As questions linger about last week's brutal scuffle between UN security and the security detail of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to UN staff could be interpreted as tacit acknowledgment that UN personnel acted appropriately.
Here’s the text of Ban’s message:
"As the 66th General Debate draws to a close, I would like to express my immense gratitude to all officials and staff of the UN Secretariat for their hard work and dedication. The demands have been great and, as ever, you have risen to the occasion.
"In particular, I wish to thank the Protocol and Security Officers of the United Nations. The pressures they faced in performing their duties were especially difficult, and they met these pressures with dignity, restraint and high professionalism in the best tradition of the organization.
"To all, I ask that you accept my sincere thanks and deep appreciation for your commitment to the great causes that bind us.”
I can’t ever recall Ban so explicitly expressing gratitude to UN security staff.
Ban’s message is seen by many as de facto vindication of the behavior of the UN security officers involved, several of whom have been temporarily suspended from duty. One ended up in the hospital with bruised ribs, while another is on crutches.
According to witnesses, Erdogan's delegation took a wrong turn on its way to the General Assembly to hear the historic speech on September 23 by Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas and was blocked by UN officers.
Erdogan was inadvertently touched by one of the UN guards, which provoked an instant response from Erdogan's security detail. A video from The Associated Press (above) shows some of the action.
Some Turkish journalists who were traveling with the prime minister were quoted as saying that Ban personally apologized to Erdogan. The UN spokesperson's office later confirmed that, indeed, an unscheduled meeting took place between Ban and Erdogan but wouldn’t elaborate on any possible apology.
Senior UN security officials had reportedly complained about the “particularly aggressive” attitude of the Turkish security detail.
-- Nikola Krastev