Thursday, March 24, 2016

On Western Sahara, As UN Whispers Anonymously to Reuters & AFP, Online Show of Force

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 24 -- Why didn't UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon go to El Aaiun in Western Sahara, even to visit the headquarters of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara?  And why on March 21 did Ban say, "We had a good meeting in the Security Council today" when his deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq toldInner City Press it was fine it was excluded between there were no Secretariat staff involved? Who is Ban's "we"?

Strangely, while Ban's Secretariat saying it is strongly opposing Morocco's note verbale it civilian staff leave "the territory of the Kingdom of Morocco," on March 23 to Reuters and AFP it was an anonymous UN official who made the argument.

On March 24, Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about this incongruity: why ostensibly speak truth to (Moroccan) power... anonymously?

 Instead of explaining, Haq said to Inner City Press, For a journalist you seem to have a problem with officials speaking to the media. Well, no: why only to pro-Ladsous scribes, and anonymously? Inner City Press asked if Herve Ladsous as head of UN Peacekeeping will finally hold a press conference, which it seems he hasn't since September 11, 2015 when on camera he linked peacekeeper rapes to "R&R." Haq did not respond.

 (On Reuters and AFP and anonimity, it's ironic: both were linked to anti-Press anonymous troll society media accounts, here; now it seemsVoice of America has joined them.)

 Meanwhile, in response to Inner City Press posting a late February photo of Polisario military equipment which was emailed this week among Ladsous, Edmond Mulet and Christopher Ross, pro-Moroccans have responded with their own (photos of) show of force. Watch this site.

  At the March 23 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: Some of the MINURSO staff stayed in Las Palmas, and some were sent home on leave.  Does this indicate any kind of projecting when they can go back?  How fast could they go back?  And why didn't they all stay nearby in theatre in Las Palmas?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  Well, there were some who were UN Volunteers who were sent back to their home countries.  The staff who are needed are in Las Palmas awaiting the point when, we hope, they can go back to Laayoune to go about their regularly scheduled work.

 As the UN Security Council had another round of closed door consultations about MINURSO on March 23, Inner City Press' sources tell it that a mild draft Press Statement is being "shot down" by Egypt, for the Arab Group or League - with France once again able to hide its imminent veto on the issue.

 As to Spain, whose foreign ministry has yet to answer - and in full disclosure whose highest UN official Cristina Gallach ordered Inner City Press out of the UN on two hours' notice and it still trying to seize its office, restrict its ability even to cover the Security Council on Western Sahara, video here -- sources says it is "blackmailed."

 What does that mean? Morocco can turn on migration, act on the small territories, has many Spanish companies on its territory and at sea. "Unless a larger power tells Spain to be decisive on this, Spain will just drivft," was the verdict. We await the ministry's comment.

Update of March 24: even as the Security Council met on March 24 about the Middle East, Morocco's NY diplomats massed in front of the Council, meeting various Council members, including from the Permanent Five. We'l have more on this.

Cristina Gallach, with Qatar's ex-PR, Spain sign, credit UN Photo/Evan Schneider

  UN DPKO boss Herve Ladsous went into the Security Council on the afternoon of March 23 without a word or answer. On his way out at 4:30 pm, Inner City Press asked him, Any progress on MINURSO? No answer. Any response to the Tony Banbury op-ed? One in his entourage laughed. Would retaliation follow? For Inner City Press, it already has. Watch this site.

On March 22, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: yesterday, you'd said that the 8:30 event in the Security Council had no Secretariat involvement.  And then, later in the day, myself and a colleague were in the second-floor hallway and asked the Secretary-General what it was being accomplished on Western Sahara, and he said, "We had a good meeting in the Security Council today."  So I wanted to know, what does that mean?  Was there…

Deputy Spokesman:  He was talk about the luncheon.

Inner City Press:  He said “in” the Security Council.

Deputy Spokesman:  He was talking about the luncheon.  He had a luncheon with the Security Council.

Inner City Press:  Right.  In the Security Council?

Deputy Spokesman:  I mean, you can quibble with his prepositions, but that's what he was referring to.

Inner City Press: On what basis do you say there was no Secretariat involvement in the 8:30 event?

Deputy Spokesman:  On the basis of the fact that I'm aware of my colleagues in Security Council Affairs Department (SCAD) and they had no involvement.  There were no interpreters even.

Inner City Press:  I also have another question on Western Sahara.

Deputy Spokesman:  Okay.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  Thanks a lot.  I wanted to know… I've seen a photograph of military equipment, which has been put on alert in the last few days, and I've also seen a chain of e-mails that this was sent to Mr. [Edmond] Mulet from Mr. [Christopher] Ross, also to Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous.  And I wanted to know, since they've received this, what's their reaction to it?  And will you give a readout of Mr. Ladsous' and [Atul] Khare's meeting of TCC's (troop-contributing countries) yesterday afternoon at… in… on the second floor of the Conference Building?

