Local Time

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Open Letter To the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
Westminster
London

25th July 2006

Dear Prime Minister,

We are deeply alarmed that the situation in the Lebanon, Gaza and Israel continues to rapidly deteriorate. Many of us have already shared with you our concerns over the humanitarian suffering and the current direction of British Government policy on the crisis. We write again now collectively to reiterate and amplify these shared concerns.

Given the lack of progress so far and the high stakes involved, we have taken the unusual step of writing this as an open letter so that our views can contribute to the public debate.

We welcome your statement yesterday that recognised the catastrophic impact the crisis is having. We also welcome your stated desire to see an end to the fighting. We are concerned however that the British government has yet to use its full influence to bring about an immediate ceasefire, a lasting end to the hostilities, and full compliance with international humanitarian law.

Though this may not have been the intention, by failing to back the UN and call for an immediate ceasefire the UK government has reduced the impact of international calls for an immediate halt to the violence. As such, your current policy risks putting civilian lives at continued risk rather than helping to protect them.

The argument that members of your Government have made - that calls for an immediate ceasefire will be ignored - risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy when such calls are not made resolutely, or by a united international community. Like you, we understand and endorse the need for a comprehensive solution to this conflict. But we have not yet heard a compelling argument as to why you will not call for an immediate ceasefire to save lives now - and create space for negotiations over a final settlement. The present policy looks in danger of placing the UK Government in the uncomfortable position of only calling for a ceasefire once one side in the conflict has achieved its military objectives.

We urge you to use Wednesday's ministerial meeting in Rome to add the British Government's weight to calls for an immediate ceasefire. To do anything else would be to fail to uphold the UK's responsibility to help protect the civilians dying in this conflict. We feel that such a move could still make a difference and show all sides that the international community is more united in its call for an immediate end to this conflict.

Once again, as aid agencies, human rights groups, Trade Unions, voluntary groups and international security analysts we urge you to rethink your policy as a matter of urgency and do what you can to reduce the horrific toll that this conflict is having on ordinary people across the region. We would be extremely grateful for the opportunity to discuss this with you directly.

Yours sincerely,


Ian Davis Lesley-Anne Knight
Director International Director
BASIC CAFOD

Geoffrey Dennis Daleep Mukarji
Chief Executive Director
CARE International UK Christian Aid

Dr. Hany El Banna Marion Birch
President Executive Director
Islamic Relief Worldwide Medact

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari Barbara Stocking
Secretary General Director
Muslim Council of Britain Oxfam

Fiona Weir Keith Sonnet
Director of Policy and Communications Deputy General Secretary
Save the Children UNISON

John Hilary Caroline Qutteneh
Campaigns and Policy Director Director
War on Want Welfare Association

Charles Badenoch
Chief Executive
World Vision UK

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