Security Council Fails to Adopt Resolution Demanding Immediate Humanitarian Ceasefire in Gaza on Account of Veto by United States
The Security Council today failed to adopt a resolution that would have demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza due to a veto cast by the United States, following a debate earlier in the day that was urgently called for by the UN Secretary-General. (See Press Release SC/15518.)
If adopted, the resolution — presented by the United Arab Emirates — would have also demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access.
By other terms, it would have reiterated its demand that all parties comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, notably regarding the protection of civilians. Further, it would have requested the Secretary-General to report to the Council on an urgent and continuing basis on the state of implementation of the present resolution.
Despite being blocked by a permanent member, the text garnered support from 13 Council members, including three permanent members (China, France and the Russian Federation), with another permanent member (United Kingdom) abstaining.
The vote followed this morning’s briefing, which was convened based on Secretary-General António Guterres’s letter dated 6 December 2023 (document S/2023/962), invoking Article 99 of the Charter of the United Nations, which reads: “The Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”
Speaking before the vote, Mohamed Issa Abushahab (United Arab Emirates) noted that the draft resolution tabled by his country drew co-sponsorship from at least 97 Member States within 24 hours. The text is “brief, simple and crucial”, he said, adding that his delegation expedited negotiations on the text after 63 days of conflict and more than 18,000 people killed. Resolution 2712 (2023) adopted on 15 November matters but is not enough. “The imperative right now must supersede every other consideration,” he said. Calling for an end to bombing on Gaza, he implored all to support the draft.
Also speaking before the vote was Dmitry A. Polyanskiy (Russian Federation), who said that for two months, the Council has failed to fulfil its function due to the hard-headed, selfish and destructive position of the United States, which is doing all it can to protect its ally. The result of its quiet diplomacy is “a cemetery of Palestinian children, which is what Gaza has become”. Citing merciless Israeli bombings and plans to flood tunnels with seawater, he added: “Yet again, American diplomacy is leaving scorched earth and destruction in its wake.” He asked how the United States will explain to its own citizens protesting in the streets if it blocks the draft resolution, cautioning its delegation not to end up on the wrong side of history.
Mr. Abushahab (United Arab Emirates), speaking after the vote, expressed his deep disappointment with its outcome. “In the face of an untold misery, this Council is unable to demand a ceasefire,” he said. Stressing that the 15-member organ grows isolated and appears untethered from its own founding document, he asked: “What is the message we are sending the Palestinians if we cannot unite?” However, he noted that this disappointing outcome will not deter his country from continuing to implore Council members to act and bring the violence in Gaza to an end.
Robert A. Wood (United States) said his delegation engaged in good faith on the text. Unfortunately, nearly all of his country’s recommendations were ignored and the rushed negotiation process resulted in an unbalanced resolution divorced from reality on the ground. Furthermore, he questioned why the draft’s authors declined to include language condemning Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October. He also expressed disappointment that the authors declined to add language reaffirming that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) must be permitted to access and provide medical treatment to the hostages still held by Hamas terrorists. This text also failed to acknowledge Israel’s right to self-defence, in accordance with international law. “The resolution retains a call for an unconditional ceasefire — this is not only unrealistic but dangerous; it will simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did on 7 October,” he added. “As long as Hamas clings to its ideology of destruction, any ceasefire is at best temporary,” he asserted.
Nicolas de Rivière (France) said that he voted in favour of the draft resolution. There is no contradiction between fighting terrorism and protecting civilians. He wished that the Council would have been able to condemn the terrorist attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups. Unfortunately, this Council failed again due to a lack of unity or by refusing to genuinely commit to negotiations. France will continue to commit to fully mobilizing the Council on all aspects of the crisis, whether it is security, humanitarian or political.
Francesca Maria Gatt (Malta) expressed regret that the Council failed to call for an immediate ceasefire despite the desperate need for one, citing the Secretary-General’s clear message that the situation in Gaza is untenable and catastrophic. She condemned Hamas’ brutality against Israel and its people, including sexual violence and mutilation, calling for the unconditional release of all hostages. While recognizing Israel’s right to protect its population, she stressed that military operations must abide by international humanitarian law. She called for a recommitment for comprehensive peace in the Middle East with a two-State solution.
Barbara Woodward (United Kingdom), welcoming the extended humanitarian pause, the release of hostages and the delivery of humanitarian aid, called for further and longer pauses. However, she said she cannot vote in favour of the resolution that does not deplore Hamas’ atrocities, noting that calling for a ceasefire ignores the fact that Hamas committed acts of terror and is still holding civilians hostage. Israel needs to be able to address the threat posed by Hamas to ensure that such attack will never be carried out again. For this reason, she abstained on the draft resolution.
