Seventy-eighth Session,
66th & 67th Meetings (AM & PM)

Meeting Two Weeks after Russian Federation, China Veto Security Council Resolution on Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza, General Assembly Debates Ramifications

Speakers Discuss Failure to Speak on Gravely Important Matter, Citing Months of Paralysis as Humanitarian, Political Crisis in Territory Continues

The Security Council failed to speak on a matter of grave importance as it remained paralyzed for months as the crisis in Gaza continued and vetoes proliferated, speakers told the General Assembly today, in a meeting triggered by vetoes cast by the Russian Federation and China on 22 March to reject the adoption of a Council resolution submitted by the United States on the conflict in Gaza.

In April 2022, the Assembly adopted a resolution titled “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”.  Under this initiative, the General Assembly has a standing mandate to convene within 10 working days of a veto being cast in the Council.

While Dennis Francis (Trinidad and Tobago), President of the seventy-eighth session of the General Assembly, hailed the veto initiative as a “pioneering tool for transparency and accountability”, he expressed regret that the Assembly must routinely employ it “due to the perennial inability of the Security Council to speak with one voice on matters of grave importance”.  Noting that the conflict in Gaza “rages into its sixth bloody month” as divisions in the Council persist, he underscored that the international community’s demands have been clear.

Presenting them, he called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire; for all parties to comply with their international-law obligations; for the immediate, unconditional release of all hostages; and for unhindered, unconditional humanitarian aid.  While he welcomed Council resolution 2728 (2024) — which demanded an immediate ceasefire during Ramadan — he recalled recent examples of human suffering in Gaza and said:  “It cannot be the case that we normalize around these shameful disconnects.”

He therefore urged Council members to use their power to support an immediate and lasting ceasefire, adding:  “We have enough stories of death and division to fill the history books for generations.”

The representative of the Russian Federation then took the floor, recalling that the veto initiative was envisaged as a unique means to draw attention to alleged abuse by a permanent Council member.  He stressed that the vetoes in question today, however, prevented the adoption of a draft resolution that not only did not aim to end hostilities in Gaza, but also “gave Israel carte blanche to continue its inhumane operations”.  The United States’ draft did not contain a demand or call for a ceasefire, he added — instead, it provided Israel with unique license to continue killing Palestinians.

Building on that, the representative of China pointed out that the United States — a country with significant influence over the parties concerned — has “repeatedly obstructed the Council’s voice” by vetoing the organ’s efforts to promote an immediate ceasefire on four occasions.  Moreover, adoption of the United States’ draft would have meant that both killings in Gaza and violations of international law would continue.  “China has no hesitation in exercising its veto against a draft resolution that would have such serious consequences,” he stressed, adding that his delegation’s actions “can stand the test of history”.

The representative of the United States, meanwhile, said that his delegation put forth a draft on 22 March in good faith after consulting all Council members and “accommodating significant edits”.  However, the Russian Federation and China — rather than supporting diplomacy to release the hostages and secure a ceasefire — attacked the United States.  “We just heard more of the same today,” he observed, emphasizing that, while the Russian Federation and China “attack and distract”, the United States remains engaged in on-the-ground diplomacy.  Underscoring that his country supports a ceasefire, he said that negotiations to achieve that are ongoing with the help of Egypt and Qatar.

For her part, Qatar’s representative said that today’s meeting emphasizes the Council’s paralysis “in the context of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world in this century”.  Urging the organ to shoulder its responsibility and halt Israel’s aggression, she underlined the need for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.  In partnership with Egypt and the United States, Qatar is working to release the hostages, guarantee the delivery of humanitarian assistance, protect civilians and end the bloodletting endured by Palestinians in Gaza.

Egypt’s representative similarly condemned Israel’s bloody war against the defenceless Palestinian people and warned against the regional repercussions of the crisis.  Israel has disregarded all resolutions adopted on Gaza; even more, it now fights the UN, having killed 179 UN staff members.  Against that backdrop, he stated that Israel should be forced to implement resolution 2728 (2024) and should be stopped from launching any military operation in Rafah, also urging the implementation of Human Rights Council resolutions prohibiting weapon exports to Israel’s war machine.

“From well before the establishment of the UN or the State of Israel, the Palestinians’ goal has been clear — the annihilation of the Jews,” said Israel’s representative.  While the UN was established in the wake of the Second World War to prevent atrocities like the Holocaust, he stated that the same genocidal ideology is still prevalent among Palestinians.

“Yet the UN, founded to prevent Nazi ideology from spreading, has committed itself to reinforcing modern-day Nazi jihadists,” he emphasized, adding:  “If Hitler was alive today, he would be singing the UN’s praises.”  Underscoring that the deradicalization of Palestinian society is a “non-negotiable” demand for Israel, he said that nothing perpetuates a conflict more than one side believing they can force their demands on the other through a third party. 

