Russia accuses US of blocking UN Gaza statement

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UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – Russia on Monday accused the United States of seeking to “filibuster” a UN Security Council statement on the Gaza crisis amid prolonged talks by the 15-nation body.

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said his country could propose a full council resolution backing peace efforts if a lower-level statement cannot be agreed. That could force the United States into a veto to protect its Israeli ally.

Churkin said one country on the council indicated “quite transparently that they will not be prepared to go along with any reaction of the Security Council.”

He did not name the country but diplomats said the United States was delaying a statement sought by Arab nations.

Morocco, representing Arab countries on the 15-nation council, proposed a statement calling for a halt to the Israel-Hamas hostilities last Thursday.

Diplomats said the United States and other countries had proposed amendments to the text in talks on Monday. Churkin said one delegation had sought “quite extensive amendments” and that he suspected there was a bid to extend the talks.

“To me it unfortunately looked like a little bit of a filibuster attempt,” Churkin told reporters. The council was to meet again late Monday to discuss the statement.

Russia has already proposed a ministerial meeting of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East — the United States, Russia, United Nations and European Union — on the crisis.

Churkin said that if the statement was frustrated, his country could propose a Security Council resolution that calls for an immediate ceasefire, supports the Egyptian-Arab led mediation efforts and calls for resumed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The United States fiercely defends its Israeli ally at the Security Council, normally using its veto to block any criticism.

The US presidency said Saturday that rocket attacks fired on Israel by Palestinian militants in Gaza were a “precipitating factor” in the conflict.

“We believe that Israel has a right to defend itself, and they’ll make their own decisions about the tactics that they use in that regard,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said.

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