x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Arab foreign ministers co-ordinate push on UN

Arab foreign ministers show united front to pressure UN Security Council with plan's focus on ceasefire and end to Gaza blockade.

NEW YORK // Arab statesmen converged on UN headquarters yesterday seeking to pressure the United States and other world powers into orchestrating an end to Israel's military offensive on Gaza. Riyad al Malki, the Palestinian minister of foreign affairs, arrived in Manhattan ahead of his prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud bin Faisal, openly criticising Israel for a campaign of aggression against Palestinians.

While Arab leaders held closed meetings yesterday with representatives of the five permanent Security Council members and Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, Israeli forces tightened their grip on Gaza with a fresh round of air and ground attacks. Speaking to journalists, Mr al Malki said Arab leaders were preparing a draft Security Council resolution designed to "end the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza and calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire".

The draft resolution will call for a truce between Israel and militants in Hamas-run Gaza and the opening of the border blockades that have created a humanitarian crisis among the territory's 1.5 million people, he added. Border monitors and an international force to protect civilians are also described in the draft resolution, which Mr al Malki hopes to have accepted swiftly by the 15-nation body today.

The Palestinian envoy said he hoped the Americans would show greater support for the Arab resolution after US disapproval effectively blocked Libya's draft resolution about Gaza on Saturday night. After the late-night weekend meeting, Alejandro Wolff, the US deputy ambassador, said he saw no prospect of Hamas abiding by international calls for an immediate end to the violence. But the arrival in New York of senior Arab leaders, including Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Amr Musa, the Arab League secretary general, could deliver the ceasefire that has so far eluded negotiators.

The presence of as many as nine Arab foreign ministers could encourage Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007 and functions outside the administration of Mr Abbas, to agree to a truce. Mr al Malki said the Arab leaders were "looking out for the interests of Palestinian people" and sought to negotiate a deal that could be swiftly implemented while also being "acceptable" to Hamas. "We are trying to do what Hamas tried with rockets but did not achieve," said Mr al Malki. "Not only to put an end to the Israeli aggression, to reach a ceasefire, to lift the siege to allow humanitarian aid and allow the opening of the different crossings and the involvement of international observers."