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At UN on Syria, Annan Talks Dialogue, Finances Undisclosed, Ban Spaces Question

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 29 -- When Kofi Annan came to the UN late Wednesday, it came after a day in which the Security Council could not agree on a statement demanding or calling for Syria to let UN Humanitarian chief Valerie Amos into the country.

Annan said he will go to Damascus, and that he wants to be the only mediator. He said the goal is to stop the violence, to create dialogue. He said that some may not want dialogue but the Syrians caught in the middle deserve it.

Inner City Press attended the photo op -- Annan's successor as Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had with him his main adviser Kim Won-soo, his outgoing political chief Lynn Pascoe as well as UN Peacekeeping and other officials -- and then Ban's and Annan's stakeout. Only three questions were allowed, and none dealt for example with Qatar's call to arm the opposition, or even if Ban's statement that Assad lost all humanity was useful.

Annan acknowledged he hadn't spoken to Assad in some years. Still he was notably more alert, several journalists commented, than Ban who seemed to space out even during one of the three questions, if he would write a letter to the Syrian government describing Annan's mandate.

At the day's noon briefing Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: Just now in front of the Security Council, a Syrian diplomat said that in fact what they asked [Amos] where she would go, you know, her goals. And they claimed that she didn’t get back to them, but issued a statement. rRelatedly, the spokesperson for the Syrian Foreign Ministry has said that they have asked the Secretary-General for details of Mr. Annan’s mandate and goals and they expect, quote, 'from their point of view, a letter to that effect.' Can you respond to it? One, is it the case that Amos was asked for information that she didn’t provide to Syria--

Spokesperson Nesirky: Ms. Amos.

Inner City Press: Ms. Amos, I’m sorry. That Ms. Amos was asked for information that she didn’t provide, as they say, and does Ban Ki-moon intend to write a letter to Syria explaining the precise, or you know, explaining something about the goals of Mr. Annan?

Spokesperson: Well, on the first, on Ms. Amos’s attempts, repeated attempts to visit Syria, there has been a lot of discussion — I am not going to go into the details of the discussions that have been held — but it is obvious, it is obvious that this is a mission that was given to Ms. Amos by the Secretary-General, getting on for a week ago now. And it is obvious what the key purpose is — and it says it again in the statement — to meet Syrian officials at the highest level to discuss the humanitarian situation and the need for unhindered access to the people affected by the violence. And this is something that is self-evident, but has also been discussed at length with the authorities.

Inner City Press: I am just asking for a direct response. They say that they asked for information from Ms. Amos, and that she did not provide it before issuing a statement. Is that the case or not?

Spokesperson: I will need to check categorically. But, I cannot imagine that Ms. Amos has not been in touch with the authorities to provide the information that they require. And let’s be clear, this is… the Secretary-General instructed Ms. Amos, and Ms. Amos was extremely willing and ready to go, and went immediately, and has been in the region ready to go at a moment’s notice. And that remains the case.

Inner City Press: Well, what about this quote from the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry?

Spokesperson: I have seen what the Foreign Ministry spokesman said, Matthew, and as I have also just said, the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy — the Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States — will be meeting this afternoon. That’s their first meeting. They have obviously spoken on the telephone, but this is their first meeting since that appointment. I think they will be discussing various aspects, and I am sure that they will have taken note of what the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Then, on finances:

Inner City Press: Is it a jointly UN-Arab League funded mission? I had asked the same thing about five days ago. Is it funded by the UN? Has that been decided yet or is that to be decided today?

Spokesperson: I think the precise mechanics of how this is going to work are being worked out with the League of Arab States and obviously with the United Nations working together on this. I think there is a really important point here; the mechanics are of course something that need to be nailed down. And some of the details, of course, will be made known. But, the key point is to get on with this as quickly as possible, and for Mr. Annan to be able to get out there, to get on the road and to try to make a difference; a difference which we believe that he can make given his long experience and the gravitas that he brings to this position.

Inner City Press: the question of sort of who pays who, when it is known if it can be announced…

Spokesperson: [inaudible] and I think I did answer you.

Inner City Press: Say again?

Spokesperson: I heard what you said, and I did answer you. Okay.

Inner City Press: who is paying?

Spokesperson: I said… Sometimes I think you don’t actually listen to what I say, Matthew.

Inner City Press: No, you said I answered it. I know, my question is who is going to pay and I --

Spokesperson Nesirky: And I answered you, to say some of the details are being worked out.

So where is the answer? 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

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

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