By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – A final United Nations memo on Britain, Germany, Sweden and Jordan’s withdrawals of police from a peacekeeping mission in South Sudan without telling the world body, left out draft language questioning Britain’s Security Council veto power.
The one-page confidential note to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous dated July 15 and seen by Reuters on Thursday, said the four countries would be barred from replacing the police once South Sudan’s situation improves.
The note to Ban was largely similar to a draft memo, seen by Reuters on Wednesday, but it did not have language questioning Britain’s Security Council veto power when “they themselves are quick to abandon their post in challenging situations.”
When asked about the draft memo critical of Britain, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said: “I’m not aware that there is any sort of authentic memo.” He added that his colleagues “looked all over their memos and there’s no such document that they see.”
It was not immediately clear why the language on Britain’s Security Council veto power was not included in the final memo, though some officials did note that the strong criticism was not a typical U.N. approach.
Heavy fighting involving tanks and helicopters raged in South Sudan’s capital Juba for several days earlier this month between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and those backing Vice President Riek Machar. At least 272 people were killed.
A spokesman for the British U.N. mission said on Wednesday that Britain temporarily removed two unarmed police officers on July 13 “for the officers’ safety” and had told the U.N. police adviser in advance.
Ladsous’ note to Ban said the departure of the police officers from the four countries had “affected the operational capability of the mission at headquarters level and has dealt a serious blow to the morale of its peacekeepers.”
The draft memo said the United States had also reportedly planning to pull out nine police, but a spokesman for the U.S. mission said there were no plans to withdraw police.
The German U.N. mission confirmed that it had evacuated seven police serving with the U.N. mission, UNMISS, and said that the United Nations had been notified orally and in writing beforehand.
The Swedish mission said it had repatriated three officers for medical reasons and that 15 officers remain in South Sudan. “Sweden has not, and will not, withdraw the police support to the UNMISS mission,” it said.
The Jordanian U.N. mission did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is scheduled to meet Ban in New York on Friday during his first visit to the United States since being appointed last week.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)