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In Symbolic U.N. Vote, 128 Countries Decry U.S. Decision On Jerusalem


The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, had warned that she would take names of the countries voting to criticize the Trump administration for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Today, she has a long list of names. A hundred twenty-eight countries voted in the General Assembly for the mainly symbolic resolution. Nine voted no. There were more abstentions than expected, 35, perhaps because of Haley's warnings that they could lose aid. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The Palestinians called it a victory and a sign that the U.S. is isolated and not a credible peacemaker. Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, used his speech to blast the Trump administration as a bully.


MEVLUT CAVUSOGLU: It is unethical to think that the votes and dignity of member states are for sale. Let me put it in this way. We will not be intimidated. You can be strong, but it - this doesn't make you right.

KELEMEN: The resolution describes Jerusalem as a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. It says any decision that alters the city's status should be, quote, "null and void." But the resolution doesn't mention President Trump by name, nor is it legally binding. Still, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley sees it as an insult. She says the U.S. has every right to move its embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing what she calls the reality that it is Israel's capital.


NIKKI HALEY: No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that. But this vote 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.

KELEMEN: Haley even suggested U.N. funding is at stake.


HALEY: We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world's largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.

KELEMEN: Israel's ambassador, Danny Danon, is thanking the Pacific Island countries and Central American nations that voted no, as well as the 35 countries that abstained, some of which are dependent on U.S. aid. He called everyone else puppets being manipulated by the Palestinians.


DANNY DANON: You are like marionettes forced to dance while the Palestinian leadership looks on with glee.

KELEMEN: Most European countries supported the resolution, as did Arab and Muslim allies of the U.S., including Pakistan, whose ambassador, Maleeha Lodhi, says it sends a reassuring message to Palestinians.


MALEEHA LODHI: Who have been losing hope in the possibility of securing a viable, contiguous and independent state of Palestine.

KELEMEN: The U.S. argues that the borders of Jerusalem are still up for negotiation. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF OK IKUMI'S "HEIGHTS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.