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On Syria, UNSG Guterres Revises E Ghouta Statement To Call Deaths "Reportedly," Censors

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon here, photos

UNITED NATIONS, March 6 – What's in a word? UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on March 6 issued a "revised" statement on Eastern Ghouta in Syria. He added the word "reportedly" on the death count. At the demand of whom? And why didn't he know minutes later? Where is the leadership, while Guterres and his Global Communications team devote time and resources to restricting and censoring the critical Press? The first version, at 6:27 pm: "The Secretary-General is concerned about continued reports of attacks throughout the besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta, which claimed the lives of more than 100 people on 5 March, as well as reports of shelling of the city of Damascus." The second revised version at 6:42 pm, with the new word "reportedly" added in: "The Secretary-General is concerned about continued reports of attacks throughout the besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta, which reportedly claimed the lives of more than 100 people on 5 March, as well as reports of shelling of the city of Damascus." We'll have more on this. Amid talk that a call for a ceasefire in Syria was unrealistic, Inner City Press on February 22 alone staked out an evening meeting of the UN Security Council's Elected Ten members, exclusive video here. On February 24 the changed draft was approved 15-0. More than a week later on Sunday March 4 the UN announced that it "and partners plan to deliver humanitarian assistance to Duma in eastern Ghouta tomorrow, 5 March 2018. Tomorrow’s convoy will consist of 46 truckloads of health and nutrition supplies, along with food for 27,500 people in need and will be led by Ali AlZa’tari, the UN Resident / Humanitarian Coordinator. The UN and partners have received approval to deliver assistance for 70,000 people in need in Duma. The UN has received assurances that the remaining supplies for all approved people in need will be delivered on 8 March 2018. The only UN delivery of assistance to eastern Ghouta in 2018 was on 14 February when a convoy with assistance for 7,200 people reached Nashabiyah." Watch this site. Back on February 24, as Syria's Ambassador Ja'afari began as final speaker, US Ambassador Nikki Haley and then France's Francois Delattre walked out. But the UK's speaker, Stephen Hickey, stayed to the end. Inner City Press twice asked him at the stakeout afterward to explain this, but he demurred. Meanwhile, when Inner City Press asked Russia's Nebenzia what this meant for Council diplomacy, he replied to ask them, but I think you know. But why the differences among the so-called P3? Here's from Operative Paragraph 1:"Demands that all parties cease hostilities without delay and engage immediately to ensure full and comprehensive implementation of this demand by all parties, for a durable humanitarian pause for at least 30 consecutive days throughout Syria" - but does "without delay" mean the same thing as "immediately"? If so, why not use the word immediately? And does it full apply to Afrin? And to as Ja'afari put it, to the areas controlled by the US and to the Golan? They call this intentional ambiguity. Full version put out by the UN attached here on Patreon; Alamy speech photos here. We'll have more on this.

The UN Department of Public Information's UNTV is live during meetings of the Security Council, like on Saturday February 24, and moves in with a boom microphone to record Ambassadors speaking to reporters. It happened on February 23 with the UK and Jordan, and February 24 with the Netherlands. But during the consultations with Syria's Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari emerged and was speaking to a half dozen reporters, fielding questions in English and Arabic, UNTV stopped filming. Why? And why does UN DPI, under Alison Smale, not answer any questions, but only censor and spin? Inner City Press has requested the video before and after cut from DPI. Back on February 22, Inner City Press asked Sweden's Olof Skoog if the meeting was productive. He said the E10 are always helpful, the "extremes" are represented on the E10. He indicted that a new draft would be put out on February 23. And on February 23, with Inner City Press roped in to cover a meeting in ECOSOC, with UN minder four feet away, Skoog rushed by at 10 am and into the Council. Russia's Nebenzia followed five minutes later, stopping to ask Inner City Press, This is a new stakeout? Only Inner City Press is caged in, for two years for its coverage. But no vote at 11, then none at noon. At 2:30, there was an "E10 coordination meeting." An afternoon of closed door consultations, with non Council members waiting in the chamber, continued past five. Then Skoog said he is disappointed but there will be a vote Saturday at noon, either way. Kuwait's  Mansour Al-Otaibi, the president of the Council for February, said the issue is "OP1" - Operative Paragraph 1 - but reiterated, vote Saturday at noon. At that time, US Ambassador Nikki Haley walked into the Council and told the Press, "Today we're going to see if Russia has a conscience." Video here, and tweeted Vine. Full Periscope here, including Syrian Ambassador Ja'afari asking if Al Jazeera is chairing the day's Security Council session.

