US calls for 'immediate ceasefire' in Gaza in draft UN resolution

The top US diplomat is currently in the Middle East to bolster efforts for a truce


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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jeddah on March 20. — Photo: AFP
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jeddah on March 20. — Photo: AFP

Published: Thu 21 Mar 2024, 8:41 AM

Last updated: Thu 21 Mar 2024, 11:43 AM

The US has circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for an "immediate ceasefire linked to the release of hostages" in the Gaza Strip, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

The diplomat made his announcement while on a tour of the Middle East that will include a stop in Israel.

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Blinken touched down in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday, kicking off his tour with a series of meetings. He has warned that Gaza's "entire population" is suffering "severe levels of acute food insecurity".

He also spoke with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in a phone call on Wednesday, emphasising the importance of "close coordination to address the urgent humanitarian needs in Gaza and promote the protection of civilians", according to a statement on the US Department of State website.

Key Israel backer the US has vetoed previous UN Security Council votes on the nearly six-month war, objecting as recently as in February to the use of the term "immediate" in a draft submitted by Algeria.

In recent weeks, however, Washington has upped the pressure on its ally, while insisting that Hamas militants must immediately release the hostages seized by militants during its October 7 attacks on Israel.

"Well, in fact, we actually have a resolution that we put forward right now that's before the United Nations Security Council that does call for an immediate ceasefire tied to the release of hostages, and we hope very much that countries will support that," Blinken said in Saudi Arabia.

"I think that would send a strong message, a strong signal," he told Saudi media outlet Al Hadath on Wednesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas in retaliation for the October 7 attacks.

"Of course, we stand with Israel and its right to defend itself... but at the same time, it's imperative that the civilians who are in harm's way and who are suffering so terribly -- that we focus on them, that we make them a priority, protecting the civilians, getting them humanitarian assistance," Blinken said.

US officials had been negotiating an alternative text since blocking an Algerian draft resolution calling for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire" in Gaza at the end of February.

That alternative, focusing on support for a six-week truce in exchange for the release of hostages, had little chance winning approval, according to diplomatic sources.

A new version, seen by AFP, stresses "the need for an immediate and durable ceasefire to protect civilians on all sides, enable the delivery of essential humanitarian aid, and alleviate suffering... in conjunction with the release of hostages still held".

No vote has yet been scheduled on this text.

(With inputs from AFP)


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