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On W Sahara, As ICP Photographs Polisario & Ross On Way to UNSG, Morocco Gets UN To Censor

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 17 – When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' schedule was updated on the afternoon of March 17 to add Brahim Ghali, Secretary-General of the Frente Polisario at 4 pm, Inner City Press remained at the UN Security Council stakeout working. When the Polisario delegation, including UN envoy Christopher Ross, was escorted to the elevators at 3:45 pm, Inner City Press took a photograph and tweeted it, along with urging Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric to issue a read-out. But then one of the Morocco diplomats who had been hovering around the Security Council stakeout for hours went and complained to UN Security that Inner City Press had taken a photograph - from the Security Council stakeout where it is authorized, and where at the same time tourists were taking photographs. Inner City Press was encouraged to stop so that a UN Security supervisor would be called. (Here's how UN Security ousted Inner City Press from the same stakeout, at the order of Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach, audio here.) This is the disgusting level of censorship in today's UN, that must be reversed.

  Back on March 6 Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq to confirm or deny Christopher Ross had offered his resignation as the UN's envoy on Western Sahara. Haq would only say that Ross serves at the pleasure of the Secretary General and remains in his position; Haq would not answer Inner City Press' follow up question if Ross' contract expires March 31. But UN Department of Political Affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman, later on March 6, answered that Ross has submitted his letter of resignation, for action by Antonio Guterres at a time of his choosing. We'll have more on this.

Morocco's King Mohammed VI spoke to Antonio Guterres on February 24, his media reported, while Guterres' spokeman Stephane Dujarric ran out of the UN Press Briefing Room as Inner City Press asked him about a leaked letter to the UN staff ousted from Western Sahara by Morocco.

 On February 27, Inner City Press asked Dujarric again about the letter and to state any reassignments of MINURSO staff members ousted by Morocco. Dujarric has refused to answer that, so Inner City Press asked based on its sources if MINURSO's (former?) Deputy Chief Security officer Lihong Shen has been reassigned to South Sudan.

  Dujarric, as is his strategy, then said archly he doesn't have access to personnel files. But he said he was unaware of any reassignments - seemingly, a cover up. And so it goes.

  Inner City Press asked Dujarric why, until previously at the UN, the call with Morocco's King was not disclosed or read-out, nor the in person meeting with Polisario. Dujarric called it delicate diplomacy. If these were done these days in Washington, the media would scream. We'll have more on this.

  On February 24, Polisario's representative at the UN met Guterres, he tells Inner City Press. But why wasn't it on Guterres' public schedule? And why no read-out of the call? Polisario has issued this statement, Google-translated:

"The Frente POLISARIO shares the concerns of the UN Secretary-General on the current situation in the region Elgargarat in Western Sahara and supports its call for respect for the spirit and letter of the cease-fire in effect since 1991 as part of the implementation of the UN-OAU settlement plan whose outcome remains the holding of a self-determination referendum for the people of Western Sahara.

However the Frente POLISARIO wishes to reiterate that the situation Elgaragarat is not an isolated one and therefore a consideration of the status of the Western Sahara decolonization process as a whole is able to allow exceeding the voltage current. At the time of establishment of the cease-fire, there were no roads, no commercial traffic between the wall of the Moroccan occupation and the Mauritanian border. The existence of such trafficking today is a violation of the status of the Territory and the cease-fire because it is a change of the status quo in the buffer zone.

Moroccan decision today to roll back, a few hundred meters, his troops near Elgargarat is window dressing and not hide contempt for international legality Rabat, obstinacy and refusal for almost three decades, to allow the implementation of Council resolutions security and the General Assembly on Western Sahara.
The current situation and everything that can result is the sole responsibility of Morocco that prevents the implementation of the settlement plan, refuses negotiation, hampering efforts of the Personal Envoy, expelled at will the staff of MINURSO with impunity violate human rights and plunders natural resources of the Territory.

The Frente POLISARIO reiterated its support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy for the implementation of UN resolutions enshrining the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence."

And here's Morocco's response by its state media MAP, albeit behind a paywall, here.

   Inner City Press' February 24 question to Dujarric and his deputy including about where Guterres is have gone unanswered. What is wrong with today's UN?

   Even after Morocco threw portions of the UN Peacekeeping mission out of Western Sahara, when the UN Security Council met on the topic on February 22 it was not listed on their agenda and afterward the President of Council told Inner City Press he couldn't remember how many of the Morocco-ousted staff were still banned from Western Sahara. Video here.

