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Russia Upset by Security Council Silence on Gaza

Posted at: 11/19/2012 5:20 PM
By: Leslie Dyste

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.

Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Morocco circulated a proposed press statement 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.

Extensive amendments were being proposed, which he said would delay a statement "by days."

German Ambassador Peter Wittig confirmed that discussions about a press statement were under way. "Council members expressed their desire to de-escalate the dangerous situation as soon as possible." He stressed that Germany deplored the civilian casualties on both sides.

He noted that Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany's foreign minister had stressed to both Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi "that Israel has the right to self-defense and to defend and protect its citizens - and that the firing of rockets from Gaza has to stop."

He said Germany would want to deplore casualties on both sides and stress that the dangerous situation must be cooled down as soon as possible. "There was a clear feeling by the majority of the members that the Security Council has to pronounce itself," he told reporters.

Nobody at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. was immediately available for comment.

The Moroccans were trying to consolidate various amendments with Britain, representing the EU, into a text with broad support, a Western diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks were continuing.

Churkin said Russia would introduce 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. The text of that draft began circulating later Monday, the Western diplomat said.

Churkin spoke after the council members met at midday for urgent private consultations at his request. Those discussions were to resume Monday night.

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 was 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 to New York that Ban planned to have a working dinner with the Egyptian foreign minister 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.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)