By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, January 1 -- While courts including the European Court of Justice rule that Western Sahara cannot be treated as part of Morocco, including by the EU, on December 31 First Look's publication The Intercept as part of an otherwise illuminating article published a map of Africa which not only omitted Western Sahara but showed Morocco extending south along Mauritania. Tweeted photo here.
Inner City Press, assuming this was a typographical error, raised it on Twitter, offering praise of the underlying article by Nick Turse.
But hours later, there was no correction.
This soon after The Intercept rightfully called for and got an acknowledgment by The Guardian that its summary of an interview of Julian Assange was inaccurate. We'll have more on this.
While the UN Security Council, presided over in December 2016 by Spain, does little about Western Sahara, the European Union Court of Justice ruled that Western Sahara is not in any way part of Morocco and the EU cannot act like it is. The ruling is here.
On December 20 when Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister of Spain which was the colonial power over Western Sahara, made a presentation at the UN Security Council stakeout about Spain's accomplishments during its expiring two year term on the Council, Inner City Press immediately asked about Western Sahara. Rajoy did not answer. Near-final Vine video here.
Spain's highest UN official Cristina Gallach the head of the UN Department of Public Information has in fact restricted Inner City Press' ability to cover the issue, including effectively banning it from the stakeout during a Council meeting on the topic. After ten months, the restrictions continue. But this ruling will have implications. Watch this site.
On December 13 in the late afternoon, the UN Security Council met quietly about Western Sahara. Moroccan diplomats gathered outside the Council; inside, members told Inner City Press, the issue of Morocco denying visa to UN peacekeepers after expelling 83 of them earlier this year slowly came out.
Slowly because the head of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to hold the post, was as reticent behind closed doors as outside to speak on this. His request, another Council members told Inner City Press, concerned the stand off at Guerguerat.
But due to the split on the Council, not even elements to the press were read by the month's Spanish presidency. Spain, whose highest UN official Cristina Gallach has not only delayed putting stakeout video of Polisario online but evicted and continues daily to restrict Inner City Press which covers this, did not provide any summary of this consultation.
In fairness, Spain's deputy did, on Gambia, answer a Press question. But other than that, no summaries, no Q&A and the Gallach censorship, already ongoing for nine months since Gallach threw Inner City Press out of the UN without speaking to it once, then gave its office to an Egyptian state media which rarely comes in and never asks questions, continues.
On December 15, when Inner City Press' three questions to Dujarric, who evicted in February and April of this year, were the ONLY questions any media asked him, this was the one on Western Sahara, which he did not really answer. Tweeted video here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you, there was an “any other business” meeting of the Security Council this week on Western Sahara. And although there was no readout given by the Spanish presidency, I’d wanted to ask you, what is the status of getting the 83 ejected peacekeepers back? Because one of the Permanent Representatives on the Council said that, in consultations, it emerged that’s there’s some visa problem with Morocco, that there’s some problem with getting them in. And, one, can you confirm that? And, two, why wouldn’t Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous or somebody else in DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] speak about problems of getting into a country when [inaudible]…?
Spokesman: I think… you know, we update the Security Council as needed and as requested. As you know, the mission is not up to full functionality, and we continue in the efforts in that direction.
What about the visas?
Morocco banned Suelma Beirouk from the COP 22, to which she is accredited, because she listed her nationality as Western Sahara, and used an African Union passport, the UNFCCC told Inner City Press on November 11.
But Ban Ki-moon's UN Secretariat continued to dissemble and delay for five days, while Ban was in Marrakesh and met the King.
On December 9, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about Ban's head of public information and her DPI's cutting off and delaying of UN video of Western Sahara's Polisario Front. From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask, I mean, I've witnessed a number of those, but almost without question, the turning off the microphone and of the camera when the representative of Polisario of Western Sahara spoke didn't seem to be any mistake at all. In fact, it's happened two going on three times at the stakeout, and then also the video wasn't put up for several days. So I guess I'm just wondering, after each of these instances taking place, you're saying that none of them are intentional. And I'm… the ones that I'm describing were clearly somebody within the chain of command made a decision to pull the plug. What happens within DPI to actually look into these cases other than to say, oh, it happens to everyone?
Deputy Spokesman: No, DPI does have a TV unit, and we make them aware of any problems when we're aware of it, as… as do our other DPI colleagues, and they sort out any of the things that occur as glitches. And you'll have seen that, for many of the things, including what you're referring to, that the video does go up at some point or another…
Inner City Press: ["Inaudible" - to N]?
