The world backs Palestine over status of Jerusalem

The results of the vote on Jerusalem are seen on a display board at the General Assembly hall, on December 21, 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York. (AFP)
Updated 22 December 2017
0

The world backs Palestine over status of Jerusalem

NEW YORK/AMMAN: Palestinian leaders claimed a diplomatic victory on Thursday after the UN voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution critical of the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In a rare emergency session of the General Assembly, 128 countries voted to call on the US to rescind its December 6 decision. Nine voted against, and 35 abstained. 

The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the result a “victory for Palestine,” and UN envoy Riyad Mansour described the vote as impressive. “I am happy with the result, despite all the pressure that was placed on UN member states not to support this resolution,” he told Arab News

The Palestinian ambassador to the US, Husam Zomlot, told Arab News the credibility of the UN had been at stake. “Today’s vote was more about the status of the international system and law than the status of Jerusalem,” he said.

The result of the vote is “something the Palestinians should be proud of, especially the diplomatic corps … who work diligently to secure such a vote,” Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, told Arab News.

“The vote is a triumph for the Palestinians, and will put more pressure on us to get the formal recognition of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as the capital.


“We have to try now to get the countries that do not recognize Palestine to do so, and I think that will be our basic endeavor now.”

Before the vote, Israel and the US conducted a lobbying campaign to persuade UN members states to vote against the resolution, including a threat to withdraw US aid from countries that did so. 

Nevertheless, many Western and Arab allies of the US voted for the resolution. Some who did so, such as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, are major recipients of US military or economic aid,

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, also pointed out that Washington was the biggest single contributor to the organization’s funds.

“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,” she told delegates during the debate on the resolution.

“We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations, and so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

However, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the assembly that the “Palestinian cause is still our cause,” and rejected attempts to influence the vote.

“Before this meeting, a UN member state threatened all the other members. We were all asked to vote ‘No,’ or face the consequences. Some are even threatened with development aid cuts. Such an attitude is unacceptable,” Cavusoglu said.

“We will not be intimidated. You can be strong, but this does not make you right.”

Thursday’s resolution on the status of Jerusalem was drafted by Turkey and Yemen. The US vetoed a similar resolution on Monday in the 15-member UN Security Council.

In that vote, the other 14 Security Council members supported an Egyptian resolution that expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.”

The US also plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. The UN resolution calls on all countries to refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

Under a 1950 resolution, an emergency General Assembly special session can be called “with a view to making appropriate recommendations to members for collective measures” if the Security Council cannot agree.

Only 10 such sessions have been convened. The last time the General Assembly met in these circumstances was in 2009 on occupied East Jerusalem and Palestinian territories. The vote is non-binding, but carries political weight.
 


Pope Francis gets invite to North Korea, may consider landmark trip

Updated 19 October 2018
0

Pope Francis gets invite to North Korea, may consider landmark trip

  • Any visit would be the first by a pope to the reclusive state which does not allow priests to be permanently stationed there
  • North Korea’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion as long as it does not undermine the state

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Thursday received an invitation to visit North Korea and the pontiff indicated he would consider making what would be a landmark trip to a nation known for severe restrictions on religious practice, according to South Korean officials. South Korean President Moon Jae-in relayed the invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to the pope verbally during a 35-minute meeting in the Vatican.
Any visit would be the first by a pope to the reclusive state which does not allow priests to be permanently stationed there. There is little information on how many of its citizens are Catholic, or how they practice their faith.
North Korea’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion as long as it does not undermine the state.
But beyond a handful of state-controlled places of worship — including a Catholic church in the capital of Pyongyang — no open religious activity is allowed and the authorities have repeatedly jailed foreign missionaries.
Kim told Moon, a Catholic, of his wish to meet the pontiff during a meeting last month and the South Korean leader announced before the trip that he would be relaying a message.
According to the president’s office, Francis expressed his strong support for efforts to bring peace to the Korean peninsula. Moon’s office quoted the pope as telling Moon: “Do not stop, move forward. Do not be afraid.”
Asked if Kim should send a formal invitation, Moon’s office quoted the pope as responding to Moon: “your message is already sufficient but it would be good for him to send a formal invitation.”
“I will definitely answer if I get the invitation, and I can go,” the president’s office quoted the pope as saying.
A meeting with Pope Francis would be the latest in a string of major diplomatic meetings for Kim Jong Un this year.
The two Koreas have held three summits this year. Kim also held an unprecedented summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, where the leaders promised to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
The pope is expected to visit neighboring Japan next year and the proposed North Korea visit comes as China improves relations with the Holy See.
A deal signed in September gives the Vatican a long-sought say in the choice of bishops in China, and for the first time, Beijing allowed two bishops to attend a Vatican meeting, where they invited the pope to visit China.
A Vatican statement made no mention of the verbal invitation from North Korea’s Kim.
It spoke only of “the promotion of dialogue and reconciliation between Koreans” and “the common commitment to fostering all useful initiatives to overcome the tensions that still exist in the Korean Peninsula, in order to usher in a new season of peace and development.”
Any trip to the North, however brief, could be contentious for the pope, given what the United Nations says is a record of gross and systematic human rights abuses.
Aides close to the pope have said he is open to taking what they call first steps in places where the Church has been persecuted in the hope that the situation could improve.
Church officials estimate that North Korea had a Catholic community of about 55,000 just before the 1950-53 Korean War.
Religious agencies have estimated the number remaining from the few hundreds to about 4,000.
Priests from the South occasionally visit, usually accompanying aid deliveries or humanitarian projects.