South African President Jacob Zuma voiced outrage Monday over civilian deaths in Israel's campaign in Gaza but distanced himself from calls to expel the Israeli ambassador, AFP reported.
"We are outraged by the killing of civilians by Israel, some in United Nations shelters," Zuma was quoted as having told a news conference in Washington where he was attending a U.S.-Africa summit.
"We call upon all sides to lay down arms and work towards a negotiated solution that will lead to an internationally recognized and supported two-state solution," he said.
Zuma also condemned the killings of Israeli civilians by the Hamas terrorist group but also voiced skepticism over calls within his African National Congress party for the Pretoria government to kick out Israel's ambassador.
"It cannot just be a quick thing," Zuma said when asked about South Africa's response to the Gaza crisis.
Zuma, without explicitly ruling out the expulsion of the ambassador, said that South Africa needed to act in a way "that will benefit both countries of the Middle East in the long end, and as a country we do have to take a bigger picture."
South Africa has frequently been critical of Israel and has claimed that it is applying a policy of “apartheid” towards Palestinian Arabs. Last June, the former South African ambassador to Israel rejected a symbolic gift from the Israeli government, planting trees in his honor in a national park named after South Africa.
He explained that Israeli policies which, he claims, discriminate against Arabs appeared to be reminiscent of his experiences under South Africa's apartheid system.
South Africa's Foreign Minister has in the past slammed Israel's plans to build new homes in Jerusalem, saying she was “losing sleep” over the size of “Palestine”.
Most recently, Zuma’s party compared Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza to the actions of the Nazis during World War II, evoking outrage from Jewish groups in the country.