UN Chief invokes Article 99: implications for Gaza crisis and global security

ReutersVN chief António Guterres

NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 12:13

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has invoked Article 99 of the organization’s charter in response to the situation in Gaza. He did this in a letter to the UN Security Council. A special call, since Article 99 is rarely cited.

Anyone who opens the 1945 UN Charter and scrolls to Article 99 will actually only see one sentence. “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.”

It is the most powerful tool the Secretary General has at his disposal. While the Member States normally put issues on the agenda of the Security Council, this now happens without their involvement. Guterres thus convenes the Security Council and calls for action.

The UN Security Council was established to maintain international peace and security. The council consists of fifteen countries, including the five permanent members US, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and France, who have veto power. In addition, there are ten seats that are occupied alternately for two years by the other 188 member states.

Since the founding of the UN, Article 99 has only been used three times, the last time in 1989 due to the civil war in Lebanon. The article was also used in 1979, when American ambassadors were taken hostage in Tehran, and in 1960 during the Congo crisis.

Guterres says he is now doing this because “there is a serious risk that the humanitarian system in Gaza will collapse.” “The situation is rapidly deteriorating towards a catastrophe with potentially irreversible consequences for the Palestinians and for peace and security in the region. This must be prevented at all costs,” the UN chief said.

Support and anger

Guterres could quickly count on support from, among others, WHO boss Ghebreyesus and EU foreign policy chief Borrell. The latter wants Malta and France, the two EU member states that sit on the Security Council, to support UN chief Guterres.

Israel reacted angrily to the appeal. Israeli Foreign Minister Cohen calls Guterres’ term of office “a danger to world peace.” According to him, the appeal “means support for the terrorist organization Hamas, and approval for the murder of the elderly, the kidnapping of babies and the rape of women.” The minister says that “anyone who is for world peace must support the liberation of Gaza from Hamas.”

Israeli ambassador to the UN Erdan also reacted strongly. In a post on social media, Erdan described the letter as “more evidence of Guterres’ moral distortion and his bias against Israel.” “The Secretary General’s call for a ceasefire is actually a call to maintain Hamas’s reign of terror in Gaza,” Erdan wrote.

It is not the first time this war that Israel has been furious about statements made by Guterres. According to Israel, Guterres is too close to Hamas.

What now?

The Security Council will now consider the issue with a view to possibly adopting a resolution calling for a ceasefire. Guterres has no authority whatsoever to force the Security Council to adopt a resolution.

The resolution was also under consideration at the end of October. Then the United States used its veto because the resolution did not explicitly mention Israel’s right to self-defense.

The US is Israel’s most important ally and, as a permanent member, it has a crucial position within the Security Council. But while the White House supported Israel unconditionally after October 7, that position seems to be shifting in recent weeks and it is increasingly stated that Israel must take the civilian population into account.

For example, Vice President Harris said at the climate summit in Dubai that too many innocent Palestinians have been killed and that Israel must respect humanitarian law. She also said that the US “will not, under any circumstances, cooperate in the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank or in the realignment of Gaza.”

It is not yet known when the Security Council will meet.

2023-12-07 11:13:36
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