Philippines abstains from UN vote on Jerusalem

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines was one of 35 countries that abstained from voting on the United States' decision to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs is expected to soon explain the Philippines' abstention.

On Thursday, December 21, the United Nations approved by a resounding vote a motion rejecting the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The 193-member General Assembly adopted the resolution by 128 to 9 with 35 abstentions.

Other countries that abstained were Argentina, Australia, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Mexico, Poland, Romania, and Rwanda. (READ: Why security in the Middle East matters to Southeast Asia)

Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Togo joined the US in opposing the measure.

An additional 21 countries did not turn up for the vote including Ukraine, which had supported the same resolution in the Security Council, indicating the US threats did have a chilling effect on some governments.

The Philippines and the US in recent months have improved their relationship under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his counterpart President Donald Trump. This, after Duterte cursed at former president Barack Obama and past statements suggesting a breaking of American ties in favor of a closer relationship with China.

But at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila last month, Trump, in their first bilateral meeting, told Duterte he was happy about their "great relationship," a sentiment Duterte shared.

"We've had a great relationship. This has been very successful," said Trump on November 13.

'Disrespect'

Speaking at the emergency session, US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned the United States "will remember this day."

"America will put our embassy in Jerusalem," Haley said in defense of the US move, which broke with international consensus and unleashed protests across the Muslim world.

"No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that," Haley said. "But this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN."

"When we make generous contributions to the UN we also have a legitimate expectation that our goodwill is recognized and respected," she said.

The resolution reaffirms that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved through negotiations, and that any decision reached outside of that framework must be rescinded. – with reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com