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At the UN, China Favored Over Taiwan by Guatemala's Vinicio Cerezo, "Arias Was Right"

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 13 -- "We admire Taiwan in many ways," Guatemala's former and perhaps future president Vinicio Cerezo  told reporters at the UN on Wednesday. "But the interest of Central America is to have the relationship with China, in benefit of the community, the people."

            Inner City Press had asked him and former and current president of Costa Rica Arias to comment on their countries' foreign policy with respect to China and Taiwan. Last week, Costa Rica decided to formally recognize China. Taiwan immediately announced it would end its aid to Costa Rica. Guatemala's foreign minister Gert Rosenthal said at the time, "We're maintaining diplomatic relations with Taiwan but we're worried that other countries will go along with Costa Rica."

            If Mr. Vinicio Cerezo's answer Wednesday is to be believed, Guatemala's position is also in motion.  Inner City Press asked about recognizing China, and Mr. Vinicio Cerezo said, "We should. Without a doubt. In Guatemala we were prepared to do it, for different reasons we stopped the decision... but [President] Arias' decision is right." He added, "We left the East - West conflict long ago... we don't have to be involved, against the common interest." Video here, from Minute 24.

Mr. Vinicio Cerezo: red tie (and "Red" China)

            The two were at the UN for a conference marking the twentieth anniversary of the Esquipulas II peace agreement. Speaking at the conference, and running the press conference, was Alvaro de Soto, a just-retired career UN official, a UN envoy to Central America during the Esquipulas process. Mr. de Soto's most recent and last UN posting, which ended earlier this year, resulted in an "End of Mission" memo which was leaked and available on Wednesday. UN Spokesperson Michele Montas said, " "It is deeply regrettable that this report has been leaked. The whole point of an end-of-mission report is for our envoys and special representatives to be as candid as possible ... the views in the report should not be considered official UN policy."

            Inner City Press asked Mr. de Soto to comment on his memo and how it should be read, if only for a sentence or so, given that the memo is now in the open and is being covered. Mr. de Soto pointedly did not respond to the question. Video here, at Minute 25:45.

News Analysis: Other correspondents afterward opined that Mr. de Soto also appeared unpleasantly surprised by the question about Taiwan which, these correspondents say, is something of a taboo at the UN. But, as simply one example, the most recent extension of the UN's peacekeeping mission in Haiti was impacted by that country's wavering position on Taiwan. But at the UN, the release of candid memos is met with admonitions, and some obviously relevant questions are, it seems, not supposed to be asked. And so it goes at the United Nations.

As posted June 12, 2007 on the UN's i-Seek intra-net:

Secretary-General emphasizes respect for confidentiality

Posted: Tuesday, 12 June 2007, New York

"Dear Colleagues,

There have recently been some disclosures of confidential documents to the media. I find this deeply troubling and regrettable.

The work of the United Nations to resolve conflicts and address crises around the world depends on mutual trust and discretion. Member States must be confident that we respect confidentiality whenever necessary. I  therefore take this opportunity to remind staff of their obligation to do so. I cannot overstate how seriously I take this issue.

In the meantime, I am asking all Departments, Offices, Funds and Programmes to review and tighten their systems and ensure that sensitive communications are well secured.

Allow me to express my warm appreciation for your dedication and professionalism in the service of our United Nations.

Yours sincerely,

Ban Ki-moon"

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540