Comments to the press are not Security Council Statements — so what is going on here?

Alerted again by Aletheia Kallos, who said “my guess is it means an ongoing pink alert stall rather than red flag”, I’ve just checked out this Agence France Presse (AFP) article, here.

This article states that “The Security Council took Eritrea to task Thursday for continuing to obstruct a planned evacuation of UN personnel caused by Asmara’s refusal to provide fuel and food. A statement issued by the council’s 15 members following closed-door consultations ‘condemned Eritrea’s systematic violations of successive Security Council resolutions as well as declarations of its president’. They expressed support for UN boss Ban Ki-moon’s efforts to resolve the situation and said they were awaiting a special report from him ‘to deal with this issue in a more comprehensive manner’.”

Either I am very confused, or something is very confusing.

I went searching for this UNSC statement, but found none. The official UN website reports nothing about any UN Security Council statement.

The UN News Centre [the UN uses British English spellings] reported exactly this:
“Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), briefed the Security Council today in a closed meeting on UNMEE’s temporary relocation efforts. In comments to the press following the briefing, Ambassador Ricardo Alberto Arias of Panama, which holds the rotating Council presidency, said the 15-member panel ‘condemned Eritrea’s systematic violations of successive Security Council resolutions’. Mr. Arias said the Council backed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s efforts to resolve the situation and was waiting now for his special report on the issue”.

Comments to the press are not the same as Security Council statements.

Meanwhile, reports from the region indicate, if it weren’t already clear, that the situation is serious. Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) filed a dispatch from Nairobi reporting that “The African Union (AU) said Friday it remains engaged in the border crisis between Eritrea and Ethiopia but said the two parties lack goodwill to bring an end to the dispute. A United Nations mission monitoring the disputed frontier since the end of a 1998-2000 border war fought between the neighbouring foes began relocating to the Eritrean capital Asmara last week after their fuel and food supplies were cut by Eritrea. ‘We are still there. The two parties are failing to arrive to a solution in spite of what we are doing’, said newly-elected AU chairman Jean Ping. ‘There is lack of goodwill to work toward a resolution’. Tiny Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, but the disputed border town of Badme remained under contention and sparked the war that killed some 70,000 people … The frontier remains tense and with the withdrawal of the several thousand UN troops, observers fear a new war may break out”.  This DPA report is posted here.

[Badme isn’t even listed on the map below, which can be seen at larger size here.]

CIA map found on relief web

The highlights (which are just outline notes) of Friday’s regular noon briefing for journalists at UNHQ/NY (given today by a deputy spokesperson, Farhan Haq) says that “The Council had received a briefing yesterday afternoon by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet about the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). Afterwards, the Council President told the press that Council members condemned Eritrea’s systematic violations of successive Security Council resolutions”.

Comments to the press are not the same as Security Council statements. After the media reports (Reuters also mentioned a supposed UNSC statement in one of their stories), I wonder why the UN spokespersons office didn’t clarifiy this … then, I wondered if it were somehow deliberate? That is, did the members of the UN SC agree that the SC President could make a statement to the press, that would then be referred to as a Security Council statement (wink, wink)? And if so, why would they do this, instead of clearly issuing a statement?

Really, this is all a bit strange.

Friday’s highlights also report that “UNMEE says that UN peacekeepers in Eritrea are continuing to regroup in the capital Asmara. The Mission says there were no attempted or perceived obstructions of this effort yesterday. UN convoys en route to Asmara are moving troops, equipment and supplies from all sectors of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Asked whether UNMEE is capable of performing its mandated tasks in the Eritrean part of the Temporary Security Zone, the Spokesperson said that, because of the fuel restrictions imposed by Eritrea, that work has been hindered. The Mission continues to try to fulfill its mandate as much as it can, but it is largely unable to do so on the Eritrean side of the TSZ. At the same time, he added, the Secretary-General has urged the Parties to respect the Temporary Security Zone. Asked what the United Nations is doing to inform Member States on options for UNMEE, Haq said that today, the Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) was providing a briefing for troop contributors about the situation on the ground”. These notes are posted here.

