Thursday, December 22, 2016

On Syria, France Insisted on Sunday Vote, Now Put Back to Monday 9am, ICP Asked of Foua & Kefraya

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 18 -- After the failure of two previous resolutions on Syria, New Zealand on October 13 circulated a draft resolution, which Inner City Press published that day, here.

On December 18, France convened consultations to then, it said, vote on its draft resolution about Aleppo.

But three and a half hours later, the meeting broke up without a vote. Instead, another meeting - this time to vote for sure, US Samantha Power told the press - was set for Monday 9 am. But might the goal posts keep moving? Or something happen on the ground? See,

Here's amended language: "Requests the Secretary General to take urgent steps to make arrangements, including security arrangements, to allow the observation by the United Nations and other relevant institutions of the well-being of civilians, as well as the full respect of international humanitarian law, inside eastern districts of the city of Aleppo."

 We'll be here - even after UN thugs grabbed, three and smashed Inner City Press' live-Periscope camera. We note that those involved in the censorship, demanding to know "what do you do for Aleppo," were not at the UN on December 18...

On the way in, Russian Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin said, "We cannot allow it to pass," called it unrealistic. Periscope here - 36 hours after UN thugs grabbed and smashed Inner City Press' Periscoping phone as it broadcast including about Aleppo. &

  France's Permanent Representative Francois Delattre, when he came in, said there would be no further compromise. US Permanent Representative Samantha Power told the press she'd make her comments "in the Chamber."

Inner City Press asked UK Deputy Permanent Representative Peter Wilson about photos of busses meant to evacuate Foua and Kefraya being burned. The UK's answer was that they've seen the reports and condemn any attack, that that it's no excuse...

But isn't it all connected?

Then in consultations, Russia circulated it own draft...

Consultations were suspended and diplomats milled around, using cell phones...

On December 13 a Security Council meeting was scheduled for noon about Aleppo. The UN canceled its noon briefing, for the second day in a row; questions about Yemen, Myanmar and Burundi could not be asked (anyway Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople no longer answer).

  But in the Security Council chamber, Russia's Vitaly Churkin mocked Samantha Power for speaking as if she were Mother Theresa. By the same Syria's Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari spoke, not only Power but then also her deputy Michele Sison, previously the US ambassador to Sri Lanka, another killing zone on which the US did nothing, made a point of walking out. Mother Theresa indeed.

   Afterward Inner City Press sought to asked UN envoy Staffan de Mistura a question. He seemed to have pegged Inner City Press, saying he knew Inner City Press would ask him if he was resigning.

(Actually, our question has been about his previously hiring Ban Ki-moon's son in law Siddharth Chatterjee, whom Ban has more recently promoted to the top UN job in Kenya without recusing himself. But we digress).

   Inner City Press asked de Mistura about Palmyra -- he said some 20% of the population remains -- and if he had in fact managed or scheduled to meet Team Trump. He'd said he aimed to; now he told Inner City Press he would have no comment since Trump has yet to take office.

From the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press Q. In Palymra, what is the status of civilians? And also, is there any update on your desire to meet with the team of the incoming US president. Have you met with them or will you do so this week?

SdeM. Regarding Palmyra, the issue is very confused at the moment because as you know ISIL, or Daesh, has been actually taking over the city by surprise, with a substantial number of fighters. The population to a large degree, according to the government, has been evacuated just in time, they were not that many so it probably did take place. But there is a concern for those who have not been able to be evacuated which is about 20 percent of the population at the time. What we hear is the intension of fighting back and retaking Palmyra. But what is shocking and surprising and worrisome is that they were actually able to do so, having lost the control of Palmyra. Regarding meetings with the President-elect team, our line is not to comment on it, because it is an informal environment given that the President-elect is not yet in charge and his whole team is not totally there. Whatever meetings with may be taking place and have taken place I will make no comments on that.

   What changed? Is it that Ban hasn't been able to get a meeting? Ban later on December 13 was set to 
meet New York City's Mayor Bill De Blasio.

Back 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.”

This draft went through a number of changes before it was double-vetoed on December 5. Inner City Press has learned that language included for a time in the draft, distinguishing between designated terrorist groups ISIS, Nabhat al Nusra and aliases and other armed groups was opposed - by Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Qatar in particular.

   Diplomats expressed a mixture of surprise and disgust, given the separate public push for action in the General Assembly. Inner City Press waited at the UN Security Council stakeout on December 8 to try to ask UN envoy Stephane de Mistura about all this.

  But de Mistura and his spokesman had already chosen from whom they would take questions - don't forget that de Mistura similarly “selected” Ban Ki-moon's son in law Siddharth Chatterjee for a promotion as his chief of staff in Iraq, buying his way in a la Jan Mattson. And none of the selected questions touched on this. Ban doesn't need promotions for his son in law anymore, having promoted him without recusal himself to the top UN job in Kenya.

    Meanwhile de Mistura says he will mean with some in Trump's team, Monday or Tuesday. Will the UN's Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed? Watch this site.

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.