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France circulating draft of Security Council resolution calling for ceasefire

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

The UN Security Council chambers in New York. (Norway Mission to the UN/Twitter)
The UN Security Council chambers in New York. (Norway Mission to the UN/Twitter)

NEW YORK — The French mission to the United Nations has circulated a draft resolution to members of the Security Council that calls for a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza terror groups, as countries on the top UN body continue their efforts to weigh in on the ongoing violence despite US objections.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office publicly announced the matter following a trilateral meeting he held earlier today with Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who is currently visiting Paris, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who joined via video conference.

French President Emanuel Macron (R) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi attend a video conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah II (on screen) to work on a concrete proposal for a ceasefire and a possible path to discussions between Israel and the Palestinians at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on May 18, 2021. (SARAH MEYSSONNIER / POOL / AFP)

“The three countries agreed on three simple elements: The shooting must stop, the time has come for a ceasefire and the UN Security Council must take up the issue,” the Elysee Palace says in a statement.

In addition to demanding an immediate end to the violence, the core of the resolution’s text stresses the urgent need for humanitarian assistance to Gaza, a Security Council diplomat told The Times of Israel.

Axios reported that the French move surprised the US mission, which has three times in the past week blocked joint statements with similar messaging, insisting that such measures would not help advance a ceasefire and that it wanted time for its own efforts to play out.

A Security Council resolution carries more weight than a joint statement, and blocking one backed by every other member would require the US to issue a veto — something it likely wants to avoid as Biden has vowed to take a more multilateral approach to diplomacy and improve ties with longtime allies that were damaged by his predecessor Donald Trump.

While Biden “expressed his support for a ceasefire” during a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a source familiar with the matter said no deadline was demanded from the Israeli premier for when IDF operations in Gaza must conclude. However, the president did warn that he would not be able to hold off pressure from within his party and in the international community for an immediate ceasefire for much longer and urged Netanyahu to bring the fighting to a close.

The French resolution includes rhetoric and messaging similar to what has been heard from Biden on the matter in recent days in an effort to make it more difficult for the US to explain why it won’t back the measure, the Security Council diplomat said.

The original draft of the statement does not make mention of Hamas rocket fire but the diplomat said such amendments could be added by other members in the coming days.

“The strategy is to convince all parties, so the text should be very focused and acceptable to everyone,” the diplomat said, adding that a date for when the resolution will be brought before the Security Council has not yet been set. “We will try to move as soon as possible.”

“The issue is concerning for everyone, and members cannot be silent on the issue,” the diplomat said, noting that Biden himself has backed a ceasefire and that the US should therefore be comfortable getting behind the measure.

Israel has opposed such efforts, and its Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan on Sunday urged members to “unequivocally condemn Hamas,” rather than calling on both sides to exercise restraint. The Israeli mission asked the US to oppose the joint statements introduced over the past week.

Macron had on Monday underlined the importance of Egyptian mediation after talks in Paris with Sissi.

China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun said that during a closed-door meeting, members “heard the proposal made by our French colleague in the Council and for China, definitely, we are supportive to all effort facilitating the ending of the crisis and the coming back of peace in the Middle East.”

AFP contributed to this report

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