A nearly complete transcript of Thursday’s regular noon briefing shows that UN spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists that “The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea says that regrouping of peacekeepers and their equipment to Asmara continued yesterday and today. Even so, Eritrean militiamen have prevented a vehicle carrying two soldiers to travel Asmara from the Temporary Security Zone. The Mission says the two peacekeepers could not proceed until the militiamen holding them had received instructions from Eritrean authorities in Asmara. Meanwhile, the four armoured personnel carriers held up by militiamen since 17 February in Om Hajer were allowed to proceed to Asmara today”.

Then, there were questions from one or more journalists:
Question: The letter from the Permanent Mission of Eritrea yesterday — they accused the UN Press Office specifically of levelling unfounded accusations against Eritrea, and they said they did not ask UNMEE to regroup in Asmara, that it was unilateral and that you guys have politicized the fuel issue. Do you have any reaction to that?
Spokesperson: We don’t have any reaction to that, no. As you know, due to the lack of cooperation by Eritrean authorities, UNMEE has been instructed to resort to other contingency plans and to regroup in Asmara. That is what is being done right now, and all the personnel present in Eritrea are being moved to Asmara. And this is to facilitate further relocation out of the country. This is all I can say.
Question: Just one follow-up. Do you have anything on any massive troop movements along the border on either side?
Spokesperson: It has not been reported to us, no”.

Question: Would the Secretary-General agree with Ambassador Churkin’s characterization that the situation in Eritrea is unprecedented in its obstruction of peacekeeping?
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t have an agreement or disagreement — I think we have the report that was done by the Secretariat. That will be done this afternoon, I think, it is going to be the meeting. You will get more information on what our own assessment is”. This transcript of Thursday’s briefing is posted here.

There has been no official statement issued by the UN Security Council.

And, comments to the press are not the same as Security Council statements.

18 thoughts on “Comments to the press are not Security Council Statements — so what is going on here?”

  1. I am very puzzled. I’ve never seen something like this happen before.

    There was no Security Council statement — that is for sure, though it is not very clear to the world outside. (The reuters report you link to wrongly mentions a “statement”.)

    Could there have been a deliberate decision to leave this all a bit hazy and unclear? To let the President talk to the press, and not protest when this is billed as a Security Council statement? But any experienced journalist accredited to the UN would know the difference…

    A Security Council statement requires unanimity, despite the fact that it carries less weight than a resolution. Could there have been some hold-outs on the Council who would not agree to a statement, but who let it be known that they would not object to the President speaking to the press in such a way that it could be, maybe, mistakenly thought the council issued a statement? As I said, this has never happened before.

  2. Where the heck are the acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations and his deputy?

  3. Actually, I did not even know who they are, so I looked it up:

    (Acting) Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Ethiopia/Eritrea (who is also listed as a Deputy Special Representative etc.) – Azouz Ennifar of Tunisia

    Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Ethiopia/Eritrea – Lebohang K.Moleko of Lesotho

    Then, there’s always the higher-ranking Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Africa (Based in Geneva) – Mohamed Sahnoun of Algeria

    But, don’t you think this is way beyond these guys?

  4. Then I wonder why does the SG have those guys who are supposed to be his eyes and ears for that region of Africa? Granted there is the UNSC but as UNSG, Ban Ki Moon needs to put forward his inputs. How can the press come up with such info when there is no official statement?
    Is Panama the mouthpiece of some Permanent members and their coterie of friends for February? Ethiopia wanted to become the location for Africom but GWB has decided to keep it in Germany (supposedly) for now (after Nigeria said no thanks ). Are Ethiopia and the US playing games?

