Spotlight: U.S. finds itself isolated at UN Security Council over Jerusalem

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley attends the Security Council’s emergency meeting on the situation

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) — The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Nikki Haley, found herself isolated at Friday’s emergency meeting as 14 out of all the 15 members of the UN Security Council spoke against her country’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Haley, known for her eloquence, sounded equally fluent on Friday, but her defense of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Wednesday announcement appeared to be feeble.

“Israel, like all nations, has the right to determine its capital city. Jerusalem is the home of Israel’s parliament, president, prime minister, Supreme Court, and many of its ministries. It is simple common sense that foreign embassies be located there. In virtually every country in the world, U.S. embassies are located in the host country’s capital city. Israel should be no different,” Haley told the Security Council.

But representatives from other countries pointed out that Israel does not have sovereignty over Jerusalem.


In line with relevant Security Council resolutions, Britain regards East Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in 1967, as part of the occupied Palestinian territory, the British Ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said.

“We remain committed to an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement that is based on 1967 borders with agreed and equal land swaps, reflecting both parties’ national and religious interests; and with Jerusalem as the shared capital of an Israeli (state) and Palestinian state,” Rycroft said.

“We therefore disagree with the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and unilaterally to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final-status agreement,” Rycroft told the same meeting.

“These decisions are unhelpful to the prospects for peace in the region, an aim that I know all of us in this council remain committed to. The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it,” he said

The Swedish ambassador to the UN, Olof Skoog, said Trump’s decision is against international law and Security Council resolutions.

“We clearly disagree with the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and with the plan for a move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem,” Skoog told the emergency meeting, which was requested by his country and seven other council members.

In 1947, the United Nations attributed to Jerusalem a special legal and political status as “corpus separatum” (separated body), he noted. In 1980, when Israel attempted to declare Jerusalem as its capital, the Security Council stated in a resolution that this was a violation of international law. The council further declared that attempts to change the character and status of Jerusalem were null and void, Skoog said.

In 2016, the Security Council again stated in a resolution that it will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, he said.

“We consider Jerusalem to be the future capital of two states. We have never recognized Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and we thus consider it part of occupied territory. And we believe that the future status … of Jerusalem can only be resolved through negotiations,” he said.

Vassily Nebenzia, Moscow’s envoy to the United Nations, said Russia’s principled position remains unchanged: “East Jerusalem would become the future capital of Palestine, and West Jerusalem would be the capital of the State of Israel.”

There is no alternative to the two-state solution, he said.

Wu Haitao, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, said various Security Council resolutions contain provisions regarding the status of Jerusalem. Any unilateral action to change the current status of Jerusalem will buffet the long-existing foundation for the settlement of the question of Palestine and will trigger new confrontation and conflict in the region, he said.

“We support the establishment of a fully sovereign, independent State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This position of China will not change,” he said.


In response, Haley explained that the United States has not taken a position on boundaries or borders.

“The specific dimensions of sovereignty over Jerusalem are still to be decided by the Israelis and the Palestinians in negotiations. The United States has not advocated changing any of the arrangements at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. The president specifically called for maintaining the status quo at the holy sites,” she said at the council.

The Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, remains a major focal point of the Arab-Israeli conflict as it is located in East Jerusalem, which Palestine regards as its state capital but has been occupied by Israel since 1967.

“The United States is not predetermining final-status issues. We remain committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement. We support a two-state solution if agreed to by the parties,” Haley added.

Skoog said the U.S. decision risks, despite its stated intention, prejudging the outcome of negotiations on final-status issues such as Jerusalem, and thus threatens the peace prospect itself.

The Swedish envoy said Washington needs to match its claim to support Middle East peace with action.

“Now words need to be followed by deeds and ideas by proposals. We encourage the United States to follow up its statement with action toward a two-state solution,” he said

The two-state solution, which is recognized by the international community as the only viable solution to the conflict, is more threatened than ever, he noted.

In a joint declaration, the ambassadors of five European Union (EU) countries — Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden — called on the United States to bring forward detailed proposals for an Israel-Palestine settlement since Washington claimed to remain committed to peace in the region.

“We stand ready to contribute to all credible efforts to restart the peace process on the basis of internationally agreed parameters, leading to a two-state solution. We encourage the U.S. administration to now bring forward detailed proposals for an Israel-Palestinian settlement,” the declaration issued at the conclusion of the Security Council meeting read.

Except Germany, all the other four EU countries are siting on the Security Council.

“The status of Jerusalem must be determined through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians leading to a final-status agreement. It is a constant position of EU members that within this framework, Jerusalem should ultimately be the capital of both Israeli and Palestinian states. Until then, we recognize no sovereignty over Jerusalem,” the ambassadors said.

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