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding that, this is simply a discussion with troop contributors at a time of great concern about the situation in Western Sahara, so they provided an update on the situation there.

Inner City Press:  And what about the equipment?  What's the response of this e-mail between Mr. Ross, Mr. Ladsous and Mr. Mulet showing essentially missiles and massed troops?

Deputy Spokesman:  I… this is one of a number of issues that needs to be resolved, and we'll have to see what they do in further discussions.

  Now we asked, What is the position of Spain the former colonial power in all this? On March 21 Inner City Press asked Angola's Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti what had been accomplished on defending MINURSO; his answer declined comment on the "Spanish Sahara."

Earlier on March 21, having had difficulty getting an answer from Spain's Mission to the UN particularly after Cristina Gallach, the highest Spanish official in the UN system, ousted Inner City Press from its office and the UN without due process -- and from the Western Sahara meeting, Periscope here -- sent this to Spain's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson:

From: Matthew Russell Lee [at]
Date: Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 9:15 AM
Subject: Press Q on Spain's position on Morocco ordering out 83 UN/AU staff from MINURSO, and UN doing it, on deadline, thanks
To: cecilia.yuste [at]

Hello -
This is a Press request to know Spain's position on Morocco ordering 83 UN (and AU) staff to leave “the territory of the Kingdom of Morocco,” as they referred to Western Sahara - and, separately, to UNSG Ban Ki-moon and/or DPKO chief Herve Ladsous deciding to in fact evacuate these staff to Las Palmas.
We have not heard Spain's position from the Mission here - there are other issues - and so put this question to you, on deadline. Please acknowledge receipt and provide substantive response asap.
Thank you in advance,
Matthew Russell Lee,  Inner City Press
Office at UN: Room S-303, UN HQ, NY NY 10017 (??)
Cell: 718-716-3540 [&]
Email Matthew.Lee [at] and this and @FUNCA_info
Periscope live broadcasts:
Video of protest in Jaffna, Sri Lanka (in Tamil)
Sri Lanka Sunday Times, March 20, 2016
   But twelve hours later, no answers at all...

As the 8:30 am meeting took place, Inner City Press once it got about the retaliatory Ban imposed by UN official Cristina Gallach heard from its sources that this photograph of troops and missiles - note the flag(s) - was circulating among the highest UN officials including DPKO chief Herve Ladsous, and that Morocco was moving to oust even MINURSO military personnel from Dakhla. There were still no other media present at 9:30 am.

  Inner City Press arrived at the UN at 8:20 am and as passing through the now required (by UN censorship and retaliation) metal detectors saw a convoy diplomats from the Morocco mission going in.

 But up at the Security Council, the door for "non-resident correspondents" was locked; Inner City Press' current pass downgraded in retaliation by the UN doesn't work on the turnstiles and there was no guard present.

 Inner City Press set up in the hall, but from there was unable to put questions -- as it has  right to -- to the Permanent Representatives going in.

  Seen, through glass, were the Perm Reps of France and Spain chatting amiably; PRs of New Zealand and Ukraine and Russia; American Deputy David Pressman.

  At the noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, Vine here (video still not provided)

UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: there was a meeting this morning at 8:30 and most of the permanent representatives of the Council went in and I wondered if you could explain.  I was unable to cover it.  The door was locked to the Council.  It was definitely a meeting.  I saw them going in.  There were ambassadors of the P-5 and others that went in.  Why didn't your office announce this meeting and why was the door for non-resident correspondents locked to go to the stakeout and speak to people?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  We ourselves were not privy to the meeting.  It was a meeting for ambassadors only.  As far as I'm aware there was no Secretariat staff, including interpreters.

 Later on March 21, along with telling Ban (again) that his Under Secretary General for "Communications" Cristina Gallach and Security had thrown Inner City Press out of its office and the UN as a whole on February 19, Inner City Press asked Ban what he was doing on Western Sahara.

 Ban said, "We had a good meeting in the Security Council today."Audio embedded here.

But didn't Haq say it was fine to Ban Inner City Press because there were no Secretariat staff involved? Beyond who is Ban's we, does the justification for censorship stand up?

Beyond having physically thrown Inner City Press out of the UN, twice, does Ban's UN not want the media on its announcement list to cover such a meeting?

Inner City Press had heard of the Monday 8:30 am meeting from sources in the region on Sunday evening.
 Moroccan state media MAP reported on March 20 that “significant number” of UN staffers had left El Aaiun airport in UN aircraft and commercial flights to Las Palmas in Spain, that 73 U.N. staffers had left and 10 would leave in the afternoon.

