26 March 2004
Security Council Fails to Adopt Resolution Condemning Killing of Hamas Leader
Vote Is 11 in Favour to 1 Against (United States), With 3 Abstentions (Germany, Romania, United Kingdom)
NEW YORK, 25 March (UN Headquarters) -- A draft resolution that would have condemned the most recent extrajudicial execution of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin along with six other Palestinians on Monday and would have called for a complete cessation of extrajudicial killings was defeated in the Security Council today, owing to a veto by the United States, a permanent member of the Council.
The Council failed to adopt the draft resolution, tabled by Algeria and Libya, which would have also condemned all terrorist attacks against any civilians, as well as all acts of violence and destruction, by a vote of 11 in favour, to 1 against (United States), with 3 abstentions (Germany, Romania, United Kingdom).
Speaking before the vote, the United States representative said his country would oppose the draft because it was silent about the terrorist atrocities committed by Hamas, because it did not reflect the realities of the conflict in the Middle East, and because it would not further the goals of peace and security in the region. The United States was deeply troubled by the killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, which had escalated tensions in the region and could set back efforts to resume progress towards peace. But, events must be considered in their context, and this Council did nothing to contribute to a peaceful settlement when it condemned one partys actions and turned a blind eye to everything else occurring in the region.
Explaining their abstentions, the representatives of Germany, Romania and the United Kingdom shared the view that the text had presented the Middle East situation in an unbalanced manner. The British speaker said his country had supported the European Unions statement on Monday condemning the killing of the Sheikh because it had done so in a balanced way. Tonights text had singled out one party as the perpetrator of the violence, while failing to condemn the terrorist atrocities against Israel. He would have voted for the text if its sponsors had accepted an amendment reflecting the position set out by the Union, which would have replaced the existing second paragraph with a provision condemning the terrorist atrocities, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Israelis, as well as all acts of violence and destruction.
Three Council members -- France, Russian Federation, and Spain -- said they regretted the Councils failure to adopt the text and explained their support of it. Frances speaker, whose delegation holds the Council presidency for March, said he had supported the draft because the Council should send a strong and clear message to the parties in the present context of heightened tensions. The text had appealed to the parties to respect international law and fulfil their obligations under the Road Map. Regrettably, the Council had been paralysed, once again, over the situation in the Middle East, he said.
The representative of Israel thanked those who bravely had not adopted the resolution. It should not have even been considered, as it mentioned the Sheikh without mentioning Hamas. That was shameful and cynical. By describing him as a leader leaving his prayers without defining him as the arch terrorist he was made a mockery of the Security Council. Two weeks ago, the Sheikh had claimed responsibility for the double suicide bombing at Ashdod, which killed 10 innocent people and might have killed hundreds more had the mega-chemical attack on storage tanks at the port been achieved. After Ashdod, the Council was silent. Yet, the sponsors of the resolution would have the Council break that silence in order to defend the very man responsible for those attacks. There was simply no way to justify that double standard.
The Permanent Observer for Palestine to the United States said that the Council, once again, was unable, due to the twenty-eighth use of the veto by the United States on the occupied Palestinian territories, to assume its responsibility in the maintenance of international peace and security. What was even more regrettable was that it had taken place in the midst of the severe tensions in the Middle East, including the negative effects that would be the consequence of the Councils inability to take a stand today. That would not contribute to calming the situation or pushing for moderation or dialogue. The draft had contained a clear condemnation of all terrorist attacks against civilians in addition to all acts of violence and destruction. Regrettably, the super-Power that had voted against it had suggested the inclusion of language that had been impossible to accept.
Explanations of vote were also made by the representatives of the Russian Federation, Algeria, Chile, Spain, Brazil, and France.
The meeting began at 5:02 p.m. and was adjourned at 5:50 p.m.
The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine.
Action on Text
Speaking before action on the text, JOHN D. NEGROPONTE (United States), said his country would vote against the draft because it was silent about the terrorist atrocities committed by Hamas, because it did not reflect the realities of the conflict in the Middle East, and because it would not further the goals of peace and security in the region. The United States was deeply troubled by the killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, which had escalated tensions in the region and could set back efforts to resume progress towards peace. But, as he had said at Tuesdays meeting, events must be considered in their context, and this Security Council did nothing to contribute to a peaceful settlement when it condemned one partys actions and turned a blind eye to everything else occurring in the region.
