Trump Administration Votes Against UN Budget, Citing Israel, Iran Disputes

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The Trump administration made what may be its final stand against the status quo at the United Nations, voting Thursday against the world body’s annual budget over disagreements on a conference that it considers anti-Israel and on Iran sanctions.

The U.S. and Israel voted against the $3.2 billion budget for 2021, while 168 members voted in favor of it. The budget is traditionally approved by consensus, and over the past three years the U.S. supported the annual funding even as President Donald Trump complained that other nations weren’t contributing enough and his administration withdrew from UN bodies it considered anti-American or anti-Israel.

The latest budget reflects “an accommodation that extends a shameful legacy of hate, anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias,” U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft said in a statement explaining the vote. “The United States rejects this effort and called for this vote to make clear that we stand by our principles, stand up for what is right, and never accept consensus for consensus’s sake.”

The U.S objected in particular to funding allocated for a follow-up event to the Durban Conference -- a 2001 anti-racism conference held in South Africa that was harshly critical of Israel -- as well as the lack of support for a U.S. effort to re-establish a team of experts within the UN to monitor sanctions on Iran, which the U.S. claims have been snapped back into place despite UN disagreement.

Under Trump, the U.S. has repeatedly clashed with the UN and its organizations, quitting the World Health Organization and angering Security Council members with its effort to kill what remains of the multinational Iran nuclear accord.

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to reverse the go-it-alone approach by returning to the WHO, seeking to repair the Iran deal and rejoining the Paris climate accord.

Diplomats said the budget negotiations became more politically charged than usual this year as the clock ticked down and negotiations failed to produce a consensus as Trump enters his final weeks in office.

“As a firm believer in the United Nations, the United States is, and has always been, the largest and most reliable partner of the United Nations,” Craft said, noting that the U.S. provides 25% of all peacekeeping expenditures and more than $9 billion a year “in support of humanitarian operations.” She said the U.S. will continue to “properly implement the budget,” ensuring efficiency and effectiveness.

Durban Conference

The vote marks only the second time the U.S. decided to move against the consensus approval of the UN budget by calling for a vote. In 2007, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad voted against the budget in a 142-1 tally, also due to objections over funding for a follow-up to the Durban conference.

The U.S. and Israel walked out of the 2001 conference in Durban because of attacks on Israel, including a draft document that sought to equate Zionism with racism.

Volkan Bozkir of Turkey, the current president of the UN General Assembly, said in a tweet on Tuesday that he was “concerned and disappointed” that the budget hadn’t yet been approved.

The UN “has a responsibility to address the pressing challenges we are facing because of the pandemic,” he wrote. “If Member States fail to reach agreement, the consequences for UN work will be dire.”

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