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Australia ducks historic UN vote on Jerusalem


Australia abstained from joining more than 100 countries to protest Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, largely ignoring the US president’s threats to cut off aid to any country that went against him.

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The nonbinding resolution declaring US action on Jerusalem “null and void” passed by a vote of 128-9 – a victory for the Palestinians, but one that was not as big as they had predicted.

Amid the Trump administration’s threats, 35 of the 193 UN member nations abstained and 21 others were absent.

The resolution, sponsored by Yemen and Turkey, reaffirmed what has been the United Nations’ stand on the divided holy city since 1967: that Jerusalem’s final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said afterwards that he totally rejects the “preposterous” resolution.

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

The US and Israel had waged an intensive lobbying campaign against the resolution, with US Ambassador Nikki Haley sending letters to over 180 countries warning that Washington would be taking names of those who voted against the US.

But when it came to the vote, major US aid recipients including Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and South Africa supported the resolution.

The nine countries voting “no” were the US, Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, the Marshall Islands and Togo. Among the notable abstentions were Australia, Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic and Mexico.

The absent countries included Kenya, which was the fifth-largest recipient of US aid last year, Georgia and Ukraine, all of which have close US ties.

The US is scheduled to dispense $US25.8 billion in foreign aid for 2018. Whether Trump follows through with his threat against those who voted “yes” remains to be seen.

Trump’s threat had raised the stakes at Thursday’s emergency meeting and triggered accusations from Muslims of US bullying, blackmail and intimidation.

Arab, Islamic and non-aligned nations rejected his warnings and urged a “yes” vote on the resolution.

On Wednesday, Trump complained that Americans are tired of being taken advantage of by countries that take billions of dollars and then vote against the US. He said he would be watching the vote: “Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

Haley echoed his words in her speech to the packed assembly chamber, threatening not only member states with funding cuts, but the United Nations itself.

Haley said the vote will make no difference on US plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem, but it “will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN, and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN.”

“And this vote will be remembered,” she warned.

– AP

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