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U.N. Refugee Chief Urges Humanitarian Access to Gaza; Expresses Concern Over Conflict Spilling Over

The Japan News
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi holds a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo on Friday.

The head of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees on Friday called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas militant group that effectively controls the Gaza Strip while expressing strong concerns that the conflict could spread to other areas in the region.

“It’s very important that humanitarian supplies are allowed to cross into Gaza as soon as possible, because the situation is desperate,” High Commissioner Filippo Grandi said during a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo. He was speaking as an individual U.N. official as the UNHCR does not have a mandate in Gaza.

Prior to becoming the high commissioner, Grandi served as a commissioner general of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

He called for a ceasefire to be reached immediately, and stressed: “Any ceasefire must be followed very quickly by meaningful peace discussions. The time has come to say that this conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is not resolved and needs a political resolution.”

He also expressed strong concern over the possibility of the Gaza crisis spilling over to other “fragile” countries in the region such as Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Egypt.

“There are many areas that are very fragile already,” he said. Likening the situation to a jigsaw puzzle, he said that each new crisis is a new piece of the puzzle that adds to the picture, with the pieces becoming ever more connected.

“The risk is that the picture becomes complete and then you’ll have a global crisis of security, which is dangerous, very dangerous for the whole world,” he said.

“The Gaza crisis comes, we should not forget, on top of many other crises that have erupted in the past couple of years,” he said.

According to Grandi, there are now over 110 million people forcibly displaced around the world. With Russian aggression in Ukraine and the renewed crisis in Gaza, he said many donors are indicating that they are reaching their limits in supporting humanitarian operations.

Grandi said he met with Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa on Thursday. “She assured me that this support will continue. This is very important,” Grandi said. “Japan also continues to play a very important political role supporting our search for solutions to refugee problems.”

Grandi was visiting Japan from Wednesday to Friday, holding meetings with government and cooperate officials.