Qatari Prime Minister says priority is to end Gaza war now

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman meets Israeli President for first acknowledged direct talks between countries

Qatari Prime Minister says negotiators 'always pushing' for Gaza progress

Qatari Prime Minister says negotiators 'always pushing' for Gaza progress
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Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman told the Munich Security Conference that an agreement to end the war in Gaza must be reached “even without any preconditions”.

Moments later, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said he had had a “very informed discussion” with Sheikh Mohammed in an effort to advance ceasefire talks.

“I met the Prime Minister of Qatar yesterday,” Mr Herzog said. “It was a good discussion, and I think he is making a major effort and has an enormous focus on this issue.”

Their meeting was the first acknowledged direct talks between the states, which do not recognise each other.

Answering a question from The National, Sheikh Mohammed addressed the continuing ceasefire talks and said that “we are focused on the priority of how to end this war and how to avoid further escalation”.

“We know the importance, and recognise the importance of having a deal on the hostages and getting the hostages back to their families, but also recognise the importance of stopping the war today, even without any preconditions,” he said.

“And we believe that stopping the war would bring the hostages back.

“A hostage deal would bring an end to the war. But we would like to see this happen; not any further excuses.’’

He also addressed the future of a postwar Palestinian administration.

“We would like to see a unified Palestinian government that represents the Palestinian people, that will be in the West Bank and Gaza,” Sheikh Mohammed said, adding that this would be the next step towards Palestinian statehood.

Sheikh Mohammed shared the stage with Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store, who answered a question about American support for Israel by saying Washington was in a “difficult position”.

“The US is a major supporter to Israel, financial, military; what is landing on Gaza is made in US,” Mr Store said.

He sounded alarm over the situation in Gaza, saying Israel's operation “has gone too far”.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan noted that the international consensus on the two-state solution had strengthened, and warned Israel that rejecting efforts to recognise a Palestinian state would have consequences.

Prince Faisal said the lack of humanitarian access to Gaza was “absolutely unacceptable” and that a ceasefire must be the primary focus.

Munich Security Conference - in pictures

“We are focused on a ceasefire and on an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, and we are focused on humanitarian access for the people of Gaza,” he said, stressing the need to find a way forward on a two-state solution.

“The only pathway towards security for everyone in the region, and Israel, is to have a Palestinian state.

“We just have to finalise what that means. It is obviously the pragmatic, correct thing to do from the point of view of regional stability.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry rejected the idea of forcibly displacing of Gazans, as Israel's military prepares for an assault on Rafah.

Mr Shoukry said Cairo was not preparing for people to be forced to flee on to its territory.

“That constitutes a red line, the issue of displacement, which is a violation of international humanitarian law, whether it is internal or external, cannot be tolerated.

“The threats that it poses to Egypt's national security are immense, and it puts a strain on our bilateral relations with Israel.

“And we need to avoid the very tragic consequences on the civilians of Gaza, who are now amassed, 1.3 million to 1.4 million, in the most densely populated area in the world.

“You can imagine that any extensive military action there will have a devastating effect on the humanitarian situation there.”

Mr Shoukry added that the daily loss of life in Gaza would be aggravated by further escalation.

“People are already suffering for lack of shelter, food, medicine, sanitation. The current scale of the conflict is leading to a daily loss of life of men, women and children,” he said.

“We certainly do not need any further escalation of the situation.”

Updated: February 17, 2024, 7:21 PM