Delegates Stress Final Status Talks in Determining Holy City’s Fate, as United States Calls Action Defence of Peace Process Role
Due to a veto cast by the United States today, the Security Council failed to adopt a draft resolution that would have called upon all States to refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.
Rejected by a vote of 14 in favour to 1 against (United States), the draft would have stressed that Jerusalem was a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions. It would also have demanded that all States comply with Council decisions on the issue, and express deep regret over recent decisions in that regard.
In addition, the draft resolution would have reiterated calls to reverse “negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two‑State solution”, and for intensified and accelerated efforts to realize a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
The meeting began at 12:24 p.m. and ended at 1:56 p.m.
Action on Draft Resolution
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), speaking before the vote, said his delegation had submitted the draft as a matter of urgency after the 6 December decision by the United States. It was critical to establish that such decisions had no legal standing and were null and void, he said, emphasizing that international law must be respected lest chaos ensue. Any attempts to change facts on the ground, and other such unilateral actions pre‑empting the resolution of final status issues, should be opposed as being in violation of many Council resolutions as well the United Nations Charter, which did not allow the annexation of territory, he stressed.
ELBIO OSCAR ROSSELLI FRIERI (Uruguay) reaffirmed the special status of Jerusalem under Council resolution 181 (1947), emphasizing that its final status must be resolved through bilateral negotiations. Any decision on Jerusalem by a third State would affect the peace process, he cautioned, explaining that that was the reason his delegation would vote in favour of the draft.
The Council then took action on the draft resolution, but did not adopt it, as the representative of the United States cast a negative vote.
NIKKI R. HALEY (United States), speaking after the vote, explained that she had cast the veto in defence of her country’s role in the peace process. The President of the United States had taken care not to prejudge final status negotiations, including boundaries in Jerusalem, a position that was in line with previous Council resolutions, she said. He also supported the status quo on holy sites and the two‑State solution. Emphasizing that the United States had not harmed the peace process, she said it had the courage to recognize a fundamental reality, and the sovereign right to decide where to put its embassy. Describing the accusation that her country was setting the peace process back as scandalous, she said that a peace process that could be damaged simply by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was not a peace process. Today, the Council had witnessed an insult that would not be forgotten, she said, adding that the United Nations was doing more harm than good for the cause of peace. For those reasons, and in the best interests of both peoples firmly in mind, the United States had voted “no”, she said.
MATTHEW JOHN RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said the status of Jerusalem should be solved through negotiations between the two sides, and the city should be the capital of both Israel and Palestine. The United Kingdom disagreed with the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he said, adding that the decision had no legal affect. President Trump had acknowledged that the status of Jerusalem should be the subject of negotiations between the parties, and he encouraged the United States to provide detailed proposals for a settlement, emphasizing that any peace effort must take the people into account.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the draft confirmed the international consensus on Jerusalem and translated it into international law. The decision by the President of the United States did not modify the foundation of any peace agreement, and in the absence of such agreement, France did not recognize any sovereignty over Jerusalem, he emphasized. All decisions aimed at altering the city’s status were considered null and void, and today’s vote expressed the will of 14 Council members to reaffirm the validity of international law. Expressing hope that the United States would return to the international consensus, he warned that there was a risk of converting a political conflict into a religious one, from which only the radicals would gain. Jerusalem was key for peace, he stressed.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal) said he had voted in favour of the draft because the Holy City was a symbol for the three Abrahamic religions, and the international consensus on its status must be preserved. He called for strict respect for the status quo in accordance with Security Council resolutions dating back to resolution 181 (1947). He also appealed to the parties to exercise restraint, avoid raising tensions, and progress to negotiations on the basis of previous agreements, praising previous efforts by the United States to encourage them.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said that, as much as his delegation supported Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, it also supported the right of Palestinians to self‑determination. Jerusalem was a final status issue to be determined in negotiations towards just and lasting peace in the form of the two‑State solution, he said, emphasizing that the recent decision underscored the urgent need to ease tensions, remove obstacles and progress towards direct negotiations.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said he had voted in favour of the draft because unilateral actions in the current environment risked raising tensions and setting back the possibilities for negotiations towards the two‑State solution that the Russian Federation supported. The status of Jerusalem and a lasting solution could only be established on the basis of strict international law, he emphasized. Pledging that his country would continue its efforts for peace, he reiterated its proposal to host a summit on the matter, maintaining that the Russian Federation could be an effective broker for peace since it had not interfered in regional affairs as other actors had done. The Russian Federation’s proposal for a comprehensive review of the situation in the entire Middle East should also be heeded, he added.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said he had voted in favour of the text because Jerusalem was a final status issue and, as a city holy to three religions, its special character, recognized in Council resolutions, must be respected. The European Union also had a firm position on those issues, he added. Today’s action did not alter Jerusalem’s status in international agreements, and it was critical that all international actors now work to accelerate efforts to restart negotiations towards a just and lasting two‑State solution, he stressed.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) said the draft reaffirmed principles enshrined in previous Council resolutions. Jerusalem’s status as the future capital of two States was subject to negotiations between Israel and Palestine. The United States could play a crucial role in that regard, and Italy looked forward to proposals for a settlement. Expressing deep concern about increased tensions, he condemned rocket attacks against Israel and called upon all actors to exercise restraint.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said Jerusalem was a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations. Encouraged by the draft’s reaffirmation that forcible acquisition of territory was inadmissible, he said Ukraine knew only too well the consequences arising from violation of that principle. Given the highly sensitive nature of Jerusalem for all involved, Ukraine hoped the current escalation could be contained.
