The United States stood alone on Friday as one after another fellow UN Security Council members criticised its decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
The debate unfolded at a largely symbolic emergency meeting of the council — no vote on a resolution was planned, as the US has veto power — two days after President Donald Trump reversed two decades of US policy on the holy city.
The meeting was convened by no fewer than eight of the 14 non-US members of the council. This seemed a vivid show of the discord triggered by Trump's announcement, which included plans to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Asked what he expected to come from the UN meeting, one diplomat said: “Nothing.” Another said the session would show the US “isolation” on the issue.
The British ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said flat out that Britain disagrees with Trump's move on Jerusalem and the embassy location. “These decisions are unhelpful for the prospects for peace in the region,” Rycroft said.
He urged Trump to now come up with detailed proposals for an Israel-Palestinian peace accord, a goal which has eluded the US and the international community for decades.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the most hotly contested issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel seised control of the east of the city in 1967 and later annexed it in moves never recognised by the international community.
'Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital to advance peace'
The United States ambassador to the United Nations said President Donald Trump knew his decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital would raise “questions and concerns” but took it to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Nikki Haley told the emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that the US is more committed to peace “than we've ever been before and we believe we might be closer to that goal than ever before.”
She said the Trump administration has been working on a new peace plan, but Haley gave no details.
Haley said that in his reversal of US foreign policy, Trump was simply recognising reality, since the Israeli government and parliament are located in Jerusalem.
And she recalled that Trump insists his decision has no impact on whatever Israelis and Palestinians ultimately decide on boundaries and borders of the city, which is holy to Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
“I understand the concerns that members have in calling this session,” Haley said. “Change is hard,“ she added.
She noted that past Israeli-Palestinian agreements have been signed on the White House lawn, and if there is a new agreement there is “a good likelihood” it will be signed there as well “because the United States has the credibility of both sides.”
Haley urged all countries “to temper statements and actions in the days ahead,” saying anyone who used Trump's announcement as a pretext for violence would show that they were “unfit partners for peace.”
Earlier, the UN's Mideast envoy called for urgent international efforts to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, warning that if the conflict isn't resolved “it risks being engulfed in the vortex of religious radicalism throughout the Middle East.”
Nickolay Mladenov told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that there is a risk of escalating violence following US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and “a serious risk” of “a chain of unilateral actions” that would push the goal of peace further away.
He pointed to clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces and some calls for a new intifada, or uprising. Mladenov reiterated UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' words that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be resolved through direct negotiations and that “there is no Plan B to the two-state solution”.
'US Jerusalem move 'not in line' with UN resolutions'
US President Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is “not in line” with the UN Security Council resolutions and is “unhelpful,” five European countries said on Friday.
The UN envoys from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden also said the move was “unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region,” in a joint statement issued after emergency Security Council talks on the issue.