US vetoed Algeria resolution calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

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Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau
UNITED NATIONS, 21st Feb.
UN Security Council on Tuesday held a meeting on the situation in Gaza, a draft resolution put forward by Algeria on behalf of Arab States demanded “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire that must be respected by all parties”.

The draft resolution was tabled by Algeria, reiterated that all parties scrupulously comply with their obligations under international law regarding the protection of civilians.

Ambassador of Guyana to the UN holds the presidency of the UNSC and presided the meeting.

The United States vetoed the resolution. It received 13 votes in favor, and the United Kingdom abstained.

The Council needed 9 votes to adopt the draft resolution.

The term “ceasefire” has been contentious, with the US have vetoed a previous draft resolution late last year tabled by the United Arab Emirates.

General Assembly would again organize an emergency special session through a mechanism set up after an initiative by Liechtenstein to examine the use of veto, which is a privilege of the Council’s five permanent members – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States.

Algeria’s draft resolution on the table would have the Council reject the “forced displacement of the Palestinian civilian population in violation of international law and would demand an immediate end to any such violations and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages”.

It called for unfettered humanitarian access into and throughout Gaza.

Council has held a dozen meetings on the war in Gaza, including an open debate in late January, with over 70 UN Member States voiced serious concerns about the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe.

Many called on the Security Council to “work harder” to end the war, which began in October when Israeli invaded the enclave in response to Hamas’s attacks that left 1,200 dead and 240 taken hostage.

According to local health authorities in Gaza, 30,000 Palestinians have been killed.

The US circulated a rival resolution that would support a temporary ceasefire in Gaza.

It called for a halt to the fighting “as soon as practicable” and requires the release of all hostages seized by Palestinian militants during the 7 October terror attacks in southern Israel, according to news reports.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said her delegation is working on a hostage deal. Although gaps remain, the key elements are on the table, so if an arrangement were reached, it would involve a sustainable peace.

“Sometimes hard diplomacy takes more time than any of us might like,” she said. “Any action this Council takes should help and not hinder these sensitive ongoing negotiations.”

She stressed that this draft will not bring about a durable peace, but instead extend the hostages’ captivity and the humanitarian crisis.

“While numerous parties engage in sensitive negotiations, this is not the time for this resolution, which jeopardizes these efforts,” she said.

Ms. Greenfield added that numerous edits her delegation suggested were ignored.

She said that’s why the US is proposing a separate resolution that would work towards a temporary ceasefire based on the formula that all hostages are released. It is time this Council condemns Hamas.

If the US draft be adopted, it would be the first time the Council condemned Hamas, and called against any forced displacement of Gazans and that a major ground offensive in the enclave would not proceed.

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said the draft would reiterate the US vision of a two-State solution and would support both the ongoing negotiations and lay the groundwork for peace in the region.

“We’re at a pivotal and critical moment,” she said.

She cited ongoing suffering and rising humanitarian needs. “Let us commit to do this the right way at the right time.”

Algerian envoy to the UN, Amar Benjama, introduced the resolution, stating it was a product of extensive discussions.

This draft stands for truth, Mr. Benjama said.

“A positive vote for the draft brings hope for hundreds of thousands of children to return to school and enjoy the right to education. Conversely, voting against the draft resolution is a vote in favor of annihilating their dream for a better life.”

The international community must act swiftly, as the value of a ceasefire diminishes with each moment, he stated.

“We are rapidly approaching a critical juncture where the call to halt the machinery of violence will lose its significance,” he said. “Today, every Palestinian is a target for death, extermination and genocide. Each one of us decides on where to stand in this tragic chapter of history.”

He said the Council “cannot afford passivity” in the face of what is unfolding in Gaza, added that it must follow its mandate and demand an immediate ceasefire.

“Throughout this process we have heard calls to give time to a parallel track, with concerns raised that any action from the Council would jeopardize these efforts, however, almost one month after the ICJ orders, signs of hope are still absent for improvement on the situation in Gaza. Silence is not a viable option. Now is the time for action and the time for truth,” he said.

Algerian Ambassador Benjama said the draft calls for a ceasefire, but the Council has failed once again to rise to the calls and aspirations of the people of the world.

This failure does not absolve the Council of its mandate and the international community of its obligations, he said.

