UN defends Ukraine efforts, stays mum on leak of U.S. audio

by Reuters
Friday, 7 February 2014 18:35 GMT

(Contains expletive in 5th paragraph)

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The United Nations on Friday defended its efforts to encourage a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Ukraine but declined to comment on a leaked audio recording in which a U.S. official referred to discussing plans for Kiev with the world body.

"In the conversations we have had with Ukrainians inside and outside the government, as well as with various international actors, we have sought to help resolve the crisis," U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said.

"The U.N. has been clear in advocating that any solution should be arrived at by Ukrainians, peacefully and through dialogue," he added.

The United Nations has been drawn into the uproar sparked by a leaked audio recording in which senior State Department official Victoria Nuland is heard using an expletive to tell the U.S. ambassador it would be better if a new Ukrainian government is backed by the United Nations rather than the European Union.

"So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing (in Ukraine) and to have the U.N. help glue it and, you know, fuck the EU," Nuland is heard saying.

U.S. officials blame Russia for the leak.

In the recording, Nuland refers positively to a conversation she had with U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman - a former senior State Department official - about an upcoming visit by a U.N. envoy to Ukraine.

Haq was asked about the way Nuland's conversation suggested the United Nations was discussing plans for Ukraine with Washington.

"We can't comment on purported leaks of the private conversations of others," Haq said. "As to the U.N.'s efforts in relation to the crisis in Ukraine, the secretary-general has been trying through his personal contacts and in other ways to encourage a peaceful resolution."

Haq reiterated that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent U.N. Middle East peace Robert Serry, Netherlands' former ambassador to Ukraine, to Kiev Jan. 28-30 "to convey the United Nations' solidarity with Ukraine and to encourage dialogue."

Western officials described the leaks as a throwback to the cloak-and-dagger tactics of the Cold War, apparently aimed as much at sowing discord among Western allies as at discrediting the opposition in Ukraine, a country of 46 million people on the verge of bankruptcy, torn between east and west.

Non-Western delegations have often criticized U.N. chief Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, for what they perceive as being too close to the United States. (Reporting by Louis Charbonneau, Editing by Tom Brown)

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