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UN's Geneva II Planning Ignored Davos & Watches, France Cheap on Sarin

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 4 -- After months of delay, the UN announced a day for the Geneva II talks on Syria: January 22, 2014.

Now it emerges that long scheduled for that day is a major watch convention in Geneva, and the World Economic Forum. Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says there will not be enough hotel rooms.

At the UN's December 4 noon briefing in New York, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's acting deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about it:

Inner City Press: a logistical question about Geneva II. Mr. Brahimi has said that somehow all the hotels are already booked at that time, due to the World Economic Forum and some watch convention, and so, he said it may be moved. Can you confirm that thatís true? And two, werenít the scheduling of the World Economic Forum and this watch convention known at the time that the day was announced? What would you say to those who say itís kind of bad planning?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: Well, as for the planning, we are planning it, as you know, we have been planning to hold it as soon as we can hold it, and we are, and that continues to have been the case when we set the date for 22 January 2014. We would have liked to have been able to hold it sooner, but this is when we believe we can get the parties and we can get the responsible countries all to agree on.

Regarding where it is held; ultimately, it is not as important where the conference will be held, but that it is held. What we want to do is get the parties together; whether that happens in Geneva or in the area around Geneva is not as crucial as having the parties together. And thatís what we are focusing on.

 And what is France focused on? Ban Ki-moon's November 27 letter listed a number of countries having contributed money to the UN and Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons trust funds -- but France was not among them.

 So later on December 4 at the UN Security Council stakeout Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Gerard Araud:

Inner City Press: A UN staff member has been killed yesterday. Was he a staff of the Mission or another UN staff? Also has France made a contribution to the OPCW trust fund?

Amb. Araud: On the first question, you have to ask Mrs Kaag what was the exact status of the personal you are referring to. As President of the Security Council, I expressed our political and moral support to what the Mission is doing and expressed our strong condemnation of any attack. Mrs Kaag has described in a very personal and moving way all the risks the local personal is taking by simply traveling through the city of Damascus, and crossing the lines to do their job.

As for France, we have provided technical assistance to the Mission.

That is, no money. And no hotel rooms. Watch this site.


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