Saturday 17 August, 2019

Holness explains why Jamaica 'sat on the fence' during Jerusalem vote

Prime Minister Andrew Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has sought to explain the reason why Jamaica abstained from the controversial United Nations vote last December in which the United States threatened to withhold aid from nations that voted against US President Donald Trump’s decision to declare all of Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nicky Haley made the threat as the US attempted to coerce countries to not back a UN resolution on December 22 last year that effectively ruled Trump’s Jerusalem declaration null and void.

However, when the votes were cast, 128 nations voted ‘yes’, nine voted ‘no’ while 35, including Jamaica abstained.

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When he was asked on Wednesday why Jamaica sat on the fence, Holness offered this explanation: “Jamaica was one of several countries in the Caribbean region that abstained. From our perspective, from a diplomatic perspective Jamaica did not need to take a position on another country’s position on where they would want to see (a capital located). So from our perspective this was not an issue that Jamaica should take a position on.”

As to the US position to only offer aid to those who support the country, Holness said: “Generally speaking Jamaica conducts its foreign policy on principle. We are not conducting foreign policy for aid or special benefits.”

He was speaking at Jamaica House during a joint news conference involving the United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who was in the island on a very short state visit.

For his part, Tillerson reiterated the position of the United States that it will support countries that are aligned with its values.

“We need to undertake a re-examination of how the United States provides aid around the world globally and not just for this particular issue but more broadly in terms of, if we provide significant assistance to countries, are these countries going to align with our values? Are these countries going to align with what we believe are ways to make the world a safer, more prosperous place?” Tillerson argued.

He reasoned that maybe it was time for the United States Government to “think about the generosity of the American people because this is the American people’s money that’s being provided to others and what should the expectation be around what are we supporting?”

While Jamaica abstained from the mainly symbolic, non-binding vote in December, the Caribbean states of Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines backed the motion.

Among those abstaining were Antigua and Barbuda, Haiti, Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Of note is that the tiny nation of Dominica, that was ravaged by the passage of the category 5 Hurricane Maria last September, and was in need of international assistance, went against the wishes of the United States.

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