January 4, 2009 3:34:35 pm
The US has blocked an attempt in the powerful UN Security Council to express serious concern over the Israeli ground offensive in Gaza after eight days of air strikes and to call for an immediate ceasefire,asserting that it would not be adhered to and have no underpinning for success.
Insisting that Tel Aviv’s right to self defence is not negotiable,US Ambassador Alejandro D Wolff put the entire blame for the current crisis on Hamas,the Palestinian militant group which controls Gaza,saying Washington cannot equate the actions of Israel,a UN member,with those of a terror group.
“There is no equivalence there,” he remarked after a three and a half hour emergency closed-door meeting of the 15-member Council late last night.
Wolff said Hamas is in violation of earlier agreements and there are no prospects of it abiding by the statement issued by the Council last Sunday calling for immediate truce.
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“Any statement at this point of time would not be adhered to and would have no underpinning for success,would do no credit to the Council,” he told reporters after the meeting.
As the diplomats came out of closed-door meeting held at the request of Libya to take stock of the ground invasion by Israel,Arabs expressed frustration that the Council could not agree even on a press statement,even though most members were agreeable on the elements.
Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert of France,which holds the rotating presidency of the Council,told reporters that they could not agree on any statement,though there were strong convergences on basic elements.
The members,Ripert said,expressed serious concern on escalation of violence and deterioration of the situation in Gaza and southern Israel.
They supported “immediate permanent and fully respected” ceasefire,expressed “deep concern” over humanitarian situation in Gaza and favoured free access to humanitarian supplies.
They also supported call for protection of civilians and regional and international efforts being made to resolve the crisis as also the need for parties to go back to the negotiation table.
Though Ripert did not name the member state which blocked any statement,Arab diplomats later identified the US as the hold out,saying that Washington did not want even to issue the statement on the lines of the one the Council did on Sunday last.
American Ambassador Woff did nothing to contradict what the Arabs had said as he laid all blame on Hamas.
The problem that the region is facing,he said,is Hamas’ continuing rocket attacks on Israel. “The efforts we are making … are designed to establish a sustainable,durable ceasefire” and that means no more rocket attacks.
It is important not go back to status quo ante by allowing Hamas to threaten Israelis and continue to bring deprivation to the people in Gaza,he said.
The emergency meeting was convened ahead of the arrival here of Arab Foreign Ministers to press the United Nations to adopt an Arab-sponsored resolution which was moved by Libya a week ago.
They are expected to hold a meeting among themselves and then call on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and permanent and elected members of the Council separately.
Council diplomats say there could be an open meeting of the Council on Tuesday in which the Arab Foreign Ministers could take part.
As the Council began closed door meeting last night,it had before it a text of a statement drafted by Arabs which expressed “serious concern at the escalation of situation in Gaza,in particular,after the launching of ground offensive by Israel. It also called on all parties to declare immediate ceasefire and to stop immediately all military activity.
British Ambassador John Sawers expressed “disappointment” about the Council’s failure to agree on a statement and called for,among other things,an end to smuggling of arms from Egypt to Gaza which sustained the capacity of Hamas to fight.
But Egyptian diplomats took strong objection to his statement,saying that no such thing was happening.
A statement,unlike a resolution,needs the concurrence of all Council members though it is way down in importance than a resolution.
Council diplomats said that the United States,which is a permanent member,could not be persuaded to either back the Libyan draft or a watered down version of it.
Wolff maintained that there is no use of issuing statements which are not going to be observed. The Arabs do not agree with Washington’s view and thus the Council is deadlocked.
Permanent Palestinian observer Riyad Mansour said Israel cannot continue to behave as a state above the international law and the Council needs to stop the aggression.
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