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On Gaza, UN Offers Canned Statements After UNdisclosed Gifted Travel

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 26, more here -- As the death count in Gaza rose after the UN Security Council's emergency meeting on Sunday, July 20, what was the response at the UN?

   Secretary General Ban Ki-moon flew around the region, first on a Qatar-funded private jet, then a Saudi jet -- then his spokespeople stopped answering Inner City Press on whose jet or dime Ban was flying.

  At the Security Council, there was talk about the Jordan or Arab Group draft resolution. But on July 24 on his last day in the Council, French Ambassador Gerard Araud said that no vote had been scheduled on the draft.

    When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon finally spoke in Cairo on July 25, it was about a mere 12 hour humanitarian pause.

 And before any press questions, it was said "Mr. United Nations Secretary-General has to leave." But where to? On whose plane? Because the UN has stonewalled, the questions have to be asked and pursued.

  US Secretary John Kerry, to whom nearly all of the media questions were directed, denied that Israel's cabinet had voted down the larger proposal; Kerry headed to Paris to meet with the foreign ministers including those of Turkey and Qatar.

  But there, no deal was announced. Al Jazeera put online a draft they said Israel had rejected; an Israeli columnist criticized what he called the draft Kerry submitted and was criticized.

 One issue was whether a ceasefire or humanitarian pause should involved Israel pulling its forces out of Gaza. But Ban, flying on undisclosed aircraft, issued canned statements that did not address the issue.

  Intentions for peace are not enough.

  On the most basic transparency, at the July 25 noon briefing Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq refused to tell Inner City Press on what kind of plane, paid by whom, Ban traveled to Cairo.

  After belatedly telling Inner City Press Ban took a Qatar-funded private jet to Doha, and later a Saudi plane, now the UN won't answer basic questions about Ban's most recent outside-funded trips.

   Ban's announcement was a shift down from remarks the UN had sent out, then retracted. At 7:22 AM Eastern Time in the US, Ban's Office of the Spokesperson emailed out Ban's remarks.  Seven minutes later at 7:29 AM they e-mailed again: "PLEASE RETRACT - Secretary-General's remarks to press in Cairo have not been delivered."

  While not required, Inner City Press decided to hold off reporting any of this, expecting Ban to speak with US Secretary of State John Kerry soon thereafter.

    Two hours later, the Wall Street Journal's Jay Solomon published a story quoting what Ban was "expected to say" --

"'On this, the last Friday of Ramadan, I call for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian pause in the fighting in Gaza and Israel,' Mr. Ban is expected to say Friday, according to a draft of his prepared comments. 'We can build on this initiative by supporting international efforts to put in place the elements of a longer-term cease-fire plan.' A spokesperson for Mr. Ban said the transcript was mistakenly released by the U.N. on Friday.

   While still awaiting Ban's expected -- changed? -- remarks with John Kerry (a reporter on the scene says the UN flag has been placed and replaced at the site of the press availability), it's worth asking, how does the UN get "its" press corp to sit on Ban's remarks released, with no embargo, and then "retracted"?

   Inner City Press has reported on, and the Free UN Coalition for Access seeks to counteract, this dynamic, for example here when the UN's Correspondents Assocation - known for more than one reason as the UN's Censorship Alliance -- provided Ban with a soccer photo op.

  Significantly in these pre-released remarks, Ban once again cites the bombing of the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun without saying anything about who did it - despite for example the widely reported series of IDF tweets. So again: why was Ban's pre-released statement sat on?

   The Free UN Coalition for Access also asks: how can it be that the UN does not disclose when Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accepts free travel on a private jet, and on July 24 would not tell Inner City Press how and on whose plane Ban flew to Iraq? Video here.

 We note that, along with a Newsweek piece that credited Inner City Press' exclusive, Solomon is one of two reporters trailing Kerry who've asked / tweeted about Ban using the Qatar funded private jet.

   Agence France Presse reported Ban's later retracted remarks, so for without correction. But AFP did not mention Ban's silence on who bombed the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun.

  When Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Haq about the AFP report, Haq said AFP had been spoken to. But the report(s) remained online.

   This follows the UN's only belated acknowledgement, after Inner City Press asked several times, that Ban began his Gaza-related tour by flying on a Qatar-funded jet to Qatar, then Cairo.

 Bigger picture, does the UN, while claiming to abide by its own stated ethics rules, simply not have time for them and waive them?  When Inner City Press asked on July 23, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said, if you are here as a lawyer, "You're not entitled to be at the noon briefing." Video here from Minute 4:26.

  Here's the July 24, 2014, video:

  On the audio file, Haq referred to UN Radio. Here it is, for download at mp3 - but it cuts off the question asked of Ban about the Qatar-funded plane, that the State Department transcribed.

The UN has previously censored its transcripts to omit the Free UN Coalition for Access and what was said to Ban; when Haq answered Inner City Press that Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir was dead, he "corrected" this in the transcript without ever telling Inner City Press that his answer was wrong, or had been "disappeared" in the transcript.

  On July 24 after Inner City Press asked for basic UN financial information -- last ten free trips -- Haq said, "You are not a prosecutor." Video here.
And here's the July 23, 2014 video:

On July 21, the UN belatedly answered Inner City Press' July 19 inquiry about Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accepting a free Qatar-funded, British registered private jet for his current travel about Gaza. Video here and embedded below.

   We'll have more on this.

 


 

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