  After the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric who refuses to answer Inner City Press' written questions has claimed he is unaware of any of the ousted staff being reassigned to other UN missions, on UNTV on February 23, Inner City Press on the morning of February 24 exclusively publishedi a letter from the UN's Herve Ladsous, that the UN "will contact these staff members and discuss a way forward in the coming weeks." Letter published by Inner City Press on Scribd here.

  But when at the UN's February 24 noon briefing Inner City Press began asking "Spokesman" Dujarric about the letter, he immediately ran off the podium and out of the briefing room (after this). And UN DPI under Cristina Gallach produced a video file where the audio cuts off in the middle of the Western Sahara file. See here, at end. Both should leave; March 31 is too long.

On Western Sahara, ICP Publishes Ladsous on Ousted Staff, Here, Spox UNaware of Reassignment by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd

Permanent member France has ensured it remain this way, and has managed to get its fifth national in a row put atop UN Peacekeeping, to succeed Herve Ladsous who again and again told Inner City Press, I don't answer your questions, until it was evicted from its office and remains restricted by Spain's Cristina Gallach. Last week Inner City Press asked what to expect from Antonio Guterres, see below.

 On the afternoon of February 22, with Western Sahara on the Security Council's agenda, Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Francois Delattre how many of the ousted UN staff are still out, and about the meeting. He said to Ask his colleague, who would attended, joking "cheap shot." Video here.

 At the Security Council stakeout, at least four Moroccan diplomats held vigil, including the sponsor of UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' Eric Tistounet's book party.

After cover up man Herve Ladsous left, it was said the President of the Council would speak at the stakeout.  When he did, Inner City Press asked for a summary, at least how many of the ousted UN staff had returned. I don't remember, was the answer. Video here.

  So on February 23, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric how many have (not) returned, and if any have been reassigned to other UN missions. From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: yesterday, after the consultations in the Council about MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara), I asked the President of the Council if Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous had provided a number of the staff that had yet… had been ousted that had yet to be returned.  And he said, yes, a number had been provided.  He didn't say that he could remember the number, but I'm assuming that you can remember the number.  How many are still out?

Spokesman:  Well, I don't have to remember it because I have it written down in front of me, which is very good.  I can tell… I know there have been a lot… a number of questions about the level of the mission in Western Sahara.  We're obviously continuing our efforts to restore full functionality to the UN Mission, to MINURSO.  At this time, there remains 17 staff who have been unable to rejoin the mission after requested… being requested to depart by Morocco, and efforts continue to enable their return.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and MINURSO remain in close touch with staff members concerned in order to keep them informed of the current situation.

Inner City Press:  One follow-up.  I've heard that some of these people have been assigned to other missions.  Is that the case?  And, if so, does it kind of acknowledge--

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of those people having been reassigned to another mission.

  We'll have more on this.

Back on February 16 at a rare panel discussion on Western Sahara just off Manhattan's Park Avenue, a questioner brought the proceedings to a halt when he asked about Trump adviser Steve Bannon working in MINURSO.  Several audience members - on both sides, as it turned out - asked, Why? From the podium came the answer that the reference was to John Bolton. The Q&A continued.

  Inner City Press asked about Antonio Guterres, who recently gave the top position in UN Peacekeeping to yet another French official, Jean-Pierre Lacroix the fifth in a row, and what his views may be on Western Sahara.

  Amy Goodman of Democracy Now responded that as a former Portuguese prime minister Guterres should remember, and be asked about, East Timor. Video here, from Min 1:30:26. Consider it an assignment.

 The event was at Hunter College's Roosevelt House and included Prof Sandra Babcock, lawyer Katlyn Thomas, Madeleine Bair of Watching Western Sahara and Mohammed Ali Arkoukoum of the Saharawi Association in New York. The final questioner, with a pro-Morocco perspective and some supporters with filming phones, came in from Boston.

  Back on January 27 after the UN Security Council held a closed door meeting about Western Sahara, Inner City Press asked the Council's President for January Olof Skoog of Sweden what happened in the meeting. Video here.

  Specifically, Inner City Press asked Skoog how many of the 83 members of the MINURSO peacekeeping mission expelled by Morocco have be able to return.

 Skoog did not give a number, but said that MINURSO is still no up to full functionality. He mentioned Guerguerat.

  Inner City Press asked if Morocco's attempts to join the African Union, and the impact that might have on the political negotiations, had been discussed. Skoog said no.

  There was no time to ask about the Norwegian oil fish ship that, it seems, violated the recent European court ruling. And less than two hours later, guards citing the eviction / Press downgrading order of Spanish UN official Cristina Gallach demanded to know where Inner City Press' "minder" was, putting an end to a diplomat's provision of information to Inner City Press. This is today's UN.


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