  5. I had difficulty posting on “Blogger” last week-end on every single topic pertaining to the UN and UNDP. Then I saw the issue that Matthew Lee from Inner City Press was experiencing and I went to remove all the cookies from Google. Since then I have been able to comment (sic) again. Your Blog is from WordPress ad I am a bit surprised.

  6. ok thanx
    & this is just a test of the facility
    so i will venture to play on it too
    with the following extravagantly wild guess

    could the apparent stall at turtle bay & the africom fuss be an indication of a policy sea change in washington
    cum surprise tactical adjustment of africom to a more strategic as well as more politically sound strong point

    & thus indeed not to addis ababa but to djibouti
    on the way to being welcomed as liberators & sponsors of hargeisa

    yes hargeisa
    that pristina & panama of africa all wrapped up in one
    but nicer

  7. You may be right about djibouti -camp Lemonier. The French have become very chummy to Uncle Sam these days. Strategic you betcha – Yemen is just across the sea ( heck Bin laden half bro – friends of the Bush – is planning to build a bridge there) and the French is getting another base in the UAE. The triumvirate is back to control that part of the world. As far as Somaliland and Puntland, they have not been recognized by the power to be. However it is surprising to see some bosses at the UN who come from that part of the world Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia et al describing that they have no citizenship on their bio or CV – makes me wonder under which quota or geographic distribution were they hired int he first place. Well tous les cons sont en politique

  8. Interesting — this UN News Centre story says that “The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) reports that the regrouping of its peacekeepers and equipment in Asmara continued without restrictions today, as the world body still awaits Eritrea’s cooperation to move its personnel across the border to Ethiopia”.

    So, they’ll leave the equipment in Eritrea and move the peacekeepers to Ethiopia?

    And, the story says, whatever equipment they can’t get to Asmara — because of the fuel restrictions — they’ll leave in the Temporary Security Zone, where they’ve already hired private security contractors to guard it!

  9. a view from eritrea extracted from,english/
    & slightly touched up for clarity

    Peace Process Essentially Means War: A look at UN Peacekeeping & the Eritrea Ethiopia Case

    Few of us seriously scrutinize or even question “Peace Processes” and associated diplomatic maneuvers.

    It is something that automatically implies a benevolent and/or benign respectable endeavor. At a time when Africa and many parts of the world is dotted with “Peacekeeping” missions and foreign armies under one pretext or another it is high time to consider the true nature of some of these endeavors.

    Clearly the United Nation is “occasionally useful in specific crisis,” however when used “inappropriately, it risks internationalization and prolonging local conflicts.” (Ernest W. Lefever, Foreign Affairs, 1993)

    there follows here a worldwide survey of some united nations peacekeeping missions gone awry
    & a summary of recent united states foreign policy towards eritrea
    & then

    The US State Department insistence to install itself as a mediator in the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict despite one of the parties reservations was curious to say the least. After US Assistant Secretary for Africa, J. Frazer attempted to undermine the EEBC ruling by injecting “human geography” as a pretext and renaming guarantors of the Algiers Agreement as “Witness” little was left to the imagination as to where the US stood. Given such a stand and US policy towards Eritrea – specifically its policy “to apply political pressure on Eritrea until there is war” – it would be vital to reassess the true nature of the process and deal with it accordingly.

    Part of the reason for the failures to enforce the UN and US sponsored Eritrea-Ethiopia peace process may be found in the fact that the process did not play out as anticipated by the sponsors. Initially there was opinion that the EEBC finding would not be to the liking of Eritrea. To insure that Eritrea accepts the ruling the UN sent its delegates to Asmera (“Asmara”) to insure the Government of Eritrea complies. However, with Eritrea’s acceptance of the EEBC ruling and Eritrea’s victory and vindication in a court of international law, the ‘chosen winner’, Ethiopia, is painted into a corner – along with the sponsors. In essence this has been the dilemma for the architects of the Algiers Agreement. The mechanisms they created in anticipation that the “designated loser” will back out of the arrangement backfired and became a noose on the designated winner instead.

