Singapore voted for 'peace and stability' on Jerusalem issue

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan

UN vote consistent with Republic's longstanding policy position in support of two-state solution: Vivian

Singapore cast a "vote for peace and stability" when it voted in favour of the recent United Nations General Assembly resolution on the status of Jerusalem, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday.

Singapore joined 127 countries on Dec 21 in supporting the motion, which had rejected the United States' decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Dr Balakrishnan told Parliament that Singapore's vote on the recent resolution is consistent with its longstanding policy position in support of a two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.

Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC) had asked for an explanation of Singapore's vote, and why it did not choose to abstain.

Dr Balakrishnan - without naming the US or its President, Mr Donald Trump - pointed to an announcement made last month, which he said could be construed as changing the status quo in Jerusalem.

In Singapore's view, that move "could be a unilateral and premature pronouncement" that could impede the peace process instead of helping it, he said.

"After very careful consideration and consultation, we decided to stand by our principles and say we don't think this is a good idea and, therefore, we are voting in favour of the resolution," he added.

Nine countries had opposed the resolution, including Guatemala, Honduras and Israel, while 35 countries abstained from voting, including Australia, Canada and the Philippines.

REPUBLIC'S DECISION

We do so in all sincerity as a reflection of who we are as a multi-religious society and our longstanding friendship, support and advocacy for peace in the Middle East. That, in a nutshell, is about all that we can do. We are not a superpower.

FOREIGN MINISTER VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN

Dr Balakrishnan told Mr Nair that Singapore could have also not turned up for the vote, but "that is not Singapore's style".

"We want to be not just fair-weather friends, but we want to be long-term, reliable, principled friends," he said.

Singapore had made a principled decision when it voted in favour of the resolution, as it was not taking sides, Dr Balakrishnan added.

"We're not saying one party or the other or its supporters are right or wrong," he said.

While the Republic will have to take a different position from friends and supporters at times, Dr Balakrishnan said he was confident other countries know that Singapore does not "take political postures for the sake of posturing".

"We do so in all sincerity as a reflection of who we are as a multi-religious society and our longstanding friendship, support and advocacy for peace in the Middle East. That, in a nutshell, is about all that we can do. We are not a superpower," he said.

Nominated MP Mahdev Mohan asked if there were efforts to get Asean to speak with one voice on the status of Jerusalem during the UN resolution.

There was no time and no opportunity to cobble together a consolidated Asean position, Dr Balakrishnan replied.

He added that he is unsure if coming up with a consolidated position would have been ideal, as the Jerusalem issue was a "sensitive and delicate" situation where every country had to take a stand based on its own analysis of its national interest.

"So this was not an occasion to try to corral or to put pressure on the individual members of Asean... and I don't view that, therefore, as a setback that a couple of Asean member states abstained and that all the rest of us voted in favour."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2018, with the headline 'Singapore voted for 'peace and stability' on Jerusalem issue'. Print Edition | Subscribe