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U.N. Security Council proposals for Gaza weakened to win U.S. support

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The death toll in Gaza has topped 20,000, according to the health ministry there. There had been proposals at the U.N. Security Council to call for a cease-fire and to let the U.N. inspect aid trucks to speed up food and fuel destined for Gaza.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

But under the threat of a possible U.S. veto, the council has been deadlocked for three days, and those ideas seem to be losing steam. Yet there could be a vote on something today.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen has been following all this. Michele, three days - three days of negotiation. What's making it so difficult for the council to get a vote?

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: So the United Arab Emirates, which is on the Security Council, has been working with other Arab states to push for a humanitarian cease-fire, and they want to speed up aid. And the first draft resolution they put out called for the United Nations to inspect the trucks going into Gaza rather than Israel, which has Gaza under blockade. You know, right now, Israel inspects all the trucks to make sure there are no weapons being smuggled in for Hamas. And the U.S. has been working really hard to get Israel to speed that up. The Biden administration really didn't want a U.N. resolution to further complicate an already complicated situation, but they also didn't want to be in a position of vetoing yet another Security Council resolution, as U.N. officials warn of famine and as health officials in Gaza report that the death toll has topped 20,000.

MARTÍNEZ: What might they be able to pass at the Security Council?

KELEMEN: So last night, the United States ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told reporters that there is a new text, and she seemed to be satisfied with the changes in it. Take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have worked hard and diligently over the course of the past week with the Emiratis, with others, with Egypt to come up with a resolution that we can support. And we do have that resolution now. We're ready to vote on it.

KELEMEN: She didn't say how the U.S. would vote, whether it would support it, say yes or abstain. But the goal of all these changes, A, is to make sure that the U.S. is not going to veto the resolution, as it has done with others, and not look as isolated.

MARTÍNEZ: So for that to happen, how much of that draft resolution had to be watered down?

KELEMEN: Well, it doesn't call for a new inspection regime. Instead, it asked the U.N. secretary-general to appoint an aid coordinator for Gaza. It calls for urgent steps to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, but it drops a call for an urgent cessation of hostilities. It simply calls for creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities. Thomas-Greenfield says that the draft remains, in her words, very strong. She said it gives Arab countries what they think they need to get more aid into Gaza.

MARTÍNEZ: The U.N. and Israel have really been going at each other over Gaza since the Israeli offensive began. So how does all that play into this?

KELEMEN: Well, there's a lot of mistrust, and I think that was behind all these tough negotiations. A hundred and thirty-five U.N. workers have been killed in Gaza. And the U.N. has been warning of mass hunger as Israel continues to press its campaign against Hamas. And Israel often accuses the U.N. of being biased against Israel. That's been a long time complaint but particularly in the wake of the attack by Hamas on October 7. Israel says the U.N. just hasn't done enough to condemn Hamas for that.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen. Michele, thanks.

KELEMEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.