South African President Jacob Zuma has called on both sides in the Israeli-Hamas conflict to cease hostilities and reach for a lasting solution. While decrying the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians by Israeli forces as unacceptable, President Zuma also called on Hamas to cease their campaign against Israel.
“We are outraged by the killing of civilians by Israel; some in United Nations shelters. We also condemn the killing of Israeli civilians by Hamas”, he said. “We call upon all sides to lay down arms and settle for a negotiated solution” he added.
President Zuma was speaking at a special luncheon held in his honor by the National Press Club at their headquarters in Washington DC on the sidelines of the African Leaders Summit currently underway. Over 45 African heads of government are in the US capital to confer with President Barack Obama on issues such as investment, poverty, terrorism, corruption and deadly diseases.
President Zuma said South Africa has a lot to share with both sides of the conflict in terms of experience and that they are ready to do so. He said having come out of a period of suppressed liberties during the apartheid era, South Africa associated with the pain of the Palestinian people but also understood the Israeli situation. “We believe we have an example as a country; an experience that we can offer the two sides”
He however played down calls on him by a pro-Palestinian protest in South Africa a few weeks ago to expel the Israeli ambassador to his country.
“As a free country, a country with free expression, people indicated how they are feeling and made that call. But we believe calling an ambassador is not just a simple matter”, he said. He advised that taking rash decisions could rather have a negative effect of finding a lasting solution to the crisis.
Mr. Zuma was accompanied by the First Lady and an entourage of diplomats also spoke about investment opportunities in South Africa and the role the country is prepared to assume in Africa. He hinted that mining and energy, particularly hydro-electric, solar and nuclear would be a focal point of creating jobs and investment opportunities in South Africa and beyond.
The event was also attended by American civil rights icon Rev. Jesse Jackson.