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President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that back a UN resolution opposing the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as he took the step amid international criticism.

The president told reporters at the White House: “They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us.

“Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

Donald Trump’s comments come ahead of a UN General Assembly vote on a resolution opposing any recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The draft resolution does not mention the United States, but says any decisions on Jerusalem should be canceled.

Earlier, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warned member states that President Donald Trump had asked her to report on “who voted against us” on December 21.

The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, previously occupied by Jordan, in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Image source Flickr

Jerusalem Issue: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Expects EU Countries to Follow US Recognition

Donald Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement Sparks Protests in Occupied West Bank

Donald Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement Sparks Outrage in Arab World

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognized internationally, and all countries currently maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. However, President Trump has told the US state department to start work on moving the US embassy.

The 193-member UN General Assembly will hold a rare emergency special session on December 21 at the request of Arab and Muslim states, who condemned President Trump’s decision to reverse decades of US policy earlier this month.

The Palestinians called for the meeting after the US vetoed a Security Council resolution, which affirmed that any decisions on the status of Jerusalem were “null and void and must be rescinded”, and urged all states to “refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the holy city”.

The other 14 members of the Security Council voted in favor of the draft, but Ambassador Nikki Haley described it as an “insult”.

The non-binding resolution put forward by Turkey and Yemen for the General Assembly vote mirrors the vetoed Security Council draft.

The Palestinian permanent observer at the UN, Riyad Mansour, said he hoped there would be “overwhelming support” for the resolution.

However, on December 19, Nikki Haley warned in a letter to dozens of member states that encouraged them to “know that the president and the US take this vote personally”.

According to journalists who were shown the letter, Nikki Haley wrote: “The president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those countries who voted against us. We will take note of each and every vote on this issue.”

“The president’s announcement does not affect final status negotiations in any way, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem,” she added.

“The president also made sure to support the status quo of Jerusalem’s holy sites.”

Nikki Haley also tweeted: “At the UN we’re always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thurs there’ll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names.”

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, accused the US of intimidation.

Mevlut Cavusoglu told a joint news conference in Ankara on December 20 before travelling to New York: “We see that the United States, which was left alone, is now resorting to threats. No honorable, dignified country would bow down to this pressure.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin is to hold rare talks with President Barack Obama to outline his proposals on the Syrian conflict which is at the centre of intense diplomatic activity in New York, where world leaders are attending the UN General Assembly.

The Russians are a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Western leaders have recently softened their stance towards him – conceding that he might be able to stay on during a political transition.

In his opening remarks at the summit, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court, saying there can be no impunity for “atrocious crimes”.

Ban Ki-moon said five countries – Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran – were key to finding a political solution, but unless they could compromise it would be “futile” to expect change on the ground.

Earlier, Moscow suggested there were plans to form an international contact group including all the countries Ban Ki-moon mentioned plus Egypt.Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama Syria talks

The morning session at the UN is hearing from Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, as well as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and French President Francois Hollande, whose country has just carried out its first air strikes against Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria.

The threat of ISIS extremists and the flow of Syrian refugees to Europe has added urgency to the search for a deal to end the civil war.

Vladimir Putin has reiterated his support for Bashar al-Assad, who Western countries and the Syrian opposition have said must go.

The Russian president, who has strongly reinforced Russia’s military presence in Syria, has called for a regional “coordinating structure” against ISIS, and said the Syrian president’s troops were “the only legitimate conventional army there”.

Vladimir Putin said Russia would not participate in any troop operations in Syria.

Relations between Russia and the West have been strained over Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula last year and its support for separatist rebels in Ukraine’s east.

Vladimir Putin will also meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Cuban President Raul Castro on the sidelines of the assembly, the Kremlin was quoted as saying by Reuters.

President Hassan Rouhani – a key regional ally of Bashar al-Assad – says the government in Damascus “can’t be weakened” if ISIS militants are to be defeated.

Secretary of State John Kerry, however, said the efforts were “not yet coordinate” and the US had “concerns about how we are going to go forward”.


In a speech in front of the world’s leaders at the United Nations in New York, Pope Francis has urged them to respect humanity’s “right to the environment”.

The pontiff also called on financial agencies not to subject countries to “oppressive lending systems” that worsen poverty.

In an allusion to the Church’s teachings on s**ual minorities, Pope Francis called for respect for the “natural difference between man and woman”.

Pope Francis went on to visit the 9/11 memorial for a multi-faith service.

