At UN, Council Belatedly Gets Sri
Lanka Briefing, "No Politics," Holmes Was Told
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, February 27 -- As
on Sri Lanka the Security Council began a meeting belatedly including a
briefing by UN chief humanitarian John Holmes, the scope of what would
allowed and done had already been limited. "Holmes has been told what
can say and what he can't," a Council diplomat told Inner City Press.
"No politics, only civilians." The stance of many Council members was
summarized by Vietnam's Ambassador: "It's a legitimate government
a terrorist group," he said. The Ambassador of Sudan, which is not on
Council but is omnipresent in the run-up to the International Criminal
scheduled ruling on the indictment of President Omar al-Bashir on March
further. "I tell Sri Lanka, this is how it started with Sudan, just a
humanitarian briefing back in the days of Operation Life Line Sudan.
our president is being indicted."
Western-based non-governmental organization, which
were mostly silent as
2000 civilians were killed since the beginning of the year, have
involved. Doctors without Border issued a report on civilians trapped
conflict zone, hiding in bunkers without food or water, bombed when
venture out seeking escape. Such
testimony can be expected to be repeated by Holmes. But he has been
according to Council sources, not to even say what Ban Kid-moon did on
23, before he left to Africa, that political talks should be held.
Ban and Austria's Thomas Mayr-Hartin, limitation on Sri Lanka briefing not shown
The Sri Lanka portion of Friday's Council meeting
will come third and
last, after a speech by Greece's Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on
behalf of the OSCE, on topics including Georgia, Abkhazia and South
Ossetia (whose recognition of independence by Russia some north Sri
Lanka Tamils can only dream about), and a presenation
about peacebuilding, so sorely lacking in Sri Lanka.
Close analysts say that the government, in its zeal
off" the Tamil Tigers, has created greater antipathy in the Tamil
community. This is what is meant by, "There is no military solution."
But will Holmes even say that? Watch this space -- we will be "live
blogging" from just outside the Council chamber at the stakeout.
Update of 10:16 a.m. -- On his
way into the Council chamber, Austrian Ambassador Thomas
stopped and told the Press the exact line used by Vietnam, that this is
conflict between a legitimate government and a terrorist organization.
on, however, to say that international humanitarian law must be
both side. He described a "breakfast meeting" convened by Japan when
its envoy to Sri Lanka Mr. Akashi was in New York, a meeting at which
Lanka's mission to the UN spoke. Inner City Press asked what the
heard from India. They were present at the Japanese breakfast, he
then went into the Council.
Update of 10:29 a.m. -- As Dora
Bakoyannis speaks in the Council, at the stakeout the coffee machine is
ceaselessly clicking. A UN staff walks over and jokes, "Let's hope it's
not a bomb." A security officer takes it seriously, and uses his
walkie-talkie to call his supervisor, who unplugs the machine. The
clicking stops. "It's not a bomb," he announces. He plugs the machine
back in, and the clicks starts again. In the chamber, France's
Jean-Maurice Ripert is giving a speech about the OSCE and Georgia. Will
he speak so publicly about Sri Lanka?
Update of 11:24 a.m. --
foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis came to the stakeout, after she said
remain in South Ossetia -- she declined to comment on whether Russian
bases would be helpful -- Inner City Press asked a transition question,
Nagorno Karabakh, about which she said the Minsk process should come to
fruitition in 2009, and then, twice, about Sri Lanka. Ms. Bakoyannis
the question the first time, and when Inner City Press asked it again,
she would not comment, but would have to inform herself better about
"She better hurry up," is a phrase that was heard in response.
Update of 11:33 p.m. --
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin came to the stakeout, Inner City Press asked
about OSCE's role in Kosovo (he responded about the "family" of
UNMIK). Then he was asked what he thought of the upcoming briefing on
by John Holmes. Churkin called it a "one time" briefing, saying that
now that the military conflict appears nearly over, there will be no
any further Council briefing. Inner City Press asked, what if the level
civilian casualties continues or increases? Let's see what Mr. Holmes
say, Churkin responded. At 11:32 a.m.,
with one aide, walked into the Council....
Update of 12:48 a.m. --
briefing continues. A Council source emerged to say that Holmes did not
"political issues," they were not "in his remit." We will
have more on this shortly.
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