Thursday, August 2, 2012

Foreign Policy: Ban Ki-moon didn't choose Kofi Annan

Posted By Colum Lynch  @Foreign Policy - Turtle Bay (Click here to read if on Turtle Bay)

On March 6, one week after Kofi Annan was appointed U.N.-Arab League special envoy for Syria, columnist Benny Avni wrote an item in the New York Sun suggesting that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had been forced to "swallow" his predecessor's appointment.

The assertion seemed plausible enough. And the buzz around U.N. diplomatic circles was that Ban had been instructed to hire Annan.

Ban had long lived in the shadow of his predecessor, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who had traditionally received much better press than Ban. In fact, Ban often seemed reluctant to tap the services of top officials closely identified with Annan, including the man who is now one of Annan's top Syria deputies, Jean-Marie Guehenno, who was passed over for the top peacekeeping job in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But Ban's top aides categorically and energetically denied the story, insisting that it was Ban himself who had decided to choose Annan. "Benny got it wrong!" one top Ban aide told me.

Challenged by the U.N. brass, Avni agreed to add a sentence reflecting the U.N.'s claim that appointment was Ban's idea, and a clarification: "This article was corrected from an earlier edition to more accurately describe the origin of Mr. Annan's mission."

Perhaps Avni was being a bit too accommodating.

This is what Annan himself had to say about his selection in his upcoming memoir, Interventions: A Life in War and Peace.

"In February 2012, while I was reviewing the final drafts of this book at home in Geneva, I received a call from my successor Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. He wanted to know if I would accept a request, conveyed to him by a group of foreign ministers, to take on the role of the international community's envoy for the crisis in Syria."

Sounds like Benny may not have got it so wrong after all.

(Click here to read if on Turtle Bay)

Follow me on Twitter @columlynch

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