Pascale Christine Baeriswyl (Switzerland) said her delegation voted in favour of the draft, understanding a humanitarian ceasefire as a time-limited pause, without prejudicing Israel’s right to assure its defence and security. She expressed regret that the resolution was not adopted.
Zhang Jun (China) said that his country is among the nearly 100 co-sponsors of the text. He expressed deep disappointment at the veto cast. Condoning the continuation of fighting while claiming to care about the lives and safety of people in Gaza is self-contradictory. Condoning the continuation of fighting while advocating for the prevention of the spill-over effects of the conflict is self-deceiving. Condoning the continuation of fighting while making references to the protection of women and girls and human rights is hypocritical. These are double standards.
Carolyn Abena Anima Oppong-Ntiri (Ghana) noted that her delegation voted in favour in view of the quickly deteriorating situation in Gaza, calling for an immediate unconditional humanitarian ceasefire. Stressing that such a resolution could have included condemnation of the heinous attacks by Hamas on 7 October, she called on the Council to ensure that its resolutions address all underlying issues at hand to maintain its objectivity and creditability, to “act as an honest broker for the peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian question based on the two-State solution”.
Mr. Polyanskiy (Russian Federation) said that “today will become one of the darkest days in the Middle East.” Once again, cynically blocking the calls for a ceasefire, the United States has “before our eyes issued a death sentence to thousands, if not tens of thousands more civilians”. Noting that two Security Council members preferred to remain complicit to the “merciless Israeli bloodbath”, he expressed confidence that the outcome of the vote has “resounded painfully” in the hearts of ordinary people in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Ishikane Kimihiro (Japan) said that after a hopeful weeklong humanitarian pause in fighting broke down, the situation rapidly deteriorated with a new round of death, displacement and destruction. His delegation voted in favour of the draft as the loss of all civilian life, whether Palestinian or Israeli, is tragic, he said, expressing regret that the text has failed to be adopted. Nevertheless, it must be recalled that the country that vetoed it is engaging in enormous diplomatic efforts to make a tangible difference in improving the humanitarian situation on the ground, he stressed.
Albana Dautllari (Albania) said that she voted in favour, joining the call of the Secretary-General and UN agencies to end hostilities on the ground so that humanitarian aid can be delivered. Her delegation supports the text’s clear focus on the protection of civilians and international humanitarian law. She supported a humanitarian ceasefire to save civilians, not to shield Hamas. A ceasefire should not be misused by Hamas to regroup. The Council should start thinking how to hold Hamas accountable for the group’s 7 October attacks. The people of Gaza should reject Hamas.
Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon) noted his delegation voted in favour of the draft due to a sense of responsibility to put an end to the bloodbath. Once again, however, the Council was unable to overcome its divisions and respond to the chaotic situation of women and children in the ruins of Gaza. He voiced regret that “there will not be a ceasefire tonight”, and no response to Secretary-General’s António Guterres’s unprecedented call to activate Article 99 of the Charter of the United Nations.
Sérgio França Danese (Brazil) said that he voted in favour of the draft, which his country has also co-sponsored. “Sooner or later the Council members must shoulder their responsibility and do what is right,” he stressed, noting that these are “dictates of humanity”. Observing that States might be irreparably harming the prospect of a two-State solution, he added: “Now that we failed once again, maybe we could try a more effective negotiating process which will put the whole responsibility of a draft resolution on all Member States.”
Domingos Estêvão Fernandes (Mozambique) expressed deep regret that despite its efforts, the Council was unable to adopt a resolution which was meant to address the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza. His delegation voted in favour of the text, hoping that it would lead to an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, thereby mitigating the suffering of the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip.
José Javier De la Gasca Lopez Domínguez (Ecuador), Council President for December, speaking in his national capacity and recalling the remarks made by his country’s President on 7 December, stressed that Quito is always in favour of peace and a ceasefire in Gaza and elsewhere. Every person that has died in Israel and Palestine since 7 October is a tragedy, he said, stressing the urgent need to move towards peace and avoid a humanitarian disaster.
Riyad H. Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, stated “this is the moment of truth”, a turning point in history, yet it is beyond regrettable and disastrous that the Council was prevented from upholding its responsibility in the face of this grave crisis threatening lives and regional security. Every single Palestinian life is sacred; however, after two months of massacres and atrocities, the war criminals are given more time to perpetuate their crimes, he said, warning that hundreds of people will be killed by this time tomorrow, including children — not by mistake but by design.
He also warned that the humanitarian catastrophe will reach terrifying new depths, with 2.3 million Palestinians paying with their lives the price of double standards and bias, racism and Israeli exceptionalism. He thanked the nearly 100 countries who in less than a day’s time rallied to co-sponsor the draft resolution, and those Council members who voted in favour. “This is a terrible day for the Security Council,” he stressed, rejecting the result of the vote and renewing the call for a ceasefire and a resumed General Assembly emergency session.