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Mum on Trump - Jamaica abstains as seven CARICOM states reject US position on Jerusalem

Published:Friday | December 22, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
People gather at the General Assembly, prior to a vote, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters. President Donald Trump's threat to cut off U.S. funding to countries that oppose his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital has raised the stakes in Thursday's U.N. vote and sparked criticism of his tactics, with one Muslim group calling it bullying or blackmail. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Seven of 15 nations within CARICOM yesterday joined an overwhelming majority of United Nations (UN) member states in defying threats from the Donald Trump administration and voting in favour of a resolution urging the United States (US) to rescind a controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

But while Barbados, Belize, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana, Grenada and Suriname threw their support behind the UN resolution, Jamaica was among other members of CARICOM to abstain.

Those other regional countries are Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago.

St Kitts and Nevis, and St Lucia did not show up for the vote.

Prior to the vote, Trump, the US president, had issued a warning that the US would take keen note of the vote and withhold aid from those states who found favour with the resolution.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, had also sent a veiled threat to countries who did not side with Washington, indicating that the US would remember those states that "disrespected" America by supporting the resolution.

"The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in this assembly," Haley said just ahead of the vote.

"We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world's largest contribution to the UN and when other member nations ask Washington to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit."

However, despite the warning, 128 members of the UN General Assembly registered strong positions by voting in favour of the resolution. This effectively means that these UN member states support the view of many countries that the status of Jerusalem should be settled through a peace deal. At present, both Israel and the Palestinians have claimed Jerusalem as their capital. Seven countries, including Guatemala and Honduras, sided with the US and Israel to reject the resolution, while a total of 35 countries abstained.

Amid suggestions that the Andrew Holness administration had acted in fear of the Americans' threat, a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade failed to give any clear explanation for why Jamaica abstained from the vote.

The foreign affairs ministry release instead indicated that the Government had taken note of the recent announcement by Trump that the US would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The US had said it would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

"The Government recognises the sovereign right of states to determine their relations with others, but notes international concerns regarding the possible implications of same," the statement read.

"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 ministry has reaffirmed a September 2017 statement by portfolio minister Kamina Johnson Smith, saying: "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."

Gleaner columnist John Rapley, political economist at the University of Cambridge, argued yesterday that efforts by the US to pressure governments to vote against the resolution mustered only thin support.

"Not only does this reveal the US government's diplomatic isolation on this issue, but having issued threats that didn't have their desired effect, Washington may have eroded some of its soft power unnecessarily," reasoned Rapley, noting that "this will only bolster the position of those governments which would seek to undercut American influence in foreign affairs".