Four countries reportedly issued Egypt with an ultimatum, threatening to bring forward a UN Security Council resolution demanding a halt to Israel’s West Bank settlement activity if Cairo does not reintroduce the draft, hours after it was suddenly shelved.
In a note, New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia and Senegal gave Egypt until the end of Thursday to clarify how it intended to proceed, Reuters reported. They were to meet Friday morning to discuss next steps.
“In the event that Egypt decides that it cannot proceed to call for vote on 23 December or does not provide a response by the deadline, those delegations reserve the right to table the draft … and proceed to put it to vote ASAP,” the note read, according to the report.
The four countries all hold non-permanent seats on the powerful world body, though only Senegal will remain on the council after terms expire next week.
Egypt announced that it was taking the resolution off the table in a surprise move Thursday, after Israeli lobbied frantically for it to be shelved following indications that the US would not exercise its veto over the resolution and allow it to pass.
Diplomats and officials indicated that Egypt came under heavy pressure from officials in Israel as well as US President-elect Donald Trump, apparently drafted by high-level officials in Jerusalem into leaning on Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
In the note, the four countries indicated they were keen to free Cairo of the diplomatic burden of pushing forward with the resolution, drafted in concert with the Palestinians.
“The proposal for other delegations to take the lead… would also help Egypt by relieving it of the burden of carrying this draft alone,” the note read.
A meeting was planned for Friday morning for diplomats to discuss how to proceed.
The draft resolution demands that Israel stop settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and declares that all existing settlements “have no legal validity” and are “a flagrant violation” of international law.
After Egypt pulled the resolution, Arab ambassadors held an emergency meeting at the United Nations to press Egypt to move ahead with a vote but an Arab League committee decided after meeting in Cairo to continue talks on the fate of the motion.
Palestinian envoy Jamal al-Shobaki told reporters in Cairo that Egypt asked for more time and that there would be discussions over the next two days on the next step.
Ahmed Abu-Zeid, spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, earlier told the SkyNewsArabia channel that talks over the fate of the resolution were taking place in New York and in Cairo at the Arab League headquarters, and that an “appropriate” decision will be taken, without elaboration. He didn’t respond to phone calls.
A senior Security Council diplomat earlier suggested that the motion could be buried indefinitely.
“There was a window of opportunity. Whether that window is still there is really not clear,” said a Western diplomat.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN praised the move to delay the vote, but expressed worries it could come back up.
“The delay of the vote is an important step,” Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said, “however we realize that this issue is not yet resolved. We are continuing our diplomatic efforts on all fronts to ensure that this disgraceful resolution will not pass the Security Council.”
While resolutions critical of Israel are not rare for the Security Council, they have traditionally been defanged by the US veto.
But sources said Thursday that US President Barack Obama, frustrated with comatose peace efforts, planned to withhold the veto, and an Israeli official charged the White House of long planning the move in concert with the Palestinians. Israel’s Channel 2 quoted a Jerusalem official saying Obama had planned a diplomatic “hit” on Netanyahu and the settlements, and that Trump intervened with Sissi to prevent it.
After efforts to lobby Washington to change its mind failed, furious Israeli officials reportedly threatened to reach out to Trump and eventually did, leading the incoming US president to issue a statement echoing an earlier one made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling on the US to veto the resolution.
“After becoming aware that the (US administration) would not veto the anti-Israel resolution, Israeli officials reached out to Trump’s transition team to ask for the president-elect’s help to avert the resolution,” an Israeli official told AFP on Friday.
The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed….cont: https://t.co/s8rXKKZNF1
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
Trump also spoke to Sissi about the resolution, an official in Cairo said, and the Egyptian president seemed to support the contention that passing a resolution like this just before Trump took office could tie his hands.
“The presidents agreed on the importance of affording the new US administration the full chance to deal with all dimensions of the Palestinian case with a view of achieving a full and final settlement,” presidency spokesman Alaa Yousef said, according to Reuters.