Inner City Press on February 22 alone staked out an evening meeting of the UN Security Council's Elected Ten members, exclusive video here. Inner City Press asked Sweden's Olof Skoog if the meeting was productive. He said the E10 are always helpful, the "extremes" are represented on the E10. He indicted that a new draft will be put out on February 23. Inner City Press also asked Bolivia and Kazakhstan (which thanked it for asking), and Netherlands which said too early to comment. Back on February 14 published the full text of the UN Security Council's then draft resolution making that call and more, here on Patreon. Some highlights from the Operative Paragraphs below. On February 21, Russia called a briefing by the UN's Mark Lowcock from Geneva on 12 noon on February 22 (at the February 21 UN noon briefing, no media other than Inner City Press asked any questions, so it seems it doesn't matter); but when will the vote come? The February 22 noon meeting ended with Kuwait urging Syria's Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari to limit himself to five minutes, and Ja'afari and Russia's Nebenzia objecting. Kuwait replied it was relying on "Note 507." Inner City Press asked Nebenzia about it and he said it was impolite, when the meeting was all about Syria. Russia has proposed changes, including a condemnation of shelling from Eastern Ghouta of residential areas in Damascus City, including diplomatic premises. Sweden's Olof Skoog says it's leaning toward February 23. On the morning February 22 outside a meeting about Palestine, correspondents questions were nearly entirely about Syria, with Sweden's Olof Skoog rating the difficulty of the negotiations as 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. (The UN Department of Public Information, apparently distracted by and focused on censoring the Press and serving certain member states, didn't notice there would be press interest in the Palestine meeting, Periscope video here). France's Francois Delattre, who has yet to comment on refoulements to Cameroon, said he is deeply concerned. Now this from the UK: "Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has called for an end to the violence in Eastern Ghouta and emphasised the UK's leading role in peace negotiations. The Foreign Secretary said: 'I am utterly appalled by the brutal and merciless violence that the Asad regime is inflicting on the people of Eastern Ghouta. They are enduring a hell entirely of the making of Asad and his enablers. Today in the UN Security Council, the UK will press Russia to support a ceasefire to allow for the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid. Protecting Syrians and getting them the lifesaving aid they need must be paramount. The UK is committed to working closely with all international partners to secure an end to the terrible bloodshed and make progress towards a political solution, which is the only way to bring peace to the people of Syria.'" The White House on February 21 said, "We fully support the call from the United Nations for a cessation of violence to allow for the unfettered delivery of humanitarian supplies and urgently needed medical evacuations of civilians. The United States also calls upon Russia and its partners to live up to their obligations with respect to de-escalation zones, particularly those in Eastern Ghouta, and to end further attacks against civilians in Syria. Assad and his deplorable regime must stop committing additional atrocities and must not be further abetted by backers in Moscow and Tehran. The regime’s horrific attacks demonstrate an urgent need for the UN-led Geneva process to advance toward a political resolution for Syria that respects the will of the Syrian people, in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 2254." Earlier US Ambassador Nikki Haley said, "The United Nations Security Council is considering a resolution that would establish a one-month ceasefire to allow for the delivery of critical supplies and evacuation of the wounded. It’s time to take immediate action in the hopes of saving the lives of the men, women, and children who are under attack by the barbaric Assad regime. It is simply preposterous to claim that these attacks on civilians have anything to do with fighting terrorism. The Security Council must move to adopt a resolution establishing a ceasefire. The United States will support it, as should every member of the Council." Showdown.  From OPs: the Security Council "Decides that all parties to the Syrian conflict shall immediately abide by a humanitarian pause and cessation of violence throughout Syria, for a period of 30 consecutive days to begin at [00:00 h, (Damascus time) on XX February 2018], [72 hours after the adoption of this resolution], to enable the delivery of humanitarian aid and services and medical evacuations of the critically sick and wounded;  Further decides that, 48 hours after the start of the humanitarian pause, all parties to the Syrian conflict shall allow and facilitate weekly United Nations and Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoys to all requested areas based on United Nations’ assessments of need, in order to allow safe, unimpeded and sustained deliveries of humanitarian aid, including medical and surgical supplies, to the millions of people in need in all parts of Syria, in particular to those 5.6 million people in 1,244 communities in acute need, including the 2.9 million people in hard-to-reach and besieged locations; Decides moreover that all parties to the conflict shall allow and facilitate unconditional medical evacuations by the United Nations and its implementing partners, based on medical need and urgency, and requests the United Nations and their implementing partners to start undertaking such medical evacuations 48 hours after the start of the humanitarian pause... Endorses the five measures identified by the Emergency Relief Coordinator on 11 January 2018 during his mission to Syria, and calls on all parties to facilitate the implementation of these five measures and others as specified in relevant Security Council resolutions, to ensure principled, sustained and improved humanitarian assistance to Syria in 2018; Calls upon all parties to immediately lift the sieges of populated areas, including in Eastern Ghouta, Yarmouk, Foua and Kefraya, and demands that all parties allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including medical assistance, cease depriving civilians of food and medicine indispensable to their survival, and enable the rapid, safe and unhindered evacuation of all civilians who wish to leave, and underscores the need for the parties to agree on humanitarian pauses, days of tranquility, localized ceasefires and truces to allow humanitarian agencies safe and unhindered access to all affected areas in Syria, recalling that starvation of civilians as a method of combat is prohibited by international humanitarian law [2139 with updated locations];
OP 8. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation of this resolution, and on compliance by all relevant parties in Syria within 15 days of adoption of this resolution and thereafter..." We'll have more on this.
On February 9, after Inner City Press exclusively reported that the UN's top Middle East post is slated for Susanne Rose with only "basic Arabic," Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq refused Inner City Press' questions about the selection process.