WU HAITAO (China) said the Palestinian issue was at the core of conflict in the Middle East, and the question of Jerusalem was particularly complicated and sensitive. Recalling the many stipulations contained in Council resolutions on Jerusalem, he said today’s draft was a continuation of past texts. China supported a sovereign State of Palestine within the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said, urging the United Nations to strengthen efforts to restart negotiations in order to realize a just and lasting settlement.
PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) reaffirmed that Jerusalem’s final status should be resolved through negotiations, emphasizing that any action seeking to alter its status was null and void, without effect. Calling upon the Government of the United States to reconsider, he said its decision would undermine efforts to reach a long‑term solution and was in flagrant violation of previous Council resolutions.
BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) said his country’s position remained unchanged, and urged the parties to respect Jerusalem’s status. It was necessary to identify mutually acceptable principles for the resumption of peace negotiations, he said, urging Israel and the Palestinians to take concrete steps towards the two‑State solution.
KORO BESSHO (Japan), Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity, emphasizing that Jerusalem’s final status was among issues to be resolved through negotiations. While noting the importance of the United States President’s clear acknowledgement that the final status of Jerusalem must be subject to negotiations between the parties, he expressed concern about the possibility of a worsening situation surrounding the Middle East peace process, and stressed the importance of the parties committing to meaningful progress in that regard.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, thanked all Council members who had recognized the urgency of the matter. They had clearly reaffirmed the international consensus on Jerusalem by determining that recent decisions contravening relevant resolutions had no legal effect, he said. Describing the city as his people’s political, religious and cultural capital, he said Palestinian heritage was intimately woven into Jerusalem. Appealing to all States not to establish diplomatic missions in the city, he rejected arguments by Israel and the one State standing in opposition to the rest of the world on the matter.
It was reprehensible that the United States had chosen to disregard international law and undermine its own role in any future peace process, he continued. Affirming that East Jerusalem was the capital of the State of Palestine, as recognized by the majority of States, he called upon all peace-loving nations to stand firm for the rule of law on that issue and to reject Israel’s settlement policies. Palestinians would never accept occupation as a permanent reality, he stressed. “Those who want peace do not recognize illegal actions and measures but rather recognize the rights of the Palestinian people as enshrined in international law.”
DANNY DANON (Israel) said the United Nations had taken another step backwards today, following resolution 2334 (2016), which had tried to designate Israel’s presence at Judaism’s holiest sites as violations of international law. That text had “pierced the hearts of Jews everywhere,” he said, noting that those who had voted in favour of today’s draft had only reaffirmed the decades‑long double standard of the United Nations. Every country but Israel had the right to designate its own capital city, he noted, describing the current crisis as merely another one manufactured by the Palestinians in order to sabotage negotiations, as they had done every time there was a possibility for a settlement, starting with resolution 181 in 1947.
He went on to state that President Trump had merely stated a fact by recognizing that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, something that Jews had maintained since 3,000 years ago, when King David established it as their capital. Many adversaries had sought to delegitimize the Jewish presence in Jerusalem, but the connection with the people had never been broken, and would never be broken, he vowed. Recalling that Jews were denied access to the Western Wall as recently as 50 years ago, he said Jerusalem under a sovereign Israel was now freer and more open to people of all religions than it had ever been at any time in history, pledging that it would remain so.