9552nd Meeting (AM)

Security Council Again 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 owing to a negative vote of the United States — a permanent member of the Council — marking the second time Washington, D.C., has blocked such a text since early December 2023.

If adopted, the resolution — presented by Algeria — would have also demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as reiterated its call for unhindered humanitarian access.

By other terms, it would have rejected forced displacement of the Palestinian civilian population, including women and children, and emphasized the importance of preventing further escalation in the region. Further, it would have reiterated its demand that that all parties scrupulously comply with their obligations under international law, particularly regarding the protection of civilians and civilian objects.

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 one permanent member (United Kingdom) abstaining.

Several delegates spoke before the vote.

The representative of Algeria said that the resolution was the culmination of extensive discussions among all Council members. Pointing to the requests to delay the presentation of the text to secure ongoing diplomatic efforts, he underscored that “silence is not a viable option”.  “Now it is the time for action and the time for truth,” he stressed, warning that the value of ceasefire is diminishing every moment.

The speaker for the United States, who warned that the text tabled by Algeria will negatively impact ongoing efforts to negotiate a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas — facilitated by her country, alongside Egypt and Qatar.  “Sometimes hard diplomacy takes more time,” she said, describing it as “the only path available towards a longer durable peace”.  An immediate unconditional ceasefire without demanding Hamas to release the hostages will not bring about peace.  “While numerous parties engage in sensitive negotiations this is not the time for this resolution which jeopardizes these efforts,” she emphasized. 

In response to the current situation, the United States offered an alternative resolution that seeks to pressure Hamas into accepting the hostage deal and facilitate humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in need, she said. The text condemns Hamas for recent attacks, reaffirms the rejection of forced displacements and supports the two-State solution.  It also rules out a major ground offensive into Rafah.  Stressing the importance of timing and process while drafting a resolution, she said that her country intends “to leave time for everyone to comment rather than impose an arbitrary deadline for the vote.” 

However, the speaker for the Russian Federation said that each time the United States used the veto, it made the same hypocritical calls to “just wait a little bit longer to give time for allegedly effective diplomacy on the ground”.  He noted that, since October 2023, when Western delegations abstained from the initial draft resolution tabled by Moscow, over 28,000 people have died, highlighting the cost of that initial inaction.

Delegates also weighed in on the text after the vote.

The United States’ representative criticized it as irresponsible, reiterating that her delegation cannot support a resolution that would put sensitive negotiations in jeopardy and looks forward to engaging on a text that it believes will address many of the concerns shared by all.  Likewise, the representative of the United Kingdom, who abstained on the vote, while welcoming the efforts of Algeria, stressed that simply calling for a ceasefire could endanger the hostage negotiations and make a ceasefire less likely.  “The way to stop the fighting and potentially stop it from restarting is to begin with a pause to get hostages out and aid in,” she underscored. 

The Russian Federation’s delegate countered that there is no real alternative to the Algerian draft.  The text the United States plans to put forward does not contain a call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza but refers only to a temporary ceasefire when the conditions are right, he said.

China’s speaker rejected the United States claim that the text would interfere with diplomatic efforts.  The continued avoidance of an immediate ceasefire “is nothing different from giving a green light to the continued slaughter”, he said, adding that only by “extinguishing the fires of war in Gaza we can prevent the fires of hell from engulfing the entire region”.   Tunisia’s delegate said it was “unacceptable by any standard for the Council to continue to work at the whim of political calculations and narrow interests”, when daily attacks continue against the Palestinian people, killing thousands.  It also sends the wrong message to the occupying Power and gives it a cart blanche vis-à-vis its crimes, he added.

Egypt’s representative called the United States’ obstruction of the adoption of the ceasefire resolution on Gaza a stark example of a double standard.  Pointing out that his country will continue to bear the heavy brunt on the political, security and humanitarian fronts, he noted Cairo’s blocked efforts to expedite the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza and save Palestinians from the unjust siege.  Algeria’s speaker, also criticizing those obstructing calls for a ceasefire, warned that wrong decisions today will have a high cost for the region and the world tomorrow.  “This cost will be violence and instability,” he said. 

