Scandal: internal emails reveal that Belgium instructed its diplomats to vote Saudi Arabia onto the U.N. women’s rights commission — and to make sure the fundamentalist regime knew of Belgium’s support.
New elements calling Belgian FM Reynders into question
Translation of article by 7sur7.be
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April 28, 2017 – At least nine hours passed between the time when the cabinet of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was informed of the request of a vote at the United Nations Commission for Women’s Rights and the time when it was answered, as confirmed Friday by the Ecologists’ party, based on internal emails.
According to the Green Party, the Belgian delegation to the United Nations in New York informed the cabinet of Didier Reynders on April 9 at 12:33 a.m. of the request for a vote from the United Stations about the entry of Saudi Arabia into the commission. The response was sent at 3:34 p.m. Uncertainty remains about the way the time delay should be considered, but at the very least, nine hours had passed.
“This gives a false image of the foreign office”
According to these documents, the cabinet’s reply, written in the first person, mentions the following elements. The “clean slate” procedures should be followed and Belgium should therefore provide its support to the candidates for the various positions during the secret vote. Furthermore, the delegation was requested to inform the various candidates, including Saudi Arabia, of this support if possible.
According to the minutes from a meeting that took place at the foreign office yesterday (see the tweet from Kristof Calvo below), the administration complained about the communication about this affair and implied that Reynders was indeed aware of it. “Some press information insinuates that our Permanent Mission in New York may have acted on its own initiative, and that the Ministry may have not been aware of it. This give a false image of the foreign office as a completely uncontrolled organization.”
Reynders maintains, “I was not aware”
Questioned Friday after the council of ministers, before this information came to light, Mr. Reynders indicates that three hours had passed and that it was not personally aware of this request for a vote.
“My cabinet and the delegation on site followed the usual procedure. I was not aware of it,” he said.
“What we fear since the revelation of this affair has turned out to be true. The cabinet of Didier Reynders gave the green light to a shameless vote, scorning women’s rights, with the aim of getting in the good books of a notoriously no-go country in order to facilitate the election of Belgium to the UN Security Council. Who is responsible for this decision? The Minister of Foreign Affairs himself,” accused Deputy Benoît Hellings.
Ecologists demand clarity
Questioned Wednesday at the Chamber Committee, the minister indicated that he was not aware of the American request for a vote, “but saw that it was possible for our department to vote” before indicating the next day that he was not “personally aware of the voting procedure underway” but that “the departments and partners of Foreign Affairs applied the procedure in a very professional manner.” At the plenary session, Prime Minister Charles Michel spoke of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not the minister’s cabinet.
“Our diplomats applied formal orders and must not be used as a fuse to cover their minister,” said Deputy Jean-Marc Nollet, who asked the Prime Minister to clarify his position. “Either Didier Reynders misled him, or Charles Michel was hiding something from the deputies.”
April 28, 2017
The Cabinet of Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders (MR) actually gave its consent to electing Saudi Arabia to the UN Women’s Rights Commission
The evolution in the words of Didier Reynders is striking. Wednesday it sounded as though he was ‘unaware’ of the support that Belgium has given to the candidacy of Saudi Arabia to the UN Commission on Women’s Rights. Last night, after Prime Minister Charles Michel (MR) had said in Parliament that he regretted the vote, the Foreign Minister was said “personally” not to be aware.
According to various sources, the cabinet Reynders was indeed well informed and the procedure followed at all in this case. … The Belgian ambassador, Marc Pecsteen, had a late request from the US to proceed to a vote, indeed barely a few hours time to Brussels to ask for a voting recommendation to Brussels. But that definitely happened.