The top UN Political Affairs position belongs to the United States. With Obama-nominee Jeffrey Feltman set to leave by March 31, now Feltman has used his final days to name an ally or protege to head the Middle East and Western Asia Division, to continue his views even under his replacement. It is Susanne Rose, who worked for Feltman in Beirut. But she speaks only "basic Arabic." There is grumbling in DPA - and elsewhere. 

Here's from the letter, by Feltman's deputy Miroslav Jenca since Feltman is in South Korea with Guterres, or to create the illusion of recusal: Rose was "Political and Economic Counselor in Beirut, Middle East Officer in Rome (where she spent the first year as an exchange diplomat at the NATO office of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Staff Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs, and Economic Officer in Trinidad and Tobago.... Susanne speaks French, Italian, Spanish, German, and basic Arabic. She was born in Berkeley, California, and has a 14-month year old Havanese dog named Tartufo."

Senior staff and diplomats have been asking Inner City Press which American will replace Feltman. On January 25, amid complaints of Guterres' silence and long weekends away, a name emerged leaving some shaking their heads: Dina Powell. "She's perfect," one said of Trump's deputy national security adviser for strategy of whom spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she's "returning home to New York. She’s expected to continue working with the administration on Middle East policy issues from outside the White House." Why not from the UN? (Some now tell Inner City Press she has declined the post.) Inner City Press notes she's been spotted in Davos, where Guterres at the last moment did not go. "Really?" demanded another, alongside a controversial Serbian government presentation in the UN Delegates' Entrance. Stranger things have happened. Guterres gave his "Global Communications" position to an official, Alison Smale, who refuses to answer Press questions even about whistleblowers' complaints about her Department of Public Information.

Another Brit Martin Griffiths seems destined to take over the UN's Yemen envoy post, perhaps taking with him some staff currently assigned to Staffan de Mistura for Syria. Other Department of Political Affairs posts have already been given away, but not yet announced. Until now.

To head the UN-affiliated International Organization for Migration (IOM), the US on February 2 nominated Ken Isaacs of the group Samaritan's Purse, active in Sudan and elsewhere. Inner City Press at the UN has been pursuing the story it first exposed of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres having recently met Sudan's Omar al Bashir, indicted for genocide in Darfur by the International Criminal Court, without even notifying the ICC in advance, as required. So after the US nomination, Inner City Press visited Isaac's Twitter account, to see if he'd opined on Guterres' unprecedented move. Isaacs' Twitter account, @KenIsaacs1, was accessible to the public; he had re-tweeted about the Nunes memo.

But by February 3, the account was protected, not accessible. Photo here. Perhaps it's a function of the upcoming election among IOM member states, the scrutiny of involved officials - like Guterres himself. But what *does* Isaacs think of Guterres meeting with Bashir, indicted for war crimes in Sudan, without even telling the ICC in advance, and not disclosing it until Inner City Press asked at the UN noon briefing on January 29? Question here. Watch this site.

Today's UN of Antonio Guterres, who just met with ICC indictee Omar al Bashir, and his Deputy Amina J. Mohammed who has refused Press questions on her rosewood signatures and now the refoulement of 47 people to Cameroon from "her" Nigeria, has become a place of corruption and censorship. Amid UN bribery scandals, failures in countries from Cameroon to Yemen and declining transparency, today's UN does not even pretend to have content neutral rules about which media get full access and which are confined to minders or escorts to cover the General Assembly.

Inner City Press, which while it pursue the story of Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng's bribery of President of the General Assembly John Ashe was evicted by the UN Department of Public Information from its office, is STILL confined to minders as it pursues the new UN bribery scandal, of Patrick Ho and Cheikh Gadio allegedly bribing President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa, and Chad's Idriss Deby, for CEFC China Energy.

Last week Inner City Press asked UN DPI where it is on the list to be restored to (its) office, and regain full office - and was told it is not even on the list, there is no public list, the UN can exclude, permanently, whomever it wants. This is censorship...


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