Zuma Uses Keynote Investor Speech to Push U.S. on Israel Policy

South African President Jacob Zuma used a keynote speech to American investors to push the U.S. on seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis in Gaza.

Zuma, 72, condemned the deaths of civilians resulting from Israel’s military offensive in Gaza to destroy cross-border tunnels that it says Hamas uses to stage attacks on Israeli territory.

“A peaceful solution that will produce two states living side by side peacefully is what’s desirable,” Zuma said in a speech in Washington hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “That is our view and that is what we wish everyone to support, in particular the U.S., given it’s influence globally, and perhaps its influence also in the Middle East.”

South Africa has been a long-standing critic of Israel, which counts the U.S. as one of its strongest allies. Zuma’s urging for more action by the U.S. comes as President Barack Obama meets with African leaders for the three day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit that began in Washington today.

“There will never be a military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question,” Zuma said. “It’s impossible that any of the two will make the other one disappear off the face of the earth.”

Zuma also said he wants the U.S. to extend the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a preferential trade accord between the U.S. and African nations, for 15 years and retain South Africa as a beneficiary. The trade talks will be a “major” focus of the summit, he said.

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