By Matthew Russell Lee for InnerCityPro.com
UNITED NATIONS, January 19 -- The UN has recently been saying a lot about Madaya in Syria, but much less about Deir ezzor. So this Q&A on January 19:
ICP: I wanted to ask about Deir Ezzor, in Syria. I heard just now at the stakeout that the Secretary General talked about “other Madayas,” but most UN statements have all been about 4 towns. There’s reports of abductions, killings by ISIS. What’s the UN’s state of knowledge on Deir Ezzor?
A: First of all, we’re aware of the media reports. The ongoing offensive inside the besieged city of Deir Ezzor is putting thousands of people in the line of fire. Following the 17th of January attack by ISIL, or Daesh, the UN has received credible reports of the execution and abduction or detention of civilians, including of people believed to be smuggling food into the besieged city. Meanwhile the freedom of movement for the 200,000 people living in the besieged western side of Deir Ezzor’s city is severely restricted and the only access to the city has been by air. However due to the proximity of the airport to the front line only helicopters have been able to land in Deir Ezzor since September of 2015. And you heard what we said yesterday about our efforts to gain access.
ICP: Do you have a number of executions and abductions?
A: We’ve received credible reports of executions and abductions and detentions. Of course, we do not have direct access to many parts of Deir Ezzor and so we don’t have any hard numbers to give at this point.
On January 18 when after closed door consultation with UN Syria envoy de Mistura the Security Council's president for January Elbio Rosselli was asked if there will be a delay in the talks past January 25, he replied, "I would only say that no different date was considered today.”
But de Mistura has yet to send out any invitations; who will be invited has not yet been agreed, as the UN announced in its noon briefing held as Rosselli spoke. Here's what Rosselli said at the stakeout:
"“The Security Council heard today the first oral report by Mr. de Mistura who's been working very, very actively following on the different aspects of Resolution 2254 of 18 December last year. As you all know, Mr. de Mistura has had a very, very active and hectic agenda, visiting most of the capitals of the concerned states, traveling from Riyadh to Damascus, to Amman, back to Geneva, moving to Tehran, moving everywhere.
“There has been since the very first days of January concern about whether the situation that erupted between Saudi Arabia and Iran could affect the course of the process. Mr. de Mistura has made very clear references that he got directly from the ministers of foreign affairs of both Iran and Saudi Arabia assurances that that would not be the case, and that that incident is completely isolated from the consideration of the agenda of 2254.
“We the Council reiterated its very strong unanimous support for the role that Mr. de Mistura is playing, has played and will continue to play and the central aspect of the process in the the terms of resolution 2254. This is as much as I would be in a position to transmit to you.”
Meaning, it seems, that these were the Council's agreed-to Press Elements. We'll have more on this.
Back on December 18 in the Lotte New York Palace Hotel, ministers Lavrov and Gentiloni, Fabius and Kerry passed through with entourages; UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon left early typically without answering any questions, as Inner City Press Periscoped and reported. Hours later, the draft resolution was agreed to, then adopted 15-0 by the UN Security Council, here.