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Analysis of the major countries that abstained from the UNSC vote for calling all out ceasefire. What’s their excuse?

Analysis of the major countries that abstained from the UNSC vote for calling all out ceasefire. What’s their excuse?

By Umair Aslam Sherani

The UNSC vote for calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict was held on October 18, 2023. The resolution was proposed by Brazil and supported by 12 other members of the council, but it was vetoed by the United States, which argued that it did not sufficiently acknowledge Israel's right to self-defense. The resolution also faced opposition from France, Japan, and the UK, which voted against it.

Six countries abstained from the vote: Albania, Brazil, Ecuador, Ghana, Malta, and Switzerland. These countries expressed various reasons for their abstention, such as:

  • Albania said it supported a ceasefire, but it also recognized Israel's legitimate security concerns and the need to address the root causes of the conflict.
  • Brazil said it abstained because its amendment to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization and demand the release of Israeli hostages was rejected by the council.
  • Ecuador said it abstained because it believed that the resolution did not adequately reflect the gravity of the situation and the urgency of a political solution.
  • Ghana said it abstained because it was disappointed by the lack of consensus and dialogue among the council members and the parties to the conflict.
  • Malta said it abstained because it wanted to see a more balanced and comprehensive resolution that would address both the humanitarian and political aspects of the crisis.
  • Switzerland said it abstained because it considered that the resolution did not sufficiently consider the protection of civilians and humanitarian law.

 

The abstention of these six countries reflected their dissatisfaction with the draft resolution and their desire for a more effective and inclusive response from the Security Council to end the violence and suffering in Gaza and Israel.


The UN Security Council (UNSC) had three attempts to pass a resolution on the Gaza crisis in October 2023, but none of them succeeded. The first two drafts were proposed by Russia and Brazil, respectively, and they both called for a humanitarian ceasefire and aid access to Gaza. However, they were vetoed by the US or rejected by other members for different reasons. The main point of contention was the lack of condemnation of Hamas, the extremist group that started the violence by attacking Israeli settlements near Gaza. The US and some of its allies argued that any resolution must acknowledge Israel’s right of self-defense and hold Hamas accountable for its terrorism. Russia and some of its allies accused the Western bloc of being biased and hypocritical and said that the resolution should focus on ending the bloodshed and easing the humanitarian suffering in Gaza.

The United States, for example, blocked a Brazilian-led resolution calling for humanitarian pauses, claiming that it failed to address Israel's right to self-defense and Hamas terrorism. The US also argued that the Russian-led resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire disregarded Hamas' involvement in beginning the conflict and murdering civilians. France, Japan, and the United Kingdom all voted against or abstained on the resolutions, citing similar reasons, or expressing reservations about the wording or terminology used in the draughts. These nations professed to support diplomatic attempts to resolve the crisis, but they did not want to jeopardize Israel's security or sovereignty.

 The resolution was supported by 12 of the Council’s 15 members in the Brazilian-led resolution, but was vetoed by the United States, with Russia and the United Kingdom abstaining. In the Council chamber, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield defended her country's veto, saying that "this resolution did not mention Israel's right of self-defense." The United States' veto of the UN resolution represents a watershed moment in international relations. The Council of the United Nations has issued a statement highlighting the intricacies involved in the UN Security Council. The veto power of the Council's five permanent members may frequently lead to gridlock, even when there is widespread support for a resolution among other members.

The rejection of Russia's amendments demonstrates the Council's fundamental divides on how to resolve the Israel-Gaza conflict. It also raises concerns about whether the Security Council's existing structure, with veto power concentrated in a few hands, is conducive to resolving such crises.

The United States' veto reason, citing the resolution's lacked to acknowledge Israel's right to self-defense, demonstrates how divergent perceptions and objectives may stymie consensus-building. It emphasizes the importance of deliberate communication and compromises while crafting resolutions.

The third draft was proposed by the UN General Assembly (UNGA), and it urged an immediate ceasefire and a peaceful resolution of the conflict. It also expressed grave concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza and called for the lifting of the blockade imposed by Israel. This draft received overwhelming support from 156 countries, but it was not binding and had no enforcement mechanism. Forty-five countries abstained from the vote, including some major ones such as Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Japan, and the UK. The reasons for their abstention varied, but some common excuses were:

  • They wanted to see a stronger condemnation of Hamas and its attacks on civilians and infrastructure in Israel.
  • They expressed concerns about parts of the resolution's phrasing or terminology, such as "occupied Palestinian territory" or "illegal settlements," which they saw as biased or contested. Which is hypocritical.
  • They preferred a more balanced and comprehensive approach that would address the root causes of the conflict and promote a two-state solution based on international law and previous agreements.
  • They did not want to undermine the role or authority of the UNSC as the primary body for maintaining international peace and security.
  • They hoped to avoid further polarization or escalation of the situation and support diplomatic efforts to achieve a lasting ceasefire and a political dialogue.

The US’s isolation in this vote is indicative of a broader shift in international relations. It suggests that traditional alliances are being reevaluated and new diplomatic dynamics are emerging. This could potentially lead to a more multipolar world where power is distributed among various countries rather than being concentrated.

The abstention of numerous nations, including important powers such as Australia, India, and the United Kingdom, highlights the complexity of international diplomacy. The choice of these countries to abstain rather than vote against the resolution may reflect their desire to maintain a balanced approach to the topic. The argument over identifying Hamas in the resolution demonstrates how important language and frame are in international diplomacy. The framing of issues has a considerable impact on how they are viewed and treated.

Overall, the significance of multilateralism and diplomacy in resolving international disputes is highlighted by this event. It also emphasizes the importance of reforming international institutions to reflect global realities. This failure of UNSC to pass any resolution highlights the difficulties that international organizations confront when dealing with complex geopolitical situations. It emphasizes the importance of reforming these institutions to make them more effective and representative.

The failure of both the US and Russian resolutions to be accepted by the UN Security Council demonstrates the intricacies and problems involved in reaching international consensus. Not to mention the resolution moved by Brazil also failed. It demonstrates how diverging national interests and viewpoints may lead to an impasse in international organizations. Russia and China's veto of the US resolution reflects the geopolitical tensions that frequently play out in international forums. It shows that these countries were driven more by their competition with the US than by the resolution's details.

UN experts have warned that Israel is carrying out a campaign in Gaza that is resulting in crimes against humanity and that there is also a potential of genocide against the Palestinian people. They have asked the international community to intervene immediately to halt the crimes and safeguard people. They have also demanded responsibility and justice for war criminals on both sides.

 

Umair Aslam Sherani
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The author is an Islamabad-based academic researcher and lecturer, specializes in the fields of International Relations and International Security

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