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On Syria, Russia Resolution Rules, France Jives, US Spins, 300 to Go

By Matthew Russell Lee

UN System, April 20 -- How far is Washington from New York, or noon from 5 pm? At the US State Department's noon or 1 pm briefing, Inner City Press asked spokesperson Victoria Nuland about a Syria resolution introduced at the UN in New York:

Inner City Press: I’ve heard that Russia has actually now introduced a resolution for the 300 [observers], sort of jumped the gun or beaten you to it, and that France is saying it’s going to introduce one for 500. And I just wondered, can you confirm the Russian draft has been circulated? And between the two, which one would the U.S. prefer?

MS. NULAND: I understood from my colleagues in New York, at U.S. Mission to the United Nations, that they were all now working off a single draft, but I’m going to send you up to them for the work that’s ongoing up there.

  Then at 5 pm on Friday a consultation began, with an eye to voting Saturday at 11 am, just like last week. And ultimately a single resolution did go into blue, which Inner City Press is putting online with much appreciated help as with the transcripts,  in JPG format in three pages, here and here and here.

  Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin explained to the press:

"This is a three month mandate and I think the process that already started. So the idea is that now the Secretariat and the mission and the Syrian government and the opposition must know that the SC will be authorizing the full-fledged mandate so we hope it’s going to send a strong and good political signal and we hope the people who have been courageous enough to go there with the advanced party will know that they are not in limbo. That they are more people will come and the Secretariat and the Security Council is taking this exercise very seriously... It’s going to be up to 300 unarmed military observers and an appropriate civilian element."

  To this last, a respected human rights advocate tweeted back that the "Russian text also calls for 'limited' civilian - e.g. rights, gender - monitoring, and Syria, Russia would have to approve their mandate." Readers can review the resolution and come to their own conclusions.

  French Ambassador Gerard Araud, fresh off blocking in Western Sahara human rights monitoring and freedom of movement, cravenly on Syria said

"the Russian text was a good text. Our goal is limited, our goal is to send an observers mission to Syria, so in a sense the Russian text was a very good text, it was a very good basis, so the amendments that we have brought to the text are, in a sense, really, I think the text will have changed, but not dramatically because again it was a good basis and we want only to send 300 people there, so really... we have to take into account the danger for the observers, so that's the reason why we are precizing [sic, probably from French, necessary] that the Secretary-General will have to assess the situation on the ground, you know, simply to say 'well actually, I can send them' or 'Actually, I have to withdraw them' or 'Actually, I can send them only on some spots.'"

  Je ne comprend pas. In order to understand, Inner City Press also asked US State Department spokesperson Nuland:

Inner City Press: The Moroccan colonel who’s leading the UN team there now has been quoted that he’s not going to take his team out on Fridays. He doesn’t want to be used politically. There’s a quote to that effect. And I’m just wondering, since it seems that one of the purposes of the observer mission is to allow people to protest, and that’s a big day they want to protest, what would the U.S. think of that?

And also, I wanted to ask you one other question on this idea of freedom of movement. Some people are saying that for the U.S. to be so focused on this absolute freedom of movement in Syria while it’s about to vote for a resolution on Western Sahara, which basically acknowledges that the Moroccan Government has been limiting and surveilling the peacekeepers in Western Sahara, is somehow inconsistent. And I wonder if you have an explanation of the different approaches.

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I haven’t seen the comments of the Moroccan lead. As I said, all of the modalities for these peacekeepers are being reviewed based on the experience of the initial group, and they have to be worked out through a new Security Council resolution, and obviously, we have to see how it goes on the ground.

With regard to Morocco versus Syria, the situation is different, the history is different. In the case of Syria, what we have seen all over the country is an effort at peaceful protest that has been met with regime violence. And so we need to ensure that we are not just covering – able to cover some parts of the country or some affected populations; that if this is going to be a true monitoring mission, the mission is going to have the ability to make its own decisions about where it can – where it needs to monitor, where it – and how it needs to be able to move around the country.

We'll see. Watch this site.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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