US vetoes UN resolution calling for ceasefire in Gaza – as UK explains why it abstained

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A United Nations Security Council resolution to demand a ceasefire in Gaza has failed because it was vetoed by the US.

Of the 15 representatives on the UN member council, 13 voted to back the call but the US blocked it and the UK abstained.

After the vote, US deputy ambassador Robert Wood criticized the council after the vote for its failure to condemn Hamas’ 7 October attack on Israel, and for failing to acknowledge Israel’s right to defend itself.

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He declared that halting military action would allow Hamas to continue to rule and “only plant the seeds for the next war, because Hamas has no desire to see a durable peace, to see a two-state solution”.

“For that reason, while the United States strongly supports a durable peace, in which both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security, we do not support calls for an immediate cease-fire,” Wood added.

The deputy ambassador also called the now-scrapped resolution “imbalanced” and “divorced from reality”, adding it “would not move the needle on the ground in any concrete way”.

The UK’s ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward said: “we cannot vote in favour of a resolution which does not condemn the atrocities Hamas committed against innocent Israeli civilians on the 7th of October.

“Calling for a ceasefire ignores the fact that Hamas has committed acts of terror and is still holding civilians hostage.”

The UAE’s representative said he was “deeply disappointed” by the outcome of the vote.

“Let me be clear – against the backdrop of the secretary-general’s grave warnings, the appeals by humanitarian actors, the world’s public opinion, this council grows isolated.”

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UN ceasefire vote fails after US veto

The UK’s Barbara Woodward said she abstained from voting on the ceasefire resolution as it did not “condemn the atrocities Hamas committed against innocent Israeli civilians”.

She echoed Mr Wood and insisted calling for a ceasefire “ignores the fact that Hamas has committed acts of terror and is still holding civilians hostage”.

UN Secretary-general, Antonio Guterres warned earlier that Gaza was at “breaking point” and desperate people are at serious risk of starvation.

He added the UN believes it will result in “a complete breakdown of public order and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt”.

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Robert Wood speaks at UN headquarters in New York on May 9, 2019. PIC: AP
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Robert Wood criticized the council after the vote for its failure to condemn Hamas’ 7 October attack on Israel. PIC: AP

An emergency meeting of the council was called after Mr Guterres invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter for the first time since 1971.

Article 99 allows the secretary-general to “bring any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”.

However, the US had made clear it was against a ceasefire in the region, warning it would leave Hamas in charge of the territory still holding more than 100 hostages.

Mr Wood said ahead of the vote that the US does not believe it would lead to “durable peace, in which both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security” because Hamas would remain in charge.

He said a ceasefire would “plant the seeds for the next war… because Hamas has no desire to see durable peace, to see a two-state solution”.

Also ahead of the vote, Palestinian UN ambassador Riyad Mansour told the council that Israel’s objective is “the ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip” and “the dispossession and forcible displacement of the Palestinian people”.

“If you are against the destruction and displacement of the Palestinian people, you have to be in favor of an immediate cease-fire,” Mansour said.

“When you refuse to call for a cease-fire, you are refusing to call for the only thing that can put an end to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres observes a moment of silence at the UN headquarters in New York on Nov. 13, 2023
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Antonio Guterres warned that Gaza was at “breaking point”

Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan stressed however that regional stability and the security of Israelis and Gazans “can only be achieved once Hamas is eliminated – not one minute before”.

“So the true path to ensure peace is only through supporting Israel’s mission – absolutely not to call for a cease-fire,” he told the council.

“Israel committed itself to the elimination of Hamas’ capabilities for the sole reason of ensuring that such horrors could never be repeated again. And if Hamas is not destroyed, such horrors will be repeated.”

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