By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive series
UNITED NATIONS, October 8 -- With the EU's Federica Mogherini in the UN for General Assembly week, Inner City Press tried and ultimately succeeded to ask her about EU NAVFOR MED Phase II, and how it would start without UN Security Council approval on which the Council's three African members have concerns.
On October 7, Inner City Press asked Angola's Permanent Representative Ismael Gaspar Martins if the three African members remained concerned. He paused and Inner City Press, Now that the Libyans have said they are OK with it...
Now on October 8, with the item already put on the Council's agenda for October 9, Inner City Press has obtained and now published Libya's Ibrahim Dabbashi's letter to the UN Security Council stating that the UK made changes, that is no longer objects, and annexing the draft resolution, here. https://www.scribd.com/doc/284109115/Libya-s-Letter-to-UNSC-Removing-Objections-to-High-Seas-Resolution
So it would seem the resolution should go though. Italy apparently didn't need Security Council approval to begin action, but it seems the UK and Germany did. All's well that ends well? Some ask, should Europe also automatically control UNHCR, for example through Danish former PM Helle Thorning Schmidt, who was promoting her candidacy during GA week using an “unused meeting room” in the suite of fellow Dane PGA Lykketoft? We'll have more on this.
Mogherini to her credit on September 29 took the question. First she said UN NAVFOR MED is being renamed “Sophia.” Then she said it it in international waters, in full compliance with international law. But can't the UK and Germany and others not participate until there is a Security Council approval or mandate? Time did not permit this question. Periscope video here.
An hour earlier, somewhat surreally, when Inner City Press asked Hungary's foreign minister Péter Szijjártó if Hungary supported the EU paying for all refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon, and if Hungary supports Denmark's Thorning Schmidt to take over UNHCR, he answered that the higher profile, the better. He said Hungary wants EU NAVFOR MED (now Sophia) to be more robust. Video here.
With the UN's outgoing envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon trying to put a positive light on every twist and turn of his talks, on September 19 his Mission condemned airstrikes. According to the EU's Federica Mogherini, who said EUNAVFOR MED Phase II can start without any UN Security Council resolution, he chats daily with her, see below. (It appears, for not needed a UNSC resolution, Mogherini was referring to Italy, not such other EU members as the UK and Germany.)
Meanwhile Martin Kobler, amid electoral fights and the FDLR in the DR Congo where's he's based is said poised to take the Libya post. Such is the UN. This too:
On September 21, after European members of the Security Council spoke about putting "into blue" for a vote their resolution for naval forces off the coast of Libya, African members of the Security Council exclusively told Inner City Press they were opposed. They said they wanted, at least, a meeting of all fifteen members to discuss the European draft about Libya, and hearkened back to NATO's bombing of Libya.
On September 22, they got a meeting - with the UK. After repeatedly being asked by African diplomats what it had heard of response(s) to the letter they sent, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, on Twitter, about it. He quickly replied, “Good meeting today with 3 African SC Ambassadors. Discussions continue on text of draft resolution.” This is a step forward at the UN. We'll have more on this.
"I spoke yesterday night with Bernardino León, I have daily contacts with the UN Special Representative... For EUNAVFOR MED, as you know we are ready to go to Phase two on the high seas. I am going to visit the Headquarter in Rome tomorrow and Phase 2 on the high seas is something that can start even without a Security Council resolution. So this is what we are going to do."
So, bait and switch? We said we'd have more on this and now we do:
Before, as chance had it, an event on “Soft Power” on Manhattan's West 36 Street on September 23, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Rycroft about what Mogherini had said. He said that the UK is more like Germany in terms of requirement before taking action, while Italy may not need a Security Council resolution. But for whom was Mogherini speaking? On this, now, we hope to have more.Before, as chance had it, an event on “Soft Power” on Manhattan's West 36 Street on September 23, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Rycroft about what Mogherini had said. He said that the UK is more like Germany in terms of requirement before taking action, while Italy may not need a Security Council resolution. But for whom was Mogherini speaking? On this, now, we hope to have more.
Back on August 26, Leon briefed the UN Security Council about his political agreement still without the Tripoli-based General National Congress, and Libya's Ibrahim Dabbashi chided Council members about Al Qaeda, the Security Council agreed on Elements to the Press read out by President for August Joy Ogwu, below. YouTube video here.
