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Trump threat to cut aid raises stakes in U.N. Jerusalem vote


President Donald Trump's threat to cut off U.S. funding to countries that oppose his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital raised the stakes in today's U.N. vote and sparked criticism at his tactics, which one Muslim group called bullying or blackmail.

But at the start of an emergency General Assembly meeting ahead of the vote, representatives of Arab, Islamic, and non-aligned nations rejected his threat and urged a “yes” vote against the U.S. unilateral decision on Jerusalem.

Palestinian Foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki, who flew here for the meeting, called the U.S. action “an aggression on the status of Jerusalem" and said "those who want peace must vote for peace today.”

Canada will abstain from a contentious vote today on Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The vote in the UN General Assembly places Canada in a difficult situation because Trump has threatened to retaliate against countries that support a resolution calling on him to rescind his plan to relocate the embassy.

A spokesman for Foreign Affairs minister Chrystia Freeland said the Canadian government is disappointed the resolution landed on the floor of the General Assembly.

“This resolution is one-sided and does not advance prospects for peace to which we aspire, which is why we will abstain on today's vote,” Adam Austen said.

“Canada's long-standing position is that the status of Jerusalem can be resolved only as part of a general settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute,” he noted.

“This has been the policy of consecutive governments, both Liberal and Conservative.”

Austen said Canada wants to emphasize that Jerusalem has special significance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

“Denying the connection between Jerusalem and the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths undermines the integrity of the site for all,” he stressed.

“We also reiterate the need to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem's holy sites.”

Freeland discussed the issue with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a meeting Tuesday on Parliament Hill, after which she suggested they had agreed to disagree.

Trump, meanwhile, told reporters yesterday that Americans are tired of being taken advantage of by countries that take hundreds of millions—and even billions—of dollars, and then vote against the United States.

He said he will be watching toay's vote.

“Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care,” he noted.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley echoed his words in her speech to the packed assembly chamber, threatening not only the 193 U.N. member states with funding cuts, but the United Nations itself if the world body approves the resolution declaring Trump's recognition of Jerusalem “null and void.”

“The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very right of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” she warned.

The vote will make no difference on U.S. plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem, Haley added, but it “will make a difference on how Americans look at the U.N., and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the U.N., and this vote will be remembered.”

Yemen's U.N. Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany, whose country chairs the Arab Group at the United Nations, introduced the resolution and urged all “peace-loving countries” to vote in favour of it.

He called Trump's action “a blatant violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and the Arab nations, and all Muslims and Christians of the world," and "a dangerous violation and breach of international law.”

It threatens peace in the world, undermines any chance for peace in the Mideast, “and only serves to fan the fires of violence and extremism,” Alyemany warned.

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