9574th Meeting (AM)

Security Council Fails to Adopt Resolution on Imperative of Immediate, Sustained Ceasefire in Gaza, Owing to Vetoes Cast by China, Russian Federation

United States-Sponsored Text Draws Criticism for Being Ambiguous, Lacking Attribution to Israeli Authorities’ Responsibility in Key Areas

The Security Council today failed to adopt a resolution that would have determined the imperative of an immediate and sustained ceasefire in Gaza due to a veto cast by two permanent members of the Council — China and the Russian Federation — while some speakers criticized the text for being ambiguous and lacking attribution to the Israeli authorities in several key areas.

If adopted, the resolution — presented by the United States — would have also urged all parties to allow and facilitate the rapid and unhindered passage of humanitarian relief to all civilians in need. 

By other terms, it would have emphasized its concern that a ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement.  Also, it would have rejected any attempt at demographic or territorial change in Gaza.

Despite being blocked by the Russian Federation, China and Algeria, the text garnered support from 11 Council members, including three permanent members:  the United States, United Kingdom and France.  Guyana was the only country to abstain. 

“It would be a historic mistake for this Council not to adopt this text (which) does much more than call for a ceasefire, it helps to make a ceasefire possible,” stated the representative of the United States before the vote.  Noting that a Council resolution means much less if it is not made real on the ground, she said that her country has been working with Egypt and Qatar to secure an immediate ceasefire.  “We believe we are close; unfortunately, we are not there yet.”  By adopting the text, the international community can put pressure on Hamas to accept the deal on the table, she said, adding that every day without a deal — without a ceasefire — leads to more needless suffering.  “We want to see an immediate and sustained ceasefire as part of a deal that leads to the release of all hostages being held by Hamas and other groups and which will allow much more humanitarian aid into Gaza,” she asserted.

The speaker for the Russian Federation countered that the United States, four times “in cold blood”, cast a veto in the Security Council, with repeated justifications.  “Now the US representative — without blinking — has been asserting that Washington has finally begun to recognize the need for a ceasefire,” he stated — a sluggish thought process that has cost the lives of 32,000 peaceful Palestinians. The “typical hypocritical spectacle” means the United States has been “trying to sell a product” to the Council and the entire international community — with “philosophical passages about moral imperatives”.  However, to save the lives of peaceful Palestinian civilians, “this is not enough”, he stressed. 

“The American product is exceedingly politicized,” with the sole purpose of playing to voters, he continued.  Washington, D.C.,’s draft contains an effective green light for Israel to mount a military operation in Rafah and, as such, should not pass with most of the membership.  Those voting in favour would “cover (themselves) in disgrace,” he stated.  If adopted, the resolution would definitively close the door on discussions about the need for a ceasefire in Gaza.  He noted that several non-permanent Council members have drafted an alternative text that stipulates black-on-white the demand for both a ceasefire and the unconditional release of hostages, a balanced and apolitical document.

Speaking after the vote, the representative of the United States underscored that her delegation today put forward a draft resolution in good faith, after consulting with all Council members, following multiple rounds of edits. While the vast majority of the Council voted in favour, the Russian Federation and China decided to exercise their vetoes.  She stressed that, while those States will attempt to explain their obstruction, they voted against the draft for two cynical reasons — “whether or not they will admit it”.  The first is that they could not bring themselves to condemn Hamas’ 7 October attacks, and the second — “not just cynical, but petty” — is that they did not want to vote for a resolution penned by the United States. 

“Because they would rather see us fail than see this Council succeed,” she added.  She further stated that Moscow — who has carried out an unprovoked war on its neighbour — “has the audacity and hypocrisy to throw stones when it lives in a glass house”.  Despite their fiery rhetoric, the Russian Federation and China are not doing anything diplomatically to advance lasting peace or meaningfully contribute to the humanitarian-response effort, she emphasized, adding that the United States will continue to work alongside Qatar and Egypt to arrive at a deal and will work with any Council member to adopt a resolution that will make that deal possible.

