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Ban's Envoy Downer Calls His Business with Huawei "Private" From UN, Zerihoun Leaving Cyprus?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 27 -- "I have my private life," Alexander Downer told the Press on Tuesday." It's mine and it's private." Video here, at Minute 36.

  Inner City Press had asked Downer, the part time chief of the UN's Good Offices role for Cyprus, whether the fact that his employer Bespoke Approach represents Chinese technology firm Huawei, which does business in Turkey, showed a need for UN rules against the appearance of conflict of interest.

  "With the greatest respect," Downer said, "I might know more about this that you... Ipso facto -- it's my business."

  Previously, Downer has told Inner City Press that there can be no conflict of interest because Bespoke Approach's clients don't do business in Cyprus or, by implication, Turkey or Greece, which have direct interests in Mr. Downer's UN work.

  Now that Downer has confirmed that Bespoke Approach represents Huawei, which itself brags on its website about its Turkey business, the question is squarely raised: why doesn't the UN prohibit or have rules about this?

  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has promised transparency, and has urged his senior officials -- although apparently not part time officials like Downer -- to publicly disclose their financial holdings.

  But on Tuesday, Mr. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky tried to cut off the question by saying, "Matthew, the Secretary General chose Mr. Downer [based on] his demonstrated integrity. I don't think one needs to say more than that." Video here, from 37:52.

  But what about having generally applicable rules? If confidence in particular individuals' integrity was enough, Mr. Ban wouldn't have urged public disclosure of financial holdings to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest.

UN's Ban and Downer, rules against conflicts of interest not shown

  While Inner City Press asked two questions about the Cyprus process, Downer sought to not answer them, saying to Inner City Press, "You're not really interested in Cyprus."

One of the questions concerned Cypriot president Demetris Christofias' request to Qatar's Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani that Qatar get involved in the Cyprus process. How did Downer think this would dovetail, or not, with his work?

Downer said, This is a UN process, Mr. Christofias and Mr. [Dervis] Eroglu are aware of that.

Only at the end of his press conference did Downer, once reminded, consent to answer Inner City Press' other question, about the relation of his work with that of Mr. Ban's current representative to Cyprus, Taye-Brook Zerihoun. He runs UNFICYP and I run the Good Offices, Downer said. He is my deputy on the Good Offices. "You are very interested in this.. I am only part time, Mr. Zerihoun has filled in" for me and comes to meetings even when I am there.

Inner City Press had, during Nesirky's briefing while Downer waited to speak, asked what something it heard and reported yesterday, that Zerihoun is being recalled to UN Headquarters to replace Haile Menkerios, now in South Sudan, in the Africa Division of the UN Department of Political Affairs. When Inner City Press asked if Nesirky could confirm, he said "Not at the moment, but I'll find out." Video here, from Minute 17:03.

When Inner City Press asked Downer if he was aware of Zerihoun, which whom Downer said he plays golf, leaving the Cyprus post as early as May 1, Downer said that was for the S-G and his spokesman to answer. Video here, from Minute 46:22. Nesirky said, "I've already answered that." Inner City Press replied, no, you said you didn't know, you'd find out.

Ironically, not only Ambassadors and people in the Department of Political Affairs were speaking about Zerihoun's getting the job, so was another spokesperson at the UN. Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Downer Says Anti-Obama Op-Ed Has No Effect on Cyprus Work with U.S., Coal Role

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 9 -- Alexander Downer, alongside being the UN Special Adviser on Cyprus, works for the consultancy Bespoke Approach, serves as a director of Hong Kong based mining firm ResourceHouse and its China First coal, and writes op-eds, most recently saying Barrack Obama should not have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

  Inner City Press asked Downer on December 9 if this op-ed had any effect on his discussion for the UN with Obama's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with whom he met about Cyprus on December 8. Downer laughed and said, "Of course not! No such thing was discussed." Video here, from Minute 8:32.

  But the question isn't whether Hillary Clinton brought up the op-ed: it's whether it has any impact of Downer's effectiveness for the UN on the Cyprus issue. Another correspondent pointed out that Downer had offered the Press nearly exactly the same upbeat assessment of the talks back in May. Has any progress been made?

  Previously, Inner City Press has asked Downer and the UN what safeguards are in place to avoid any conflict of interest between Downer's work for the consultancy Bespoke Approach and his UN role. Downer scoffed that Cyprus doesn't have much business. But of course, Turkey and Greece have a stake in Cyprus, and both have big business. In fact, while KKR lists Bespoke Approach as an Easter affiliate, KKR has business interests in Turkey. So where are the safeguards?

  Downer is also on the board of directors of ResourceHouse, which is raising funds for a China director coal mine in Australia. Inner City Press asked Downer, in this light, to comment on the UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen.

  Downer against laughed, saying that his Cyprus role does not involve climate change.  How about his China First Coal role?

Downer at stakeout, round and round, hook not shown

  Ironically, in a press conference the same day the head of UN peacekeeping argued that all UN peacekeeping mission are impacted by climate change. But Downer, without responding to the question about China First Coal, said that his personal hope is that the negotiations succeed. And that an $2.25 will get you on the subway in New York: appointments with Bespoke Approach cost more. Watch this site.

Footnote: the UN's force commander in Cyprus is slated to be changed in the Spring of 2010. A question at the stakeout about Slovakia's public claim to be lobbying for the position yielded no answer, except that the process takes place in New York. We will follow this.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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