“It is high time for the aggression to end” and for humanitarian assistance to reach all those in need across Gaza, he said.

The current situation requires everyone to provide protection to the Palestinian people and put an end to the historic injustice they have suffered, he declared.

The people of his region have always looked to the Security Council, however, it has failed them once again.

“Our message for you today is that the international community should respond to the calls for ending the killing of Palestinians by calling for an immediate ceasefire,” he said.

“All those impeding such calls should review their policies and calculations because wrong decisions today will have a cost on our region and our world tomorrow. This cost will be violence and instability.”

Algeria will return tomorrow on behalf of the Arab world, of Muslim countries and the free people of the world, “powered by the souls of thousands of innocent people” killed by the Israeli occupation with no accountability whatsoever, he said.

“Algeria will return to knock on the doors of the Security Council once again to put an end to the bloodshed,” he said. “We will not stop until this Council shoulders its responsibility in full and imposes an immediate ceasefire. We will never tire, and we will never stop.”

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said the Council has met on the same flawed theme: the demand for a ceasefire.

This “silver bullet” would only achieve the survival of Hamas, he said, and be a “death sentence” for Israelis and Gazans. Hamas will continue to spill the blood of innocents. The International Court of Justice rightly rejected South Africa’s attempt to implement a ceasefire.

“A ceasefire is the epitome of a kick the can down the road” approach which will provide nothing but immunity for baby killers and rapists, allowing Hamas to regroup and re-arm, he said.

He recalled footage of a family taken to Gaza alive as hostages, he asked why the Council would want to leave them in the enclave. The draft resolution, if adopted, would have ensured that this family and more than 100 other people remained in captivity.

Mr. Erdan said not once since 7 October has the Council condemned Hamas.

“Condemn Hamas as a Council; do it for the sake of the hostages,” he said.

He argued “the clock is ticking” with regards to Lebanon.

Ambassador Erdan recalled that a Hezbollah drone was downed deep inside Israel. Some 100,000 Israeli residents in the north have been displaced, with the help of Iran. The Houthis are relentlessly attacking ships in the Red Sea, and “terrorist aggression” across the region must stop.

Ambassador and Permanent Observer of the State of PalestineRiyad H. Mansour, said the Algerian-led draft resolution was brought to the Council “precisely” because Israel persists with its onslaught “despite near unanimous” calls by the international community for a ceasefire.

He recalled the ICJ provisional measures ordering Israel to cease all acts of genocide, incitement of genocide and ensure humanitarian access to the Palestinian people, who are facing death, starvation and repeated forced displacement “every day” across Gaza.

“It has been nearly three weeks since I last addressed the Council following the court’s order, appealing for action to be taken to ensure the implementation of the provisional measures and ensure a ceasefire that would protect the Palestinian people and avert further ravaging of their lives by the Israeli onslaught,” he said.

“But, our appeals have, regrettably, been to no avail,” he added.

He noted that since that day, the toll has risen from 26,000 Palestinians killed to almost 30,000 with more than 69,000 injured.

“This means that in just the past 20 days alone, Israel has killed nearly 4,000 more Palestinian children, women and men, in just 20 days. This is a deplorable consequence of inaction,” he stated.

Mr. Mansour said that Palestine together with an “unprecedented” number of countries approached the ICJ to “confront the Israeli impunity that has made life a living hell for Palestinian people”.

He said together, they appealed for “an immediate and complete end to this illegal colonial occupation and apartheid regime, the root cause of all the ills our people are suffering, including this genocidal war.”

Ambassador Mansour noted that the ICJ acted swiftly both on the case brought forward by South Africa and the request for an advisory opinion by the General Assembly.

He questioned when the Security Council would “finally undertake its solemn duties” and act to demand the ceasefire that the vast majority of the world wants to see.

“The veto of this draft resolution is not only regrettable but also absolutely reckless and dangerous, again shielding Israel even after it commits the most shocking crimes while exposing millions of innocent Palestinian people to more untold horrors,” he added.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said Washington provide Israel with “a license to kill”.

He added that Algeria organized discussions in good faith to produce its draft resolution, but the US in effect issued an ultimatum, asserting that the draft was dangerous as it would obstruct ongoing talks.

Indeed, Washington continues to insist the Council not interfere in the US plans, he said. The US has vetoed similar draft resolutions in the past.

