US blocks UN call for inquiry into killings
The United States has blocked the adoption of a UN Security Council statement that called for an "independent and transparent investigation" into Israel's killing of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border.
The statement, drafted by Kuwait ahead of a meeting yesterday, expressed "outrage and sorrow" at the deaths of at least 60 people during demonstrations over the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem.
It also demanded all countries comply with a decades-old Security Council resolution calling on them not to station diplomatic missions in the contested holy city.
A US delegation, including President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, attended the embassy's inauguration ceremony on Monday, pledging commitment to "lasting peace" as dozens of Palestinians were shot dead 80km away in the region's bloodiest day since the 2014 Gaza war.
Israel said its troops were defending its border and accused Hamas militants of using the protests as a cover for attacks.
It said 40,000 Palestinians had taken part in "violent riots" along the border and that some had tried to breach security fences.
Two UN diplomats, speaking anonymously, said members failed to reach a unanimous agreement on the proposed statement.
"The Security Council expresses its outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians exercising their right to peaceful protest," the draft text reads. "The Security Council calls for an independent and transparent investigation into these actions to ensure accountability."
The statement also called on "all sides to exercise restraint with a view to averting further escalation and establishing calm". It stressed actions "which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the holy city of Jerusalem have no legal effect".
Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Most countries say the status of Jerusalem - a sacred city to Jews, Muslims and Christians - should be determined in a final peace settlement and the relocation of the US embassy prejudices any such deal.
It was not clear if Security Council members other than the US rejected the statement drafted by Kuwait.
France, one of the council's five permanent members, has condemned "the violence of Israeli armed forces against demonstrators" and said that President Emmanuel Macron would speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday.
Alistair Burt, the UK's minister for the Middle East, described the Palestinian death toll as "extremely worrying" and called on Israel to "show greater restraint". But he said Britain would "not waver from our support for Israel's right to defend its borders".
On Monday, 10 of the council's 15 members wrote to the UN secretary general to express "profound concern" that a 2016 resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building on land Palestinians want for an independent state was not being implemented.
"The Security Council must stand behind its resolutions and ensure they have meaning; otherwise, we risk undermining the credibility of the international system," wrote Bolivia, China, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, France, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru and Sweden in a joint letter.
A month before Mr Trump took office in January 2017, the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements, with 14 votes in favour and one abstention by Barack Obama's administration. (© Independent News Service)