Wednesday, December 28, 2016

On Settlements at UNSC, US Power Asked Only That Vote Be At 2 PM, Venezuela Told Stakeout Plant, Russia on Haste

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 28 -- Before the UN Security Council voted on December 23 at 2 pm on an anti-settlements resolution, approving it with the US only abstaining, there was a closed door consultation of the Council.

Inner City Press has assembled this video just outside. Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that the way things were happening projected an impression of haste. (In the consultation he had asked for a delay past Christmas, Barak Ravid reports, after a call from Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Russian President Vladimir Putin.)

  US Ambassador Samantha Power flatly refused to comment on the upcoming vote. But Venezuela's Ambassador Rafael Ramirez, asked by a person with a CNN microphone about the consultation, said that the US had only asked that the vote be at two pm. 

And so it happened. Longer explanatory Inner City Press YouTube here.
   The person with the CNN microphone had, in fact, been identified by UN Security as unauthorized at the Security Council stakeout. A UN Security officer told Inner City Press, “They harass you for any and every thing, but this lady didn't have a press accreditation of any kind, she had a visitor's badge and said that Israeli mission brought her to the stakeout.”

She was taken to the Media Accreditation office run by the UN Department of Public Information, which earlier this year summarily reduced Inner City Press to “non-resident correspondent” (NYT here)and confined it since to minders - but was back at the stakeout to pose questions including the one recorded here.  One denizen of the stakeout called her “a plant;” another in breathless UN-ese insisted she was a spy.

  The UN Office of the Spokesperson under Stephane Dujarric has refused to answer Inner City Press' written questions, eight of them submitted at noon on December 27, even as they answered Reuters and Yonhap to deny outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had, as reported, received bags of cash from a South Korean businessman while serving as Secretary General. We'll have more on this.

As obtained by Inner City Press, submitted to the UN Security Council president for December, Spain:

"I wish to inform that the co-sponsors who seconded the draft namely Malaysia,  New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela have agreed that given the interest, urgency and importance of the issue, it is imperative for Council to act on this draft.

2.           Consequently and in accordance with applicable Council rules of procedure, our delegations request the Secretariat to recirculate the same draft in blue (S/2016/1095) with Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela as co-sponsors.

3.           Our delegations further request the Presidency schedule the vote for the text ASAP today, please."

US Ambassador Samantha Power refused question on how the US would or will vote (and refused Inner City Press' question on the UN arming a South Sudan warlord); Russia's Vitaly Churkin said Russia would prefer an “orderly process.” 

Call it the ultimate lame duck session, along with Obama.  Watch this site.

  A diplomat who spoke with US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power on the afternoon of December 22 told Inner City Press Power said she for now had no instructions on how to vote. Whether the decision had not been made by Barack Obama, or there was a concern about the leaks, is not known. But there were no instructions. A diplomat said, We could vote tonight. Or never.

This came a day after Israel pointedly did not participate in the UN General Assembly vote on a Syria investigative mechanism, and a month before Donald Trump takes over from Obama.

On the morning of December 22, Trump issued this:

"The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed.

"As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations.

"This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis."

 And Obama?

 Here is the draft resolution:

 The Security Council,

Reaffirming its relevant resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 446 (1979), 452 (1979), 465 (1980), 476 (1980), 478 (1980), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003), and 1850 (2008),

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming, inter alia, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force,

Reaffirming the obligation of Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and recalling the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice,

Condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions,

Expressing grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines,

Recalling the obligation under the Quartet Roadmap, endorsed by its resolution 1515 (2003), for a freeze by Israel of all settlement activity, including “natural growth”, and the dismantlement of all settlement outposts erected since March 2001,

Recalling also the obligation under the Quartet roadmap for the Palestinian Authority Security Forces to maintain effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantling terrorist capabilities, including the confiscation of illegal weapons,

Condemning all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction,

Reiterating its vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,

Stressing that the status quo is not sustainable and that significant steps, consistent with the transition contemplated by prior agreements, are urgently needed in order to (i) stabilize the situation and to reverse negative trends on the ground, which are steadily eroding the two-State solution and entrenching a one-State reality, and (ii) to create the conditions for successful final status negotiations and for advancing the two-State solution through those negotiations and on the ground,

    Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;

    Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard;

    Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;

    Stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-State solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-State solution;
    Calls upon all States, bearing in mind paragraph 1 of this resolution, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967;

    Calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism;

    Calls upon both parties to act on the basis of international law, including international humanitarian law, and their previous agreements and obligations, to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, with the aim, inter alia, of de-escalating the situation on the ground, rebuilding trust and confidence, demonstrating through policies and actions a genuine commitment to the two-State solution, and creating the conditions necessary for promoting peace;

    Calls upon all parties to continue, in the interest of the promotion of peace and security, to exert collective efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final status issues in the Middle East peace process and within the time frame specified by the Quartet in its statement of 21 September 2010;

    Urges in this regard the intensification and acceleration of international and regional diplomatic efforts and support aimed at achieving, without delay a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap and an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967; and underscores in this regard the importance of the ongoing efforts to advance the Arab Peace Initiative, the initiative of France for the convening of an international peace conference, the recent efforts of the Quartet, as well as the efforts of Egypt and the Russian Federation;

    Confirms its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations and in the implementation of an agreement;

    Reaffirms its determination to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions;

    Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council every three months on the implementation of the provisions of the present resolution;

    Decides to remain seized of the matter.

When amid Press questions about UN corruption Ban Ki-moon and his Communications chief Cristina Gallach evicted Inner City Press from its long time shared office, they not only began confining the Press to “minders” to cover any events on the UN's second floor, including of the UN Security Council.

