Saturday, September 17, 2016

On Western Sahara, As Ban Eyed Building Morocco's Road, Can Staff Speak to Diplomats?

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow up to Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, September 16 -- The UN of Ban Ki-moon, which gave in to Morocco's demand to pull out 83 members of its MINURSO mission in Western Sahara and has yet to get most of the returned, is now proposing to given in further, sources exclusively told Inner City Press on September 8.

   A UN Security Council meeting was set up for Friday, September 9 at 3 pm. Inner City Press reported that the goal was for Ban's UN Secretariat to propose that the UN take over the work Morocco unilaterally began of building and asphalting a road in the Guerguerat area.

  Previous UN reports, under Kofi Annan, expressed concern at this road. But now under Ban Ki-moon, the UN is prepared to propose to do it itself.

Fully a week later, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric to explain Ban's position - and if Morocco can complain, and get UN Under Secretary Gneral action on, UN staff speaking with a Polisario diplomat. From the UN's September 16 transcript:

Inner City Press: I'd asked you yesterday to clarify what the Secretary-General's proposal had been about this road on which Security Council consultations were called last Friday.  You said you'd look into it.  But at least some on the sort of pro-Moroccan side that have said the road is now completed.  So I wanted just a factual report, if you have one, on what's actually taken place since last Friday.

Spokesman:  No.  What I have is that MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) is undertaking any task in this current crisis to be based on the agreement of both parties and of the Security Council.  The Mission's proposal would include the withdrawal by both parties of all armed elements.  Peacekeeping… MINURSO would retain the exclusive presence in the area.  And MINURSO is concerned about the preservation of peace and civility in Western Sahara and the prevention… the resumption of armed hostilities.  [MINURSO] is an instrument of peace and not in the interest of either party.

ICP Question:  Okay.  And one other thing.  It's also on Western Sahara, but it's also sort of about UN rules, what is expected of the UN staff.  A UN staff member, the Secretary of the Third Committee, Moncef Khane, was observed speaking to a representative of the Polisario, Mr. [Ahmed] Boukhari.  And a complaint was made by the ambassador from Morocco to the USG (Under-Secretary-General) of DGACM (Department of General Assembly and Conference Management) — many acronyms there.  And Catherine Pollard actually called the Secretary of the Third Committee in and said that he should be more careful who he talks to.  So I wanted to know, beyond this particular case, how should UN staff… are they allowed to speak to diplomats of…

Spokesman:  I'm not going to comment on the particular case because I have no detailed knowledge of who people talk to and when they talk to them.  Obviously, I think as I general rule, UN staff speak to whomever they may want to speak to who may be in this building.

ICP Question:  Right.  So you don't… 

Spokesman:  I'm not going to speculate further because I don't know the facts.