Saturday, December 10, 2016
After Syria Draft Fails, China Takes on US, UN Security Orders ICP Out
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, December 5 -- After the failure of two resolutions on Syria, New Zealand on October 13 circulated a draft resolution, which Inner City Press published that day, here.
On November 23 Inner City Press was informed of an “Egyptian draft put in blue on Aleppo,” which would demand a “ten day humanitarian pause around Aleppo with 72 hours advance notice.”
On December 4 the amended draft was put on the UN Security Council's agenda for Monday, December 5 at 2 pm. While Inner City Press covered the meeting as it has previous Syria session of the Security Council, two UN Security officers ordered it to leave. It was noting but targeting: other photographers weren't even asked why they were there, much less given orders.
Just past noon on December 5, a closed door consultations was scheduled for 1:45 pm. At that time, the glass door to the Security Council stakeout was locked and Inner City Press, due to restrictions imposed on it by Ban Ki-moon and his chief of “Public Information” Cristina Gallach, could not reach it. Later it did, and Periscoped the Permanent Representatives of the UK and France, here.
After 2 pm, everyone filed into the the Chamber. Russia's Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin said the vote shouldn't be taken, because the draft had only been put “in blue” at 11:20 am. He said waiting the seemingly required 24 hours would allow for meetings in Geneva discussed by the US and Russia.
But the US, by its deputy Michele Sison and not its Permanent Representative Samantha Power - whose permanence expired on January 21 is not before - said the vote should go forward. Churkin said the US Mission was trying to topple something discussed with John Kerry, also outgoing.
When the voting occurred, not only Russia but also China and Venezuela voted no, and Angola abstained. Photo here. Then the speeches started.
Surprisingly, China took a right of reply against the US; deputy Sison purported to reply but did not do so directly. She left the meeting.
During the speeches, suddenly the door to the photo booth opened. Come out, a UN Security officer told Inner City Press, ignoring the other photographer in the booth. Out in the hall, missing the speeches, the officer said again and again, "You're not supposed to be in there... Close the door." Audio here.
Out in the hall a second UN Security officer, who previously followed Inner City Press around saying its backpack was too big, also said to leave. Inner City Press said, “This is targeting” - and one of the officers said, “You're disturbing the meeting.” Who's disturbing the meeting? This is censorship.
Inner City Press, due to this targeted censorship, also missed the UNTV stakeout by Spain, New Zealand and Egypt (to which it wanted to ask Yemen questions.)
Back down in the hallway on the second floor, Inner City Press asked New Zealand's Permanent Representative if the “humanitarian troika” covers Yemen or only Syria. Only Syria.
Canada's request for a General Assembly meeting has been filed; a separate call for an emergency General Assembly meeting involving Saudi Arabia has been made, citing Ban Ki-moon (who excused the Saudi-led Coalition's killing of over 1,000 children in Yemen)
"attacks on civilian infrastructure, most notably hospitals and schools, have become commonplace. Such attacks are violations of international humanitarian law and according to the UN Secretary-General, may amount to war crimes. Taking into account these horrific circumstances, we strongly believe that the call for an Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly is justified and required. We owe it to the people of Syria."
Here is the Security Council's notice:
2.00 p.m., 7825th meeting, Security Council Chamber
1. Adoption of the agenda
2. The situation in the Middle East
Inner City Press has previously published the operative paragraphs of the Canada-drafted General Assembly resolution (on which Ban and his head of communications Gallach hindered Press coverage) here. Watch this site.
It is ironic in that Egypt not only cracks down on media at home, but has its state media Akhbar al Yom operating for Ban Ki-moon and his Gallach to Occupy the longtime work space of Inner City Press, restriction it to minders while Akhbar al Yom's Sanaa Youssef rarely comes to the UN, never asks questions.
On October 26 the Security Council's session with UN Relief Chief Stephen O'Brien turned into theater, including when Syria's Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari took the floor the latest walk-out by the Ambassadors of the UK, France, US and Ukraine. Inner City Press rushed to the photo booth to film it, then back to the stakeout to ask about it.
Spain's Román Oyarzun Marchesi spoke briefly off-camera, then Russia's Vitaly Churkin, the Council's president for October (as Oyarzun Marchesi will be in December) spoke at more length on the steps. Inner City Press asked him about the walk-out and he said, it is a tool in the hands of diplomats -- in the absence of other tools.
He said the Yemen session on October 31 will be open, and that Stephen O'Brien should speak about Yemen. YouTube of Periscope here, with analysis at end.
On October 27, along with asking UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft if the UK supports the October 31 session on Yemen being open - Yes, he said, swan song Vine here - Inner City Press also asked French Ambassador Delattre about the walk-out.
He said it was spontaneous, he didn't want to hear what Ja'afari had to say. Inner City Press pointed out that the UK, US and Ukraine also walked out. “France is an independent country,” Delattre said. Video here. And Inner City Press' photo of the walk-out shows that Rycroft and US Deputy Michele Sison were standing up and Delattre was still sitting down. We hope to have more on this.