The speaker for China observed that the United States introduced its own draft resolution after vetoing on 20 February the overwhelming consensus among Council members for an immediate ceasefire.  Over the past month, the draft has undergone several iterations, yet the final text remains ambiguous and does not demand an immediate ceasefire — nor does it even answer the question of realizing a ceasefire — a clear deviation from the consensus of Council members.  To safeguard the UN Charter, and in recognition of the strong position of the Arab States, China — along with the Russian Federation and Algeria — voted against, he noted, citing a different draft resolution that he supported.

Algeria’s delegate, also speaking as a representative of the Arab world, recalled that last month, his delegation proposed a draft whose adoption could have saved thousands of innocent lives.  While acknowledging the effort made by the United States delegation in accommodating some of Algeria’s proposals, his core concern remained unaddressed.  The text today does not convey a clear message of peace — instead, it offers a laissez-passer to continue killing Palestinian civilians, with an emphasis on “measures” to reduce civilian harm and “future operations”.  This implies a license for more bloodshed, he warned, expressing concern over a devastating military operation in Rafah.  Underscoring the vital role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he noted that Algeria voted against today’s text.

The representative of Guyana, who abstained on the draft resolution, emphasized that — contrary to some media reports — the text does not call for an immediate ceasefire; instead, it “determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained ceasefire”.  Further, the United States draft lacked attribution in several key areas.  While it included the condemnation of Hamas for the 7 October attacks and demanded to grant immediate humanitarian access to the hostages, there is no attribution to the Israeli authorities for what is taking place in Gaza.  “Who is responsible for 1.5 million Palestinians taking refuge in Rafah?  Who announced the planned military ground offensive there?  Who has erected and maintained the existing barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance?” she asked, adding: “We know the answer.”

However, “if one were to read this resolution without background knowledge, it would be difficult to ascertain which party in this conflict is committing the atrocities in Gaza,” she pointed out, adding that “the occupying Power” is mentioned once in the draft.  She also expressed disappointment that the only reference to UNRWA — an indispensable lifeline for Palestinians — pertained to the investigations into a small number of its staff.  While calling for an immediate and unconditional release of hostages, she underscored that the demand for a ceasefire should not be conditioned on the release of hostages.  “The Palestinian people should not be collectively punished and held hostage for the crimes of others,” she stated.

Painting an alarming picture of the situation in Gaza, she said that nearly 32,000 people have been killed since 7 October, the majority of whom are women and children.  Initial UN assessments have concluded that it will take years to clear 23 million tons of rubble and unexploded weapons scattered across Gaza.  The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report projects famine between now and May 2024.  “This man-made disaster cannot be halted without an immediate ceasefire,” and it is this Council's responsibility to unequivocally demand one, she asserted. 

Numerous Council Members supported the text. 

Among them was the speaker for France who — calling for the unconditional release of all hostages and an immediate, lasting ceasefire — stressed that the Council must act as the “catastrophic” humanitarian situation in Gaza worsens by the day.  Citing respect for international law as an “absolute requirement”, he opposed any Israeli offensive in Rafah, which can only lead to a humanitarian disaster.  There is also an urgent need for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, and he called for all crossing points to be opened — including the Port of Ashdod and direct land links from Jordan.

Also recognizing the need for an immediate and sustained ceasefire, his counterpart from the United Kingdom said that his delegation voted in favour.  Palestinians are facing a devastating and growing humanitarian crisis, which will not improve until more aid can get into Gaza.  Through this draft, the Council would have rightly condemned the Hamas terrorist attacks; however, it was unable to send this important message due to the vetoes cast by two permanent members.

“It is regrettable that another opportunity for this Council to forge a favourable response has failed to draw a consensus,” said the speaker for the Republic of Korea, whose delegation voted in favour.  The draft resolution includes positive elements that can plant the seeds for more sustainable peace in Palestine and Israel, including support for the ongoing negotiations to achieve the release of hostages and an immediate ceasefire.  

