Barbados was among Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries who today stood up to United States president Donald Trump by voting in support of a United Nations (UN) resolution condemning his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The resolution did not enjoy unanimous CARICOM support. However, the Freundel Stuart administration joined with more than 100 members of the world body in backing the non-binding measure that called on Trump to reverse his decision on Jerusalem, even as Washington threatened action against countries that supported the resolution.
Asked to explain why Barbados voted the way it did, Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxine McClean told Barbados TODAY this evening that it came down to a matter of principle.
“Barbados remains consistent on the matter. We have always supported a two state solution, a negotiated solution and from our perspective the [Trump] decision does not facilitate that,” she said, adding that even with the threat of sanctions now hanging over its head, she did not believe that Barbados had anything to fear.
“If you look back to where we began as an independent sovereign state in 1966 our first Prime Minister [Errol Walton Barrow] made a statement that is often referred to in which he said Barbados is a ‘friend of all and a satellite of none” said McClean.
And while pointing out that “the United States has been a friend of Barbados [and] we have supported them on several issues, she was adamant that today’s vote was not about the US.
“It was not a vote against the United States. It is a vote that is consistent with a position that we have held for a long time and we are not in the business of changing our position based on threats. We operate on the basis of principle,” she stressed.
The resolution said in part 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status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the [UN] Security Council”.
It also called upon all states “to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem”.
When the final vote was announced it became clear that no CARICOM country was in support of the US move, even though Washington got the support of Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo.
However, not all CARICOM states voted ‘yes’, with Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago among 35 countries that abstained from the crucial vote.
Trinidad and Tobago’s minister of foreign and CARICOM affairs Dennis Moses later said that the Keith Rowley administration had taken its domestic position into consideration when it voted.
Among the 128 countries that voted in favour of the resolution were Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St Vincent & the Grenadines and Suriname.
St Lucia and Haiti did not register a vote and it is not known whether they were among the 21 countries that stayed away from the UN General Assembly meeting on Thursday.
Ahead of today’s vote, the St Vincent & the Grenadines government was the only CARICOM country to publicly call on Washington “to refrain from recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel” after Trump had indicated a willingness to do so.
“Any such recognition would imperil the internationally-agreed two-state solution, destabilize the Middle East region, and invalidate the important role of the United States as an honest broker and driver of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” the Ralph Gonsalves-led administration had said in a statement.
Currently, the capital of Israel is Tel Aviv, while Jerusalem has special legal and political status.
The Gonsalves administration noted that in 1980, in response to an Israeli attempt to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, the United Nations Security Council had condemned that declaration as a violation of international law.
“The Security Council went on to state that ‘all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem . . . are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith,’ and that such actions ‘constitute . . . a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East,’ the Vincentian ministry of foreign affairs had noted in its statement.
It said that while it applauded the recent efforts by Washington “to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, we urge that such efforts focus on cessation of illegal Israeli settlement activity in Palestinian territory, the removal of impediments to movement and commerce within the State of Palestine, and the fostering of an environment of trust and goodwill that can stimulate meaningful negotiations between the parties.
“The decades of painstaking work, to say nothing of the lives lost in the conflict, demand mature, responsible and measured action.
“Accordingly, St Vincent and the Grenadines strongly urges the United States of America to acknowledge that any unilateral declaration on its part regarding the status of Jerusalem will not in any way advance the cause of a just, peaceful and lasting solution to the dispute between the peoples of Israel and Palestine,” the statement added.
Prior to Thursday’s vote, Trump had also threatened that if the UN voted against his country, the US would “save a lot”.
“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.
“We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars. We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer,” Trump said.
The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, had also warned that she would be “taking names” of those countries that voted in support of the resolution.
“The United States will remember this day, on which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.
“America will put our embassy in Jerusalem. That is what the American people want us to do and it is the right thing to do. No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that,” she added.