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25 Oct, 2023 19:23

Germany opposes calls for UN chief to resign

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres still has “the trust” of Berlin, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said
Germany opposes calls for UN chief to resign

Berlin has voiced its support for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres amid an ongoing row between the international body and Israel. Calls for Guterres to resign are out of place German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told journalists on Wednesday.

“The UN Secretary General naturally has the trust of the federal government,” the official said, commenting on the situation. He also described the situation around Guterres’ comments on the current escalation around the Gaza Strip “very charged.”

Guterres sparked an angry response from West Jerusalem earlier this week when he said that the attack launched by Gaza-based Hamas militants on Israel on October 7 did not occur “in a vacuum.” The Palestinian people had been “subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation,” he added at that time.

The UN secretary-general also stated that Israel’s response to the attack that claimed the lives of around 1,400 people, mostly civilians, effectively amounts to “collective punishment” of the Palestinian people, which is a war crime under the Geneva Convention.

Israeli officials then called on him to resign. The nation’s envoy to the UN, Gilad Erdan, accused Guterres of justifying “terrorism and murder.” He also announced West Jerusalem’s decision to stop issuing visas to UN officials in response to the secretary-general’s remarks.

Hebestreit said on Wednesday that he would not provide “any assessment at all” of the statements made by the UN chief. The official still maintained that he “does not feel like the calls for [Guterres’] resignation are appropriate.” At the same time, the German government spokesman reaffirmed Berlin’s solidarity with Israel.

“We stand closely and unwaveringly by Israel's side,” Hebestreit said.

The head of the German-Israeli Society, Volker Beck, branded Guterres’ words “infamous” and called on Berlin to side with West Jerusalem in its row with the UN. He also dismissed the UN chief’s statement about the collective punishment of Palestinians. “There is no collective punishment of the Palestinians by Israel,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Guterres posted a passage from his speech to social media, arguing that his words were taken out of context. “I am shocked by misrepresentations by some of my statement yesterday in the Security Council – as if I was justifying acts of terror by Hamas,” he said.