Donald Trump has threatened to withhold billions of dollars of US aid from countries which vote in favour of a United Nations resolution rejecting the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
His comments came after the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley warned member states that she will be taking names of countries that vote for a general assembly resolution on Thursday critical of the announcement which overturned decades of US foreign policy.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Trump said: Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars, he said. We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.
The warning appeared aimed largely at UN members from poorer nations in Africa and Asia who are regarded as more vulnerable to US pressure. Egypt, which drafted Monday’s UN security council resolution which the US vetoed, is particularly vulnerable receiving $1.2bn in US aid last year. But Trump’s comments may also resonate elsewhere including in the UK which is hoping to negotiate a quick post-Brexit trade deal with Washington.
Trump’s extraordinary intervention marked the latest escalation of diplomatic tensions over a decision that has seen the US both widely criticised and isolated. It came after a day of high drama around an emergency session of the UN general assembly which has been called on Thursday to discuss Trump’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem on 6 December.
In a letter to UN ambassadors, Haley told countries including European delegations that she will report back to the US president with the names of those who support a draft resolution rejecting the US move at the UN general assembly on Thursday, adding that Trump took the issue personally.
Referring to Haley’s letter, which was disclosed by the Guardian and other media organisations on Wednesday morning, Trump said: I like the message that Nikki sent yesterday at the United Nations.
Our great citizens who love this country are tired of this country being taken advantage of we’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.
In her letter, Haley wrote: As you consider your vote, I encourage you to know the president and the US take this vote personally.
The president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us, she continued.
Haley followed the letter by tweeting: “At the UN we’re always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thurs there’ll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names.”
A senior diplomat from a Muslim country said of Haley’s letter: States resort to such blatant bullying only when they know they do not have a moral or legal argument to convince others.
A senior western diplomat, described it as poor tactics at the United Nations but pretty good for Haley 2020 or Haley 2024, referring to speculation that Haley might run for higher office.
She’s not going to win any votes in the general assembly or the security council, but she is going to win some votes in the US population, the western diplomat said.
A senior European diplomat agreed Haley was unlikely to sway many UN states.
We are missing some leadership here from the US and this type of letter is definitely not helping to establish US leadership in the Middle East peace process, the diplomat said.