By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, February 8 -- Despite a request from Cambodia's prime minister Hun Sen for a UN Security Council meeting on the fighting with Thailand, the Council on Monday did not schedule a meeting, deferring instead to the mediation of Indonesia's foreign minister Marty Natalegawa, for ASEAN.
Inner City Press, which reported before the Council's consultations on the matter that two countries wanted to hold a meeting, is now told that in the consultations, Russia spoke in favor of having a meeting, saying this is what the Council is for.
As Russian Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin left the Council on Monday, Inner City Press asked him about the Council having a meeting on Cambodia's request. We are not against it, he replied.
Inner City Press then asked the Council's president Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti if Hun Sen's public request that the UN establish a buffer zone around the Preah Vihear temple.
No, she answered, that request had not been made to the Council. Meanwhile, Thailand's prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said he will call UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday.
Natalegawa was previously Indonesia's permanent representative to the UN, and knows the system well. His successor on January 31 told Inner City Press that ASEAN led by Indonesia is trying to get Western sanctions on Myanmar lifted, while getting Myanmar to agree to an ASEAN envoy to that country.
Some expect Natalegawa to be able to keep the Thai - Cambodia issue off of the Council's formal agenda, by the withdrawal of Cambodia's request just as a similar request was withdrawn in 2008, when Viet Nam was president of the Council. But for now the fighting has continued.
A buzz at the UN this week concerns the open dissatisfaction with Ban by several countries, including veto-wielding Security Council member Russia. If Ban were denied a second term, as the US denied one to Boutros-Boutros Ghali, the next five or ten years would be seen as belonging to the Asia group, just as Kofi Annan replaced Boutros for the African group.
What higher profile and more adept replacement could there be from the Asia group, some say, than Natalegawa? Watch this site.