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At UN, New Zealand's Day Has Tukutuku, Ukraine and Eritrea

By Matthew Russell Lee, Country by Country

UNITED NATIONS, February 12 -- When New Zealand celebrated its national day in the entrance of the UN General Assembly on February 12, there was music and art and Ambassadors ranging from South Africa and Afghanistan through Lithuania and the UK to Eritrea, Bosnia and Ukraine.

  There were venison sliders and kiwi martinis; there was a speech from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, thanking New Zealand for, as the invitation put it, "43 handwoven tukutuku hand-woven panels that have been installed on the New Zealand wall, our original gift to the United Nations which has stood by the Delegates’ Entrance since 1952."

 Some of the weavers were present, speaking with the press and posing for example with well-known UN Security officer Ralph (who showed them his selfie with Barack Obama).

  In the run up to speeches by New Zealand Ambassador Jim McLay then Ban, Urkaine's Ambassador Sergeyev mused to Inner City Press about Nagorno-Karabakh, also negotiated in Minsk. Herve Ladsous, head of UN Peacekeeping caught in a sale of jobs scandal, huddled with Afghanistan's Ambassador Zahir Tanin. On that, we'll have more.

  Many of those in attendance marveled to Inner City Press at the breadth of the turnout. Is it due to New Zealand's nuanced positions?

Three weeks into a two year UN Security Council term, New Zealand's Permanent Representative Jim McLay on January 21 offered a criticism, however diplomatic, to the Council's work on Ukraine.

   After speeches by his US counterpart Samantha Power and Russia's Vitaly Churkin, among others, McLay said that “we believe the Security Council must live up to its responsibility under the UN Charter. This Council met in 2014 no fewer than 27 times to discuss the situation in the Ukraine. So far we've seen very little impact from all this high level attention.”

   “And so it is,” McLay continued, “that at this meeting number 28, New Zealand affirms that this Council is properly seized of this matter and it calls for a more purposeful Council engagement with a real focus upon supporting efforts for negotiation a solution to this conflict. Only then we will see tangible outcomes for those most affected, the people of Eastern Ukraine.”

    When Ambassador McLay left the Security Council chamber, this reporter asked him what he meant about this “more purposeful Council engagement” on a topic which has devolved into little but accusatory speeches.

  McLay stopped and replied, “I'd prefer to leave that until we have some closed consultations.” He added of the day's Council meeting on Ukraine, “It was going to be in private, then some said it's going to be in public. We didn't object to that, but as you and I both know...” His voice trailed off.

   In the open meeting, Russia's Churkin said that “at the beginning of today's meeting we were supposed to have closed consultations to actually take a look at whether or not the Security Council could makes it contribution to settling the Ukrainian crisis. However the delegation of the United States waved its hand and, no.”

   Could taking at least part of the Security Council's meetings about Ukraine behind closed doors, where negotiation or at least more direct talk is possible, be a New Zealand contribution to the Council's work? Watch this site.


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