At UN at Gaza, New Year's Eve Meeting Is Called
"No Joke" by Arab League As Air Strikes Continue
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
December 31 -- On the fifth day of
air strikes on the Gaza Strip, Egypt for the Arab Group requested an
meeting of the UN Security Council. It was New Year's Eve. Six blocks
42nd Street, the well-known ball was set to drop. In the UN, nearly all
had left at 3 pm. At a press briefing at noon, Ban Ki-moon's Deputy
Spokesperson Marie Obake said Ban had
that day called the foreign ministers of
Brazil and Canada. Hamas, on the other hand, had apparently reached
Russia as its conduit to the world.
run-up to the meeting, the Arab League's representative Yahya
Mahmassani said that a draft
resolution will be introduced. He acknowledged that it little to no
passage -- not tonight, he emphasized, referring to the Council's rule
hour notice. But will the United States agree to what the Arab League
It seems unlikely. "It is not a joke this time," the Arab League's
representative insisted. No one was laughing. He added that Arab
foreign ministers would be coming Monday, not Friday, from Saudi
Arabia, Libya, Morocco, Lebanon and others, but not Sudan.
on Second Avenue
and 43rd Street, Inner City Press first-hand witnessed two men in dark
overcoats loading the two foot long rear portion of a missile into a 4
by 4 on
43rd Street. The license plate was diplomatic, and one of the two men
security officer's ear piece and held a letter on UN stationary. The
is that the Israeli mission has an exhibit, or prop, to play show and
front of the Israeli mission on Second Avenue and 42nd Street there
competing protests. North of 42nd Street the signs read, Free
Palestine. To the
south were Israeli flags. An e-mail encouraging participation in the
not mention that the goal was to shout over the Free Palestine crowd.
everywhere. Updates below.
Ambassadors of Palestine, Egypt and Arab
League, before New Years Eve
Update of 5:59 p.m. -- for the
UK, Ambassador John Sawers
has rushed into the meeting. While he should answer questions about his
endorsement of this month's offensive in the Congo against the Lord's
Resistance Army, his presence answered in part the Arab League's doubts
the level of representation that the Western countries would send. Then
the spokesman for a European member said that his country has problems
draft resolution as presented.
of 6:02 p.m. -- for the US, Ambassador Zalmay
Khalilzad arrived and was asked, are we here all night? "I hope not,"
he said, and went in.
Update of 6:45 p.m. -- The Council has moved from consultations to an
open meeting. Rushing in for the Secretariat came Nicholas Heysom and
Kim Won-soo, followed by Vijay Nambiar. Two Permanent Representative
lounged smoking behind the soda machine. Security guards buzzed about.
And at 6:45, Ban Ki-moon arrived, shaking hands affably. He was asked
about the Brazil and Canada calls, but had to rush into the chamber.
Update of 7:03 pm
-- Ban says "over 300"
have been killed in Gaza -- over "sixty women and children" -- and
four in Israel. Meanwhile, Arab League
diplomatic sources tell Inner City Press that the postponement from
Monday of the ministers' appearance is not unrelated to a failure to
agreement on how to negotiate around the draft resolution -- draw a US
water it down -- and, among other things, what to demand about the
Update of 7:16 pm
Libya's Ambassador Giadalla
Ettalhi starts up, regretting these events in the season "commemorating
the birth of Jesus." Things are moving along. While
it now looks like it won't happen, if
this meeting went to midnight, a UN spokeswoman says that the meeting
have to be suspended, five members leave and the new ones come on. So
Ambassadors of Mexico, Japan, Austria, Turkey and Uganda lurking around
of 7:40 pm -- the
draft resolution has eight operative paragraphs, the last of which is
remain seized. There's a call on "Israel to immediately cease its
attacks." There is no mention of Hamas, or of rockets.
A Western Council member's spokesman scoffed
that as presented, this draft might not even have eight votes, and
sure to be vetoed.
of 9:26 p.m. -- After the speeches
were over, and the U.S. made its
implicit veto threat, Israel's Ambassador came out to take questions.
City Press asked her to response to the UN's numbers, as tweaked in the
statement of Ban Ki-moon, of four dead in Israel and over 300, with
women and children," in Gaza. [There is more to the story of how Ban's
speech was changed at the last minute, but that will have to wait.]
Ambassador said there is no
comparison, Israel makes phone calls before its air strikes to try to
casualties. But what about the reality, the numbers?
the resolution as drafted much chance of passage. 2008 ends at the UN
theater, and will resume with same in 2009, with Japan now on the
Italy, too, is leaving the Council, and on December 29 at its
house on 76th Street Proseco was flowing, along with salmon and salami. Inner City Press' farewell to Italy was to
urge to do the right thing, how ever belatedly, on Somalia. And that
our report during what remains of the holiday, post-Champagne. Happy
Click here for Inner
City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger
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December 12 debate on UN double standards
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City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics
Click here for Inner City
Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo
Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on
UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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