    However, Ethiopia and its masters had perceived an opportunity of prolonging a no-war no-peace situation, expecting if sustained it would cause the eventual collapse of Eritrea politically and economically. Eritrean people’s steadfastness has thwarted the anticipated result and the preparing of “the ground to install a government that is totally subject to their will”. This plan has failed completely. In fact, Eritrea took the challenge to its advantage and created the ground for acceleration of development projects to improving Eritrea’s infrastructures, food security and self-reliance.

    UNMEE: Occupying Force

    Eritrean Defense Forces and the government’s determination to protect its population and the country’s sovereignty impeded many ambitious adventures by foreign elements that operate under one mandate or another. Nonetheless, the United Nations Mission to Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) presence in Eritrea presents a dilemma. UNMEE mandate is “to assist the Boundary Commission in the expeditious and orderly implementation of its Delimitation Decision” and includes, “administrative and logistical support for the Field Offices of the Boundary Commission.”

    Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, the President of EEBC, in a January 7, 2008 report to the UNSG clearly reasserts:

    “In stipulating that the boundary now automatically stands as demarcated by the boundary points listed in the annex to the 27 November 2006 Statement, the Commission considers that it has fulfilled the mandate given to it.”

    Now that the EEBC has “fulfilled the mandate given to it”, UNMEE’s mandate which was “to assist the Boundary Commission” has expired. The Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) is now irrelevant. Maintaining any of the two any longer may in fact be dangerous, as it means maintaining the status quo of no-war no-peace, which was designed to strangulate Eritrea socio-economically by preventing Eritrea from properly administering its sovereign territories. Moreover, UNMEE and the TSZ are serving as an extension of the Ethiopian army that is occupying sovereign Eritrean territory. UNMEE and the TSZ are providing a comfort and buffer zone from where the Ethiopian army can unleash its next war. For all practical purposes UNMEE has effectively become an extension of the Ethiopian Army, an occupation force itself. As such, it is within a nations inalienable right for self defense, it is the responsibility of the people of Eritrea to rid themselves of all foreign occupying forces currently in Eritrean territory.

    The notion that if Eritrea plays international diplomatic games it will eventually win or find a win-win solution can no longer be entertained. For the most part all the maneuvering in the international diplomacy arena thus far has been to set up traps into which Eritrea would fall in. Even when Eritrea skillfully played the game and nearly scored big the goal posts were continually moved, and they will continue to be moved until such time that Eritrea is ready to insure its security and sovereignty. It has to be prepared for any eventuality while presenting a clear and credible danger to its adversaries and their interest if they chose to continue to miscalculate. Otherwise, they will be more than happy to keep managing the status quo.

    It would be important to keep in mind that a “peace process essentially means war, a war in which the sponsors of the process choose the winner before the meeting they call takes place. They then pretend to be neutral during negotiations. Having bought time, they tighten the noose on the designated loser and prepare the ground to install a government that is totally subject to their will.”

    One thing is for sure, Eritrea has effectively quashed the dream of the ‘pretend neutral negotiators’ to “install a government that is totally subject to their will” in Eritrea. Eritrea is daily proving it can withstand the assault, survive and move itself further into self reliance. Eritrea will continue to prevail in its quest for justice as its case is deeply rooted in a just, fair and moral stand.

  10. Interesting that this article says “Initially there was opinion that the EEBC finding would not be to the liking of Eritrea. To insure that Eritrea accepts the ruling the UN sent its delegates to Asmera (“Asmara”) to insure the Government of Eritrea complies…”

    And that it says “UNMEE and the TSZ are serving as an extension of the Ethiopian army that is occupying sovereign Eritrean territory…”

    Then it says that Eritrea has thwarted “the dream of the ‘pretend neutral negotiators’ ” — which it says is regime change. What’s the basis for saying that? And who does this article think is waiting in the wings, hoping to take over?

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