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Thursday, 21 January 2021

UN votes Thursday on Jerusalem after Trump threat to punish countries who will oppose him

AFP , Reuters , Ahram Online , Thursday 21 Dec 2017
UN General Assembly
File Photo: Delegates attend meeting of the 193-member United Nations General Assembly (Reuters)
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UN member-states will vote Thursday on a motion rejecting US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, with President Donald Trump threatening to cut funding to countries that back the measure.

At an emergency session, the UN General Assembly will decide on a draft resolution reaffirming that Jerusalem is an issue that must be resolved through negotiations and that any decision on its status has no legal effect and must be rescinded.

Turkey and Yemen requested the urgent meeting on behalf of the Arab group of countries and the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Egypt had put forward the draft at the council which was vetoed by the United States but backed by all 14 other Security Council members in the vote on Monday.

Like the Egyptian draft, the text before the assembly does not mention Trump's decision but expresses "deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem."

Under a 1950 resolution, an emergency special session can be called for the General Assembly to consider a matter "with a view to making appropriate recommendations to members for collective measures" if the Security Council fails to act.

Only 10 such sessions have been convened, and the last time the General Assembly met in such a session was in 2009 on occupied East Jerusalem and Palestinian territories. Thursday's meeting will be a resumption of that session.

Trump's decision on 6 December  to recognize the city as Israel's capital broke with international consensus and unleashed protests across the Muslim world, prompting a flurry of appeals to the United Nations.

The Israeli crackdown on Palestinian protests against Trump's decision has left at least 11 Palestinians killed and more than 3,000 injured in the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Trump warned that Washington would closely watch how nations voted, suggesting there could even be reprisals for countries that back the motion.

"They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us," Trump said at the White House.

"Well, we're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care."

"Mr. Trump, you cannot buy Turkey's democratic will with your dollars", Erdogan said after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to cut aid to countries that support a draft U.N. resolution calling for the United States to withdraw its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"I hope and expect the United States won't get the result it expects from there (the United nations) and the world will give a very good lesson to the United States," Erdogan said Thursday in a speech in Ankara.

According to figures from the U.S. government's aid agency USAID, in 2016 the United States provided some $13 billion in economic and military assistance to countries in sub-Saharan Africa and $1.6 billion to states in East Asia and Oceania.

It provided some $13 billion to countries in the Middle East and North Africa, $6.7 billion to countries in South and Central Asia, $1.5 billion to states in Europe and Eurasia and $2.2 billion to Western Hemisphere countries, according to USAID.

Miroslav Lajcak, president of the General Assembly, declined to comment on Trump's remarks, but added: "It's the right and responsibility of member states to express their views."

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also declined to comment on Trump's remarks on Wednesday.

Ahead of the vote, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the UN as a "house of lies," saying Israel "rejects outright this vote, even before it passes."

"The attitude to Israel of many nations in the world, in all the continents, is changing outside of the UN walls, and will eventually filter into the UN as well -- the house of lies," he said.

Diplomats expect strong support for the resolution, which is non-binding, despite the US pressure to either abstain, vote against it or simply not turn up for the vote.

On Tuesday, US Ambassador Nikki Haley sent an email to fellow UN envoys to put them on notice that "the president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those countries who voted against us."

"We will take note of each and every vote on this issue," she wrote in the message seen by AFP.

And on Twitter she said "the US will be taking names" when ambassadors of the 193-nation assembly cast their votes.

"The first name that she should write down is Bolivia," Bolivia's U.N. Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz said of Haley's message. "We regret the arrogance and disrespect to the sovereign decision of member states and to multilateralism."

"Nikki, that was the right message," Trump said.

A council diplomat said Canada, Hungary and the Czech Republic might bow to US pressure, but the motion is all but certain to be approved.

No country has veto powers in the General Assembly, unlike in the 15-member Security Council where the United States, along with Britain, China, France and Russia, can block any resolution.

Among the 14 countries in the 15-member council that voted in favor of the measure were the key US allies Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Ukraine, who were expected to do the same at the assembly on Thursday.

After Monday's vote, Haley described the 14-1 vote "an insult" and warned "it won't be forgotten."

Meanwhile, Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki accused Washington of "threatening" member-states, saying the UN session would show "how many countries will opt to vote with their conscience."

While resolutions by the General Assembly are non-binding, a strong vote in support of the resolution would carry political weight.

After the clash at the top UN body, the White House announced that US Vice President Mike Pence was delaying a trip to the Middle East planned for this week.

Israel seized control of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, a move that has never been recognised by the international community.

The Palestinians have long demanded occupied East Jerusalem for the capital of their future state.

Peace negotiations between the Palestinian authorities and Israel – which have lasted for more than two decades based on the 1993 Oslo accords – have been stalled since 2014.

There are an estimated 4.3 million Palestinians who live in the occupied territories; two million in Gaza, two million in the West Bank and 325,000 in East Jerusalem.

In recent years, Israel has intensified the construction of hundreds of illegal Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, thus creating new demographics that weaken the ability of the Palestinians to build a geographically contiguous state.

Over the past 50 years, the US has repeatedly vetoed resolutions that condemn Israeli aggression or illegal settlement-construction.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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