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As EU Lets Syria Arms Embargo Expire, UN Silent On Austria's Troop Threat

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 27 -- Before European Union foreign ministers met on May 27 and did not extend the EU arms embargo on Syria, Austrian officials repeatedly said if the embargo was lifted they would pull their over 300 troops out of the UN mission in the Golan.

  So what was the UN Secretariat's position, both as the (recently mis) manager of the UNDOF observer mission and as an organization ostensibly against arming and the arms trade?

  Typical of its increasing invisibility or cautious opportunism, the UN was nowhere to be seen on this. Not the head of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, whose interest should be the peacekeepers in the UNDOF mission but who has allowed them to be repeatedly kidnapped without even properly announcing it.

   Ladsous confined the most recent kidnapping to a "conversation" with friendly scribes. And where was Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on this?

On May 23, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey:

Inner City Press: About the Golan and UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force]. There has been renewed statements by Austria that they would… would withdraw their 300-some peacekeepers if an arms embargo is modified to Syria and the rebels, and I wonder, does the UN, given its need for peacekeepers, does it have any view on that?

Deputy Spokesperson Del Buey: Well, number one, we have no information from the Austrians at all on any decision they may or may not have taken, so we are not going to comment any further on that.

  The Austrians' position had been publicly stated, and Ladsous as head of UN peacekeeping, the fourth Frenchman in a row to hold the post, is supposed to be in touch with the troop contributing countries. So how can it be, "no information from the Austrians at all"?

  And so on May 24, Inner City Press asked the UN's Del Buey:

Inner City Press: Austria, now not just the Defense Minister, now the Foreign Minister has said today that if the EU Foreign Ministers who meet on Monday in Brussels remove the arms embargo on Syria, there are 'serious problems with Austria remaining in the Golan Heights and UNDOF.' So, again, are you saying you haven’t gotten any letter from them? Since the UN is running the peacekeeping mission of UNDOF, is there anyone in the UN system that is trying to make any UN view known to the EU foreign ministers who will vote on this?

Deputy Spokesperson Del Buey: Matthew, we are constantly monitoring the situation in all of our missions around the world, but we do not address speculation; it is [speculative]. We are not going to speculate on what the Austrians may or may not do. To the moment, we have not received any indication from the Austrians; we have not received any communication from them on this, and that is where we stand.

  So the UN said nothing, and now the meeting has ended and the arms embargo was not extended. It will expire on June 1. If the Austrians leave, should the UN have spoken?

Was the UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon reluctant to anger France and the UK, who wanted the embargo off? Did Ladsous despite his ostensible duties to UNDOF stay silent to serve the position of France, which he served for years and years? Watch this site.

Footnotes: Meanwhile as a sample of the UN coverage of the UN Correspondents Association "leadership," UNCA president Pamela Falk of CBSNews sent suck up tweets to the French and UK Missions to the UN calling the (non) decision in Brussels a victory for them.

  Earlier in the Memorial Day weekend she sent even more newsless tweets to the UK Mission, paparazzi photos of its Ambassador and that of the UAE, which owns Manchester City football club. (No questions about the UAE's record on gay rights, despite Robbie Rogers suggesting just that question in the New York Times.)

  Meanwhile UNCA trolls on whom Falk at a minimum has refused to act (audio here and here) sent bogus social media messages to the UK Mission in Geneva questioning how the investigative Press is funded. (They have tried to say dictators and terrorists, leading to death threats.)

Answer: Not by high frequency stock traders a la Reuters and Bloomberg, nor 41% by the French government like AFP. But what have these wire services' UN bureaux and UNCA under Falk come to? Watch this site.

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