Deputy Spokesman: Sometimes there have been bits of confusion about whether something is marked for coverage or not, and once those are cleared, it all moves ahead.
Question: The time that they actually turned off the camera, I guess I wanted to know, maybe you don't know now, but this incident took… in fact, I know the individual that called them and said, turn off the camera, I wanted to know, has there ever been any discipline within DPI for intentional cutting of coverage of particular speakers?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, I know that DPI certainly makes aware their concerns to make sure everyone gets the coverage that they deserve, and… and so… so they do take this up seriously with staff involved.
Climate change is supposedly Ban's “legacy” issues and so he ran away from this: in an event Morocco described as a COP 22 side event, a Saudi firm signed a contract to build windmills in Western Sahara. While UNFCCC never responded to Morocco's misuse of COP22.ma, it now emerges that Ban's “Sustainable Development Goals” website promotes a Moroccan project that is, in fact, in Western Sahara, here ("Goal 13").
In terms of the deal-making, Ban took Saudi Arabia off the Children and Armed Conflict annex for killing children in Yemen. This is Ban Ki-moon's legacy -- including censorship by Spain's highest UN officialCristina Gallach and refusing to answer questions, like his spokespeople refused to answer even one of Inner City Press' six questions submitted on the morning of November 25, a day where his spokesperson's office was paid with public dollars.
From the November 17 UN transcript:
Inner City Press: On COP22, the final question. This NGO issue that went around and around, it seems like the person didn’t get there. Mr. [Nick] Nuttall said his last communication was the last one. What, if anything, did the Secretariat do since more than a week ago the person was blocked to request to Morocco that an accredited NGO attend the conference?
Deputy Spokesman: I believe the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was dealing with the local authorities trying to see what could be done about this. Beyond that, I’d refer you again to Mr. Nuttall. Have a good afternoon.
And Nuttal wrote, "I answered your first question ie we sought clarification from the Government of Morocco and were advised she was traveling on an invalid travel document. Let me try again to get an answer to your other two points."
From the November 16 UN transcript:
Inner City Press: very specifically about a Western Sahara issue that's arisen since he's there, which is Sulima Baruk, the… from Western Sahara, who was accredited to attend. So you told me yesterday that you had heard it was being worked out and to ask Mr. [Nick] Nuttall. So I did ask him again, and he reiterated what he had said last Friday, which is that Morocco said she can't go. So I'm just wondering, on… what was the basis that you… are we getting two different messages from Mr. Nuttall, or are you reading that as being that it's somehow being worked out on the ground?
Deputy Spokesman: That they… that is to say, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the officials there, were trying to deal with the authorities, the Moroccan authorities, about this issue. And if it's resolved the way he said it, that's where it stands.
Inner City Press: Well, it's not… meaning not… she was… [UN did not transcribe]
Deputy Spokesman: He's the one who's dealing with the issue. [Cross talk]
Inner City Press: But I guess I was just asking, have you… both you and Stéphane have said that the Secretary-General stands for the principle that accredited NGOs (non-governmental organizations) can attend, and he did actually meet with the Moroccan authorities. So did Ban Ki-moon actually raise this issue or not at all?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, I don't have anything to say in terms of the meeting with the King. I don't know about any other officials.
Now Ban's Spokesman is tweeting about a “farewell” to Ban Ki-moon from civil society.
Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, again on November 14, transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about COP22. One, I wanted to ask, you'd said, I think, on Friday that you… that… that the Secretariat, I guess was in contact with, I don't know if it was UNFCCC or the Moroccan authorities about this accredited attendee Suleima Barouk [Beiruk]. Seems like she's still not arrived, unless you have different information. I wanted to know, what has the UN done given that her accreditation has been published, is, is ,exists, and the only grounds for blocking her was her ac… her self-identification as being from Western Sahara?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, like I said, we had been told that the issue is, is being worked out on ground, so I believe that that should be, hopefully, resolved there and you can, you can ask the COP22 organizers how that's working.
ICP Question: UNFCCC, well, I asked UNFCCC, and Mr. Nuttall had said that, basically, Morocco said because she's self-identified as Western Sahara, she's not coming. So I wanted to know, from your perspective, given that that was the last that it was, I've heard from anyone on Friday, from the perspective of the Secretariat, given that the Secretary-General is there and giving a speech, is it the kind of thing that he expects to raise, if not with the King, to somebody that his stated goal about NGOs is, in fact, not being respected?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we certainly want our stated goals about the representation of NGOs, including all of those who are accredited NGOs, to be respected. That's the point of principle. I do believe the discussions had been continuing on the ground, and, hopefully, they'll be able to resolve it there. Yeah.
