U.S. wants Russian help on Syria
December 13th, 2011
07:10 PM ET

U.S. wants Russian help on Syria

By Charley Keyes

Amid continued expressions of outrage Tuesday over violence in Syria, the U.S. State Department singled out Russia for blocking a United Nations response.

"We are again calling on our partners on the Security Council to be willing to take action and speak out for the innocents in Syria who are suffering at the hands of the regime, including Russia," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at her afternoon briefing. "And frankly, we think it is past time for the U.N. Security Council to speak up."

Nuland said a chorus of countries, including the United States, is calling on Russia and other countries on the Security Council to respond. Russia, a long-time ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was one of four Security Council countries voting against a resolution condemning Syria.

DEBATE PREP:  Money talks at the United Nations
United Nations General Assembly
November 11th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

DEBATE PREP: Money talks at the United Nations

Editor’s note: This analysis is part of Security Clearance blog’s “Debate Preps” series. On November 22, CNN, along with AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics. In the run-up to the debate, Security Clearance asked both the sponsoring conservative think tanks to look at the key foreign policy issues and tell us what they want to hear candidates address.

By The Heritage Foundations Brett Schaefer and James Phillips, Special to CNN

The U.S. is far and away the major financial backer of the United Nations. Yet the world body often embraces resolutions and policies at odds with American positions and interests. Should the U.S. exercise its “power of the purse” to influence the U.N.?

On occasion, the U.S. has done just that, withholding contributions to express its extreme displeasure with actions taken in Turtle Bay. But the Obama administration rejected this tactic early on. Instead, in his first address to the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama proudly announced a “new era of engagement” with the U.N. President Obama’s Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, likewise considers withholding to be a practice that is “fundamentally flawed in concept and practice, sets us back, is self-defeating, and doesn’t work.”

So how’s that working? The Palestinian Authority’s recent doings in Turtle Bay are instructive.


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Syria vote: Was it really about Syria?
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
October 6th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Syria vote: Was it really about Syria?

By CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty and CNN National Security Producer Jamie Crawford

The defeat of a U.N. Security Council draft resolution condemning Syria for its violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrators leaves the resolution's backers frustrated and wondering whether the two vetoes that killed it were really about Syria.

"This looks very much like a sort of punitive veto, almost, to express some sort of dissatisfaction and punishment about Libya," a Western diplomat, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue, told CNN.

The two countries that vetoed the resolution, Russia and China, had argued that even in its watered-down form without economic sanctions, it was a slippery slope to military intervention, a la the NATO operation to protect anti-government protesters in Libya - a fig-leaf for efforts to carry out regime change.

September 25th, 2011
11:45 AM ET

Behind the scenes: Secretary Clinton's motorcade

CNN Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott takes you inside Secretary of State Clinton's motorcade.

September 22nd, 2011
11:46 AM ET

EXCLUSIVE: Behind-the-scenes with State Department's UN operations: Part 2

In the second part of CNN's exclusive behind-the scenes look at the State Department's operations at  the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott shows us the detailed preparations that go into setting up a photo opportunity between the Secretary of State and a foreign diplomat.

Abbas to give Obama time
September 21st, 2011
12:43 PM ET

Abbas to give Obama time

From Sr. State Dept Producer Elise Labott reporting from the UN General Assembly

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to tell President Obama during their one-on-one meeting today that he will deliver a letter to the UN Security Council seeking statehood but will not expect  the United Nations to act immediately, Palestinian officials tell CNN.  The officials say Abbas would deliver the letter sometime before he leaves the U.S. on Friday.

The officials say Abbas plans to give the UN and U.S. several weeks to respond to the letter—temporarily averting a diplomatic showdown.  Abbas will wait for a response from the Quartet, the officials tell CNN and sometime thereafter is likely to go back to the UN General Assembly to negotiate statehood, working through the UN Security Council.

The goal is to pressure a vote by the UN General Assembly legitimizing Palestinian statehood.

September 20th, 2011
04:42 PM ET

EXCLUSIVE: Behind-the-scenes with State Department's U.N. operations

By Jamie Crawford and Elise Labott reporting from the UN General Assembly

She may be out of Washington and on the road for the week, but the heavy machinery of office has followed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to New York as she attends the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings.

