US President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that vote in favor of a draft United Nations resolution against his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
"They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us. Well, we're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don’t care," Trump told reporters at the White House.
The 193-member UN General Assembly will hold a rare emergency session on Thursday at the request of Arab and Muslim countries on the controversial US decision.
"I like the message that Nikki sent yesterday at the United Nations, for all those nations that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council, or they vote against us potentially at the assembly," Trump said, commenting on US Ambassador Nikki Haley's statement to UN member states in which she warned of possible retaliation should they support a resolution criticizing Washington's decision.
The US "will be taking names," she threatened, asserting Trump will take the vote "personally."
Haley's warning letter to most of the 193 UN member states and threatening tweet on Wednesday drew sharp criticism from the Palestinian and Turkish foreign ministers who are flying to New York for the General Assembly vote. They accused the US of intimidation.
The Palestinians sought the General Assembly vote after the United States on Monday vetoed a resolution supported by the 14 other UN Security Council members that would have required Trump to rescind his declaration on Jerusalem as Israel's capital and not move the US Embassy there.
Unlike the Security Council, assembly resolutions are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion.
In Wednesday's letter, reportedly sent to over 180 countries, Haley said the Trump administration is "simply asking that you acknowledge the historical friendship, partnership, and support we have extended and respect our decision about our own embassy."
"The president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those countries who voted against us," she wrote in the letter obtained by AP. "We will take note of each and every vote on this issue."
Her tweet was sharper: "At the UN we're always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American (people), (about) where to locate OUR embassy, we don't expect those we've helped to target us. On (Thursday) there'll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names."
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. pic.twitter.com/ZsusB8Hqt4— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) December 19, 2017
This was not the first time that Haley threatened to keep track of US opponents.
On Jan. 27, the day she arrived at the United Nations as ambassador, Haley announced a new way the United States would be doing business. The Trump administration's goal is to show US strength, speak out, and defend its allies—and as for countries opposing America, "We're taking names," she said.
The letter on the Jerusalem vote was the first time since then that Haley vowed to compile a list.
Her action recalled to some veteran UN diplomats the run-up to the Iraq war in 2002 when then US President George W. Bush launched a campaign against France and other opponents of military action who refused to support a Security Council resolution to authorize war. The resolution, which then British Prime Minister Tony Blair was pressing for and the US backed, was withdrawn by Britain because it was certain to be defeated as a result of strong council opposition.
What action the United States might take against countries that vote against Thursday's General Assembly resolution remains to be seen.
The resolution is co-sponsored by Turkey, chair of the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and Yemen, chair of the Arab Group at the UN.
Before Haley's letter and tweet, Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour told The Associated Press he expected "massive support" in the assembly.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki and Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport on Wednesday before flying to New York for Thursday's vote, that they believe UN member countries will ignore "pressure" from Haley.
Al-Maliki said he believes that on Thursday countries will vote their conscience, and "they will vote for justice, and they will vote in favor of that resolution."
"No honorable state would bow to such pressure," Cavusoglu said. "The world has changed. The belief that 'I am strong therefore I am right' has changed. The world today is revolting against injustices."
The resolution that will be put to a vote is very similar to the defeated Security Council resolution.
It reaffirms 10 Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem, dating back to 1967, including requirements that the city's final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
It "affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the holy city of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded."