Tor Wennesland is in New York for discussions on how to “chart a way out of this crisis and how we can do it with the parties on the ground”.
He told journalists that “we know very well” what the impediments are for this to happen politically, which must be overcome.
No ‘quick fix’
“I can see that there is a lining up in the region, in Europe and from the international community to see that happening. But, it’s not a quick fix, it’s not an easy one and it will take some very hard diplomatic work,” he said.
As the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Wennesland has “been on the road more or less permanently” since the Gaza conflict erupted on 7 October following the deadly Hamas incursion into southern Israel and the seizure of hostages.
While in New York, he will meet with the UN Secretary-General and the five permanent members of the Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – before heading to Washington, D.C.
A ‘humanitarian nightmare’
The aim is “to see how we get from where we are in the midst of a humanitarian nightmare and a total conflicted West Bank into a different course” through a political solution, he said.
Meanwhile, he said the interim UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Jamie McGoldrick, is currently in Gaza in efforts to establish key priorities for aid delivery whenever a humanitarian ceasefire is in place.
Ongoing hostilities make it impossible for the UN to deliver effectively on the ground, “so that conflict needs a pause quickly”, said Mr. Wennesland.
While commending diplomatic efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the US, he acknowledged that an agreement on a lasting ceasefire “will be incredibly difficult to set up” and “not a quick fix whatsoever”.
Crisis in Rafah
The envoy was speaking just hours after UN chief António Guterres warned Member States that any Israeli military action in Rafah – the southern city on the border with Egypt where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are now sheltered – would exacerbate the “humanitarian nightmare” in Gaza with “untold regional consequences”.
Asked about the situation, Mr. Wennesland noted that Rafah is currently the only entry point for aid into Gaza, highlighting this humanitarian “perspective”, while the political “aspect” is also being addressed “proactively and intensively” between Israel and Egypt.
Responding to another question, he said “it’s hard to find words to say to the people in Gaza who have lost everything”, adding that “it is very difficult to preach hope when you sit in a safe place to people that are sitting in the middle of what is hellish”.
He stressed the need for the international community to “put the necessary pressure on the points that would trigger change”, reiterating the call for a ceasefire which comes as a result of agreement on an exchange of hostages and prisoners.
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