President Donald Trump of the United States has threatened to withhold “billions” of dollars of US aid from countries which vote in favour of a United Nations resolution rejecting the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
His comments came after the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, wrote to about 180 of 193 member states warning that she will be taking names of countries that vote for a general assembly resolution Thursday critical of the announcement which overturned decades of US foreign policy.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Trump amplified Haley’s threat.
“Let them vote against us,” he said.
“We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”
The warning appeared aimed largely at UN members in Africa, Asia and Latin America who are regarded as more vulnerable to US pressure.
Egypt, which drafted Monday’s UN security council resolution which the US vetoed, is particularly vulnerable, receiving $1.2bn in US aid last year.
But Trump’s comments may also resonate elsewhere – including in the UK, which is hoping to negotiate a quick post-Brexit trade deal with Washington.
The emergency UN general assembly meeting was called for Thursday to protest against the US veto at Monday’s security council meeting on a resolution the Jerusalem issue –which was supported by all other 14 members.
The security council resolution demanded that all countries comply with pre-existing UN security council resolutions on Jerusalem, dating back to 1967, including requirements that the city’s final status be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Key US allies Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Ukraine were among the 14 countries in the 15-member council that voted in favour on Monday, and were expected to do the same at the assembly on Thursday.
Diplomats expect strong support for the resolution, which is non-binding, despite the US pressure to either abstain or vote against it. However, a council diplomat said Canada, Hungary and the Czech Republic might bow to US pressure and not support the draft resolution.
Critics point out the Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem – as well as the US veto – are both in opposition to numerous security council resolutions.
Trump’s extraordinary intervention marked the latest escalation of diplomatic tensions over a decision that has seen the US widely criticised and isolated. It came after a day of high drama.
In a letter to UN ambassadors, Haley told countries – including European delegations – that she will report back to the US president with the names of those who support a draft resolution rejecting the US move at the UN general assembly on Thursday, adding that Trump took the issue personally.
The new draft resolution for Thursday’s general assembly is very similar to Monday’s defeated security council resolution. Unlike the security council, however, where permanent members can wield a veto, there are no veto rights in the general assembly.
The resolution reaffirms 10 security council resolutions on Jerusalem, dating back to 1967, including requirements that the city’s final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
It “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”.
The draft resolution “demands that all states comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the holy city of Jerusalem, and not to recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions”.
Referring to Haley’s letter, which was disclosed by the Guardian and other media organisations on Wednesday morning, Trump said: “I like the message that Nikki sent yesterday at the United Nations.
“Our great citizens who love this country are tired of this country being taken advantage of – we’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”
In her letter, Haley wrote: “As you consider your vote, I encourage you to know the president and the US take this vote personally.
“The president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us,” she continued.
Haley followed the letter by tweeting: “At the UN we’re always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thurs there’ll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names.”
The council is composed of 15 members. There are five permanent members:
• France• Russia• United Kingdom• United States
There are also 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the UN general assembly. The current non-permanent members are listed below (end of term date in brackets):
- Bolivia (2018)
• Egypt (2017)• Ethiopia (2018)• Italy (2017)• Japan (2017)• Kazakhstan (2018)• Senegal (2017)• Sweden (2018)• Ukraine (2017)• Uruguay (2017)
Responding to the US threats, the Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, and the foreign minister of Turkey – a co-sponsor of the UN vote – Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport that they believed UN member countries will ignore “pressure” from Haley.
“No honourable state would bow to such pressure,” Çavuşoğlu said.
“The world has changed. The belief that ‘I am strong therefore I am right’ has changed. The world today is revolting against injustices.”
A senior diplomat from a Muslim country said of Haley’s letter: “States resort to such blatant bullying only when they know they do not have a moral or legal argument to convince others.”
A senior western diplomat, described it as “poor tactics” at the United Nations “but pretty good for Haley 2020 or Haley 2024”, referring to speculation that Haley might run for higher office.
“She’s not going to win any votes in the general assembly or the security council, but she is going to win some votes in the US population,” the western diplomat said.
A senior European diplomat agreed Haley was unlikely to sway many UN states.
“We are missing some leadership here from the US and this type of letter is definitely not helping to establish US leadership in the Middle East peace process,” the diplomat said.
The tabling of the resolution followed a weekend of negotiations aimed at securing the widest consensus possible on the issue. The vote has underlined once again the widespread international opposition to the US move, even among some of its closest allies.