Singapore not taking sides in vote for UN resolution on Jerusalem: Balakrishnan

Wan Ting Koh
Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 23, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Singapore voted in favour of a United Nations (UN) resolution on Jerusalem following an “announcement” that could impede the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians, said Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in Parliament on Tuesday (9 December).

Responding to a question by Sembawang Member of Parliament Vikram Nair on Singapore’s vote, Dr Balakrishnan described the announcement as “unilateral and premature” and said that the Republic does not take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Without specifying any party, Dr Balakrishnan said the announcement, which sparked the UN General Assembly resolution, would be construed as changing the status quo of Jerusalem in the Singapore government’s view.

The vote on the UN resolution on 21 December last year was triggered by US President Donald Trump’s announcement on 6 December that the US was officially recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He also directed the US State Department to arrange for the embassy to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Calling for the status of Jerusalem to be settled through a comprehensive peace deal, the resolution urges all states to refrain from setting up diplomatic missions in the Holy City, which is claimed by both the Israelis and Palestinians as their capital.

In the symbolic resolution, 128 UN members – including Singapore – voted for the resolution, while nine voted against, and 35 abstained.

Dr Balakrishnan said, “So that’s why after very careful consideration and consultation, we decided to stand by our principles and say we don’t think this is a good idea and therefore we are voting in favour of the resolution.”

He maintained that Singapore remained a steadfast partner to both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

“Our objective has always been to support a peaceful resolution to this conflict. We have been a steadfast advocate of a negotiated two-state solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.

“The future status of Jerusalem should be determined through direct negotiations between both sides, and any unilateral and premature action that might alter the status of Jerusalem would only serve to further destabilise the region, (and) it would impede progress towards a just and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.

The minister added that Singapore has always conducted its foreign policy based on the rule of international law and “peaceful resolution of disputes”.

This consistency has enabled Singapore to be taken seriously and regarded as a “reliable power” who can play a constructive role in international affairs.

“Other states, including bigger powers, may occasionally differ or disagree with certain positions that we take. We maintain a consistent application of this principle.”