The delegate for Sierra Leone said that he voted in favour of the resolution as it demonstrates a commitment to achieving a sustainable cessation of hostilities, “even if incremental in approach”.  With an unfolding catastrophe in Gaza, his country supports initiatives that would lead to a ceasefire, alleviate human suffering, stop the forced displacement of civilians and allow for the delivery of essential humanitarian assistance.  Sierra Leone’s vote is also indicative of the urgent need for all hostages held by Hamas to be immediately released.  Calling for unimpeded humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza, he recognized the key role of UNRWA and all UN humanitarian agencies. 

The speaker for Malta expressed regret that the use of the veto prevented today’s adoption, which would have represented “another important step in the right direction” and built on resolutions 2712 (2023) and 2720 (2023).  An immediate, permanent ceasefire is the only way to prevent further deterioration and begin addressing the impacts of the Israel-Hamas war.  She also expressed support for ongoing efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United States to negotiate a deal allowing for the release of hostages. Underscoring that the Council “cannot be perceived to authorize any ongoing or future Israeli military operations in Rafah in any way”, she said that the draft should have had “stronger and more reassuring language” on this matter.

The representative of Slovenia said he voted in favour because the killing and starving of civilians in Gaza must stop and the suffering of hostages and their families must end.  Voicing deep regret over the use of the veto by the Russian Federation and China, he said that the draft elaborated on numerous concerning aspects of the Gaza crisis. 

The speaker for Ecuador, noting that he voted in favour, voiced regret that the Council's majority decision has not been respected due to the use of the veto and underscored that the Council must not be hostage to political rivalries.

Switzerland’s delegate said that “right up until the last minute” her delegation called for the text to be brought closer to an explicit request for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.  “Today’s failure should, under no circumstances, be interpreted as a signal to the parties to continue hostilities,” she stressed, adding that a major military offensive in Rafah would significantly worsen the catastrophic plight of the civilian population and generate new obstacles to delivering humanitarian aid. 

The representative of Japan, Council President for March, spoke in his national capacity to observe that Gaza is on the brink of famine and that a looming Israeli military operation in Rafah only threatens to deepen the humanitarian catastrophe.  “This should not proceed under any circumstances,” he underscored.  Noting that his delegation voted in favour of today’s resolution, he said that, if adopted, it could have advanced ongoing diplomatic efforts towards an immediate, sustained ceasefire and the release of hostages.  A deal must be concluded as soon as possible, he said, stressing:  “Those in Gaza and beyond cannot wait another day.”

For his part, Israel’s delegate expressed gratitude to the United States and its determination to “condemn the Hamas monsters” and its conviction that the release of the hostages “is not something that can be postponed” — showing true moral clarity.  The resolution, had it passed, would have marked a moment of morality for the UN, the very first time that the Council or any UN body had condemned Hamas and its brutal massacre.  “Yet sadly, for purely political reasons, this resolution did not pass and terrorists can continue benefiting from this Council whitewashing their crimes,” he stated. The Council’s decision to not condemn Hamas “is a stain that will never be forgotten”.  He noted that the numbers of civilian casualties supplied by the terrorists “are quoted as if they are the word of God” — yet these numbers are merely the lies of Hamas that the UN is so quick to parrot. 

He stated that Hamas knows that it cannot defeat Israel militarily, so its goal is to annihilate Israel by terrorizing its civilians while weaponizing the international community, using Gazans as human shields to maximize civilian casualties.  “Please remember:  for Israel, every civilian death is a tragedy; for Hamas, civilian deaths are a strategy,” he stated — and sadly the Council is “playing into Hamas’ strategy exactly as they predicted”.  Israel is a law-abiding democracy, making every effort to minimize collateral damage, taking steps that no other military in any other conflict has ever taken.  The conflict bears the lowest civilian-to-combatant ratio in the history of urban warfare, he said, condemning the “libelous narrative of famine in Gaza” and affirming there is no limit to humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza.  No country seeks to avoid an operation in Rafah more than Israel, but “you cannot put out a fire by extinguishing most of it”, he said, affirming that any ceasefire passes through Rafah.  Israel will never surrender and will always fight for its existence, he asserted.

For information media. Not an official record.