United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a rare move on Wednesday to formally warn the Security Council of a global threat from the Gaza war as Arab states seek to leverage that to renew a push for the council to call for a ceasefire.
The United States, one of five veto-powers on the 15-member council, is opposed to a ceasefire between its ally Israel and Hamas because it believes such a move would only benefit the Palestinian militants.
Washington does support humanitarian pauses to protect civilians and allow for the release of hostages taken by Hamas in an Oct. 7 attack on Israel. It abstained last month to allow the Security Council to adopt a resolution calling for pauses in fighting.
Guterres told the council in a letter that the Gaza war “may aggravate existing threats to international peace and security.”
He invoked Article 99 of the founding U.N. Charter that allows him to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”
The article has not been used for decades, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.
Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour said on Wednesday that Arab diplomats were “fine-tuning” a draft Security Council resolution to call for a ceasefire. A resolution needs at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, Russia, China, France or Britain.
Mansour said Arab ministers were due to visit Washington on Thursday (December 7) and would discuss the measure with U.S. officials.
“On top of the agenda is this war has to stop. A ceasefire has to take place and it has to take place immediately,” he told reporters.
Israel unleashed its military campaign to destroy Hamas in response to the Oct. 7 attack in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 240 hostages seized. Figures relayed by Gaza’s Health Ministry put the death toll in the Palestinian enclave since then at 16,015.