He said the text condemned the killing of a terrorist organizations leader, which last week had claimed credit for the attack at Ashdod. The resolution did not condemn that attack or those responsible for it. In fact, it did not even mention them, despite the fact that a number of Council members had specifically requested its inclusion. Also, the preambular portion referred only to the situation in the occupied territories, while ignoring the tragic events occurring in Israel.
The Security Council should focus on ways to advance the goal of two States -- Israel and Palestine -- living side by side in peace and security, he said. The one-sided resolution before the Council did not advance that goal. The United States was committed to achieving the two-State vision and would support any action here in Council, and more importantly, on the ground in the region, which would further that goal, and it would oppose any action that would impede it. One-sided unbalanced resolutions by the Council, such as the one before the Council today, would only detract from the efforts of the Quartet and the international community to resume progress on efforts towards peace, he said.
The Council failed to adopt the draft resolution, owing to a negative vote by a permanent member (United States). The vote was 11 in favour, to 1 against, with 3 abstentions (Germany, Romania and United Kingdom).
Statements after Vote
Explaining his vote after the vote, GENNADY GATILOV (Russian Federation) said he regretted that the Council was not able to respond to the developments in the occupied Palestinian territories. Yesterday, in the Commission on Human Rights, following the results of a special meeting, a resolution had been adopted on the dangerous situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, which condemned such acts on the part of Israel and appealed to Israel to abide by the principles of international humanitarian law and refrain from violations of human rights in the territories.
His countrys position remained unchanged, he stated. Extremism, as a phenomenon, must be eradicated. He condemned it in all its forms. In the Security Council, he had consistently voted for the condemnation of terrorist acts. He voted for the draft resolution because it contained a condemnation of all terrorist acts against civilians. From the beginning, he was in favour of drawing up a consensus text to ensure the unity of the Council. There were opportunities to do that and consultations should have continued. He called on Israel and the Palestinian side to demonstrate restraint and to divert from unilateral steps. In the present situation, international efforts, under the aegis of the Quartet, were needed to move the Road Map to the level of practical realization.
ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that for days after the assassination of Sheikh Yassin and six others, the Council had been unable to adopt a presidential statement or resolution condemning that extrajudicial killing. It was as if the Council was doomed to fail whenever it had to deal with the issue of the Middle East. It had no say in the terrible tragedy unfolding. By not condemning the killing, the Council was not sending the right message to the world that had unanimously condemned the crime or the right message to those who believed in the Council as the organ responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. But the Council was sending the wrong message to Israel, who had boasted of that crime just days ago.
During the past four days, the co-sponsors of the text had made every effort to accommodate the views of various delegations. The text before the Council was a fair and balanced attempt to satisfy every delegation. It condemned the killing of Sheikh Yassin and all terrorist attacks, and called for the cessation of extrajudicial killings and all acts of terrorism. In spite of all that, the balanced approach did not fully satisfy some delegations. While thanking those members that voted in favour of the text, he expressed deep regret that the Council had failed again to assume its responsibilities.
GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) said he had abstained on the draft because it addressed recent events in the Middle East in an unbalanced manner. The Council of Ministers of the European Union on 23 March had condemned the killing of Sheikh Yassin and six others. The European Union and Germany had always opposed extrajudicial killings, which were contrary to international law and undermined the concept of the rule of law. He had reiterated that position in no uncertain terms in the Councils meeting just two days ago.
At the same time, Germany and the European Union had repeatedly condemned the terrorist atrocities resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Israelis. The draft resolution did not address those facts in an appropriate manner. He tried hard to be able to vote in favour by introducing balanced language from the statement of the European Union Ministers. He was consequently not able to vote in favour of a text that did not follow the common European position.
MIHNEA IOAN MOTOC (Romania) said his difficulty with the text was that it had not taken into account the general context in which the death of the Sheikh had taken place. Nevertheless, he appreciated the efforts of the negotiators to make progress and to take into account the various views expressed. He wished to make very clear his delegations position, however. Romania felt that extrajudicial executions were unacceptable and ran counter to international law.
