United States blocks ex-Palestinian PM from leading UN Libya mission

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday defended his choice of former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad to be the UN peace envoy to Libya after the United States blocked the appointment. "The United States stands firmly and unapologetically beside Israel", Danon said.

Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan, reporting from NY, said the "very strong statement" by the U.S. ambassador had surprised many.

"For too long, the United Nations has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel", she said.

Furthermore, Ambassador Haley reiterated that the United States "does not now recognize a Palestinian state or support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nation".

According to diplomatic sources, diplomats in the US and other Security Council member states were caught off guard by Haley's announcement.

Fayyad, 64, a Texas-educated former International Monetary Fund official, was prime minister of the Palestinian Authority from 2007 to 2013.

It was unclear whether Haley's objection had ended Fayyad's candidacy.

Nikki Haley, the new American ambassador to the United Nations, said the USA administration was "very disappointed" at Salam Fayyad's selection for the role.

Washington's decision to block Fayyad's appointment also comes almost two months after the new USA administration criticized the United Nations for passing a resolution condemning Israel's settlement construction.

"It is ironic because Fayyad was elevated by the Bush administration to the Palestinian Authority", Abunimah said.

Shortly after the resolution passed, Trump criticizing the Obama administration for abstaining from the vote.

Israel has repeatedly complained of bias against the Jewish State at the United Nations where the Palestinians have an automatic majority in votes against Israel.

Fourteen Security Council members have thrown their weight behind Fayyad's appointment to succeed Martin Kobler in the Libya job.

Haley's statement came ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's scheduled meeting at the White House with President Donald Trump on February 15, and was welcomed by Israelis. Netanyahu and the Israeli right have been emboldened by Trump, announcing a series of settlement expansion plans that have met muted resistance from the White House. "The new administration proved once again that it stands firmly alongside the state of Israel in the worldwide arena and in the U.N.in particular".

Israel seized the Palestinian territories in 1967, and over 500,000 Israelis now live in settlements built on the occupied land.

Israel's settlements in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, have been declared illegal by the United Nations, and have been a stumbling block in talks.

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