Seventy-eighth Session,
60th & 61st Meetings (AM & PM)

Veto of Security Council Resolution Calling for Ceasefire in Gaza Emboldens Israel to Continue Crimes against Palestinian People, Speakers Tell General Assembly

The use of the Security Council veto by the United States to block an Algerian draft resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza only emboldens Israel to continue its crimes against the Palestinian people, speakers warned the General Assembly today, stressing that the humanitarian situation in the enclave is catastrophic and worsening as a result.

In April 2022, the Assembly adopted a resolution on “Standing mandate for a General Assembly debate when a veto is cast in the Security Council” (document A/RES/76/262), which has come to be described as the “veto initiative”.  Today’s meeting was triggered by the use of veto by the United States on 20 February to reject the adoption of a Council resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

The representative of Saudi Arabia, aligning himself with the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab Group and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), stressed that the use of the veto by United States was an obstacle to ending the bloodshed in Gaza.  He called upon the international community to uphold its responsibility to end the war and its escalation, cautioning against the announced invasion of Rafah — which portends further devastation as a result of the forced displacement imposed by the Israeli army, continuing its heinous violations.  Calling for implementation of Council resolution 2720 (2023), he stressed that the current crisis is a consequence of the international community’s failure to end the occupation and implement a two-State solution.

“We are meeting today with heavy hearts” said the representative of Egypt, aligning himself with the Arab Group and OIC.  Current efforts to reach an agreement on release of hostages and prisoners and adopt a ceasefire will not be obstructed by a Council resolution calling for the same objective.  In fact, it will bolster such diplomatic efforts, and give hope to Gaza’s civilians, whereas the repeated use of veto only emboldens Israel to continue its crimes, he stressed.  The diplomatic negotiations under way do not in any way run counter to the Council’s fulfilment of its mandate, he pointed out.

Nicaragua’s delegate, aligning himself with the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, recalled that the United States has used its veto in the Security Council on 45 occasions on the situation in the Middle East, including 19 negative votes on the question of Palestine since 1972 — a clear demonstration of disrespect for the international community and the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.  He strongly condemned the atrocities committed against the Palestinian people, accompanied by statements from Israel’s highest authorities that clearly express a genocidal intention.

The representative of the Russian Federation noted that for the fourth time, the Assembly was meeting to listen to “spurious excuses” from the United States in connection with yet another veto.  The outcome of its diplomatic efforts is well-known: slaughter continues in Gaza, with more than 30,000 dead in five months — aggravated by Israel’s smear campaign against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  The Russian Federation has worked tirelessly for an end to the bloodshed in Gaza since the first days after the events of 7 October 2023, which he condemned.  However, responding with methods of collective punishment of Palestinian civilians is unacceptable and contrary to international law.

The representative of Sri Lanka underscored that use of the veto in recent times has been in clear contravention of the Charter, expressing concern that the veto was used against the will of the overwhelming Council majority.  The last remaining hospitals in Gaza are about to collapse and a famine is imminent, he warned.  Meanwhile, small as it is, Sri Lanka has created a fund of $1 million for assistance to the children of Gaza.  How ironic to be discussing the Pact of the Future during such grim events, he reflected, adding “whose future?”  That future should include the children of Gaza, he underscored.

Meanwhile, Namibia’s delegate affirmed that the Council should not shield the violators of international law nor shy away from the robust guardrails that protect civilians and humanitarians during conflict. While ample times must be given for diplomatic efforts, he said, “we have not seen results that warrant more time for such efforts”.  Stressing the need for an immediate ceasefire that will end the violence and enable rapid provision of humanitarian aid, he said it was counter-intuitive to veto Algeria’s draft resolution because it does not single out a party to the conflict.

The representative of Jordan, aligning himself with the Arab Group, expressed concern that the Council failed yet again to carry out its responsibilities as the Israeli war enters the sixth month.  Israel’s continued aggression is the result of this failure, he said, highlighting the massacre conducted by that country’s army on civilians on Al-Rashid Street as yet another war crime.  He also stressed Jordan’s authority to manage all affairs concerning the Al-Aqsa Mosque, including management of the entrance.  Preventing Muslims from entering the mosque, especially during Ramadan, is illegal, he said, adding that it could be the harbinger of yet another spiral of violence.

