_
_
_
_
_

UN Security Council adopts resolution on aid to Gaza watered down by US pressure

The threat of a new veto from Washington reduced the initial demands for a suspension of hostilities and instead asks for ‘urgent steps’ to create the conditions for a sustainable suspension of the fighting

María Antonia Sánchez-Vallejo
Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU
The U.N. Security Council room, this Thursday after confirming a new delay in the vote.SHANNON STAPLETON (REUTERS)

After intense negotiations that lasted almost a week, the United States on Friday lifted its objection to a draft United Nations Security Council resolution to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza at a time when the population of the Strip is facing the certain threat of hunger. In the vote, postponed repeatedly since Monday, the 15-member Council approved the text by 13-0 with two abstentions from the United States and Russia. The wording of the document is a compromise solution that involved watering down the initial resolution, in the opinion of several members of the Council.

The cessation or suspension of hostilities to allow the entry of aid and a mechanism for monitoring shipments — the two pillars of the proposal presented a week ago by the United Arab Emirates — have been diluted into vague initiatives (”urgent steps” to allow aid and “a coordinator” appointed by the U.N.) that did not satisfy some members of the Council, such as Russia, nor many others in the General Assembly, such as the group of Arab countries.

The key provision originally called for “the urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and for urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities.” Instead, the final wording calls for “urgent steps to immediately allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and also for creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.” Diplomatic sources consulted by the AP agency had earlier celebrated that, if approved, this would be the Council’s first reference to a cessation of hostilities.

All eyes were on the Russian representative, Vasily Nebenzya, who was dissatisfied with the thinning of the original text and who presented an amendment to include a call for a ceasefire, supported by 10 members of the Council but vetoed by the United States. Curiously, Russia has agreed with the United States by abstaining from voting on the resolution, although for very different reasons. In addition to the vague request for “urgent measures” to allow unimpeded access to the necessary supplies, the main reason for discussion since the Emirates presented the draft resolution last Friday has been the establishment of a control mechanism by the U.N. of all aid shipments that cross into the Strip to ensure that trucks do not introduce weapons or smuggled goods. The United States, as Israel’s voice in the Council, has resisted approving this measure, considering that it further complicated the distribution of aid, which is why the initial request has been transformed into a call to the Secretary General, António Guterres, to appoint “a senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator with responsibility for facilitating, coordinating, monitoring and verifying” that deliveries are of a humanitarian nature. Israel is reluctant to hand that task to third parties, and the U.S. has managed to get the Council to tone down the original request.

Eleventh-hour talks between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his counterparts from the Emirates — the only Arab country that sits on the Council — and Egypt — through which aid enters the Strip — have been key to ironing out the existing differences on the draft. This was made clear by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, after a closed-door meeting of the Council held on Thursday afternoon. She said the U.S. worked hard and diligently all last week with Egypt and the Emirates to ensure the implementation of “a mechanism to support the humanitarian aid” that Gaza desperately needs. “We are ready to vote on it,” said the diplomat, who explained that the final text is the result of Blinken’s negotiation with Egypt and the Emirates, bypassing the other 13 members of the Council, several of whom opposed being left out, according to diplomatic sources.

Which way the U.S. would vote was not clear: an abstention was enough to move the resolution forward, although on Thursday night the threat of a veto was still there. “I’m not going to tell you how I’m going to vote,” Thomas-Greenfield declared Thursday, adding that if the resolution was presented as written, the United States “can support it.” Security Council resolutions are, theoretically, binding and require at least nine votes in favor and no veto to be approved.

Several members of the Council, including Russia and France, both with veto power, like the United States, were not satisfied with the latest corrections to the text, while some diplomatic sources wondered how getting aid into the Strip will be ensured if the fighting does not stop. The concept “cessation or suspension of hostilities” is a red line for the United States and Israel, who consider that it would only benefit Hamas. Furthermore, the new formulation of the text calls on all parties to adhere to international humanitarian law and deplores all attacks against civilians and civilian assets, as well as all violence and hostilities against civilians and all acts of terrorism.

The U.S. was alone against the world in two earlier U.N. votes on Gaza. The first, a ceasefire resolution from the Council, which it vetoed on December 8. The second, its rejection of another practically identical resolution that was passed by a large majority in the General Assembly, four days later. Then, only nine countries, including Israel, supported their rejection of the text. Despite the notorious isolation of the United States in the U.N. regarding the Gaza war — similar to that of Russia since the Ukraine war began — the threat of its veto power has managed to break the will of the other 14 members of the Council, reflected in a much more ambitious initial proposal.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

More information

Archived In

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
_
_