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For Kerry - Syria Opposition Photo Op, 2 Hours in US Mission Hallway

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 25 -- When US Secretary of State John Kerry came to New York on Thursday, he chaired a UN Security Council meeting at which the Democratic Republic of the Congo foreign minister said all rebellions in the region has the "same genetic signature."

  Despite this, most of the media interest was in Kerry's 4:20 pm meeting at the US Mission to the UN with representatives of the Syrian opposition.

  On July 24 at the State Department, spokesperson Jen Psaki said Kerry "plans to meet with SOC President Jarba and other members of the coalition, including Michel Kilo and Burhan Ghalioun. They will discuss the current situation in Syria, how to support a process of political dialogue and the Geneva conference, and ways to bolster our assistance to local communities in coordination with the SOC."

  There was an irony. A recurrent message at the Security Council meeting in the morning, and from the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, was that foreign countries should not support rebels inside the DR Congo. But support to rebels in Syria is not criticized: it is welcomed, it is engaged in.

  The press was told that to come to the 4:20 pm photo op -- there was a mention of a briefing, but that was clarified in the morning as a mis-statement -- they'd have to arrive at the US Mission at 3:15 pm. It's directly across First Avenue from the UN, and Inner City Press and 30-some other journalists went there while the Congo meeting proceeded.

  To put it diplomatically, this being UN-world, things could have been better planned. The thirty-some journalists were shepherded up to a second floor hallway where they stood for two hours.

  It became to smell like a locker room, as one correspondent put it. From time to time a Mission staffer would disappear behind the door - a quick waft of air conditioning - but without an explanation.

  At 5:12 pm, the remaining journalists (some had left) were let into the room. On one side of a table sat John Kerry and his team, on the other, the opposition. They made small talk for less than a minute to the click click of cameras. (An Inner City Press tweeted photo is here.) Then the media was asked to leave. There was groaning, there was push back.

  Were this to happened inside the UN, the new Free UN Coalition for Access which Inner City Press co-founded would protest, as it did the truncation of the UN noon briefing earlier in the day. But does or should FUNCA work on press access and treatment issues at Mission? It has been asked to. And so it will. Watch this site.

 (On DRC's "genetic signature" line, Inner City Press has asked the US Mission if Kerry, Russ Feingold or the Mission's Acting Chief have any comment. As of 5:45 pm, none - but we remain hopeful.)


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