posted on MON 21 JUL 2014 6:44 PM
Middle East Debate to Focus on Situation in Gaza

Tomorrow morning (22 July), the Security Council will hold its regular quarterly open debate on the situation in Israel/Palestine with Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry expected to brief. (Update: After this story was published, we learned that Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, who was on a trip to the Middle East, would brief by video teleconference.) The main focus of the debate will be on the continually escalating violence in Gaza as a result of the Israeli military operations against Hamas and the urgent need for a negotiated ceasefire agreement. While no outcome is expected following the debate, Council members are expecting Jordan to circulate a draft resolution on behalf of the Arab Group, possibly ahead of the meeting.

The draft resolution is the first proposed formal outcome since the crisis began. The Council issued a press statement - which is not a formal outcome- on 12 July that called for de-escalation, reinstitution of the November 2012 ceasefire, respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians, and support for the resumption of direct negotiations (SC/11472). This press statement, proposed by Jordan following the 10 July urgent meeting of the Council on Gaza, was met with initial resistance by the US. The Arab Group and Palestine then discussed the possibility of pursuing a resolution, stressing the importance of the Council responding to the situation. The possibility of a resolution at that point apparently led to a softening of the US position on a press statement, allowing for agreement two days after it was proposed.

Since the press statement was issued, however, ceasefire prospects have become bleaker and the humanitarian situation in Gaza has deteriorated drastically. While it is unclear if the changed conditions are enough to avoid a US veto, it seems that Jordan and the Arab Group are hoping to get buy-in for a resolution that would call for an immediate ceasefire, a reopening of the crossing points of the Gaza strip based on the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, and for renewed and urgent efforts by parties and the international community to achieve a comprehensive peace based on the vision of two states. A key concern has been attacks on civilians and the draft resolution is expected to focus on protection of civilians. It seems that the draft also emphasises the Palestinian human toll, which may prove contentious in negotiations. Other contentious elements include reference to a comprehensive peace based on pre-1967 borders. Many of the elements in the draft resolution, with the exception of protection of civilians, are similar to resolution 1860 which was adopted on 8 January 2009 the last resolution adopted on the issue, with 14 votes in favour, and a US abstention after 13 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

After 10 days of escalating bombings and airstrikes by Israel that killed over 250 Palestinians and rocket fire by Hamas that killed two Israelis, Israel on 17 July initiated a ground offensive in Gaza with the stated intent “to damage the underground terror tunnels constructed in Gaza leading into Israeli territory”. That same evening, Jordan requested an urgent meeting of the Council. After some deliberations on the meeting format, a debate was set for the following day, with Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefing, and Israel and Palestine, as well as all Council members, speaking (S/PV.7220). Feltman stated that the crisis was the result of a collective failure to advance a political solution and urged the international community to shoulder its responsibility to restore a serious prospect of a two-State solution, while warning against “temporary fixes”. All Council members called for a ceasefire between the parties and a return to negotiations.

In addressing the Council, Ambassador Riyad Mansour (Palestine) called upon the Council to adopt a resolution condemning Israeli military aggression and demanding its immediate cessation, and calling for the lifting of the Israeli blockade. Ambassador Ron Prosor (Israel) asserted that his country had been “left with no choice” but to have the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) enter Gaza to restore calm and to degrade Hamas’s capabilities. He maintained that the IDF does not “aspire” to harm civilians and that it was operating only against terrorist targets.

Since the ground invasion began, the death toll has more than doubled to some 500 Palestinians killed, mostly civilans and over 100 of them children, and 25 Israeli soldiers and two civilians have been killed. In a single assault on Sunday (20 July) on Shejaiya, an eastern neighborhood of Gaza City, at least 60 Palestinians—a third of them women and children—and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed, in the deadliest day of fighting so far on both sides. Commenting on the Shejaiya assault, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he condemned the “atrocious action” and stressed that “Israel must exercise maximum restraint and do far more to protect civilians.”

