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81 countries answered the US call and signed on

Despite US request Israel refrains from co-sponsoring UNSC resolution against Russia

Israeli mission declines request to comment on decision, which appears to be extension of effort by Jerusalem to avoid aligning too closely with either side of conflict

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Representatives attend a UN Security Council meeting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, on Friday, February 25, 2022, at UN headquarters. Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution demanding that Moscow stop its attack on Ukraine and withdraw all troops. Friday’s vote was 11-1, with China, India, and the United Arab Emirates abstaining. It showed significant but not total opposition to Russia’s invasion of its smaller, militarily weaker neighbor. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Representatives attend a UN Security Council meeting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, on Friday, February 25, 2022, at UN headquarters. Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution demanding that Moscow stop its attack on Ukraine and withdraw all troops. Friday’s vote was 11-1, with China, India, and the United Arab Emirates abstaining. It showed significant but not total opposition to Russia’s invasion of its smaller, militarily weaker neighbor. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Despite a request from the Biden administration to co-sponsor a UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Israel refrained from doing so, two diplomats familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel on Friday.

The US mission reached out to dozens of countries, asking them to back the resolution, a Western diplomat said. Non-security council members were still able to co-sponsor the resolution, even if they could not vote on it.

Eighty-one countries answered the US call and signed on as co-sponsors according to an official list obtained by The Times of Israel.

The Israeli mission referred the matter back to Jerusalem for guidance where a decision was reached earlier Friday to avoid joining in such a strong gesture against Russia, another official told The Times of Israel.

Ultimately, Russia vetoed the resolution, while India, the UAE and China abstained. Eleven of the council’s 15 members voted in favor.

The Israeli Mission to the UN declined to comment on the matter.

Vasily Nebenzya, Russian ambassador to the United Nations, participates in a vote during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The resolution deplored “in the strongest terms” Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine and demanded the immediate withdrawal of its troops.

Following the vote, the US released a joint statement with the vast majority of the resolution’s co-sponsors, saying “Russia has abused its power today to veto our strong resolution. But Russia cannot veto our voices. Russia cannot veto the Ukrainian people. Russia cannot veto their own people protesting this war in the streets. Russia cannot veto the UN Charter. Russia cannot, and will not, veto accountability.”

A US official said earlier Friday that Washington was aware that Russia would veto the resolution but that the measure was still important in underscoring Moscow’s international isolation.

Israel is one of the few countries that maintains relatively warm relations with both Ukraine, a fellow Western democracy, as well as Russia, which controls the airspace over Syria.

Jerusalem has relied on Moscow’s tacit approval for use of that airspace to carry out airstrikes against Iranian proxies just beyond its northern border.

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, center, holds a flag while flanked by European Union representatives and ministers outside the Security Council chamber, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, at United Nations Headquarters. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

While Israel has expressed concern regarding the invasion and offered humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian people, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has avoided condemning Russia or even mentioning the country by name in his statements since the launching of the widespread military operation across Russia’s border.

But Israel’s effort to avoid aligning too closely with either side since the start of the invasion has led to Kyiv expressing disappointment, while Russia summoned Jerusalem’s envoy in Moscow to demand a clarification of the country’s stance.

Still, Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov told The Times of Israel Friday that he hopes Israel “will continue [taking] a wise diplomatic approach” in its response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine

Israel generally follows the lead of the US at the UN, though it has at times avoided toeing the line in order to avoid alienating other allies.

Last October, an Israeli diplomatic official told The Times of Israel that in an effort to placate China, Jerusalem refrained from signing on to a joint statement at the United Nations expressing concern over Beijing’s treatment of its Muslim Uighur minority.

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