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At UN, Flotilla Meetings with Ban, Iran Sanctions Said to Proceed, Tamale Diplomacy

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 2 -- The question of who will do the investigation of the assault on the flotilla to Gaza, called for in the UN Security Council Presidential Statement adopted after 12 hours of meetings on Memorial Day, will be discussed if not determined at the UN on June 2.

  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will meet with the Ambassadors of Israel and Turkey and with the Arab Group. Then he will meet with the Permanent Five members of the Council. Ban's office has asked UN communications personnel to be ready for a stakeout appearance at 5 p.m. on June 2. But of course that could be canceled.

Outside the Council chamber on morning of June 2, Inner City Press asked Ambassadors and diplomats about who will do the investigation. Council president Claude Heller of Mexico joked back: "you!" The sense is that at least one of the non-US Western P-5 members did not hold out for the word "independent" being in the PRST; this member seems to think that Hillary Clinton has moved toward the UN doing in the investigation.

   "Let Americans speak for America," Inner City Press was told when seeking confirmation. And the Turks, clearly, are unhappy with the Obama administration's positions.

  This includes the US position in pushing for Iran sanctions despite the Brazilian and Turkish deal with Iran on "confidence building measures" around the Tehran Research Reactor's uranium. On that, a well placed Council source told Inner City Press that only yesterday another meeting of the 15 members' experts took place.

  Turkey and Brazil were "present but not engaged." The P-5 has yet to share any annex with the non Permanent members. Still and all, more than one Council member predicted the adoption of Iran sanctions in two weeks or so.

On flotilla Memorial Day, scrum, meetings with Ban not shown

  The Council meeting Wednesday morning was to adopt the month's program of work. It includes a Council retreat in Istanbul, from June 24 through 26, and perhaps a trip to Afghanistan before that. The UN's top humanitarian John Holmes will brief the Council about Chad and Sudan on June 3, then the Press on those topics and others the next day.

  Children and armed conflict appears to be the Mexican's thematic debate, on June 16. And the sure to be picante End of Presidency reception is set for June 29. The Mission of Mexico, in a show of class, put out tamales and repostreria for the Press on June 2. Call it a confidence building measure.

* * *

On Gaza Flotilla Assault, UNSC Statement Leaves Vague Who Will Investigate

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 1 -- The UN Security Council adopted a vague Presidential Statement at 2 am on Tuesday, in the wake of Monday's assault by the Israeli Defense Forces on the flotilla to Gaza. Afterward, Inner City Press asked first the new President of the Council, Mexico's Claude Heller, then US Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, what the provisions means. Their interpretations were entirely different.

The Presidential Statement calls for an investigation which is "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent." US Deputy Permanent Representative Wolff told Inner City Press this means that Israel can do it.

Claude Heller, on the other hand, only Council President for less than three hours, said that it should be an independent investigation panel, named by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Heller also told Inner City Press that the PRST's reference to "the use of force" and "those acts" were both directed at the Israeli military. But the US and Israel, apparently, have another reading.

Inner City Press live-blogged the twists and turns of the day's Council action from just outside it, here.

US' Alex Wolff, investigations by Ban Ki-moon not shown

Palestine's Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour ended by saying the Arab Group and the Non Aligned Movement will be lobbying S-G Ban Ki-moon. Presumably the US will be lobbying the other way...

Footnote: Ironically, the Non Aligned Movement earlier this year lobbied Ban to say that he had no authority to name a panel, even to advise himself, about accountability for 30,000 estimated civilian deaths in Sri Lanka. Ban has vowed that he will never the less name that panel, which he announced on March 5. We'll see.

Here is the PRST


The Security Council deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza. The Council, in this context, condemns those acts which resulted in the loss of at least ten civilians and many wounded, and expresses its condolences to their families.

The Security Council requests the immediate release of the ships as well as the civilians held by Israel. The Council urges Israel to permit full consular access, to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately, and to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance from the convoy to its destination.

The Security Council takes note of the statement of the UN Secretary?General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.

The Security Council stresses that the situation in Gaza is not sustainable. The Council re-emphasizes the importance of the full implementation of Resolutions 1850 and 1860. In that context, it reiterates its grave concern at the humanitarian situation in Gaza and stresses the need for sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza as well as unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza.

The Security Council underscores that the only viable solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an agreement negotiated between the parties and re-emphasizes that only a two-State solution, with an independent and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours, could bring peace to the region.

