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US blocks former Palestinian PM from leading UN mission in Libya

US ambassador to UN Nikki Haley rejects choice of Salam Fayyad as Libya peace broker and says UN “biased to the detriment of our allies”

world Updated: Feb 11, 2017 21:51 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press
United Nations
Palestinian,PM,prime minister
Salam Fayyad served as the Palestinian prime minister from 2007-2013.(Reuters file)

The United States on Friday blocked the appointment of the former Palestinian prime minister to lead the UN political mission in Libya, saying it was acting to support its ally Israel.

US ambassador Nikki Haley said the Trump administration “was disappointed” to see that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had sent a letter to the Security Council indicating his intention to appoint Salam Fayyad, who served as the Palestinian authority’s prime minister from 2007-2013, as the next UN special representative to Libya.

“For too long, the UN has been unfairly biased in favour of the Palestinian authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel,” Haley said.

Palestine is a non-member observer state at the United Nations and its independence has been recognised by 137 of the 193 UN member nations. But Haley said the United States doesn’t currently recognise a Palestinian state “or support the signal” Fayyad’s appointment would send within the United Nations.

UN diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private, said Fayyad is well-respected for his work in reforming the Palestinian authority and spurring its economy and had the support of the 14 other Security Council members to succeed Martin Kobler in the Libya job.

Despite opposition to Fayyad, Haley indicated that the Trump administration wants to see an end to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We encourage the two sides to come together directly on a solution,” she said.

Haley’s statement came ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled meeting at the White House with President Donald Trump on February 15, and was welcomed by Israelis.

“This is the beginning of a new era at the UN, an era where the US stands firmly behind Israel against any and all attempts to harm the Jewish State,” Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon said of the US decision to block Fayyad’s appointment.

“The new administration proved once again that it stands firmly alongside the state of Israel in the international arena and in the UN in particular.”

The new US ambassador made clear that “going forward, the United States will act, not just talk, in support of our allies.”

But Trump also indicated in comments to an Israeli newspaper on Friday that there might be some difficult discussions with Netanyahu next week on Israel’s settlement expansion. The US leader was quoted as saying that Israel’s settlement expansion in land claimed by the Palestinians does not advance peace.

Israel’s settlement building has been a key obstacle to the revival of stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Most of the international community considers all Israeli settlements in territory the Palestinians want for a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal and counterproductive to peace.

First Published: Feb 11, 2017 15:50 IST