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UN demands ceasefire in Gaza during Muslim holy month of Ramadan

UN demands ceasefire in Gaza during Muslim holy month of Ramadan

The United Nations Security Council demanded a ceasefire in Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, its first demand to halt fighting.

The United States abstained on the resolution, which also demanded the release of all hostages taken captive during Hamas’ surprise attack in southern Israel. But the measure does not link that demand to the cease-fire during Ramadan, which ends April 9.

The vote comes after Russia and China vetoed a US-sponsored resolution Friday that would have supported “an immediate and sustained ceasefire” in the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

The United States warned that the resolution approved on Monday could hurt negotiations to halt hostilities by the US, Egypt and Qatar, raising the possibility of another veto, this time by the Americans.

The resolution, put forward by the 10 elected council members, is backed by Russia and China and the 22-nation Arab Group at the United Nations.

A statement issued Friday night by the Arab Group appealed to all 15 council members “to act with unity and urgency” and vote for the resolution “to halt the bloodshed, preserve human lives and avert further human suffering and destruction.”

“It is long past time for a cease-fire,” the Arab Group said.

Because Ramadan ends next month, the cease-fire demand would last for just two weeks, though the draft says the pause in fighting should lead “to a permanent sustainable ceasefire.”

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the council Friday that the resolution’s text “fails to support sensitive diplomacy in the region. Worse, it could actually give Hamas an excuse to walk away from the deal on the table.”

“We should not move forward with any resolution that jeopardizes the ongoing negotiations,” she said, warning that if the diplomacy isn’t supported, “we may once again find this council deadlocked.”

“I truly hope that that does not come about,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

The United States has vetoed three resolutions demanding a cease-fire in Gaza, the most recent an Arab-backed measure in late February. That resolution was supported by 13 council members with one abstention, reflecting the overwhelming support for a cease-fire.

Russia and China vetoed a US-sponsored resolution in late October calling for pauses in the fighting to deliver aid, the protection of civilians and a halt to arming Hamas. They said it did not reflect global calls for a cease-fire.

They again vetoed the US resolution, calling it ambiguous and saying it was not the direct demand to end the fighting that much of the world seeks.

The vote became another showdown involving world powers that are locked in tense disputes elsewhere, with the United States taking criticism for not being tough enough against its ally Israel, even as tensions between the two countries rise.

A key issue was the unusual language in the US draft. It said the Security Council “determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained ceasefire.” The phrasing was not a straightforward “demand” or “call” to halt hostilities.

Before the vote, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow supports an immediate ceasefire, but he criticized the diluted language, which he called philosophical wording that does not belong in a UN resolution.

He accused US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield of “deliberately misleading the international community” about calling for a ceasefire.

“This was some kind of an empty rhetorical exercise,” Nebenzia said. “The American product is exceedingly politicised, the sole purpose of which is to help to play to the voters, to throw them a bone in the form of some kind of a mention of a ceasefire in Gaza, and to ensure the impunity of Israel, whose crimes in the draft are not even assessed.”

China’s UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, said the US proposal set preconditions and fell far short of expectations of council members and the broader international community.

“If the U.S. was serious about a ceasefire, it wouldn’t have vetoed time and again multiple council resolutions,” he said. “It wouldn’t have taken such a detour and played a game of words while being ambiguous and evasive on critical issues.”

Friday’s vote in the 15-member council was 11 members in favour and three against, including Algeria, the Arab representative on the council. There was one abstention, from Guyana.

After the vote, Thomas-Greenfield accused Russia and China of vetoing the resolution for “deeply cynical reasons,” saying they could not bring themselves to condemn Hamas’ terrorist attacks in southern Israel, which the resolution would have done for the first time.

A second “petty” reason, she said, is that “Russia and China simply did not want to vote for a resolution that was penned by the United States, because it would rather see us fail than to see this council succeed.” She accused Russia of again putting “politics over progress” and having “the audacity and hypocrisy to throw stones” after launching an unwarranted invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The resolution did reflect a shift by the United States, which has found itself at odds with much of the world as even allies of Israel push for an unconditional end to fighting.

In previous resolutions, the US has closely intertwined calls for a ceasefire with demands for the release of Israeli hostages in Gaza. This resolution, using wording that’s open to interpretation, continued to link the two issues, but not as firmly.