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As Ban Welcomes New Gaza Ceasefire, Mis-statement on Last One UNcorrected

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 4, more here -- At 10 pm on August 4 in New York, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement on the Gaza ceasefire set to begin three hours later. But he had yet to correct his August 1 statement on the previous ceasefire. Here is the new statement:

"The Secretary-General welcomes the efforts leading to a new ceasefire as announced today.  He commends the parties for committing to this ceasefire of 72 hours, to begin Tuesday, 5 August, at 8 a.m. local time, and calls on them to abide by it.  Until the start of the ceasefire, the parties must exercise the utmost restraint.
"The Secretary-General urges the parties to commence, as soon as possible, talks in Cairo on a durable ceasefire and the underlying issues. In this regard, he welcomes the proactive engagement of the Palestinian delegation under the leadership of President Abbas.  Such talks are the only way to sustainably stop the violence, which has cost far too many lives, and to change the untenable and tragic status quo in Gaza.  The United Nations stands ready to lend its full support to these efforts."

On August 1 at noon in New York, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon through his spokesman said that an Israeli Defense Forces soldier had been taken captive and that this called "into question the credibility of Hamas' assurances to the United Nations. The Secretary-General demands the immediate and unconditional release of the captured soldier."

  Later on August 1, a range of UN officials described to Inner City Press the pressure put on Ban to rule that Hamas broke the ceasefire and held captive an IDF soldier.  "How does he know?" one UN official demanded.

   On August 2, the IDF said that the soldier, Hadar Goldin, "was killed in action." 

  So on August 4, with no correction issued by the UN, Inner City Press asked Ban's associate spokesperson Vannina Maestracci if there would be any correction, since Ban's statement was used --

  Maestracci cut off the question, "let me stop you right there," and said that the UN tried to get things right with fast moving events. Video here, and embedded below.

  Fine - but when as here the UN was wrong, aren't they supposed to correct it? Maestracci's colleagues have repeatedly said that they correct the record when necessary. Is that the case? What about this case? Watch this site.

At 5:30 pm on July 31 the UN announced its spokesman Stephane Dujarric would read out a statement, "for the cameras," in its briefing room. Inner City Press ran there but arrived just as Dujarric finished reading the ceasefire statement.

   But the first line said, "the UN Representative in Jerusalem, Special Coordinator Robert Serry, has received assurances that all parties have agreed to an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza."  With the ceasefire in shambles, that is dubious.

 Now Haaretz has reported that Serry "spoke with Hamas leadership in Gaza."

  So on August 1 Inner City Press put two questions to UN Department of Political Affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman. First, would he confirm that Serry spoke with Hamas in Gaza?

   And second, as a former - and future? - US officials, does Feltman think the UN should at least disclose when Ban Ki-moon accepts "in kind" / gifts such as the Qatari-funded private jet he flew on to Doha, to mediate on Gaza.

  Dujarric cut off this question to Feltman, saying that it was already answered. But there is no routine disclosure by the UN. And the impact on the UN's political role is obvious, for example considering that this was the ONLY question asked of Ban Ki-moon in Jerusalem (the UN censored it), and it's been asked at the UN Security Council stakeout.

  Dujarric did not answer when asked, shouldn't there be disclosure. He called it "in kind" - but is it subtracted from what Qatar owes or pays the UN in dues?

  Then Feltman refused to say if Serry spoke with Hamas, saying that he wasn't with Serry. So Feltman doesn't know? Or won't say?

 It's one thing for a diplomat from a country to say, that's secret. But since the UN ostensibly represents, works for and is accountable at least to all 193 states, if not to "we the peoples," on what logic are these things secret? We'll have more on this.

   On July 30, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson about UN direct contacts with Hamas, citing Ban Ki-moon accepting Qatar-funded private jet travel to Doha, and Eliasson said "we don’t feel any need to, at this stage, to be in direct contact with Hamas." From the UN's transcript (video here)

Inner City Press: Sure, thanks a lot. Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, thanks for the briefing. It seems like on this immediate end of the fighting, a sticking point is whether the IDF would remain in Gaza at all. It seems like one of the demands is that they leave in order for there to be a cessation. I want to know if the UN… not the whole golden formula, but just on that one point, what your thinking is, and also, whether the UN and Secretary-General should reach out directly to Hamas. I know that, you know, former OCHA head Jan Egeland, you know, he met with Joseph Kony, which is a pretty extreme example, but it seems like at this point, given that speaking with Mahmoud Abbas may not actually directly relate to the rockets that are being fired. Is there any thought of the Secretary-General reaching out directly to Hamas leadership, especially since he flew on this Qatar-funded plane to Doha and could probably set up such a meeting? What’s your thinking on that? Thank you.

