Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ambassador Nabil Fahmy Offers Solutions to Crisis in Gaza

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ambassador Nabil Fahmy Offers Solutions to Crisis in Gaza

Article excerpt

EGYPTIAN AMBASSADOR Nabil Fahmy discussed his country's efforts to resolve the crisis in the Gaza Strip to a packed audience on Feb. 15 at the Palestine Center in Washington, DC. "We will never be able to solve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the security situation on the borders between Gaza and any of the neighbors without dealing with the political situation in the Middle East, particularly the Arab-Israeli conflict," Ambassador Fahmy said. "It is a humanitarian crisis, a security crisis and a political problem all at the same time."

A Band-Aid won't stop the bleeding, he warned. One has to deal with the immediate and long-term issues, and with all the parties, even those with whom one disagrees.

When Palestinians breached the Egyptian border with Gaza at Rafah, the ambassador said, the Egyptian reaction was basically to keep the border open and continue to provide goods and services until Palestinians suffering from the siege stocked up on food and basic needs.

While the border is now closed again, the issue has not gone away, Fahmy said. "Egypt will not support a policy of collective punishment or starvation of the Palestinian people" because of differences with Gaza's leaders, he stated. "This is not sustainable because morally it's untenable...Trying to apply collective punishment, a siege on a long-term basis is, in all honesty, a policy of complete failure," according to Fahmy. "Egypt cannot participate in a situation that is focused on changing Palestinian policy through Palestinian suffering," he added, "and we will not."

Egypt is talking with both Hamas and Palestinian Authority officials, with Americans, as well as with the Europeans responsible for border control or observation according to the border agreement reached between the parties-which, by the way, did not include Egypt, Fahmy noted.

His country is trying to create an open, transparent and secure arrangement for the border terminals between Egypt and Gaza, he explained, but an agreement that applies to all the various terminals would be even better. Describing the Rafah border as basically a passenger terminal, Fahmy pointed out that most goods and services go through the Karni terminal, which is a different type of terminal altogether.

Don't assume we are only concerned about Israeli security, Fahmy said. "I'm also talking, frankly, about Egyptian security and about Palestinian security."

While there is Palestinian discord over who should control the borders, he said, there is agreement that the siege cannot continue. "I think it's imperative that the international community openly support these objectives: open, transparent and secure borders. …

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