Rockets not mentioned in UNSC draft

Gillerman returns to NY as UN grapples for a response to the situation in the Gaza Strip.

gillerman 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
gillerman 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
As members of the United Nations Security Council grappled for a response to the situation in the Gaza Strip, Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman cut short a visit to Israel on Wednesday to return to New York. Gillerman was expected to arrive Wednesday afternoon - in time, Israeli officials hoped, to weigh in on the draft negotiations scheduled to take place later in the day. Meanwhile, the Israeli mission was still busy lobbying member countries to amend the draft presidential statement to include condemnation of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, which the original neglects to mention. Council experts met behind closed doors Wednesday morning to amend a Libyan draft statement that calls on Israel to end its siege of Gaza and ensure "unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people," but makes no mention of the rocket attacks that triggered the blockade. The council resumed discussions to try and hammer out a statement agreeable to all 15 members. In the afternoon, before the ambassadors met to review the text, the US appeared to be the largest stumbling block in reaching a consensus necessary for the non-binding presidential statement. But a large majority of the council was pressing for a presidential statement, and by late Wednesday, many expected a statement to be on the table. Many delegations, including France and the United Kingdom, called for the amendments to include reference to the rocket attacks. The US appeared the most skeptical of reaching a consensus. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the Libya statement was "not acceptable," because it "doesn't talk about the rocket attacks... on innocent Israelis." Meanwhile, officials at the US mission said their position had not changed and they were "skeptical" of the premise on which the draft was based. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking at a press conference at Zurich airport en route to the World Economic Forum in Davos, said Washington was "very concerned... that both the security concerns of Israel and the humanitarian concerns of the Gazans be met." Tuesday's emergency meeting was held at the request of Arab and Islamic states as Israel eased its blockade and allowed in limited amounts of fuel. Israeli counselor Gilad Cohen addressed the council for a second time Tuesday afternoon, calling Syria's condemnation of Israel "hypocritical." "It is hence the height of hypocrisy, cynicism and indecency for the distinguished representative of Syria to address the council and condemn Israel for merely defending itself against the very Hamas terrorists that it [Syria] supports," said Cohen. "Damascus is home and headquarters to numerous terrorist organizations, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas - the latter [of] whose political leader, Khaled Mashaal, lives there while continuing to orchestrate the killing of Israelis. Israel urges all states to end their support for terrorists and terrorism, in accordance with international law." Cohen also criticized Libyan Ambassador Giadallah Ettalhi, who is president of the council this month, for his "deeply regrettable" usage of the term "genocide" to refer to the situation in the Gaza Strip. "It is highly insensitive to the survivors of genocide around the world and to the sensibilities of this council for language to be used so cheaply. My delegation urges member states to be more responsible with the language used in their statements."