When Ogwu finished reading out the Press Elements, she was asked a series of questions... about South Sudan. The failures on Libya were forgotten, or no longer news at least at the UN. Inner City Press asked Ogwu if in consultations the Council members had discussed Dabbashi's critique, that Al Qaeda is more of a problem than ISIS or Daesh. We do not discriminate between terrorist groups, Ogwu said. There was less of an answer on South Sudan (Inner City Press' South Sudan coverage is online here.)
Leon among other things said that "there can be no doubt that the danger posed by Daesh to Libya and the Libyan people is real, imminent and palpable. Libyan security and military actors, as well as political stakeholders on either side of the divide, are fully cognizant of the danger posed by Daesh-affiliated militants. However, they must recognize that no strategy aim at containing, if not eliminating, the Daesh threat will be viable unless it is part of a concerted, unified and coordinated effort that brings all Libyans together under a single banner whose allegiance is to the Libyan State, and to a Government that is inclusive and representative of all Libyans.
“Although the General National Congress in Tripoli did not initial the main text of the Libyan Political Agreement along with other dialogue participants on July 11, I am confident that their concerns can be addressed in ongoing discussions on the annexes of the Agreement, including those pertaining to the formation of the Government of National Accord.
“I am increasingly confident that the process is finally drawing to its final stages. Time is running out. the onus is on Libya's leaders on all sides, and at all levels, to make that final push towards peace. Equally important, the international community must also move quickly to present a clearly articulated strategy in support of the Libyan State and the efforts by the Government of National Accord to contain and eliminate the threat that groups like Daesh are posing not only to the stability of Libya, but equally to regional and international security."
[The UN Spokesperson's office did not until 1 pm have a copy of Leon's 10 am speech - and even then, still "check against delivery," as noted and questioned by the Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA.]
From the Security Council's August 26 Elements to the Press, as fast transcribed by InnerCityPro:
“Security Council members noted the progress in the political process as well as the local ceasefire initiatives in some parts of Libya. They however expressed their concern about deterioration in the political, security and humanitarian situation. Council members underscored that only an inclusive and representative government can resolve the political and security challenges inside the country.
“In particular Council members expressed concern about expansion of extremism by ISIL and other terrorist groups. They expressed support for the ongoing peace process that aims to establish a government of national unity. In this regard they welcomed the initialing of the Agreement of 11 of July, 2015 as a critical step toward peace and stability in the country. They urged those parties that are yet to sign to do so without delay.
“Council members urged the international community to continue to support the political process in Libya in order to achieve a lasting peace. In the connection, they highlighted the importance of close cooperation between the African Union, the UN, the EU, the Arab League and other international organizations."
The reference to the African Union, given the Security Council having rebuffed the AU back in 2011, is particularly noteworthy.
Back on July 15, Inner City Press asked Leon what plan he may have to get the GNC to sign, and about long-time Libyan ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi's criticism in the Security Council of its Sanctions Committee.Video here.
On the latter, Leon said that that first step is to form a unity government, THEN to listen to what it asks for. On the GNC, Leon seems to say they agree in principle, only differing on timing or sequencing.
The same two questions, nearly identically, were repeated by a Gulf media; an Italian journalist asked about the flow of migrants to Europe. This, Leon seized on, asking rhetorically what “we” can tell the British, whose people were killed in Tunisia by a guy reportedly trained in Libya.
The answer again reflected Leon's at least dual allegiances or constituencies. He was the EU's envoy, then put in to replace UN enovy Tarek Mitri. Recently former IAEA El Baradei said Leon was involved in the “coup” in Egypt. (Leon said he hasn't seen that You Tube and doubts El Baradei said it.)
The UN, after ousting Tarek Mitri as envoy in favor of Bernardino Leon, has been promoting its good works in Geneva and in the country.
Back on February 18, speaking before the foreign ministers of Libya (Tobruk) and Egypt, Leon again cited his own work: "given the sense of urgency, I have called for the next meeting of the political dialogue to finalize discussions initiated in Geneva on the formation of government of national unity and security arrangements to pave the way for a formal and comprehensive cessation of hostilities.”
