UN resolution on Gaza hampered by issues important to US: cessation of hostilities and aid monitors

AP , Wednesday 20 Dec 2023

The Security Council's adoption of a new UN resolution to spur desperately needed aid to Gaza has been bogged down by two issues important to the United States: a reference to a cessation of hostilities and putting the U.N. in charge of inspecting trucks to ensure they are carrying humanitarian goods.

Humanitarian aid trucks enter through Karm Abu Salem crossing. AP


A vote on the Arab-sponsored resolution, first postponed on Monday, was pushed back again until Wednesday as council members continued intense negotiations to avoid another veto by the United States.

“We’re still working through the modalities of the resolution,” US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday afternoon when the vote was still set for 5 p.m. “It’s important for us that the rest of the world understand what’s at stake here and what Hamas did on the 7th of October and how Israel has a right to defend itself against those threats.”

It was cancelled as the US asked for more time and is now scheduled to take place after an open council briefing followed by closed consultations on the UN political mission in Afghanistan on Wednesday morning.

The draft resolution on the table Monday morning called for an “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities,” but this language was watered down in a new draft circulated early Tuesday.

It now “calls for the urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and for urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities.”

The United States in the past has opposed language on a cessation of hostilities, and diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity, because discussions have been private, said this remains an issue for the Americans.

The resolution also calls for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to establish a mechanism for monitoring aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip. The diplomats said this is also an issue because it bypasses the current Israeli inspection of aid entering the territory.

The US on Dec. 8 vetoed a Security Council resolution backed by almost all other council members and dozens of other nations demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. The 193-member General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a similar resolution on Dec. 12 by a vote of 153-10, with 23 abstentions.

In its first unified action on Nov. 15, with the US abstaining, the Security Council adopted a resolution calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses” in the fighting, unhindered aid deliveries to civilians and the unconditional release of all captives.

The United States has repeatedly called for condemnation of Hamas, and recognition of Israel’s right to self-defence, which has not been included in any of the resolutions that have been adopted, or the latest draft before the council.

But Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh of the United Arab Emirates, the Arab representative on the 15-member council, said Tuesday a new resolution had to go “a little bit further” than the Nov. 15 resolution.

Security Council resolutions are important because they are legally binding, but in practice, many parties choose to ignore the council’s requests for action. General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, though they are a significant barometer of world opinion.


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