U.S. pursues quiet Mideast diplomacy, thwarts U.N. statement

NEW YORK, May 17 (Reuters) - The United States on Monday again prevented the United Nations Security Council from issuing a public statement on worsening violence between Israel and Palestinian militants as the White House said it was pursuing "quiet, intensive diplomacy."

For the past week Washington, a strong ally of Israel, has been isolated on the 15-member council over its objection to a statement, which it does not believe would be helpful at the moment. Such statements are agreed by consensus.

"The question is, will any given action or any given statement actually, as a practical matter, advance the prospects for ending the violence or not," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday. "If we think that there's something ... that would effectively advance that, we would be for it."

The United States also said no to a public council meeting on Friday, but compromised and allowed a Sunday meeting, where China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi publicly, and unusually, called out the United States for obstructing a statement. read more

China, council president for May, then said it would try again for a council statement. Diplomats said on Monday that the United States again said it was not the right time.

"Our approach is through quiet, intensive diplomacy and that's where we feel we can be most effective," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a virtual meeting with UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir via videoconference from the State Department in Washington, U.S., March 29, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis/Pool

The 193-member U.N. General Assembly plans to meet on Thursday over the violence, General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said as the fiercest hostilities in the region in years entered a second week.

Niger and Algeria, chairs of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation group and Arab group in New York, asked the 193-member General Assembly meet publicly "in light of the gravity of the situation and its rapid deterioration."

Israel killed a senior Palestinian militant commander in heavy air strikes on Gaza on Monday and Islamist groups renewed rocket attacks on Israeli cities despite mounting international calls for a ceasefire. read more

Gaza health officials put the Palestinian death toll since the fighting erupted last Monday at least 204, including 58 children and 34 women. Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that more than 38,000 people were seeking protection in 48 U.N. schools in Gaza. "We continue to actively engage all sides towards an immediate cessation of fire," Dujarric said.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Sunday called on all parties to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian law, adding: "We are particularly concerned about protecting U.N. facilities as civilians seek shelter in about two dozen of them."

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool

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