At the Security Council stakeout before the Jordan-requested meeting began, UK Ambassador Lyall Grant said the meeting would provide a chance to hear from Libya and Egypt; he said he hadn't yet seen the draft resolution. (Another non-Arab Permanent Representative said they HAD seen the draft.)
After Leon, Libya's foreign minister said he is not requesting an international intervention, only wants Egypt's help.
Egypt's Foreign Minister Shoukry, citing the killing of the US Ambassador in Benghazi, said that too little was done after the parliament was chased to Tobruk. He said he is counting on Jordan to distribute the draft resolution. Some of the Council say they have a different line of thinking. Watch this site.
At the UN Security Council's meeting on February 15 -- about Yemen -- nothing was said about ehte Egyptians in Libya. But hours later a Senior US State Department Official issued this:
"Secretary Kerry called Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry today in the aftermath of the horrific video showing the murder of twenty-one Egyptians. The Secretary offered his condolences on behalf of the American people and strongly condemned the despicable act of terror. Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Shoukry agreed to keep in close touch as Egyptians deliberated on a response."
Bernardino Leon, as Inner City Press exclusively reported, was installed as head of UNSMIL after then-head Tarek Mitri declined to make the UN mission a mere appendage of European / UK diplomacy. Is it working?
UNSMIL's former deputy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania has been moved to head UNMEER, the UN's Ebola mission. Sources in Yemen say Ould Cheikh Ahmed was the UN's “designated security official” when a UNICEF staffer was taken hostage while traveling to the Sana'a airport without the required (and needed) security detail. Some say Ould Cheikh Ahmed was distracted, in Yemen and later in Libya, by side business interests.
But a check of Ban Ki-moon's Public Disclosure website, where his officials are supposed to make rudimentary disclosure of the finances and outside business interests, does not even list Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (while numerous other Deputy SRSGs are listed). His is not in the most recent database, for 2013 - and may escape any disclosure by become an Under Secretary General with a mere nine month stint at UNMEER. Then what? We'll stay on this.
When the UN Security Council met about Mali on January 6, it was Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop, and not UN Peacekeeping official Herve Ladsous, who distributed his speech and came to take Press questions. (Ladsous has a policy against it, here and here.)
Inner City Press asked Diop about the Mali talks in Algiers, and about the impact of Libya. On the latter, Diop said that “in 2012 the Mali crisis started when the war started in Libya and many Malian elements who were part of the Libyan army decided to come back home with the arms and ammunition. This started the destabilization of Mali.”
Diop added, "In the southern part of Libya there is a group that has declared allegiance to the Islamic State.” (When asked to name the group he could not or would not.)
On Leon: To try to counter Libya's lawless power struggle, the UN engaged in one of its own.
After Inner City Press repeated asked about it, including at the UN's noon briefings on August 11 and 13, on August 14 the UN said Bernardino Leon will take over as its Libya envoy on September 1.
When Inner City Press asked if that is really Leon's starting day, given that he's said he'll go to Tripoli as early as next week representing the UN, Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said Leon is merely "familiarizing" himself with the work he will be, and Mitri remains in place until September 1. Really?
Ignoring the previous questions and the power-play, wire services likeReuters merely retyped ("reported") the UN's August 14 announcement that Leon will start September 1. And now?
Back on August 1, Inner City Press exclusively reported that UN envoy to Libya Tarek Mitri was being "pushed out" of the post, including by UK envoy to Libya Jonathan Powell, and cited his brother Lord Powell's extensive business in Libya through Magna Holdings.
The UK mission, usually responsive, did not provide comment on written Press questions on this; at UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant's August 4 press conference Inner City Press asked about Powell's and Mitri's relationship, without direct answer, see here.
Then the UK's Ambassador to Libya Michael Aron has announced, on Twitter no less, that Mitri is out and Ban Ki-moon has installed a new UN envoy, former Zapatero diplomat Bernardino Leon Gross.
The UN, at least at its August 8 noon briefing and in emails since, has not announce anything about replacing Mitri, much less by whom.
