No side

Jamaica abstains from crucial UN vote on Jerusalem

Friday, December 22, 2017

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JAMAICA and the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago were among 35 countries that abstained yesterday from a vote at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to reject United States President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

There was, however, a sharp division in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) on the vexed issue as seven other regional states — Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname — joined 121 other countries that voted in favour of the resolution.

St Lucia and Haiti did not register a vote and it was not known whether they were among the 21 countries that stayed away from the UN General Assembly meeting.

The St Vincent and the Grenadines Government was the only Caricom country that had publicly called on Washington “to refrain from recognising Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel” after Trump had indicated a willingness to do so.

Jamaica's Foreign Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith could not be reached yesterday, despite several attempts by the Jamaica Observer to get a comment on the country's decision to abstain.

A statement issued by the foreign ministry said the Jamaican Government had taken note of Trump's recent announcement regarding Jerusalem's status and his Administration's intention to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

It said that, while the Government recognised the sovereign right of states to determine their relations with others, it “notes international concerns regarding the possible implications of same”.

“We unequivocally continue to hope for the attainment of peace and stability for the people of that region through continued dialogue on outstanding issues,” the foreign affairs ministry said, and reaffirmed the minister's statement during the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017.

She said then: “We continue to believe that the best solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis rests in a negotiated political settlement based on a just, lasting and comprehensive agreement that guarantees the security of Israel and provides for a Palestinian State, within internationally recognised borders.”

The Andrew Holness-led Jamaican Government was, however, chided by Opposition Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Lisa Hanna, who said Jamaica has deviated from its historical position.

Hanna, in a statement, said Jamaica has over the years maintained the rights of Israel to exist, and supported a negotiated political settlement, based on a two-state solution. In addition, she said Jamaica has over the years supported the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people and the call for a peaceful resolution of the conflict minimising human suffering and loss of life.

Following the passing of the resolution yesterday, Hanna said she recognised the significance of Jerusalem in the search for a permanent resolution to the situation in the Middle East, and that for this reason she was disappointed that Jamaica had remained neutral.

Prior to the vote, Trump had threatened to withhold billions of dollars in aid from countries which vote for the resolution.

“Let them vote against us. 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… we're not going to be taken advantage of any longer,” the US president said.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley had also written to the majority of the member states telling them that the US would be taking note of the votes.

Trump's stance flies in the face of decades of US foreign policy and global consensus that the status of Jerusalem claimed as the capital by both Israelis and Palestinians can only be settled in a peace agreement.

US allies, such as Canada and Australia, as well as five European Union states, also abstained from the vote.

Only eight states sided with the US — Nauru, Togo, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau, Honduras, Guatemala and Israel. Should Trump make good on the threat, the UN member countries that would be largely affected are those most vulnerable, such in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia.

— See related story on Page 34

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