Ban gave in to Morocco's demand to pull out 83 members of its MINURSO mission in Western Sahara and has yet to get most of the returned.
Now Ban's UN is proposing to give in further, sources have exclusively told Inner City Press, even as it has been restricted to minders in the UN since being ousted without due process in February by Spain's highest UN official, Cristina Gallach.
And Morocco's Ambassador Omar Hilale on November 7 approached Inner City Press and said he understands and agrees with those who "have a problem" with Inner City Press, and that the parliamentarian banned from attending COP 22 in Morocco was not accredited by the UN. Audio here.
But a document Inner City Press has obtained and published on Scribd, here, shows the individual has been accredited by the UNFCCC. While Ban's spokespeople have told Inner City Press to “ask UNFCCC” and that Ban's Secretariat has been speaking with UNFCCC about Ms Beirouk's situation because Ban believes all accreditees should be able to attend, the UNFCC's timely response to Inner City Press leaves unclear if she will continue to be Banned. Inner City Press asked:
“Please state UNFCCC's understanding of the status of Ms. Beirouk, and position on Morocco blocking her attendance. Separately, since UNFCCC's logo is used on COP22.ma, please state UNFCCC's position and action on the statements on that website about Morocco having a border with Mauritania and a land mass that includes Western Sahara.”
UNFCCC's spokesperson Nick Nuttal responded:
“Dear Mathew, This is our understanding of the situation. When we (UNFCCC) heard about this situation, we sought clarification from the Moroccan Government. We were advised that the Ms Beirouk was travelling on an African Union passport and specified her nationality as Western Sahara and for Morocco this is not considered a valid travel document.
We were also advised that Ms Beirouk has a Spanish passport and has traveled freely in and out of Morocco on that many times. Mathew as for your second questions—I don’t know the answer right now and need to ask one of our experts. I’ll get back as quickly as I can.”
It's appreciated. First, the claim that Ms.Beirouk is not accredited appears to be false. Second, if the only Ban is Morocco's position on her passport, then Ban should act on what his spokespeople say his position is. We'll have more on this.
Morocco PR Denied Existence Of This UNFCCC Accreditation to Inner City Press by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd
On November 8, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman about what Hilale had said. From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press: Yesterday, I’d asked you about this Pan-African Parliamentarian who has said that she was blocked from attending COP (Conference of Parties) 22, and you’d said you hadn’t heard of that. In the interim, the Ambassador of Morocco, Omar Hilale, said that she did not have any UN accreditation and that’s why she wasn’t allowed to proceed. Can you explain what the process is? I’ve been told that you can’t get one until you actually get to the grounds. Is the Pan-African Parliamentarian… go ahead. Did you look into it?
Spokesman Dujarric: I didn’t get any details about this particular case, but, clearly, when you attend any conference, whether you’re a journalist or whether you are an NGO or delegate, you apply for the accreditation ahead of time, and you usually get a receipt, an email or so on. Obviously, the physical accreditation you pick up online, but again, I will try to get details. I was not able to get any detail about the particulars of this case.
Inner City Press: Itt seems pretty clear that what Morocco was saying is because this person comes from Western Sahara, even though they represent the AU (African Union), they don’t want to… [inaudible]
Spokesman: I will try to get you some particular details.
Twenty four hours later, nothing...
On November 5-6, after three rounds of questions from Inner City Press about its COP22.ma website having a map which portrayed Western Sahara as a part of Morocco, the redesigned website dropped the map. But former star Diego Maradona was transported to Western Sahara, see below.
And the now map-less site still contains dubious "information" about Morocco such as a border with Mauritania, see here.
And on November 6, Moroccan authorities reported forced the Vice-President of the African Parliament, Suelma Beirouk, to be detained in htne to leave the airport in Marrakech, aboard a plane to Casa Blanca, where they are expected to seek further return to Algiers.
The Pan-African Parliament was part of the preparatory committee for COP 21 - now this, from the "host" of COP 22.
On November 7 Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the banning of Suelma Beirouk; he said he had no information, adding generally that people should have a right to attend COP 22. Video here.
