Egypt’s new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace. The United States welcomes the agreement today for a ceasefire in Gaza. For it to hold, the rocket attacks must end, a broader calm return.
The people of this region deserve the chance to live free from fear and violence, and today’s agreement is a step in the right direction that we should build on. Now we have to focus on reaching a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security, dignity, and legitimate aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis alike. President Morsi and I discussed how the United States and Egypt can work together to support the next steps in that process. In the days ahead, the United States will work with partners across the region to consolidate this progress, improve conditions for the people of Gaza, and provide security for the people of Israel. Ultimately, every step must move us toward a comprehensive peace for all the people of the region.
As I discussed today with President Morsi, as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, there is no substitute for a just and lasting peace. Now that there is a ceasefire, I am looking forward to working with the Foreign Minister and others to move this process. Thank you very much, Foreign Minister.