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At UN, MH17 Resolution Passes 15-0 for Int'l Investigation, Partial Qs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 21, updated -- After late-night wrangling, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on July 21 on downed flight MH17.

  The resolution, which Inner City Press put online here, among other things noted “the crucial role played by the International Civil Aviation Organization in aircraft accident and incident investigations and welcomed the decision by ICAO to send a team.”

    After the vote and speeches, the foreign minister of the Netherlands, with the most victims, and Australia came to the Council stakeout. The Australian mission took the role of choosing questions, given the first one to an Australian correspondents from Reuters, the next to the Sidney Morning Herald, and the last to Kosovo media. The Free UN Coalition for Access asks, Is this balance?

  Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said this should be the last such incident, because its perpetrators will be found. But isn't there a wider issue of non-state actors seeking advanced weapons, for example in Syria?

   In its resolution, the Security Council demanded that “all military activities, including by armed groups, be immediately ceased in the immediate area surrounding the crash site to allow for security and safety of the international investigation.”

  But what about Kyiv's continued "anti-terrorist operation" beyond a 40 kilometer radius?

   Amid questions of why MH17 was flying over the East of Ukraine on July 17, after a Ukrainian military plane has already been shot down at 21,000 feet, the Security Council resolution “urges all parties to the Convention on International Civil Aviation to observe to the fullest extent applicable, the international rules, standards and practices concerning the safety of civil aviation in order to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.”

  Reportedly, flights now go over Syria, and permission has been sought from Iran.

   Late on July 20, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Russia would support a draft with providing for a independent, impartial investigation.

   As a pointed precedent, he cited the US' downing of a airplane in 1988. (That killed approximately 300 Iranian passengers).

  On July 21 in the Security Council, he brought up a downing over the Black Sea by Ukraine, and said they haven't taken responsibility and shouldn't be in charge of this investigation.

  On July 20 Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan arrived at 10:55 pm, stopping to say there is no reason any Council member should not support the earlier draft.  Video here. .

  Meanwhile rebel groups elsewhere are requesting advanced weapons. On July 18 the Syrian Coalition rebels put out a press release that they should be given "advanced weapons."

   Here is what the Syrian Coalition, until recently headed by Saudi backed Ahmad Al Jarba and now headed by Saudi backed Hadi Al Bahra, said:

Louay Safi, spokesman for the Syrian Coalition, said earlier that the connection between the Assad regime and ISIS has never been so intimately interwound as it is today with the progress being made by regime forces near Aleppo and that of ISIS in Deir Ezzor. These advancement have not been interrupted by a single clash between regime forces and ISIS, which proves the existence of full coordination between them.” Safi attributes the setbacks suffered by Syrian rebels to the reluctance of the friends of Syria group to provide the rebels with the advanced weapons that can tip the balance on the ground.”

  What about, “in the air”? The Syrian Coalition continues:

Furthermore, Safi agrees with the former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who blames the rise of extremist groups in Syria on the Obama administration’s hesitation to support the moderate opposition forces. The military situation is very critical, as regime forces are about to laid siege on Aleppo. But even if Assad’s forces recapture Aleppo, the crisis will not be over. (Source: Syrian Coalition)”

  So, what of the US announced plan for $500 million to “vetted” Syrian rebels?

Also on Syria, on July 14 when the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on humanitarian access to Syria, its Operative Paragraph 11 said the Council “affirms that it will take further measures in the event of non-compliance with this resolution or resolution 2139 (2014) by any Syrian party.”

 Afterward, Australia's Permanent Representative to the UN Gary Quilan emphasized at the media stakeout that resolutions are binding, that the Council had affirmed that it will take measures if not complied with by the parties. Video here, from Minute 2:10

  Inner City Press sought to ask a question about a statement inside the Security Council by Russia's Vitaly Churkin, and Quinlan agreed to take the question. Inner City Press asked Quinlan to respond to Churkin saying that the resolution “doesn't plan for automatism” in sanctions or the use of force, that any such steps would require the specific consideration of the Security Council and “convincing evidence.” Video of Churkin's statement here, from Minute 25.

  Quinlan replied that what Churkin said was correct, then said that while there would have to be a further decision by the Security Council about what measures to take, the decision that some measures would be taken has already been made. Video here from Minute 18.

Readers can draw their own conclusion how meaningful it is to claim that a decision to definitely act has been made, if another vote including veto powers is required.

Footnote: Asking this question was not easy. The first question was given to Voice of America; the second taken by the whip of the UN Correspondents Association's president, sometimes writing for the Huffington Post. She then tried to keep the UN Television boom microphone operator for giving the microphone to Inner City Press -- even as Ambassador Quinlan said, “Matthew... what Ambassador Churkin said was correct.”

  This UNCA, becoming the UN's Censorship Alliance, seems to believe it can block questions (as well as having tried to get Inner City Press thrown out after its reporting about Sri Lanka, here). The new (and resulting) Free UN Coalition for Access opposes this.

  To come full circle, acknowledging deft diplomacy by Australia and its co-leads Jordan and Luxembourg on this resolution, it is sometimes hard not to note the contradiction of Australia returning asylum seekers from Sri Lanka after only “reviewing” their claims on a ship. Inner City Press has asked Ambassador Quinlan about this, and we hope to have a story on the topic soon. Watch this site.


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