By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, February 13 – The US blocked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' nomination of the Palestinian Authority's Salam Fayyad to be UN envoy to Libya.
On February 13 Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq to explain what the "usual consultations" mentioned in the February 8 letter to the Security Council from Guterres consisted of. Haq refused to elaborate, nor to explain Guterres reportedly preparing to give the top post in UN Peacekeeping to France to the fifth time in a row. Video here.
Questions for once came in fast and on the same topic at the day's UN noon briefing. Many questioners bemoaned what they've described as "Trump blocking a Palestinian." Among those lines, Inner City Press notes in light of the reports and questions about Tzipi Livni being offered an Under Secretary General job, and an arrest warrant in Belgium, this line from the vacancy notice of noted UN censor Cristina Gallach:
"Individuals who are either nominated by Member States or who seek to serve with the United Nations in any individual capacity will be required, if short-listed, to complete a self-attestation stating that they have not committed, been convicted of, nor prosecuted for, any criminal offence and have not been involved, by act or omission, in the commission of any violation of international human rights law or international humanitarian law."
Sources tell Inner City Press that under consideration for the Libya envoy post is a Tunisian; we note Guterres transition team member Radhouane Nouicer of whom no more has been said since the transition ended January 31. We'd ask, but Guterres' two spokesmen answered only two and a half of Inner City Press' 22 questions, and his deputy on February 13 when Inner City Press asked about the spending of UN funds said "get over it."
Meanwhile Guterres' holdover UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric selectively spins that Guterres had somehow received a "green light" from the US - like when Ban Ki-moon invited Iran to the Syria talks in Montreux, then disinvited them on Monday.
This time, Dujarric "told" at least three favored media the exact same thing: "Based on the information available to him at the time, the secretary-general had the perception, now proven wrong, that the proposal would be acceptable to Security Council members." Why not send this out more widely? To Inner City Press, Dujarric answered a mere two and a half of twenty-two questions. These holdovers have no credibility.
One of the two to which Dujarric doled out his quote went on to quote French Ambassador Francois Delattre as having "full confidence" in the UN chief's personnel appointments. But of course: France stands poised to get the top UN Peacekeeping job for the fifth time in a row.
The stories did not mention that the UK had - and now maybe still has - its own candidate for the UN Libya envoy post, Nicholas Kay. Clearly the UK didn't think Fayyad was best for the post. We'll have more on this.
Inner City Press on-camera asked the UN about the nomination earlier on February 10, noting that its sources told it the nomination was really by Jeffrey Feltman, the Obama administration's appointee to head the UN Department of Political Affairs. Can Feltman stay on, given the new Administration in Washington?
While Antonio Guterres' deputy spokesman dodged Inner City Press' question at noon on February 10, and his lead holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric waited more than 10 hours to respond to Inner City Press' question tweeted at him that evening, an arch and in context laughable response was mass-emailed 11 hours later.
It sounded reasonable - but why then for example is Guterres restricting his "search" for a head of UN Peacekeeping to a single country, France? As Inner City Press has exclusively reported, the three candidates are all French: Jean Maurice Ripert (who previously stood up the UN in Pakistan), Jean Pierre Lacroix and probably winner Sylvie Bermann. There are other examples.
Some cynics wonder if this wasn't done as theater, just before Guterres' 12-day trip to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, where the UN's previous Libya sell-out Bernardino Leon is getting paid. Meritocracy, indeed.
Many including those given offices by the UN professed surprise at Haley's statement, even misunderstood it as mere regret and not blocking. But neither did they cover the long failure of the UN in Libya. Ban Ki-moon appointed then undercut Tarek Mitri.
Ban was pushed to appoint Bernardino Leon of Spain, same as he appointed and used that country's Cristina Gallach to evict the Press which asked of their corruption. Then Leon sold out to the UAE, and Martin Kobler was put in.
Now Guterres, replacing Ban but leaving too many of Ban's officials in place, from spokesman Dujarric to DPA's Feltman, bumbled again on Libya. The UN has lost credibility. It should focus and start over - as well as reversing censorship. Watch this site.
After Nikki Haley's announcement, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon issues a statement "on the announcement by Ambassador Haley of the US move to block the appointment of former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad as the Secretary General's Special Envoy to Libya: 'This is the beginning of a new era at the UN.'"
So did Antonio Guterres err in nominating the PA's Fayyed on February 8, then heading out on a 12-day trip just as the US expressed disappointment and blocked the nomination? Inner City Press has asked Guterres' Office of the Spokesperson, and Stephane Dujarric personally, for a comment. None yet received.
Nikki Haley, US Permanent Representative to the UN, issued a statement on the evening of February 10 that “The United States was disappointed to see a letter indicating the intention to appoint the former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister to lead the UN Mission in Libya. For too long the UN has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel. The United States does not currently recognize a Palestinian state or support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nations, however, we encourage the two sides to come together directly on a solution. Going forward the United States will act, not just talk, in support of our allies.”
That the UN would be naming a successor as its Libya envoy to Martin Kobler of Germany was reported by Inner City Press in December along with the name of one of the candidates, the UK's Nick Kay.
Later, after Antonio Guterres took office at Secretary General, a Permanent Member of the Security Council confirmed to Inner City Press the candidacy of Kay adding that there was "another strong candidate" while declining to name that candidate.
Guterres wrote to the Security Council that "following the usual consultations" he is giving the post to longtime Palestinian Authority politician Salam Fayyad, some are asking of just what these consultations consisted.
Some in Libya opposed Fayyad's the nomination; others linked it to Jeffrey Feltman, the Obama Administration's head of UN Political Affairs who has arranged to stay on until July 4 so that his UN pension vests. How will that use of funds now sit with Washington?
On February 10, Inner City Press asked the UN spokesman about it, Transcript here.
They note that the Trump administration, in its draft Executive Order, proposes cutting US funding to any UN entity which allows the Palestinian Authority as a member, and is discussing cutting funding to the PA. Was the US Mission to the UN consulted? Which Mission?
And what of Nick Kay, formerly UN envoy to Somalia, now back with the US FCO? Does Kobler return immediately to the German foreign service, where he still has a position as he told Inner City Press when questioned about his predecessor at UNSMIL Bernardino Leon selling out to the UAE diplomatic academy? What Under Secretary General post will Germany get in the UN? Watch this site.