UN chief vows to go on seeking ceasefire in Gaza despite US veto

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has vowed he will not give up seeking a ceasefire in Gaza after the US wielded its veto to block the move at the security council on Friday, leaving the UN without a clear route map to stop the conflict lasting many months.

Speaking at the Doha Forum in Qatar, Guterres did not directly criticise the US in his address but said the security council was “paralysed by geostrategic divisions”. He added world institutions “are weak and outdated, caught in a time warp reflecting a reality of 80 years ago”.

Guterres spelled out why he had employed article 99 of the UN charter to use his extraordinary powers to force the security council to address the crisis in Gaza. “I urged the security council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and I reiterated my appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared.

“Regrettably, the security council failed to do it, but that does not make it less necessary,” he said. “I will not give up.”

As it stood, he said the previously passed UN resolution calling for more humanitarian aid is not being implemented, straining the credibility of the UN. Guterres had expended every effort to build a momentum for a ceasefire, and the wreckage of Friday leaves diplomats with few short-term options.

Privately in the short term, UN officials are focusing on trying to ensure that Israel fulfils commitments made last week to allow more aid into Gaza. However, some Arab foreign ministers think momentum for a ceasefire may only build ahead of Ramadan at the beginning of March.

Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, also said he was not giving up on the negotiations to secure the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, the precondition that Israel and the US have set for a ceasefire.

He said the previous willingness to negotiate does not currently exist, and urged both sides of the conflict to trust the process.

“Each party aims to destroy the other. The openings are narrower than they were before the last party yet there is still an opening. We hope to go back to the agreement that we brokered a few days ago.” But, he said, the continuation of the Israeli bombardment is narrowing the window, endangering the lives of Palestinian political prisoners and putting the hostages at risk.

The Palestinian prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said Israel should be put under sanctions and complained the international criminal court had been dragging its feet in looking at the question of the Israeli occupation.

He was reluctant to discuss solutions such as how Gaza might be administered at the end of the conflict but said Palestinians were under a duty to build a united front. “Today we have no excuse whatsoever to be divided. It is a must that if we are to win we must not be divided.”

At further side meetings in the Doha Forum there were calls to move beyond the existing Palestinian Authority leadership, saying it had lost all credibility. Young Palestinians were less interested in two-state solutions as much as their rights, the forum heard.

Philippe Lazzarani, the commissioner general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said: “There is no doubt a ceasefire is needed if we are to bring an end to hell on earth”.

He said UNRWA is on the edge of collapse and if it does collapse it would be felt as an ultimate betrayal by the international community of the Palestinian people. He said the Palestinian people felt “stripped of dignity, humiliated and psychologically broken”. He said those Palestinians to which he had spoken felt they had no future in Gaza, and wanted to leave.

“The dehumanisation of Palestinians has made the unbearable bearable for the international community,” he said.

The Jordanian foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the US veto, and that there had been very blunt negotiations with the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, in Washington last Friday.

He said”: “The reality is that everyone is asking Israel to act within the international law. Israel is defying everyone: its own allies, including the US, and the UN. It is conducting this war with a degree of brutality. It feels it is unaccountable. It feels it can get away with murder. One country is defying the whole world, and the whole world is unable to do anything about it”.

He accused Israel of implementing a systematic policy of pushing Palestinians out of Gaza, and had created an “amount of hatred “that would “haunt the region” and “define generations to come”.

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