Security Council fails to reach Gaza resolution (Third lead)

January 4th, 2009 - 3:06 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, Jan 4 (DPA) The UN Security Council was again unable to reach a resolution on the Mideast conflict late Saturday, hours after Israeli troops launched a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip.The hastily arranged meeting, called by Arab countries, lasted nearly four hours behind closed doors.

Jean-Maurice Ripert, French ambassador to the UN and current holder of the Security Council’s rotating chairmanship, said there was a strong consensus among the 15 member countries to issue an opinion on the conflict. The overwhelming majority would demand an immediate ceasefire from all sides, he said.

US Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said that it would damage the Security Council’s credibility to make demands that go ignored. He said that Israel as a member of the world community should not be equated with a terrorist organisation like Hamas, the Palestinian militant movement that controls the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said after Saturday’s invasion that the ground campaign would be neither easy nor short, vowing to continue until Hamas’ capability to fire rockets at Israel has been degraded.

The US, one of five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, is a close ally of Israel.

British Ambassador John Sawers voiced disappointment at the lack of a Gaza resolution and said that the outbreak of ground conflict required every effort to achieve a ceasefire.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Authority’s envoy to the UN, had earlier demanded that the Security Council compel Israel to begin an immediate ceasefire and to withdraw ground forces to previous positions outside the territory.

“The Security Council can not continue to sit on its hands,” he said outside Saturday’s meeting. “Israel cannot continue to behave like a state above the law. That is the law of the jungle. That is illegal.”

The Security Council has been unable to forge a resolution on the violence since an Israeli bombing campaign began Dec 27, in response to stepped up rocket fire toward southern Israel by Gaza militants.

There was no vote on an earlier resolution introduced by Arab countries, after Western powers in the Security Council deemed the measure one-sided against Israel.

Earlier Saturday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for the Security Council to act to stop the Israeli air and ground offensives. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement that Abbas called on the Security Council to convene immediately “to halt and stop the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip”.

Several Arab leaders and diplomats are expected this week at UN headquarters in New York to make direct appeals for the UN to take action.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Saturday that he was “deeply concerned” by the start of the Israeli ground incursion. He said that the escalation would only make it harder for efforts to halt the conflict - by the Middle East Quartet, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and others - to succeed.

Ban telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to express “extreme concern and disappointment” with the incursion, a UN spokeswoman said.

In Amman, Jordanian Foreign Minister Salah Bashir Saturday summoned ambassadors of the five Security Council veto powers - the US, Britain, France, China and Russia - and urged the world community “to shoulder its responsibilities” in forcing Israel to halt its military actions in Gaza.

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