In response to Sunday’s carnage, Jordan, acting on behalf of the Arab Group, requested an urgent meeting of the Council that evening focusing on Palestinian civilian deaths and the need for a ceasefire. Council members were briefed by Feltman during consultations that lasted for over three hours. While there was no formal outcome, Council members agreed to elements to the press, read by Council President Ambassador Eugène-Richard Gasana (Rwanda), which expressed serious concern at the escalation of violence, called for respect for international humanitarian law including the need to protect civilians, emphasised the need to improve the humanitarian situation, expressed serious concern at the growing number of casualties, and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.

Council members will be interested in further exploring options for a ceasefire and determining whether a suitable mediator between Israel and Hamas can be identified. On 14 July, Egypt, supported by the Arab League and the US, proposed a ceasefire that was accepted by Israel but rejected by Hamas who says it was never officially consulted about the initiative and that the proposed ceasefire would only reinstate the status quo. Hamas’ requirements for a truce include wider conditions including addressing Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the re-release of Palestinian prisoners. It seems that the draft resolution proposed by Jordan has taken this into account and included language that welcomes the 14 July ceasefire initiative of Egypt and urges all concerned parties to support these efforts, and calls for the lifting of Israeli restrictions on movement of persons and goods into and out of Gaza.

Council members may also be interested in Serry’s views on the viability of Egypt brokering a truce as this has been called into question due to the hostility of the Abdel Fattah al-Sisi government towards Hamas. (Sisi led the 3 July 2013 military coup that deposed democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, a close ally of Hamas.). Earlier today, a senior Egyptian official was quoted as saying that Egypt “does not mind adding some of Hamas’s conditions provided that all involved parties approve”. US Secretary of State John Kerry is in Cairo today in an attempt to facilitate talks and is expected to urge Hamas to accept the ceasefire agreement offered by Egypt. Secretary-General Ban is also in Cairo for talks today and is expected to meet with Kerry, as well as Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and Secretary-General of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi. Tomorrow morning, Ban is scheduled to meet with Sisi. Council members may be looking for a readout of the meetings so far.

Yesterday, Ban met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Qatar. He has been studying a proposal initiated by Abbas that would place Palestine under an international protection system administered by the UN, according to Feltman. Abbas also reportedly held talks with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal while in Qatar. Ban is also expected to travel to Kuwait City, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman, with no Gaza stop expected at press time. Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire.

Since the Israeli ground offensive began four days ago, Israel has launched attacks on four hospitals. Today, Israeli tanks shelled the Al-Aqsa Hospital, killing at least five people and wounding over 60. Also today, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) issued an emergency appeal for $60 million to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs in Gaza, including tens of thousands who have fled their homes in the wake of the current Israeli military offensive. UNRWA noted that today the number of displaced people seeking safety in its facilities exceeds 84,000 and may soon reach 100,000.

Council members’ statements tomorrow will likely contain entrenched views that have been repeated over the years in the monthly Council meetings on Israel and Palestine. Council members in their statements are therefore likely to discourage escalatory acts, encourage parties to exercise restraint, call for Israeli withdrawal and a ceasefire and the resumption of negotiations toward a two-state solution. Some members may further emphasise the importance of Israel lifting its blockade of Gaza. However, given the recent developments, it is possible that some Council members may convey the need for stronger action from the Council as soon as possible.

Given the dynamics in the Council on the Israel/Palestine issue, in particular the US position, and the likely difficulties in defining the conflict and apportioning blame for the escalation, negotiating a resolution text will likely involve intense high-level negotiations. It is unclear if the US will be more inclined to accept a resolution on this situation given the high number of civilian casualties. Up until now their position on Gaza has contrasted with their position on Syria, where the US has argued strongly that the scale of civilian casualties committed by government forces far outweighs the violations committed by the opposition.

posted on MON 21 JUL 2014 2:18 PM
Vote on Draft Resolution Condemning Downing of MH17

