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On Western Sahara, ICP Asks Venezuela of Referendum, He on France, Spain

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 12 -- After the UN Security Council convened for a closed door meeting about Western Sahara on February 10, Inner City Press asked the Council's President for the month, Venezuela's Rafael Ramirez, if the already once delayed visit by Ban Ki-moon is now "on."

  Ramirez said that a visit before the Security Council conducts its April review of Western Sahara is desirable. To the side of the stakeout as he spoke, a number of Moroccan diplomats stood watching; one it seems was intent that the Polisario representative not be allowed to speak at the UNTV microphone. (That did not happen.)

 On February 12, Ramirez held a Q&A session at the Venezuelan Mission to the UN. Among other questions, Inner City Press asked again about Western Sahara, including if Ban can visit by April, and the UNSC's so-called Group of Friends. As fast transcribed by

Inner City Press: And on Western Sahara, can Ban get there by April? Etc

Amb. Ramirez:  about Western Sahara, Morocco has persistence in a diplomatic way, but the Security Council will have a consensus to support the Secretary General because he has the intention to visit Western Sahara. He’s never been there. He has to go, to visit our mission there. It’s very important that the special envoy [Christopher] Ross be approved to go to Western Sahara also. That issue we have to consult... The main resolution refers to the referendum. That’s 25 years trying to prepare some referendum about Western Sahara, and nothing happens. And you know, Venezuela will be chair of the [Fourth] committee about decolonization...

[Follow up on Spain] A: Spain has a lot of responsibility on this question. And when you go to Tindouf,  everybody speaks Spanish. Spain has to help a little bit more. We’re expecting to have this report to help the Secretary General.

 We have the mandate for a resolution, asking for a resolution. And we have to do. We are insistent. Morocco is proposing some kind of alternative. No... the Sahrawi people have to decide.

[Follow up on France] A:  France is pretty close to Morocco. We expect them to move...

  On va voir.

 On February 11, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: On Western Sahara, there's been a statement by the President of the Republic or head of Polisario asking the Secretary-General to ensure that no UN official attend this thing, it’s called the Crans Montana Forum in Dajla, which previously, as you know, Douste-Blazy attended, and there was some confusion.  Is the Secretary-General aware of this call, this, you know, request, and has such a message gone out?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I have not seen that request.

Inner City Press:  And also on Western Sahara, yesterday, it was said that… that there was obviously consultations – Mr. Feltman spoke.  It was said afterward that a visit by the Secretary-General before the April review would be ideal.  And I know you don't announce the dates, but is that something that… that… that he's going to be trying to do?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I'm not going to contradict the President of the Security Council.

  To be fair, Inner City Press has been told that Morocco had agreed to a Ban Ki-moon visit in 2015, only to have Ban cancel it because Ban thought he might be able to go to North Korea, apparently more important to him. But now it's 2016, and April is approaching. Watch this site.

  Back on December 8, 2015, neither the briefer, UN envoy Christopher Ross, nor any other official or ambassador came to speak at the televised Security Council stakeout. Inner City Press had asked the UN to ask Ross to "do a stakeout," but none happened.

 Here's the text of Ross' briefing to the Council's closed door meeting, which Inner City Press has exclusively obtained and put online here.

On February 2, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, transcript here:

Inner City Press:  I've seen a readout [not a UN readout] of a meeting the Secretary-General had with, I guess, a Polisario official about Western Sahara.  Also they're reporting that there's some obstruction to the Secretary-General's long-announced intention to visit Western Sahara.  One, can you confirm that a meeting took place in Addis on the issue… on this issue?  And, if so, what's the readout?  And, two, what is his current plan to travel or not to Western Sahara?

Deputy Spokesman:  First of all, no, there… I wouldn't have a readout of that meeting.  But, second of all, the main point is that the Secretary-General is very firm in his intention to visit Western Sahara and the region.  We do not have a precise announcement on dates to give you right now, but he does intend to do that, and we will announce it when we can.

  But why DIDN'T the UN issues a read out of this meeting, like it did so many others? Note that Ban canceled his trip to Western Sahara on the off chance he could get to North Korea -- which failed.

 Meanwhile, on January 29, the UN Spokesman threw Inner City Press out of the UN Press Briefing Room then on February 1 made this threat, here. This was echoed on February 2.

 On December 8, the Security Council meeting scheduled right after Western Sahara, about Turkey and Iraq, drew the larger crowd.

This remained true afterward, when correspondents crowded around the ambassadors of Russia, Iraq and Turkey. Behind them, Inner City Press saw and Periscoped, France's Deputy Permanent Representative Alexis Lamek whispered with the Moroccan diplomats who'd waited at the stakeout, in what's called the Turkish Lounge.

