UN fails to draw up Gaza statement

Libya blocks statement expressing "deep concern" for safety of people along chaotic Gaza-Egypt border.

gaza rafah border 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
gaza rafah border 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The UN Security Council, after negotiating for much of the week, failed to reach agreement late Friday night on a statement to express "deep concern" about the safety of people along the chaotic Gaza-Egypt border. Libya, whose ambassador holds this month's revolving council presidency, blocked the statement. Until Friday the United States had dissented, protecting Israel from being criticized in a statement originally proposed by Arab nations. "There was no main sticking point for the United States anymore," the United States' Deputy UN Ambassador Alejandro D. Wolff told reporters. He said the US had sought "a balanced statement" and expected the latest draft eventually to be approved. In its latest version, the statement would call on all sides to talk and immediately end the violence, and would urge Israel to "minimize the impact of its actions" on the people of Gaza, including allowing humanitarian aid to reach struggling Palestinians living there. It also would condemn the daily rocket and mortar attacks against Israelis and "the terrorist rocket launches from Gaza." The breach of the border with Egypt, led by Hamas's government, allowed thousands of Palestinians to break free from the Gaza Strip blockade this week. Since Wednesday, they have flooded into Egypt to shop, visit relatives and roam around. "The draft that's on the table would be significant. It would be the first statement by the Security Council on the Middle East for over a year," Britain's UN Ambassador John Sawers said. The statement had gained the consent of all nations on the 15-member council except Libya after an "exhausting" session, he told reporters. "The delegation of Libya decided to refer it back to the Arab group. And they've in turn referred it back to capitals," Sawers said. "I think we could actually have issued a statement this evening. There was a central core of the council that was in agreement… And two countries that had difficulty with the text. The United States came on board." Libya's UN Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi said the statement reflects the interests of Arab nations generally, but not of Libya. "When it comes to interests, you have to care about your own stance, not the reactions of the others," he said. The Libyans did not specify what they opposed in the statement. The council plans to try again next week.