‘Gaza cease-fire top priority’ as China assumes UNSC presidency
China has assumed the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council for November and sees promoting a cease-fire in the Israel-Palestine conflict as a “top priority,” said Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the UN, as the number of dead has passed 10,000 for both sides since October 7, with 9,000 in the Gaza Strip.
“It is imperative to promote a cease-fire and halt the fighting, prevent further civilian casualties, prevent a larger-scale humanitarian disaster and prevent the conflict from spilling over,” Ambassador Zhang Jun said during a news briefing on the work of China’s presidency of the UN Security Council on Wednesday local time.
The latest Israel-Palestine war has quickly become the deadliest and most destructive of the five wars fought since Hamas controlled the Gaza Strip in 2007, the AP reported. Since this conflict began, nearly 9,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and the West Bank, and 1,400 in Israel.
With Israel’s ground operations continuing and the conflict further intensifying, the death toll will keep rising.
Chinese analysts said that due to the different stances held by the US and other members of the UN Security Council on a cease-fire, it is very difficult to see a breakthrough in adopting UN resolutions, as the US will keep using its veto power to defend Israel’s “right of self-defense,” which means Israeli military forces will continue their bombardments and attacks against Gaza.
Wang Jin, an associate professor at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies of Northwest University, told the Global Times on Thursday that the president of the UN Security Council has the duty to speak on behalf of the Security Council when the members reach consensus, and host formal and informal meetings of the council.
It seems symbolic but it can also play a constructive role, for instance, “agenda setting,” Wang said.
China will work with other members of the Security Council to keep promoting peace and negotiation, and will make efforts to build humanitarian corridors to link Gaza and the outside world.
Responding to a question about how hopeful he was in being able to break the present deadlock among Security Council members and adopt a text on the situation in Gaza, Zhang said: “That’s a question we are all asking ourselves, and that I am asking my colleagues. It’s not just our moral duty, it’s our legal duty.”
However, any text that is adopted must be important as well as meaningful, and it must send a strong message to the relevant parties about a cease-fire and abiding by international law, Zhang said. While this message did not pose a problem to many council members, it did to certain ones. However, faced with the calls of civilians, children and mothers in Gaza, the Chinese delegation would not give up, the ambassador said.
The Chinese delegation will continue to work toward calling for a cease-fire, ensuring the protection of civilians, and preventing a further deterioration of tensions, as well as a humanitarian catastrophe, Zhang said, and China would focus on “meaningful action” along the lines of the General Assembly resolution.
In the October 27 resolution Zhang referred to, the US, Israel and 12 other countries voted against it, while 121, including China, Russia, France and most UN members, voted in favor and 44 abstained. The text of the resolution sent a clear message on a cease-fire, protection of civilians and the provision of humanitarian assistance.
The US has used Israel’s “right of self-defense” as a pretext to veto the draft resolution for a cease-fire in the UN Security Council. Ma Xiaolin, senior professor and dean of the Institute for Studies on the Mediterranean Rim at Zhejiang International Studies University, told the Global Times on Thursday that any resolution to be passed in the future should have clear restrictions to prevent Israel from abusing its “right of self-defense,” when many people killed in Gaza were innocent civilians like women and children.
Analysts explained that Israel’s mind-set is that seeking revenge and eliminating Hamas are much more important than preventing civilian casualties, and civilian deaths in Gaza should be blamed on Hamas and not Israel, because when Israel invokes its “right of self-defense,” it’s hard to avoid “collateral damage.”
However, the majority of the international community thinks differently, because it has nothing to do with “self-defense” when Israeli forces avenge the deaths of 1,400 Israelis with the lives of 9,000 Palestinians, most of whom innocent civilians.
Only when the US, a permanent member in the Security Council with veto power, changes its mind and starts to act like a responsible country can the UN Security Council conclude with a binding resolution that can effectively bring about a ceasefire in Gaza, said experts.
The Security Council in November will also consider issues including Syria, Yemen and Bosnia and Herzegovina; take action on the UN Assistance Mission in the Sudan, the UN Mission in the Central African Republic, and the extension of the authorization of sanctions measures for Somalia; and hold its annual regular dialogue with the commissioner of Peacekeeping Police, according to Zhang at the news briefing.
The presidency of the Security Council rotates among the 15 member states of the council monthly. China last held the rotating presidency in August 2022.