Saturday, December 17, 2016

On Syria, ICP Asks UN's de Mistura About Palmyra And If Will Meet Trump, No Comment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 13 -- 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 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.

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.

Delattre was asked of the analogy of Aleppo to Rwanda and did not respond on that, Periscope video here - understandable to some given, for example, then French diplomat (now taciturn UN official) Herve Ladsous' 1994 memo obtained by Inner City Press, here.

Here is the French draft:

The Security Council,

PP1 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),

PP2 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, (pp.2 of R.2268)

PP3 Gravely distressed by the continued deterioration of the devastating humanitarian situation in Syria, and the fact that now more than 13.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, and that about 6.1 million people are internally displaced (in addition to the half a million Palestinian refugees who had settled in Syria), 861.200 people are trapped in besieged areas, (new)

PP4 Expressing outrage at the unacceptable and escalating level of violence and at the intensified campaigns, in recent days, of aerial bombings in Aleppo and recalling in this regard the statement made on 29th September by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, reporting a situation of “now besieged eastern Aleppo”, (new)

PP5 Strongly condemning the increased terrorist attacks resulting in numerous casualties and destruction carried out by ISIL, Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the Security Council, and reiterating its call on all parties to commit to putting an end to terrorist acts perpetrated by such organizations and individuals, while reaffirming that terrorism in all its forms constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever, and by whomsoever committed, (based on OP 8 of R.2254 and PP9 of R. 2139)

PP6 Being appalled at the fact that the implementation of its resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191(2014) 2209 (2015), 2254 (2015), 2258 (2015) and 2268 (2016) remains largely unfulfilled, recalling in this regard the legal obligations of all parties to comply with international humanitarian law and international human rights law, reaffirming the need for the full and immediate implementation of all provisions of resolutions 2139 (2014) 2165 (2014), 2199 (2015), 2209 (2015), 2254 (2015), 2258 (2015) and 2268 (2016) including by immediately ceasing all attacks against civilians and civilian objects, including those involving attacks on schools, medical facilities and the deliberate disruptions of water supply, the indiscriminate use of weapons, including artillery, barrel bombs, incendiary bombs and air strikes, indiscriminate shelling by mortars, car bombs, suicide attacks and tunnel bombs, as well as the use of starvation of civilians as a method of combat, including by the besiegement of populated areas, and the widespread use of torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary executions and extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, sexual and gender-based violence, as well as grave violations and abuses committed against children (based on PP. 5 and OP.1 of R. 2258)

PP7 Noting with concern the report of August 24, 2016 by the UN/OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic that confirms the use of chemical weapons in Syria, looking forward to the supplementary UN/OPWC JIM report and affirming that those individuals responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria shall be held accountable, (new, based on PP4 of R. 2235)

PP8 Strongly condemning the widespread violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, stressing the need to end impunity for these violations and abuses, and re-emphasizing in this regard the need that those who have committed or are otherwise responsible for such violations and crimes in Syria must be brought to justice, (based on PP. 24 of R. 2258)

PP9 Emphasizing that the humanitarian and human rights situation in Syria continues to constitute a threat to peace and security in the region, and will continue to deteriorate further in the absence of a political solution to the crisis, (based on PP 25 and 26 of R. 2258)

PP10 Recalling its intent, expressed in its resolution 2258 (2015) to take further measures in the event of non-compliance with this resolution or resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2191(2014), (based on OP 6 of R. 2258)

PP11 Taking note of the joint arrangement of 9th September 2016 between the co-presidents of the ISSG on a cessation of hostilities in Syria, and welcoming their intention to undertake joint efforts to stabilize the situation in Syria, with special measures for the Aleppo region,

PP12 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, (based on PP 27 of R. 2258)

OP1 Demands that all parties to the Syrian conflict, in particular the Syrian authorities, immediately comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, in particular in all besieged and hard-to-reach areas, and fully and immediately implement all the provisions of Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) 2191 (2014), 2199 (2015), 2254 (2015), 2258 (2015) and 2268 (2016), and recalls that those violations and abuses committed in Syria that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity shall not go unpunished; (based on OP 1 of R. 2258)

OP2 Calls upon all parties to implement and ensure full implementation of the cessation of hostilities as described in 2268 (2016) and its annex, including an end to all aerial bombardments as well as the provision of immediate, safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and urges the co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group to ensure the immediate implementation of the cessation of hostilities, starting with Aleppo, and, to that effect, to put an end to all military flights over the city; (new)

OP3 Underlines the need for an enhanced monitoring of the respect of the cessation of hostilities under the supervision of the United Nations, requests the Secretary General, within five days of the adoption of this resolution, to propose options to this effect, with a view to a swift implementation, and encourages all member States, especially the members of the ISSG, to contribute to the information of the monitoring mechanism; (new, based on French non-paper of Sept. 22, 2016)

