Russia, China veto U.S. Security Council resolution on Gaza cease-fire

Russia and China on Friday vetoed a U.S.-authored resolution before the United Nations Security Council that set out the “imperative of an immediate and sustained ceasefire” in Gaza, tied to the release of Hamas hostages, and warned against any ground offensive into Rafah.

Using language reminiscent of the Cold War, Russia called the measure a “hypocritical initiative” and an “empty political exercise” that played into U.S. and Israeli hands. “If you do this, you will cover yourselves in disgrace,” Russian ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said before the vote.

Over the past several months, the council majority has repeatedly called for an immediate, unconditional cease-fire in resolutions vetoed by the United States on grounds that they did not condemn Hamas or demand the simultaneous release of Israeli hostages it holds. The third and most recent U.S. veto came on Feb. 20, when it opposed an Algeria-sponsored measure demanding an immediate cease-fire.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking Friday as he departed from Tel Aviv on his latest trip to the Middle East, condemned the “cynical” Russian and Chinese vetoes. “We were trying to show the international community sense of urgency about getting a cease-fire tied to the release of hostages, something that everyone, including the countries that vetoed the resolution should have been able to get behind,” Blinken said. “It’s unimaginable why countries wouldn’t be able to do that.”

The Friday resolution was put on the table after weeks of U.S. attempts to accommodate other views amid Washington’s international isolation over support for Israel’s war effort and the Biden administration’s growing concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.

In appealing for support, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that the resolution reflected an effort to overcome divisions within the Security Council. “It would be an historic mistake for the council not to adopt this text,” she said before the vote. The measure marked the first time the United States directly called for an “immediate” cease-fire. It also condemned Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel which killed about 1,200 people and began the war.

“First and foremost, we want to see an immediate and sustained cease-fire as part of a deal that leads to the release of all hostages being held by Hamas and other groups, and that will allow much more lifesaving humanitarian aid to get into Gaza,” Thomas-Greenfield said before the vote.

Russia and China, both of which are among the five permanent members that wield veto power over the 15-member council, were joined in opposing the measure by Algeria, a rotational member representing Arab countries on the council. Guyana abstained.

A number of countries supporting the new U.S. resolution had voted for the previous measures demanding a “clean” call for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire. Like Guyana, they questioned the absence of any mention of Israel as the perpetrator of the humanitarian situation it decried. While many insisted the hostages still held by Hamas must be released, some said that the death and deprivation inflicted on civilians in Gaza was so severe that it should be addressed on its own with an unequivocal cease-fire demand.

The Biden administration, along with Qatar and Egypt, has been locked in negotiations for weeks with Israel and Hamas over the terms of an initial six-week cease-fire that would see the release of some hostages and a massive increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza. Both the administration and Israel have said that Hamas shouldn’t be given “something for nothing” in the form of a cease-fire without returning the hostages.

Blinken, in remarks to reporters, said progress was being made in the negotiations, “closing gaps.” But, he said, “almost by definition when you get down to the last items, they tend to be the hardest. So there’s still a lot of … hard work to be done, but we’re determined to try to get it done.”

In remarks after the council vote, Thomas-Greenfield focused most of her attention on Russia, which she said had “two deeply, deeply cynical reasons” for its opposition.

“Russia still could not bring themselves to condemn Hamas terrorist attacks,” she said. Calling the second reason “petty,” she said that Russia “simply did not want to vote for a resolution that was penned by the United States. … It would rather see us fail than to allow this council to succeed.”

“Russia, which has carried out an unprovoked war on its neighbor, has the audacity and the hypocrisy to throw stones when it lives in a glass house,” she said, referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Michael Birnbaum in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.

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