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UN funding threat due to illegal Israeli settlements resolution

Image of Israeli settlements under construction on Palestinian land in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2016 [Daniel Bar On/Anadolu]
Israeli settlements under construction on Palestinian land in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2016 [Daniel Bar On/Anadolu]

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is prepared to meet with US lawmakers, a UN spokeswoman said yesterday, as some US senators push to cut funding to the world body over a Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlements.

The United States abstained from the 23 December vote, allowing the 15-member Security Council to adopt the resolution with 14 votes in favour. Israel and US President-elect Donald Trump had called for Washington to wield its veto.

On Thursday, Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham introduced legislation to cut UN funding until the president certifies that the Security Council has repealed the resolution. However, the legislation stands little chance of advancing in Congress, where it would need Democrats' support and even some Republicans consider the move as too extreme.

"The secretary-general very much welcomes an opportunity to discuss any issues with US lawmakers," UN spokeswoman Eri Kaneko said. "We're always eager and available to meet with US lawmakers as needed."

She said the United Nations would closely monitor the progress of the US legislation.

The United States is the largest contributor to the United Nations, paying 22 per cent of the $5.4 billion core UN budget and 28 per cent of the $7.9 billion UN peacekeeping budget.

"We look forward, under the new administration, to the continuing strong partnership between the US and the UN especially in the three main pillars of human rights, peace and security and development," Kaneko said.

Guterres spoke with Trump earlier this month after the president-elect disparaged the world body on Twitter. The United Nations described the conversation as "a very positive discussion on US/UN relations."

During his Senate confirmation hearing this week, Trump's secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson spoke repeatedly about working with the United Nations on a variety of initiatives.

Outgoing US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said yesterday the United Nations was "not a perfect system, it's a flawed system" but that if the United States were to cut funding then the only beneficiaries would be states like Russia and China.

"If there's less US leadership at the UN it will be other countries that step in to fill the void," Power told reporters yesterday.

"We lead the world in part by leading at the UN and if we were to tie our hands behind our back, or to strip this organisation of programming…this would be extremely detrimental to US interests," Power said.

On 23 December, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that condemned illegal Israeli settlements that are widely seen as a substantial hurdle to any fair and just resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Illegal Jewish settlements are built on land claimed by the Palestinians for their future independent state, and are frequent flashpoints of settler violence against nearby Muslim and Christian Arab communities.

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