Middle East

UN member states vote to reject US recognition of Jerusalem

Riyad Mansour (C), Palestine's Ambassador to the UN, and his delegation celebrate the results of the UN vote on Jerusalem (AFP)

UN member-states voted on Thursday in favour of a motion rejecting US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, after President Donald Trump threatened to cut funding to countries that back the measure.

One-hundred and twenty-eight member states voted in favour of the motion with nine opposing and 35 abstaining.

The nine countries which opposed were Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Palau, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Togo and the US.

The US has criticised the UN over a resolution rejecting the country's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Ahead of the vote, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said it "would be remembered" coming on the heels of threats by Donald Trump to cut aid to countries that supported the vote.

“The US is by far the single largest contributor the UN and its agencies," said Haley. “When we make generous contributions to the UN we also have a legitimate expectation that our goodwill is recognised and respected.

"America will put our embassy in Jerusalem. No vote will make a difference."

Haley warns that the resolution could cause the US to pull funding from the UN: “If our investment fails, we have an obligation to spend our investment in other ways.

"This vote will be remembered."

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, addressing the assembly as the session got underway, appealed for support and referred to America's warning that it was "taking names" among countries that oppose it at the UN.

"This organisation is now undergoing an unprecedented test," al-Malki said.

"History records names, it remembers names – the names of those who stand by what is right and the names of those who speak falsehood. Today we are seekers of rights and peace."

Trump's decision on 6 December to recognise Jerusalem 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 status of the Holy City is one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both sides claiming it as their capital.

A draft resolution rejecting the US move was sent to the General Assembly after it was vetoed by the US at the Security Council on Monday, although all other 14 council members voted in favour.

I am holding up a coin from the year 67 AD found in Jerusalem. Written on it in Hebrew are the words, “Freedom of Zion.” No UN resolution will ever drive us from Jerusalem. 1/4 pic.twitter.com/p5iqv875dn

— Ambassador Danon (@dannydanon) December 21, 2017

Israel's envoy to the UN vowed that his country would never be "driven" from Jerusalem by UN member states and said the countries voting in favour were "puppets" of the Palestinians.

"No General Assembly resolution will ever drive us from Jerusalem," Ambassador Danny Danon told an emergency session of the 193-nation assembly.

Danon opened his speech by holding up a coin which he claimed was from the second temple in Biblical times to prove continued Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

Trump warned that Washington would closely watch how nations voted on Thursday, suggesting there could be financial reprisals for countries that back the motion put forward by Yemen and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries.

"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."

Turkey's foreign minister criticised the US aid threats during the assembly meeting, accusing them of "bullying".

“Before this meeting, a UN member state threatened all the other members. We were all asked to vote 'no' or face the consequences. Some were even threatened with development aid cut," said Mevlut Cavusoglu.

"Such an attitude is unacceptable. This is bullying.”

“Turkey will never let al-Quds down," he added. "The Palestinian people will never be alone.”

'House of lies'

The draft resolution mirrors the text that was vetoed on Monday, and although it does not mention Trump's decision, it expresses "deep regret at recent decisions" concerning the city's status.

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.

America's neighbours Canada and Mexico were both expected to abstain, according to diplomats.

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