  Why did Ban (or the head of UN Peacekeeping, Frenchman Herve Ladsous) give in? If, in the most positive light, it was for staff safety --which was ignored for example in Sri Lanka -- why has Ban not come out and said that? This is a new low.

  On March 16, Inner City Press asked the US State Department about Western Sahara and then (from the State Department briefing room) published this, emailed to Inner City Press from Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner:

"The United States continues to support the UN-led process designed to bring about a peaceful, sustainable, and mutually-agreed solution to the conflict in the Western Sahara, one in which the human rights of all individuals are respected.

We support the work of the UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy for the Western Sahara and the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum on Western Sahara (MINURSO).

We encourage all of the parties to remain fully and actively engaged in pushing the process toward an effective resolution."

  But on March 19, a strongly rumored UN Security Council meeting about Western Sahara did not happen, at least by 3 pm.

It seems friends of Morocco - read, France - argued that the meeting was not needed. But what of Morocco's "note verbale" telling 84 people to leave "the territory of the Kingdom of Morocco"?

 That's the rub - under international law, Western Sahara is NOT "the territory of the Kingdom of Morocco." So how can 84 people be ordered out this way?

 Contrary to the analogies UN and DPKO spokesman Stephane Dujarric used, Eritrea kicking out UNMEE for not enforcing its legal right to Badme, or Chad kicking out MINURCAT, Morocco is not the host country of MINURSO.  So the note verbale, which in any event should have been sent to the Security Council, is not effective.

 But what is the role of Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row atop UN Peacekeeping, in this - and in the ouster of Inner City Press on February 19, ostensibly by his fellow Frenchman Stephane Dujarric and Cristina Gallach, the highest official of Spain in UN System? We'll have more on this.

Meanwhile two tweets from the account of the acting spokesperson for the US Mission to the UN got a lot of play, on both sides of the issue,click here to view.

  On March 18 Inner City Press asked Kirby, again, about theGovernment Accountability Project's letter to the US Mission to the UN about UN retaliation against the Press. Kirby said, "I’m also happy to refer you to our mission up in New York City." Later his office put in writing, "On the question on the Government Accountability Project letter, we’d refer you to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations."

But Inner City Press has already asked three at the US Mission about the GAP letter.

After the Security Council met on March 18 about Western Sahara, the Council's President for March, Ambassador Gaspar Martins of Angola, said the members had agreed to work both bilaterally and as  Council. Which is it? Left solo, France reflexively defends Morocco. French Ambassador Delattre on his way in said:

"With respect to Western Sahara, we, as France, but also as member of the Security Council, are having one clear objective, which is to appease the tensions. And that is why we believe that, at this stage, an important thing in order to appease the tensions, is for Morocco and the UN to have a serene, respectful, and in-depth dialogue. We believe this is absolutely important in order to, again, appease the tensions. This is our number one priority, and we will continue on this path."

 Sounds bilateral... Watch this site.

On March 14, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about an upcoming meeting it had heard from other sources about. From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: Has there been a request by Morocco's Foreign Minister to meet with the Secretary-General this week?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Yes.

Inner City Press:  And will that be an open photo op?

Spokesman Dujarric:  The meeting is still… we're still working on the scheduling of the meeting.  Obviously, it will be a photo op, as it is usually with every Foreign Minister that comes to town.  Vine here.

 And then, despite Inner City Press' question, Dujarric's office waited until four minutes before the deadline to go up to photograph the meeting to announce it. Some photo op.

 On February 29, Inner City Press directly asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who replied that Ban's trip will be in two parts -- it's just that when the El Aaiun portion will happen is not known.

On March 7, Dujarric called in to the UN Noon Briefing from - where else -- Paris and made much of Ban's visit to part of the MINURSO mission but not its headquarters. Dujarric said there would be a second stage of the trip - to Rabat.

  Inner City Press now asks: why did the English language UN transcription of the March 7 briefing include Dujarric Q&A on Western Sahara, here -- while the UN's French language transcription, here, pointed did not?

Is this to please France?  On March 10 Inner City Press asked Dujarric,Vine hereUN transcript here:

Inner City Press: when you called in from Paris about Western Sahara, I've looked at the transcriptions, the UN transcriptions of the noon briefing that day in English and French.  And in English, there's your whole Q&A about Western Sahara, and in French, it's just not there.  And I'm wondering, is there some reasons? They're both working languages, et cetera.  What's the reason for that?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I don't… I'm not sure we put out a transcript in French of my…

Inner City Press:  No, in English… in the English noon brief…

Spokesman Dujarric:  I'm not sure we put out a transcript; I'll check.

  Twenty five hours later, nothing. So on March 11, even as Dujarric tried to deny Inner City Press any more questions, Inner City Press asked, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: on Western Sahara, do you have an answer on the two press statements, English and French?

