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US opposes UN ‘blacklist’ of settlements, says it poses ‘genuine threat’ to firms

The US declared Friday that it opposes the United Nations database of companies that operate in West Bank settlements, saying it has not cooperated with the office responsible and will not be doing so in the future.

The position laid out by US State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel sought to balance between the Biden administration’s opposition to Israeli settlements and its belief that the UN is not a platform for dealing with such issues.

The settlement blacklist was created in February 2020 in response to a 2016 UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for a “database for all businesses engaged in specific activities related to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

The list contained the names of 112 firms — 94 Israeli and 18 foreign, including Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Booking.com and Motorola Solutions. In Norway, the list led the sovereign wealth fund to dump companies involved in settlements, citing concern over human rights violations.

The database returned to the news this week following a report in the Axios news site that the Biden administration has been pressuring the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights not to update the list.

Patel did not go as far as to say that the US was pressuring the UN on the matter, but he acknowledge that the administration has made its position against the blacklist clear to officials in the UN human rights office.

“The US opposes the creation of this database… and continues to oppose any work to update it,” he said.

“We have not provided and will not provide any information to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on this database, and our position has been repeatedly made clear in public statements as well as in meetings that we’ve had directly with the Office of the High Commissioner.”

State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel leads the daily briefing in Washington on September 6, 2022. (Screen capture/YouTube)

The State Department spokesman argued that the database “only serves to reinforce an anti-Israeli bias,” which the Biden administration has repeatedly condemned and worked to oppose.

Patel also argued during the press briefing that the blacklist “poses a genuine threat to companies doing business or considering business operations in the region.”

Asked how this threat could manifest, Patel declined to elaborate.

The remarks came less than a week after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the Biden administration’s position against Israeli settlements, warning the incoming right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu that the US will “unequivocally oppose” settlement expansion as well any move toward annexation of the West Bank.

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