After Russia and China vetoed US resolution on Friday

UNSC vote set for Monday on new Gaza ceasefire resolution; US unlikely to back it

Council to vote on Russia and China-backed measure that Washington warns may give Hamas excuse to back out of ongoing hostage deal talks with Israel

A general view shows a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, March. 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)
A general view shows a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, March. 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

The UN Security Council is set to vote on Monday on a resolution demanding a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, but the United States warned the measure could hurt negotiations to pause the Israel-Hamas war, and is unlikely to back it.

The resolution, put forward by the 10 elected council members, is backed by Russia and China, who vetoed a US-sponsored resolution Friday that supported “an immediate and sustained ceasefire” in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

The 22-nation Arab Group at the UN issued a statement on Friday night appealing to all 15 council members “to act with unity and urgency” and vote for the resolution “to halt the bloodshed, preserve human lives and avert further human suffering and destruction.”

“It is long past time for a ceasefire,” the Arab Group said. Ramadan began March 10 and ends April 9.

The council is expected to vote on the resolution on Monday morning. The vote was earlier scheduled for Saturday morning, but was delayed early Saturday, according to a UN diplomat.

Many members are hoping that the UN’s most powerful body, which is charged with maintaining international peace and security, will demand an end to the war that began after Hamas launched its devastating onslaught in southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 253 others hostage.

Palestinians gather to fetch water from tanks transported on donkey-pulled carts, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 22, 2024. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Since then, the Security Council has adopted two resolutions on the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, but none has called for a ceasefire.

More than 32,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed during the fighting, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. The unverified figure does not differentiate between combatants and civilians and is believed to include Palestinians killed by terror groups’ rocket misfires and at least 13,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Gaza also faces a dire humanitarian emergency, with a report from an international authority on hunger warning this week that “famine is imminent” in northern Gaza and that escalation of the war could push half of the territory’s 2.3 million people to the brink of starvation.

The brief resolution scheduled for a vote Monday demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire for Ramadan “leading to a permanent sustainable ceasefire.” It 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.

The draft does not include provisions supporting ongoing diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire — an element that was highlighted in the US resolution.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the council after Friday’s vote that the new resolution’s text “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.”

“We should not move forward with any resolution that jeopardizes the ongoing negotiations” being carried out by the United States, Qatar and Egypt, she said, warning that if the diplomacy isn’t supported “we may once again find this council deadlocked.”

“I truly hope that that does not come about,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

The United States has vetoed three resolutions demanding a ceasefire in Gaza, the most recent an Arab-backed measure. That measure was supported by 13 members with one abstention in a February 20 vote.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks during a UN Security Council motion for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage deal vote at UN headquarters in New York, on March 22, 2024 (ANGELA WEISS / AFP)

Russia and China vetoed a US-sponsored resolution in late October calling for pauses in the fighting to deliver aid, the protection of civilians and a halt to arming Hamas. They said it did not reflect global calls for a ceasefire.

They again vetoed the US resolution on Friday, calling it ambiguous and saying it was not the direct demand to end the fighting that much of the world seeks.

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

Hamas on Friday voiced “appreciation” after Russia and China vetoed the “biased” US-led draft resolution. It said the draft contained “misleading wording that is complicit” with Israel and “grants it cover and legitimacy to commit a genocidal war against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.”

The vote in the Security Council became another showdown involving world powers that are locked in tense disputes elsewhere, with the United States taking criticism for not being tough enough against its ally Israel, even as tensions between the two countries rise.

Before the vote, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow supports an immediate ceasefire, but he criticized the diluted language, which he called philosophical wording that does not belong in a UN resolution.

He accused US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the US ambassador to the UN of “deliberately misleading the international community” about calling for a ceasefire.

“This was some kind of an empty rhetorical exercise,” Nebenzia said. “The American product is exceedingly politicized, the sole purpose of which is to help to play to the voters, to throw them a bone in the form of some kind of a mention of a ceasefire in Gaza … and to ensure the impunity of Israel, whose crimes in the draft are not even assessed.”

Zhang Jun, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations, speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, March. 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

China’s UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, said the US proposal set preconditions and fell far short of the expectations of council members and the broader international community.

“If the US was serious about a ceasefire, it wouldn’t have vetoed time and again multiple council resolutions,” he said. “It wouldn’t have taken such a detour and played a game of words while being ambiguous and evasive on critical issues.”

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

After the vote, Thomas-Greenfield accused Russia and China of vetoing the resolution for “deeply cynical reasons,” saying they could not bring themselves to condemn Hamas’s massacre in southern Israel on October 7, which the resolution would have done for the first time.

A second “petty” reason, she said, is that “Russia and China simply did not want to vote for a resolution that was penned by the United States because it would rather see us fail than to see this council succeed.” She accused Russia of again putting “politics over progress” and having “the audacity and hypocrisy to throw stones” after launching an unwarranted invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The resolution did reflect a shift by the United States, which has found itself at odds with much of the world as even allies of Israel push for an unconditional end to fighting.

In previous resolutions, the US has closely intertwined calls for a ceasefire with demands for the release of Israeli hostages in Gaza. This resolution, using wording that’s open to interpretation, continued to link the two issues, but not as firmly.

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