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said that the message to Israel with this veto is that it can continue to get away with killing babies and mothers and destroying an entire people and the international order.  “But, more importantly, the message given to our people and peoples of the world, yet once again, is that their lives are marginal and their rights are optional,” he said, adding that Israel killed nearly 4,000 more Palestinian children, women and men in just the past 20 days alone.

Describing as “absurd” the notion of a ceasefire, Israel’s delegate rejected arguments that it would bring home the hostages and end the genocidal ambitions of Palestinian terror groups aiming for Israel’s annihilation. A ceasefire achieves one thing: the survival of Hamas, he insisted, noting that the fighting can only stop if all hostages are released and Hamas turn themselves in.

The lack of condemnation of Hamas atrocities in the resolution was also highlighted by many speakers, who supported the text.

Switzerland’s delegate regretted that a more explicit condemnation of Hamas’ acts of terror was not included.  As the need to protect the civilian population in Gaza grows every day, the call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire is in line with “our collective commitment” to the Geneva Conventions and humanitarian law in all circumstances.  The speaker for France said it was incomprehensible and unacceptable that the Council has not condemned the 7 October 2023 Hamas terrorist attacks.  She underscored the extreme urgency to agree on a ceasefire that would finally guarantee the protection of all civilians and a massive delivery of emergency aid.

The representative of the Republic of Korea also voiced regret about the lack of “a clear and unified condemnation” of the heinous Hamas attacks, which are “the direct cause of the current disaster in Gaza”.  Adding to that, the speaker for Japan said that a humanitarian ceasefire needs to be realized promptly in a way to ensure a conducive environment for sufficient humanitarian assistance activities and lead to the release of the remaining hostages.

While stressing the critical urgency of achieving a ceasefire, some delegates highlighted the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and pointed to the importance of implementing the provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice.

Ecuador’s representative said that while not perfect, the draft requested a humanitarian ceasefire that would make it possible to alleviate the situation for the suffering civilian population.  Guyana’s delegate, Council President for February, speaking in her national capacity, emphasized that a ceasefire is a matter of life and death for the Palestinians trapped in a war zone.  Amid unprecedented levels of acute food insecurity with humanitarian access restricted, people’s desperation in Gaza has led them to loot aid trucks to secure food. Malta’s delegate said she also voted in favour, given the severely deteriorating humanitarian conditions and the threat of famine within Gaza.

The representative of Sierra Leone — noting that the Court specifically ordered Israel to take measures to enable urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance into Gaza — said “the Council is now more than ever compelled to act” and must not relent until hostilities in Gaza and the West Bank are completely halted.  Mozambique’s delegate also called for full compliance with the Court’s provisional measures, urging the parties to respect international humanitarian law, including in protecting civilians.  He opposed the forced displacement of Palestinian civilians, especially women and children, while demanding the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. 

Delegates warned about the disastrous humanitarian consequences of the possible Rafah operation by Israel.  Describing the extreme suffering endured by Palestinians as “beyond what any human being should be subjected to”, Slovenia’s speaker warned that a possible Israeli ground offensive in Rafah would push the situation beyond the point of no return.  “It is our duty to react before we wake up in a nightmare,” he stressed.

Qatar’s representative, speaking for the Gulf Cooperation Council and associating herself with the Arab Group, condemned the Israeli threat regarding the launch of a military operation against the city of Rafah — “the last refuge for hundreds of thousands of displaced persons in the Gaza Strip”.  Sounding alarm over the increased frequency of Israel’s military attacks, she said Gaza is facing “the worst humanitarian disaster the world has seen” with 2 million refugees there are now at risk of starvation.

The representative of China, responding to an earlier statement delivered by Israel’s delegate, said the mother of the detained Israeli citizen Noa was once China’s national.  Recently, his country’s diplomats — at the request of Israel — met with Noa’s friends, he said, expressing hope that she would return home soon.  Collective punishment of Palestinians is not the right response, he asserted, citing the two-State solution as the only path towards peace between the two countries.

For information media. Not an official record.