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As US Shuts Syria Embassy in DC, Why Today, Why UN No Comment?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 18 -- When buzz began on March 18 of the US ordering Syria to close its embassy in Washington and consulates in Houston and Troy, Michigan, Inner City Press sought confirmation, and then explanation.

  The first of these came, among with some comments, even before the State Department released a statement by new envoy on Syria Daniel Rubinstein.

  At the UN's March 18 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Stephane Dujarric for Ban's or the UN's view of this closing of diplomatic facilities.

  Dujarric said Ban stands behind his position.

  Inner City Press asked, how does that apply to today's closings. Really, what IS Ban's position.

  That's all I have, Dujarric said. It felt like a Samuel Beckett play.

  Back at the UN Security Council stakeout, Inner City Press asked Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg, Council president for March, if the closings had come up in the Council's consultations on the Middle East. No, she said.

  In the afternoon in Washington at a State Department "Town Hall" by John Kerry, moderated by Mariam Elder of BuzzFeed, with the accompanying hashtag #StateWorksForUs, the topic arose. Kerry said the closures were ordered because Assad killed his own people. Some wondered: and didn't Sri Lanka, too?

  After Kerry left -- there were no questions on Kosovo, or apparently on NSA spying -- another participant asked, Why were the closures done today? Mr. Tillemann referred the question to someone else, who never answered, at least on-camera.

  So, one wag wondered, was it to give Robert Ford's replacement Daniel Rubinstein something to announce early on? Or because the Assad government was making gains militarily?  And again: why not Sri Lanka?

  On March 14, the UN hyped up Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Syria briefing to the General Assembly, and then didn't televise any of it, nor the reply by Syrian Ambassadar Bashar Ja'afari.

  Ja'afari came out to the stakeout and criticized the blackout, and Ban Ki-Moon and his envoy Lakhdar Brahimi for offering "no hint of terrorism."

  Soon some at the stakeout tried to cut in, as they wouldn't with Ban Ki-moon. Video here, from Minute 6:23. Ja'afari told them if they wanted to leave, they could. He denounced Saudi Arabia, perhaps pointedly at one of the interveners.

  Ironically, later on March 14 the Syrian Coalition was given a long, uninterrupted press conference not at a stakeout that any UN journalist could attend, but in the United Nations Correspondents Association clubhouse, a room the UN gives to Gulf and Western journalists. See this debate.

  Before the cut-off attempts, Ja'afari alleged that Qatar paid millions of dollars to Al Nusra for the released of the Ma'aloula nuns, in violations of a recent Security Council resolution on the topic. He spoke against unilateral sanctions, saying they are only supported by the US "and the Marshall Islands, or Kiribati."

  Previously, Ja'afari was cut off UNTV, when Stephane Dujarric was in charge of it. Click here for that. Now, Dujarric is Ban Ki-moon's spokesman, and suddenly the Syrian National Coalition, unlike in September, is back in the UNCA club. Meanwhile questions Inner City Press sent to Duarric, not only about Nigeria and UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous but also about the apparently disappearing of UN video, have gone unanswered. This is the new UN. Watch this site.


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