Russia upset by Security Council silence on Gaza

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Associated Press

Posted on November 19, 2012 at 9:34 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 19 at 9:36 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia's U.N. ambassador on Monday expressed frustration that the Security Council has remained silent about the escalating violence in Gaza between Israel and Hamas as the United States has blocked any action.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Morocco had circulated a proposed press statement as early as last Thursday but foot-dragging by one council member meant it "is still bogged down."

Churkin said, "To me, it looks like a filibuster attempt."

He would not tell reporters outside the Security Council on Monday which nation was blocking the press statement, which must be adopted unanimously. But he said anyone guessing it was the United States would be "a connoisseur" of Security Council politics.

"One member of the Security Council, I'm sure you can guess which, indicated quite transparently that they will not be prepared to go along with any reaction of the Security Council. Somehow, allegedly, that would hurt the current efforts carried out by Egypt in the region," Churkin said.

After Monday night council consultations, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice noted that the Egyptian government, President Barack Obama and others are working through all channels to broker an end to the violence.

"We think it's vitally important that this council, by its action, or non-action, is reinforcing the prospects for an agreed cessation" of hostilities, she said.

"That's got to be agreed between the parties to be meaningful or sustainable," Rice said. "That is our principle objective in these discussions."

The sticking point in early versions of the Moroccan draft statement was that they omitted a clear reference to the months of rocket attacks on Israeli land prior to Israel's air strikes last week in Gaza, several Western diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the issue had been referred back to their capitals.

They said that was unbalanced, and rejected a compromise that simply made reference to the problems "in southern Israel as well as Gaza" as being too oblique a reference to the ongoing Hamas rocket campaign against Israel.

The final Moroccan draft was sent for overnight review by capitals, which have until 9 a.m. (1400 GMT) to voice any objections.

"We do not accept that the Security Council remains on the margins," Moroccan Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki said.

"We will be getting instructions overnight on the draft on the table," Rice told reporters.

Meanwhile, Russia introduced a resolution calling for a cease-fire and halt to violence; expressing support for international and regional mediation efforts; and urging the Palestinians and Israelis to resume overall Mideast peace talks. It does not have any explicit reference to the Hamas rocket attacks leading up to the Israeli air strikes of last week, an issue the European diplomats said was essential to any statement.

Churkin said he would insist that the council proceed to a vote on that, possibly as soon as Tuesday afternoon, if the press statement failed in the morning council meeting. A resolution would have to pass with 9 of the 15 council members' votes, and without a veto by any permanent member — the United States, Britain, France, China or Russia.

At Egypt's request, the Security Council held an unusual closed-door emergency debate last Wednesday night, which did not produce any statement or resolution. In that meeting, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice deplored the violence but made clear that the United States supported Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas rocket attacks launched from Gaza.

Russia is also calling for an urgent meeting of the "Quartet" consulting on Mideast peace — the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations. But it was unclear what the Quartet could achieve if the United States and Europe were out of step.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Cairo to begin talks aimed at de-escalating the violence.

His spokesman, Martin Nesirky, said in a teleconference call that Ban planned to have a working dinner with the Egyptian foreign minister, Mohammed Kamel Amr, Monday night.

On Tuesday, he said, Ban would meet Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the prime minister and the secretary-general of the Arab League.

In the following days, Ban will visit Jerusalem for talks with Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders, and will go to Ramallah to speak with Palestinian Authority leader Abbas.

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