Spokesman Dujarric:  No.  But I… we're working on it.

  Vine here. Then Dujarric abruptly walked out of the UN Press Briefing Room, from which he ousted Inner City Press directly on January 29, and indirectly through another on February 19.

  Working on it? How hard can it be? At 6 pm on March 11 Dujarric's office called "lid," end of day, still without answering; Dujarric said something about "two weeks." Watch this site.

  On March 7, Inner City Press asked Dujarric if Ban had even tried to get to MINURSO's headquarters in El Aaiun -- Dujarric didn't answer that -- and if Ban hadn't in his comment distributed on March 6 given Morocco a veto over the referendum promises even in the name of the MINURSO mission.

Back on March 2, Inner City Press asked Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq why Ban is not going, while wanly claiming he has the right to do. UN transcript here.

Ban was supposed to go in November 2015 but he canceled it, thinking he could get more political - read, South Korea electoral -- play by going to North Korea. But then North Korea turned him down.

  On February 25, Inner City Press asked Dujarric about issues including Western Sahara, after three days reporting on the UN from outside after Ban's head of Communications Cristina Gallach threw Inner City Press out without due process: petition hereweird pro Morocco spin on the ouster, here.

  Now ahead of Ban's March 1 stop in Spain - will Gallach be there? - there is pick up of the fact that Gallach is Spain's highest UN official, and that she ousted the Press from the UN.

Will it be resolved by, or come to head on, March 1? In defense of Ban and Gallach, anonymous troll account has taken to tweeting, now at Spanish journalists, that Gallach is fine and didn't throw Inner City Press out of the UN on two hours notice without once speaking to it. But those are the fact. Among the new troll account's followers are Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric and four UNCA board members, plus Reuters bureau chief Louis Charbonneau, who has a history with this,see here.

On February 26, Dujarric said, "the Secretary-General's right to visit any peacekeeping mission, but there is the de facto authorities in that area would need to provide the clearance for the plane to land."

   So, he really DOESN'T have the right, and isn't really pushing for it. Inner City Press on February 26 asked Dujarric, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask what the Secretary-General's goals are for this Western Sahara trip.  What is he seeking to come out of it?  Does he… would he like to see a referendum with independence as a goal?  What's he go into it looking at?  Thanks.

Spokesman Dujarric:  Obviously, the… you know, a lot… a large focus will be on the humanitarian situation.  He'll be visiting the camps near Tindouf, and it is also part of his preparation, obviously… he will report on the trip in his upcoming report, which is scheduled for April.

  Humanitarian,? We'll have more on this.
  We'll see. UN President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft announced a trip to Europe and Morocco; particularly as the bribery case against former PGA John Ashe proceeds, with two guilty pleas and also indicted former Dominican Republic Deputy Permanent Representative (and South South News executive) Francis Lorenzo found to NOT have immunity, taking Moroccon government funding for a trip to Morocco with a Morocco-provided staffer, particularly (but not only) if not addressing the obvious issue of Western Sahara, seems ill-advised. We'll have more on this.

  Why is this not covered more? Well, Lorenzo's (and also indicted Ng Lap Seng's) South South News gave tens of thousands of dollars to the UN Correspondents Association - where Lykketoft at least early in his term held his “press” events, and which more recently got the Office of the UN Spokesperson to throw the Press out of the UN Press Briefing Room, amid these corruption questions. We'll have more on this, too.

  Since the criminal complaint, Inner City Press has asked Ban's spokespeople for basic information, and has been rebuffed. Most recently, both the UN Development Program and Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric (previously of UNDP) have refused to provide even a copy of the agreement signed by Ng, UNDP's Teresa Liu and Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

  Inner City Press reported that UNDP was asking corporations for $100,000 to be seated next to heads of state by UNDP. Closer to Ban, literally, the UN Correspondents Association (which previously took money from Ng's media vehicle, then gave it an UNCA Award and Ng a photo op with Ban) now offers seats at the VIP table, next to Ban, for $6,000 (half table) or $12,000 (full table). By most definitions, this is corruption.

  Mogen Lykketoft, meanwhile, couldn't bring himself to say Ashe's name, only referring to the President of the 68th General Assembly session. Lykketoft, who allowed his Office to be used for fellow Dane Helle Thorning-Schmidt to campaign for the top spot in the UN's refugee agency UNHCR, said he will be making reform proposals. We will be there - with questions for Lykketoft.

  Ban again mentioned what he told Inner City Press at his last stakeout, a task force under his chef of staff Susana Malcorra. But as Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Dujarric, with all due respect, Malcorra accepted one of Ng's South South Awards, for Ban. And as note, Gallach went. We'll have more on this.