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Syria Move to GA Preempted by PGA, Charter, Churkin Rebuts Rumor, Araud

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 7, updated -- As the Gulf Cooperation Council announced Tuesday that its members will recall their ambassadors from Damascus, at the UN the Permanent Representative of a non-GCC Arab League member told Inner City Press it is a bad idea.

  Of the Arab League pushing after its next meeting for a no fly zone, he shook his head and asked, "Again?" He said, we should wait and see what Lavrov can accomplish, referring to trip to Syria by Russia's foreign minister.

  On Tuesday morning, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called a press conference, not on Lavrov's trip but to address a story in the Arabic press that he had threatened Qatar. He answered Inner City Press that a General Assembly resolution on Syria would be complex, since the Security Council is "seized."

  Inner City Press also asked Churkin about his amendments, which Inner City Press exclusively obtained and published while the Council's Saturday morning consultations took place, specifically the his proposal that Syrian armed forces pull out of cities "in conjunction with the end of attacks by armed groups against state institutions and quarter of cities and towns."

French Ambassador Gerard Araud was quoted in Le Monde, and subsequently, that

"les Russes souhaitaient surtout modifier la clause du plan de la Ligue arabe demandant aux militaires de se retirer des villes, en ajoutant la condition: 'lorsque les bandes armées se seront retirées.' Autrement dit, l'armée n'aurait jamais bougé."

Google Translate renders Araud's quote as

"the Russians wanted to change the clause in the plan of the Arab League asking the military to withdraw from the cities, adding the condition: 'when the [armed groups] recede." In other words, the army would never have moved."

  Churkin maintained that the amendment has been misrepresented, and that But the point is, Araud has said publicly that Russia was proposing that Assad would only leave after the armed groups, which is not what "in conjunction" means.

  Churkin said that no one in consultations questioned the word. So why the public claims?

  In other Google Translate news, Churkin's press conference was to rebut a story he said was in the Arab press and that he wanted to deny. Inevitably, this led Inner City Press to try to find the story, and this appears to be it. The first paragraph:

"New York - broadcast 'France 2' a record of the dialogue to the Security Council in which he said Hamad bin Jassim to delegate Russia Council, Vitaly Churkin, 'I warn you from taking any veto in the Syrian crisis and only the promise of Russia all the Arab countries', the individual Churkin said: 'If I went back to talk with me in this tone will be there is nothing called Qatar after today.'"

  Clearly the translation is clunky. But the (mis) reported threat is clear. In response, to those trying to "drive a wedge," Churkin cited a Russian proverb,"don't spit in a well, you may need it for a drink of water."

While at least one correspondent took this too as a threat, Inner City Press heard in it a reference to Russia's stated willingness to use its veto power to "protect minorities." Click here for what Churkin told Inner City Press on this, two days before Saturday's dual veto.

   After the dual veto of the Syria resolution, the President of the General Assembly, Qatar's former Permanent Representative to the UN Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, issued a formal statement saying he

"was very concerned about the inability of the Security Council... to adopt the resolution that had been supported by the Arab League and favored by 13 members of the Council" and urging "the authorities in Syria to end the killings immediately" and "President Bashar al-Assad to listen to the voices and aspirations of his people."

Even the Moroccan sponsors, Western supported resolution that was vetoed made reference to armed groups in Syria. But the Qatari PGA did not. So Inner City Press wanted to know, for whom was the PGA speaking?

Churkin at stakeout pen, seen by UN Photo

   From the UN's February 6 transcript:

Inner City Press: I saw on Saturday the statement by the President [of the GA] on Syria... it was a very strong statement. How is it, I mean, how should we report that? Is that his individual position, the statement that he put out? He is the President of the General Assembly, is he speaking as himself or as PGA?

Spokesperson: Matthew, what did the statement read? It states “Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly in the United Nations, New York”. This is in his capacity as President of the General Assembly.

Inner City Press: But is he speaking for the General Assembly?

Spokesperson: He is speaking for the General Assembly.

Inner City Press: Did they take a vote?

Spokesperson: What do you mean by take a vote? This is a press statement.

Inner City Press: What I am saying is that, obviously, there is now a discussion of taking a vote in the General Assembly on who wants to condemn Syria or some variation on that and I just wonder in the state--

Spokesperson: Did you read the statement?

Inner City Press:Yeah, I did.

Spokesperson: Did it say the word condemn?

Inner City Press: No, no, okay, I mean it [inaudible].

Spokesperson: So, why are you putting words into the mouth of the President of the General Assembly? This is what the statement said, and this is how it should be interpreted, as is.

Inner City Press:Do you think that all Member States agree with that? All, including the two that cast vetoes on Saturday?

Spokesperson: This is not something for me to comment on. I mean, this is something that has happened, and we have seen the proceedings. We have all watched the proceedings of the Security Council. The President of the General Assembly has put this statement. Are you asking me if the President of the General Assembly should not put a press statement before putting it to a vote?

Inner City Press: No, no, not at all, no, no. I am literally asking, because I remember that his predecessor, Mr. Deiss often said, it is not for me to say, that’s for Member States, sort of positioning himself as moderating the thing. He never would say, when you would ask him, he would say what is the GA thinking of x, he’d say I can’t speak for the GA. I am not saying he shouldn’t have or should have, I am just saying, how should it be reported?

Spokesperson: Okay, I am repeating my answer again. The President of the General Assembly is speaking on behalf of the Member States, because he is the President of the body that includes all Member States, 193 Member States. Any more questions? Thank you.

So if the President of the GA can issue a statement, clearly consonant with the foreign policy of his country that he used to represent at the UN, and call it on behalf of all 193 Member States, why bother to try a resolution and vote in the GA?

In fact, Russia's Churkin at this Tuesday press conference, when asked by Inner City Press about the move to try a GA resolution, called it complex and complicated, since the Security Council is seized of the matter,and there is "this [UN] Charter thing." Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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