The Security Council expresses support for the proximity talks and voices concern that this incident took place while the proximity talks are underway and urges the parties to act with restraint, avoiding any unilateral and provocative actions, and all international partners to promote an atmosphere of cooperation between the parties and throughout the region.

* * *

As UN Council Meets on Gaza Ship Raid, Obama, Ban and Justice Put in Question

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 31-June 1, updated -- In the wake of Israel's commando raid on the flotilla bound for Gaza, the UN Security Council in New York went into emergency session early Monday afternoon. Palestine's Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour called it a massacre. Inner City Press asked him what the Palestinian Authority expects from the Obama administration, in light of their read out from Barack Obama's call to Benyamin Netanyahu.

"It was a cautious statement," Mansour responded. Noting that Netanyahu has canceled his trip to Washington, Mansour said this was out of shame.

Non Council members also showed up. Sudan's Permanent Representative called Inner City Press to the side. I have something to say, he insisted. "Israel has written the communique of the International Criminal Court meeting in Kampala," he said. Inner City Press pointed out that Israel is not an ICC state party.

Spain's Ambassador went into the Council without speaking, as did U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative Alejandro Wolff. A reporter shouted out, "will you support a PRST?"

The spokesperson for a Permanent Five member of the Council predicted a Presidential Statement by the Council, later on Sunday. One can imagine the language being negotiated back and forth.

Ship, with Turkish flag, UNSC outcome not yet shown

It was said that the UN's Department of Political Affairs might given a briefing. Based on what? UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is in Kampala, after having sent his two most senior envoys to Sudan to the inauguration of Omar al Bashier, indicted by the ICC. Watch this space -- we will live blog from the Council stakeout.

Update of 1:41 p.m. -- a P-5 spokesperson emerges from the Council and says the format has been decided on, 15 plus two, Israel and Palestine.

Update of 1:44 p.m. -- Turkey's Ambassador emerges. On way on stairs he's asked, is there a Turkish draft PRST? "The Minister should speak first," he said, "in half an hour's time." A P-5 spokesperson says the text has been "seen."

Update of 1:50 p.m. -- Turkey's Ahmet Davutoglu arrives with entourage. He will do a stakeout for the Press after he speaks to the Council, a staffer says.

Update of 1:57 p.m. -- the UNSC meeting on Gaza is beginning, chaired by Lebanon on the last day of its Presidency. Israel and Palestine are seated, DSG Migiro is on the house. UN DPA's Taranco begins briefing.

Update of 2:37 p.m. - as Davutoglu, UK & others speechify, search is on for the PRST drafted this morning at the Egyptian mission, outside of which the Ambassadors of Lebanon and Palestine emerged 1/2 hour before the UNSC meeting.

Update of 2:47 pm -- France's Araud calls for investigation, and access "under the Vienna convention" to those from the flotilla imprisoned now in Israel. Also calls for meeting of the Quartet, to lift the blockade of Gaza. UN part time envoy Tony Blair, where are you?

Update of 2:55 p.m. -- it has been noticed, by other journalists, that while the UK and France are represented by their #1 Perm Reps, the U.S. #1 Susan Rice is not here. In DC, one reporter guesses, also noting her May 27 speech at "Fleet Week" -- how about Flotilla Week?

Update of 3:21 p.m. -- Turkey FM Ahmet Davutoglu describes PRST. Inner City Press asks if US on board, any interplay with Iran sanctions? "2 separate cases," FM Davutoglu says. We'll see.

Update of 3:42 p.m.- Egypt's Ambassador calls for investigation, and action "unlike on Goldstone report." But when asked about Egypt's own blockage of Gaza, he says the Rafa crossing is not for humanitarian aid, that is only up to Israel. Hmm...

Update of 4:05 p.m. - Council breaking until 4:30. Inner City Press asked Syria Amb if any link to Iran sanctions. He says, Israel wants to divert from the NPT...

Update of 4:30 p.m. -- beyond disputes about compensation, while the Turkish draft, OIC and NAM call for international investigation, the US has called for Israel to do the investigating -- not unlike Ambassador Susan Rice and Hillar Clinton on Sri Lanka's self investigation... Then again, the NAM opposed any UN panel on Sri Lanka. Double standards everywhere.

Update of 4:38 p.m.-- in the consultations, it was said that a PRST would be good, but that the way to proceed was "informal informals"- that is, not even in the consultations room. So here we wait.

