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As Gaza Air Strikes Continue, UN's Ban Finally Speaks to Quartet, Blair Speaks of Fatah If At All

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, December 28 -- Five days after his "purely courtesy call" meeting with Israel's Ambassador and two days after Israel's air strikes on Gaza began, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday issued a measured statement through his spokesperson Michele Montas, dutifully reported near verbatim by AFP and Reuters. The latter reported that Ban "spoke with members of the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators -- the European Union, United States, Russia and United Nations."

    How does UN Secretary General Ban "speak with the UN"? One might assume it was with the Quartet envoy Tony Blair, who last month refused to brief the UN Security Council, and has previously refused to answer questions at the UN about its competing employment with JPMorgan Chase, among others. But Blair has had little to say about the bombing of Gaza, which during his Quartet mandate he has not visit, as even as his sister-in-law has.

    Rather, Blair's statement Saturday focused on the political: "we need to devise a new strategy for Gaza, which brings that territory back under the legitimate rule of the Palestinian Authority in a manner which ends their suffering and fully protects the security of Israel."

UN's Ban and Blair, courtesy calling not shown

    A member of the Scottish Parliament has asked, "Will Tony Blair - Middle East envoy? - intervene and visit Gaza to see for himself the suffering, the hospitals without equipment, and children without food and shelter?" Robert Fisk has written, "Not a whimper from Tony Blair, the peace envoy to the Middle East who's never been to Gaza in his current incarnation. Not a bloody word." Hear, hear.

Footnotes: on 42nd Street by the UN on Sunday, protesters some in headscarves walked with signs such as, "End the Blockade." Inner City Press' unscientific survey of Arabic grocery store workers in the South Bronx found near unanimous support for Hamas over Fatah, adulation for Hezbollah and disgust at Egypt and others perceived as collaborators. Go figure.

As previously reported, Israel's UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev on December 23 met with Ban Ki-moon. Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe, at that day's noon briefing, what the meeting had been about.  That the expiration of the cease fire in Gaza would have been discussed seemed obvious. The question was intended to glean whether any statement as to timing had been made by the Israeli Ambassador. "We'll get you a readout," Ms. Okabe said. Video here.

   Later on December 23, Ban's Spokesperson's Office sent Inner City Press the following:

From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 12/23/2008 3:31:10 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
Subj: Your question at noon

Regarding the Secretary-General's meeting with the Israeli Permanent Representative today, it was purely a courtesy call.

   "Purely a courtesy call"? That is the phrase used when diplomats who are leaving the UN visit the 38th floor for a final photo opportunity with the Secretary-General. We'll see.

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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