On October 27 at noon former UK prime minister, now UN Special Envoy Gordon Brown called for the referral to the International Criminal Court of the school bombing in Idlib. Inner City Press asked Brown about the bombing - by UK supported Saudi Arabia - of schools in Yemen; Churkin was asked about what was said by Gordon Brown. After asking, perhaps in jest, Gordon Who, Churkin said the UK is a member of the ICC and should have its files there. On Yemen?
(Inner City Press earlier in the month asked incoming Secretary General Antonio Guterres about Yemen, story here, Beyond the Vine video here.)
Here's New Zealand's draft resolution on Syria:
The Security Council
Recalling its resolutions 2042 (2012), 2043 (2012), 2118 (2013), 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2175 (2014), 2191 (2014) 2209 (2015), 2254 (2015) 2258 (2015) and 2268 (2016),
Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,
Noting discussions in September between the Russian Federation and the United States on Syria and deeply concerned at the breakdown of the agreed pause in hostilities and series of steps to reduce violence, enable unimpeded humanitarian access and set the conditions for the resumption of a Syrian-led political process,
Distressed that, as a result of this breakdown, there has been a sharp increase in the level of conflict in Syria, accompanied by an intensification of the devastating humanitarian situation, renewed impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance and intensified attacks against civilians and civilian objects contrary to international humanitarian law,
Distressed also that the resumption of conflict has seen an intensification of attacks against medical facilities contrary to international humanitarian law and to its resolution 2286,
Convinced that, in these circumstances it is incumbent on the Security Council to act;
Recognising the importance of the continuation of armed action against terrorist entities in Syria designated as such by virtue of Security Council resolutions,
Determining that the situation in Syria continues to constitute a threat to peace and security in the region,
Underscoring that Member States are obligated under Article 25 of the Charter of the United Nations to accept and carry out the Council’s decisions,
1. Demands an immediate and complete end to all attacks which may result in the death or injury of civilians or damage to civilian objects in Syria, in particular those carried out by air in Aleppo;
2. Demands also the immediate commencement of steps towards the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2268 and the Cessation of Hostilities outlined in it;
3. Demands that all parties allow and facilitate immediate, unimpeded and sustained access to besieged and hard to reach areas throughout Syria for humanitarian relief on the basis of needs determined by the United Nations;
4. Calls upon all parties to adhere, within 24 hours of the adoption of this resolution, to a 48 hour pause to the fighting and to regular 48 hour pauses thereafter until full implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities required under resolution 2268 is achieved, so as to allow the UN to provide humanitarian assistance to all those in need and reinforces that this obligation is in addition to the requirements under Security Council Resolution 2268;
5. Calls also on the United Nations to work with relevant parties to agree operational modalities for the pauses described in Paragraph 4 of this resolution and to ensure the necessary security guarantees for humanitarian assistance;
6. Calls upon the parties to the conflict to conclude as expeditiously as possible local agreements for the evacuation of wounded and sick, the elderly, children and maternity cases from besieged and hard to reach areas based solely on urgency and need and requests the United Nations to facilitate such agreements as appropriate;
7. Demands that all combatants not designated as terrorist entities by virtue of Security Council resolutions take steps to separate expeditiously from combatants designated as terrorist entities by virtue of Security Council resolutions while in this regard emphasising that efforts to counter terrorism must be carried out in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law, and in particular with regard to the protection of civilians;
8. Notes the initiative of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Syria of 6 October 2016 on addressing the situation in Aleppo and requests the Secretary-General to present to the Security Council within two weeks a detailed plan for its implementation for the purpose of the endorsement by the Security Council;
9. Reiterates that the only sustainable solution to the current crisis in Syria is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and in this regard supports the intention of the Secretary-General, through his good offices and the efforts of his Special Envoy for Syria, to convene formal negotiations as soon as possible;
10. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.
Back on October 8, French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault came to the UN for a Saturday vote on the French-Spanish draft resolution on Aleppo, which Russia had already said it would veto. That is what happened. Venezuela also voted no; China and Angola abstained.
Afterward Ayrault came to the stakeout. Inner City Press asked him, loudly, if he thinks the Saudi bombardment of Yemen should also be taken up by the Security Council, after an airstrike on a funeral most recently. He did not answer, despite the question being repeated. He left.
While Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the UK, which holds the Council's “pen” on Yemen, also did not answer, Vine here, New Zealand's ambassador when Inner City Press asked if his country also thinks the Saudi-led coalition should stop bombing Yemen said, “I do.”Vine here.
Speeches went on. Then Russia's draft failed: four in favor, nine against, two abstentions. Egypt said the Security Council is becoming only a media platform. And not only that - the UN is trying to hinder Press coverage. More on that to follow.
Just before the UN Security Council met about Aleppo, with a briefing from envoy Staffan de Mistura on October 7, French Permanent Representative Francois Delattre told the press that the moment of truth, to vote on the Franco-Spanish draft resolution, was near -- Saturday at 2:30 pm, just for the drama, it seemed. The Franco-Spanish draft is below.
Now Russia has submitted its own draft, which Inner City Press has obtained and puts on Scribd, here. As Inner City Press was reporting this and other UN legal stories it was told by the UN that it, but not other correspondents, had to leave. We'll have more on this.