He said the universe was “the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator” and that humanity “is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it.”

The Pope also said he hoped a forthcoming summit on climate change in Paris would produce a “fundamental and effective agreement”.

In a wide-ranging speech, Pope Francis addressed topics including girls’ education drug trafficking, and welcomed the deal between Iran and world powers on its nuclear deal, calling it “proof of the potential of political goodwill”.

Earlier, he addressed UN staff after being greeted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, telling them their roles were very important.

“Thank you for all you do… I bless each one of you from my heart. I will pray for you and your families,” the Pope said.

“I ask each of you to remember to pray for me. If anyone is not a believer, I ask you to wish me well.”

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Later on Friday Pope Francis will visit a school in the heavily Hispanic neighborhood of East Harlem.

About 80,000 are expected to watch the procession as Pope Francis makes his way to Mass at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.

Nearly 20,000 are set to attend the service at the major sporting and concert arena.

Thousands lined Fifth Avenue on September 24 as Pope Francis made his way to St Patrick’s Cathedral for evening prayers.

The Pope arrived in New York from Washington, where he delivered the first-ever papal address to the US Congress.

In the speech, he urged a humane response to refugees, an end to the death penalty and better treatment of the poor and disadvantaged.

Next Pope Francis will go to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he will speak in front of Independence Hall and have Mass at a Catholic families’ rally.

North Korea will be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face charges of crimes against humanity.

The UN General Assembly voted the resolution with 116 to 20, with more than 50 abstentions.

The UN Security Council is expected to discuss the resolution on December 22, but it is likely to face stiff opposition from China and Russia.

North Korea said the resolution was “a product of political plot and confrontation”.

A UN report released in February revealed ordinary North Koreans faced “unspeakable atrocities”.

The report detailed wide-ranging abuses in North Korea after a panel heard evidence of torture, political repression and other abuses.North Korea ICC charges

It added that those accused of political crimes were “disappeared” to prison camps, where they were subject to “deliberate starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide”.

Most of the evidence came from North Korean defectors who had fled the country.

North Korea refused to co-operate with the report and condemned its findings.

The report led to a vote in the UN’s human rights committee last month, which voted in favor of referring North Korea to the ICC.

China, North Korea’s main international ally, is expected to veto any Security Council resolution when the matter is discussed next week.

On December 18, the General Assembly also passed resolutions condemning the human rights records of Syria and Iran, but did not go as far as recommending a referral to the ICC.


Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York, President Barack Obama has urged the world to help dismantle the Islamic State’s (ISIS) “network of death”.

Meanwhile US warplanes stepped up air strikes against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria.

“There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil,” Barack Obama said.

The US president said more than 40 countries had offered to join the anti-IS coalition. ISIS aims to set up a hardline caliphate.

The well-armed Sunni Muslim militants have seized a huge swathe of Syria and Iraq, forcing whole communities to flee in terror. They have beheaded Western hostages and have persecuted Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims, whom they treat as heretics.

US warplanes hit ISIS vehicles and arms dumps in new air strikes, the US military’s Central Command said.

Eight ISIS vehicles were damaged near Abu Kamal on the Syria-Iraq border, and two others in Deir al-Zour in the east of Syria, the statement said.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York, President Barack Obama has urged the world to help dismantle the ISIS network of death

Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York, President Barack Obama has urged the world to help dismantle the ISIS network of death (photo Reuters)

In Iraq there were strikes on IS targets west of Baghdad and southeast of Irbil, near Kurdish territory.

Earlier there were air strikes on ISIS near the border with Turkey.

“The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force,” Barack Obama said.

The US “will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death,” he told the UN.

“In this effort, we do not act alone. Nor do we intend to send US troops to occupy foreign lands. Instead, we will support Iraqis and Syrians fighting to reclaim their communities. We will use our military might in a campaign of air strikes to roll back ISIL [ISIS].

“We will train and equip forces fighting against these terrorists on the ground. We will work to cut off their financing, and to stop the flow of fighters into and out of the region. Already, over 40 nations have offered to join this coalition. Today, I ask the world to join in this effort.”

Barack Obama urged Muslims to reject the ideology of ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Syrian activists reported air strikes around the Kurdish town of Kobane near Turkey, which has been besieged by ISIS fighters for several days.

Witnesses saw two military aircraft approaching from Turkey but Turkish officials denied its airspace or bases had been used in the attack.

The US-led coalition expanded its raids against IS into Syria on Monday. The US said Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar had all “participated in or supported” the strikes.

