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On Syria, Attacks on Latakia Port Raised To UN, Chem Weapon Disputes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 28 -- Outside the UN Security Council meeting on Syria on March 28, Ambassadors and the UN's humanitarian chief Valerie Amos debated attacks including on Kassab and the port of Latakia.

   Inner City Press asked Syrian Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari about Latakia and a Syrian Coalition press release saying he had threatened "to commit a massacre using chemical or conventional weapons under the pretext of protecting convoys of chemical weapons."

   Ja'afari replied that this statement lacked seriousness and said that even the chemical weapons removal ships in Latakia port had been fired at. He said he had raised the attacks on Latakia to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, his Deputy Jan Eliasson and political adviser Jeffrey Feltman as well as Disarmament chief Angela Kane.

  Since the attacks on Latakia raised in the Security Council's closed door consultations on March 26, as reported on by Inner City Press (below), Inner City Press prepared to ask March's Council president Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg about the issue.

  Lucas nodded, awaiting the question when the Reuters bureau chief, Lou Charbonneau, shouted out from the other side of the stakeout. He insisted, "I have the microphone," even though Ambassador Lucas was the one managing the order of questions.

  Noting the absurdity -- especially in light of a complaint about "not being able to do" his work Charbonneau filed with the UN, then got blocked from Google's Search by a bogus Digital Millennium Copyright Act filing, click here to view -- Inner City Press nevertheless indicated it would resume after Reuters' demanded question.

  That one turned out to be one that Charbonneau said he intended to ask the UN's Valerie Amos. You should have, he was told.

   On Latakia, Lucas said it had come up and that there are attacks throughout Syria, citing Valerie Amos' previous answer. When Inner City Press asked Amos about attacks, specifically on the largely Armenian Kassab, Amos said there are attacks all over but some impede aid movement more than others.

   Ja'afari had said he wrote to Amos "in English" urging her to raise Kassab in her briefing, and she did.  There was no time to ask Amos of humanitarian issues elsewhere, such as the Sudans and Myanmar.  When US Ambassador Samantha Power came out and spoke, transcript to follow, here, question were taken only from CBS, Reuters, Fox (apparently not intended) and France 24. So it goes.

   Back on March 26 on Turkey's shoot down of a Syrian plane, Ja'afari said on March 22 he spoke with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Malcorra -- and with Jeffrey Feltman, then in Kyiv.

  Ja'afari told Inner City Press he has asked UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos to be sure to include the attacks on "the Armenians" in Kassab in her briefing to the Council.

  Also in response, Ja'afari said that the Al Nusra Front is shelling Latakia, where chemical weapons are being taken out of Syria.

  Moments later a Security Council member exclusively told Inner City Press that Russia has proposed a statement on this shelling of Latakia.

  On the March 21 event, described below, Ja'afari told Inner City Press he complained to Malcorra, that the UN is being "corrupted by petro-dollars."

When Qatar sponsored an event at the UN on March 21 at which a report on torture in Syria which Qatar also funded was presented, it was not listed in the UN Journal. Nor was the event broadcast on the UNTV Webcast.

  Inner City Press heard about it and asked the UN's top two spokespeople:

"there is an event in Conference Room 4 right now, sponsored by Qatar, which is no listed in today's UN Journal, nor is it on UN Webcast but it appears to be being filmed. Please explain the legal status of this meeting, if there are any sponsored beyond Qatar, how it was publicized and if any request to have it webcast was made. Thanks, on deadline."

  But no answer was provided. Inner City Press ran to the event and from the back of a three quarters empty Conference Room 4 asked why the event was so stealth: not in the UN Journal, not webcast.

  The Permanent Representative of Qatar answered, saying it was a "special event" to which Qatar had invited (some) member states and groups, and (some) media. There is a UN Media Alert, but this event was not put in it.

  Perhaps it was publicized by the Gulf & Western United Nations Correspondents Association, which has twice hosted faux "UN" events by the Syrian National Coalition or Syrian Coalition. (In both cases, the Free UN Coalition for Access suggested that the SNC hold its events in the UN briefing room, accessible to all journalists.)

  Since French Ambassador Gerard Araud, the first questioner flanked by representatives of Saudi Arabia and of Turkey which earlier in the day banned Twitter, has spoken about "fakes" and others about accountability, Inner City Press asked if the groups Al Nusra and ISIS, and those who fund them such as private individuals in Qatar alluded to at the US State Department briefing earlier in the day, could or would be held accountable.

  The SNC representative emphasized what he called links between the Assad regime and ISIS, saying it was too easy to blame the Gulf countries.

Here's from the March 21 US State Department briefing transcript:

Question: you have concerns about the withdrawal of the ambassadors. Do you also have concerns about the reasons that these countries said that they withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar? In other words, do you – if you have concerns about the withdrawal of the ambassadors, do you also have concerns about Qatar’s behavior, which – alleged behavior, let’s say – which led to these countries withdrawing their ambassadors?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know one of the issues that has been mentioned is the issue of private donations to extremists – and that’s something that some have mentioned – operating in Syria and elsewhere. It remains an important priority in our high-level discussions, and one that we also certainly raise with all states in the region, including Qatar, including the Government of Kuwait, wherever we have concerns.

After Inner City Press asked about the sponsorship of the event, a one-page "Joint Statement by the Co-Organizers" was passed out, listing among the co-organizers France, the UK, US, Belgium, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Inner City Press tweeted it. Watch this site.


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