 The UN itself has to some degree dropped the ball. Inner City Press got confirmed, not from the UN, that Ban Ki-moon was slated to visit on November 25-27 but then canceled, so he could go to North Korea (which he ended up not doing). Priorities. It's worth noting, and we do, that Morocco invited Ban back in November. And now, with Ross? Watch this site.

On November 18, nine days after Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman about Morocco's foreign minister saying UN envoy Christoper Ross couldn't or shouldn't visit the desert areas of Western Sahara, the UN Security Council finally met about it. was the first to report it, mid-afternoon on November 18, as four Moroccan diplomats huddled outside the Security Council consultations, click here for that

 When the Security Council's President for November Matthew Rycroft of the UK emerged with a "Press Element" about the Security Council supporting Ross, and after a question which did not provide any insight into what the Council was saying, Inner City Press asked Rycroft to confirm that the Moroccan minister's comments, that Ross can't visit, had been raised in the Council.

 Yes, he said, and the result is the statement of support for Ross.

 Inner City Press understands that Security Council member Venezuela raised the issue, stating that waiting for Ross' briefing in two or three weeks was not good enough. (Angola's Permanent Representative, it was pointed out, was in Washington DC with his minister.)

  Speaking for Morocco, Inner City Press is informed, was not its main sponsor France -- they like to not be seen in this role, instead using their "implicit" veto, here -- but rather Jordan. Has Jordan been active on the Western Sahara issue? Or is this a question of Kingdoms?

 Even supports of Morocco - and Inner City Press does speak with them -- have said Morocco's current foreign minister is "not the brightest bulb," as one of them put it.

  The UN has been charged with holding a referendum in Western Sahara, but has yet to do it. In October, when there is usually a Security Council briefing about Western Sahara, there was none.

 Inner City Press was told it was because UN Envoy Christopher Ross was "in the region." Other sources tell Inner City Press the King of Morocco declined to meet with Ross, preferring to wait out the UN, or at least under the next Secretary General (and next US President).

  Still other sources told Inner City Press the King would travel to Western Sahara on November 6; they call it a provocation. Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it; he said he might have something later.

  After the King did visit Western Sahara, and as summarized rejected ceding anything toward a referendum; Ban Ki-moon said... nothing.

  On November 9, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman this.

  Before the King's trip, when Ban Ki-moon was touring a photo exhibition in the same UN lobby where now indicted Ng Lap Seng sponsored events (even Wednesday night there was another, trying to sell seats at Ban's table at a Wall Street event in December for $6,000), the UN issued a statement.

On November 5, Inner City Press again asked UN Spokesman Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here.

On October 9 when the UN's Fourth Committee took up the “question of Western Sahara," the first order of business was a procedural fight about who could testify, on what request and on what topic. The speakers, over several rounds, were Morocco and Senegal on the one hand, Algeria and Uganda on the other.

Uganda, when on the Security Council and otherwise, believes there should be a referendum on independence in Western Sahara; Senegal apparently does not.

  Inner City Press ran to cover the dispute, but UN Security said it couldn't enter through the main entrance to Conference Room 4, but to enter the gallery through the UN lobby. But that gallery door was locked. Finally from a media booth about the Conference Room, Inner City Press filmed and tweeted as Moroccan diplomats worked the room, running over to speak with Cote d'Ivoire for example.

 After it was resolved - the witness would speak, but should focus on Western Sahara - two countries got up and left: Burundi and Burkina Faso. They had apparently come to support Morocco, or France. They left before the first speaker on Western Sahara (who in his first line called it Moroccan Sahara). There will be more sessions: watch this site.

  There was also testimony about French nuclear tests in French Polynesia, New Caledonia and several rounds between Spain and the UK about Gibraltar: is it or is it not a tax haven? The room was emptying out. This will be continued.

  In advance of the Western Sahara session in the UN's Fourth Committee, SADR Foreign Minister Ould Salak spoke and took questions at Independent Diplomat on 20th Street in Manhattan on October 8.  In his opening he said France uses it veto on the UN Security Council to block human rights monitoring. Inner City Press asked him about the denial of that by France and its previous Ambassador to the UN, now to Washington. Ould Salak replied that France uses the “Group of Friends” -- the P5 minus China but plus Spain -- so it doesn't have to openly use its veto.

  This puts France's “veto restraint” proposals in a different light - but we'll have more on that in a separate story. In this piece, written at ID on 20th Street, we note that Carne Ross called it the “Group of Enemies” of Western Sahara, and the worst form of diplomacy.

   AFP asked if Ban is going to Western Sahara -- seems Morocco is blocking it (with Ban Ki-moon, it doesn't take much); a Spanish journalists asked about the role of Spain, on which he hope to have more. The Security Council was meeting about Haiti, with its own colonial history. We'll have more on this.


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