Envoy Downer Calls His Business with Huawei "Private" From UN, Zerihoun
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, April 27 -- "I have my private life," Alexander
Downer told the Press on Tuesday." It's mine and it's private."
at Minute 36.
had asked Downer, the part time chief of the UN's Good Offices role
for Cyprus, whether the fact that his employer Bespoke Approach
represents Chinese technology firm Huawei, which does business in
Turkey, showed a need for UN rules against the appearance of conflict
greatest respect," Downer said, "I might know more about
this that you... Ipso facto
-- it's my business."
has told Inner City Press that there
can be no conflict of interest
because Bespoke Approach's clients don't do business in Cyprus or, by
implication, Turkey or Greece, which have direct interests in Mr.
Downer's UN work.
that Downer has
confirmed that Bespoke Approach represents Huawei, which itself brags
on its website about its Turkey business, the question is squarely
raised: why doesn't the UN prohibit or have rules about this?
Ban Ki-moon has promised transparency, and has urged his senior
officials -- although apparently not part time officials like Downer
-- to publicly disclose their financial holdings.
on Tuesday, Mr.
Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky tried to cut off the question by
saying, "Matthew, the Secretary General chose Mr. Downer [based
on] his demonstrated integrity. I don't think one needs to say more
than that." Video here,
having generally applicable rules? If confidence in particular
individuals' integrity was enough, Mr. Ban wouldn't have urged public
disclosure of financial holdings to avoid the appearance of conflict
UN's Ban and Downer, rules against conflicts of
interest not shown
Press asked two questions about the Cyprus process, Downer sought to
not answer them, saying to Inner City Press, "You're not really
interested in Cyprus."
questions concerned Cypriot president Demetris Christofias' request
to Qatar's Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani that Qatar get
involved in the Cyprus process. How did Downer think this would
dovetail, or not, with his work?
is a UN process, Mr. Christofias and Mr. [Dervis] Eroglu are aware of
at the end of
his press conference did Downer, once reminded, consent to answer
Inner City Press' other question, about the relation of his work with
that of Mr. Ban's current representative to Cyprus, Taye-Brook
Zerihoun. He runs UNFICYP and I run the Good Offices, Downer said. He
is my deputy on the Good Offices. "You are very interested in
this.. I am only part time, Mr. Zerihoun has filled in" for me
and comes to meetings even when I am there.
had, during Nesirky's briefing while Downer waited to speak, asked
what something it heard and reported yesterday, that Zerihoun is
being recalled to UN Headquarters to replace Haile Menkerios, now in
South Sudan, in the Africa Division of the UN Department of Political
Affairs. When Inner City Press asked if Nesirky could confirm, he
said "Not at the moment, but I'll find out." Video here,
from Minute 17:03.
Press asked Downer if he was aware of Zerihoun, which whom Downer
said he plays golf, leaving the Cyprus post as early as May 1, Downer
said that was for the S-G and his spokesman to answer. Video here,
from Minute 46:22. Nesirky said,
"I've already answered that." Inner City Press replied, no,
you said you didn't know, you'd find out.
only Ambassadors and people in the Department of Political Affairs
were speaking about Zerihoun's getting the job, so was another
spokesperson at the UN. Watch this site.
* * *
UN, Downer Says Anti-Obama Op-Ed Has No Effect on Cyprus Work with
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, December 9 -- Alexander Downer, alongside being the UN
Special Adviser on Cyprus, works
for the consultancy Bespoke
Approach, serves as a director of Hong Kong based mining firm
ResourceHouse and its China First coal, and writes op-eds, most
recently saying Barrack Obama should not have been awarded the Nobel
asked Downer on December 9 if this op-ed had any effect on his
discussion for the UN with Obama's Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, with whom he met about Cyprus on December 8. Downer laughed
and said, "Of course not! No such thing was discussed."
Video here, from Minute 8:32.
isn't whether Hillary Clinton brought up the op-ed: it's whether it
has any impact of Downer's effectiveness for the UN on the Cyprus
issue. Another correspondent pointed out that Downer had offered the
Press nearly exactly the same upbeat assessment of the talks back in
May. Has any progress been made?
City Press has asked
Downer and the UN what safeguards are in place
to avoid any conflict of interest between Downer's work for the
consultancy Bespoke Approach and his UN role. Downer scoffed that
Cyprus doesn't have much business. But of course, Turkey and Greece
have a stake in Cyprus, and both have big business. In fact, while
KKR lists Bespoke Approach as an Easter affiliate, KKR has business
interests in Turkey. So where are the safeguards?
is also on
the board of directors of ResourceHouse, which is raising funds for a
China director coal mine in Australia. Inner City Press asked Downer,
in this light, to comment on the UN climate change negotiations in
laughed, saying that his Cyprus role does not involve climate
How about his China First Coal role?
Downer at stakeout, round and round, hook not shown
in a press conference the same day the head of UN
peacekeeping argued that all UN peacekeeping mission are impacted by
climate change. But Downer, without responding to the question about
China First Coal, said that his personal hope is that the
negotiations succeed. And that an $2.25 will get you on the subway in
New York: appointments with Bespoke Approach cost more. Watch this
Footnote: the UN's
force commander in Cyprus is slated to be changed in the Spring of
2010. A question at the stakeout about Slovakia's
public claim to be lobbying for the position yielded no answer,
except that the process takes place in New York. We will follow this.