Your Excellencies, Leaders of BRICS nations,
Your Excellencies, Leaders of Invited BRICS Members,
Sherpas and Sous Sherpas,
Thank you for your attendance at this Extraordinary Joint Meeting to address a matter of grave global concern.
Since 7 October, when more than 1 200 people were killed in an attack by Hamas on Israel, the world has born 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. Many 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.
The actions by Israel are in clear violation of international law, including the UN Charter and the Geneva Convention read together with its protocols.
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 deliberate denial of medicine, fuel, food and water to the residents of Gaza is tantamount to genocide.
The atrocities that we have 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 constitutes a flagrant violation under international law”.
We therefore urge the international community to agree on urgent and concrete actions to end the suffering in Gaza and establish a path towards a just and peaceful resolution of this conflict.
As South Africa, we call for:
First, an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire.
Second, the opening of humanitarian corridors so that aid and other basic services reach all those in need.
Third, all countries to exercise restraint and to desist from fuelling this conflict, including by ceasing the supply of weapons to the parties.
Fourth, the release of all civilian hostages.
Fifth, the resumption of a comprehensive dialogue led and owned by Palestinians and Israelis themselves and facilitated by the United Nations.
Sixth, the deployment of a UN Rapid Deployment Force in Palestine, with a mandate to monitor the cessation of hostilities and protect civilians.
Lastly, the International Criminal Court to urgently initiate prosecutions against those responsible for the perpetration of war crimes.
As South Africans, we appreciate the importance and value of international solidarity.
As an important voice of the Global South representing a large part of humanity, we believe that BRICS has a vital role in a widespread international effort to achieve a just and lasting peace.
As individual countries, we have demonstrated our grave concern at the death and destruction in Gaza.
Let this meeting stand as a clarion call for us to combine our efforts and strengthen our actions to end this historical injustice.
Let us work together to realise a just, peaceful and secure future for the people of both Palestine and Israel.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE PRESIDENCY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA