Arabs seek UN resolution to stop Gaza war

Israeli envoy praises US for "standing like lions."

By BRENDA GAZZAR, ALLISON HOFFMAN
January 4, 2009 04:40
Arabs seek UN resolution to stop Gaza war

Ban Ki-Moon 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Members of an Arab League delegation were gearing up to convene at the United Nations headquarters in New York Monday in a bid to get a resolution passed that would condemn Israel and halt its nine-day military operation. Arab League representatives from seven countries would request that the Security Council hold an emergency session to call for Israel to halt its incursion, an Arab League spokeswoman in Cairo said. The members would also call for a lifting of the blockade on Gaza, a return to negotiations and a renewed truce between Israel and Hamas, she said. The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria will attend meetings at the United Nations on Monday and Tuesday, she said. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who decried the ground invasion as "brutal aggression" Sunday in Ramallah after initially blaming Hamas for inviting the air strikes, is expected to arrive at the UN on Tuesday, according to a spokesman at the Palestinian mission. He had originally been scheduled to meet with the secretary-general on Monday but will be first meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy as part of the latter's visit to the Middle East. "The most important thing is to stop the hostilities in Gaza, to stop the Israeli attack," Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said. The Egyptian foreign minister will likely also arrive in New York on Tuesday, also because of Sarkozy's visit to Egypt Monday, a spokesman said. "The goal is to push the Security Council to act in order to stop this military confrontation and to get an immediate cease-fire," spokesman Hossam Zaki told The Jerusalem Post. At an emergency Security Council meeting Saturday, the US blocked approval of a UN Security Council statement calling for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers. The US, Israel's closest ally, has designated Hamas a terrorist organization. US deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff said the United States saw no prospect of Hamas abiding by last week's council call for an immediate end to the violence. Though the Security Council took no action on Saturday night, an Arab draft resolution circulated by Libya on Wednesday night that would condemn Israel and halt its military attacks on Gaza remains on the table. It would have to be revised, however, since the United States has already called it "unacceptable" and "unbalanced" because it doesn't call for an end to the Hamas rocketing of Israel. Meanwhile, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa condemned Israel's ground operation on Sunday, arguing that Israel's action is "not a defensive operation." "This is not an accurate description of what is happening," he told reporters in Cairo. On Sunday, both Egypt and Jordan, the only two countries that have peace with Israel, condemned Israel's ground operation. Some observers note that it will be difficult for Arab League members to come up with a resolution that is satisfactory to them, their constituency and the United States. Regarding what kind of resolution would be acceptable to the US, Wolff said: "The important point to focus on here is establishing the understanding of what type of cease-fire we're talking about and to ensure that it's lasting, and to ensure that we don't return to a situation that led to the current situation." Israel's UN envoy, Gabriela Shalev, commended the US delegation for "standing like lions" against the proposed Libyan statement and said Israel would not accept any Security Council resolution recognizing Hamas as an equal party with the government. "We do not believe this is the time for the UN or for the Security Council to intervene, at least not when they regard us and Hamas on the same level," Shalev said Sunday. Shalev said that she hoped any cease-fire agreement would include international guarantees blocking Hamas from smuggling weapons or materiel into Gaza or firing rockets into Israel, but said she was not seeking a truce imposed by UN resolution. "If there are agreements to be achieved it should be between the parties," Shalev told the Post. "If there will be some kind of [UN] agreement or resolution it must be calling on Hamas to stop smuggling, stop shooting and stop threatening the people of southern Israel," Shalev said. She told the Post that she had transmitted letters to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the current Security Council president, French ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, informing them of Israel's efforts to ensure that Gazans' access to food and medical aid is not compromised and reiterating Israel's position that Hamas bears responsibility for provoking the ground offensive because of continued rocket fire into the South. "We are not at war with the Palestinians," Shalev said. "We would like to go on conducting the peace process and the negotiations with [the Palestinian Authority]." The Security Council is expected to reconvene later this week after Sarkozy visits Israel. Libya, the only Arab nation on the council, called Saturday's emergency meeting after Israel sent tanks and infantry across the border into Gaza on the eighth day of its offensive against Hamas. Libya's permanent member of the United Nations said Saturday that it "was a sad day in the history of the Security Council, which has not been able to shoulder its responsibilities towards the serious escalation in the Israeli aggression on Gaza," according to a United Nations report. Arab nations have demanded that the council adopt a statement calling for an immediate cease-fire and expressing "serious concern at the escalation of violence and the deterioration of the situation in Gaza and southern Israel," a view echoed by the UN secretary-general. If it had been approved, the statement would have become part of the council's official record but would not have the weight of a Security Council resolution, which is legally binding. Egypt's UN Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said it was regrettable that one permanent council member - a clear reference to the US - refused to accept any statement at a time when "the aggression is escalating and more people are dying and the military attack on the ground is at its full scale." Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN observer, said: "We have war. We have aggression against the Palestinian people, and it is a sad and tragic moment when the Security Council cannot address this issue by at least demanding from Israel ... to stop this aggression immediately." Mansour said he hopes Abbas and Arab League ministers, scheduled to meet Monday in New York, will succeed in pushing through a resolution "so that we will have a durable and sustainable cease-fire between us and the Israelis." AP contributed to this report.

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