“We call on the Council membership to counter the lawlessness of Washington,” he said. “Public opinion will no longer forgive the Security Council for inaction.”

Nebenzia said “today, we have witnessed another black page in the history of the Security Council”.

He said it was again written by the US delegation, which pursues the same goal to cover up on behalf of its closest Middle Eastern ally and play for time so that it can complete its “inhumane plans” for Gaza, namely to squeeze the Palestinians out of the Strip and completely “cleanse” the enclave.

Nebenzia said that full responsibility for the consequences falls on Washington, no matter how hard the US tries to evade it by talking about its “important mediation efforts”.

He said no matter how bitter the “aftertaste” of today’s vote may be, “we are not in the mood to give up”,

Russia envoy added that the Council’s demand to the parties for an immediate ceasefire remains an imperative.

Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone Ambassador Michal Imran Kanu said his delegation voted in favor of the draft because it is imperative to have an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, and the Council is mandated to act promptly and effectively.

He noted that some Council members had visited both the Rafah crossing and Israel and the assessment has been that only such a ceasefire will put an end to the unbearable killings going on inside Gaza and certainly the “looming and unthinkable catastrophe” in Rafah.

Ambassador of Great Britain Barbara Woodward called for an “immediate suspension in fighting” which can lead to a permanent sustainable ceasefire, stated that Palestinian civilians are facing a “devastating humanitarian crisis”.

She said there needed to be a new government for Gaza and the West Bank alongside the removal of Hamas´s capacity to launch attacks against Israel.

Ms. Woodward stressed that Hamas should no longer be in charge in Gaza and a credible political horizon should be opened to pave the way to a lasting two-State solution.

“Simply calling for a ceasefire, as this resolution does, will not make it happen.”

She said as it could endanger hostage negotiations and could actually make a permanent ceasefire less likely. The way to stop the fighting is through the release of all hostages.

She said the UK would continue to work for a humanitarian response “at scale”.

Japanese Ambassador to the UN Kazuyuki Yamazaki said “a humanitarian ceasefire needs to be realized promptly in such a way as to ensure a conducive environment for sufficient humanitarian assistance activities as well as to lead to the release of the remaining hostages.”

Only then could there be a sustainable ceasefire, he said.

“Based on this position, we call on all the parties concerned to act immediately from a humanitarian viewpoint,” he said.

In efforts to ensure a more fair and balanced text, the resolution should have included a condemnation of Hamas’s terrorist attacks, which the Security Council has so far failed to do.

“Though we couldn’t agree on a resolution which all the Council members can support, we are all engaging seriously to stop the violence,” he said.

Mozambique envoy Pedro Comissário, said parties must comply with international humanitarian law, including in protecting civilians.

“We call for full compliance with the provisional measures of the International Court of Justice and firmly oppose the forced displacement of Palestinian civilians, especially women and children,” he said.

“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and urge the international community and the Security Council to continue working tirelessly together towards achieving peace in the region based on a two-State solution,” he added.

French Ambassador to the UN Nicholas de Rivière regretted that the draft resolution could not be adopted, given the catastrophic situation on the ground.

“There is an extreme urgency to conclude, without further delay, an agreement on a ceasefire which finally guarantees the protection of all civilians and the massive entry of emergency aid,” he said.

“The human toll and humanitarian situation in Gaza are intolerable, and Israeli operations must end,” he stressed.

He said that it is incomprehensible and unacceptable that this Council has still not condemned the terrorist acts committed by Hamas and other terrorist groups on 7 October, as well as the sexual violence used as weapons of war by these terrorists.

“We strongly deplore this and call for the Council to quickly emerge from this culpable ambiguity,” he said.

Chinese envoy to the UN Zhang Jun said the use of the veto by the US sends the wrong message, pushed Gaza further into crisis at a time when Palestinians are struggling on the brink of death.

Mr. Zhang said it is totally untenable of the US to argue that the draft jeopardizes ongoing talks. Meanwhile, the violence is destabilizing the entire region, and the Council must act quickly to stop the carnage.

He added that the Council must uphold international order and demand a ceasefire, which is its legal responsibility.

The Council must not stop its work because of the veto, he said.

He called on the international community to give Palestinians a chance to live and to provide justice.

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