Russia proposes 72-hour humanitarian truce

Image: theuncampaign.org


NEW YORK — In an effort to push the parties working on the current United Nations Security Council draft on Lebanon to come to a conclusion, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin emerged from a meeting at the British mission Thursday evening to announce a Russian-proposed 72-hour humanitarian truce.

Churkin told reporters that the draft resolution would be put in ‘blue’ — council-speak for ready to be voted on — “calling for an immediate and full cessation of hostilities of all the parties for 72 hours, calling for proper humanitarian efforts and, quite importantly, calling for extraordinary diplomatic efforts”.

The Russians put forth this new draft, citing that this could help combat the dire humanitarian situation by transporting supplies to those in need and at the same time pushing council members and other involved parties to act.

“We seem to be very close, but we have been close for a while now,” said Churkin. “We are concerned that if we talk in this regular mode, we will not arrive for a long time at an outcome, and people will continue to be killed and the war will continue to be fought.

“War is raging in Lebanon and the humanitarian situation is getting catastrophic… [Russia] came to the conclusion that we do not have an immediate process to this resolution being accomplished,” he said, but indicated that it was not their intention to “compete” with the current France-US draft currently being discussed. He hoped the France-US draft would be voted on soon.

US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton was not entirely happy when he left Thursday evening’s permanent five (P-5) meeting, which included France, UK, Russia and China, all veto-holding members.

“I don’t think it is helpful to divert attention in seeking to get a permanent, sustainable solution, as we have been seeking,” said Bolton, indicating that talks were still continuing on the current French-US draft. “We’re not playing games here. This is very serious…I think we’ve got a realistic prospect for success,” he added.

Churkin told reporters that there were no objections to the Russian humanitarian resolution and he hoped that council members, after reviewing the draft on Thursday night, would become co-sponsors on Friday.

There was some hope that a resolution would be put into blue on Thursday after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement after an emergency meeting with French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere and US Ambassador John Bolton Thursday morning.

“The Secretary-General believes that it ought to be possible for the Security Council to adopt a resolution by the end of the week,” UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced at noon.

The reasoning for the more urgent diplomatic push was the Israeli government announcement that its army would delay its 20,000-strong ground assault into southern Lebanon for a few days to see if a diplomatic solution could be reached at the Secretariat.

A number of bilateral and P-5 meetings were held all day Thursday to try and remedy the situation.

The Russian and Chinese ambassadors and then the US and French ambassadors met with the Arab troika— Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League, United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan, and Sheikh Hamad Al-Thani, Qatari Foreign Minister—who addressed the United Nations Security Council earlier in the week to bring forth the Arab concerns on the draft.

The problem now seems to be specifically the Chapter Seven wording of the current French-US document, according to China’s deputy UN ambassador, Liu Zhenmin. “The problem is the Lebanese, they do not accept Chapter Seven language,” he said.

Chapter Seven refers to the UN Charter of threats to peace and security that authorises the use of force. The draft currently calls only for a cessation of Israeli offensive military operations, while all attacks by Hezbollah would be prohibited, even those carried out in its defence.

“There are a number of complicated discussions involving Chapter Seven and other elements of the resolution,” said Churkin.

De la Sabliere seemed hopeful that the resolution would be adopted, especially as the French were able to bridge some of the gaps between themselves and the US. “We have worked a lot, especially on two points: the force to deploy and the withdrawal of the Israeli forces. We want to succeed and we must now check with the parties,” he said.

In any case, the Russian 72-hour humanitarian truce resolution will be up for the vote by all 15 council members on Friday. British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are also expected to be present.

Israel has said the Russian resolution is unacceptable. “It would be a very bad solution,” said Dan Gillerman, Israel’s representative to the UN. “It would allow Hezbollah to regroup.”

Meanwhile, Lebanon has made it clear that it would not support any resolution that doesn’t include an immediate and permanent ceasefire. The Russian draft resolution does not call for a permanent ceasefire.

Even if the Russian resolution passes, this will not end the diplomatic process. Talks on the French-US draft will continue, according to Bolton and de la Sabliere.

This item comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. All IRIN material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; refer to the copyright page for conditions of use. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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