Monday, August 31, 2009

Somali Continental Shelf Filing Rejected by Parliament Has Norway "Embarrassed," UN Admits

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- The Somali parliament recently voted over 90% against a deal cut by UN envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, using Norwegian assistance, to make a joint Kenya - Somali filing about the Somali people's rights to the continental shelf and its natural resources. Even before the vote, Inner City Press had repeatedly asked the UNby what right Ould Abdallah had coordinated the filing,without getting a straight answer.

Now, with meetings about the Continental Shelf and the Law of the Sea taking place in the basement of the UN's headquarters in New York, Inner City Press finally got at least some answers.

In a meeting on "The Regular Process of Marine Assessments" held by the UN's Office of Legal Affairs, Inner City Press asked a group of UN experts how they deal with a now-contested filing like the one about Somalia. At first, an expert tried to evade the question, saying it could only be asked and answered at another meeting down the hall about the Limits of the Continental Shelf. But those meetings are all closed.

The master of ceremonies Peter Gilruth, director of the UN Environment Program's Division of Early Warning and Assessment, said he would try to answer, although he felt it might put his "head in a difficult spot." He said that Norway paid for the filings of some 10 African countries but that in Somalia, some "other elements.... may have tried to take the information in a different direction, causing the difficulty you refer to." Gilruth that moved the proceedings forward, asking if there were "any questions easier than that one."

Afterwards, Inner City Press approached Mr. Gilruth, who said that the whole Somali filing snafu "involved embarrassment to the government of Norway."

Next to him Patricio Bernal, UNESCO Assistant Director-General and Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, said that he had been working on this for ten years, he had coordinated with the Somali "government in exile" in Nairobi, and he could not understand the stink made in Somalia itself. He emphasized that the decisions in Continental Shelf meetings -- behind closed doors, mind you -- are "unappealable."

UN's Ban, Jean Ping and Ould Abdallah, Somali Parliament's rejection not shown

Perhaps the ongoing snafu reflects that to deal with the Somali government in exile, or the TFG, or Ould Abdallah, is not to deal with the Somali people, and is no guarantee of support or legitimacy. Ould Abdallah, meanwhile, is reported trying to invite into the TFG process a notorious war lord. Inner City Press asked about this last week at the UN's noon briefing, and the Spokesperson said an answer would be sought from Ould Abdallah. But still none has been received. Watch this site.

As first reported by Inner City Press, the filing states that Ould Abdallah

"initiated the preparation of preliminary information indicative of the outer limits of the continental shelf of Somalia beyond 200 nautical miles... In the preparation of this material the SRSG accepted an offer of assistance from the Government of Norway... Both the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate have been involved in the preparation...

Inner City Press wrote about this and asked the UN and Ould's spokesperson Suzie Price, but never received an answer.

On May, the question was put to Ould Abdallah and he said he is "no specialist," that he was unfamiliar with the filing that states that he prepared it. "Ask Norway," he said. Video here, from Minute 12:30.

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