UN, Mayor Bloomberg Talks Global Warming While Fire Department Inspection Is
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, April
11 -- As the UN moves toward fixing its headquarters building, while New York's
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announces a rare municipal climate change plan, Ban Ki-moon
and Bloomberg met Wednesday surrounded by issues, surrounded by aides. UN
spokeswoman Marie Okabe after the meeting said that among the topics covered
were how the UN's fix-up, called the Capital Master Plan, could harmonize with
the City's goal of reducing carbon emissions. Inner City Press asked about the
attendance of NYC Fire Department officials.
was a Fire Department inspection" of UN Headquarters, Ms. Okabe said, specifying
that the inspection took place in late 2006. Now, she said, UN Under Secretary
General for Management Alicia Barcena will be following up with the Fire
Commissioner. Because the UN's campus is international territory, longstanding
issues of immunity have more recently flared into tabloid
Press stories earlier
this year about rats and
the UN and no NYC inspections.
Barcena has told Inner City Press not to expect the Capital Master Plan to be
changed from the current version, involving the construction of a temporary
"swing space" on the UN's North Lawn, to larger plan for a new tower south of
42nd Street. Marie Okabe repeated this on-camera on Wednesday, click
Bloomberg and Ban on April 11: can carbon emissions be reduced?
Bloomberg's public schedule for Wednesday, distributed to City Hall reporters at
7 on Tuesday night, included stops at Public School 61 in Queens and at Columbia
University, with no mention of the United Nations. Inner City Press and others
asked the UN press office if Mayor Bloomberg would stop and answer a few
questions. The response was, "Ask City Hall."
afternoon, after having escorted take-no-questions Mayor Bloomberg to his
waiting SUV, Ms. Barcena mentioned the Bloomberg-convened climate change summit
announced earlier in the day. It is slated for May 14-17 and according to City
Hall's press release will involved "mayors from more
than 30 of the world's largest cities, including London, Paris, Tokyo, Mexico
City, Sao Paulo, Moscow and Istanbul. Private sector companies will also be
represented through sponsorship of sessions and events, and having CEOs in
attendance. These companies include: JP Morgan Chase & Co., Alcoa, Deutsche
Bank, the Hearst Corporation, the Shell Oil Company, Siemens, Time Warner, BSKYB,
Citigroup, Con Edison, Federated Department Stores, General Electric, Keyspan,
KPMG LLP, Swiss Re, and Tishman Speyer."
This litany is not unlike the UN's Global
Compact, in which large companies sign on to high-minded principles without
necessarily changing their practices. Musing reporters asked Ms. Barcena what
another item on the agenda, the City's help with Peacekeeping, could possibly
have met. Marie Okabe had referenced New York's "diverse" police force. Police
Commissioner Raymond Kelly has been involved in security in Haiti, and Bernard
Kerik in other places, including for profit. It seems those topics did not come
up, nor the UN's allowance of smoking in Mayor Bloomberg's smokeless city.
One wonders if the UN will have a role in
Mayor Bloomberg's climate summit, given Ban Ki-moon's on-again, off-again
position on holding his own global warming summit. In this case, the warming
appears to be more local and concrete, and to involve the fall-out from the Fire
Department inspection. Developing...
Among the UN
correspondents waiting in the lobby, to try to ask Mayor Bloomberg questions, a
story emerged of a more recent rodent sighting in the Delegates' Dining Room,
reportedly photographed by a visiting Brazilian judge. The same was heard later
from diplomatic sources, which in the UN makes the story true, or as good as
true. We will have more on this.
UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540
With Abkhazia at the UN, Breakaway Republics' Club is
Waiting, Disputes on Visas, Kosovo and Exhibitions
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, April 10, updated 8 pm -- As the UN
Security Council on Tuesday
discussed the breakaway republic of
Abkhazia, Georgia, the U.S. and
Russian Ambassadors traded diplomatic barbs about a man who wasn't there.
Abkhaz foreign minister Sergei Shamba, it having been made clear that no U.S.
visa would be granted, appeared by written text and, it was said, a compact disk
that would be given to all Council members. Inner City Press asked U.S.
Ambassador Alejandro Wolff if he had the c.d. and would watch it. [It is in
Russian with English subtitles; its final line is that "the recognition of
independence of Abkhazia and other republics such as South Ossetia and
Transdniestria would be a logical conclusion of this process." Click
here to see
Mr. Shamba himself.]
