4.8 C
New York
Saturday, March 2, 2024

U.N. votes to ramp up Gaza aid, demand release of hostages; U.S. abstains, allowing passage after days of negotiations

United Nations – The U.N. Security Council voted Friday to speed up the process of delivering aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza and demand that all the hostages held by Hamas be released immediately and without conditions. The U.S. abstained on the measure, allowing the resolution to pass, after days of negotiations on the terms.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 13-0 with 2 abstensions, by the U.S. and Russia. Before the vote, Russia proposed an amendment that was vetoed by the U.S.

The U.N. Security Council resolution was changed on the morning of the vote to call for “urgent steps to immediately allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and also for creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.”

Although the final text does not make a renewed call for a pause in the fighting or demand a cease-fire — as the Arab group of nations at the U.N. wanted — it was a diplomatic breakthrough for the U.S. and United Arab Emirates negotiators that avoids a feared veto by Washington and creates a pathway to expedite food, water and fuel to Palestinian civilians.

The United States worked at the U.N., in Washington and around the world to negotiate compromises in the resolution drafted by the United Arab Emirates. In its final form, the resolution does not constrain Israel’s ability to degrade the militant group Hamas’ military arsenal, nor does it impede Israel’s ability to search for Israeli, American and other nations’ hostages who are still in captivity in Gaza.

The draft resolution also contains a commitment of world powers to a two-state solution with Israel and the Palestinians living “side-by-side” — with the Gaza Strip and the West Bank unified under the Palestinian Authority — a governance role for the Palestinian Authority that Israel recently said it opposes, but which is an acknowledgement by the Arab Group of nations at the U.N. that Hamas will no longer have a de-facto governing role in a post-conflict Gaza.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said after a Thursday evening meeting that the U.S. supported the resolution’s passage because it will bring humanitarian aid “to those in need.”

The 11th-hour breakthrough compromise calls for “urgent steps to immediately allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and also for creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities” in Israel’s ongoing war with the Hamas militant group. The U.S. had vetoed two previous attempts at a Security Council resolution on Gaza since the beginning of the war sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel.

The resolution demands a substantial increase in aid for Gaza with an opening of more land, sea and air routes into the Palestinian territory, and, in language changed on the morning of the vote, “calls for urgent steps to immediately allow safe, unhindered, and expanded humanitarian access and to create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.”

Several top U.S. officials were involved in the intense negotiations over the draft this week, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, CIA Director Bill Burns, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

U.K. Foreign Minister David Cameron met with French and Italian leaders to push for a “sustainable cease-fire” in the conflict, as Hamas’ most senior leader, Ismail Haniyeh, traveled to Egypt this week to discuss proposals for a possible new pause in the fighting that would allow for aid deliveries and the return of more hostages along with the release of more Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails — a proposal that Hamas has so far rejected.

The draft resolution adopted Friday demands that all of the remaining hostages believed to be held in Gaza, about 130 people, including Americans, be released immediately. It also calls for more border points to be opened into the territory for the delivery of aid, and it endorses the long-sought “two-state solution” for the crisis in the heart of the Middle East.

U.S. administrations have advocated for such a solution for decades, although the prospects for achieving it currently appear remote. The draft resolution proposed a plan for a two-state solution “where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine” would live “side by side” — a plan that would unify the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under Palestinian Authority leadership, without Hamas’ control in Gaza.

“It took many days, and many, many long nights of negotiating to get this right, but today, this Council provided a glimmer of hope amongst a sea of unimaginable suffering,” Thomas-Greenfield said after the vote.

UAE Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh conceded before the vote that the UAE would have preferred a call for a cease-fire, but said, “In diplomacy, the challenge is meeting the moment in the world we live in, not in the world that we want.”

The main sticking point, among several issues of contention during the negotiations, was the draft resolution’s proposal to set up a U.N. monitoring system for aid flowing into Gaza. An earlier draft proposed that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres create a system for the U.N. “to exclusively monitor all humanitarian relief consignments to Gaza provided through land, sea and air routes of those states that are not parties to the conflict.”

That was changed to a request that Guterres appoint “a Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator with responsibility for facilitating, coordinating, monitoring and verifying” whether relief deliveries to Gaza are humanitarian goods and to “establish a UN mechanism for accelerating the provision of humanitarian relief” — enabling Israel to continue to have a role in the security process.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters about the difficulties of getting the needed humanitarian aid into Gaza: “We have to deal with different parties. We’re trying to bring humanitarian aid into a live conflict zone. It is complex. And you know, ideally, if there were less burdens and there was no fighting more aid could go in.”

Since the Oct, 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israel, the Security Council approved a November resolution calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses,” but a December resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire was vetoed by the United States, which also voted against a General Assembly resolution calling for a cease-fire.

“All sides have been more flexible in negotiations this time around. I think that the U.S. wants to show it cares about the suffering in Gaza, and the Emiratis and Arab group have wanted to show they are not just trying to shame Washington,” Richard Gowan, U.N. Director for the International Crisis Group, told CBS News.

Gowan added, “I don’t think this process and resolution will entirely erase bad feelings over the U.S. rejection of the cease-fire text. U.N. members will want to see Biden taking more steps to halt the war.”

Related Articles

Latest Articles