However, the aerial bombardment near Kobane, which happened at about 01:00 local time, has not been confirmed by the US or any coalition member.

Turkish military sources said neither its air force nor the US airbase at Incirlik in southern Turkey had been used.

The US has launched nearly 200 air strikes against ISIS in Iraq since August.

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Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has criticized the US over allegations it carried out electronic espionage.

Speaking at the opening of this year’s UN General Assembly, Dilma Rousseff said Brazil would adopt legislation and technology to protect itself from illegal intercepts.

She called Washington’s argument that spying on Brazil was to protect nations from terrorists “untenable”.

Earlier this month, the Brazilian president cancelled a planned visit to Washington.

Dilma Rousseff told the assembled leaders that Brazil had been a target of intrusions and intercepts carried out by a “global network of electronic espionage”.

She said that “corporate information – often of high economic and even strategic value – was at the centre of espionage activities”.

Dilma Rousseff said such tampering with another country’s affairs was an “affront to the principles that must guide the relations among friendly nations”.

Her speech came a week after she called off a high-profile visit to the United States after a string of allegations about the extent of the US spying programme emerged.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has criticized the US over allegations it carried out electronic espionage

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has criticized the US over allegations it carried out electronic espionage

Dilma Rousseff rejected arguments put forward by the US that the illegal interception of information was aimed at protecting nations against terrorism.

“Brazil, Mr. President, knows how to protect itself,” she said.

“We face, Mr. President, a situation of a grave violation of human rights and civil liberties; of invasion and capture of confidential information concerning corporate activities, and especially of disrespect to national sovereignty,” Dioma Rousseff added.

The allegations of widespread espionage against Brazilian citizens were first published in July by Rio de Janeiro-based journalist Glenn Greenwald, a reporter for the British Guardian newspaper.

Glenn Greenwald alleged that the NSA accessed all internet content that Dilma Rousseff had visited online.

Earlier this month, another report by Glenn Greenwald alleged that the NSA had also illegally accessed data from Brazil’s state oil company, Petrobras.

Petrobras is due next month to carry out an important auction for exploration rights of an oil field off the Rio de Janeiro state coast.

Dilma Rousseff said that her government would “do everything within its reach to defend the human rights of all Brazilians and to protect the fruits borne from the ingenuity of our workers and our companies”.

Brazil’s leader asked the UN to play a leading role in regulating electronic technology and said Brazil would present proposals for a “civilian multilateral framework” for the governance and use of the internet and to protect web-based data.

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President Barack Obama has said recent moves by Iran should offer the basis for a “meaningful agreement” on its nuclear programme.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting, Barack Obama said words now had to be “matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable”.

The US leader recently exchanged letters with his newly-elected counterpart over the nuclear issue.

Barack Obama also called for a strong UN resolution on Syria’s chemical arms.

He said the purpose of such a resolution should be “to verify that the [Bashar al-Assad’s] regime is keeping its commitments” to remove or destroy its chemical weapons.

The deal for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons by mid-2014 was agreed earlier this month between the US and Russia, averting a possible Western military strike.

Differences have since emerged over whether the deal should be enforced by a UN Security Council resolution under Chapter VII of the organization’s charter, which would authorize sanctions and the use of force if Syria did not comply with its obligations.

Opening the UN summit on Tuesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the Syrian government must “fully and quickly honor” its obligations under the deal.

“The international community must bring to justice the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, confirmed unequivocally by the UN investigation mission,” he said.

On Iran, Barack Obama said the US wanted to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully, but was determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly's annual meeting, Barack Obama urged for diplomatic push on Iran nuclear programme

Speaking at the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting, Barack Obama urged for diplomatic push on Iran nuclear programme

“The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested” he said, adding that he had urged his Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue a deal.

“Iran’s genuine commitment to go down a different path will be good for the region and the world,” Barack Obama said.

Iran insists it is a peaceful programme, but Western countries suspect it of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon.

Iran’s new President, Hassan Rouhani, has said he wants to present his country’s “true face”.

A meeting between Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani – the first such encounter since the 1979 revolution – has not been ruled out.

There is also speculation that he and Barack Obama may shake hands on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

On Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will discuss its nuclear programme with John Kerry and other diplomats.

A foreign ministry spokeswoman in Tehran said the meeting represented the “beginning for nuclear talks in the new era”.

The meeting will be attended by foreign ministers from the other four permanent UN Security Council members – the UK, China, France and Russia – and also Germany, which make up the so-called P5+1.

