US vetoes UN Security Council resolution calling for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Published December 9, 2023
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to UAE envoy to the UN Mohamed Abushahab during a UNSC meeting on Gaza.—AFP
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to UAE envoy to the UN Mohamed Abushahab during a UNSC meeting on Gaza.—AFP

UNITED NATIONS: The United States on Friday vetoed the UAE resolution that called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, although 13 of the 15 members of the UN Security Council voted in its favour. Britain abstained.

The US veto ended a desperate effort by the UN Secretary General António Guterres who warned that if not stopped now, the fighting in Gaza would endanger the world peace and destabilise the Middle East.

The resolution, moved by the UAE, the only Arab state in the 15-member Council, was voted in the early hours of Saturday morning (Pakistan time).

Earlier, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Robert A. Wood, had made it clear that Washington did not support an immediate ceasefire.

In his address to the emergency session, called by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Ambassador Wood criticised the Security Council’s failure to condemn Hamas’ Oct 7 raid and emphasised a “fundamental disconnect” between discussions and realities on the ground. The United States, he said, opposed an immediate ceasefire, as this “would only plant the seeds” for the next crisis because Hamas has “no desire to see a lasting peace, to see a two-State solution.”

But the US envoy also warned Israel that “there must be no enduring displacement or reduction in Gaza’s territory. Under no circumstances would the US support forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank.”

Secretary-General Guter­res, who used his emergency powers to call the meeting, expressed concern over the potential collapse of the humanitarian support system in Gaza. Emphasising the risk of devastating consequences for public order, mass displacement into Egypt, and regional security, he reiterated his call for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire” and urged the Council to “act now.”

British Ambassador Barbara Woodward said the “shocking scale of civilian casualties” was alarming. While supporting Israel’s right to self-defense, she called for targeted and precise actions, protection of civilians, and increased humanitarian aid to prevent a catastrophe.

France’s Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière reiterated the call for “an immediate humanitarian truce leading to a permanent ceasefire.” Condemning Hamas’ actions, France deplored the decision not to renew the UN Resident Coordinator’s visa. France also expressed concern over Jewish settlements, calling for a two-state solution.

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun supported the UAE’s draft resolution for an immediate ceasefire, stating that “it is crucial to save lives and pave the way for a two-State solution.” Zhang Jun warned of an imminent larger crisis, urging Member States to act promptly.

“A larger crisis is imminent, and regional peace and security are on the precipice. The world is watching. Member States must act,” he warned.

Russia’s Deputy Repre­sen­tative Dmitriy Polyan­skiy urged the Council to “save Palestinians from extermination” and deman­ded an end to hostilities. “We hope that all colleagues will find the strength and courage to adopt the draft resolution prepared by the United Arab Emirates,” Mr Polyanskiy said. He also said that flooding Gaza with seawater by the Israeli military as a tactic of war would amount to a war crime.

UAE Ambassador Mohamed Issa Abushahab stressed the need for urgent Council action as little aid was reaching Gaza, creating increased danger for civilians. Mr. Abushahab highlighted the new and dangerous phase of the unrest, particularly the siege of Khan Yunis and other parts of southern Gaza.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2023

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