Tags: gaza | arabs | un

Arabs Seek U.N. Confrontation Over Gaza

Thursday, 08 Jan 2009 02:35 PM

By Stewart Stogel

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After four days of intensive negotiations that have yet to unlock the stalemate, Arab delegations are attempting to bypass the Security Council to produce some U.N. action on the Gaza crisis.

A group of 10 Arab foreign ministers, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner have been at U.N. headquarters since Tuesday trying to defuse the Gaza crisis.

But, as the Associated Press reports, "meetings Tuesday and Wednesday left the council divided. Arabs insisted on a legally binding resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of Israeli troops, while the U.S., Britain and France wanted a weaker statement emphasizing that a 'durable cease-fire' requires guarantees on reopening border crossings and preventing arms smuggling by Hamas.

"When Arab and Western envoys met Thursday, Miliband presented the British-drafted resolution, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the consultations were private.

"Arab ministers discussed that text then rejoined their Western counterparts for further talks. A diplomat at that meeting said the Arabs agreed to negotiate on the British text and proposed a number of amendments."

Leaving that meeting, Rice said: "We're still working very hard. We're making some progress."

The Arabs have enlisted the aid of General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto of Nicaragua to bring the issue of Israel's invasion before the 192-member body.

It is a tactic that has been used in the past when Washington has blunted any council action on Israel. Though the GA resolutions are nonbinding and have no legal status, they do carry enormous political weight. The U.S. has no veto, therefore the chances of any critical resolution's adoption are much greater.

D'Escoto, long an adversary of Washington, has called an "emergency meeting" of the GA for later this evening. U.S. diplomats at the U.N. are not sure just what D'Escoto will do, but it is expected that something which could amount to an Israeli censure is in the works.

In a letter sent to D'Escoto Thursday afternoon and obtained by Newsmax, Israel protested the convening of the General Assembly. Israel's UN ambassador Gabriela Shalev contested the legality of D'Escoto's move and asked that the meeting be canceled.

Meanwhile, the Israeli campaign against Hamas entered its 13th day.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued yet another statement condemning Israel for the deaths of two U.N. aid workers whose convoy was hit by IDF fire earlier Thursday.

Israel's mission to the U.N. refused comment on Ban's condemnation.

Diplomats at the U.S. mission to the U.N. offered no reaction to the Ban statement or the Arab moves in the General Assembly.

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