Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza at United Nations General Assembly in New York

  • 09/04/2024

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has called the situation in Gaza "an utter catastrophe", telling the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York that the world needs to act to halt the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Peters called for an immediate ceasefire and for Hamas to release all remaining hostages.

"New Zealand condemns Hamas for its heinous terrorist attacks on 7 October and since, including its barbaric violations of women and children," he said.

"Palestinian civilians continue to bear the brunt of Israel's military actions. 

"Gaza, which was already facing huge challenges before this conflict, is now a wasteland… Worse still, another generation of young Palestinians - already scarred by violence - is being further traumatised."

His call comes after a petition urging the Government to call for a ceasefire in Gaza was handed to Opposition MPs at the steps of Parliament last month. 

The petition, with nearly 16,000 signatures, called for the "immediate flow" of humanitarian aid, the release of all Palestinian and Israeli hostages, and an end to the Israeli occupation.

Over 32,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced amid the conflict.

"Warnings ring in our ears that famine in Gaza is imminent," Peters said.

In his speech, Peters said the UN Security Council, due to the repeated use of the veto by permanent members, had not acted decisively on the matter. 

"This has seen the council fail in its responsibility to maintain international peace and security."

He said Israel must do everything in its power to enable safe, rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access into and throughout Gaza.

"New Zealand is gravely concerned by repeated indications from Israel that it may soon launch a military offensive into Rafah," Peters said. 

"Palestinian civilians should not be made to pay the price of defeating Hamas."

Peters said Israel and the Palestinians could only live in peace and security under a two-state solution.

"There is overwhelming support in the international community - including New Zealand - for a two-state solution. Achieving this will require serious negotiations by the parties and must involve a Palestinian state," he said.

Peters said Israel cannot achieve peace and security while taking more and more territory intended for a future Palestinian state.

"This misguided notion must end. Building and expanding illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and the forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza imperil the two-state solution, which remains the only blueprint for peace that we have."

Peters also warned: "The risks of the wider region being further drawn into this conflict also remain alarmingly high. We strongly urge regional actors, including Iran, to exercise maximum restraint."

Gaza will continue to be a feature of Peters' ongoing visit to New York and Washington DC, which includes meetings this week with the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.