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UN Welcomed Russian Offer Then Cited 1974 Deal, Chemical Weapons Echo

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 7 -- When Russia offered troops to replace the Austrians departing from the UN mission in the Golan, there was a strange sequence at the UN in New York.

  First, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Office of the Spokesperson, through Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq, unequivocally said, "The UN welcomes any contribution by the world community to peacemaking efforts in the Golan Heights, and the UN Disengagement Observer Force is very important for the maintenance of peace in the region."

This quote moved Friday morning from RIA Novosti to, among others, YnetNews in Israel.

   But when it was asked again by RIA Novosti near the end of the day's chaotic noon briefing, lead spokesman Martin Nesirky added this: "the Disengagement Agreement and its Protocol, which is between Syria and Israel, do not allow for the participation of permanent members of the Security Council in UNDOF."

  Inner City Press, which often waits for week or forever for a legal ruling or opinion requested from the UN, immediately tweeted the apparent split or fast ruling.

  Today, Russian Gennady Gatilov tweeted, hashtag and all, "It is not for the UN Spokesperson to decide which country may send troops to #UNDOF. This is a UNSC matter."

  What can be noted is that the UN often leaves legal issues, particularly about a 1974 agreement, without public answer for weeks.

   Was it legal for Romano Prodi to run for president in Italy while serving as UN Under Secretary General on the Sahel? What about Herve Ladsous' Department of Peacekeeping Operations accepting an alleged war criminal as a senior adviser?

   Here, the UN quickly over-ruled the first "welcoming" comment. Who called the Spokesperson's office?

  We also note that the Spokesperson's Office -- for what it's worth through Haq -- on May 23 said that "on material shared by Anastasia Popova, we have the following to say: Yes, the High Representative's Office has received the material and are converting it into a usable format, and it is being sent to the Head of the Team, Ake Sellstrom."

  But by June 3 when Inner City Press asked the High Representative, Angela Kane, on camera in the briefing room after the moderator said to ask her any pressing question, video here, Kane was dismissive of this answer, saying she wasn't responsible for it and wondering why they answered as they did. She and her colleague said the "material" was too short, and "we never managed, technically."

  When on June 4 Inner City Press asked Nesirky about this, he responded thusly:

Inner City Press: yesterday, speaking to Ms. [Angela] Kane, I just want to make sure I understand, she said there was some problems with the material, that it was much shorter than she thought it would be, but it seemed to me that it hadn’t been given to Mr. Sellström; do you, are you aware whether it has been or not and is there a way to find out whether, and if not, why not?

Spokesperson Nesirky: There is a way to find out, Matthew; the footage of alleged chemical weapons use that was provided by Anastasia Popova has been passed on to the head of the mission, Mr. Åke Sellström. And, as I have said, he continues to conduct the mission’s work outside of Syria, and to analyse all information made available to it.

Inner City Press: I don’t know the gentleman’s name, but the colleague that was with her yesterday said something about that they tried, but technically it wasn’t feasible; maybe they, that he just mean he couldn’t, they couldn’t make it as good --

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, maybe you could go back and look at the footage that you’ve recorded on camera without actually telling Ms. Kane. What’s your next question?

  And now we have another question, for the UN's new Press Briefing Room. Watch this site.

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