UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn admitted on Friday that he asked Russia to delay a U.N. vote seen as damaging to Israel, but diplomats said it was not the only country he and presidential adviser Jared Kushner lobbied.
In the hours before the vote by the 15-member United Nations Security Council on Dec. 23, Flynn also phoned the U.N. missions of Uruguay and Malaysia, and Kushner spoke with Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the United States, according to diplomats familiar with the conversations, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The lobbying took place before Republican President Donald Trump, who was known for his pro-Israel campaign rhetoric, took office on Jan. 20. It failed, with the Security Council adopting a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building on land Palestinians want for an independent state. The vote was 14 in favour and one abstention by the United States.
The efforts made on Israel’s behalf capped several days of unusual diplomacy. In a surprise Dec. 21 move, Egypt had called for a vote the next day on the draft resolution, prompting both Trump and Israel to urge Washington to veto the text.
A senior Israeli official told Reuters that Israeli officials contacted Trump’s transition team at a “high level” to ask for help after failing to persuade Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration to veto the draft U.N. resolution.
According to court documents made public on Friday, a member of Trump’s presidential transition team, later identified by sources as Trump’s son-in-law Kushner, told Flynn on Dec. 22 to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, to convince them to delay the vote or veto the resolution.
Flynn spoke with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak that day, and again the following day, according to the court documents.
Also on Dec. 22, Trump discussed the resolution with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Egypt withdrew the text from a council vote the same day.
The 1799 Logan Act bars unauthorised private U.S. citizens, which Trump, Flynn, and Kushner all were at the time, from negotiating with foreign governments. However, only two Americans have ever been indicted for allegedly violating it – in 1802 and 1852 – and neither was convicted.
Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Kushner, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Friday about Israel or other issues.
A SECOND GO-ROUND
After Egypt withdrew the resolution, its co-sponsors, New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela, and Senegal, put it forward again for a Dec. 23 vote.
In Washington, Kushner was in contact with Britain’s Darroch, and Flynn spoke with Kislyak - lobbying to delay the vote or veto the resolution.
A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the council’s five permanent members - China, Britain, France, Russia, and the United States - to be adopted.
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who died in February, signalled to colleagues behind closed doors on Dec. 23 that he was unhappy with the haste with which the draft resolution was being put to a vote, but he did not ask for the vote to be delayed, diplomats said.
Flynn also tried to speak to Malaysian U.N. Ambassador Ramlan Bin Ibrahim, but Ibrahim did not take the call. He also called the Uruguayan U.N. mission, eventually getting through to Deputy Ambassador Luis Bermudez – who was the charge d’affaires - minutes before the vote.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by John Walcott and Tom Brown