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US puts brake on UN Council statement over Gaza situation

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NEW YORK: The United States is delaying United Nations Security Council efforts to issue a public statement on escalating tensions between Israel and the Palestinians because it could be harmful to behind-the-scenes efforts to end the violence, according to diplomats and a source familiar with the US strategy.

The source said Washington was “actively engaged in diplomacy behind the scenes with all parties to achieve a ceasefire” and was concerned that a council statement might be counterproductive at the moment.

The Security Council privately discussed on Monday clashes in East Jerusalem around Al Aqsa mosque.

Before the fresh upsurge of violence last week, the 15-member Security Council began discussions on a draft statement that would express concern about the clashes and the potential evictions, call on Israel to cease Jewish settlement activities, demolitions and evictions, and urge general restraint.

Such statements have to be agreed by consensus. But diplomats said the United States told council counterparts that the body should not issue a statement at the moment.

White House deplores Hamas attacks

The US mission to the United Nations said: “The United States is engaging constructively to ensure any action by the Security Council is helpful in de-escalating tensions.” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that Washington wanted to see steps to help de-escalate the violence, whether the steps came from Israel, the Palestinian Authority or the Security Council.

“The United Nations is working with all relevant parties to de-escalate the situation urgently,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday. He said Secretary General Antonio Guterres is saddened by “the increasingly large numbers of casualties, including children”.

“Israeli security forces must exercise maximum restraint and calibrate their use of force. The indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars towards Israeli population centers is unacceptable,” Dujarric told reporters.

White House condemns attacks on Israel

The White House said on Tuesday that Israel had a legitimate right to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks, but applied pressure on Israel over the treatment of Palestinians, saying Jerusalem “must be a place of coexistence”.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki opened her daily news briefing with a statement about the situation, saying that President Joe Biden had just received an update from his national security team and that his primary focus was on de-escalation.

She said the United States condemned rocket attacks by Hamas and other groups, including attacks on Jerusalem, and that Biden’s support for “Israel’s security, for its legitimate right to defend itself and its people, is fundamental and will never waver”.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021

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