OP3 bis Demands all parties to comply with United Nations requests for humanitarian access by observing the cessation of hostilities as described in resolution 2268 (2016), and that the Syrian government end all aerial bombardments, in order to facilitate safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all of Aleppo by the UN and its humanitarian partners, recognizing this requires a sustained absence of violence as determined sufficient by the UN and its humanitarian partners to allow humanitarian assistance;

OP3 ter Underlines that humanitarian access should be to the full number of people in need as identified by the UN and its humanitarian partners, with the full spectrum of humanitarian assistance as determined by the UN and its humanitarian partners, and evacuation of urgent medical cases should be facilitated by all sides based solely on urgency and need;

OP4 Requests further the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation of this resolution, by all parties to the Syrian domestic conflict, every two weeks; (new)

OP5 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, with a view to full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 as endorsed by resolution 2118 (2013), including through the establishment of an inclusive transitional governing body with full executive powers, which shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent while ensuring continuity of governmental institutions; (PP 5 of R. 2254)

OP6 Expresses in this regard its fullest support for the Special Envoy’s efforts towards a full implementation of resolution 2254 and urges all parties to the Syrian domestic conflict to cooperate constructively and in good faith with the Special Envoy to this end; (based on §8 of the PRST of August 17th, 2015)

OP7 Decides that it will take further measures under the Charter of the United Nations in the event of non-compliance with this resolution by any party to the Syrian domestic conflict; (based on OP6 of R.2258)

OP8 Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

Back on September 25 as Inner City Press in a nearly empty UN covered the General Assembly debate on September 24, it heard of an emergency Security Council meeting about Aleppo called for the next day, Sunday, at 11 am.

When Syria's Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari spoke, Samantha Power, UK Matthew Rycroft and French Francois Delattre all left the Chamber.

While French Duputy Alexis Lamek stayed, the UK and US were at a lower level. For the US, Deputy Michelle Sison returned when Staffan de Mistura replied to Ja'afari.

   Inner City Press asked Churkin about the walkout and he said, Ask the Ambassador of Syria. So Inner City Press did, and Ja'afari said it “proves they are not Permanent Representatives.” Minutes later on UNTV Inner City Press asked de Mistura about the walkout, and for the status of the UN investigation of the strike on the aid convoy and if it was an AIR strike. He said, No comment on either. Video here. It's come to this.

On September 26, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about the UN investigation of the strike on the convoy, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: the strike against the aid convoy in Syria, it was a big topic yesterday in the… in the speeches back and forth.  I tried to ask Mr. de Mistura, what's the status of any UN investigation?  And when he did his stakeout, what's the status of any UN investigation into the strike on the aid convoy?  And he said he had no comment.  But I just wanted to ask you, as a factual matter: Is the UN looking at it?  Is it the UN's position it was an airstrike as opposed to any other kind of strike?  What is the UN doing to get to the bottom of it? 

Deputy Spokesman:  At this stage, as you're aware, we have no on-the-ground presence that could conduct an investigation.  We would like to receive any relevant information.  This deserves to be fully investigated.  As we've pointed out, any deliberate targeting of humanitarian convoy would constitute a war crime.  So it's the responsibility of the parties on the ground to be able to provide any relevant information on this.

ICP Question:  But it… does the UN believe it's an airstrike or not?  Does it not even… can you not even make that distinction between air and…

Deputy Spokesman:  At this stage, as you're aware, there are many contradictory accounts of what's happened, so we want a definitive account.

 Earlier at 10:40 am arriving despite Ban Ki-moon's Press eviction order, the Ambassadors of Russia, France and the UK spoke on their way in. Russian's Vitaly Churkin was asked if he thought the calling of the meeting was a stunt (which US Samantha Power called Russia's meeting the week before.”

   We don't accuse anybody, Churkin said, we are too self-confident for that. Vine video here.

Inside the Chamber, as Samantha Power spoke of the airstrikes in Syria, it was hard not to think of those in Yemen, too. France's Francois Delattre cited Guernica, a replica of Picasso's painting of which still hangs at the UNSC stakeout where journalists waited for Ban Ki-moon's delayed Cyprus press statement.

Russian's Churkin recounted that John Kerry has assured he wouldn't go public with two Russian planes over the struck aid convoy but "other agencies" in DC leaked it.

Two days after the UN Security Council meeting on the US-led coalition's bombing of Syrian soldiers in Deir Ez-Zor, the US denounced an airstrike on an aid convoy, below. Also on September 19, Saudi Arabia hosted a Syrian opposition event at the Westin Hotel near the UN, Inner City Press Periscope here. 

