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Compromise U.N. resolution calls for faster aid to Gaza, but not a cease-fire

ASMA KHALID, HOST:

The United Nations Security Council resolution on Gaza last week did not call for an immediate cease-fire as many nations around the world had hoped it would. Instead, the compromise measure focuses on the humanitarian crisis, demanding faster aid deliveries into Gaza. The U.S. and Russia abstained from the vote, and one country that played a major role in shaping the measure is the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is serving a rotation on the Security Council that ends this week. And I spoke with the country's ambassador to the U.N., Lana Nusseibeh, who told me how the resolution came together.

LANA NUSSEIBEH: It's clear from the very beginning of this conflict that a number of countries called for and felt, including the United Arab Emirates, that the way forward was a humanitarian cease-fire. We were not able to move in that direction because of the politics and the dynamics of the Security Councils and various member states and their equities in this conflict. This is really a code red for humanity, what is happening on the ground in Gaza.

So the UAE is, of course, the Arab representative on the council and fully represents the Arab perspective. We built up the Security Council's understanding of the file by taking them as the UAE to the Rafah border. We met victims, including children who'd endured and survived this hell that had been unleashed on Gaza following the 7 of October attacks on Israel, which were also unacceptable. We saw thousands of trucks trying and failing to enter through this choke point at the Rafah border, and now you've got nearly 1 million people crammed into an area at the Rafah border where before, only a few hundred thousand had lived. So 10% of what is necessary to sustain the population is going in through that choke point, and half the people of Gaza are now starving. And of course, there is a real possibility of regional spillover. And I think we're seeing that.

KHALID: Ambassador, there was a lot of negotiations to get this resolution through. It was not the first resolution that you all initially put forth. Can you help us understand what some of the provisions were that you ultimately had to remove to get a consensus behind this?

NUSSEIBEH: There are countries who wield a veto on the Security Council who have very specific equities on this file. Gaza has essentially been under siege, under blockade, for 16 years. And this is an attempt through this resolution to end that siege. We work very closely with the U.S. mission. They did not want to veto a humanitarian-focused resolution. And we work very hard to keep the focus on saving lives, having impact on the ground. Of course, it did not go as far as the majority of council members would have liked it to go.

KHALID: To be clear to listeners, Russia, in addition to the United States, were the two countries that abstained from supporting this resolution but did not veto it.

NUSSEIBEH: Well, correct. If you have two P5 members abstaining on a resolution, I think a lot of countries had to make compromises in order for it to be passed. So it was difficult negotiations, but I think the adoption is going to help more people in the immediate term then political grandstanding that is vetoed and that does nothing to move us closer to trying to save lives.

KHALID: Ambassador, my colleague Scott Detrow interviewed the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Friday after the resolution went through, and he asked her specifically why the United States abstained, and this is what she said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It was the lack of condemnation of Hamas that was specifically a concern for the United States.

KHALID: Did the United States convey that specific concern to you all, as well?

NUSSEIBEH: There was a earlier resolution in the course of this conflict that was vetoed, that did condemn Hamas, that many council members voted in favor of and that was put forward by the Brazilians at the time. We're talking about 20,000 dead that we know of, 8,000 children that we know of, let alone those bodies that will be found under the rubble at a future date. Any future resolution would also have to take note and condemn what has been a brutal military campaign.

KHALID: Why not include that condemnation if you could potentially win over more support?

NUSSEIBEH: Given the current geopolitical environment in terms of getting a resolution adopted, I think we did the right thing in creating an immediate scale up of humanitarian aid to help save lives. The politics takes longer and it involves a much wider array of issues, including the occupation of the Palestinian territory, including their rightful request for self-determination and statehood, including that injustice.

KHALID: That's the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United Nations, Lana Nusseibeh. Thank you so much for taking the time.

NUSSEIBEH: Thank you, Asma, for having me. 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.

Corrected: December 27, 2023 at 12:00 AM EST
An earlier version of the headline included a typo that incorrectly cast the description of the resolution as "compromised," instead of "compromise."