US defends Donald Trump on Jerusalem at the UN

Nikki Haley delivers a speech during the meeting at the UN headquarters in New York City. PHOTO: AFP
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaking with Palestinian UN ambassador Riyad H. Mansour on Dec 8, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - The United States stood alone on Friday (Dec 8) as one after another fellow UN Security Council member criticised its decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The debate unfolded at a largely symbolic emergency meeting of the council - no vote on a resolution was planned, as the US has veto power - two days after President Donald Trump reversed two decades of US policy on the holy city.

The meeting was convened by no fewer than eight of the 14 non-US members of the council.

This seemed a vivid show of the discord triggered by Trump's announcement, which included plans to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Asked what he expected to come from the UN meeting, one diplomat said: "Nothing."

Another said the session would show US "isolation" on the issue.

The UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nikolay Mladenov, warned that the US decision could lead to a spiral of violence among the Palestinians and others angered by what Trump has done.

Indeed, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces Friday left one person dead after calls for a "day of rage" from the Islamist movement Hamas.

The British ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said flat out that Britain disagrees with Trump's move on Jerusalem and the embassy location.

"These decisions are unhelpful for the prospects for peace in the region," Rycroft said.

He urged Trump to now come up with detailed proposals for an Israel-Palestinian peace accord, a goal which has eluded the US and the international community for decades.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most hotly contested issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel seized control of the east of the city in 1967 and later annexed it in moves never recognized by the international community.

Israel considers the city its undivided capital, but Palestinians believe the east is illegally occupied and see it as the capital of their future state.

Five European countries on the council insisted the new US policy is not in line with UN resolutions including one that considers east Jerusalem to be Israeli-occupied.

At Friday's meeting, US ambassador Nikki Haley defended Trump as remaining committed to the peace process and a two state solution if the Israelis and Palestinians choose this.

Haley said that in his reversal of US foreign policy, Trump was simply recognizing reality, since the Israeli government and parliament are located in Jerusalem.

And she recalled that Trump insists his decision has no impact on whatever Israelis and Palestinians ultimately decide on boundaries and borders of the city, which is holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews.

"I understand the concerns that members have in calling this session," Haley said.

"Change is hard."

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