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Gaza war: China, Russia veto US resolution

Gaza war: China, Russia veto US resolution
Zhang Jun, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations at the UN headquarters on March. 22, 2024   -  
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Yuki Iwamura/AP

UN Security Council

Despite mounting atrocities in Gaza, the U.N Security Council remains deadlocked. Russia and China on Friday (Mar. 22) vetoed a U.S. resolution which “determined the imperative of an immediate and sustained cease-fire”.

The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 11 members in favour and three against, including Algeria, the Arab representative on the council. There was one abstention, from Guyana.

A key issue in the vote was the language that said the Security Council “determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained cease-fire.” The phrasing was not a straightforward “demand” or “call” to halt hostilities.

Algeria's ambassador Amar Bendjama emphasized the urgency of an immediate ceasefire to prevent further loss of life and regretted that the draft fell short [of it] and explaining why he voted against it.

 Bendjama said since the US circulated its draft over a month ago, Algeria had proposed reasonable edits to achieve a “more balanced and acceptable text”. He acknowledged that some of their proposals had been included but “core concerns remained unaddressed.”

Emphasizing “measures” to reduce civilian harm and talk of “operations” implies a license for continuing bloodshed for Israel, he reckoned. The operation in Rafah would have devastating consequences if it goes ahead, he added.

The final U.S. draft eliminated language in the initial draft that said Israel’s offensive in Rafah “should not proceed under current circumstances.” Instead, in an introductory paragraph, the council emphasized its concern that a ground offensive into Rafah “would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement, potentially into neighbouring countries, and would have serious implications for regional peace and security.”

Before the vote, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow supports an immediate cease-fire, but he criticized the language of the resolution, which he called philosophical wording that does not belong in a U.N. resolution.

He accused U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield of “deliberately misleading the international community.”

He said the US was trying to "sell a product" to the Council by using the word imperative in its resolution.

"This is not enough" and the Council must "demand a ceasefire" he declared. 

“Hostages for the crimes of others”

China’s Ambassador Zhang Jun said that the most urgent action the Council should take is calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, in line with the wishes of the UN General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General.

With a view to safeguarding the UN Charter and the “dignity” of the Council, together with the view of Arab States, China therefore voted against the US draft.

Ambassador Zhang Jun pointed to the new draft resolution from the 10 elected Council members now circulating and which will reportedly put to the vote in the coming days.

The U.S. has vetoed three resolutions demanding a cease-fire, the most recent an Arab-backed measure supported by 13 council members with one abstention on Feb. 20.

Ambassador Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett from Guyana said her country abstained because the resolution did not call for an immediate ceasefire.

She said a ceasefire should not be linked to the taking of hostages. “The Palestinians should not themselves be held hostage for the crimes of others.”

US ambassador Thomas-Greenfield had urged the council to adopt the resolution to press for an immediate cease-fire and the release of the hostages, as well as to address Gaza's humanitarian crisis and support ongoing diplomacy by the United States, Egypt and Qatar.

She said Russia and China were doing nothing meaningful to advance peace.

France emphasized the urgent need to delivery ample much-needed aid into Gaza adding it remained opposed to an Israeli incursion in Rafah. 

Underlining the importance of realizing a two-State solution to the conflict, French ambassador Nicholas de Rivière said his country will propose an initiative to the Council in this regard.

What's in the draft presented by 10 UNSC members?

10 elected members of the Security Council have put their own resolution in a final form to be voted on. It demands an immediate humanitarian cease-fire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that began March 10 to be “respected by all parties leading to a permanent sustainable cease-fire.” Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, told reporters the vote would take place either late Friday or Saturday morning.

The resolution also demands “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages” and emphasizes the urgent need to protect civilians and deliver humanitarian aid throughout the Gaza Strip.

Russia's ambassador Nebenzia urged council members to support it, but his US counterpart Thomas-Greenfield said the text's current form "fails to support sensitive diplomacy in the region. Worse, it could actually give Hamas an excuse to walk away from the deal on the table.”

Chinese ambassador Zhang Jun supports the draft saying it “is clear on the issue of a ceasefire and is in line with the correct direction of the Council action and is of great relevance.”

He said criticism by the UK and US of China’s veto was hypocritical and if they were serious about a ceasefire, they should support the new draft. 

The United States is taking criticism for not being tough enough against its ally Israel, whose ongoing military offensive has created a dire humanitarian crisis for the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza.

In Gaza, the Health Ministry raised the death toll in the territory Thursday (Mar. 21) to nearly 32,000 Palestinians.

Israel faces mounting pressure to streamline the entry of aid into the Gaza Strip, to open more land crossings and to come to a cease-fire agreement. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to move the military offensive to the southern city of Rafah, where some 1.3 million displaced Palestinians have sought safety. Netanyahu says it’s a Hamas stronghold.

Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people in the surprise Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel which triggered the latest war in a decades long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The military wing of Hamas and its allies abducted another 250 people. Hamas is still believed to be holding some 100 people hostage, as well as the remains of 30 others.