India votes against US, backs UN resolution on Palestine

22 Dec 2017


India on Thursday joined 127 other countries at the United Nations General Assembly to vote for a resolution that effectively rejected United States President Donald Trump's move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, declaring it "null and void".

The resolution was passed 128 to 9 with 35 abstentions. The US was joined by Israel, Honduras, Guatemala, Togo, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Micronesia.

But the non-binding resolution declaring the US action on Jerusalem ''null and void'' was not quite as big as the Palestinians predicted. Amid Washington's threats, 35 of the 193 UN member nations abstained and 21 were absent.

A notable abstention was the US's neighbour Canada. Other abstentions were Australia, Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Kenya, Czech Republic, Mexico, Georgia and Ukraine.

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference working president Omar Abdullah today lauded New Delhi for voting in favour of the resolution.

The resolution was in support of the long-standing international consensus that the status of Jerusalem – which is claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians as a capital – can only be settled as an agreed final issue in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

This was the second time in a week that the US found itself isolated on this issue. On Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council voted on an Egypt-sponsored resolution 14-1, with the US using its veto power to block the vote.

The overwhelming vote in the General Assembly denounced President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, largely ignoring Trump's threats to cut off aid to any country that went against him.

The resolution reaffirmed what has been the United Nations' stand on the divided holy city since 1967 - that Jerusalem's final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Trump administration made it clear the vote would have no effect on its plan to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said afterward that he completely rejects the ''preposterous'' resolution.

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour called the vote a victory not only for the Palestinians but for the United Nations and international law, saying US Ambassador Nikki Haley ''failed miserably'', persuading only seven countries aside from the US and Israel to vote against the resolution.

''And they used unprecedented tactics, unheard of in the diplomatic work at the UN, including blackmail and extortion,'' he said.

The United States and Israel had waged an intensive lobbying campaign against the measure, with Haley sending letters to over 180 countries warning that Washington would be noting the names of those who voted against the US. Trump went further, threatening a funding cutoff - ''Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care.''

But in the end, major US aid recipients including Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and South Africa supported the resolution. Egypt received roughly $1.4 billion in US aid this year, and Jordan received about $1.3 billion.

The absent countries included Kenya, which was the fifth-largest recipient of US aid last year, Georgia and Ukraine, all of which have close US ties.

After the vote, Haley tweeted a photo naming the 65 nations that voted no, abstained or were absent, and said, ''We appreciate these countries for not falling to the irresponsible ways of the UN.''

She later sent invitations to the 65 ambassadors inviting them to a reception on 3 January to thank them for their friendship with the United States.

The US is scheduled to dispense $25.8 billion in foreign aid for 2018. Whether Trump follows through with his threat against those who voted ''yes'' remains to be seen.

But within hours, the Trump administration appeared to be backing away from its funding threats. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said cuts to countries that opposed the US are not a foregone conclusion.

''The president's foreign policy team has been empowered to explore various options going forward with other nations,'' Nauert said. ''However, no decisions have been made.''

During the debate, Arab, Islamic and non-aligned nations urged a ''yes'' vote on the resolution, which was sponsored by Yemen and Turkey.

Yemeni Ambassador Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany warned that Trump's recognition of Jerusalem undermines any chance for peace in the Mideast and ''serves to fan the fires of violence and extremism.''

On Wednesday, Trump complained that Americans are tired of being taken advantage of by countries that take billions of dollars and then vote against the US. Haley echoed his words in her speech to the packed assembly chamber, threatening not only member states with funding cuts, but the United Nations itself.

''And this vote will be remembered,'' she warned.

Trump's pressure tactics had raised the stakes at Thursday's emergency meeting and triggered accusations from the Muslim world of US bullying and blackmail.

''It is unethical to think that the votes and dignity of member states are for sale,'' said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. ''We will not be intimidated! You can be strong but this does not make you right!''

The resolution adopted by the assembly ''affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the holy city of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.''

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