Monday, December 5, 2016

On Syria, NGOs Talks Up GA Action in Club of Group Which Throws Press Out

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 1 -- 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 on Aleppo,” which would demand a “ten day humanitarian pause around Aleppo with 72 hours advance notice.”

It would also call for a ceasefire throughout the country and “the separation of Security Council designated group from other armed groups” and “request that the Secretary General report to the Security Council on the implementation of the resolution and provide options for the preservation of the cessation of hostilities in the city of Aleppo within 14 days of the adoption of the resolution."

  On November 29 Inner City Press reported on the vote that may be called under the so-called “Canadian initiative” to get a General Assembly plenary meeting might ramp up to a request for an emergency plenary, or invocation of the Uniting for Peace procedure.

Now on December 1, a group of NGOs is holding a press conference -- in the clubhouse of the United Nations Correspondents Association, a group which has thrown the Press out, including out of the UN. NYT here.

While Inner City Press respects some of the groups, they could easily have gotten a member state to sponsor a real UN press conference, on UNTV. So this bodes badly. Here, regardless, is their release (from the group, not the UN Correspondents Association, which mails only to those which pay it money):

The Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office, said:

“It is becoming clearer every day that the UN Security Council has failed the Syrian people. There have been almost half a million deaths, and each one is a stark rebuke of the Security Council, the supposed guardian of international peace and security, which has allowed a political deadlock to stand in the way of saving lives.

“This is why we, along with 224 civil society organizations, are urgently calling on UN member states to take action and request an Emergency Special Session of the UN General Assembly to demand an end to all unlawful attacks in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria. They must call for immediate and unhindered humanitarian access so that life-saving aid can reach all those in need.

“UN member states can and should use all the diplomatic tools at their disposal to take action towards ending the atrocities in Syria – the inaction we have seen over the past five years is a shameful chapter in the history of the Security Council.”

Note to editors: A press conference will take place on Thursday 1 December at 11:15 am EST (16:15 GMT) in the UNCA room on the third floor of the UN Secretariat Building in New York.

Among those who will speaking to reporters and available for questions will be representatives of Amnesty International, CARE International, the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, Human Rights Watch, PAX, Physicians for Human Rights and World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy."

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 hereBeyond the Vine video here.)