He also said that any terrorist act was unacceptable and must be condemned. Implementation of the Road Map must resume with no further delay. That settlement plan, agreed by the parties, was the only one providing an appropriate framework for a just and lasting solution based on the relevant resolutions of the Council and the vision of a two-State solution within safe and internationally recognized borders.
EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said his country had consistently opposed extrajudicial killings and recognized Israels right to defend its citizens, but the killing of Sheikh had been unlawful and would only perpetuate the violence. The United Kingdom had also repeatedly condemned the terrorist atrocities committed by terrorist groups. The Palestinians must take immediate and effective action to stop the terrorism emanating from the occupied Palestinian territories, in line with their obligations under the Road Map.
On Monday, he said his country had supported the European Unions statement condemning the killing of the Sheikh, but the Union had done so in a balanced way. The United Kingdom had abstained in the vote on the resolution tonight because it was unbalanced, singling out one party as the perpetrator of the violence, while failing to condemn the terrorist atrocities against Israel, and limited condemnation of terrorist attacks to those committed against civilians.
He said he would have voted for the text if its sponsors had accepted an amendment reflecting a position set out by the European Union on 22 March. That amendment would have replaced the existing second paragraph with a provision condemning the terrorist atrocities, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Israelis, as well as all acts of violence and destruction. That reasonable amendment had not been accepted. There would be no military solution to the conflict. The key now was for both sides to take immediate steps under the Road Map and refrain from any escalation of action that would lead to more violence in the region and more loss of life.
HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) said he regretted that it had not been possible to reach consensus on the text. He had voted in favour of it because he felt that any extrajudicial killing needed to be condemned, and although any State had the right to protect its citizens from terrorism, it must do so in accordance with international law. Paragraph 2 of the draft, however, contained a condemnation of suicide attacks against civilians only. He also stressed the urgent need for all parties to meet their obligations under the Road Map.
INOCENCIO ARIAS (Spain) said he voted in favour of the resolution. Spain opposed any terrorist acts whatever their source or motivation. A bomb on a bus in Tel Aviv or on a train in Madrid or in any other city were all terrorist acts. They were all equally reprehensible, and he condemned them in the strongest terms. But he also opposed extrajudicial killings. The Council could not remain passive in the face of the events of a few days ago. The extrajudicial killing would fuel tension and hostility in the region.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said that the reasons why he voted in favour of the resolution were contained in the statement he delivered in the Council two days ago.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France) said he voted in favour of the draft resolution because he believed that the Council should send a strong and clear message to the parties in the present context of heightened tensions. The text was amended and improved in the last 48 hours and reproduced the balance found in the statement of the European Union Council of Ministers. It condemned the extrajudicial killing, as well as all terrorist acts. It also appealed to the parties to respect international law and fulfil their obligations under the Road Map, the only possible path to peace. Violence was not possible and must cease. It was regrettable that the Council was once again paralysed regarding the issue in the Middle East.
NASSER AL-KIDWA, Observer for Palestine, said that todays events were regrettable. The Council, once again, was unable, due to the twenty-eighth use of the veto by the United States on the occupied Palestinian territories, to assume its responsibility in the maintenance of international peace and security. What was even more regrettable was that it took place in the midst of the severe tensions in the Middle East, including the negative effects that would be the consequence of the Councils inability to take a stand today. Millions would be unable to understand what happened today. The Councils action would not contribute to calming the situation or for pushing for moderation or dialogue in the region.
The Arabs had shown great flexibility in the past few days in a serious attempt to adopt a unanimous text, he said, realizing fully that it was not in the interest of any responsible party that the Councils work conclude in the manner in which it did. The draft contained a clear condemnation of all terrorist attacks against civilians in addition to all acts of violence and destruction. Regrettably, the super-Power which voted against the resolution suggested things that were impossible to accept. He would have liked to see more countries voting in favour of the resolution. But there were proposals that he could not accept in the text, such as the attempt to broaden the definition of terrorist attacks in a way that it would not be confined to attacks on civilians.
He asked for a clear stand in the future that would make Israel understand that it could not continue its illegal policies, especially extrajudicial killings. That would require a clear position particularly from the United States. He called on the United States to reassess its position on the Palestinian-Israeli issue and adopt a more neutral, objective position to enable it to assume its role as a sponsor of the peace process and a member of the Quartet.
