U.N. chief prepared to meet U.S. lawmakers amid push to cut funds

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is prepared to meet with U.S. lawmakers, a U.N. spokeswoman said on Friday, as some U.S. senators push to cut funding to the world body over a Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlements.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses a news conference after the Conference on Cyprus at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

The United States abstained from the Dec. 23 vote, allowing the 15-member Security Council to adopt the resolution with 14 votes in favor. Israel and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump had called for Washington to wield its veto.

On Thursday, Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham introduced legislation to cut U.N. funding until the president certifies that the Security Council has repealed the resolution. However, the legislation stands little chance of advancing in Congress, where it would need Democrats’ support and even some Republicans consider the move as too extreme.

“The secretary-general very much welcomes an opportunity to discuss any issues with U.S. lawmakers,” U.N. spokeswoman Eri Kaneko said. “We’re always eager and available to meet with U.S. lawmakers as needed.”

She said the United Nations would closely monitor the progress of the U.S. legislation.

The United States is the largest contributor to the United Nations, paying 22 percent of the $5.4 billion core U.N. budget and 28 percent of the $7.9 billion U.N. peacekeeping budget.

“We look forward, under the new administration, to the continuing strong partnership between the U.S. and the U.N. especially in the three main pillars of human rights, peace and security and development,” Kaneko said.

Guterres spoke with Trump earlier this month after the president-elect disparaged the world body on Twitter. The United Nations described the conversation as “a very positive discussion on U.S./U.N. relations.”

During his Senate confirmation hearing this week, Trump’s secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson spoke repeatedly about working with the United Nations on a variety of initiatives.

Outgoing U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said on Friday the United Nations was “not a perfect system, it’s a flawed system” but that if the United States were to cut funding then the only beneficiaries would be states like Russia and China.

“If there’s less U.S. leadership at the U.N. it will be other countries that step in to fill the void,” Power told reporters on Friday.

“We lead the world in part by leading at the U.N. and if we were to tie our hands behind our back, or to strip this organization of programming ... this would be extremely detrimental to U.S. interests,” Power said.

Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by Tom Brown