By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, January 11 – When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres held a photo opportunity and meeting with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics on January 11, the Press was told to leave as soon as the two sat down, before any banter. Photo;Periscope here.
This differed from Guterres' first four days in office, when he invited the press back in and urged his counterparties to also speak to “your media.”
In another change, on January 10 UN holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric issued a statement on an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan “for the United Nations.” On January 11, Inner City Press asked Dujarric about the change, particularly since many mistake the UN Security Council for the Secretariat including in calling for budget cuts.
We'll have more on this - and on Dujarric refusing to answer UN-specified questions about the January 10 unsealed indictment of just-left Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's brother and nephew, who was allowed to work at the UN's landlord Colliers International. Can Ban's new Seoul spokesman really answer on this?
Guterres held his second and third photo opportunities and meetings as UN Secretary General on January 6, with Japan's Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Shinsuke Sugiyama (Photos here, Periscope here) and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias (photos here, Periscope here.)
Slightly late to the first meeting, Guterres cited the need to prepare for the Astana (Syria) and Paris (Palestine) conferences.
Guterres to his credit made a point of saying a bit, in public, before each meeting. With the Japanese delegation he joked about a dinner where at least “no one vetoed the dessert” -- yet -- and with the Greeks, he joked that their gifts, a book and music CDs and a box, were too heavy.
In this Guterres differed from Ban Ki-moon, but not earlier in the day when led around to take selfies with the correspondents the UN has not, like Inner City Press, evicted from their offices for covering UN corruption, like the Ng Lap Seng / John Ashe bribery case. Video here,story here.
The Greek meeting followed one on January 6 with Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu. Photo here; video here.
Beyond the pleasantries - and there were more of these than in the final days of Ban Ki-moon's tenure - it was noteworthy that along with the UN's Cyprus envoy Espen Barth Eide, Ban's Under Secretaries General Feltman, Ladsous and O'Brien were all there. The "P3 men," some call them. Will they be switched not only for gender, but nation?
Guterres' new chief of staff Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti was there; his Deputy SG Amina J. Mohammed won't formally begin until next month. Will that trigger the end of Ban Ki-moon's era of censoring and restricting the Press?