DOHA: Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Sunday sought international sanctions against Israel, as the United Nations chief said he would not give up on efforts seeking a truce after the US vetoed a resolution for a ceasefire in Gaza at the UN Security Council earlier this week.
The Palestinian prime minister’s hard-hitting remarks and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ passionate appeal for peace in the Middle East were made at the opening of the 21st edition of Doha Forum.
The annual two-day event kicked off in the Qatari capital with many delegates from across the world including heads of governments and top diplomats in attendance.
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The latest session of the Doha Forum — themed “Building Shared Futures” — will debate on contemporary challenges facing the world with the focus on the war in Gaza.
The Qatari emir attended the opening ceremony while the country’s prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, delivered a speech on the efforts seeking peace in Gaza and the way forward.
Qatar has emerged as the main international player to broker a temporary ceasefire that led to the exchange of prisoners and hostages between Israel and Hamas.
The tiny Gulf state has often punched above its bag and has been involved as mediator in other conflicts in the past.
Nevertheless, the Qatari prime minister was disappointed with the fact that the humanitarian truce could not be extended into a permanent ceasefire.
Qatar also hosts the Hamas leadership that helped it broker the earlier truce.
The Qatari prime minister warned that the Gaza war risks radicalising an entire generation in the Middle East and that the prospect of another truce agreement between Israel and Hamas was diminishing despite Doha’s efforts.
“Our efforts as the state of Qatar along with our partners are continuing. We are not going to give up,” he said, adding that the continuation of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza was just “narrowing this window” for them.
Al Thani said the situation in Gaza was making people around the world ask “some legitimate questions about the nature of the international systems and the efficiency of the legal instruments and its principles”.
“These questions become more important and more pressing as we continue to see the horrifying scenes that we might sometimes have to look away from,” he added.
“This conflict was and still is an issue of the occupation and its demands. Over the decades, the option of peace was on the table, but it was the victim of procrastination and formation.”
The speech by the Palestinian prime minister was one of the highlights of the first day of Doha forum as he called for sanctioning Israel for committing war crimes.
“If Israel is above international law, sanctions should be put on it. Israel should not be allowed to continue violating international humanitarian law and international law,” he remarked with a thundering applause from the audience.
The Palestinian premier also blamed the US for the atrocities currently being carried out in Gaza.
Shtayyeh made it clear that Hamas was an “integral” part of Palestine.
His remarks came in response to the US suggestion that the control of Gaza should be handed over to the Palestinian Authority after the war.
“We want a situation in which Palestinians are united. Hamas is an integral part of the Palestinian political mosaic,” he later told Al-Jazeera.
“I think it is time that Hamas calls the Palestinian president and tell him we’re all united behind you, and you are the legitimate authority of the Palestinian people and we are ready to engage,” he continued.
The UN secretary general conceded that the world’s top decision-making body was “paralysed” by geopolitical divisions, and its credibility undermined by its inability to pass a resolution urging a Gaza ceasefire.
“Serious efforts are needed to bring global institutions to better address global challenges, such as the Gaza war,” Guterres added.
“We have never seen so many civilian casualties in such a short period during my mandate at the UN,” he remarked after recently invoking Article 99 of the UN Charter to draw the attention of the world’s major powers towards the deteriorating situation in Gaza.
“The situation is quickly deteriorating into catastrophe, with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and peace and security in the region,” he continued.
However, Guterres vowed that he would not give up on trying for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.
The head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees spoke about the “devastating humanitarian toll” in Gaza and warned that an urgent ceasefire was needed to end the “hell on earth there”.
“By any description, it is definitely the worst situation I have ever seen,” said UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini.
“People are coming to the UN to seek protection, but even the blue flag is not protected anymore. By any account, the situation has reached a catastrophic nature,” he added.
Lazzarini warned that the UNRWA was on the verge of collapse in Gaza, adding that the world had failed the Palestinians.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov taking part in the debate via video link blamed the US for sabotaging the peace efforts in the Middle East.