Wolff said that Russian Ambassador Churkin was being "mischievous" and making
"theater," by ignoring speakers in chamber and walking out of the Council.
Amb. Churkin laughed when told of this
characterization. "I have to be very careful walking around this building," he
said, recounting that he left to deliver a speech in the First Committee of the
General Assembly, about disarmament, pursuant to Russia's "important political
and intellectual role" on the issue.
was a momentary opening to bring several UN issues together, and Inner City
Press took it, asking Amb. Churkin if he had seen a photo exhibition about
Abkhazia that is up on the walls in the UN's basement by the Vienna Cafe. The
exhibit includes photos of Georgians being shot and killed in the streets of the
Abkhaz capital of Sukhumi in 1993, and
includes not-entirely-clear quotes about genocide and ethnic cleansing.
"Yes," Amb. Churkin replied. "It's
one-sided. It's unhelpful... One side is engaged in a massive campaign. But they
chose to do it."
"But you don't think that
countries should block each other's exhibition," asked Inner City Press,
Turkey's blocking earlier in the week of a
memorial to the Rwandan genocide,
due to a reference to "one million Armenians murdered in Turkey."
"I don't want to generalize," Amb.
Churkin said. He again called the Georgian exhibit "unhelpful" and "bad
propaganda," but said Russia had "decided it was not the situation we should
shake the tree."
One observer noted that Russia
should be given credit for not trying to have the exhibition cancelled. China,
for example, did try to cancel an exhibition sponsored by a non-governmental
organization from Taiwan, and more recently got a Taiwanese presentation removed
from a UN web cast, click
analogize between China's position on Taiwan and Turkey's activism in opposing
any characterization of Armenians' deaths just before and during World War I as
a genocide. The same word, applied in Georgia's exhibition about Abkhazia, does
not draw the same vehemence from Russia. Perhaps it is because Russia has a
handful of such issues, from Chechnya (which it wants to keep) to Kosovo (which
it wants Serbia to be able to keep) to South Ossentia (which, like Abkhazia,
Russia would like to see break away from Georgia).
U.S. Ambassador Wolff disputed Russia's
analogy between Abkhazia and Kosovo. Amb. Churkin had said, Imagine the Security
Council considering Kosovo while only hearing from the Serbian side. Last week
the Council heard the Kosovar position, albeit in a non-formal Arria style
wonder: what is the distinction in barring the Abkhaz side, other than
the foreign policy of the host country? And what is the difference between
Georgia's Abkhazia exhibition's use of graphic photos, for example of a dozen
men shot dead and bleeding on the ground in September 1993, and of the word
genocide and the unceremoniously postponed Rwanda exhibit, with its inclusion of
"one million Armenians murdered in Turkey" on a display headed, "Genocide: whose
doctors try to heal in Gali (more graphic photos on display in UN hallway)
For the record, the mandate of
the UN's Mission to Georgia is set to expire on April 15, so a vote to extend it
is expected on Friday, April 13. In town to do Russia's heavy lifting is their
specialist on Abkhazia,
Vladislav Chernov. In New York on Tuesday, Mr. Chernov told reporters to
expect the investigative report on the Kodori Gorge military incidents -- which
include alleged Russian use of helicopter gunships -- in two weeks.
thumbnail background is that Abkhazia de facto broke away from Georgia in
September 1993. The Georgian exhibition currently on display at the UN states
that "under threat of death the local inhabitants were expelled from the
territory of Abkhazia," and puts the number of expellees at 250,000 Georgians
and 100,000 others, listing "Russians, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Ukrainians and
Estonians." With the mixing of territories and religions, one wag wonders if
there is not some double-counting. One exhibit mis-spells the word "seazure"
(for seizure), calling into question the statement that all such exhibition are
reviewed by the UN Department of Public Information, click
for video of that statement.
[Update 8 p.m. -- subsequent to the statement(s) that DPI had reviewed Georgia's
exhibition about Abkhazia, the statement was amended that the exhibition had not
be reviewed. The event took place, wine glassed clinked; a "read out" has been
promised of Georgia's Prime Minister's meeting with the Secretary General.]
The Georgian exhibition includes a 1993 quote
attributed to Russia's then-foreign minister, that "Everything, that is
happening in Sukhumi is ethnic cleansing." Given that it is Georgia, and not
Russia, which states that votes held in Abkhazia are illegitimate because of the
ethnic cleansing of ethnic Georgians, the quote seems strange, purportedly
having come for a Russian foreign minister.
