A United Nations Security Council (UNSC) vote to call for the suspension of hostilities in Gaza and deliver humanitarian aid there has been postponed for a third day in a row.
The delays come as the UN chief has sounded an alarm about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the besieged Palestinian enclave, which has been facing relentless Israeli bombardment since October 7. More than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed and tens of thousands are going hungry due to an Israeli blockade.
Here is a recap of the developments surrounding the draft resolution:
What is the UAE-led UNSC draft resolution on Gaza?
The United Arab Emirates circulated a “final version” of a draft resolution late on Friday. The first version of the draft was circulated on December 8 after the United States vetoed a resolution calling for a Gaza ceasefire.
In short, this is what Friday’s draft called for:
- All parties to the conflict should comply with international humanitarian law and protect civilians, hospitals, UN facilities, and humanitarian and medical personnel.
- An urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities should take place alongside the unhindered flow of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
- Parties to the conflict should allow and facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza through land, sea and air routes. This includes prompt implementation of the opening of the Karem Abu Salem border crossing, called Kerem Shalom in Hebrew.
- States that are not party to the conflict are welcome to permit free passage of humanitarian relief. This particularly refers to Egypt and the coordination of its border crossing with Gaza at the southern Gaza city of Rafah. The UN will exclusively monitor all aid that enters through these routes.
The draft now looks quite different after several changes. The revisions are owing to a diplomatic back and forth that has continued for days. The draft has been watered down to secure a compromise and still awaits voting.
NEW: @UAEMissionToUN circulates final version of #UNSC draft resolution aimed at scaling up #Gaza humanitarian aid. Draft reso demands that parties allow/facilitate use of all land, sea and air routes to and throughout the entire Strip, including border crossings and the… pic.twitter.com/IWKpKbuzJw
— Rami Ayari (@Raminho) December 16, 2023
The latest draft also calls for an “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages”. Security Council Report, an independent think tank that monitors the UNSC, said this language was added following requests from several members, including France, Japan, the United Kingdom and the US.
The draft circulated on Friday was expected to come to a vote as early as Monday, depending on negotiations between the UAE and the US.
“We have engaged constructively and transparently throughout the entire process in an effort to unite around a product that will pass,” an anonymous US official told the Reuters news agency. “The UAE knows exactly what can pass and what cannot. It is up to them if they want to get this done.”
The resolution put forth by the UAE on December 8 called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and was vetoed by the US while the UK abstained. All the other 13 Security Council members voted for it. The negotiations that followed have focussed on ensuring that the US does not veto the resolution again.
Diplomats reported that the US wanted to tone down the language on a cessation of hostilities.
Al Jazeera’s Rami Ayari reported that the voting was pushed to a later time on Monday and he was told “cessation” would be replaced with “suspension” after the US objected to the language.
Security Council Report added that the UK had requested substituting “immediate” cessation of hostilities with language calling for an “urgent and sustainable” cessation of hostilities. Language calling “for an urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities” had appeared in the draft that was put forth on Friday.
Ayari later reported that voting had been pushed to Tuesday morning to allow more time for negotiations. “The US is eager to avoid using their veto again, according to several sources,” the Al Jazeera correspondent wrote.
Diplomats say the #UNSC vote on the #Gaza aid/monitoring draft resolution has now been postponed to tmrw morning (Dec 19) to allow more time for negotiations. This comes after @USUN objected to reference to “cessation of hostilities” in text. That may be replaced with “suspension… https://t.co/1LO38iuJWm
— Rami Ayari (@Raminho) December 18, 2023
On Tuesday, an updated draft was circulated, and “cessation” was changed to “suspension”.
Besides this, the clause that talks about the UN monitoring aid initially said the UN would notify the Palestinian Authority and Israel of the humanitarian nature of the aid without prejudice to inspections carried out outside Gaza by states that are not party to the conflict. In the new version, it adds that the UN would notify authorities without prejudice to any inspection that does not unduly delay the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Akbar Shahid Ahmad, the senior foreign affairs reporter from the HuffPost, posted on X that a Muslim diplomat said a US veto was likely.
Ayari reported that Washington remained unswayed despite the revisions, and the vote was delayed again to Wednesday morning.
Security Council Report said that during the negotiations, “the US apparently objected to references to Israel as ‘the occupying power’ and to language that Washington believed could be read as imposing binding legal obligations under the UN Charter.”
US Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller said Washington would welcome a resolution that fully supports addressing the humanitarian needs of the people in Gaza but the details of the text matter.
The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, reportedly met with US President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
Ahmad posted on X that a diplomat told him Israel was heavily involved in the US decision-making on aid inspections. He also reported that Biden had instructed the US mission at the UN to veto a Security Council resolution on Gaza on Thursday, according to a diplomat.
He added that the diplomat said the main sticking point for Biden was transferring control of the aid inspections to the UN, “a step the US has advocated for in other warzones”.
PassBlue, an independent organisation that monitors the UN, posted on X that US diplomats were all right with the UN’s monitoring of aid until Israel saw it.
The USUN diplos were apparently OK with this para in the Gaza draft text, until #Israel saw it.
Israel wants to keep full control of humanitarian aid getting into Gaza https://t.co/gzJpxQBq4G
— PassBlue (@pass_blue) December 20, 2023
Ayari said some were under the impression that the repeated delays on voting were due to attempts to get Biden on board. “Those efforts appear to have failed,” he said.
Security Council Report also reported that part of the negotiations involved other member states suggesting ways to make the aid monitoring system quicker so it doesn’t add another layer to the aid provision to Gaza.
The US came back with a rewrite that essentially removed the UN aid monitoring mechanism.
Voting on the resolution has been further delayed until Thursday.
The UAE’s ambassador to the UN, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, has voiced optimism for the resolution to pass.
“I am optimistic, and if this fails, then we will continue to keep trying because we have to keep trying,” Nusseibeh told reporters. “There is too much suffering on the ground for the council to continue to fail on this. … We have a resolution, and we need to build on that.”
Ayari wrote on X that Arab countries and members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation had proposed new language to the US on aid monitoring by the UN.
They are awaiting Washington’s response, but “the initial signals are not good. If there had been agreement then the updated text would have been circulated to #UNSC members already,” Ayari said.
It’s late and I’ll be going to sleep shortly but here’s the state of play on negotiations regarding the #UNSC draft reso on #Gaza aid scale-up. Following Blinken’s calls with his Egyptian and Emirati counterparts, ambassadors of the three countries have been trying to resolve the… https://t.co/kBGqf2Aex4
— Rami Ayari (@Raminho) December 21, 2023
Ahmad posted that a diplomat said the likelihood of the US vetoing the resolution on Thursday morning remains high.
To pass, the resolution needs at least nine of the 15 Security Council members to vote for it and none of the permanent members – the US, France, China, the UK and Russia – to veto it.