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On Peacekeeper Kidnaps, UN Says No Evidence of Involvement of "States"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 7 -- After at least three kidnappings of UN peacekeepers in the Golan, and then an attack that led Austria to decide to pull its troops out of the mission, the question of who is ultimately behind the attacks remains murky.

  On the afternoon of June 7 Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, president of the Security Council for June, if there was any discussion of involvement from any outside state in the threats to peacekeepers. As in the morning, he said there had been no such discussion.

  In the General Assembly, Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari read a cell phone number from an e-mail he said showed involvement from Qatar in the kidnappings of peacekeepers.

    He has said he provided information to UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous; Syria's representative at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on June 4 said that Ladsous was investigating the Qatar claim.

  But at the UN in New York, they didn't want to answer. On June 4, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky if Ladsous was, in fact, looking into it. Nesirky said he would ask the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

  Three days later on June 7, having gotten no response, Inner City Press repeated the question. Nesirky said again that he would check with DPKO, whose spokesman was in the briefing room, as Inner City Press reported. It was later indicated that an answer would come. And now it has:

Subject: Your question on Qatar
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Fri, Jun 7, 2013 at 5:16 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Regarding your question on Qatar earlier today, below is the response from DSS and DPKO:

The United Nations has no evidence of any involvement by Member States or state actors in the abduction or detention of UN personnel in Syria. To our knowledge, the peacekeepers were detained by individual groups operating in Syria.

  One might find it strange that without answering the question asked on June 4 -- was Ladsous' DPKO looking into what Syria provided it on May 22 and conducting an inquiry as Syria requested, and on June 4 in Geneva said was being done -- the UN now simply says it has no evidence.

  The answer also implies that the UN sees or accepts a distinction between "individual groups operating in Syria" and outside states: as if outside states didn't arm and fund "individual groups" in Syria.

  But it may also be worth looking more closely at what is being answered: the UN says it has no evidence that Qatar as a "member state or state actor" is involved.

  What Ja'afari alleged in the General Assembly was that the Syrian opposition figure to whom Qatar "gave" Syria's embassy in Doha was involved in the kidnapping. He is not a "state actor," but Qatar's support of him puts his alleged role in a different light.

  If one knew more about Ladsous, evidence of objectivity for example, perhaps there would not be so many questions. But when Ladsous confined news of the third kidnapping to a "conversation" with friendly reporters, it raises questions.

  So the question to be answered is: was the Syrian opposition figure to whom Qatar "gave" Syria's embassy in Doha involved in any of the kidnappings? Did any e-mail received by UN officials in May reflect this? Has the UN done anything to look into or act on this since? To be continued.

Footnote: at the stakeout after Council consultations Russia's Vitaly Churkin said his country is offering to replace the Austrian observers, but is checking to see if this would require a Security Council resolution as well as an amended agreed by Israel and Syria. A representative of Syria told Inner City Press, not surprisingly, they would agree. Watch this site.

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