Gaza conference: Mubarak calls for truce, unity
Delegates from nearly 90 countries and financial bodies have converged on the Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh for an international conference called by Egypt after the end of Israel's three-week military offensive on Gaza Strip in January. The gathering included French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, along with 45 foreign ministers.
Abbas had hoped to raise $2.78 billion at the one-day event, including $1.33 billion for repairing damage in Gaza.
According to Reuters, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told donors in opening comments that aid was needed for Gaza but would not compensate for the 1,300 Palestinian lives lost during the recent war. "I reach to you with an appeal from the heart to declare tangible pledges," he said.
The Egyptian leader stated the "priority is to reach a truce between Israel and Palestinians" and said Egypt would continue its mediation between the two, including for a more permanent Gaza truce. "I see a momentum in peace efforts. I look forward that this year will be the year of peaceful settlement between Israelis and Palestinians," Mubarak said, according to the AP. He added that Egypt was trying to get Israel to "modify its position on reaching a truce" — comments referring to Israel's demand that a truce be linked to the release of a captured Israeli soldier.
Mubarak warned Hamas not to treat the donors' pledges as a "conquest of war" and cautioned that rebuilding Gaza will depend on several factors, including a long-term truce and the opening up of the area's closed border crossings. He urged Palestinian factions to work toward reconciliation and forming a unity government to oversee the rebuilding.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in remarks prepared for delivery that urgent action was needed to turn the crisis "into an opportunity to move us closer to our shared goals". According to her, the aim was to achieve a Palestinian state that would be "a responsible partner, is at peace with Israel and its Arab neighbours, and is accountable to its people".
Sarkozy urged "responsible Palestinians" to seek peace with Israel — and said the release of the captured "Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners is a priority." "You must admit that there is no other road to the creation of a Palestinian state but to engage resolutely in searching for a political solution and engage in a dialogue with Israel," Sarkozy said in a clear message to Hamas.