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UN Won’t Disclose Ban’s 1 on 1 Meetings This Month, Presidents Beyond Sri Lanka?

[Inner City Press, Friday, 1 October 2010 07:47 No Comment]

While the UN issued summaries of some 100 meetings between countries’ leaders and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during this month’s General Debate, for between five and ten of these meetings there was an additional one on one session which was not included in the UN’s summaries, it has emerged.

On September 29, Inner City Press asked Ban’s adviser Nicholas Haysom why Ban’s statements minimizing the mandate of the UN panel on war crimes in Sri Lanka, about which Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa later bragged, had not been included in the UN’s summary of the Sri Lanka meeting, which alone among the 100 summaries included a summary of non-Ban statements.

Hayson admitted this was “abnormal,” but said that one in ten or one in twenty of Ban’s meetings also had a tete a tete (or one on one) segment, not included in the summaries. He said these might involve “staff issues” or other private issues.

For two days now, Inner City Press has asked Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky to disclose at least which of Ban’s 100 meeting included one on one sessions not included in the summaries, and to either put an asteriskk by these incomplete summaries or expand them to include at least the issues discussed tete a tete.

  Nesirky has for now refused. This is yet another reason the UN needs a Fredom of Information law.

UN’s Ban & Rudd- previous "courtesy call" tete a tete not shown
From the UN’s September 29 transcript:

Inner City Press: what Mr. Haysom said that apparently 1 in 10 of these bilateral meeting of the Secretary-General during this general debate have been separate tête-à-têtes on seemingly un-summarized portions. I just wanted to know…

Spokesperson Nesirky: This is standard, Matthew. Let’s knock this on the head straight away. First of all, he said 1 in 10 or 1 in 20. And it was a figure he clearly plucked out of the air as a generalization. He wasn’t saying — he didn’t have a spreadsheet in front of him that 1 in 10 or 1 in 20. First thing. Second thing is the very nature of diplomatic discourse is that if you have a tête-à-tête, that’s what it is. You can’t expect then to have a readout of what someone is trying to speak about confidentially. If the other party chooses to do so, that is for them to do and is not for us to judge. That said, the readouts that we provided, and which we tried to provide swiftly and provide in some detail, are to help you in the best way that we possibly can. Clearly you don’t seem to appreciate that.

Inner City Press: No, I guess my question is just that, rather than take his estimate of it, is it possible to get the number of the bilaterals with tête-à-têtes? And shouldn’t you put an asterisk on the ones that are incomplete summaries? It strikes me like, to have a summary that leaves the most important issues out is worse than having no summary, in a way.

Spokesperson: Well, you might want to ask your colleagues how useful or otherwise they believe the readouts have been. That’s the first thing. Second thing is to get involved in that kind of statistics, it really doesn’t work like that. And here is why: because sometimes there will be a meeting that is scheduled to be with delegations and the Secretary-General and the other principal will decide, no; they think that it would be time better spent given that most of these meetings are 20 minutes, 15 minutes — just the two of them, because they have one specific topic that they need to deal with. On other occasions, it can be the other way around. So, it’s not terribly helpful for you or anybody. We try to provide the information that we can in the best possible way. Next question, next question?

Inner City Press: I just want to ask one question actually about Israel in this situation, in which Israel made a representation about a promise they said the Secretary-General had made apparently in a tête-à-tête meeting. The Secretary-General and your Office said that’s not true, we deny that. So, it’s not the case that when Presidents or interlocutors make representations you don’t represent, it just seems like, given the controversy that surrounded the panel, given that the meeting with the panel wasn’t in his schedule, some conclude that he is somehow now ashamed of this panel or won’t include in the summary. Why wouldn’t he include his panel in the summary…?

Spokesperson: Matthew, with respect, with respect, the panel that you are talking about, we have spoken about that openly here. We’ve told you about the fact that they met. I don’t really see what your problem is there. What is your next question?

Inner City Press: I’ll ask this. There is a report…

Spokesperson: And then I might turn to some other people who might have some questions too. In fact I will take a question from someone else first and then I’ll come back to you.

From the UN’s September 30 transcript:

Inner City Press: you’d said that there is no need of a spreadsheet of statistics. Having thought much about what Mr. [Nicholas Fink] Haysom said yesterday, which is that some portion — whether 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 — of these bilateral meetings with leaders included an heretofore undisclosed side meeting in which topics as public as the Panel would be discussed, is it possible to know which of the bilaterals involved in tête-à-têtes, not the topic of them, just the fact that…?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Typically, typically, as I said to you, there are different types of meetings. Sometimes a tête-à-tête will, if you like, spontaneously happen at the end of the meeting with the delegations. Sometimes it is pre-programmed, it’s scheduled as precisely that — a tête-à-tête, with no one else unless there is need for an interpreter. And sometimes, it is done at the request of one side or the other. There is nothing unusual or nothing new in this — absolutely nothing unusual or nothing new. What is new, and it doesn’t seem to be appreciated by you, is that we have been providing readouts of every single bilateral meeting, virtually every bilateral meeting that’s been held, the last one of which was held this morning with the Foreign Minister of Guinea.

Inner City Press: It was that Mr. Haysom used the word “abnormal”. I don’t want to belabour it, but he said it was abnormal that the readout of the Sri Lanka public, or open, meeting included a representation of what the President said. So, I’d actually thought since it’s abnormal, and I have looked at the other ones, there is not to my knowledge a single one of the other hundred that has such a representation. I think I would like to at least ask to know, how was that readout prepared? Was it prepared by the same people who prepared the other 99, or was it prepared in some special fashion? Because I think it’s relevant to get, he himself used the word abnormal, not me. So, if it’s abnormal…

Spokesperson: Well, I am the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General. But I am not the Spokesperson for Fink Haysom. He speaks eloquently and on his own account and he also happens to be the Director of the Political Unit. So he has a very good understanding of how readouts are put together. But this is mechanics. I understand your interest, I do. And I also understand your interest in this particular country and subject matter, I do. Why it was done differently, I cannot say right now. If I can find out more, I’ll be very happy to tell you. But don’t simply assume that it’s been done for some particular political reason. It could simply be that that’s the way that that one was done. You don’t have to necessarily read something else into that.

But why not disclose at least which of Ban’s 100 meeting included one on one sessions not included in the summaries, and to either put an asterisk by these incomplete summaries or expand them to include at least the issues discussed in the one on one meeting?

[Full Coverage]

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