Ban Ki-moon's office said that for August 9 and 10, "Spokesperson on call: Mr. Farhan Haq." So Inner City Press wrote to Farhan Haq, as well as to lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric:
Hello. Now that the UK Ambassador to Libya, and others, have announced that Ban Ki-moon has appointed Bernardino Leon to replace Tarek Mitri as Ban's representative to Libya, head of UNSMIL, this is a request on deadline - today - that your Office confirm that this appointment or nomination has been made.
Has the letter been sent to the Security Council?
Is Leon already confirmed?
If not, how it is appropriate that P5 countries are saying he already has the job?On deadline, today.
Given many of the ongoing Afghanistan leaks are about UN DSS and UNAMA, not UNDP, there will be further questions. But the above is on deadline for today. Thank you in advance.
But more than four hours later, by "close of business" in New York, the "spokesperson on duty" had not answered, had not even acknowledged receipt of the question.
What does it mean to be the UN's "spokesperson on duty"?
Isn't it for Ban Ki-moon to make this announcement? In fact, in 2011 when France had already gotten its Jerome Bonnafont in place to replace its Alain Le Roy atop UN Peacekeeping, Bonnafont's bragging about it in India, where he was French Ambassador, led to Ban rescinding the "offer."
France countered with three time loser Herve Ladsous, Inner City Press reported each step -- including Bonnafont in July 2011 being tapped for the post, and even congratulation cards to Bonnafont, here, and threats from AFP then the UN Correspondents Association -- and the rest is, well, a type of history (coverage in UK New Statesman, here).
Ladsous refuses all Inner City Press questions, video compilation here; Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq on August 8, alluding to Ladsous and now UNDP, said it is because of "people skills." Or reporting?
So Ban has accepted or done nothing to stop this P3 power grab to oust Mitri. But can "his" successor be pre-announced and Ban accept that too?
Footnote: Inner City Press is exclusively informed that UNSMIL deputy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed also has business, literally: fisshing business. Ban and those in control of this play accept that too? Watch this site.
Background: Inner City Press on August 1 asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric what UN envoy Tarek Mitri is doing; Dujarric said he was not aware but would check.
Inner City Press had reported that Mitri, unlike the other UN international staff who relocated to Tunis, went back to his native Lebanon. Sources in the region exclusively told Inner City Press that Mitri had been hoping for a government post in Lebanon, describing him as less than committed to remaining with the UN.
Now we can report more. These knowledgeable sources say that Mitri is being "pushed out," mostly they say by the UK's envoy to Libya, former Tony Blair aide Jonathan Powell.
"Mitri was expected to take on a mostly support function," one source told Inner City Press. "He stood up and said no, headquarters didn't back him up and now he's being pushed out." We'll have more on this.
It was nine days after Libya's foreign minister Mohamed Abdel Aziz at the UN Security Council stakeout told the Press his country wanted international help to protect oil fields and ports, including airports, that the US announced it had relocated its Tripoli embassy staff out of the country to Tunisia.
Inner City Press asked, where is UN envoy to Libya Tarek Mitri? He briefed the Security Council from Beirut -- sources tell Inner City Press he has been on vacation there, and this deputy, too, was out of the country.
Back on July 17 when Libya's foreign minister Mohamed Abdel Aziz emerged from the UN Security Council to take questions from the media, Inner City Press asked him to be more specific about what type of “support” force he is asking for.
Mohamed Abdel Aziz replied that the request is not for a “military” force -- but then went on to say say the force should protect oil fields and ports. If that's not military, what is it?
Inner City Press also asked Mohamed Abdel Aziz for Libya's current position on the US arresting Abu Khatallah. Compared to the complaints of others, Mohamed Abdel Aziz said that even though under international law it is unacceptable, since Libya can't protect witnesses, maybe it is okay.
Given the current state of affairs, what is “Libya's” position?
Meanwhile on July 17 the UN's envoy to Libya Tarek Mitri told the Security Council -- by video from his native Lebanon, while other UN international staff are in Tunisia -- that the fighting has “cast a shadow over the election on 25 June of the 200 member Council of Representatives.” Ya don't say.
Mitri said that barely forty percent of the 1.5 million registered Libyans went to the polls. He said 12 seats will remain vacant; 41 candidates were disqualified under the post-Gaddafi Law on Political and Administrative Isolation. Final results are supposed to be announced on July 20. Watch this site.