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On Strike on Aid Convoy in Syria, UN Says It Can't Investigate, De Mistura Silent On Walkout

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 26 -- As Inner City Press in a nearly empty UN covered the General Assembly debate on September 24, it heard of an emergency Security Council meeting about Aleppo called for the next day, Sunday, at 11 am.

When Syria's Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari spoke, Samantha Power, UK Matthew Rycroft and French Francois Delattre all left the Chamber. Vine here.

While French Duputy Alexis Lamek stayed, the UK and US were at a lower level. For the US, Deputy Michelle Sison returned when Staffan de Mistura replied to Ja'afari.

   Inner City Press asked Churkin about the walkout and he said, Ask the Ambassador of Syria. So Inner City Press did, and Ja'afari said it “proves they are not Permanent Representatives.” Minutes later on UNTV Inner City Press asked de Mistura about the walkout, and for the status of the UN investigation of the strike on the aid convoy and if it was an AIR strike. He said, No comment on either. Video here. It's come to this.

On September 26, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about the UN investigation of the strike on the convoy, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: the strike against the aid convoy in Syria, it was a big topic yesterday in the… in the speeches back and forth.  I tried to ask Mr. de Mistura, what's the status of any UN investigation?  And when he did his stakeout, what's the status of any UN investigation into the strike on the aid convoy?  And he said he had no comment.  But I just wanted to ask you, as a factual matter: Is the UN looking at it?  Is it the UN's position it was an airstrike as opposed to any other kind of strike?  What is the UN doing to get to the bottom of it? 

Deputy Spokesman:  At this stage, as you're aware, we have no on-the-ground presence that could conduct an investigation.  We would like to receive any relevant information.  This deserves to be fully investigated.  As we've pointed out, any deliberate targeting of humanitarian convoy would constitute a war crime.  So it's the responsibility of the parties on the ground to be able to provide any relevant information on this.

ICP Question:  But it… does the UN believe it's an airstrike or not?  Does it not even… can you not even make that distinction between air and…

Deputy Spokesman:  At this stage, as you're aware, there are many contradictory accounts of what's happened, so we want a definitive account.

 Earlier at 10:40 am arriving despite Ban Ki-moon's Press eviction order, the Ambassadors of Russia, France and the UK spoke on their way in. Russian's Vitaly Churkin was asked if he thought the calling of the meeting was a stunt (which US Samantha Power called Russia's meeting the week before.”

   We don't accuse anybody, Churkin said, we are too self-confident for that. Vine video here.

Inside the Chamber, as Samantha Power spoke of the airstrikes in Syria, it was hard not to think of those in Yemen, too. France's Francois Delattre cited Guernica, a replica of Picasso's painting of which still hangs at the UNSC stakeout where journalists waited for Ban Ki-moon's delayed Cyprus press statement.

Russian's Churkin recounted that John Kerry has assured he wouldn't go public with two Russian planes over the struck aid convoy but "other agencies" in DC leaked it.

Two days after the UN Security Council meeting on the US-led coalition's bombing of Syrian soldiers in Deir Ez-Zor, the US denounced an airstrike on an aid convoy, below. Also on September 19, Saudi Arabia hosted a Syrian opposition event at the Westin Hotel near the UN, Inner City Press Periscope here. 

On September 17 an emergency UN Security Council meeting was called by Russia at 7:30 pm after reported US airstrikes killed more then 60 Syria soldiers in Deir Ez-Zor.

This came a day after a planned briefing of the Council by Russia and the US was canceled. It was also just as UN General Assembly week began, with a meeting of the International Syria Support Group planned for Tuesday morning. Now this.

  Russia's Vitaly Churkin as he went into the Council told the press he'd explain “at some length, afterward.”

Then US Samantha Power arrived and went straight to the UNTV microphone, reading from notes about the loss of life (Vine here) (Beyond the Vine here) called the meeting a stunt, Vine here, and saying that Russia's spokesperson Maria Zakharova should be ashamed of herself.

