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US Objects to Palestinian Ex-PM for UN Post

The United States objected to the appointment of a former Palestinian prime minister to lead the United Nations’ political mission in Libya.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres notified the U.N. Security Council in a letter Thursday that he planned to name the Western-educated economist Salam Fayyad to the position. The internationally respected Fayyad, who is 64, served as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority from 2007-2013 and was the authority’s finance minister.

But U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley released a statement late Friday saying the United States is “disappointed” at the choice.

“For too long the U.N. has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel,” Haley said in her statement. She added, “Going forward, the United States will act, not just talk, in support of our allies.”

The United States is among a minority of U.N. members that do not not recognize Palestine as an independent state, which only has non-member observer status in the world body.

FILE – Salam Fayyad, Palestinian prime minister at the time, attends a reception at the Conference on Cooperation Among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development in Tokyo, Japan, Feb. 13, 2013.

UN chief responds

The secretary-general’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said Fayyad was chosen to lead the mission based on his experience and competence, and U.N. personnel do not represent any government or country.

“The Secretary-General reiterates his pledge to recruit qualified individuals, respecting regional diversity, and notes that, among others no Israeli and no Palestinian have served in a post of high responsibility at the United Nations,” Dujarric said. “This is a situation that the Secretary-General feels should be corrected, always based on personal merit and competencies of potential candidates for specific posts.”

In December, during the last days of the Obama administration, the U.S. chose not to veto a U.N. resolution on reining in Israeli settlement building, allowing the measure to pass. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the U.S. abstention and the resolution itself “shameful” and said his government would ignore its provisions.

US-Israel relations

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon released a statement Friday praising the Trump administration for its support of his country.

“This is the beginning of a new era at the U.N., an era where the U.S. stands firmly behind Israel against any and all attempts to harm the Jewish State,” Danon said.

Trump’s support for Israel, however, was thrown into question Friday after an interview with him was published in an Israeli newspaper. The U.S. president told Israel Hayom newspaper that Israeli settlement building hurts the peace process. “The [settlements] don’t help the process,” Trump said. “There is so much land left. And every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left.”

Adding to the confusion, Trump told Britain’s Daily Mail during his presidential campaign that Israeli settlement building should “keep moving forward.”

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is due to visit the United States next Wednesday, the same day the United Nations holds its monthly meeting on Middle East issues.

VOA’s UN correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

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