At UNSC meeting on intensified Iran-Israel tensions, diplomats urge restraint by all parties

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 15 (Alliance News): The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held an emergency meeting Sunday afternoon to discuss Iran’s attack on Israel, with diplomats calling for restraint by all parties to prevent conflict in the region from spreading.

Over the weekend, the drone and missile attack that Iran launched against Israel in retaliation for the Israeli bombing of its consulate in Damascus earlier in the month, was the first time Tehran had directly hit Israel from its soil. The development raised concerns among diplomats and U.N. officials that a new, potentially wide and destructive war could spark if both sides don’t stand down.

 

 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Council that it was “time to step back from the brink,” and that its members, as well as the United Nations at large, had the collective responsibility “to actively engage all parties concerned to prevent further escalation.”

The same was the message from Pakistan. In a statement issued in Islamabad, the Pakistani Foreign Office called for “utmost restraint”. “It is now critically urgent to stabilize the situation and restore peace.”

The Council, which met at the request of Israel, has not collectively issued a statement on the Iranian attacks and against Israel, and it has also not issued a statement condemning Israel’s attack on Iran’s embassy in Damascus that killed several senior commanders. All 15 members of the Council must reach a consensus for a statement to be issued and none was reached on both issues.

On Sunday, both Israel and Iran’s ambassadors were present and delivered fiery comments about the other’s country, blaming each other for actions they both called terrorism.  Iran’s ambassador, Amir Saeid Iravani, said his country had an “inherent right to self-defense” after Israel’s attack on its diplomatic compound.

Iravani said that Iran “does not seek escalation or war in the region,” but that if its interests, people or national security came under attack it would “respond to any such threat or aggressions vigorously and in accordance with international law.”

The United States and Iran both said that they do not seek war with one another, but that if one attacks the other’s interests, there would be a defensive response.

U.S. Representative to the U.N., Robert Wood told the Security Council that the “U.S. is not seeking escalation, our actions have been defensive in nature,” and said the U.S. goal was to “de-escalate” and then get back to securing an end to the conflict in Gaza. Wood said the U.S. planned to bring further action on Iran at the Council and called on the 15-member body to unequivocally condemn Iran’s actions.

Any resolution against Iran put forth by the U.S. at the Council would likely be vetoed by Russia and China, two of Iran’s close allies, who sharply criticized Israel for what they said was reckless violation of international law when it attacked Iran’s embassy compound.

“What happened in the night of the 14th of April did not happen in a vacuum,” said Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N.

China’s ambassador, Dai Bing, called on the Council to “exercise maximum calm and restraint” and said the implementation of an immediate cease-fire is the “top priority.”

On its part, Israel said that the embassy compound was a legitimate military target because senior commanders from Iran’s Quds Forces, the external branch of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, were holding a meeting inside the building.

In his remarks, the UN chief said the people of the Middle East are facing a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict and urged “maximum restraint” across a region “on the brink”.

“It is vital to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East…Now is the time for maximum restraint,” the UN Secretary-General said.

Guterres said that the emergency session was called by Israel following what it described in a letter as ‘a direct attack launched by Iran… of more than 200 UAVs, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles towards Israel in clear violation of international law.’

The UN chief added that in a separate letter, Iran stated that it had carried out a series of military strikes on Israeli military objectives ‘in the exercise of Iran’s inherent right to self-defence as outlined…in the UN Charter, and in response to…its armed attack on 1 April 2024 against Iranian diplomatic premises’ – in Damascus.

According to the latest reports, Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles from its territory toward Israel, with most intercepted.

Several missiles reportedly struck within Israeli territory, one of which damaged an Israeli military facility in the south of the country.

“And overall, a few civilians were injured,” the Secretary-General reported, repeating his strong condemnation of the attacks and his call for an immediate cessation of these hostilities.

Recalling the international community’s shared responsibility to engage all parties to prevent further escalation, the Secretary-General added that there was a similar responsibility to secure an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid.

There was a further shared responsibility to stop violence in the occupied West Bank, de-escalate the situation along the Blue Line, and re-establish safe navigation in the Red Sea.

“We have a shared responsibility to work for peace. Regional – and indeed global — peace and security are being undermined by the hour. Neither the region nor the world can afford more war,” Mr. Guterres concluded.

Syrian Ambassador Koussay Aldahhak said that what the Middle East witnessed on Saturday had been the natural and inevitable outcome of repeat aggressions and grave violations of international law and the UN Charter “perpetrated [by the Israeli occupation authorities] in Syria and other countries in the region.”

He said that these violations were carried out in the region with “blind and unlimited” support of the US and had “mistakenly led the Israeli occupation authorities to believe that they are above the United Nations, above international law and above UN resolutions…for decades … with no response and no consequence.”

The Syrian delegation had warned the United Nations about such activities and had called upon the Organization to put an end to Israel’s crimes. But in all cases, a few countries continued to shield Israel form accountability. Sadly, “the actions by these countries are nothing new.”

Finally, the Ambassador said that Syria holds the US Administration and Israel responsible for any further attacks and escalation in the region. “They must reconsider their destructive polices in our region and against our peoples; they must rectify their activities in the region. Our region has suffered enough,” he said, calling for an end to hypocrisy and double standards.

Moreover, the international community must end the Israeli occupation as well as take immediate action to end the “intentional starving” of the people of Gaza, ensure full humanitarian access to the Strip, and “end illegitimate existence of US military forces in my country, Syria.”