US takes turn atop UN Security Council

Some pundits predict United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley will one day run for president, but for a month, at least, she will be — of the 15-nation UN Security Council.

Ambassadors take up the post each month, and April fell to Haley. While the former South Carolina Governor, who so far has been outspoken in her brief tenure in New York, said she is supposed to remain somewhat guarded as the leader of the 15-nation council, she told a packed news conference Monday that should would always be “a transparency gal.”

The role won’t enable Haley to snap her fingers and get whatever she wants on the discussion agenda. While Haley is pressing for a human rights discussion April 18, two other permanent members, Russia and China, are not interested, meaning the idea might have to come to a vote to see if the required nine countries support it.

Haley’s proposal comes as President Donald Trump and other members of his administration — notably Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — have put less of a focus on human rights in dealings with world leaders when compared to past administrations, including President Barack Obama’s.

In a meeting at the White House on Monday, Trump told visiting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that he had done “a fantastic job” despite criticisms of the leader’s undemocratic actions.

“We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt,” Trump said, speaking in the Oval Office with Sisi at his side. “I look forward to a very long and strong relationship.”

Since seizing power from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian leader has been heavily criticized for cracking down on dissent.

But the two leaders share a hardline against terrorist groups, and Trump is looking to focus ties on building a partnership for his top foreign policy priority.

In her comments on Monday, Haley said the US can be frank with countries it has good relations with on issues such as human rights.

“Those friends, sometimes you have to go and you work with them, but then you also go and say, ‘Look, we don’t like what you’re doing on the human rights level,'” she said. “We can have both of those conversations.”

“If the President goes and says that somebody is fantastic — fantastic at what?” she added. “You know he wasn’t talking about human rights. … There’s a reason he didn’t say that. But those are conversations that we have, as well. That’s what you do with friends.”

The ambassador also said the administration’s focus is on stopping terrorism and destroying ISIS, but “we are not going to stop calling people out when we see something wrong.”

Also this week, Trumps will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where the subject of North Korea’s nuclear proliferation will be a focus of conversation.

In her remarks, Haley blasted China for not doing enough to stop North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

“That’s the goal of this weekend, is to make sure that China shows they are willing to act on North Korea, because we know that, at the end of the day, the only one that North Korea is really going to respond to is China,” she said.

Although Haley’s emphasis on human rights abuses contrasts with the public actions of Trump and others in the administration, she emphasized that the administration was nevertheless supportive.

“We believe it’s very important that we talk about human rights, and the administration has been very supportive of me talking about human rights,” she said.