UNITED NATIONS – U.N. diplomats welcomed the selection Wednesday of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to represent the U.S. at the world body, even as they grappled to understand what international diplomacy might look like under a Trump administration.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said he looked forward to working closely with Haley, praising her track record "as governor of South Carolina."
France's Ambassador Francois Delattre called Haley "a highly regarded, very respected professional," adding that he had "very good contact" with her when he served in Washington.
Britain and France are both permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council — along with the U.S., Russia and China — and because of that they are among the countries that will have to work most closely with Haley to draft resolutions and coordinate strategy.
Although the official position of most U.N. missions and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been to give Trump a chance, his comments during the campaign about leaving the Paris Accord on climate change, renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal, deporting immigrants, water boarding and registering or banning Muslims altogether seem to fly in the face of all that that U.N. stands for.
Privately, many diplomats have expressed astonishment at his election and even outright fear over how his administration might behave on the world stage once it assumes power. And while the 44-year-old Haley's appointment may provide some clue about Trump's eventual foreign policy, it mostly left diplomats scratching their heads over her lack of diplomatic experience.
Angola's U.N. Ambassador Ismael Abraao Gaspar Martins offered only a guarded welcome to Haley, saying his country was "ready to work with anybody, provided they had an open mind."
He also stressed that working on the Security Council — the U.N.'s highest body and where Angola currently holds a rotating seat — requires teamwork from all 15 members to promote "peace and security in the world."
Russian Deputy Ambassador Petr Illichev's only comment to reporters on the Haley pick was: "It's his choice."
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq called it a good sign for the future that a permanent representative to the U.N. was named so quickly and he praised Haley for the "laudable comments she made following the horrifying shooting in Charleston, South Carolina," referring to the killing of nine parishioners at a black church there.
Many here expressed relief that Trump selected a woman of Indian descent rather than a white man to represent the U.S. before the world body, but some questioned the significance of her appointment given a general lack of understanding about how the president-elect views the U.N., having praised it on several occasions in the past only to blast it as, among other things, no friend to Israel during the campaign.
Not surprisingly, Israel's Ambassador Danny Danon was more full throated than most in his praise, issuing a statement calling Haley "a longstanding and true friend of Israel" and an "outspoken fighter against the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement in her state and throughout the U.S."
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, was more circumspect.
"If you want to make a deal (between Israel and the Palestinians), then you have to have reasonable relationship with both parties not just one party," Mansour said, adding the Palestinians were taking a wait and see approach with regard to the new administration.
If confirmed, Haley would be the fifth woman to serve as the U.S. permanent representative to the U.N.