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China, Russia veto US ceasefire resolution at the UN Security Council

Beijing and Moscow said the draft resolution wasn’t sufficiently strong in calling for a halt to fighting in Gaza.

China and Russia vetoed a U.S. drafted resolution about Gaza at the U.N. Security Council on March 22, 2024. Credit: U.N. Photo.
China and Russia vetoed a U.S. drafted resolution about Gaza at the U.N. Security Council on March 22, 2024. Credit: U.N. Photo.

China and Russia vetoed a U.S.-drafted resolution at the U.N. Security Council on Friday morning, saying the text didn’t go far enough in calling for a ceasefire in the war against Hamas in Gaza.

Washington’s resolution, which underwent six drafts, states that an immediate, sustained ceasefire is “imperative” and “towards that end, unequivocally supports ongoing international diplomatic efforts to secure such a ceasefire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages.”

Eleven council members supported it. Guyana abstained, and China, Russia and Algeria voted against it. (As permanent members, China and Russia have veto power, while Algeria, as a non-permanent member, does not.)

“The American resolution—should it have passed—would have marked a moment of morality for the U.N., a place where good is evil, and justice is injustice,” Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the global body, stated after the vote. “It would have been the very first  time that this council—or any U.N. body—condemned Hamas and their brutal massacre.”

“Sadly, for purely political reasons, this resolution did not pass, and terrorists can continue benefiting from this council whitewashing their crimes,” he added.

“The United Nations was established in the wake of the Holocaust to prevent such atrocities from happening again. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, thank you for defending these values,” Erdan added. “Your determination to condemn the Hamas monsters and your conviction that the release of the hostages is not something that can be postponed shows true moral clarity.”

“The council’s decision to not condemn Hamas is a stain that will never be forgotten,” Erdan said.

‘Read into it’

The draft resolution’s language was the strongest Washington has used so far about a ceasefire. 

The text was crafted so that all council members should be able to “read into it what they need to” in order to support it, Robert Wood, deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters on Thursday.

Beijing and Moscow still saw enough that made it unpalatable to them.

Gilad Erdan
Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan at the U.N. General Assembly Hall in New York, Jan. 16, 2023. Photo by Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90.

Zhang Jun, the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters before the vote that a ceasefire “should not be linked to any number of issues” being negotiated between Israel and Hamas.

That includes the release of hostages and how long it takes to halt hostilities; how long the Israeli military remains in the Gaza Strip; and how long it takes to repopulate the northern part of the enclave.

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, said on Friday that any resolution was “pointless” if it didn’t call explicitly for an immediate ceasefire. Moscow’s envoy criticized Washington for its previous “cold blood” vetoes of resolutions that otherwise had broad council support.

The United States has consistently rejected calls for immediate ceasefires to allow negotiations to continue, though that position has become more difficult to defend daily. The negotiations have been strung out, reportedly due to unrealistic Hamas demands.

Prior U.S. resolution drafts had called for a ceasefire “as soon as practicable” and for a period of six weeks, though such a halt in fighting was always linked to the release of the hostages still being held captive in Gaza.

“First and foremost, 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,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said before the vote on Friday. “That will allow much more life-saving humanitarian aid to get into Gaza.”

“Of course, we can’t just want that to happen, we have to make that happen. We have to do the hard work of diplomacy,” she added. “I know you’ve heard me say that a lot, and that’s because it’s the truth. A Security Council resolution means much less if it is not actually made real on the ground.” 

Thomas-Greenfield said that Washington, Cairo and Doha are “working around the clock” to secure 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,” which “will help us address the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

“We believe we’re close. We’re not there yet, unfortunately. And this moment is one where the Security Council has a critical role to play,” she added, prior to the vote. “By adopting the resolution before us, we can put pressure on Hamas to accept the deal on the table.”

After Russia and China vetoed the resolution, Thomas-Greenfield shifted blame to the two, citing their rejection of previous drafts due to their unwillingness to condemn Hamas for the Oct. 7 massacre and other war crimes.

The U.S. envoy called those rejections “cynical” and “petty.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.N. Security Council
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, vetoes a draft resolution calling for a ceasefire to the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, put forth by Algeria, at U.N. Security Council on Feb. 20, 2024. Credit: Manuel Elías/U.N. Photo.

Rafah military operation

The U.S. draft also includes language expressing concern about an impending Israeli military operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, the last remaining Hamas stronghold. 

Washington moved that text to the resolution’s beginning, called a “preambular,” rather than the “operative” section, lessening its weight.

Critics say that gives a green light, in effect, to Israel to carry out its plans in Rafah, although Washington has consistently been critical of a Rafah offensive.

After meeting privately in Tel Aviv on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Israel must enter Rafah to destroy Hamas. The Jewish state would rather do so with U.S. support, but it will go alone if necessary, Netanyahu said that he told Blinken.

A spokesman for the Israeli mission to the United Nations told JNS on Thursday that it “could live” with the U.S. resolution, although it has some concerns about parts of it.

Notably, the resolution doesn’t mention UNRWA, the embattled U.N. Palestinian-only aid and social services agency, which Israel has accused of extensive ties to Hamas and other Gazan terror groups. The United Nations has said that it is investigating.

Text in the resolution referred only to “U.N. agencies” that the council should support in their efforts to increase humanitarian aid delivery into Gaza.

The resolution is the ninth about the war upon which the Security Council has voted. Only two have passed, both addressing only humanitarian aid.

The so-called E10—the 10 elected, non-permanent members of the Security Council—has its own resolution, which calls for an immediate ceasefire. Japan, Korea and Ecuador dropped their support for it late this week.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Authority’s U.N. envoy, told reporters that the resolution will come up for a vote Friday afternoon or Saturday, though no council member has confirmed that yet.

Thomas-Greenfield said on Friday morning that the E-10 resolution doesn’t account for “sensitive negotiations” in the region, appearing to imply Washington might well veto it if it comes to a vote.

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