Remarks at a UN General Assembly Debate on the U.S. Veto of the Russian Amendment to UN Security Council Resolution 2720

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
January 9, 2024

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President. The United States welcomed the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2720 on December 22 – a resolution that called for urgent steps to immediately allow safe, unhindered, and expanded humanitarian access, and to create conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.

The adoption of this resolution demonstrated the U.S. commitment to working with other Council members to speak out on this humanitarian crisis. And we worked closely with the UAE, members of the Arab Group, and many other Council members — engaging in good faith to craft a strong, humanitarian-focused resolution.

This work supports the direct diplomacy the United States is engaged in to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza and to help get hostages out of Gaza. And it is unfortunate that rather than contributing to the hard work of diplomacy, one permanent member of the Security Council continues to put forward amendments and ideas that are disconnected from the situation on the ground.

It’s also deeply troubling that so many Member States seem to have stopped talking about the plight of the more than 100 hostages being held by Hamas and other groups. The United States remains committed to bringing all of the hostages home. Every single one.

Israel has been clear it would welcome returning to a pause and the further release of hostages. However, Hamas reneged on commitments they made during the first pause for hostage releases, and we question whether they are in fact willing to resume this effort. Nevertheless, we remain engaged in efforts to secure another pause and once again get hostages out of Gaza.

It is also striking that even as we hear many countries urging the end to this conflict, which we would all like to see, we hear very few demands of the initiator of this conflict — Hamas — to stop hiding behind civilians, lay down its arms, and surrender. This would have been over if Hamas’s leaders had done that. It would be good if there was a strong international voice pressing Hamas’s leaders to do what is necessary to end the conflict that they set in motion on October 7.

As I think everyone knows, Secretary Blinken is once again in the region, his fourth trip since the terrorist attacks of October 7. He has discussed ongoing efforts to better protect civilians in Gaza and stressed the imperative of expanding and sustaining safe access for humanitarian organizations to deliver food, water, medicine, as well as for commercial goods to enter all areas of Gaza.

And he has focused on the need to prevent the conflict from expanding — an effort in which the United States continues to invest significant diplomatic resources. This is not just a regional issue; it’s a matter of global concern.

As Israel moves to a lower-intensity phase of its military operation in the north, we believe the United Nations has a crucial role to play in evaluating what needs to be done to allow displaced Palestinians to return home.

On humanitarian aid, we’ve made progress in increasing the assistance into Gaza, but we know that it is still insufficient to meet the massive need. Too many Palestinian civilians are suffering from insufficient access to food, water, medicine, and other essential supplies.

The United Nations is playing an irreplaceable role in delivering and distributing lifesaving assistance to people in Gaza, as the Council affirmed in Resolution 2720. This text created the new role of Senior Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance and Reconstruction in Gaza. To that end, we welcome the Secretary-General’s prompt appointment of Sigrid Kaag to the important role of UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator.

We expect that every country in the region will support her efforts to streamline and accelerate the delivery of assistance at scale to those who urgently need it in Gaza, and we look forward to working with her on the implementation of Resolution 2720.

Whether we can achieve enduring peace and lasting security for both Israelis and Palestinians depends in large part on whether we succeed in laying the foundation now.

Importantly, Resolution 2720 does not support any steps that would leave Hamas in power, which would undermine the prospects for a two-state solution where Gaza and the West Bank are reunited under a single governance structure, under a revamped and revitalized Palestinian Authority.

Colleagues, we must work towards a future where Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side in peace. This is the only way forward.

Thank you.

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