Published: 16:23, February 23, 2024 | Updated: 17:43, February 23, 2024
US vetoes UNSC resolution on Gaza for 4th time
By Li Mingmei at the United Nations and Jan Yumul in Hong Kong

Cease-fire urged in conflict as Israel continues attack despite growing global pressure

Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli airstrike on a residential building In Rafah, Gaza Strip, Feb 10, 2024. (PHOTO / AP)

Countries across the world, in particular the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation members, have lamented the US veto of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) draft demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, seeing Washington as defying the growing international push for peace.

On Feb 20, the United States exercised its veto power for the fourth time on a UNSC draft resolution that called for a cease-fire in Gaza in an attempt to halt fighting between Israel and Palestine.

The UNSC voted on the draft proposed by Algeria on behalf of the Arab states. The draft resolution called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, the immediate release of all hostages, guaranteed access to humanitarian supplies, and the rejection of forced displacement. 

READ MORE: Foreign Ministry regrets US Gaza ceasefire resolution veto

China was among 13 countries that voted in favor of the draft resolution, while the United Kingdom abstained from voting. China expressed strong disappointment and dissatisfaction with the US veto.

“While the Council cease-fire resolution has been vetoed, innocent civilians in Gaza are dying in the fighting and struggling on the brink of death,” Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun said, adding that cease-fire is urgently required due to the situation on the ground.

“The US claimed that the Council resolution would interfere with the ongoing diplomatic efforts. Such a claim is totally untenable. Given the situation on the ground, the continued passive avoidance of an immediate cease-fire is nothing different from giving a green light to the continued slaughter,” Zhang said.

The US has exercised its veto power on the Gaza cease-fire issue against draft resolutions proposed by Brazil in October 2023, the United Arab Emirates in December, and a proposed amendment by Russia.

The Gulf Cooperation Council spokeswoman and Qatar’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Alya Ahmed Saif Al Thani said the GCC countries — the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar — expressed regret, calling Algeria’s draft “humanitarian” in content and consistent with international humanitarian law.

According to the UN, Security Council resolutions are legally binding. If the Council cannot reach a consensus or a passing vote on a resolution, it may choose to produce a nonbinding presidential statement instead of a resolution.

“Now that the US has taken this unfortunate position at the UN Security Council, the average person in the Gulf expects the US to press Israel not to carry out its threatened assault on Rafah,” Jasim Husain, a Gulf analyst and former member of Bahrain’s parliament, told China Daily.

Meanwhile, the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, in a statement on Feb 21, said it “regrets deeply” the US veto against the UNSC draft resolution, describing it as “a negative reflection of the Security Council’s role in the maintenance of international peace and security, protection of civilians and ensuring delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip”.

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The veto also drew criticism from countries including Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Slovenia. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia warned of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza as well as the escalation of military operations “that threaten international peace and security”, and went on to urge reform of the UNSC.

Palestinian side said the US veto equaled “a green light for the occupation to commit more massacres”.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Feb 20 accused Israel of committing a “genocide” of the Palestinians in Gaza — echoing harsh criticism made by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

As world powers voted, the UN’s highest court continues to hear arguments on Feb 21 in proceedings examining the legality of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. More than 50 states will present arguments until Feb 26.

It came as Israeli strikes pounded Gaza on Feb 21 as fighting on the ground raged on, leaving 103 people dead, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the territory.

Agencies contributed to this story. 

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