But four hours later on November 7, Morocco's Ambassador to the UN Omar Hilale called Inner City Press over at the UN Security Council stakeout and said among other things that Keirouk was not accreditted by the UN. Hillale also said to Inner City Press:
You are focusing only on Morocco (despite stories on Kenya, Yemenetc);
Have you said anything about the police killing people here? (Well, yes);
You are not looking to other situations (see Yemen, and UN nepotism); and
"I understand why many people have problems here with you." Audio here, just as Inner City Press has previously run audio and photos of Hilale at and around the UN Security Council stakeout.
We'll have more on this - and now it relates to ongoing targeted restrictions on Inner City Press in the UN.
So what will be said about this Banning? We'll have more on this.
On September 22, when Inner City Press asked Morocco's foreign minister Salaheddine Mezouar about MINURSO it was told it is already “fully functional."
But when Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq how many of the 83 expelled staff are back, the answer was only 25. UN transcript below.
With Ban headed to Morocco for COP22 -- when Inner City Press asked, his lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric had no substantive comment on the killing of the fish seller Fikri, Vine video here -- Inner City Press asked Ban's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Morocco's COP22.ma website, see below
This website, replete with UN / UNFCCC logos, until it was changed over the weekend had a map which portrayed Western Sahara as part of Morocco. See map [was] here.
On November 4, Inner City Press for the third time asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I’m going to ask you again about this issue of the, the UNFCCC… the COP22 where the Secretary-General was going and this website. You said it was a very legitimate question. What is the answer by OLA [Office of Legal Affairs] whether UNFCCC logo can be used for a map that portrays Western Sahara…?
Spokesman: I haven’t… first of all, the website is, the cop22.ma website is run by the Moroccan presidency of COP [Conference of Parties]. Right? We, obviously, the Moroccans are a partner in organising the COP. UNFCCC has its own website. I haven’t seen any maps on the COP22 website but I’m happy to see them. The UN’s position on Western Sahara remains unchanged regardless of what is maybe on any website.
ICP Question: I guess I’m asking because there have been recent comments by Hans Corell, the former head of OLA, saying that the whole thing is… is… that these... both the turbines in Western Sahara and their portrayal are legally problematic, so I’m just…
Spokesman: The UN’s position has not changed.
But the projects are in violation of international law and UN principles for responsible business according to the former UN Legal Counsel under Kofi Annan, Hans Corell of Sweden, done without properly consulting the people of Western Sahara or ensuring that they are the ones profiting from the wind energy. Corell has added that Morocco’s invasion of Western Sahara, and the transfer of own citizens to the territory could be in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
After Inner City Press' noon briefing questions, the redesigned COP22.ma website dropped the map. But here's Maradona - we'll have more on this.
A report has been issued about the exploitation of Western Sahara by the King and German firm Siemens and Italian firm Enel, here.
Morocco uses its COP22 website to greenwash projects that are, in fact, in Western Sahara, see here.
On November 2, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Dujarric, Video here; UN Transcript here:
Inner City Press: What I wanted to ask you is, as the Secretary-General prepares to go to COP (Conference of Parties) 22 in Morocco, it has emerged that… that on the website cop22.ma, there are a number of projects that are, in fact, in Western Sahara. These are projects carried out by Siemen's and NL [Enel]... they're in a territory that's listed in the Fourth Committee. So I wanted to know, what's the Secretary-General's view of these sustainable energy, quote-unquote, projects done by Morocco in… throughout Western Sahara? And should they be on the COP22 website? And should UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] be giving a… a… CDM certificates for them?
Spokesman: Let me take a look at the website. I don't know if it's a website run by the UN or by the Moroccan Presidency. So…
ICP Question: What about UNFCCC? Should they be giving these CDM certificates for projects that are, in fact, built in contested territory?
Spokesman: I have to… Let me take a look at it before I say anything.
The corporatization of the UN under Ban, whose mentor Han Seung-soo is at once a UN official and on the boards of directors of South Korean firm Doosan and Standard Chartered Bank, has become a scandal; ouster and eviction of the Press by Ban's head of communications Cristina Gallach of Spain has sought to hinder such coverage, piece in Spanish here. What will Ban say about this illegal exploitation of Western Sahara under the fig leaf of renewable energy? Watch this site.
On October 25, Inner City Press again asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: on Western Sahara, I'd asked you yesterday to respond to reports that there was police brutality in Laayoune before Mr… right on the eve of Ladsous' visit. You said you might have a readout. So I heard the readout, and thanks for the readout. But, is there a MINURSO response to published reports that people were swept inside?
