By Ava Turnquest
WHILE making clear that the country had not been “bullied” into submission, Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield yesterday explained the Bahamas’ abstention from voting on a controversial United Nations (UN) resolution against a decision made by US President Donald Trump, saying it was simply in the “best interest of our country”.
On Thursday, an emergency vote at the UN General Assembly saw a huge majority reject America’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The UN vote follows pointed threats from US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who warned Washington would “take note” of countries that “disrespected” America by not supporting their recognition. Ms Haley suggested offending countries could see their US funding slashed as a result.
To this, Mr Henfield said: “We’re not going to be bullied by anyone, we’re a sovereign country.”
Noting The Bahamas’ position on the longstanding Middle Eastern conflict, Mr Henfield underscored while The Bahamas has never recognised Palestine as a sovereign state, it has always commended a two-state solution as a means of peace.
“Every sovereign state can determine and declare where they will put their mission, an embassy,” Mr Henfield said.
“We didn’t see the need to interfere with the Americans’ decision to put their embassy in Jerusalem. Abstention doesn’t mean agree or disagree, what we must do is contextualise that a resolution is just a resolution and you may not agree with all the contents of the resolution before you. And so you have to contextualise everything and determine what’s in the best interest of our country.”
In all only nine countries – including the United States and Israel – voted against the resolution alongside Togo, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands, Guatemala and Honduras. One hundred and twenty-eight countries voted in favour of it.
“Twenty-two of the EU 28 countries voted for the resolution,” the UK Guardian noted, “including the UK and France. Germany – which in the past has abstained on measures relating to Israel – also voted in favour.”
Thirty-five countries abstained, including five EU states and Canada – which Palestinian officials had expected would support the US position. Ambassadors from several abstaining countries, including Mexico, used their time on the podium to criticise President Trump’s unilateral move.
“Another 21 delegations were absent from the vote, suggesting Trump’s warning over funding cuts and Israel’s lobbying may have had some effect,” the UK Guardian noted.
Mr Trump sent shockwaves through the international community earlier this month when he recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The US move defies an existing UN resolution over the status of Jerusalem, which states the matter can only be settled as an agreed final issue in a peace deal.
Jerusalem is claimed as a capital by both Israel and Palestine, and according to international reports, the latter country has termed America’s move as an abdication of its role as mediator in the conflict.