Cablegate: Unsc: Council Meets at Libyan Request to Discuss

DE RUCNDT #1142/01 3402127
O 052127Z DEC 08



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) The Security Council met December 3 at Libya's
request to discuss the Israeli Navy's action to deny entry of
a Libyan vessel carrying humanitarian assistance to the port
of Gaza. The Council invited both Israeli and Palestinian
representatives to participate in the meeting. The Libyan
Perm Rep asked the Council to take action to allow the vessel
to enter the port and unload its cargo and to issue a press
statement condemning the Israel action, which he also
described as amounting to piracy. The Israeli Perm Rep
criticized Libya for using its Security Council membership to
call the meeting; said no member state would have allowed a
ship from a hostile state to unload cargo in a territory from
which it was being attacked; and said Libya could have
delivered the assistance through the well-known delivery
mechanisms. The Palestinian Ambassador called on Israel to
end the "inhumane siege" on Gaza and comply with its
obligations under international law. He called on the
international community to not "remain on the sidelines."
Ambassador Wolff said the Council was being asked to meet in
response to a situation of Libya's own making; that Libya
should have used one of the acceptable assistance delivery
mechanisms; and that the Israeli Navy's action did not meet
the definition of piracy under the Law of the Sea Convention,
with which the UK DPR concurred. Ambassador Wolff also
stressed that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is due to the
usurpation of the legitimate Palestinian government's
authority by Hamas. All 13 other member states spoke and
almost all focused on the need to keep the crossings into
Gaza open to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian
assistance. Several specifically objected to the manner in
which Libya attempted to deliver its assistance. Only South
Africa called for the opening of the Gaza port. At least six
states recognized Israel's security needs and called for the
end to the rocket attacks. There was no agreement on a press
statement and the Libyan delegation did not pursue one
further. End summary.

2. (SBU) The Security Council held consultations late in the
morning on December 3 to discuss two letters, dated December
2, 2008, from the Libyan Perm Rep to the Security Council
President calling for the Council to meet urgently to discuss
Libya's request to take urgent action to allow a Libyan ship
that had been turned back by the Israeli Navy to be permitted
to enter the Port of Gaza to unload its humanitarian cargo.
Since the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security
Council provide that any member of the Council may call a
meeting of the Council, the Council agreed to meet that same
afternoon to discuss the issue and also agreed to invite
Israeli and Palestinian representatives to participate in the

Libya's brief

3. (SBU) The Security Council met in a formal meeting late
on December 3 to discuss the subject raised by Libya. The
Libyan Perm Rep spoke first and outlined his request to the
Council. He said a Libyan vessel, the al-Marwa, laden with
3,000 tons of food, medicine, and other humanitarian
assistance had been turned back by "Israeli gun boats" from
approaching the port of Gaza. He asked the Council "to take
the necessary urgent actions to allow the ship to enter the
port and unload its cargo." He said Libya would allow the UN
or the International Red Cross/Red Crescent to inspect the
cargo to confirm that it is purely humanitarian. He said
that when faced with the potential use of arms by the "gun
boats," the Libyan vessel had no option but to head west away
from Gaza. He said the Israeli ships forced the vessel to
sail in a specific direction and said that Israeli aircraft
flew overhead. He alleged that the Israeli ships' actions
amounted to piracy since they continued to force the Libyan
vessel to sail in a certain direction though it was more than
220 nautical miles from the Gazan coast. He asked the
Council to agree to issue a press statement condemning the
Israeli action and calling on Israel to comply with
international humanitarian law, the Law of the Sea, and
freedom of navigation on the high seas.

Israel's response

4. (SBU) The Israeli Perm Rep criticized Libya for using its
Security Council membership to convene such a meeting,
terming it a "provocative abuse of its role." She said, "No
member state of this Council, nor any other member of the
United Nations, would allow a shipment originating from a
hostile state to reach a territory that serves as a launching

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pad for terrorist attacks against its civilians." She said
that many states, even those without diplomatic relations
with Israel, have delivered assistance to the Palestinians
through the well-known assistance delivery mechanisms and did
not resort to such "provocative, media events."

Palestinian brief: focused on
humanitarian crisis, end to "siege"

5. (SBU) The Palestinian Ambassador praised Libya's attempt
to deliver assistance to Gaza and regret that it was not
successful. He described the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and
the need to end "this inhumane siege and compel Israel to
comply with its obligations under international law." He
cited Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which
prohibits an occupying power from imposing collective
penalties and said the "17-month Israel siege has transformed
the Gaza Strip into an open-air prison." He did not mention
the Hamas take-over of Gaza. He said,"every sector of life
in the Gaza Strip has been disrupted by this criminal,
punitive siege." He said that the Palestinian leadership
continues to "exert all efforts to advance the peace process
and uphold its commitments" while Israel continues "its
illegal practices and provocative actions." He reiterated
the PA's readiness to assume responsibility for the
Palestinian side of Gaza's border crossings. He said the
international community "cannot remain on the sidelines as
Israel continues to flagrantly and blatantly breach
international law and UN resolutions." (Comment: Ambassador
Wolff noted at the end of his remarks that Ambassador
Mansour's lengthy, prepared remarks "would have enjoyed more
credibility if he would have been able to simply repeat his
leadership's own known views" on the take-over of Gaza. End

U.S. remarks

6. (SBU) Ambassador Wolff spoke fourth and expressed
bafflement that the Council had been asked to meet by a
Council member in reaction to a situation of its own making.
Given that Libya does not have diplomatic relations with
Israel and the current heightened international sensitivity
to unpredictable and uncoordinated maritime activity, he
termed the Libyan action "dangerous and irresponsible" and
said it is not surprising that the Israeli Navy reacted in
the way it did. He noted the acceptable alternatives Libya
could have utilized to successfully deliver its assistance
and highlighted the November 26 Arab League Council statement
assigning specific responsibility to the Arab League
Secretariat to coordinate with Egyptian and Jordanian
authorities to ensure the entry of assistance to Gaza.
Ambassador Wolff concluded that "provocation and perhaps even
propaganda was the intended objective of the Libyan vessel's
activity." He underlined the reason the humanitarian crisis
exists in Gaza -- the usurpation of the legitimate
Palestinian government's authority by Hamas. (Note:
Ambassador Wolff's remarks are posted on the Mission's
Internet website at releases. End note.)

Both U.S. and UK counter Libyan
allegations of Israeli piracy

7. (SBU) Both Ambassador Wolff and the UK DPR countered the
Libyan Perm Rep's claims that the Israeli Navy's actions
amounted to piracy. Ambassador Wolff said that the Libyan
vessel's second attempt to enter the port of Gaza, according
to media accounts from Tripoli, justified the Israeli Navy's
decision to "esort the vessel beyond the territorial sea and
into international waters." He said, "It cannot be said that
"Israel's actions consituted piracy under the Law of the Sea
Convention. Piracy has a very specific meaning under
international law, including that the act has been by a
private ship for private ends. It is absurd to assert Israel
committed an act of piracy." The British DPR also cited the
piracy definition from the Law of the Sea Convention and said
that because the matter involved "an Israeli naval ship it
cannot constitute an act of piracy."

Many states object to Libya's delivery
method but call for open crossings

8. (SBU) Several delegations, including the UK, Belgium,
Croatia, and Italy, specifically objected to the manner in
which Libya attempted to deliver its assistance. South
Africa was alone in calling for the opening of the port of

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Gaza and said that Israel's security concerns should not be
used as a justification for not allowing in humanitairian
goods. Almost all Council members called for the land
crossings to be opened regularly, if not continuously, to
facilitate the transfer of humanitarian assistance. At least
six Council members recognized Israel's security needs and
called for an end to the rocket attacks, including Russia and
Costa Rica. The Costa Rican Perm Rep called on Hamas to
"place the needs of the Palestinian people before anything
else." The French DPR noted that the Libyan ship issue puts
into perspective the issue of access to Gaza by land and sea
and said they would explore the issue with the Quartet at its
upcoming meeting.

Libya does not pursue Council
press statement

9. (SBU) While the Libyan Perm Rep had asked the Council to
pursue a press statement, member states' remarks clearly
illustrated that there was little support for the type of
press statement proposed by the Libyans. By the end of the
meeting, the Libyan Perm Rep said in his reply that he was
satisfied that the meeting had been held and made no
reference to further pursuing a press statement. (Note: The
Libyan expert confirmed to PolOff December 4 that his mission
had no plans to pursue further the matter of their vessel but
noted reports of a possible Qatari vessel that might attempt
the same passage. End note.)

© Scoop Media

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