US hails United Nations budget cuts as ‘step in right direction’

$285-million reduction in budget comes a week after Trump threatened to cut aid to countries that opposes his recognition of Jerusalem

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks during a Security Council meeting  at UN Headquarters in New York City, on December 22, 2017. (KENA BETANCUR/AFP)
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks during a Security Council meeting at UN Headquarters in New York City, on December 22, 2017. (KENA BETANCUR/AFP)

UNITED NATIONS, United States — The United States on Sunday applauded a $285-million-cut in the UN core budget, saying it was “a big step in right direction.”

The General Assembly adopted a budget of $5.396 billion for 2018-2019, slightly below the $5.4 billion that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had sought.

The United States is by far the largest contributor to the UN budget, providing for 22 percent of the core budget. Last week, US President Doanld Trump threatened to cut funding to countries that supported a UN resolution rejecting his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement that “inefficiency and overspending” at the world body were “well-known.”

Haley said the budget negotiations had generated several “successes” with financial cutbacks and a reduction of the UN’s “bloated management and support functions.”

“We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked,” she said.

“This historic reduction in spending — in addition to many other moves toward a more efficient and accountable UN — is a big step in the right direction.”

“While we are pleased with the results of this year’s budget negotiations, you can be sure we’ll continue to look at ways to increase the UN’s efficiency while protecting our interests,” she added.

The UN’s operating budget is separate from its peacekeeping budget, which was cut by $600 million this year under pressure from the Trump administration.

Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres speaks in the Ridderzaal (Knights’ Hall) during the closing ceremony of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague on December 21, 2017. (ANP / Robin UTRECHT/AFP)

The push for deeper cuts comes as Guterres is trying to build support for his plans for reform of the UN bureaucracy.

Guterres’ budget proposal was $200 million below the 2016-2017 biennial budget.

During a meeting held on the sidelines of the annual General Assembly debate in September, Trump said the United Nations had failed to reach its “full potential due to bureaucracy and mismanagement.”

“We are not seeing the results in line with this investment,” he said.

Last week, Trump threatened to cut funding to UN member countries that supported a General Assembly resolution rejecting his Jerusalem recognition.

Haley warned that she would report back to Trump with the names of those countries that support the resolution rejecting the US recognition. In a vote last Thursday the resolution passed with 128 nations in favor, nine voting against, 35 abstaining and 21 no-shows.

In an address December 6 from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality. He also said the US embassy would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem but did not give a schedule for the relocation.

Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

The announcement was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. It was criticized by many countries, condemned by the Arab world, and infuriated Palestinians, who held violent demonstrations for several days in the West Bank and on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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