Three of Europe’s most powerful countries step up calls for ‘sustainable ceasefire’ in Gaza

French minister says ‘too many civilians are being killed’, UK and Germany call for halt to fighting as Martin repeats need for pause to be immediate

Three of Europe’s most powerful countries have called for a meaningful ceasefire in Gaza in a clear step-change in position that brings them closer to the stance adopted by Ireland and several other EU states. Over the course of the weekend the UK, Germany and France have all called for a humanitarian ceasefire.

In a joint article published at the weekend, the British foreign secretary David Cameron and German foreign affairs minister Annalena Baerbock wrote a joint article calling for a “sustainable ceasefire”. While it represented a shift in the position of both states, they stopped short of calling for an immediate pause of hostilities.

On Sunday, however, France made an unequivocal call for an immediate and durable truce in the war with Hamas. Its foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, on a visit to Israel, told reporters that “too many civilians are being killed”. In a statement the French foreign ministry said such a truce should “lead to a lasting ceasefire” with the aim of delivering aid to Gaza and securing the release of all hostages.

In the wake of the developments, a spokesman for Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin repeated the need for an immediate ceasefire.


“Ireland has called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, along with a clear overwhelming majority of the international community, as well as the immediate and unconditional release of hostages, urgent and effective humanitarian access, and the protection of civilians. A large majority of EU member states have called for the violence to stop, and although consensus wasn’t reached in the European Council [last week], Ireland continues to press for an end to the conflict and the beginning of a political pathway.”

The spokesman said Ireland was also pushing for an agreement at EU level that would impose sanctions on violent settlers in the West Bank who are attacking and displacing Palestinian communities, adding: “We want to see this agreed rapidly.”

The death of three Israeli hostages, who were mistakenly killed by the Israeli Defence Forces on Saturday, has led to protests in Tel Aviv and renewed pressure on prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his government to negotiate a new ceasefire with Hamas, using interlocutors.

The US defence secretary Lloyd Austin began travelling on a visit to Israel and the Middle East on Sunday, and is expected to call on the Israeli government to scale back on its attacks because of the very high civilian death toll. Responding to US pressure to allow more humanitarian supplies into Gaza, the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Israel opened on Sunday for the first time for aid lorries since the outbreak of the war.

On Sunday, Pope Francis also condemned attacks on civilians in Gaza, saying: “It is war. It is terrorism.”

During a service in Rome the Pope referred specifically to an attack on a Catholic parish centre in Gaza where a sniper shot two women dead and injured seven others, including nuns and families who had south shelter there.

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Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem