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Syria & Iraq Oil Sales Statement As Passed by UNSC Avoids Free Syrian Army, Western Sahara, Total, Exxon

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 28 -- After the UN Security Council met behind closed doors with the Syria Commission of Inquiry's Paulo Sergio Pinheiro and Karen AbuZayd on July 25, the two Commissioners and UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant came to take questions from the press.

  Inner City Press asked Lyall Grant about the then-pending, now adopted Presidential Statement on illicit oil sales. From the UK transcript:

Inner City Press: This draft presidential statement on oil, illicit oil in both Syria and Iraq, is it on track to be adopted on Monday? It seems like there was a request to go wider about state sovereignty and non-state groups selling oil. What was the UK's view on things like the sale of Western Sahara resources, or South Sudan, other places?

Amb. Lyall Grant: Well, the discussions on the PRST have been continuing for several days. There have been some outstanding issues, including around the definition of "sovereignty", but my understanding is that the text is now under final silence procedure, ending on Monday morning, and there is a reasonable likelihood that it will be adopted therefore on Monday.

 And on July 28 the Presidential Statement was adopted -- very much tied to Syria and Iraq, and to ISIL and the Al Nusra Front. On those, it it laudable. Do any Free Syrian Army affiliates sell oil? 

   And what are its implications? Its whittling down, from the language on countries' sovereignty over natural resources that mirrored that in the Rio +20 document on sustainable development, seems to help, in Western Sahara, US firm Kosmos, and more generally, Chevron and Exxon, and Total of France, among others. We'll have more on this.

  Back on July 25, Karen AbuZayd spoke of abuses not only by the government but also, in response to a question, by what she called the Islamic State of Iraq and [Syria], ISIL.

  Inner City Press when called on asked her about ISIS' takeover of border crossing, renaming as Islamic State and attacks on non-Sunni Muslims in Mosul.

In this context, what did she think of hers or another Commission of Inquiry covering the group's abuses in Iraq as well? Bigger picture, does the state by state focus of the UN make sense in this context?

  AbuZayd said she prefers not to call them “Islamic State,” it give them too much credit. Pinheiro resisted any talk of expanding his Commission's mandate -- Syria is enough.

  A US state media asked about foreign fighters, including pro-government; Pinheiro said that Hezbollah is the only group of foreign fighters he's away of.

 This is strange, given that the UN's own recent report on Syria humanitarian access notes that “on June 29, the Islamic State issued a statement announcing that the Caliphate included people from the following nationalities: Caucasian [sic], Indian, Chinese, Shami (Levantine), Iraqi, Yemeni, Egyptian, North African, American, French, German, and Australians." Watch this site.

Footnote: one wanted to ask AbuZayd about developments -- to put it mildly -- in Gaza, where she used to head UNRWA, but this too was deemed beyond the scope of the stakeout. Another former Gaza hand, John Ging, has been speaking on the topic this week. Perhaps we'll hear from Ms. AbuZayd. We'll be watching.


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