Government must support Lebanon ceasefire now

Green MP Keith Locke is challenging Prime Minister Helen Clark to support European and United Nations calls for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon.

“New Zealand must distance itself from the Bush administration’s heartless opposition to a ceasefire that has been promoted by UN officials, France and some other European countries.

“After so much destruction, and the killing of so many innocent Lebanese and Israeli civilians, we should be urging the parties to end their military actions, unconditionally. The wholesale and indiscriminate bombardment and collective action against civilian neighbourhoods and facilities is a war crime under UN conventions, and such actions cannot be sustained for any tactical advantage.

“It is horrifying to learn from the UN that one third of the casualties in Lebanon have been children. Among the hundreds of people who have died, very few have been soldiers.

“After Winston Peters’ successful’ meeting in Washington, the Government may be reluctant to disagree with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has claimed an immediate ceasefire would be a ‘false promise.’

“On the back of the Israeli invasion, the Bush administration appears to be pushing for a non-UN, pro-Israeli ‘international force’ to occupy southern Lebanon, and thus virtually partition a country which until very recently was being touted as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East

“Surely, the Government is not waiting on the sidelines until Israel can enforce that sort of outcome, which would be a recipe for further violence in a fractured Lebanon for decades to come,” Mr Locke says.

“Instead, the Government needs to call for an immediate ceasefire, and invite the UN to enforce all of its existing resolutions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which provide the only viable framework for lasting peace in the Middle East.”