Spokesman: I don't have anything.
But he did say Ladsous is in Paris.
On October 24, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you on Western Sahara and/or Morocco, since Mr. Ladsous went there. First, there are reports of, quote, police brutality in Laayoune on the eve of Mr. Ladsous' arrival, people protesting being… being abused by the police. There was also… I saw that, I think, at least one of Mr. Ladsous' announced meetings in Morocco did not, in fact, take place. Do you have a readout of the meeting? And what's the response by MINURSO, which apparently is at least still in Laayoune to these reports of…?
Spokesman: I don't have an update on his travels, but I do expect one shortly.
Five hour later and counting, nothing.
On October 18, Inner City Press asked Ban's outgoing lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you first about the Security Council today. It was said that… that there's no plan… Uruguay helpfully was… spoke before and after the meeting. No one else spoke including… well, from the Secretariat side. So, I wanted to ask you, one of the things that the Permanent Representative of Uruguay said is that there's no time scheduled for [Christopher] Ross to return to the region. He described the political process as entirely stalemated, but did say that Ban Ki-moon will go to Rabat before he goes to Marrakesh, which I'd asked you about before. So, I wanted to know, from the Secretariat side, given that his envoy, Ross, is apparently blocked from going to the region, what does the Secretary-General seek to accomplish in Rabat during that stop? And can you provide us now a number of how… is it still at 25? What is the force level? And can you explain why it is that new staff are being recruited for MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara]? I understand that there's some who have retired, that left, but there seem to be a certain number that neither retired nor were reassigned that are simply being paid to not be back there. And was Morocco allowed to hand-pick which people can return?
Spokesman: No, the choice of who works for the United Nations is the choice of the United Nations. The special… a trip for Mr. Ross is still under discussion. As soon as we have something to announce, we will do so. The Secretary-General, no surprise, is very likely to attend and will be in Marrakesh for COP-22. I think that's fairly… pretty much an open secret. We'll announce it officially a little closer to the date. And we will be in a position closer to the date to announce any bilateral visit that takes place with Moroccan authorities, but I can't confirm anything at this point.
ICP Question: But, again, I guess I wanted to know, I mean, you're saying that the UN makes its own selection, but how can you explain people that were ousted among the 83 still being paid to not return when you're, in fact, recruiting new people?
Spokesman: The… listen, none of us here have the exact details of people's hiring or all the jobs that are being recruited and so forth. The Mission, as far as I understand, is still not up to full capacity, and we continue to work towards that end.
Well, Inner City Press is informed as follows by sources:
"17 staff members still remain removed from the Mission of MINURSO following the SG’s comments while on a trip to the Tindouf camps in March 2016, the UN chief had described Morocco's presence in Western Sahara as an "occupation".
Now we see recruitment of new staff members taking place with no movement on returning of the effected staff. There is no understanding why recruitment is taking place at all levels while committed staff are effectively paid to sit at home whilst absolutely wishing to return to work.
ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT, FS4, 68069, Deadline: 25/10/2016, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, LAAYOUNE,
The staff federations and unions are continuously endeavoring to get the UN to return the staff to Mission so that it returns to full functionality as per the Security Council resolution. It is unclear if this is the United Nations blocking the return of staff or the Moroccan government, no one will answer this question and the staff have no clear picture of their futures as peacekeepers. Staff have families and children who were in school in Morocco, staff abandoned in countries due to not being able to return to go on and belongings, property etc remain in country."
On October 7, Inner City Press asked Haq, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: this is now the fourth time. I guess it will be the last time. I wanted to know, there was a letter that the Frente Polisario says, and has told all of the 193 members of the Fourth Committee, that it sent to the Secretary-General on 26 September about an election that's now being held today, 7 October, in Morocco, and it's also being held in Western Sahara, including this disputed territory in their parliamentary election… or legislative election. I wanted to know just… did… did… was it ever checked? It was said three times that you'd check if the letter was received. Was it received?
Deputy Spokesman: I've asked. I don't have any information on this at this point.
ICP Question: So they're mis…
Deputy Spokesman: No. I don't have any information. I asked a question. I need an answer.
ICP Question: Then I guess my question would be: Given that the UN's historic and mandated role on the question of Western Sahara, does it believe it legitimate for Morocco to conduct a poll for its own legislature in an area that's on the agenda of the Fourth Committee and is viewed as its status as being unresolved?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, as I've mentioned, I'm asking, and I'm waiting for a response. I'll have to see what I get.
