Middle East Crisis – Question Time, Parliament House (November 19, 2012)
The Australian Government is gravely concerned by the escalating crisis in the Middle East.
We deeply regret the loss of life and injuries to civilians on both sides.
We condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza.
These attacks must end.
We recognise Israel has the right to defend itself.
We do, however, urge both sides to do all they can to resolve the current crisis peacefully.
Over the weekend there has been extensive diplomatic activity across the globe in an effort to calm this situation.
Egypt in particular is playing a critical role.
Egypt wields significant influence in the region and has successfully brokered ceasefires between Hamas and Israel in the past.
Today I met Egypt’s Ambassador to Australia — Dr El-Laithy.
I conveyed to him Australia’s full support for Egypt’s efforts to broker a ceasefire.
We acknowledge the visit to Gaza on November 16 by Egyptian Prime Minister Qandil and strongly support his call for a truce.
We welcome the endorsement by the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, of Egypt’s efforts to end the current crisis.
UN Secretary-General Ban will visit Egypt for talks with President Morsi, possibly as early as tomorrow.
The UN Security Council met over the weekend in a closed door emergency meeting and will likely meet again over coming days.
Arab League Foreign Ministers met in an emergency meeting in Cairo on November 17.
The League plans to send a delegation to Gaza tomorrow and we encourage it to focus efforts on de-escalating this conflict.
On my visit to the region in August I underlined to the Israeli and Palestinian leadership the need to return to negotiations and refrain from actions that undermine prospects for peace.
The only way to achieve peace is through a negotiated two state solution with a secure Israel living alongside a future independent Palestinian state.
In this crisis, it is critical for all sides to exercise restraint, take all steps to protect the lives of civilians and move to end this conflict.
Yesterday the President of the United States, Barack Obama, said: “If we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza, then the likelihood of us getting back on any kind of peace track … is going to be pushed off way into the future.”
On Saturday the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade activated its 24 hour Crisis Centre to monitor developments and assist Australians in the region.
The Department continues to advise that Australians should not travel to Gaza and surrounding areas.
Australians in Gaza should remain in a secure location indoors, monitor the media for information and contact the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Australians in Israel are advised to continue to exercise a high degree of caution.
They should monitor local media and official announcements, and follow instructions of local authorities.
If any Australians have concerns for the welfare of family and friends they should first attempt to contact them directly.
If unsuccessful, they should call the Department’s Consular Emergency Centre within Australia or overseas.