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On Syria, UN Tells ICP of "Contingency Planning," ICP's Sept 7 Exclusive

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 11 -- The UN has confirmed to Inner City Press, vaguely, that on Syria its Department of Peacekeeping Operations has been engaged in "contingency planning." But on how this relates to possible collection and even destruction of chemical weapons, the UN won't yet answer.

On September 7 Inner City Press exclusively reported that

"within DPKO planning continued, in the absence of any mandate from the Security Council. DPKO source have exclusively complained to Inner City Press that they were planned for two scenarios: either a negotiated transition, or a violent overthrown or assassination. But US President Barack Obama's announced desire to fire missiles at Syria and 'degrade' the Assad government's capability is NOT something the UN was preparing for, the sources complained."

  It was not possible to ask the UN about this on Monday, September 9, as the day's noon briefing was canceled for a mere five question press conference by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. So on Tuesday, September 10 Inner City Press asked about it:

Inner City Press: I have heard from people in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) that even before this recent announcement, they had been doing some planning for different scenarios, and so is it fair to say that DPKO would engage in planning for some role in the search for and/or destruction of chemical weapons? And I also wanted to ask you something that came up, Valerie Amos and Farhan Haq, which was that there had been 11 UN staff members killed in Syria. I wanted to know what the timeframe was, any information available about that. It seems obviously important, and also whether there are UN staff members who are hostage of armed groups or, in the alternative, by the Government, there is any sort of number, any information you can provide about that?

Spokesperson: Well, on the very last part, Matthew, I donít think you would expect us to comment on that. On the middle part about staff members, certainly, a number of staff members working for UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] have been killed or wounded, that I do know. And let us see if we can find out some more details. On the very first part of your question, I am not familiar with any planning that may or may not have been going on.

After hearing from more than one UN source even mid-afternoon on Tuesday that an answer had been prepared and would be given to Inner City Press by the Office of the Spokesperson, the answer only arrived at 11:20 am on Wednesday. The idea seemed to be to provide it only shortly before reading it out at Wednesday's noon briefing. Here, at 11:40 am, we are publishing it:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Wed, Sep 11, 2013 at 11:20 AM
Subject: Your question on contingency planning in Syria
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Regarding your question at the Tuesday noon briefing, we would recall that Under-Secretary-General Ladsous noted at a press conference at UN Headquarters in February this year that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has engaged in contingency planning for a range of scenarios so that peacekeeping is ready to play a role in Syria if the Security Council calls on it. As USG Ladsous emphasised, this is exclusively up to the Security Council. This planning exercise pre-dated the current developments, and we have nothing further to add about contingency planning.

There are many questions about how and if the UN could meaningfully play a role in the new proposal for Syria. We will keep asking.


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