To be sure, the secretary always has a traveling staff with her wherever she may be in the world. But UNGA, with its hundreds of diplomats, ministers and heads of state converging on New York every September, is a much different animal from a trip to a world capitol.  Basically, Foggy Bottom moves up to the Big Apple and sets up a mini-State Department on the 24th floor of the Waldorf Astoria.

CNN was granted rare and exclusive access to this massive operation, one that involves hundreds of employees, planeloads full of equipment and a ton of coffee.

As we exited the elevator on the 24th floor, it became clear this was indeed a secure work space, with numerous Diplomatic Security guards and several signs reminding staff not to discuss classified information in the hallways.

It seemed as if U.S. foreign policy hadn't skipped a beat despite being a few hundred miles removed from home base. With the beds in each room removed (though the head boards where still bolted to the wall), the rooms have been transformed into working offices with secure telephone lines, computers, fax machines and all of the equipment needed to do the job of executing the nation's diplomacy.

As we were escorted down one of the halls, Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall, the department's chief of protocol, was working with her staff to prepare for what was already shaping up to be an marathon of a week. Marshall's office is responsible for advising on matters of international diplomatic protocol, making sure the right atmosphere is created for conducting diplomacy. FULL POST

Trying to head off a vote on Palestinian statehood
September 20th, 2011
10:09 AM ET

Trying to head off a vote on Palestinian statehood

By Sr. State Department Producer Elise Labott reporting from the UN General Assembly

The international community is working on a package of initiatives to avoid a diplomatic showdown over Palestinian statehood at the U.N. Security Council this week.

While there are a number of ideas in play, senior U.S., European, Israeli and Palestinian officials have told CNN they center around Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivering a letter to the Security Council seeking full Palestinian statehood, but not forcing a Council vote.

The Security Council letter would be paired with a statement by the Mideast Quartet laying out the terms of reference to re-launch peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, the officials said. The quartet is made up of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Monday night in an effort to get Russian to buy into the plan.

Quartet envoys will meet for a third day Tuesday afternoon to work on the text. The core elements include a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with agreed upon swaps, recognition of two states for two peoples - the Palestinians and the Jewish people - and a time line for a peace deal, diplomats said.

The officials said a package deal could enable Abbas to claim victory by going to the Security Council, but would not force a confrontation with the United States, which has promised to veto any statehood resolution which comes before the Council. FULL POST

Clinton: Turkey needs to keep open mind about Israel
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Turkish Foreign MInister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul, Turkey in July 2011
September 19th, 2011
03:36 PM ET

Clinton: Turkey needs to keep open mind about Israel

By Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott reporting from the UN General Assembly

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday urged Turkey not to close the door on mending fences with Israel, amid deteriorating relations between the two countries.

Clinton delivered the message during a meeting with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly

"We want to see them repair their relationship," a senior US official said after the meeting. "She encouraged Turkey to keep the door open."

The official was not authorized to speak on the record about sensitive diplomatic discussions.

Clinton encouraged the Turks "to avoid any steps that would close that door and on the contrary to actively seek ways that they can repair (their) important relationship with Israel," the official said

Turkey has downgraded relations with Israel over Israel's refusal to apologize or pay compensation for eight slain Turks and one Turkish-American. The humanitarian workers and activists were shot dead by Israeli commandos in a botched 2010 raid on an aid convoy that was trying to bust Israel's sea blockade of Gaza.

The US has voiced strong concern about the rift between two of its close allies in the region and Clinton has been urging both sides to resolve their differences in calls with Israeli and Turkish leaders in recent months.

U.N. General Assembly: A viewer's guide
September 19th, 2011
07:34 AM ET

U.N. General Assembly: A viewer's guide

By CNN's Joe Vaccarello

World leaders converge on the United Nations in New York this week for the 66th annual session of the General Assembly. Of 193 member nations, South Sudan being newly inducted this past July, 121 heads of state and government are expected to attend the six-day event.

Here is a helpful Security Clearance viewer's guide to key events this week.


The U.N. kicks off events with a two-day first-ever high-level meeting on noncommunicable diseases that cumulatively kill three in five people worldwide. It will focus on combating cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung diseases and diabetes. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is looking to "broker an international commitment that puts noncommunicable diseases high on the development agenda." FULL POST

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