Friday, January 9, 2009

UN Security Council approves Gaza cease-fire resolution

The UN Security Council approved a resolution Thursday calling for an immediate and durable cease-fire between Hamas and Israeli forces now fighting in the Gaza Strip.

The vote was 14-0, with the United States abstaining.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States "fully supports" the goals, text and objectives of the resolution but abstained because the US "thought it important to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation" with Israel and Hamas, aimed at achieving a cease-fire.

The agreement was based on a text drafted by Britain and backed by the US and France - all veto-wielding members of the Security Council - and amendments by key Arab negotiators including the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Qatar.

The agreement "stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza." It "condemns all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism."

It also calls on UN member states "to intensify efforts to provide arrangements and guarantees in Gaza in order to sustain a durable cease-fire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and to ensure the sustained re-opening" of border crossings.

The agreement also calls for the "unimpeded provision and distribution" of humanitarian aid throughout Gaza, welcomes the opening of "humanitarian corridors," encourages "tangible steps" to Palestinian reconciliation and renewed efforts to achieve Palestinian-Israeli peace "where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace..."

Jerusalem quickly responded to the decision by saying that no UN resolution would dictate when Israel would end its operation in Gaza. Senior officials told Israel Radio early Friday morning that only the achievement of goals defined by the Security Cabinet would establish the cessation of military activity.