Senegal defends its UN Israel settlement vote

Spokesman says his country has supported Palestinian rights since 1975, international community and Muslim nations salute its stance

Senegal government spokesperson Seydou Gueye, November 2016 (Screen capture: YouTube)
Senegal government spokesperson Seydou Gueye, November 2016 (Screen capture: YouTube)

DAKAR, Senegal — Senegal on Sunday defended its vote at the UN Security Council to halt Israeli settlements in Palestinian-claimed territory, after Israel decided to recall its ambassador to Dakar and to suspend its aid program.

“Senegal’s position must be saluted. The international community hails Senegal’s stance, especially the Muslim nations,” government spokesman Seydou Gueye said in a statement carried by national television.

“Senegal abided by its diplomatic vision. Since 1975, Senegal has been a member of the (UN) Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,” Gueye said.

Asked about Israel’s suspension of all its aid programs in the west African nation, the spokesman said the government had not yet been officially informed of the decision.

“When it is informed of such a decision, it will issue a response,” Gueye said.

He did not comment on Israel’s move to recall its ambassador to Dakar.

Senegal, one of the UN Security Council’s 10 non-permanent members, re-established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1995.

The landmark UN resolution was passed Friday after the United States abstained.

That enabled the adoption of the first UN resolution since 1979 to condemn Israel over its settlement policy.

The vote came despite intense lobbying efforts by Israel and calls from US President-elect Donald Trump to block the text.

It was scheduled at the request of New Zealand, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela, which stepped in after Egypt put the draft resolution on hold.

After the resolution passed, Israel recalled its ambassadors to Senegal and New Zealand for consultations.

It has no diplomatic relations with Venezuela or Malaysia, which also voted for the resolution.

In another act of protest, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also decided to cancel a visit by Senegal’s foreign minister set for January.

While the resolution contains no sanctions, Israeli officials are concerned it could widen the possibility of prosecution at the International Criminal Court.

They are also worried it could encourage some countries to impose sanctions against Israeli settlers and goods produced in the settlements.

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