Inner City Press asked the Russian mission's spokeswoman, who in turn asked
rhetorically, ethnic cleansing of whom, by whom? "That's what you should ask
him," she said. But Georgian Prime Minister Mr.
spoke only very briefing to reporters outside the Security Council. Inner City
Press asked about
Georgia's lawsuit against Russia in the
European Court of Human Rights.
The Georgia Prime Minister refused to comment on the case. Click
for the Court's Registrar's
release on the "Inter-state
application brought by Georgia against the Russian Federation."
While the Security Council was meeting on
Tuesday, the foreign ministers of South Ossentia, Abkhazia and Transdniestria --
Murad Dzhioyev, Sergei Shamba and Valeri Litskai, respectively -- were
slated to meet in Sukhumi, forming their Association For Democracy and Peoples
Rights, a/k/a Club of Breakaway Republics. Some wonder why Nagorno-Karabakh is
not included. In any event for now the meeting was reportedly
postponed, due both to the hospitalization of Abkhaz president Sergei
Bagapsh and to a decision to wait for the Security Council slated Friday vote on
its extension of the UN's Mission to Georgia. At deadline, the Abkhaz
called the breakaways' meeting "ongoing." We'll see.
U.S. Exclusion of Abkhazia Minister Explained, While
Gunship Mystery Continues, Russia in the Wings
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
UNITED NATIONS, April 5 -- In the run up
to next week's Security Council meeting on Abkhazia and Georgia, Inner City
Press on Thursday asked U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff about the
host country's previous denial of a visa
to Abkhazia's foreign minister.
Amb. Wolff answered, in essence, we did it because we could. From the
Press: On Abkhazia, if the self-styled prime minister of Abkhazia sought to
attend, would the host country grant him a visa, at this time?
Wolff: The issue hasn't come up.
Press: Could you say why in the past the U.S. didn't do it? Ambassador Churkin
has said that last time, six months ago, when they met on the extension, that he
was not allowed to attend.
Wolff: We have a political process underway through a group called the friends
of Georgia, that's focusing on conflict resolution and negotiations with the
parties, there are considerations related to that, and all members except the
Russian Federation believe that the timing is not appropriate, that it would be
counter productive, that it would not contribute to the efforts underway to try
to deal with this issue through a conflict resolution process that the Friends
With Friends like these... The
just-issued Secretary General's report on Abkhazia mentions a Geneva meeting of
the Group of Friends, chaired by UN Peacekeeping's Jean-Marie Guehenno, with the
participation of Abkhazia's "de facto Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba." So
apparently, this "de facto" foreign minister can attended UN-chaired meetings in
Geneva, but cannot enter the United States. At least not at this time.
The Abkhazia report also recites that
"late in the evening of 11 March... five helicopters has approached the upper
Kodori valley from the north and fired rockets at the villages of Chkhalta and
Adjara... The investigation is still in progress."
The alleged motive is that the target was
the seat of the pro-Georgia Abkhaz government-in-exile, which was commissioned
by Georgian president Saakashvili.
compound, fired on
Abkhazia is a breakaway republic of Georgia, which some say broke away from the
USSR, the Upper Kodori Gorge is a breakaway from the rest of Abkhazia: a three-fer,
if you will.) The alleged culprit, deployer of gunship helicopters, is Russia.
Ambassador Wolff was asked:
been allegations in various things, that it was the Russians. But, how seriously
is the U.S., but also the Security Council, taking this issue, if it does turn
out that a permanent member of the Security Council might have been involved in
firing helicopter gun ships in another country's territory, what kind of
recourse might there be, what kind of discussions might we be seeing, you know,
over the coming days?
Wolff: Well, I've not seen any conclusions from the report yet, I know there's
an investigation either way. Clearly, as you stated, any attack on a sovereign
country is to be taken very seriously, we will evaluate the reports, we will be
discussing it with the experts who conducted it, we have a meeting set up next
week as you know on the renewal of UNOMIG, the Georgian prime minister will
come, we'll hear from special representative Arnault, and I'm sure this will
figure prominently in our exchanges to try to get to the bottom of this.