DAN GILLERMAN (Israel) thanked all those who bravely had not adopted the resolution. It should not have even been considered, as it mentioned the Sheikh without mentioning Hamas. That was shameful and cynical. By describing him as a leader leaving his prayers without defining him as the arch terrorist he was made a mockery of the Security Council. He had been especially dismayed by those Council members who had described the Sheikh as the spiritual leader of the Hamas movement. That was sad and alarming, especially from countries which, themselves, had suffered from terrorism. Ignoring the leaders of terror would not make it go away; that would only send a dangerous message worldwide.
He said he would ask those Council members recently victims of horrendous acts of terror whether, if they had known beforehand that the bloody massacre of their civilians was about to take place and who was to carry it out, would they have sat still and let that happen? Sheik Yassin had stood at the head of an organization that was committed to destroying Israel and to destroying the Road Map and every other peace initiative. He was a cold-blooded murderer of innocent civilians and head of an organization that had been recognized and declared as a terrorist organization by most of the worlds freedom-loving countries, including the whole of the European Union, and in most parts of the world, except in this hall.
The Security Council, which had endorsed the Road Map and was charged with the maintenance of international peace and security and was pursuing the global war on terrorism, would have committed an unforgiving act of hypocrisy had it come to the defence of a man whose lifes work and legacy was that of mass murder -- a godfather of terrorism, he said. He was grateful to those members who had recognized that fact and voted accordingly. Two weeks ago, the Sheikh had taken responsibility for the double suicide bombing at Ashdod, which had killed 10 innocent people. The bombers had been planning a mega-chemical attack, targeting storage tanks at the port. The casualties would have been in the hundreds, yet had he achieved his objective, by some cruel twist of fate, would the Councils reaction have been the same?
After Ashdod, he recalled, the Council was silent, as it had been throughout hundreds of other attacks. Yet, the sponsors of the resolution would have the Council break that silence in order to defend the very man responsible for those attacks. There was simply no way to justify that double standard. He hoped the Council members who were prepared to support that distorted text would have the decency in the future to support a text condemning acts for which Yassin and his co-conspirators had been responsible.
Yesterday, he said, a boy no more than 14 years old had been used as a suicide bomber. There could be no peace until they proved they loved their children more than they hated us. If the international community was serious about advancing the peace process, it must stop tolerating initiatives that pretended that the defensive response to terrorism was worse than the terrorism itself. The Council had a responsibility to the victims of terrorism and to the cause of peace. It could not meet that responsibility by devoting meeting after meeting to pandering to the Arab Groups initiatives that demonized Israel and ignored Palestinian obligations. It could only meet its responsibility by addressing the reality that Palestinian terrorist organizations and their leaders were true enemies of peace. Unless or until they were confronted and defeated, progress towards the two-State solution under the Road Map would be held hostage.
Taking the floor again, Mr. AL-KIDWA said that the problem with the Council had never been that it was anti-Israel. The Council had tolerated and allowed illegal Israeli actions for too long, and had tolerated and allowed foreign occupation for more than 36 years which had now been transformed into colonialism. That had been the problem and nothing else.
Secondly, he objected to the low level and immoral attempts to link the illegal Israeli practices and policies with the international fight against terrorism. Israel was not a passive, peaceful country that was subject to attacks from outside. It was an occupying Power that had not stopped violating all aspects of international law and international humanitarian law. It was part of the problem of creating terrorism.
Thirdly, statements such as the Palestinian people did not love their children or that the Palestinian people sent their children to die due to their hatred of Israel were statements full of racism and reflective of the kind of attitude that should be rejected, he concluded.
Taking the floor again, Mr. GILLERMAN (Israel) said he was somewhat dismayed, bewildered and shocked by the audacity that had given the world airplane hijackings, hostage kidnappings and had, in fact, invented suicide bombing -- trying to give a lesson in democracy, human rights, and law and order. There was a clear connection between Palestinian terror and international terror. Terrorism was terrorism. There was no difference between Palestinian terror and international terror, as there was no difference between Hamas and Al-Qaida.
He said that the members of the United Nations and of the Security Council should realize, sadly, that, until the Palestinians realized that they were on the wrong side of the fight against terrorism and decided to choose the path of peace and reconciliation -- as had been offered to them by Israel time and time again and rejected by them time and time again -- they would, sadly, probably not be a member of the United Nations for a long time to come.
* *** *