U.S. set to clash with Russia, China over U.N. meeting on human rights

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States set up on Monday a likely showdown with Russia and China later in April over its plans to hold a U.N. Security Council meeting on human rights, an issue that Moscow and Beijing oppose being broadly discussed by the 15-member body.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations NIkki Haley speaks in Washington, U.S., March 27, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The United States is council president for April. At a closed-door council meeting on Monday to agree to the council’s work for the month, the proposed April 18 meeting on human rights and its ties to conflict was left off the calendar.

“It will be a broad debate, not intended to single out any countries, but more just to talk about the topic and how that relates to conflict and if there are things that we can be doing going forward,” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told U.N. member states on Monday.

The United States accuses the Geneva-based Human Rights Council of being biased against Israel. Haley also said that she was unsure that the body served any value “except for this that sit on it that protect themselves.”

If Haley cannot reach agreement with Russia and China on a tighter focus and pushes ahead with the meeting, then Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Petr Iliichev said Moscow would call for a rare procedural vote to block the move.

A procedural vote needs nine votes to pass. Vetoes cannot be cast by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain.

Iliichev said the issue of human rights does not need to be discussed by the Security Council as it is already the purview of the 193-member General Assembly’s third committee and the Human Rights Council.

“Human rights are addressed by various peacekeeping missions, by special political missions, if we can just try to liaise those mandates with human rights then maybe we can agree (on a meeting),” Iliichev told reporters.

“But (the) general statement that international peace and security are threatened by human rights violations is not true,” he said.

When asked about the proposed meeting, China’s U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi said: “We are trying to work that out.”

China has previously pushed for procedural votes in failed bids to stop the Security Council from discussing human rights in North Korea. China is a strong ally of Pyongyang.

The United States has threatened to quit the Human Rights Council. Haley, who will address the council in June, said on Thursday that her team was reviewing what the body had done well and “everything that they’ve done that’s just absurd.”

“If we don’t see changes, then yes we’ll pull out. But I think they deserve to know what we expect of them,” she said.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Phil Berlowitz