SECURITY COUNCIL FAILS TO ADOPT DRAFT RESOLUTION
CONDEMNING RECENT ISRAELI ACTIONS
United States Opposes Draft Presented by Syria
NEW YORK, 20 December (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council tonight failed to adopt a draft resolution that would have condemned the killing by Israeli forces of several United Nations employees, as well as the "deliberate destruction" by those forces of a United Nations World Food Programme warehouse in the occupied Palestinian territory.
By a vote of 12 in favour to 1 against (United States, a permanent member of the Council with the veto power), with 2 abstentions (Bulgaria, Cameroon), the Syrian-led text was defeated. Among its other terms, the draft would have demanded that Israel comply fully with its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War.
Explaining his opposition to the text before the vote, the United States representative said he viewed the incidents resulting in the deaths of several United Nations employees as very grave and had called on Israel to investigate matters and take all measures to prevent further harm. A resolution on that matter should emphasize concerns about the safety of United Nations personnel and resources, but that was not the draft's focus. Indeed, the proponents of the text appeared more intent in condemning the occupation than in assuring the safety of United Nations personnel.
Killing of international personnel and destruction of United Nations sites was a red line that no party was allowed to cross, the Syrian representative said. The draft had been submitted on behalf of the Group of Arab States and dealt with issues that were of concern to the international community and the various bodies of the United Nations. The objective of the draft was to put an end to attacks against United Nations by Israel. Israel, which traditionally attempted to "equate the victim and the butcher", could not be given the right to kill United Nations personnel without accountability or sanction.
Expressing great regret at the tragic death of the employee of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Iain Hook, the representative of Israel said his Government was engaged in a thorough investigation. Regarding the damage to the World Food Programme (WFP) installation, Israel and the WFP had been engaged in discussions, and he was confident that an acceptable solution could soon be found. While attention must duly be paid to Israeli actions, he was distressed at what seemed to be a singular attempt to focus only on Israel and ignore the actions of the other parties.
The Permanent Observer of Palestine strongly condemned those attacks by Israeli occupation authorities. The Arab Group had submitted a draft aimed at putting an end to those acts by the Israeli occupation forces. No one could have thought that such a draft would face difficulties, or that it could have been vetoed, but it seemed as though the bias of the United States towards Israel knew no limit, even at the expense of international humanitarian law.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Bulgaria, Norway, France and Ireland.
The meeting began at 7:49 p.m. and was adjourned at 8:28 p.m.
Statements before the vote
JOHN D. NEGROPONTE (United States) said the United States viewed the incidents resulting in the deaths of several United Nations employees and the destruction of the World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse as serious ones that should be addressed. It had called on Israel to investigate matters and take all measures to prevent further harm. A resolution on the matter should emphasize concerns about the safety of United Nations personnel and resources, but he did not see focus on that in the Syrian draft. The proponents of the draft resolution appeared more intent in condemning the occupation than in assuring the safety of United Nations personnel.
He said that earlier today, President Bush had expressed strong support for the Quartet’s efforts to establish a road map which would realize his vision for two States, Israel and Palestinian living side by side, in peace and security. Adoption of the current resolution would not contribute to furthering that road map. The United States had contributed significant funds to the WFP and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and was prepared to engage seriously in further discussions to achieve a text all members could support. It had circulated an alternative draft which covered all essential points and referred to the incidents in a fair and balanced matter. He reserved the right to resubmit that draft. Unfortunately the sponsors had refused to engage in such discussion and insisted on a hasty vote. He would therefore, with regret, vote against the draft resolution submitted by Syria.
Action on the Draft Resolution
The draft resolution (document S/2002/1385) received 12 votes in favour to one against (United States), with 2 abstentions (Bulgaria, Cameroon). Owing to the negative vote of a permanent member, the draft was not adopted.
Speaking after the vote, RAYKO RAYTCHEV (Bulgaria) said he regretted that the Council had been unable to achieve unanimity. That had not helped to find a just solution in favour of peace and security. By abstaining, he had not opposed the text in principle since he categorically deplored all acts of violence causing loss of life and destruction.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said he had voted in favour of the draft resolution because it had urged both parties to avoid harming civilians and fully respect international law. It was particularly important that international humanitarian personnel carry out their important mission without threat to their personal security. He reiterated his strong condemnation of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and called on the Palestinian Authority to end terrorism "100 per cent" in words as well as deeds, with strengthened and reformed governmental structures. Terrorists must disarm and engage in a political process, and all parties should fully respect the rule of law and freedom of speech. Only then would the international community be able to build a viable Palestinian State.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France) said he had supported the draft text. Given that humanitarian personnel had paid a heavy price due to disproportionate violence, it was quite natural for the Security Council to condemn the actions of those who bore responsibility. The Council had also been justified in seeking, once again, to engage Israel to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular, the Fourth Geneva Convention. Regrettably, the Council had not been in a position to adopt the draft, which had a limited but essential goal.