Deputy Secretary-General: We have channels, very strong channels, both, of course, to Egypt, which is working very closely with Israel, but also very close contacts with both Turkey and Qatar, who have close relationships to Hamas. And the Secretary-General has worked extremely intensely with these different actors. And we hope that the combined efforts from Egypt and Turkey and Qatar, and of course, the United States, which has been working very, very hard and very closely with the Secretary-General on the humanitarian ceasefire issue, that these attempts will be successful. And we hope that both sides will understand that the Secretary-General’s proposals are still on the table. They are always there. The Israeli Security Cabinet met yesterday and I made sure that Ambassador [Ron] Prosor was aware of the fact that the [Secretary-General’s] proposal for a humanitarian ceasefire, whether it was for a week or 24 hours or 72 hours, would be there and considered on the table. But, we are in contact closely with all the other actors. So, we don’t feel any need to, at this stage, to be in direct contact with Hamas.

   So what changed? Or did the "we" mean only Ban and his deputy Eliasson? We'll have more on this.

   Earlier on July 31 outside the UN Security Council, Israel's Ambassador Ron Prosor and then the State of Palestine's Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour took questions from the Press.

  Inner City Press asked Prosor about Krahenbuhl's call to end the blockade of Gaza. Prosor replied that Israel has no interest in being in Gaza -- what, is there oil there, he asked rhetorically -- but cited and showed charts of Hamas rocket fire, and tunnels (which he said are funded by Qatar).

  Inner City Press asked Mansour about the US Department of Defense' confirmation of new ammunition transfers to Israel (see below).

  Mansour said that more weapons are not needed; he said that the killing of entire families would make peace much more difficult to achieve but that it should be strived for, an independent state of Palestine.

  In the UN Security Council, the Gaza issue has essentially been delegated to the US. In the UN Security Council on July 30, Nigeria criticized the Council's delay in issuing even a Presidential Statement; Chad called the Council "impotent."

  At the end of Rwandan presidency reception later on July 30, Inner City Press was told by more than one Council member that it is all up to the US. But, one might ask, how can a party transferring ammunition be considering an honest broker?

  Couldn't this transfer had been at least delayed? But that too would have been a story, bigger than this one, which Inner City Press was notified was broken by CNN, leading to this statement:

"The Department of Defense received a letter of request from the Israeli Ministry of Defense on July 20 for a normal Foreign Military Sales delivery of ammunition.  The appropriate DoD activities processed the request through normal inter-agency processes, resulting in a signed Letter of Offer and Acceptance on July 23.
"Two of the requested munitions were available in the War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel (WRSA-I), on the ground in Israel, and were therefore delivered to the Israeli Defense Force from this stockpile. Both munitions had been in WRSA-I stock for a few years, well before the current crisis.  All stocks in WRSA-I, as required by law, are "in excess to U.S. requirements." Issuing munitions from the WRSA-I stockpile was strictly a sourcing decision and White House approval was not required.

 "The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability. This defense sale is consistent with those objectives."

  Thus spake the US Pentagon, or at least its spokesperson Kirby. But what will UN Security Council members say, at their July 31 session? Watch this site.

 Back on July 27-28, the Security Council convened to adopted a Presidential Statement, below.

 Afterward, Inner City Press asked Jordan's Deputy Permanent Representative why no vote had been called the draft resolution, if there was one or more vetoes or abstaining votes that would block it.

  He said things haven't reached that stage; rather it was a matter of seeing when the members of the Council thought a resolution would be useful to support of ceasefire.

  Some ask: so is that the UN Security Council's only function?

  Inner City Press asked Israel's Ron Prosor about the different drafts leaked to Haaretz and Al Jazeera (which Inner City Press noted, here). Prosor went wider scope with his answer. A ceasefire did not sound closer.

  Prosor was also asked about Ban Ki-moon flying around in a Qatar-funded private jet - a question on which Inner City Press first reported eight days ago, and on which Ban himself should answer.

 Palestine's Riyad Mansour cited as a precedent a 1994 Security Council resolution providing protecting in Hebron, by Norwegians in white shirts, he said. He said he wished the Presidential Statement had called for Israel to pull out of Gaza, and that he wished for a resolution. We will continue on this.

  Inner City Press immediately inquired and was informed it was to adopt a Presidential Statement; the version below was provided. But why not a resolution? Why proceeding so cautiously, compared most recently with the July 21 resolution on MH17 in Ukraine? 

  Earlier, with even the “humanitarian pause” over in Gaza, the draft "framework" agreement rejected by the Israeli cabinet on July 25 was leaked from both sides.

   But the versions leaked by each side were different.

  On Al Jazeera a one-page document was waved around, which had Qatar in the first paragraph as one of the signatories making commitments, which provided for the opening of “border and non-border” crossings and specified fishing rights up to 12 nautical miles, and a $47 million commitment by the US.

  In the “5 pm Confidential Draft” published by Ha'aretz, Qatar is the last paragraph (without Egypt), fishing rights and the $47 million from the US are not specified, nor are “non-border” crossing being opened.

  At least, the two sides leaked different stages or versions of the draft. Or is there more to this, in the spin war that this stage of the Gaza war has become?

  (The drafts are different; Al Jazeera is saying Ha'aretz stole its scoop. There may be more to this.)

  Meanwhile, silence at the UN with the draft Security Council resolution of Jordan and the Arab League not scheduled for a vote, and canned statements from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who after taking a Qatar-funded private jet from New York to Doha refused through his spokespeople to answer Inner City Press' follow-up questions on who paid for the rest of his travel. Watch this site.


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