Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Singapore

03/17/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/17/2024 11:22

Transcript of Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan's Doorstop Interview at King Abdullah II Airbase in Amman, Jordan, 17 March 2024

Minister: Let me start by thanking the men and women of the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) who volunteered for this mission and in a very real and personal sense, represent the care, concern, and compassion of all Singaporeans for the civilians in Gaza facing a very dire humanitarian situation. First is a big thank you, men and women of the SAF.

Second, I want to thank the Jordanian government, His Majesty the King (Abdullah II), the Foreign Minister (Ayman Safadi), the Jordanian Armed Forces, the civil servants and everyone who has played a role in this mission. His Majesty has been assiduous, for a very long time, in seeking peace in the Middle East. He very quickly mobilised assistance for the civilians in Gaza. Without his leadership, none of this would have happened. The other aspect is that, without the pre-existing close and strong relationship which we have between Jordan and Singapore, we would not have been able to get this done. The origin for this was a phone call I had with the Jordanian Foreign Minister, just over two weeks ago. Here we are now, a Singaporean team about to commence this mission.

The first phase was the airlift of the essential humanitarian packages. I am glad to report that all the humanitarian packages are now here in King Abdullah II Air Base. We are now ready for the next phase. We are set for the airdrop phase of this operation. It will commence, but I hope you also understand, for both security and operational reasons, that we will not be publishing a schedule of when the flights will go. We are set and ready to do so.

I wish all this was not necessary. What we need now is an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. We need the immediate unconditional release of all hostages. If that can be achieved, then a whole flood of humanitarian assistance can reach the civilians in Gaza, and the best way of doing this would be through a ground-based route. That is the only way you can get the volume, the speed and the urgency with which help is needed. In the interim, people are facing very, very difficult and dire circumstances. Every drop, every airdrop of humanitarian assistance will save lives and will make a difference. That is why this mission at this point in time, is critical. It is not the complete solution. It will be inadequate but every drop, every sortie, every bit makes a difference. For that again, I just want to end again by expressing my deepest appreciation to the men and women of the SAF.

Sherlyn Seah(CNA): You had mentioned previously in a pre-trip social media post that you hope intense diplomatic efforts can achieve the immediate humanitarian ceasefire. Where does Singapore play a role in this?

Minister: No, I will not say Singapore plays a role in this.

In fact, I just came in from Qatar yesterday. I was briefed by the (Qatari) Prime Minister. I think you may be aware that they are meeting right now in Qatar; even the Israeli delegation is there. It will not be easy negotiations.

The underlying political and military conflict is very complicated. We can only hope that cool heads and good sense will prevail for the sake of the people, the civilians - the innocent people in Gaza. There is no way to predict when that breakthrough will occur. But right now, as I said, immediate assistance is needed.

We do what we can. Singapore is a small city-state. This conflict may be very far from Singapore, but this is something which all Singaporeans feel deeply for, that sense of concern and compassion. To the extent that we can act, as I said earlier, get active, not angry; be constructive rather than aggressive. I think if we can continue to play that role and express the Singapore spirit in a very real and personal way, we can make a difference in our own small and unique way.

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