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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - UN Security Council again delays Gaza aid resolution vote as high-level talks try to avoid US veto
UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council again Wednesday delayed the vote on a new UN resolution on desperately needed aid to Gaza for another day as the Biden administration struggles to change key wording in high-level negotiations seeking to avoid a US veto.
The United States is seeking to change the text’s references to a cessation of hostilities in the Israel-Hamas war and to putting the United Nations in charge of inspecting trucks to ensure they are actually carrying humanitarian goods, which Israel opposes.
Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh of the United Arab Emirates, which sponsored the Arab-backed resolution, said very high-level discussions are underway to try to reach agreement on a text that can be adopted.
“Everyone wants to see a resolution that has impact and that is implementable on the ground,” she told reporters after the 15 council members held closed consultations. “We believe today, giving a little bit of space for additional diplomacy, could yield positive results.”
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive diplomacy, said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will speak with his Egyptian and UAE counterparts to try to reach a consensus either late Wednesday or early Thursday.
Nusseibeh said the UAE is optimistic but if the negotiations yield no results by Thursday, “then we will assess in the council to proceed ... to a vote on the resolution.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said Gaza faces “a humanitarian catastrophe” and that a total collapse of the humanitarian support system would lead to “a complete breakdown of public order and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt.”
The UN food agency reported last week that 56 percent of Gaza’s households are experiencing “severe levels of hunger,” up from 38 percent two weeks earlier.
The vote — initially postponed from Monday and then pushed back to Tuesday and then Wednesday — is now expected on Thursday morning, Ecuador’s UN Ambassador José Javier De La Gasca López-Domínguez said.
The draft on the table Monday morning called for an “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities,” but this language was watered down in a new version that was to be put to a vote on Wednesday. It would call “for the urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and for urgent steps toward a sustainable cessation of hostilities.”
That draft also calls for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to quickly establish a mechanism for exclusive UN monitoring of aid deliveries to Gaza — bypassing the current Israeli inspection of aid entering the strip.
A council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions were private, said the US and Egypt are engaging directly to ensure any aid monitoring mechanism can work for everyone.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby also raised two other issues Wednesday morning that are not in the Arab-sponsored resolution — condemnation of Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 incursion into southern Israel that sparked the latest war and Israel’s right to self-defense.
“It’s important for us, if the Security Council is going to speak on this, that there’s a condemnation of Hamas and what they did on the 7th of October, there’s a recognition of the need for Israel to be able to defend itself, and there’s of course, significant commitment by all members on getting humanitarian assistance into the people of Gaza,” Kirby told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Joe Biden was enroute to Wisconsin.
The US has repeatedly called for condemnation of Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise attack that killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and recognition of Israel’s right to self-defense, which have not been included in any of the adopted resolutions or the latest draft.
Blinken told a Washington news conference later Wednesday that the US has engaged intensively and “in very good faith” in negotiations on the resolution, “so I hope we can get to a new place.”
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 cease-fire 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 hostages.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog said during a briefing with ambassadors Tuesday that Israel is “ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid in order to enable the release of hostages.”
But the UAE’s Nusseibeh said the new resolution must go “a little bit further.”
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.
Nearly 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry since the war started. Suring the Oct. 7 attack, the militants also took about 240 hostages back to Gaza.
Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, and its Health Ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths. Thousands more Palestinians lie buried under the rubble of Gaza, the UN estimates.
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