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On Syria, Sweden and Kuwait Draft Would Set Ceasefire, Operative Paragraph 1, Mistura?

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video

UNITED NATIONS, February 13 – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who conducted an UNdisclosed sit-down "private dinner" with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on January 18 which the UN acknowledged only after Inner City Press asked, then decided to send his Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura to the Sochi meeting. While the Constitutional Committee idea that came out of that appears to be dead, de Mistura is set to brief the Council and stakeout (not sit down) with the press on February 14. Here's OP1 of the Swedish - Kuwaiti draft, as obtained by Inner City Press: "OP 1. Decides that all parties to the Syrian conflict shall immediately abide by a humanitarian pause and cessation of violence throughout Syria, for a period of 30 consecutive days to begin at ___ 72 hours after the adoption." On January 30 from Sochi, de Mistura took questions. Inner City Press, left to second to last, asked what hadn't been: how is the Constitutional Committee in Geneva going to be paid for, and is it true that Turkey nominated full 50 people to what de Mistura says will be a 45 person Committee? De Mistura confirmed the 50 from Turkey figure, and added that Iran and Russia have each submitted 50 more. Some who'd already asked questions now asked for more. The Committee, de Mistura said, can be paid for out of his office's UN budget, or more money can be sought through the UN's ACABQ and Fifth Committee. (Some Department like DPI don't obey the Fifth Committee, their staff say - but that's another story). De Mistura on February 7 held meetings or consultations about the Constitutional committee. Now Sweden's Mission to the UN says that on February 6 it and Kuwait "called for a UN Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria. The call comes in response to the deteriorating situation on the ground. The United Nations in Syria are now reporting that escalating violence in several areas across the country is having dire consequences for the already critical humanitarian situation. Swedish Ambassador, Olof Skoog, said: 'Yesterday the UN in Syria called for a 30 day humanitarian ceasefire to allow the UN and its partners to save lives. As co-penholders we have a responsibility to ensure that the Council hears directly from the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, about what we should do to support this call and to break the current deadlock. We are particularly concerned about attacks against civilians and civilian objects, such as hospitals. These attacks further compound civilian suffering, and are leading to large numbers of new displacements. There has been no progress on cross-line humanitarian access for the UN and its partners to besieged and hard to reach areas. This is leading to an even more acute situation, in particular in besieged Eastern Ghouta. A humanitarian ceasefire would enable the delivery of life-saving assistance and the evacuation of hundreds of critically ill patients urgently needing medical treatment.' The Security Council is expected to meet on Thursday, 08 February, to receive a briefing and discuss the situation in Syria." In Guterres' UNdisclosed 38 floor meeting, before his UNdisclosed meeting with ICC indictee Omar al Bashir in Addis Ababa, Lavrov presented a proposal for a new mechanism about the use of chemical weapons in Syria to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on January 18, it emerged on Tuesday, January 23. Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said Lavrov had presented the plan to Guterres "last week." Video here. Inner City Press asked if he meant the otherwise undisclosed dinner Inner City Press exclusively reported on and the answer was yes. On January 24, Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric again why it had not been disclosed, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: Ambassador [Vassily] Nebenzia said yesterday at the stakeout after the meeting that this idea was raised to the Secretary-General by Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov last week, and I believe it was at the dinner that you called a private dinner. Of the various meet-and-greets that he had that day, this seems to have been the most newsworthy.  I wanted to ask you again, why… why was… is just the inclusion of food makes a meeting private?  Or what was the difference between his disclosed meetings with the foreign ministers of various Central Asian countries and this meeting that wasn't disclosed at which this important possible mission was said? Spokesman:  Food. Inner City Press: Food?  What’s the policy? Spokesman:  I'm not… I'm sorry.  I don't… the difference between the two… between the various meetings was food.  The… they discussed and have been discussing, either over the phone or in person, a variety of issues, including, obviously, the situation in Syria. Inner City Press: But when… but when you don't disclose a meeting with a Foreign Minister held on the thirty-eighth floor, is at the request of the country?  Is it… how… it just… it seems important to know… Spokesman:  I think it's… I understand.  It's a scheduling issue. "On January 18 as Inner City Press covered Guterres' 5:30 pm photo op with Kuwait's Foreign Minister, it observed Guterres' dining room being set up, and a name card for Russian Ambassador Nebenzia. Inner City Press first reported it: a dinner by Guterres with Nebenzia and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, here. On January 19, Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman why it had not been disclosed on Guterres' schedule, as the shorter meetings with the foreign ministers of Kuwait and Kyrgyz Republic, and even the deputy foreign minister of South Korea, were. The UN spokesman called it a "private dinner;" as Inner City Press has noted, Guterres is less and less transparent, as relatedly his Department of Public Information under Alison Smale continues restricting the Press. At Lavrov's press conference a few minutes after the January 19 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press wanted to ask him what was discussed at the dinner, but was unable to get a question, which were carefully doled out. For example, did the seizures of Russian diplomatic properties, which Inner City Press is informed was raised last week in the UN's Committee on Relations with the Host Country, come up? We'll have more on this. Back on September 22, Lavrov held a press conference at the UN on Friday and not a word of it had to do with the UN itself, much less reforming it. He passed easily from one country situation to another, even if he did mix up the long time reporters of AP and Reuters (retired). He told a good story about France's then foreign minister Laurent Fabius begging for his support to fight forces in Mali to whom France had air-dropped weapons in Libya's Nafusa mountains. But on reform - the Department of Political Affairs, the Secretariat's power grab of UN funds and programs and country teams, nothing. Inner City Press has waited to report on a blistering - but apparently unsupported from Moscow - speech by Russian deputy ambassador Sergey Kononuchenko, and now puts it online here. It characterizes the UN Secretariat's moves as a power grab. But as with the humanitarian situation in Yemen, an on-again, off-again issue with Russia, what is the level of commitment to follow through? We'll be asking, when we can. Watch this site. Lavrov met Thursday evening with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and gave him a gift.  