Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNGA meeting regarding the use of veto in the Security Council on the Middle East, including the Palestinian question



Almost 2 weeks ago, on April 18, we saw the United States use its veto power again to block Palestine’s bid for UN membership. Left almost completely isolated, American colleagues said they vetoed the Algerian draft resolution because they did not want to create obstacles to the negotiation process, which would result in the establishment of two states on the basis of the existing international legal framework. In other words, according to their logic, if Palestine obtained the status of a full-fledged member state of the United Nations, it would make it refuse to negotiate with Israel. We categorically disagree with that logic. Approving the Palestinian application would mean nothing else than correcting the historical injustice against Palestine, which should have become a state and been admitted to the UN back in 1948. This is our common duty to the Palestinians, rather than some "carrot" that should induce them to be more accommodating in negotiations with Israel.

We regret these actions by our American colleagues. They absolutely do not reflect the principled position taken by the other members of the UN Security Council, who have essentially become hostages of the United States on the Middle East issue over the past six months.

In general, we have to state that no one expects anything new from UNGA meetings that convene after American vetoes on Palestine. Discussions in the General Assembly have already assumed a routine character. For the fifth time since the beginning of the current escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, we have predictably heard beautiful words from our American colleagues, which always boil down to the point that the United States engages in active diplomatic efforts on the ground. In other words, Washington prefers unilateral approach to the multilateral one, and asks others not to "get in the way".

But let us try to give an honest and objective assessment to the results of this unilateral approach. What did the US "quiet diplomacy" achieve while 35,000 people were killed in Gaza?

Did it succeed in inducing the parties to a ceasefire? The answer is obvious, it did not. On the contrary, Israel's deadly operation in Gaza has continued for almost seven months, pauses to it are made only when tactically expedient to Israel, and the three relevant UNSC resolutions are being totally disregarded. According to recent terrifying reports, mass graves have been discovered in the enclave. An independent international investigation is needed to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to account.

Many towns in the Gaza Strip have been razed to the ground, hospitals and schools destroyed and roads damaged. UNMAS estimates that the removal of unexploded ordnance in Gaza will take 14 years. No prospects for lasting agreements on a cessation of hostilities are visible at this point. It is worth noting that when the Security Council adopted resolution 2728 demanding an immediate ceasefire for the Ramadan period, the US was quick to declare the allegedly non-binding nature of this resolution, which only added fuel to the fire, giving West Jerusalem a "free hand" not only in the enclave, but also in the West Bank.

Have our American colleagues succeeded in bringing an end to illegal settlement activity in the West Bank? Clearly no. Since October 7, 2023, Israeli settlers have killed at least 18 Palestinians with the connivance of the IDF. Over that time, 1,200 Palestinians have been expelled from their land, their homes have been demolished. Against this backdrop, Israeli authorities issued a record number of 12,349 permits for illegal construction of settlements in 2023. This is almost three times as many as in 2022. It has been a long time since we heard from American representatives words of condemnation of the occupying power's illegal expansion in the West Bank. We have not heard any today either.

The next legitimate question is whether hostages have been released. Again, the answer is no. But this is not surprising, since the ongoing operation in Gaza (most victims of which are Palestinian civilians, primarily women and children) is not conducive to resolving this issue in the indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel. In light of West Jerusalem's announced plans to attack Rafah, it is obvious that Israel is interested only in a military solution to the Palestinian question, even at the cost of the lives of the remaining hostages. Unfortunately, our American colleagues play along with that. The American draft UNSC resolution (that Russia, together with China, vetoed back in March) was also part of the plans of the American-Israeli tandem, because it actually stipulated a consent of UNSC to future operations in Gaza.

Have the American diplomats been able to help establish valid humanitarian access to Gaza? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is also negative. The UN Secretariat unequivocally states that such a task cannot be accomplished without a cessation of hostilities. The tragic incident with the workers of ‘World Central Kitchen’ was a grim confirmation of this. The problem of safe distribution of humanitarian cargo in the enclave and the unimpeded obtaining of permits from the Israeli side for the transportation of humanitarian aid has not been resolved either. The proposed alternatives – deliveries by air and by water – do not offer significant relief. Even an outside observer can make sure that deliveries by land are crucial having looked at the horrific footage that went viral recently. It shows poor people in dire need being killed by containers falling on their heads and drowning while trying to retrieve packages from the water. Colleagues, this is not a post-apocalyptic movie, but unfortunately the realities of life in Gaza in 2024.

Instead of persuading its ally to do everything possible to ensure the full delivery of aid by land, Washington is investing enormous money in building a temporary port in Gaza that makes no practical sense in peacetime. This money would be enough to cover one fourth of UNRWA's humanitarian appeal for an entire year. Meanwhile, the Agency, a life-saver for the enclave and Palestinian refugees, has received a “black mark” from the US, who had suspended its funding because of hitherto unconfirmed Israeli accusations against 19 UNRWA employees of involvement in the October 7 Hamas attack.


We all realize that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, like the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole, does not and cannot have a military solution. Violence begets violence, and this vicious circle can be broken only if we achieve an unconditional ceasefire and begin a serious discussion of the possibilities for a just political settlement.

For that to happen, hostilities must cease and certain conditions must be created. In our deep conviction, Palestine's full membership in the UN is one of them. This would put on an equal footing the starting negotiating positions of the parties, one of which was immediately granted such membership in 1949. It is Palestine's admission to the UN that would be the first practical step towards a long-awaited two-state solution to the Middle East problem. The overwhelming majority of UN members have spoken loudly and unequivocally about this, during today's meeting too.

I want to believe that Washington will finally decide not to oppose itself to the global community, but to join forces with it. It is no coincidence that these days mass student rallies are taking place in the United States. The participants are outraged at their government's indulgence in Israel's aggressive policies and supply of weapons that are used to kill Palestinian women and children.

This can and must come to an end. Russia will continue to do everything necessary to ensure that the massacre in Gaza is stopped and that the future parameters of Israel's coexistence with an independent Palestine, a full-fledged UN member, and other Arab neighbors are decided at the negotiating table, and not on the battlefield.

Thank you.

Video of the statement