GERARD CORR (Ireland) said he had supported the draft resolution presented by Syria on behalf of the Arab Group because he felt that the Council should address the important issues raised in the text. Also important was for the Council to condemn the recent killings of international staff and the deliberate destruction of a food warehouse and its contents. It was also fully appropriate to remind Israel of the need to fully respect international humanitarian law and to respect fully the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which applied in the occupied territories.
NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer of Palestine, strongly condemned the attacks by Israeli occupation authorities on the sites of the United Nations in the occupied territories. He particularly condemned the killing, in particularly that of UNRWA employee, Iain Hook, an international civil servant responsible for reconstruction of the Jenin camp. He also condemned the destruction of the WFP warehouse. Those actions violated international law including the Fourth Geneva Convention. The international community should strongly condemn those acts. The Council today had already adopted a Presidential Statement on protection of civilians in armed conflict. As the Israeli Government had not put an end to the grave infractions by the Israeli occupation forces, that Government was directly responsible for those acts.
The Arab group had submitted a draft that aimed at putting an end to those acts of the Israel occupation forces. No one could have thought that such a draft would face difficulties, or that it could have been vetoed, although he noted that the United States was biased towards Israel. It seemed the bias knew no limit, even at the expense of international humanitarian law, he said.
If the reference in the draft to the Convention and mention of Israel as an occupying Power was an obstacle, that would mean that the United States was about to cause a historic new disaster, to be inflicted on the Palestinian people and the region, by taking positions that only supported extreme Israeli positions aimed at continuation of the occupation. It would also mean an end to attempts to arrive at peace between the States and an end to the peace process. He hoped all that would not be true, otherwise "God should help us all for the disasters to come".
He said neither the Palestinian nor Israeli people could joyfully celebrate the holidays, not even in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. President Arafat had been prevented from going to Bethlehem to celebrate the holidays with Christians. Nevertheless, he wished all a joyous holiday season.
AARON JACOB (Israel) said his country had expressed great regret at the tragic death of the UNRWA employee, Iain Hook and was engaged in a thorough investigation. It would make the findings available to the relevant authorities, once that investigation was completed. Regarding the damage to the WFP installation, Israel and the WFP had been engaged in discussions aimed at finding an acceptable solution. He was confident that such a solution could be found in the near future. Israel had no desire to exacerbate the already difficult situation facing the Palestinian people and would do everything necessary to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
At the same time, he said, Israel must hold accountable those armed groups that had endangered innocent life and encourage abandonment of reliance on those reprehensible tactics. While attention must duly be paid to Israeli actions, he was distressed at what seemed to be a singular attempt to focus only on Israel and ignore the actions of the other parties. Israel was committed to achieving a genuine peace between itself and its neighbours and had endorsed the vision put forth by United States President George Bush in his speech on 24 June concerning the establishment of a State of Palestine, living side-by-side and in security with Israel. Israel would be prepared to make painful concessions to bring about true peace on the understanding that similar concessions were required of the other parties to the conflict.
That was not possible, he continued, as long as hatred and rejection of Israel and Jews were deliberately cultivated by the highest echelons of Palestinian leadership and reinforced by its official media. The first step must be the total end to terrorist acts, in which countless Palestinians and Israelis had lost their lives. The Palestinian economy was in shambles, and the credibility of the Palestinian leadership was "barely greater than zero". Yet, the same cynical diplomatic games continued to be played. The number of gravestones stood as a testament to the failed policies of the past. There must be an irrevocable commitment to end the violence and bloodshed. He hoped the Council was committed both to that and to the reinvigoration of the process of dialogue.
Since this was his last intervention before the Council, barring an unexpected meeting next week, he bid farewell and expressed the hope that it was still possible to find a peaceful way forward in the Middle East. He regretted that Yeshiva Lancry could not be present, owing to the death of his son.
MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said the draft had been submitted on behalf of the Group of Arab States and dealt with issues that were of concern to the international community and the various bodies of the United Nations. The objective of the draft was to put an end to the attacks by the occupying Power, Israel, against United Nations personnel, which had escalated sharply over the last month. It further aimed at compelling Israel not to attack United Nations buildings or warehouses. The point of the WFP warehouse was to feed the Palestinian people, who were in dire need of that food. That warehouse was struck to deprive the Palestinian people of food.
He said the international community agreed that the killing of international personnel and destruction of United Nations sites was a red line that no party was allowed to cross. Israel could be an exception to that rule. Israel could not be given the right to kill United Nations personnel without accountability or sanction, he said, noting that 14 staff members had been killed so far. The Fourth Geneva Convention was to be respected and implemented by all without double standards. If the Council was unable to put an end to such Israeli practices because of the protection given by one permanent member to Israel, the door would be open to flaunting international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.
He said he had undertaken all necessary consultations and had taken all proposed amendments back the to Group of the Arab States in order to ensure passage of the draft. Regrettably, he had been unable to take up the amendments from one delegation because they fell outside the draft and the required objective, and because that country attempted to equate the victim and the butcher. That country had deprived the majority of members of the desired Council unity and had prevented the international community from sending its message to the occupying Power, Israel. He stressed that the draft and the condemnation contained therein were unrelated to current efforts for a comprehensive peace.
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