But again, breakaway
Abkhazia's "de facto" Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba will not be present,
according to Amb. Wolff's response. "At least you got an answer," another
correspondent whispered to Inner City Press. It was not so easy getting a quote
from the UN about its follow-through on its statement, following the military
coup in Fiji in late 2006, that it would not use more Fijian troops as
peacekeepers until democracy was restored. Click
for that story. And while UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry stopped to take a
question about the UK's policy on whether the UN, post-coup, should use Fijian
peacekeepers, his answer was, "I won't know if we have a policy on that."
Honest, at least.
At the UN, Kosovo Questions Glean Abkhaz Visa
Answers, Arria-Style Then and Now
Byline: Matthew Russell
Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, April 3 -- After a full
day of positioning in the Security Council on resolving Kosovo's status, the
question of what precedent independence for Kosovo would set inevitably arose.
Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff how, for example, Kosovo
and Serbia could be distinguished from Abkhazia and Georgia, and secondarily,
why the U.S. had
denied a visa to the (self-styled) Foreign Minister of the (breakaway)
Republic of Abkhazia. Amb. Wolff on-camera responded to the precedent question,
while not explaining the visa denial.
Amb. Wolff pointed out that Kosovo has
been administered by the U.N. for seven to eight years. In response to a
question of whether the U.S. believes that international law permits the
Security Council to grant independence to a part of a previously sovereign
country, Amb. Wolff said that the Security Council is international law.
This is a statement that will need some follow-up.
A skirmish earlier in the day concerned
whether Kosovo's president could sit at the Council table. Russia objected --
resolution 1244 says that only the UN Special Representative can speak for
Kosovo during this period -- and so a so-called Arria style proceeding was
convened, not in the Council chamber, and not officially a Council meeting. (Pay
attention, because this distinction will return.)
Next up was Martti Ahtisaari, who joked
that he hoped there were no questions left for him. There were, of course,
questions, including from Inner City Press whether he deems productive Russia's
two suggestions, that the Council members visit the region, and get a report on
implementation of Resolution 1244. Mr. Ahtisaari answered diplomatically that it
is entirely up to the Council.
UK Ambassador Emyr Jones
Parry, the Council's president this month, patiently took questions. He said the
day had been productive. On the question, from Inner City Press, of Kosovo as
precedent, Amb. Jones Parry went back to 1389 (the year, not the resolution),
then said that in 1989 Milosevic "threw a bomb," leading to the next "twenty
years" -- he corrected himself, "eighteen years." But what then of
Boys with bread
After Amb. Wolff had ceded the stakeout
microphone to Mr. Ahtisaari, a U.S. official who asked to be identified as such
explained that the U.S. visa had been denied to the so-called Foreign Minister
of Abkhazia without violating the U.S.'s obligations as UN host country.
Abkhazia is not a country, he said, and the (non-) foreign minister wasn't
seeking to travel to an official Security Council or UN meeting, but rather an
Arria style meeting. (Yes, see foreshadowing above.) "For bilateral
reasons, the visa was denied," he said.
in October 2006, Russian
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that the U.S. had offered to grant the visa if
Russia would agree to certain U.S.-favored changes in the then-draft resolution
to extend the U.N. mission in Georgia for another six months. That day, Inner
City Press asked Amb. Churkin if he would file a complaint with the UN's Host
Country Committee. Amb. Churkin said yes, but there's no evidence that he did,
and now the U.S. argues that its duties as host country were not implicated, due
in part because it was an Arria style meeting that he sought to attend. As
another blast from the past -- though not all the way back to 1389 -- click
for the video as Inner City Press asked then-Ambassador John Bolton about the
U.S.'s denial of visa. From the U.S. prepared transcript:
Press: On Georgia, Ambassador Churkin said that the Abkhaz foreign ministry
called him, a person from Abkhazia. Was the U.S. embassy in Moscow didn't give
him a visa in exchange for somehow changing the language of the resolution on
Georgia -- is that your understanding of what happened? He said it right here.
Bolton: I have -- yeah, you know, I have no idea what that's about.
Sources told Inner City Press, however,
that not only had Amb. Churkin made his statement about the visa in a televised
interview which the U.S. State Department presumably monitors, but also that the
visa issue had been discussed in the Security Council consultations prior to Amb.
Bolton's above-quoted answer. Can what is said outside the chamber be
Back in October 2006, the U.N.
Mission in Georgia was extended for six months, which now run out mid-April. In
the interim, there are allegations of Russian helicopter gunship firing in the
Georgia has filed suit in the European
Court of Human Rights for
Russia's round-up and deportation of Georgia. In the Council, and not only on
Kosovo, expect fireworks.
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