They also denied it a place to work, and the possibility to cover many UN meetings including on November 29 a meeting of the UN “Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinians” addressed by Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson - and later, a related event of Palestinian embroidery addressed by USg Jeff Feltman.

In order to get to the morning meeting, Inner City Press unlike the other correspondents present and not present in the UN Press Briefing Room, or even though always absent like Egyptian state media Akhbar al Yom's Sanaa Youssef, being rewarded for now with Inner City Press' office, was required to get a minder.

  Even then, while other passed freely through the turnstile, UN Security demanded to know why Inner City Press wanted to go onto the second floor. This is targeted censorship. Once in front, Inner City Press even with a minder was able to learn some things - until it was time to have to leave, with the meeting still ongoing.

(Here's just one example of Inner City Press' Middle East coverage from before Gallach and Ban decided to restrict Inner City Press' access, this is from October 2015.)

Other favored correspondents continued to move freely, not even covering the meetings, just drinking coffee. This is the targeted censorship regime of Ban and Gallach, right in midtown Manhattan. UNreal - and hypocritical, when compared to Ban's and Gallach's unit's statements about West Bank journalists.

In the evening embroidery event, while the speeches didn't start until after 6:40 pm, Inner City Press had to leave before 7 pm under the censorship order of Cristina Gallach -- who was there present, nodding at references to embroidery but not having answered, in four days, whether the UN paid for her to go get a personal award in Catalonia. 

She turned, not too friendly - but she is the one who destroyed DPI by turning it into a vehicle to evict and restrict the Press, for nine months and counting, for daring to look into the Ng Lap Seng bribery case and her role in it - later affirmed by the OIOS' own audit. But sure, she's for Palestinian journalists, and is a journalist herself - on the UN dime? We'll have more on this.

On November 28 Inner City Press was similarly hindered from covering from a UN Security Council meeting in the Trusteeship Council Chambe sponsored by Senegal and Spain, set to be President of the Security Council in December the last of its 24 monts on the Council, on the topic of cyber security. Inner City Press was required by the order of Spain's highest UN official Cristina Gallach to have a minder to cover outside the meeting, a minder who stayed six feet away throughout. The meeting was said by Spain to be “open” but was not on the UN Webcast run by Gallach's DPI - it was only on “EZTV” for insider journalists not evicted by Gallach.

   It turns out that an obvious issue, the alleged hacking of elections, was not even mentioned in the meeting. Reviews afterward, with minder, were far from stellar, as were predictions for December. We'll have more on this, much more.

   While with Gallach's minder, Inner City Press was able to learn of a memorial service for November 29 in the ECOSOC chamber for Joseph Verner Reed; a UN official came by to chide Inner City Press was asking when the last time was that Ban Ki-moon spoke with his brother Ki-ho, who had done mining in Myanmar after being on a “UN Delegation.” This is UN corruption, and censorship, and it must end.

On November 21 Inner City Press was similarly hindered from covering a UN Security Council meeting in the Trusteeship Council Chamber on protecting infrastructure from terrorist attacks (as well as a UN Peacekeeping meeting, including on Contingent Owned Equipment, in the ECOSOC Chamber next door).

   Inner City Press was required to have a minder, who sat within six feet of where Inner City Press did its coverage. Even so, Inner City Press spoke to a number of Permanent Representatives, about both meeting - but immediately after speaking with the sponsor of the meeting, Inner City Press was told to leave, the meeting was over. (Coverage, of course, often happens after the meeting - this is no longer allowed).

   Ironically, UN Department of Public Information officials went up and down the hall giving tours in connection with DPI's Cristina Gallach allowing the UN to be used to promote a television show for a for-profit cable television network. This is what DPI has become - confining independent investigative press to minders, parading around this D-list celebrities, selling the UN as set forth in the OIOS audit of l'affaire John Ashe / Ng Lap Seng, which specifically criticizes Gallach for her lack of due diligence.

   Ukraine, the sponsor, told Inner City Press it intends to continue on the topic of infrastructure and terrorism in February, their second UN Security Council presidency. Participants in the Peacekeeping / equipment meeting complained again about African contingents being left with less equipment than the Dutch and other Europeans in Ladsous' Mali mission. Inner City Press, even with minder so nearby, learned more about the transition of the new / incoming Secretary General -- will these absurd restrictions continue?

  Passing through and greeting the Press was one of the more serious candidates for Secretary General, who spoke about the need for the UN to live up to media freedom principles and would certainly remove the restrictions. But will they be removed?

Inner City Press was also restricted on November 16 from covering a UN General Assembly plenary meeting. Inner City Press arrived early at the UN, knowing of -- but not consenting to -- Ban's and Gallach's requirement of a minder. But even to get into the UN took twenty extra minutes through the metal detectors, required since Inner City Press' retaliatory ouster in February.

  Once in, Inner City Press ran to get a minder. But first it had to accompany the minder elsewhere, then down to the stakeout in front of the General Assembly, where a double blue rope barrier was erected for Inner City Press to stand behind. Even so, diplomats approach Inner City Press, to complain about Ban's distant and wan management and question what the double transition, including in Washington, will bring.

  The UN Webcast, for which Gallach's DPI is responsible, had no sound for the General Assembly meeting, or any of the meeting in New York (a session from Geneva, about torture, had sound.). This is another reason Gallach must go - totally inattention, the UN gone mute.

    Still Inner City Press followed the meeting. A minister from Indonesia spoke; Mexico said if only there'd been more notice, more member states could have spoken. But Gallach's DPI didn't even make it possible for people to hear, on the UN Webcast live, what was said - and hindered Press coverage of the meeting.

We've previously covered how Ban's and Gallach's self-serving access and censorship decisions shouldn't be allowed to hinder coverage of the Security Council. The same is true, perhaps even more so, for the General Assembly. We'll have more on this.