EU diplomatic chief backs UN push for Gaza ceasefire

Josep Borrell says the UN Security Council must act immediately to prevent a full collapse of the humanitarian situation in Gaza

The European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, has backed a push by UN secretary general António Guterres to bring about a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, calling on EU countries to support it.

Mr Guterres has invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, a rarely-triggered formal procedure to urge the Security Council to act on an issue that puts international peace and security at risk.

“The situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region,” Mr Guterres wrote in a letter to the council, whose permanent members are Russia, China, France, the UK and the US .

“I urge the members of the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. I reiterate my appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared. This is urgent. The civilian population must be spared from greater harm,” he said.


Mr Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, called on EU members and allies to support Mr Guterres’s call.

“The UN Security Council must act immediately to prevent a full collapse of the humanitarian situation in Gaza,” he wrote on social media.

Mr Guterres’s letter said 80 per cent of people in Gaza had been displaced and four in ten of those killed in the ongoing war were children.

The Gaza health ministry says more than 17,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began operations in response to the Hamas-led attack of October 7th, in which 1,200 people were “brutally killed”, said Mr Guterres, in what he described as “abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups”. He called for the immediate and unconditional release of the more than 130 people still held captive following the October 7th attack.

Among the dead in Gaza, he said, were at least 130 colleagues from Unrwa, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, many of whom were killed along with their families.

“There is no effective protection of civilians,” Mr Guterres wrote, saying that over 1.1 million people had sought shelter in Unrwa facilities in Gaza, creating overcrowded, undignified and unhygienic conditions.

“Hospitals have turned into battlegrounds,” he wrote, stating that only 14 hospitals of 36 are “even partially functional”, with the two major hospitals in south Gaza overwhelmed with injured and displaced persons and running out of basic supplies and fuel.

“Under these circumstances, more people will die untreated in the coming days and weeks,” he warned. “Nowhere is safe in Gaza.”

In response to the call, Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen described Mr Guterres’s tenure as UN secretary general as “a danger to world peace”.

“His request to activate Article 99 and the call for a ceasefire in Gaza constitutes support of the Hamas terrorist organisation and an endorsement of the murder of the elderly, the abduction of babies and the rape of women,” Mr Cohen wrote on social media.

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Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times