US official warns against cutting funds to UN bodies

Esther Brimmer argues that move would hurt America's ability to make Israel's case at the int'l body, advance US interests.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
June 16, 2011 23:01
2 minute read.
Esther Brimmer

Esther Brimmer 311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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WASHINGTON – A senior US State Department official warned Wednesday that cutting US dues to the United Nations, even in an attempt to prevent the General Assembly from unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state, would hurt America’s ability to make Israel’s case at the international body.

“One constant we hear from Israeli counterparts is how much they appreciate the administration’s efforts and USIsraeli cooperation at the UN and multilaterally,” US Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The United States must maintain the strongest position it can at the UN, and that means paying our bills on time and in full.”

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She continued, “We are more credible politically when we fulfill our treaty obligations and contribute to work that advances our interests. When we are delinquent, it impairs our ability to advance US interests and effective cooperation on key security threats at the UN.”

Brimmer raised the specter that cutting back funding to the UN could damage that partnership and hurt both countries’ interests, including getting international sanctions on Iran, nonproliferation enforcement at the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency and cutting off terrorist funds through a cross-borders tracking system.

Her comments come as Congressional Republicans have floated the idea that the US would reduce its contributions to UN agencies that recognize a Palestinian state, as the General Assembly might consider doing during its opening session in September.

In addition, the UN is seen as a likely target of budget cuts as Republicans have focused on trimming the US deficit and have been particularly critical of US international contributions.

“The United States cannot afford failed short-term tactics that have long-term implications for our security, and we must be a responsible global leader, and that means paying our bills,” Brimmer said.

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She also warned against limiting US participation in some UN bodies, with critics charging that the United States shouldn’t have joined the Human Rights Council as it routinely singles out Israel and overlooks worse offenders.

“UN bodies, including the Human Rights Council, have improved as the result of direct US engagement,” she argued. “If we cede ground, if our engagement in the UN system is restricted, these bodies likely would be dominated by our adversaries. A scenario where power vacuums are filled by adversaries is not good for the United States and certainly not for Israel.”

While acknowledging that the council has continued to take action the US disapproves of – including a permanent agenda item devoted to Israel – she said the US was continuing to work on those challenges.

Brimmer also reiterated earlier statements by the White House and State Department that the US was opposed to a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood at the UN.

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