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EU criticizes US for $640 million cut to UN agencies

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Putting money into U.N. agencies, where the Trump administration has just cut U.S. funding by $640 million, is as important to global peace and security as defense spending — “and sometimes even more,” a top European Union official said Tuesday.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told the U.N. Security Council that she wanted to speak directly to the bloc’s “American friends” with a clear message: Military capabilities are only one element in the EU’s security strategy, which also stresses economic development, strong state institutions, good health care, education and democracy.

While the U.S. budget through September approved by Congress last week cut $640 million from U.N. agencies, it added $15 billion to the U.S. defense budget.

Mogherini said the EU’s voluntary contributions to the U.N.’s funds and agencies “amount to half of their total budget” because organizations like the World Health Organization, the World Food Program and the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF promote key ingredients for peace.

“It is essential for us that we all keep investing in these U.N. agencies,” she said. “They are as important to global peace and security as defense spending — and sometimes even more. And we, Europeans, consider this support to the U.N. system as a crucial investment in our own security.”

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley cited the Trump administration’s “valuable partnership” with the EU on many issues but made no mention of budget cuts in her speech on U.N.-EU relations.

Instead, she urged stronger EU action on Syria, North Korea and Iran.

Haley called on the EU and the Security Council to adopt “more rigorous sanctions” against Syrian President Bashar Assad and the “known suppliers and facilitators of the Syrian chemical weapons program” in order to prevent further chemical attacks and “war crimes.”

She called on the EU and all countries to exert “maximal pressure” on North Korea to “abandon its reckless pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.” She also urged the 28 EU nations to “rigorously implement” the six U.N. sanctions resolutions and “impose tough, autonomous measures that go beyond the resolutions, and downgrade diplomatic and economic ties with North Korea.”

On Iran, Haley said that “the European Union can and should do more to underscore to Iran that its destabilizing actions in the region, including support for extremist and terrorist groups, must cease.”

President Donald Trump has said he wants to renegotiate or leave the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. The agreement gave Iran relief from crippling economic sanctions in exchange for limits to its nuclear program but it did not address Tehran’s destabilizing activities.

In sharp contrast, Mogherini called the nuclear deal “a milestone for nonproliferation, making everyone more secure — in the region, in Europe, and in the world.” And in a clear message to the U.S., she stressed that all parties must implement it.

Mogherini also tried to drum up support in the Trump administration for the landmark 2015 Paris agreement to combat climate change.

Trump pledged during the presidential campaign to withdraw or renegotiate the accord, but he has wavered on the issue since winning the presidency. The White House said Tuesday the president is delaying a decision until after the G7 summit of major powers in Italy at the end of May.

Mogherini said the terrible famine in the Horn of Africa, which has “the potential to make a fragile situation even worse and turn into a security situation,” also serves “as a powerful reminder that climate change is real, and is already impacting on our security environment.”

“Everything is linked,” she said. “So we continue to expect that the United States will find a way to remain committed to the Paris agreement.”

As for the EU’s overall philosophy, Mogherini told the Security Council that “confrontational approaches lead nowhere.”

“Between win-win and lose-lose, the European Union has picked sides,” she said. “We stand always on the side of dialogue and partnership.”

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