Hassan Rouhani has said he is ready to restart stalled nuclear talks without preconditions.

Western ministers will want to see an Iranian willingness to make concessions on its nuclear programme if there is to be any lifting or lightening of UN and Western sanctions.

Iran for its part will want a clear indication that the US is willing to treat Iran with the respect it believes it deserves as a significant regional player.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, met Javad Zarif on Monday and described their discussion as “good and constructive.” She said her team would hold talks with Javad Zarif again in October in Geneva to assess progress.

Last week, Hassan Rouhani said that his country would never “seek weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons”, and that his goal was “constructive engagement” with the international community.

France has confirmed its intentions to vote for Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations later this week.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France had long backed Palestinian ambitions for statehood and would vote yes “out of a concern for coherency”.

The Palestinians are asking the UN General Assembly to upgrade their status from permanent observer to a “non-member observer state”.

The vote is due to take place later this week.

“This Thursday or Friday, when the question is asked, France will vote yes,” Laurent Fabius told the lower house of parliament.

But he cautioned: “It’s only with negotiations between the two sides that we demand immediately, without any preconditions, that a Palestinian state can become a reality.”

Backing international recognition of a Palestinian state was a campaign pledge made by Francois Hollande before he became France’s president earlier this year.

France – a permanent member of the UN Security Council – is the first major European country to come out in favor of the move.

Germany is expected to vote against, while the UK’s ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant, said on Tuesday that London remained undecided.

France has confirmed its intentions to vote for Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations later this week

France has confirmed its intentions to vote for Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations later this week

An upgrade in status would allow the Palestinians to participate in General Assembly debates and improve their chances of joining UN agencies and the International Criminal Court (ICC), although the process would be neither automatic nor guaranteed.

If they are allowed to sign the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, the Palestinians hope to take legal action in the court to challenge Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

The bid follows an attempt in 2011 by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), to join the UN as a full member state, which failed because of a lack of support in the Security Council.

Observers say the latest Palestinian application is likely win approval in the 193-member UN General Assembly, as it needs to only a simple majority to pass. According to the PLO, more than 130 countries already grant the Palestinians the rank of a sovereign state.

But Israel and the United States are concerned that the move is an attempt by the Palestinian Authority to secure statehood through the United Nations rather than through negotiation, as set out in the 1993 Oslo peace accords.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Ben Dor said earlier this month that if the Palestinians, with UN non-member observer status, asked the ICC to resolve disputes with Israel, then Israel would “take unilateral steps to protect its interests”. He did not elaborate on what those measures would be.

President Mahmoud Abbas has said he does not “want any confrontations with the United States or Israel”, adding: “If we can start a dialogue or negotiations the day after the [UN] vote, we will.”

The UN General Assembly has voted by a big majority to condemn its own Security Council for failing to end the unrest in Syria as fighting rages.

It passed a non-binding resolution, which also condemns the Syrian government’s use of heavy weapons, by 133 votes to 12 with 31 abstentions.

The move came after the resignation of UN envoy Kofi Annan and failure of his six-point peace plan.

Government forces backed by tanks have launched a new assault in Damascus.

The UN General Assembly has voted by a big majority to condemn its own Security Council for failing to end the unrest in Syria as fighting rages

The UN General Assembly has voted by a big majority to condemn its own Security Council for failing to end the unrest in Syria as fighting rages

Shelling also continued on Friday in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.

Activists say more than 20,000 people – mostly civilians – have died in 17 months of unrest.

The resolution passed at the UN expresses “grave concern” at the escalation of violence in Syria and deplores “the failure of the Security Council to agree on measures to ensure the compliance of Syrian authorities with its decisions”.

“The first step in the cessation of violence has to be made by the Syrian authorities,” the resolution said.

Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, the envoy for Saudi Arabia which is the driving force behind the resolution, had urged the Assembly to maintain its moral and humanitarian values by approving the resolution.

Syria’s envoy, Bashar Jaafari, reacted to the passing of the resolution by saying his government still supported Kofi Annan’s six-point plan.

Accusing Saudi Arabia and Qatar of having undermined the plan before coming out in support of it, he said: “You cannot be a fireman and an arsonist at the same time.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the conflict in Syria had become a “proxy war” and called on powers to overcome their rivalries in an effort to end the violence.

“The acts of brutality that are being reported may constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes,” he said.

Russia and China have blocked attempts in the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Damascus.