China disappointed over US veto on Israel-Hamas ceasefire vote, Xinhua reports

China disappointed over US veto on Israel-Hamas ceasefire vote, Xinhua reports
The UN Security Council meets to debate resolution to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, at UN's headquarters in New York on Feb 20.
PHOTO: Reuters

BEIJING —?China expressed "strong disappointment" over the United States blocking a draft United Nations Security Council resolution on the Israel-Hamas war calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, Xinhua said on Feb 21, citing its UN representative Zhang Jun.

The United States on Feb 20 vetoed for the third time a draft United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution, blocking a demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire as it instead pushes the 15-member body towards a rival draft that calls for a temporary ceasefire linked to the release of hostages held by Hamas.

The US has said the draft resolution put forward by Algeria could jeopardise "sensitive negotiations" between US, Egypt, Israel and Qatar aimed at brokering a pause in fighting and securing the release of hostages.

"China expresses its strong disappointment at and dissatisfaction with the US veto," Xinhua said, citing Zhang who urged the UNSC to push for a ceasefire calling it a "moral obligation that the council cannot shy away from".

"The US veto sends a wrong message, pushing the situation in Gaza into a more dangerous one," he said, adding that objection to ceasefire in Gaza is "nothing different from giving the green light to the continued slaughter".

Zhang said the spillover of the conflict is destabilising the Middle East region, raising risks of a wider war.

"Only by extinguishing the flames of war in Gaza can the world prevent the fires of hell from engulfing the entire region," Xinhua cited him as saying.

World Court proceedings

The United States and Russia will present arguments on Feb 21 in proceedings at the UN's highest court examining the legality of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, was asked in 2022 by the UN General Assembly to issue a non-binding opinion on the legal consequences of the occupation.

Israel, which is not taking part, said in written comments that the court's involvement could be harmful to achieving a negotiated settlement. Washington in 2022 opposed the court issuing an opinion and is expected to argue on Feb 21 that it cannot rule on the occupation's lawfulness.

More than 50 states will present arguments until Feb 26. Egypt and France were also scheduled to speak on Feb 21.

On Feb 19, Palestinian representatives asked the judges to declare Israel's occupation of their territory illegal and said its opinion could help reach a two-state solution.

On Feb 20, 10 states including South Africa were overwhelmingly critically of Israel's conduct in the occupied territories, with many urging the court to declare the occupation illegal.

The latest surge of violence in Gaza that followed Hamas' Oct 7 attacks in Israel has complicated already deeply-rooted grievances in the Middle East and damaged efforts towards finding a path to peace.

The ICJ's 15-judge panel has been asked to review Israel's "occupation, settlement and annexation... including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures".

The judges are expected to take roughly six months to issue their opinion on the request, which also asks them to consider the legal status of the occupation and its consequences for states.

Israel ignored a World Court opinion in 2004 when it found that Israel's separation wall in the West Bank violated international law and should be dismantled. Instead, it has been extended.

Hopeful for pause

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Two senior US lawmakers who held talks with Israeli and Arab leaders said on Feb 20 that they were hopeful a deal could be struck allowing a humanitarian pause in the war in Gaza before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

In an interview with Reuters in Amman, Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Coons —?who said they had earlier met Jordan's King Abdullah and held talks with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem —?said there was "broad hope" of a deal soon to release hostages held by Hamas in exchange for a pause in fighting.

"Within a matter of weeks we could see a pause before Ramadan," said Blumenthal, who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He said that talks with Israeli leaders suggested that Israel is open to a pause as it wraps up a phase of intense fighting in Gaza and moves to a potential focus on counter-insurgency combat instead.

"Once there is that agreement on a pause it opens the way towards a negotiation that could produce self governance by the Palestinians, a state that gives them control over their own destiny," Blumenthal said.

But an Israeli offencive in Rafah, the southern Gaza city where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have sought refuge, would complicate efforts toward a halt in the fighting and the senators warned that Israel had an obligation to protect civilians and allow for relocations before moving on Rafah.

"There is an attempt to balance between supporting Israel and its war against Hamas and supporting the legitimate aspirations of Palestinian people for self governance and end of conflict," Coons said.

ALSO READ:?UN likely to vote Feb 20 on Gaza ceasefire, US signals veto

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