The representative of the League of Arab States, in its capacity as observer, aligning himself with the Arab Group, stressed that the right of self-defence does not apply to territories occupied by force.  The United States will not succeed in justifying its use of the veto for the fourth time against a draft resolution calling for a ceasefire, especially as the resolution references deteriorating humanitarian conditions pushing people to the brink of famine.  Noting that Washington D.C.’s negotiations seek to achieve “merely a humanitarian pause to ensure the release of Israeli hostages”, he criticized the absence of the Council and the Assembly from this deal, leading to increased intransigence by Israel.  “This is why no deal has been achieved so far,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Syria’s delegate stressed that Israel is committing crimes not only in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but also in his country and Lebanon.  The counter-draft by the United States is an attempt to divert attention from how it prevented the Council from maintaining its peace; it is also about giving Israel more time to commit its crimes.  Noting that the United States opened its weapons depot and offered weapons, munitions and expertise to Israel, he underscored that the country is directly involved in killing thousands of Palestinians and destroying infrastructure, including United Nations schools.

The representative of Türkiye warned that “A new episode of the tragedy is under way in Rafah,” adding that any violation of the historical status of Haram Al-Sharif could add fuel to fire, especially on the eve of Ramadan.  Condemning the killing of civilians waiting desperately for a food convoy, she asked delegates to reflect on what all this means for the future of human rights and the United Nations.  Warning that this breakdown of international law could unleash more aggression around the world, she said its repercussions will go far beyond the region which has already seen spillover conflict.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates called upon all States to continue working towards adopting a ceasefire resolution regardless of the challenges, pointing to the possible spillover of the conflict and the approaching of the holy month of Ramadan.  Highlighting the mediation efforts led by Egypt, Qatar and the United States, he emphasized the need for halting incitement rhetoric — a practice his country condemns.  The war and the broader Palestinian issue highlighted the repercussions of veto misuse and failure to implement resolutions, making “Security Council reform a matter of priority”, he stressed.

Echoing that call for reform, the representative of Brazil stressed that developing countries can no longer be kept at the margin of Council decision-making, calling for adequate representation.  Asking how long Palestinians will wait for diplomatic efforts to succeed, he stressed that there is no legal basis for the establishment of settlements in any of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Like 138 members of the United Nations, Brazil has recognized the State of Palestine and strongly supports its admission to as a full member.  This would help create conditions for the peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he affirmed.

With Ramadan approaching, China’s delegate stressed that an immediate ceasefire in Gaza is a prerequisite to save innocent civilians, and key to avoiding further escalation of the conflict.  He urged Israel to immediately reverse its plans for an offensive against Rafah and stop the forced transfer and collective punishment of the Palestinian population — calling on the countries concerned to put aside geostrategic considerations and play a constructive role.  With 600,000 people on the verge of famine and social order on the brink of collapse, he called on Israel — as an occupying Power — to guarantee safe, rapid and unimpeded entry of humanitarian supplies and cease discrediting the two-State solution.

The representative of South Africa, expressing concern that some will uphold Israel’s so-called right to defend itself against a population it illegally occupies until there are no Palestinians left in Gaza, condemned the use of starvation as a weapon of war. Her country had to resort to international judicial mechanisms to seek justice for the Palestinian people.  At this point, there is no credible basis for Israel to claim that its military actions comply with international law, including the Genocide Convention, she said.  Hamas also violated international law and must be held accountable, she said, reiterating the call for the immediate release of all hostages.  Expressing support for UNRWA, she urged the Assembly to consider alternate approaches to supporting the Agency with predictable funding, while donor Governments must resume and scale up funding.

The representative of France stressed that the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza requires the international community to avoid the collapse of UNRWA — while also welcoming the first measures taken by the Secretary-General to ensure the neutrality of the Agency and to shed light on the grave allegations against 12 UNRWA employees.  He stressed that it is unacceptable that the Council and the Assembly have not yet condemned the barbaric terrorist acts committed by Hamas and other terrorist groups on 7 October — calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and for Israeli operations to end.

In other business, the Assembly took up the Note by the Secretary-General titled “Extension of the appointment of the Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security” (document A/78/785), noting that the Secretary-General had announced the appointment of Gilles Michaud (Canada) as Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security for a five-year term which began on 1 July 2019 and is due to end on 30 June 2024.

In light of the strategic need to ensure continuity in security leadership at this moment of simultaneous crises and given ongoing reforms of the Department and their potential impact on the United Nations security management system, the Secretary-General proposes that the General Assembly approve, notwithstanding paragraph 22 of Section XI of resolution A/59/276, the exceptional extension of the term of Mr. Michaud by two years, until 30 June 2026.

However, the representative of the Russian Federation, while highly valuing the efforts undertaken by Mr. Michaud and his vast experience, voiced concern over the process for consideration of the draft decision.  He recalled that the Secretary-General’s Note was seen by delegations in the Journal of the United Nations on 28 February.  Given that Mr. Michaud’s contract expires on 30 June 2024 — and delegations were given only two days for consideration of such a weighty matter — his delegation demanded additional time to establish its position and called for consideration of the matter to be postponed.

The General Assembly then decided to consider the matter at a later date to be announced once the relevant consultations have taken place.

For information media. Not an official record.