First ladies plead for peace in Gaza

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samimi

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First ladies from Middle Eastern nations gathered in İstanbul on Saturday as part of an initiative developed by the Turkish prime minister's wife, Emine Erdoğan, and added their voices to international demands that Israel halt attacks on Gaza, withdraw troops and end its blockade.

Meeting in İstanbul, the wives of the leaders also made an emotional plea for international aid to help women and children in the stricken region.

"We, in the name of mothers who attach great importance to peace and human life, request that the international community press Israel to stop its attacks," said Erdoğan, reading from a joint declaration issued at the end of their meeting. "Israel must abide by the UN resolution [calling for a cease-fire]. It must lift the embargo. Israel must immediately withdraw its forces from Gaza," she said.

Jordan's Queen Rania, Syria's Asma Assad, Sheika Mozah Bint Nasser al-Missned of Qatar and Lebanon's Wafaa Suleiman were joined by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's daughter, Aisha, and the Pakistani prime minister's wife, Fauzia Gilani, at the meeting, which was held at a hotel on the shores of the Bosporus.

Several female ministers and parliamentarians from Azerbaijan, Syria, Pakistan, Jordan and Turkey, as well as officials of several aid organizations from Turkey, Syria, Qatar, Jordan and the United Nations, also attended the meeting.
 

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samimi

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Ynt: First ladies plead for peace in Gaza

Before reading the joint declaration, Erdoğan denounced Israel's attacks on Gaza, breaking into the tears as she recounted how children were caught up in the war. "They were killed while riding their bikes in parks. They sought refuge in schools, but were killed there too. They were killed inside mosques. They were taken to hospitals but could not escape the death machines there either," she said. "I am speaking and expressing my pain as a mother," she said.

As of yesterday, Gaza health officials had counted more than 860 Palestinians dead and said at least half are civilians. The Israeli military says troops have killed some 300 armed fighters since the ground offensive began and that many more were killed in the week of aerial bombardments that preceded it. Thirteen Israelis have died, three of them civilians.

The joint declaration read by Erdoğan stresses that loss of human life including the elderly, the disabled, women and children causes deep sorrow, while calling for an immediate end to the killing of civilians and their being deprived of their most basic needs such as medicine and food.

Urging the international community to form a coalition to support the call for peace in İstanbul, the declaration says international organizations should not be prevented from reaching civilians and that the bombing of UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) schools should be investigated.

Erdoğan, meanwhile, announced that they would form a steering committee to coordinate their future actions to help bring a lasting peace to the Middle East and ease the pain and suffering of humanity.

In a video message sent to the meeting, Karen Koning AbuZayd, commissioner-general for UNWRA, said what occurred in Gaza did not comply with any law or rule acceptable to humanity.

In another video message, renowned Spanish film actor Antonio Banderas expressed confidence in the meeting, saying it would definitely bear fruit. Violence can never be a solution for disputes, as the only method to solve problems is dialogue, tolerance and respect for human rights, Banderas added.

Carla Bruni, wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy; Sonsoles Espinosa, wife of Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero; Liri Berisha, wife of Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha; and Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now a Middle East envoy, sent written messages of support to the meeting.

Saime Toptan, wife of Turkish Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan; State Minister Nimet Çubukçu; Zeynep Babacan, wife of Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan; Beyhan Bağış, wife of Turkey's chief EU negotiator Egemen Bağış; Esra Albayrak and Sümeyye Erdoğan, daughters of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; Edibe Sözen, deputy chairwoman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party); and other prominent female figures in Turkish politics, economy and the arts attended the meeting.

Foreign celebrities such as Raghda, Julia Boutros, Elias Bou Saab, Sami Yusuf, Abbas Al Loury, Waga Mouselly, Suzan Nejmaddin and Samer Basri also attended the meeting.

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