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Politics

Major Asian nations join UN rebuke of US over Jerusalem

Muslim-majority countries in region decry move, are not cowed by Trump's threats

Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, vetoes an Egyptian-drafted resolution on the status of Jerusalem during a Security Council meeting Thursday.   © Reuters

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. General Assembly condemned Thursday the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, urging Washington to reverse the move despite threats of retaliation from President Donald Trump.

The world body overwhelmingly approved a nonbinding resolution in a 128-9 vote even with the U.S. threatening to cut financial aid to supporters. Muslim-majority Asian countries that receive American assistance, including Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan, did not back down.

"The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation," Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the U.N., told the assembly ahead of the vote.

"We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world's largest contribution to the United Nations," Haley said, citing her country's status as the top donor to the international body. "And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit."

"Let them vote against us," Trump said Wednesday at a cabinet meeting in Washington. "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." His remarks came after Haley warned U.N. members in a letter that Washington would take names and "report back on" countries voting against it.

But only seven members, mostly small island and Latin American countries, ultimately joined the U.S. and Israel in opposing the text. Among the 35 registered abstentions were such American allies as Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and Australia. But many other longtime friends were not swayed. The U.K. and France voted for the resolution, as did nearly all of Asia, including Japan, South Korea and Muslim-majority countries.

Muslim member states have been outspoken in condemning a move they held would undermine the widely accepted "two-state solution" of Israel and Palestine as two sovereign countries with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both.

"It is up to us here, in this chamber," as peace-loving nations, "the ones that must uphold the rule of law, justice and the dignity of this multilateralism," Indonesia's U.N. ambassador, Dian Triansyah Djani, told the assembly ahead of the vote. He cited resolutions asserting that the question of Jerusalem is a final-status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the two parties.

The Indonesian people put "high expectation to the United Nations and its member states, whose resolution has been blatantly violated, to make the right decision and make a strong stance against any unilateral recognition in contrary to international law," Djani said, urging countries not to follow the U.S. in moving their embassies from Tel Aviv.

The move also came under fire from Malaysia's U.N. ambassador, Dato' Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob, who argued that it has caused "dismay and frustration to a majority of member states," particularly within the Muslim world.

He expressed hope that Washington "can make a helpful contribution by rescinding its decision and shouldering its responsibility in helping to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace on the basis of the two-state solution."

Masud Bin Momen, the Bangladeshi ambassador to the U.N., cited his own country's difficulties in dealing with the refugee situation stemming from the Rohingya Muslim crisis in Myanmar. He expressed support for any call or initiative to bring closure to "protracted conflicts that continue to foment indignation, intolerance and mindless violence threatening to spare no one in the international community."

"We remain concerned over the possible grave consequences and threats to international peace and security to be inflamed" by the American decision, Momen said, which could see "new waves of tension, hostility and violent extremism in the already volatile Middle East that is likely to spill over to other parts of the world."

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