22 Dec 2017

UN overwhelmingly defies Trump's Jerusalem move

8:11 am on 22 December 2017

New Zealand has supported a UN resolution calling for the United States to withdraw its decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

General view of the emergency special session over Jerusalem held by UN General Assembly in New York, United States on December 21, 2017.

General view of the emergency special session over Jerusalem held by UN General Assembly in New York, United States on December 21, 2017. Photo: AFP / 2017 Anadolu Agency

The non-binding resolution illustrates the lingering repercussions of US President Donald Trump's decision, which upended decades of American policy, defied world opinion and undercut the United States position as a potential broker of a peaceful deal in the region.

The vote passed 128 votes to 9, with 35 countries abstaining.

The 35 countries that abstained included Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, and the Philippines.

Those voting against included Nauru, The Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and Palau.

Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Thailand and Singapore all supported the resolution.

The vote was called at a rare emergency session of the 193-member UN General Assembly, at the request of Arab and Muslim states.

It came after a UN Security Council draft resolution calling for the withdrawal was vetoed by the US on Monday. All the other 14 nations on the Security Council supported the resolution.

Israel occupied the east of Jerusalem, previously occupied by Jordan, in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.

However, the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries currently maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.

The text of the resolution says that any decisions regarding the status of the city are "null and void" and must be cancelled. Being non-binding however, it cannot legally be enforced.

'This vote will be remembered': Continued threats from US

Ahead of the vote, Mr Trump threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that went against the US.

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

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

That was echoed again ahead of today's vote, when the US said it was "singled out for attack" and again threatened to cut off aid to countries that vote against it.

"The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation," US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said.

She said the Trump administration would not change its decision.

"America will put our embassy in Jerusalem, that is what the american people want us to do and it is the right thing to do.

"No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that, but this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN and how we look on countries that disrespect us at the UN.

"And this vote will be remembered."

"We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world's largest contribution to the United nations.

"And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit."

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday said the country would not be bullied on the international stage, and that New Zealand had always supported a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, which has led much of the told the opposition to the decision among Muslim nations, told the US it could not buy Turkey's support in the vote.

"Mr. Trump, you cannot buy Turkey's democratic will with your dollars," Mr Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the UN as a "house of lies" ahead of the vote.

"The State of Israel totally rejects this vote, even before (the resolution's) approval," Netanyahu said in a speech in the port city of Ashdod.

In a statement after the vote, Mr Netanyahu reiterated Israel's rejection of the vote and thanked Mr Trump for his stance.

A spokesman for Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the result.

"The vote is a victory for Palestine," said Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah.

"We will continue our efforts in the United Nations and at all international forums to put an end to this occupation and to establish our Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital."

- RNZ / Reuters

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