Russia's Churkin re-emerged and criticized Power for speaking before even entering the meeting. He asked, Who is in charge in Washington - the White House or the Pentagon?

Inner City Press asked Churkin about quotes that the Pentagon would consider "condolence" payments to the families of Syrian soldiers. He said, It's for the Syrian government to respond. Beyond the Vine here; Vine here

Afterward, Inner City Press was locked out of the UN Security Council stakeout due to the eviction orders of UNSG Ban Ki-moon and his head of communications Cristina Gallach, Beyond the Vine video here; NYT here; petition here.

Back on September 9 when the UN's Staffan de Mistura and Stephen O'Brien held a joint stakeout in Geneva, the letter from NGOs breaking off cooperation with the UN was the elephant in the room.

But the room, off-camera, was either not full or ill-prepared. The UN moderator called on Voice of America, which had nothing; she called on France 24 twice, and without further identification “Egyptian TV.”

   At the UN in New York, Ban Ki-moon's UN has gone out of its way to break its own rules for Egyptian state media, giving never-present Akhbar al Yom the office space from which Ban and his Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach have evicted Inner City Press, which reported on de Mistura's hiring of Ban's son in law Siddharth Chatterjee.

   Chatterjee, after using threats and more to get an Indian pick-up of that story scrubbed from the Internet, has blocked Inner City Press on Twitter. Ban has given the top UN job in Kenya to his son in law Sid; now his spokesman Stephane Dujarric refuses to answer basic Press questions, calling them “ridiculous accusations” and running from the podium.

  The podia or rostrums in Geneva were both branded “United Nations;” as de Mistura and O'Brien began speak, UN Security struggled to raise a blue UN flag behind them. Branding before all else.

   John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov were meeting, even showed up in one of France 24's two questions - but at least according to their opening remarks, they had North Korea's nuclear test on their minds. And the Next UNSG? We'll have more on this.

   As Turkey's August 24 military operations inside Syria began, in New York the Turkish mission filed a letter with the UN Security Council, which Inner City Press put online here.

In the letter, Turkey's outgoing Permanent Representative to the UN Halit Cevik cited not only Article 51 of the UN Charter but also UNSC resolutions 1373, 2170 and 2178. It does not mention the Kurds but only DEASH (sic).

  Turkey's letter states among other things that “Turkey initiated a military operation in the early hours of August 24, 2016, against DEASH which has been directly and deliberately targeting Turkey.” It states that Turkey respects Syria's territorial integrity and political unity. The word sovereignty is not used, but “political transition” is.

  Meanwhile a journalist from Turkey's state media TRT, also apparently outgoing, to his credit disclosed that his interview with Cevik's Syrian counterpart Bashar Ja'afari was unceremoniously pulled from broadcast and won't be online.

  As noted, Ban Ki-moon's UN gives this same Turkish state media TRT a solo office, (for) now next to Egypt state media Akhbar al Yom, while throwing the independent Press into the street and confining it to minders. We'll have more on all this.

Turkey's Letter to UNSC on Its Military Operation in Syria, August 24, 2016, Published by Inner City Press by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd

On August 11 when the the UN's third Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura invited the media to a question and answer stakeout on August 11, the turn-out was decidedly light. While the UN used to provide interpretation of stakeouts, this time it didn't.

 Present for a predictable question was Voice of America, with which Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman has worked to evict the critical Press (one FOIA document here, more forthcoming). Ban finally did the eviction earlier this year, film here. This is Ban's UN.

   In his prepared statement, de Mistura added a word to the UN's old saw, saying there is no “sustainable” military solution. He quoted a response the day prior in New York by OCHA's Stephen O'Brien - an answer which the UN Department of Public Information under Cristina Gallach didn't even include when it put up the video of the OCHA briefing (which was about South Sudan, another failure of Ban's UN.)

   More than anything, Ban's UN seems to want to be perceived as relevant: it wants to be spoken with, and to brag about its discussions. De Mistura told the near-empty stakeout about his work in previous mediation. Ban himself was out in Los Angeles, bragging about talks with... Norman Lear. This is today's UN.


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