UN debate on Arab draft resolution ends without vote

The UN Security Council began consultations on a draft resolution on the Gaza conflict presented by Libya on behalf of Arab countries that met in Cairo on Wednesday. The resolution's wording is more muted than in previous drafts.


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AFP - Libya Wednesday presented a draft resolution from the Arab League to a UN Security Council emergency meeting that calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

The draft resolution "strongly condemns all military attacks and the excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by Israel, the occupying power, which have led to the death and injury of scores of innocent Palestinian civilians, including women and children."

It calls for "an immediate ceasefire and for its full respect by both sides."

It also calls on Israel "to scrupulously abide by all of its obligations under international humanitarian law, particularly under the Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilians in time of war."

The emergency council meeting was convened at the behest of Egypt, which assumed the Arab League presidency in December.

The 15-member council is now expected to convene a public debate on the draft resolution that includes representatives from Israel, Egypt, the Arab League and the Palestinian territories.

The British and American ambassadors to the United Nations said the resolution needs to be amended before possible adoption because it fails to mention the ongoing Hamas rocket attacks on Israel that motivated the current Israeli military operation.

"This resolution as currently circulated by Libya is not balanced and therefore, as currently drafted, it is not acceptable to the United States," US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters.

Sudan's UN ambassador Abdalmahmud Abdalhaleem Mohamad and Arab League representative Yahya Mahmassani said the Council would likely meet at the foreign minister-level in the coming days, with at least eight Arab countries participating.

Foreign ministers from Arab League nations meeting in Cairo Wednesday called for a binding UN resolution requiring an immediate halt to hostilities.

A delegation headed by chief Saudi diplomat Prince Saud al-Faisal with foreign ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Qatar, Syria, a Palestinian representative and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa will likely come to UN headquarters to argue the Arab League's case, Mohamad said.

The Sudanese ambassador said a Security Council meeting with these representatives could be held Sunday or Monday.

The draft resolution also calls "for the immediate and sustained opening of the border crossings of the Gaza Strip," and the resumption of humanitarian aid deliveries to its population.

It "stresses the need for restoration of calm in full in order to pave the way for resolving all issues in a peaceful manner within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process."

The text appears to have been amended since an initial version was released to the press in Cairo. It no longer includes a call for Israel to stop its "barbaric" aggression, lift its blockade of Gaza and stop the "collective punishment" of the Palestinian people.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas also appealed Wednesday for a UN resolution imposing a ceasefire.

Abbas is set to meet Monday with the UN Security Council to discuss the situation.

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since ousting Abbas loyalists in June 2007. Despite winning Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, Hamas has since been boycotted by much of the West for refusing to recognize Israel.

Israel's pounding of Gaza began after the December 19 expiry of a six-month truce with Hamas brokered by Egypt and a resumption of rocket fire by Gaza-based militants.

The Arab League talks were taking place as Israel rejected world calls for a truce and vowed to press ahead with its deadly Gaza offensive.

The actions have so far lasted five days, killed nearly 400 Palestinians and left more than 1,900 wounded, according to Gaza emergency services.

The Israeli operation killed more than 360 people in four days.  Credit: AFP Photo



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