Israel voted with the United States in opposing a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution aimed toward combating the coronavirus pandemic due to a last-minute Cuban amendment that called on countries to oppose unilateral economic, financial and trade sanctions, which later overwhelmingly passed in a 169-2 vote in favor, the Associated Press reported on Friday.
During the vote, Ukraine and Hungary abstained in a rare show of unity in the UN, with the exception of Israel and the United States voting against.
While not legally binding, the UNGA resolution is the third largest and most extensive bill to hit the floor. The resolution referred to the ongoing pandemic as "one of the greatest global challenges in the history of the United Nations," in addition to calling for "intensified international cooperation and solidarity to contain, mitigate and overcome the pandemic and its consequences."
The resolution also called on all UN member states "to enable all countries to have unhindered timely access to quality, safe, efficacious and affordable diagnosis, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines … as well as equipment for the COVID-19 response."
It also highlights "the role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good for health in preventing, containing and stopping transmission in order to bring the pandemic to an end, once safe, quality, efficacious, effective, accessible and affordable vaccines are available."
Israeli and US objections arose over a specific amendment provided by Cuba that made reference to international sanctions, which called for "the urgent removal of unjustified obstacles in order to ensure the universal, timely and equitable access to, and fair distribution of, all quality, safe, efficacious and affordable essential health technologies and products, including their components and precursors that are required in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic."
The two countries also objected to the resolution amendment that called on states "to refrain from promulgating and applying any unilateral economic, financial or trade measures not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations that impedes the full achievement of economic and social development, particularly in developing countries," likely due to ongoing the international sanctions on Iran
The US also opposed two paragraphs from the resolution referring to women's rights "sexual and reproductive health," in connection to female reproductive freedom, and to "promoting global sustainable transport." The US likewise opposed all references to the World Health Organization, following the Trump administration's decision to cut funding to the organization after accusing it of falling to stop the spread of the virus.
In a case of US-China tensions, the US accused Beijing of hiding the truth about the coronavirus to the world, which "imperiled all of us and caused needless additional suffering and death," prompting a response from Chinese diplomat Xing Jisheng, who referenced a recently surfaced recording of Trump saying that the coronavirus is highly dangerous.
Jisheng asked rhetorically: "Who is hiding the truth?"
The Chinese diplomat also noted that the US, with the alleged most advanced medical system in the world, has the most cases of coronavirus globally.
"If the United States is serious about fighting the pandemic, it should focus on protecting lives and health of its people, instead of being busy with blame-shifting," he said.