U.S. switched position, forcing U.K.’s exit

The United States refused to support the United Kingdom’s demand for suspending the voting in the General Assembly and Security Council and to invoke an unprecedented conference mechanism to elect a judge to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), forcing the latter to withdraw from the contest altogether, on Monday.

Indian and American sources told The Hindu on condition of anonymity that while the U.S. continued to vote for U.K’s candidate Christopher Greenwood against India’s Dalveer Bhandari, it balked at the idea of interfering in the voting process on Monday. India was on its way to getting two thirds of the votes if voting had continued in the General Assembly. In the 15-member Security Council (SC), India was getting five against Britain’s nine, in earlier rounds.

On the question of constituting the conference mechanism, the nine supporters of the U.K. splintered, according to multiple sources. America was the first to switch, and two other permanent members followed. “American position did it for the U.K.,” a source said. “On another day later, America may have supported the proposal. But stopping the voting appeared brazen,” he said.

Earlier in the process, the U.S. had actively campaigned for the U.K. and India raised the issue at the “political level” with the Trump administration, which immediately ordered a suspension of the campaign, sources said.

Indian interlocutors told the U.S. that while New Delhi appreciated American compulsions for voting for the U.K., campaigning for one friend at the cost of the other was not fair.

Hours before the voting on November 13, Gonzalo Gallegos, Senior Adviser at the U.S. Mission to the UN, wrote to several countries urging them to vote for Mr. Greenwood. “The U.S. strongly supports Judge Greenwood and hopes that the UNSC and the UNGA will elect him…” he wrote to member countries.

Additionally, Donald Camp, a former State Department official, lobbied with several south and central Asian countries on behalf of the U.K. The U.S. also invoked the principle of regional representation on ICJ to buttress its argument. “…we would be troubled if the regional balance on the ICJ would shift if Judge Greenwood were not to be re-elected,” Mr. Gallegos wrote, in an oblique reference to the fact that Lebanon was already elected to the ICJ.

When the U.K. floated the conference idea, the U.S. was initially supportive. India took up the issue again, and it became unsustainable also due to the swelling UNGA opinion in India’s favour.

When Presidents of the GA and SC met with India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin and British Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft ahead of the voting on Monday, the die was cast, but the U.K made a last ditch effort to hold its ground. Soon after the meeting, with three permanent SC members objecting to its proposal to suspend voting, the U.K announced it was withdrawing from the contest.

“But for this negative campaign by the U.S, India would have won a two-thirds victory in the GA on November 13,” a U.N insider explained. India ended up with 121, seven short of the two third mark of 128. After India raised it with higher officials in the Trump administration, the U.S asked its diplomats to cease the campaign.

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Printable version | Sep 30, 2020 9:34:45 AM |

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