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Turkish Cypriot Eroglu Meets Ban, Gas Not Discussed, New Downer?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 21 -- After Dervis Eroglu, Leader of the Turkish Cypriot Community, met with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Inner City Press asked him if Ban said he intended to replace Alexander Downer, and if natural gas had been discussed.

  Eroglu replied that natural gas wasn't discussed but that is is important for "both peoples." He did not answer the Downer question.

  While this UN Television stakeout was helpful, Inner City Press' question at the noon briefing to Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric who oversaw UNTV at least until March 10 remains unanswered. How can Eroglu speak on UNTV, but Western Sahara's Polisario be banned? The Free UN Coalition for Access supports Eroglu's right - but Polisario's, too. What's the difference?

  Back on February 11 after mounting questions about Downer's performance on Cyprus and simultaneous business and political interests, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that Downer's time with the UN was over.

  In his native Australia, Downer said this would allow him to continue work with a "consultancy" -- Bespoke Approach, he never stopped -- and in local politics, which he likewise never stopped. He said if he takes an Ambassador's job (the Australian paper mentioned Washington, but after his performance during the last US election Inner City Press even then wrote that London seems more likely), he'd have to give all that up. Now he's in London.

  It's telling that he didn't have to give anything up to work for the UN, the current UN having weak conflict of interest rules.

  Inner City Press' coverage of Downer was picked up in the Cyprus Mail, here; and here is a listing of Downer as lobbyist, including for KKR.

   A week ago after Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said Nicosia would take action over UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s statements in Munich that negotiations were suspended "because of a change of government in the Greek Cypriot community of Cyprus," Inner City Press on February 3 asked the UN to respond. Video here from Minute 27:37.

 Ban's spokesperson Martin Nesirky told Inner City Press to look at the transcript of what the Secretary General said, that would clear up the confusion.  Here's what was e-mailed out:

"these negotiations [were] suspended because of a change of government in the Greek Cypriot community of Cyprus. After that, there was an economic crisis... The United Nations, through Alexander Downer, has really been coordinating and helping them. I believe that it is very close."

  With Alexander Downer's Cyprus mission more and more in question, he was perhaps lucky that his scheduled briefing of the UN Security Council on January 22 was overshadowed by the Syria talks in Montreux.

  Outside the Security Council, only two media tried to cover the meeting. One of them, Inner City Press, was interested as always in how the UN can have an envoy who also works for business consultancy, vies for political office and now, it is said, an ambassadorship.

  Sources link Downer with the Australian Ambassadorship to the UK (the US would not be possible, they say, after Downer's comments during the last election here). This is of course, denied.

  But these question could not be put to Downer himself at the UN on January 22, because Downer was not here. Inner City Press heard, then asked this month's Council president, Jordan, through its Senior Deputy Permanent Representative Mahmoud Daifallah Mahmoud Hmoud about Downer's absence.  It was ascribed to the weather. Video here, from Minute 1:10.

   While Special Representative Lisa Buttenheim offered that the consultations on Cyprus had "done well" and been "balanced," very little news came out. Both sides have criticized Downer. Now what?

   When a country complains to and about the UN, and a journalist asks for the response to the criticism, one would expect one. But not at this UN.

  Back on December 17, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-mon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky about Cyprus' criticism of Ban's envoy Alexander Downer and his meeting(s) in Northern Cyprus:

President Nicos Anastasiades instructed the foreign ministry to issue the demarche to the UN both here in Nicosia and at headquarters in New York after it transpired that Downer met with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu at the Turkish ‘embassy’ in the north.

Deputy permanent secretary at the foreign ministry, Tasos Tzionis, yesterday issued the demarche to UN Special Representative in Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim regarding Downer’s visit to the Turkish ‘embassy’.

Anastasiades also instructed Cyprus’ permanent representative at the UN in New York to do the same at the UN Secretariat.

  In the briefing, Nesirky said he would provide Inner City Press and others with a response later in the day. And he did:

Subject: Your question on Cyprus
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 4:14 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Please see below in response to your question today concerning Cyprus:

During his visit to Cyprus last week, Alexander Downer, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser, held intensive discussions with the sides to move forward the conclusion of a joint statement that has been under negotiation over the past weeks. Through these discussions and through constructive engagement by the Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Greece and Turkey, important progress was achieved on the joint statement. Although this work has not yet concluded, the Secretary-General is hopeful that it will lead to a successful outcome soon.

  The problem is, this is not responsive to Cyprus' criticism, or to Inner City Press' question.

  Back in September when Cyprus president Anastasiades took questions at the UN, Inner City Press asked him about his dispute with country's Central Bank chief, and if his speech had been coordinated in any way with Turkey, since it was so upbeat. Video here, from Minute 6:13.

Anastasiades said while he tries not to speak about things in Cyprus when he is out of the country, he respects its constitution and the rules and regulations of the Euro system and of the ECB.

On Cyprus we try to open new avenues, he said, "I have a vision to see that my country is going to be reunited... we are not ignoring the rights of Turkish Cypriots.

On Famagusta, he said we are in the process of negotiating: for the port to be open, under EU, Turkey to open airports and ports to ships and planes with Cyprus [flags], then Cyprus would raise veto [threat] on accession process of Turkey.

In that press conference, Inner City Press got the first question, but instead of thanking Anastasiades on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access (which it does when the old UN Correspondents Association insists on pretending it represents all journalists at the UN), thanks was given for "the journalists here."

That's how it should and could be done. But later that day, not only did UNCA's 2013 president Pamela Falk of CBS re-appear for the UNFCCC -- a person who'd lost election for the UNCA board again insisted on getting the first question at an ICC press conference. This means: first questions for sale. UNreal.

 Since then, UNCA has moved to accept donated television equipment from Samsung while claiming no mission was involved. (Even the UN admits the equipment went from Samsung to the South Korean Mission to the UN to UNCA.)

   Now, amid doubts whether given UNCA leaders' past financial links with and censorship for Sri Lankan government officials -- click here for that -- Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa might attend their $250 a plate event, a new question arises.  Will UNCA, a grouping of correspondents, disclose who is attending, and who paid, and how much? Watch this site.


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