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16 April 2024

UN chief wants monitors for Gaza cease-fire

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging key world leaders to intensify efforts to achieve an immediate Israeli-Hamas cease-fire that includes international monitors to enforce a truce and possibly to protect Palestinian civilians, a UN official said Friday.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and several Arab foreign ministers are flying to New York over the weekend to urge the UN Security Council to adopt an Arab draft resolution that would condemn Israel and demand a halt to its bombing campaign in Gaza. But the United States said the draft is “unacceptable” and “unbalanced” because it makes no mention of halting the Hamas rocketing of southern Israel which led to the Israeli offensive.

Experts met behind closed doors Friday afternoon to discuss the Arab draft, and it is expected to be at the heart of UN discussions starting Monday.

Ban scheduled meetings on Monday with Abbas and the Arab foreign ministers.

Robert Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told reporters via video link from Jerusalem that a comprehensive approach is essential to end the crisis and prevent a return to the “inherently unstable and unsustainable” situation in Gaza and southern Israel.

A solution requires commitments from the parties that they will respect a cease-fire “in full”, the monitoring of a truce, the permanent opening of all border crossings into Gaza, the return of Hamas-ruled Gaza to the fold of the Palestinian Authority, renewed efforts to reunite Gaza and the West Bank, and ultimately the achievement of Israeli-Palestinian peace, Serry said.

The United Nations, which is now the only major international player left in Gaza, is willing to play a monitoring role, he said, but it’s up to the council to decide on any monitoring arrangements. The UN currently has peacekeeping operations monitoring cease-fires on the Israeli-Lebanon border and on the Israeli-Syrian border.

Serry stressed that opening Gaza’s borders “on a continuous and uninterrupted basis ... would require commitments from Hamas that all rocket attacks and weapons smuggling will end”.

Asked whether Hamas will agree to a cease-fire and make such commitments, he said: “If Hamas has the well-being of its people in mind, they will also be looking for a way out of this very deep crisis, and if this is going to be part of it, I hope they will accept it.”

Serry was also asked about a call in the Arab draft resolution for “the immediate provision of protection for the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip”.

“There are proposals ... that apart from a monitoring role that a force could have a protection role,Ó Serry said. “I think all these proposals will have to be examined...”

With the Israeli bombing campaign in its seventh day, Serry said the toll of dead and injured continues to mount and “much of Gaza’s infrastructure has now been destroyed”.

“Protection of civilians, the fabric of Gaza, the future of the peace process and regional stability, all are trapped between the irresponsibility of Hamas rocket attacks and the excessiveness of Israel’s response,” he said.

“With Israel’s tanks on Gaza’s border, it is absolutely imperative now that we find an immediate and lasting way out to avoid an even deeper and deadlier conflict,” Serry stressed.

“The secretary-general is doing everything he can to ensure that efforts are intensified and coordinated and lead to immediate results,” Serry said. “He has publicly and privately urged key world leaders with real influence over the parties to end the violence.”

Diplomatic efforts are expected to shift to the United Nations starting Monday.

An Arab League ministerial meeting in Cairo on Wednesday decided to send a delegation of foreign ministers to New York from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Qatar, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt and Morocco. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, who will also attend, asked Abbas, the Palestinian president, to lead the diplomatic campaign at the UN.

Abbas, a moderate, rules the West Bank. Hamas has been running Gaza, which has been largely isolated from the rest of the world since the Islamic militants won parliamentary elections in 2006.

Ban told reporters Friday he had confirmation that the Saudi, Egyptian, Jordanian and Qatar ministers will be coming to New York to push cease-fire efforts next week.

There are divisions in the 22-nation Arab League about the conflict, with Syria, Libya and Qatar backing Hamas while other members have been critical of the militant group.

“I think it is important that indeed the Arab League will show enough unity in this crisis and will come with (new) proposals next week in New York,” Serry said. “This will enable a way forward. I think that is very, very important.”