On September 17 an emergency UN Security Council meeting was called by Russia at 7:30 pm after reported US airstrikes killed more then 60 Syria soldiers in Deir Ez-Zor.

This came a day after a planned briefing of the Council by Russia and the US was canceled. It was also just as UN General Assembly week began, with a meeting of the International Syria Support Group planned for Tuesday morning. Now this.

  Russia's Vitaly Churkin as he went into the Council told the press he'd explain “at some length, afterward.”

Then US Samantha Power arrived and went straight to the UNTV microphone, reading from notes about the loss of life (Vine here) (Beyond the Vine here) called the meeting a stunt, Vine here, and saying that Russia's spokesperson Maria Zakharova should be ashamed of herself.

Russia's Churkin re-emerged and criticized Power for speaking before even entering the meeting. He asked, Who is in charge in Washington - the White House or the Pentagon?

Inner City Press asked Churkin about quotes that the Pentagon would consider "condolence" payments to the families of Syrian soldiers. He said, It's for the Syrian government to respond. Beyond the Vine here; Vine here

Afterward, Inner City Press was locked out of the UN Security Council stakeout due to the eviction orders of UNSG Ban Ki-moon and his head of communications Cristina Gallach, Beyond the Vine video here; NYT here; petition here.

Back on September 9 when the UN's Staffan de Mistura and Stephen O'Brien held a joint stakeout in Geneva, the letter from NGOs breaking off cooperation with the UN was the elephant in the room.

But the room, off-camera, was either not full or ill-prepared. The UN moderator called on Voice of America, which had nothing; she called on France 24 twice, and without further identification “Egyptian TV.”

   At the UN in New York, Ban Ki-moon's UN has gone out of its way to break its own rules for Egyptian state media, giving never-present Akhbar al Yom the office space from which Ban and his Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach have evicted Inner City Press, which reported on de Mistura's hiring of Ban's son in law Siddharth Chatterjee.

   Chatterjee, after using threats and more to get an Indian pick-up of that story scrubbed from the Internet, has blocked Inner City Press on Twitter. Ban has given the top UN job in Kenya to his son in law Sid; now his spokesman Stephane Dujarric refuses to answer basic Press questions, calling them “ridiculous accusations” and running from the podium.

  The podia or rostrums in Geneva were both branded “United Nations;” as de Mistura and O'Brien began speak, UN Security struggled to raise a blue UN flag behind them. Branding before all else.

   John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov were meeting, even showed up in one of France 24's two questions - but at least according to their opening remarks, they had North Korea's nuclear test on their minds. And the Next UNSG? We'll have more on this.

   As Turkey's August 24 military operations inside Syria began, in New York the Turkish mission filed a letter with the UN Security Council, which Inner City Press put online here.

In the letter, Turkey's outgoing Permanent Representative to the UN Halit Cevik cited not only Article 51 of the UN Charter but also UNSC resolutions 1373, 2170 and 2178. It does not mention the Kurds but only DEASH (sic).

  Turkey's letter states among other things that “Turkey initiated a military operation in the early hours of August 24, 2016, against DEASH which has been directly and deliberately targeting Turkey.” It states that Turkey respects Syria's territorial integrity and political unity. The word sovereignty is not used, but “political transition” is.

  Meanwhile a journalist from Turkey's state media TRT, also apparently outgoing, to his credit disclosed that his interview with Cevik's Syrian counterpart Bashar Ja'afari was unceremoniously pulled from broadcast and won't be online.

  As noted, Ban Ki-moon's UN gives this same Turkish state media TRT a solo office, (for) now next to Egypt state media Akhbar al Yom, while throwing the independent Press into the street and confining it to minders. We'll have more on all this.

On August 11 when the the UN's third Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura invited the media to a question and answer stakeout on August 11, the turn-out was decidedly light. While the UN used to provide interpretation of stakeouts, this time it didn't.

 Present for a predictable question was Voice of America, with which Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman has worked to evict the critical Press (one FOIA document here, more forthcoming). Ban finally did the eviction earlier this year, film here. This is Ban's UN.

   In his prepared statement, de Mistura added a word to the UN's old saw, saying there is no “sustainable” military solution. He quoted a response the day prior in New York by OCHA's Stephen O'Brien - an answer which the UN Department of Public Information under Cristina Gallach didn't even include when it put up the video of the OCHA briefing (which was about South Sudan, another failure of Ban's UN.)

   More than anything, Ban's UN seems to want to be perceived as relevant: it wants to be spoken with, and to brag about its discussions. De Mistura told the near-empty stakeout about his work in previous mediation. Ban himself was out in Los Angeles, bragging about talks with... Norman Lear. This is today's UN.