Saturday, April 1, 2017

At UN, UK Wrap-Up Session Light on Yemen & Burundi, NGO-1 Urges End to Arms Sales to Saudi, US Q

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 31 – When the United Kingdom did a wrap-up session on its March Presidency of the UN Security Council on the month's final afternoon, it was Sweden which spoke about Yemen, and "NGO 1" - a first - urged the UK to suspend its arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Syria took Liechtenstein to task for, they said, having quoted (UK) Stephen O'Brien about UN staff leaving the country. Liechtenstein, which is set to speak again about the General Assembly mechanism toward accountability in Syria, said it was mis-interpreted, it was quoting an NGO, about medical personnel. Many spoke about UN experts Michael Sharp and Zaida Calatan killed in the DR Congo. Morocco said the killings threaten to undermine human rights monitoring on the ground (he did not mention Western Sahara, where Morocco and France have opposed the UN Mission MINURSO having any human rights monitoring function). The answer on Burundi did not mention to failure to deploy the mandated 226 police. Finally Albania asked about the upcoming April 6 debate on peacekeeping under the Security Council's US Presidency. We'll have more on that. And on this: while the floor seemed open at the end to anyone in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, Inner City Press unlike other correspondents (and despite for example garnering 6,000 Periscope viewers at the UNSC stakeout on March 31, here) remains banned from going there under a no due process eviction and restriction order of outgoing USG of DPI Cristina Gallach. Will her era of Press censorship end, as it should, immediately? We'll see.
Back on March 1, Ambassador Matthew Rycroft took 20 questions from the media. Inner City Press asked him why the meetings on Burundi on March 9 and on Yemen on March 29 are both closed door. Video here.
  On Burundi, Rycroft referred to France as the penholder. On Yemen -- on which the UK holds the pen -- he said sometimes there is a benefit to a closed door discussion. Fine: but what's the problem with an open briefing, then closed consultations? The Free UN Coalition for Access will continue to pursue this.
  On Yemen Inner City Press also asked if the UK's findings as it looks into more than 250 incidents of the Saudi led coalition will be shared with the Security Council. It remains unclear.

 At the end, Inner City Press asked Rycroft if Nick Kay is still a candidate to be UN Envoy to Libya. Rycroft said the UK supports current envoy Martin Kobler but if he is to be changed, it should be fast, there is momentum.

  Rycroft said that civil society will be invited to participate in the month's wrap up session, a first. Boris Johnson will chair the March 23 meeting on South Sudan, and something on Somalia later that day. We'll have more on this.