The Draft Resolution This afternoon (21 July), the Security Council is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution condemning the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Netherlands Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans are both expected to attend the meeting. (Australia, a non-permanent Council member, lost 27 of its citizens, and the Netherlands lost 193 citizens, the highest number from one nationality on the downed flight.) Luxembourg’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Jean Asselborn was… Read more »

posted on FRI 18 JUL 2014 1:58 PM
Israel/Palestine: Political Affairs Chief to Brief following Israeli Ground Operation in Gaza

This afternoon at 3 pm(18 July), Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will brief the Security Council on the situation in Israel/Palestine. An urgent meeting was requested last night by Jordan, the Arab Group’s voice on the Council, in response to Israel’s announcement that it was initiating a ground operation into Gaza. It seems there were divergent views over the meeting’s format. Turkey, though not a Council member requested an open debate and was supported by Council members Argentina, China,… Read more »

posted on FRI 18 JUL 2014 7:14 AM
Ukraine Meeting Following Crash of Malaysia Airlines Plane

This morning the Council will meet in its chamber to be briefed by Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, following yesterday’s Malaysia Airlines jet crash in the eastern Ukraine amidst continued fighting in south-east Ukraine. The UK, supported by Lithuania, requested an urgent meeting on the situation in Ukraine yesterday. A similar request came from Ukraine who also asked to participate in the meeting and is likely to be represented by its Ambassador, Yuri Sergeyev. At press time, it seemed… Read more »

posted on WED 16 JUL 2014 5:26 PM
Briefing and Consultations on Critical Security Situation in Libya

Tomorrow morning (17 July), the Security Council is scheduled to receive a public briefing by Tarek Mitri, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), via video teleconference, which will be followed by consultations. Even though resolution 2144 requests the Secretariat to brief on UNSMIL’s mandate every 90 days, during the last consultations on 9 June some Council members requested more frequent meetings, given the worsening security and political situation in Libya.… Read more »

posted on TUE 15 JUL 2014 2:51 PM
Sudan-South Sudan Consultations

Tomorrow morning (16 July), the Security Council is scheduled to hold its monthly consultations on Sudan-South Sudan. Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan Haile Menkerios (via videoconference) and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos are expected to brief.… Read more »

posted on MON 14 JUL 2014 4:38 PM
Briefing and Interactive Dialogue on the Peacebuilding Commission

Tomorrow morning (15 July), Vladimir Drobnjak (Croatia) and Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), the past and current chairs of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), respectively, will brief the Security Council on the occasion of the presentation of the 2013 PBC annual report, which was adopted on 29 January (S/2014/67). In the afternoon, Council members will have an informal interactive dialogue with the country-configuration chairs and representatives of the PBC’s six agenda countries. No outcome from the briefing is expected.… Read more »

posted on SUN 13 JUL 2014 11:31 AM
Syria: Monday Vote on Draft Resolution on Cross-Border and Cross-Line Humanitarian Access

On Friday (11 July), the penholders on the humanitarian track on Syria—Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg—put a draft resolution on cross-border and cross-line humanitarian access in Syria in blue for a vote at 12 noon on Monday (14 July). The draft was finalised following five weeks of intense negotiations between the penholders with the P5, followed by a further two rounds on 7 and 10 July with the full Council, and a final meeting on 11 July to work out remaining… Read more »

posted on THU 10 JUL 2014 4:07 PM
Meetings on Central African Republic and Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Committees

Tomorrow morning (11 July), the Security Council expects to discuss the work of the 2127 Central African Republic (CAR) Sanctions Committee and the 751/1907 Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Committee. The Council will receive the briefing on the CAR Sanctions Committee in a public session. In the consultations that follow, Council members will continue their deliberations on the CAR, while also receiving a briefing on the Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Committee.… Read more »

posted on THU 10 JUL 2014 2:20 PM
Briefing on Burundi

This afternoon (10 July), Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović will brief the Security Council in consultations on the situation in Burundi. Also briefing will be the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB), Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, via video-teleconference from Bujumbura. At press time, no outcome was expected.… Read more »