Update of 5:17 p.m. -- As Turkey and the United States negotiate a UN Security Council Presidential Statement about the Israeli assault on the Gaza-bound flotilla, the language is getting watered down. From the "strongly condemn" proposed by the Turks, the First Revised draft now speaks of "deeply regret." And it is the "use of force" that is regretted -- which can be read as, both sides' use of force...

Update of 5:36 p.m. - Also in US Rev 1 flotilla PRST, while investigation's to be done in 30 days, it doesn't say #UN or non-Israeli investigation. Can Turkey live with this?

Update of 5:54 p.m. - here as a public service, h/t LouCharb, is a photo of Rev 1 of the flotilla PRST -

Update of 6:46 p.m. -- inside the Council consultations, comparison is made to last Western Sahara negotiations, which took 8 hours. This could top it. Diplomats head out for food, reporters subsist on potato chips from nearly empty vending machine.

Update of 7:53 p.m. -- Now French Ambassador Araud announces, a break until 9:15! A break from the break... Palestine's Riyad Mansour speaks of something "between Rev 2 and Rev 3." Separate Sudan story to follow. Now here.

Update of 9:15 p.m. -- this is the time that they said. So far, Perm Reps of Mexico and Brazil have walked by and in, and Israel's Danny Carmone has walked out. Inner City Press asks a well placed Council member spokesman, "So it's Wolff and the Turks?" He nods. An outgoing Chinese diplomat tells Inner City Press, "Strange, the whole world is outraged, but one country isn't. Watch that country in the next few days."

Update of 9:45 p.m. -- Chinese dip to Inner City Press on #flotilla: "whole world outraged, but one country isn't. Watch that country in next days." And, they're waiting for call from DC, which is waiting on another capital. Tel Aviv? He nods.

Update of 9:58 p.m. - not looking good. Rev 2, on which there was preliminary agreement is no longer the basis for discussions. Int'l inquiry? Mexican midnight?

Update of 10:35 p.m. -- Big lull on #flotilla PRST, & some dissing. Visible in consultations room, UK Lyall Grant walking around like a non-P5.

Update of 11:17 a.m. -- Palestine's Mansour says, down to a few words, US on phone to DC, maybe by midnight, maybe after w/ Mexicans. Maybe, maybe. It's what passes for news at this point.

Update of 11:21 -- a lot of interest in the effect of midnight on the UN. They can "stop the clock" at 11:59, and just pretend that it remains May. But that is unlikely, no reason to play with them when a PRST is from the Council as a whole. Some UN TV staffers reminisce that Perez de Cuellar was allowed to stay on some extra hours to conduct a peace deal while Dick Clark was in Times Square. There there's no news, there... history.

Update of 11:31 -- UK Lyall Grant leaves. "It doesn't seem to be very close yet," he says. Going to bed? "I'll be back if something happens." Put a fork in it?

Update of 11:56 p.m. -- Mexico UNSC Presidency minus four minutes and counting. Will the ball or #flotilla PRST drop? Where is Dick Clark?

Update of 11:59 p.m. -- Palestine Mansour says we might see white smoke on #flotilla PRST. 2 dips go for cigarettes. Lost in translation?

Update of 12:05 a.m. -- No action on #flotilla PRST, but Mexico's nameplate and flag has been moved into position. UN efficiency.

Update of 12:30 a.m. -- Bosnia's Ambassador stares into space as if in an airport, waiting for a flight delayed by an Icelandic volcano. The political coordinator of another P-5 country has left for the night. It's down to the P-1 Plus 1. 30 minutes into the Mexican president and still no solution.

Update of 1:19 a.m. -- A Turkish journalist gets a text message from the Mission inside: "there is still some hope." An American indicates the same. Could it be?

Update of 1:23 a.m. - News flash (!) the doors to Council are closed. "They are going into formal consultations and then they will come out." Condemning or regreting? Israeli investigation? Watch this space.

Update of 1:28 a.m. -- UN DPI staff go in, who transcribe formal meetings. Looks like the deal is done. But what is it? Watch this space.

Update of 1:35 p.m. -- a Lebanese journalist rushes out with the text, shares only with Al Jazeera. "Condemns," he tells Press. "Those acts." We'll see.

Update of 1:40 a.m. -- They are setting up in the Chamber, Amb Heller is ready, bleary eyed journalists ready for questions after PRST is read out, we'll see.

Update of 1:44 onward -- things moving too fast for blogging (!) turn to - for text and Q&A, 10-4

Update of 2:38 a.m. -- final PRST and analysis above

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

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

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

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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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