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UNGA President on Gaza War

MANHATTAN: The President, Dennis Francis, appealed on Monday (8th April, 2024) for “all those with leverage” to use their power to bring an end to the six-month-long war in Gaza.

Francis convened the 193-member Assembly, UN’s most representative body, following the Security Council’s failure to adopt a resolution put forward by the United States last month.

The debate was triggered by a 2022 Assembly resolution that calls for a meeting to be held within 10 working days whenever a veto is cast in the Council.

“Once again, we convene under this initiative as the conflict in Gaza rages into its sixth bloody month, as death and destruction rule the day, and as divisions among Member States, especially in the Council, persist,” Francis said.

During the Security Council meeting on 22 March, China and Russia vetoed a US draft resolution that stated the “imperative” for “an immediate and sustained ceasefire to protect civilians on all sides”, facilitating “essential” aid delivery and supporting ongoing talks between Israel and Hamas towards an end to the hostilities, tied to the release of hostages.

Russia, China and the US are permanent members of the 15-member Council, together with France and the United Kingdom, and they all have the right to veto any decision. Non-permanent member Algeria also voted against the resolution.

Three days later, the Council adopted a different resolution – which many had vowed to support – calling for a ceasefire for the remainder of Ramadan as well as the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

Resolution 2728 was drafted by its 10 non-permanent members.

Francis outlined the terrible toll in Gaza, which includes more than 32,500 Palestinians killed, 1.7 million displaced, and over 1.1 million facing a catastrophic level of food insecurity.

While welcoming resolution 2728, he lamented that “it comes after five painful months of division, bloodshed and unconscionable loss.”

Noting that Ramadan ends on Tuesday, he implored Security Council members to meaningfully use their power in support of an immediate and lasting ceasefire.

“I urge all those with leverage to do all in their power to end the bloodshed in Gaza now.” he said. “Let us see the end of the waiting, including for the peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in line with the two-state solution, as the only credible formula for lasting resolution.”

Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyansky said his country and China vetoed the US draft resolution which “not only was not geared towards ending hostilities in Gaza, but which essentially gave Israel carte blanche to continue its inhumane operations which run counter to international humanitarian law”.

He pointed to the “historic responsibility” that permanent members have regarding the maintenance of international peace and security, saying “It is specifically for this that the veto mechanism exists in order to prevent the pushing through of nefarious and dangerous initiatives at the Security Council.”

He said Russia’s decision to veto “was the only correct way” as it allowed for the other resolution to be adopted, “the heart of which was a direct demand for an immediate establishment of a ceasefire for the period of Ramadan, which is to result and lead to a lasting ceasefire.”

China’s Ambassador Dai Bing said that Beijing’s decision to veto was based on the need to uphold international justice, the purposes and dignity of the UN Charter, and the responsibility and authority of the Security Council.

The grave concerns and strong dissatisfaction of Arab States with the draft resolution were also taken into account.

He noted that since the start of the war in October, the international community has been overwhelmingly calling for a ceasefire and an end to the fighting, demanding the Security Council take concrete action.

“However, the United States, as a country with significant influence over the parties concerned, has repeatedly obstructed the Council’s voice on the ceasefire and has vetoed four times against the Council’s efforts to promote an immediate ceasefire,” he said.

Furthermore, the US draft deviated from the consensus of Council members and ran counter to the expectations of the international community.

“If adopted, it will mean that the killings in Gaza will continue. It will mean that the vicious act of violating international law and international humanitarian law will continue,” he said.

“China has no hesitation in exercising its veto against a draft resolution that will have such serious consequences.”

Palestine Ambassador Riyad Mansour noted that the General Assembly called for a cessation of hostilities 20 days after the start of the conflict.

A month later, the Assembly demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, stressing the need to protect civilians and stem what was already a dire humanitarian catastrophe.

Meanwhile, the Security Council took nearly six months to do the same.

“Now these resolutions need to be fully respected and fully implemented so the genocide in Gaza can stop; so families on both sides can reunite in life, not death,” he said.