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The UAE on Wednesday called on the UN Security Council to urgently adopt a draft humanitarian ceasefire resolution as the situation in war-torn Gaza is "close to irreversible".
In response to a letter sent by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to the president of the Security Council, invoking Article 99 of the UN Charter, the UAE drafted and submitted a resolution, seen by The National, to the 15 council members calling for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire".
The text which has the support of Arab countries and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation is set for a vote on Friday, with a briefing from the UN chief expected.
"This is a moral and humanitarian imperative and we urge all countries to support the call of the Secretary General," read the UAE statement.
Article 99 of the UN charter states that “the Secretary General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”.
Mr Guterres warned that he expects “public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible” in Gaza.
“The situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region,” said Mr Guterres.
“Such an outcome must be avoided at all costs.”
Mr Guterres urged the 15 members of the Security Council “to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe” and repeated his appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared.
“This is urgent … there is no effective protection of civilians,” he stressed. “The current conditions are making it impossible for meaningful humanitarian operations to be conducted."
“Nowhere is safe in Gaza.”
It is the first time the UN chief has invoked the article since taking office in 2017, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
The Israeli ambassador to the UN criticised Mr Guterres's use of Article 99, saying the UN chief has reached a "new moral low" by sending the letter to the Security Council.
“This is more proof of the Secretary General's moral distortion and his bias against Israel,” Gilad Erdan wrote.
“The Secretary General's call for a ceasefire is actually a call to keep Hamas's reign of terror in Gaza.”
Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour told reporters before the release of the UN chief's letter that Arab diplomats were “fine-tuning” a draft Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire.
The draft resolution, which was circulated to council members on Wednesday afternoon, acts "upon the letter dated 6 December 2023 of the Secretary General, under Article 99 of the Charter of the United Nations, addressed to the President of the Security Council".
It expresses "grave concern over the catastrophic situation in the Gaza Strip and the suffering of the Palestinian civilian population" and demands an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire".
Mr Mansour said Arab ministers and members of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation would be visiting Washington on Thursday to discuss a ceasefire with US officials.
“A ceasefire has to take place and it has to take place immediately,” he told reporters.
In mid-November, after four rejected draft texts, the Security Council called for “extended humanitarian pauses” in the Gaza Strip, in the first time the 15 members broke their silence on the conflict.
Past cases in which matters have been brought by the Secretary General to the Security Council include a letter from 1980 in which the secretary general at the time voiced concern over the conflict between Iran and Iraq, and urged the council to address the issue.
The last time a UN secretary general invoked Article 99 was in 1989 for Lebanon.