ICP Question: The election is almost done.
Deputy Spokesman: I can't speak out before I get an answer.
ICP Question: Who are you asking? Are you asking DPA (Department of Political Affairs), the office of [Christopher) Ross; who should I ask?
Deputy Spokesman: I've asked a number of offices. I've gotten nothing so far.
On September 28, Inner City Press asked the UN's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric if Christopher Ross will travel tot he region, if Ban will meeting on the topic in the region before the climate change meeting in Morocco, and what's the plan to get the peacekeepers back. He referred vaguely to an "upward" direction.
The POLISARIO Front has written to Ban to complain that Morocco intends to include Western Sahara in its legislative elections on October 7. Inner City Press tweeted the letter, from the 38th floor, here. Ban is asked to "intervene immediately." But on September 28 Ban gave a speech apparently not listed on his schedule, on at October 7 he will be traveling.
When Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Dujarric about the letter on September 29, Dujarric said he hadn't seen it but "could" follow up - but didn't, by the end of the day. Vine video.
So Inner City Press had to ask again, on October 3 -- still nothing on the letter, but there are still only 25 of the 83 returned. From the October 3 transcript:
Inner City Press: I asked last week a couple of times about this letter that was distributed in the Fourth Committee from the… from the Polisario Front to the Secretary-General, dated 26 September, and I just wanted… twice… I guess Stéphane [Dujarric] said he hadn't seen it, but I just want to make sure, if it's being given out in the Committee, did it, in fact, reach the Secretariat about this… upcoming legislative elections on 7 October? And also, I'd asked him and may have asked you before, just to be… maybe you'd said 25 is the number. Is it still the number of only 25 of the 83 have been returned?
Deputy Spokesman: Yeah, that's where we stand. We continue to discuss, like I said, different ways of making sure that the functions of the mission are restored, but as I pointed out last week, we're not at full functionality.
Question: Sure, and what about this letter? Is there some problem with… was it not received? Because I asked him twice. It was handed out. It says… it asks the Secretary-General to get involved in the inclusion of Western Sahara in the Moroccan legislative elections on 7 October. So since we're now 3 October, I'm just wondering, not if he'll do it, but at least, has he gotten the letter, or will he do something?
Deputy Spokesman: I'll check whether we have it and what sort of response there is.
Seven hours later -- nothing.
UN September 29 transcript:
Inner City Press: there's a letter from… from the Polisario Front to the Secretary-General dated 26 September, and they're saying that the… the protesting that… that Morocco would include Western Sahara in its legislative elections on 7 October. And they've asked him to get involved. I wanted to know… they passed it out at [inaudible] to the Fourth Committee. It seems to be…
Spokesman: I haven't seen the letter. But I can follow up.
Then to the end of the day, nothing. This is typical of Ban's Secretariat, including "Communications" chief Cristina Gallach, Spanish blog here.
Inner City Press: last week, I'd asked Stéphane [Dujarric] just to provide the number, of the 83 MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) staff who had been ejected or evicted or ousted from Western Sahara, how many have returned. Do you have that number?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, in terms of that, I don't have numbers to add to the initial group of the 25 international civilian personnel, who returned by 26 July. However, the UN Secretariat and the Mission continue to expedite the recruitment process of existing vacancies. The mine action component of the mission has also finalized its relocation to Tindouf, in order to resume its operational activities. In terms of routine, the Mission continues to operate under existing arrangements and procedures. Full functionality has not been fully restored.
ICP Question: Great. Thanks. I guess I just wanted to understand, is there… so you’re… the… the… the people that were actually working there at the time that were told to leave, are they going back, or are you just recruiting new people for positions that were already vacated at the time that they were ousted? I just want to understand.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, some of the people… the lists had a number of discrepancies. Some of the people who they had asked to leave had been gone for some time, had gone on to other jobs or been… had gone back to other areas. At this stage, what we're trying to do is do the recruitment to make sure that all of the tasks that are needed to be performed are fulfilled by people.
Back on September 22 Ban's lead spokesman Dujarric would not comment on this. From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press: On Western Sahara, just now, earlier this morning, the Foreign Minister of Morocco said flatly that full functionality has been restored. And so, I wanted to know, from the Secretariat side, have all 83 been returned? What is the number? Just factually.
Spokesman: I have no… I mean, I heard what the Foreign Minister said. I'm not going to comment on what he said. I will get you an update of what the staffing level is on MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara] as soon as I can get one.
Seven hours later, nothing.