US pulls out of Vienna treaty amendment to block Palestinian lawsuit
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US pulls out of Vienna treaty amendment to block Palestinian lawsuit

National Security Adviser Bolton says US ‘will not sit idly by’ in face of ‘baseless politicized claims,’ asserts Palestine is ‘not a state’

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has pulled the United States out of an amendment to the Vienna Convention to keep the Palestinians from suing the US government at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“The president has decided that the United States will withdraw from the optional protocol and dispute resolution to the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations,” US National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “This is in connection with a case brought from the so-called State of Palestine naming the United States as a defendant, challenging our move of our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Bolton said the US will remain party to the underlying Vienna treaty, but that it will review all international agreements that could still expose the country to ICJ resolutions.

“Our actions today deal with the treaties and current litigation involving the United States before the International Court of Justice,” he said. “Given this history, and Iran’s abuse of the ICJ, we will commence a review of all international agreements that may still expose the United States to purported binding jurisdiction and dispute resolution in the International Court of Justice.”

He added: “The United States will not sit idly by as baseless politicized claims are brought against us.”

Bolton’s announcement came hours after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States was terminating a 1955 treaty reached with then-ally Iran after Tehran cited it in an international court ruling against Washington’s sanctions policy.

In September, the Palestinians filed a case with the United Nations’ highest court asking its judges to order Washington to remove the recently relocated US embassy from Jerusalem.

The lawsuit, filed at the Hague-based International Court of Justice, came against a backdrop of deeply strained ties between Washington and the Palestinians, in part because of the Trump administration’s decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv in May. The Palestinian Authority broke off contact with the US after the Jerusalem announcement.

Bolton said Wednesday that the administration’s decision “really has less to do with Iran and the Palestinians than with the continued consistent policy of the United States to reject the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, which we think is politicized and ineffective.”

Asked by a reporter why he referred to Palestine as a “so-called state,” the former UN ambassador said, “It’s accurate. It is not a state.”

“It’s not a state now,” he went on. “It does not meet the customary international law test of statehood. It doesn’t control defined boundaries, it doesn’t fulfill the normal functions of government. There’s a whole host of reasons why it is not a state. It could become a state, as the president has said. But that requires diplomatic negotiations with Israel and others.”

Last week, US President Donald Trump announced, for the first time, his preference for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be resolved through the two-state framework. He said he hoped his long-awaited peace plan would be released within the next four months.

“We’ve been working as you well know on a peace plan,” Bolton said Wednesday. “We’ll be rolling it out in due course when we decide it’s the most appropriate time to do it.”

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