Saturday, February 25, 2017

On Western Sahara, Belated Statement on Guerguerat By UNSG Guterres Spox Who Refuses Qs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 25 – Morocco's King Mohammed VI spoke to UN Secretary General on February 24, his media reports, while Guterres' spokeman Stephane Dujarric ran out of the UN Press Briefing Room as Inner City Press asked him about a leaked letter to the UN staff ousted from Western Sahara by Morocco. 

   Now belatedly the UN has issued this statement, while declining Press questions as basic as: where IS Antonio Guterres? Here is the statement:
"The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the increased tensions in the vicinity of Guerguerat in the Buffer Strip in southern Western Sahara between the Moroccan berm and the Mauritanian border. Armed elements of both Morocco and Frente Polisario remain in close proximity to each other, a position they have been in since August 2016, monitored during daylight hours by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).

The Secretary-General calls on both of the parties to exercise maximum restraint and take all necessary steps to avoid escalating tensions, be that through the actions of military or civilian actors. He also underlines that regular commercial traffic should not be obstructed and that no action should be taken, which may constitute a change to the status quo of the Buffer Strip.

The Secretary-General strongly urges the parties to unconditionally withdraw all armed elements from the Buffer Strip as soon as possible, to create an environment conducive to a resumption of the dialogue in the context of the political process led by the United Nations. He further calls on the parties to adhere to their obligations under the ceasefire agreement and to respect both the letter and the spirit of it."
   Inner City Press' February 24 question to Dujarric and his deputy including about where Guterres is have gone unanswered. What is wrong with today's UN?
   Even after Morocco threw portions of the UN Peacekeeping mission out of Western Sahara, when the UN Security Council met on the topic on February 22 it was not listed on their agenda and afterward the President of Council told Inner City Press he couldn't remember how many of the Morocco-ousted staff were still banned from Western Sahara. Video here.
  After the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric who refuses to answer Inner City Press' written questions has claimed he is unaware of any of the ousted staff being reassigned to other UN missions, on UNTV on February 23, Inner City Press on the morning of February 24 exclusively publishedi a letter from the UN's Herve Ladsous, that the UN "will contact these staff members and discuss a way forward in the coming weeks." Letter published by Inner City Press on Scribd here.
  But when at the UN's February 24 noon briefing Inner City Press began asking "Spokesman" Dujarric about the letter, he immediately ran off the podium and out of the briefing room (after this). And UN DPI under Cristina Gallach produced a video file where the audio cuts off in the middle of the Western Sahara file. See here, at end. Both should leave; March 31 is too long.

Permanent member France has ensured it remain this way, and has managed to get its fifth national in a row put atop UN Peacekeeping, to succeed Herve Ladsous who again and again told Inner City Press, I don't answer your questions, until it was evicted from its office and remains restricted by Spain's Cristina Gallach. Last week Inner City Press asked what to expect from Antonio Guterres, see below. 
 On the afternoon of February 22, with Western Sahara on the Security Council's agenda, Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Francois Delattre how many of the ousted UN staff are still out, and about the meeting. He said to Ask his colleague, who would attended, joking "cheap shot." Video here.
 At the Security Council stakeout, at least four Moroccan diplomats held vigil, including the sponsor of UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' Eric Tistounet's book party. 
After cover up man Herve Ladsous left, it was said the President of the Council would speak at the stakeout.  When he did, Inner City Press asked for a summary, at least how many of the ousted UN staff had returned. I don't remember, was the answer. Video here.
  So on February 23, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric how many have (not) returned, and if any have been reassigned to other UN missions. From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press: yesterday, after the consultations in the Council about MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara), I asked the President of the Council if Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous had provided a number of the staff that had yet… had been ousted that had yet to be returned.  And he said, yes, a number had been provided.  He didn't say that he could remember the number, but I'm assuming that you can remember the number.  How many are still out?

Spokesman:  Well, I don't have to remember it because I have it written down in front of me, which is very good.  I can tell… I know there have been a lot… a number of questions about the level of the mission in Western Sahara.  We're obviously continuing our efforts to restore full functionality to the UN Mission, to MINURSO.  At this time, there remains 17 staff who have been unable to rejoin the mission after requested… being requested to depart by Morocco, and efforts continue to enable their return.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and MINURSO remain in close touch with staff members concerned in order to keep them informed of the current situation.

Inner City Press:  One follow-up.  I've heard that some of these people have been assigned to other missions.  Is that the case?  And, if so, does it kind of acknowledge--

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of those people having been reassigned to another mission. 
  We'll have more on this. 
Back on February 16 at a rare panel discussion on Western Sahara just off Manhattan's Park Avenue, a questioner brought the proceedings to a halt when he asked about Trump adviser Steve Bannon working in MINURSO.  Several audience members - on both sides, as it turned out - asked, Why? From the podium came the answer that the reference was to John Bolton. The Q&A continued.
  Inner City Press asked about Antonio Guterres, who recently gave the top position in UN Peacekeeping to yet another French official, Jean-Pierre Lacroix the fifth in a row, and what his views may be on Western Sahara.
  Amy Goodman of Democracy Now responded that as a former Portuguese prime minister Guterres should remember, and be asked about, East Timor. Video here, from Min 1:30:26. Consider it an assignment.
 The event was at Hunter College's Roosevelt House and included Prof Sandra Babcock, lawyer Katlyn Thomas, Madeleine Bair of Watching Western Sahara and Mohammed Ali Arkoukoum of the Saharawi Association in New York. The final questioner, with a pro-Morocco perspective and some supporters with filming phones, came in from Boston.
  Back on January 27 after the UN Security Council held a closed door meeting about Western Sahara, Inner City Press asked the Council's President for January Olof Skoog of Sweden what happened in the meeting. Video here.
  Specifically, Inner City Press asked Skoog how many of the 83 members of the MINURSO peacekeeping mission expelled by Morocco have be able to return.
 Skoog did not give a number, but said that MINURSO is still no up to full functionality. He mentioned Guerguerat.
  Inner City Press asked if Morocco's attempts to join the African Union, and the impact that might have on the political negotiations, had been discussed. Skoog said no.
  There was no time to ask about the Norwegian oil fish ship that, it seems, violated the recent European court ruling. And less than two hours later, guards citing the eviction / Press downgrading order of Spanish UN official Cristina Gallach demanded to know where Inner City Press' "minder" was, putting an end to a diplomat's provision of information to Inner City Press. This is today's UN.