Present on the UN side was Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, with whom Inner City Press spoke nearly an hour later on the way down in the elevator. Before the Guterres and Lavrov shook hands, Lavrov asked why there were two blue UN flags behind them, and not a Russian one. But nations' flags are displayed by the UN only for heads of state; Lavrov laughed. Video here. Alamy photos here. The meeting went long and left Bangladesh' Sheikh Hasina waiting. But the stakes were and are high - not that one could tell from the generic read-out the UN later issued: "Today, the Secretary-General met with H.E. Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. They exchanged views both on the United Nations reform and on international situations, in particular Syria, the wider Middle East, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They also discussed peace and security issues in Europe, including with regard to Ukraine." (Earlier on September 21 Inner City Press asked Ukraine's foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin if he'd spoken with China; he answered that "no one" supports Russia's proposal for peacekeepers in Ukraine, which didn't really answer the question.) Guterres had paced around waiting for Lavrov, and made a point of indicating that he could write as long as he wanted in the UN's visitors' book. (To Uzbekistan's president, as Inner City Press reported, Guterres showed his preference at the end of the day, and after a long Paraguay signing, for just a signature). Ambassador Nebenzia and his Deputy were there, as well as spokesperson Maria Zakharova.... Back on September 19 Guterres had two final grip and grin sessions at day's end. The first was Paraguay's President Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara, who spent a long time writing in the UN's visitors' book, followed by a short meeting. Alamy photos here. Next and last was Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Guterres said pointedly, just the signature. But something was lost in translation: he still started writing. Alamy photos here. Then the Press was ushered out. Alreay on the way in before the Paraguay photo op, the Media Entrance on 47th Street was locked. The questions about double standards of media access, including retaliatory restrictions still in place on the investigative Press while no-show, no-question state media like Egypt's Akhbar al Yom have full access have yet to be answered by the official now responsible, Alison Smale. According to a photographer allowed into the smaller "G-200" room, Smale was there to greet "her" Prime Minister, Theresa May. The previous day, Guterres was to have met Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, trying to get Presidential age limits in his country removed, at 4:40 pm on September 18. Inner City Press went, with UN Security, to the 27th floor for the photo op. But moment before, the Security said to change the flag from Uganda to Denmark, or really just UN blue. Then they said to switch it to South Africa for Jacob Zuma. This was attributed to New York City traffic. Alamy photos here. UN Department of Political Affairs official Taye Brook Zerihoun, there for the Uganda meeting, stayed on as he has in his post. Would he stay for Denmark, or South Korea's Moon? Periscope video here. When Italy's Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano took media questions at the UN on September 18, they were all in Italian except for a final chosen question about Donald Trump. Inner City Press insisted and asked, in English, if Italy funds militia in Libya to detain migrants and refugees. Alfano's answer was in Italian, but a handler from the Italian Mission offered a translation: that Italy has denied it. So what due diligence does Italy do, over the funds it gives to the UN-propped up government in Libya? We'll have more on this. Alamy photos here. When US President Donald Trump gave his UN reform speech on September 18, he noted that UN staff have doubled since 2000, but we haven't seen the results. He could have said more: what HAS been seen includes inaction on mass killings in Sri Lanka and Yemen, Myanmar and Cameroon. Not mentioned in Secretary General Antonio Guterres' speech, nor in his answers the two times Inner City Press has asked him, is the UN bribery guilty verdicts in the case of Ng Lap Seng / John Ashe. The UN was shown, only this summer, to be for sale. And nothing has changed. As UN General Assembly week started up on Sunday, the US announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov at 9 pm, at Russia's Mission to the UN. Inner City Press after asking Cote d'Ivoire president Alassane Ouattara a question about Myanmar - without answer - biked up to that Mission on 67th Street. There in the half light were dozens of reporters and photographers, waiting for Tillerson to leave. In the street were US body guards with machine guns. Tillerson emerged and said nothing, driving away. Video here. Most of the Western wire service correspondents, one a photographer who'd been at the UN photo op with Ouattara but not the stakeout with Ivorian media, turned and left. Then the spokesman for Lavrov, and before him for now deceased Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, emerged and briefed in Russia. Inner City Press was informed second hard that she said the topics had been Syria, Ukraine and Minsk implementation, and “North Africa.” Later the US State Department said, “U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met this evening in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. The two recommitted to deconflicting military operations in Syria, reducing the violence, and creating the conditions for the Geneva process to move forward, pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254.” So what about North Africa? Peacekeepers in Ukraine? Watch this site.


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