“How is it that the party colonizing and committing genocide can be a full member of the United Nations and the party committed to the rule of international law and just and lasting peace cannot?” asked the observer for the State of Palestine.  Israel has besieged, bombed and starved an entire population and, if it thought it would be held accountable, it would never have killed more than 33,000 Palestinians — including 14,000 children — alongside journalists, UN staff, aid workers and medical personnel.

He further asked:  “When will the victims finally receive protection and support, rather than the perpetrators?”  Adding that an overwhelming majority of Member States have repeatedly supported Palestine’s full UN membership, he declared:  “Stop the genocide, ensure accountability, recognize Palestine and support its membership at the UN — mobilize for its freedom and we shall achieve peace.”

Nigeria’s representative, calling on permanent Council members to uphold their responsibilities, rise above sectional politics and find a solution to the current crisis, joined others in voicing support for Palestine’s full membership in the United Nations.  “In this regard, any attempt by any party to the conflict to refuse to accept the two-State solution should be firmly rejected,” she stressed.

Throughout the day’s discussion, many speakers spotlighted the Council’s inability to act as the conflict in Gaza passed from one month to the next, also reflecting on the impact that resolution 2728 (2024) — adopted three days after the vetoes that triggered today’s meeting were cast — has had to date. 

Winston Peters, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, observed that, since the start of the current crisis in Gaza, the veto has been used five times to prevent the Council from acting decisively.  Calling on all parties to comply with resolution 2728 (2024) without delay, he stressed:  “Palestinian civilians must not be made to pay the price of defeating Hamas.”

The representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking for the Arab Group, recalled that the Council either saw “the abortion of resolutions that clearly called for a ceasefire” or drafts — such as the one in question today — that avoided such a call.  Demanding full implementation of resolution 2728 (2024), he stressed that a ceasefire will not delay or obstruct diplomatic efforts to secure the release of prisoners and detainees from both sides.

Concurring was Venezuela’s representative, speaking for the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, who said that the United States’ draft resolution would have given carte blanche to the occupying Power to continue its military operations in Gaza — potentially setting a dangerous precedent.  She added that the international community bears the responsibility to ensure that resolution 2728 (2024) does not remain “words on paper”.

In that vein, the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, stressed that Council resolutions are binding and called for their immediate implementation.  However, Canada’s representative — also speaking for Australia and New Zealand — recalled that a much-needed humanitarian ceasefire has not yet taken hold on the ground despite the adoption of resolution 2728 (2024).  “The need for lifesaving humanitarian assistance in Gaza has never been greater,” he stressed.

The Security Council “has finally woken up”, observed Algeria’s representative — whose delegation also voted against the United States’ draft — recalling that elected Council members subsequently submitted a draft resolution that genuinely reflected the international community’s demands.  However, the occupying Power continues its refusal to implement that text — “a challenge to our ability to guarantee the effectiveness of the world order”.  Urging the international community to prevent any further deterioration, he stressed: “Occupation is the disease in our region, and the Middle East will not taste peace as long as Palestinians are deprived of their legitimate rights.

“Nobody can claim ignorance about what is happening in Gaza because, unlike in Rwanda in 1994, these atrocities are being televised, written about, tweeted and live-streamed,” said the representative of South Africa.  These catastrophic acts prompted South Africa to approach the International Court of Justice to request further measures to protect civilians, she recalled, expressing concern that Israel continues with its plausible genocidal acts in complete disregard of them.

Each day, the whole world wakes up to “a new barbaric crime perpetrated by the Israeli regime”, said Iran’s representative.  Genocide in Gaza could not have happened without the United States’ political, financial and military support, he added, noting that the draft proposed by that country was intended to give Israel a green light to mount a military operation in Rafah. 

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea agreed, stating that responsibility for the Council’s inability to ensure peace and stability in the Gaza Strip over the past six months “lies entirely with the United States”.  The representative of the Republic of Korea, however, said that the vetoed text’s main objective was to support diplomatic efforts aimed at securing a ceasefire and the release of all remaining hostages.

Joining others in spotlighting the recent Israeli attack that led to the deaths of World Central Kitchen staff, Colombia’s representative warned:  “Gaza has become unliveable.”  Against that backdrop, she underscored that the veto is an anti-democratic imperial prerogative that limits the Council’s ability to act decisively in the face of “the barbarity that we’re seeing in Gaza”. 

Mexico’s representative stressed that recourse to the veto represents a diplomatic failure, as it reveals delegations’ inability to persuade others during negotiations.  Further, its use worsens polarization and undermines the collective capacity to achieve agreement and re-establish peace, he observed, urging States to support the initiative advanced by his country and France to restrict the use of the veto in cases of mass atrocities.  The greater the number of signatories, the clearer the message, he said, adding that, when thousands of lives are at stake, the Council’s paralysis is “unjustifiable”.

For information media. Not an official record.