Australia, Pacific nations sidestep overwhelming UN vote on Jerusalem

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Palestinians react to the Security Council vote on Jerusalem vetoed by the US earlier this week. Video: Al Jazeera

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Australia and other Pacific nations did not join almost 130 countries in an overwhelming vote at the UN demanding the United States drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reports RNZ Pacific.

US President Donald Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that voted in favour.

A total of 128 countries — including New Zealand — backed the resolution, which is non-binding, nine voted against — including Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and Nauru — and 35 abstained.

Twenty-one countries, including Samoa and Tonga, did not cast a vote.

New Zealand supported the UN resolution calling for the US to withdraw a decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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New Zealand’s longstanding foreign policy position supports a two-state solution.

President Trump’s move overturned decades of American foreign policy and defied world opinion.

The 35 abstentions included Australia, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tuvalu.

US ‘leadership role’
Australian UN Ambassador Gillian Bird said Australia wanted to see the US play a leadership role in brokering peace and abstained from the vote, saying: “We do not wish to see any party isolated from the process.”

“There is much in this resolution with which we agree,” Bird told the General Assembly after the vote.

“We do not, however, consider that this further resolution in addition to the many on the peace process issued by the general assembly helps brings the parties back to the negotiating table.

Nevertheless, Washington found itself isolated as many of its Western and Arab allies voted for the measure.

Some of those allies, like Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, are major recipients of US military or economic aid, although the US threat to cut aid did not single out any country.

A spokesman for Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the vote “a victory for Palestine” but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the vote as “preposterous”.

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told the 193-member General Assembly ahead of Thursday’s vote: “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.”

Australia was joined by Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Philippines, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan in abstaining.

Micronesian nations
Guatemala, Honduras and Togo joined the Micronesian Pacific countries, formerly administered by Washington as a UN trust territory, US and Israel in voting no.

According to figures from the US government’s aid agency USAID, in 2016 the US provided some $US13 billion in economic and military assistance to countries in sub-Saharan Africa and $US1.6 billion to states in East Asia and Oceania.

The General Assembly vote was called at the request of Arab and Muslim countries after the United States vetoed the same resolution on Monday in the 15-member UN Security Council.

The remaining 14 Security Council members voted in favour of the Egyptian-drafted resolution, which did not specifically mention the US or Trump but expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem”.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

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