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Posted on on February 19th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Besuch von UNO-Generalsekretär Ban Ki-moon in Österreich
Foto: Dragan Tatic/HBF

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with Austrian President Heinz Fischer and Defense Minister Norbert Darabos in the Austrian President’s working room.
Actually, the Ban Ki-moon visit to Vienna was a very serious event – both for the UN and for Austria  –  but you would not know this by reading the Austrian papers.  All what was reflected in these papers was the OPERA BALL where the UN Secretary-General and his wife  Lady Ban Soon-taek were guests of the Austrian President Heinz Fischer and his wife Margit. ( Ban Ki-moon met Yoo Soon-taek in 1962 when they were both high school students. Ban was 18 years old, and Yoo Soon-taek was his secondary school’s student council president. Ban Ki-moon married Yoo Soon-taek in 1971. )
Mr. Ban was South Korea’s Ambassador to Vienna  in 1998 and his career was linked with Austria since then.
In 1980 Ban became director of the United Nations’ International Organizations and Treaties Bureau, headquartered in Seoul.  In 1992, he became Vice Chairman of the South-North Joint Nuclear Control Commission, following the adoption by South and North Korea of the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  He was  appointed National Security Advisor to the President in 1996. Much of this had to do with the nuclear arms subject.

Following the nuclear thread, Mr. Ban was appointed Ambassador to Austria and Slovenia in 1998, and a year later he was also elected as Chairman of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO PrepCom) at the UN in Vienna. During the negotiations, in what Ban considers the biggest blunder of his career, he included in a public letter a positive statement about the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, not long after the United States had decided to abandon the treaty. To avoid anger from the United States, Ban was fired by President Kim Dae-jung, who also issued a public apology for Ban’s statement.[1]

Ban was unemployed thus the only time in his career and was expecting to receive an assignment to work in a remote and unimportant embassy.[1] In 2001, during the 56th Session of the United-  Nations General Assembly, the Republic of Korea held the rotating presidency of the General Assembly and  Ban’s career was saved as he was selected to be the chief of staff to his mentor who became then UN general assembly president – Han Seung-soo – Foreign Minister of South Korea and future Prime Minister. In 2003, incoming president Roh Moo-hyun selected Ban as one of his foreign policy advisors. { this from – Warren Hoge (2006-12-09). “For New U.N. Chief, a Past Misstep Leads to Opportunity”The New York Times. }

{we posted on Han Seung-soo several times – see please and specifically the book review –… Mr. Tibor Toth is the Executive Director of CTBTO and the Swedish Foreign Minister(yes – this time it is not a speling mistake – it is Australians not Austrians)

In 2004, Ban replaced Yoon Young Kwan as foreign minister of South Korea under president Roh Moo-hyun, and his popularity in Korea saw an upturn when talks began with North Korea.  Ban became actively involved in issues relating to inter-Korean relationships.  In September 2005, as Foreign Minister, he played a leading role in the diplomatic efforts to adopt the Joint Statement on resolving the North Korean nuclear issue at the Fourth Round of the Six-party talks held in Beijing.  We wrote about this in – 

Mr. Ban was the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea from January 2004 to November 2006. In February 2006, he began to campaign for the office of Secretary-General. Ban was initially considered to be a long shot for the office. As foreign minister of South Korea, however, he was able to travel to all of the countries that were members of the United Nations Security Council, a maneuver that turned him into the front runner.

On 13 October 2006, he was elected to be the eighth Secretary-General by the United Nations General Assembly by beating Mr. Shashi Tharoor from India, the in-house Under-Secretary General in charge of the UN Communications and Information Services, and officially succeeded Kofi Annan on 1 January 2007. Ban has led several major reforms regarding peacekeeping and UN employment practices. Diplomatically, Ban has taken particularly strong views on Darfur, where he helped persuade Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to allow peacekeeping troops to enter Sudan; and on global warming, pressing the issue repeatedly with former U.S. President George W. Bush. Ban has received strong criticism from OIOS, the UN internal audit unit, stating that the secretariat, under Ban’s leadership, is “drifting into irrelevance”.

In 2011, Ban ran unopposed for a second term as Secretary-General. On 21 June 2011, he was unanimously re-elected by the General Assembly and therefore will continue to serve until 31 December 2016.

Austria, in its turn at the Security Council, was a strong backer of its old friend Mr. Ban. As Austria is an imporant contributor to UN military deployment in the Middle East, and as host to UN agencies working on Nuclear power and on nuclear non-proliferation, it is only natural to continue a close relationship with Mr. Ban. Further, as host to the largest UN presence outside New York, Austria is always ready to bring to Vienna newly established UN organizations and task forces – the more the better.

We already posted the “verbatim of the open interaction between Austria and this visit of the UNSG, now we want to say that it is totally disingenious to say that the main reason of the UNSG visit to Vienna was the Opera Ball where he had to compete for attention with the strange visitors that were brought to the Ball by builder Richard Luegner. Actually, the Vienna trip by the UN was caused by Austria taking over more of the UN focal interaction with the Arab world.

There were several activities that went on in Vienna parallel this week:

On one track there was the 15 year celebration of the preparation for the CTBTO Prepcom and bi-lateral discussions on the way hence that includes the opening of the Vienna office for disarmament (UNODA). Hungarian Mr. Tibor Toth is the Executive Director of CBTBO, and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt came for this meeting. Link to press release on UNIS website:

Another track deals with the eventual disengagement from the war in Afghanistan and the fight against the opium trade based in Afghanistan.   Mr.  Ruslan Kazakbaev, Foreign Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic , came also to Vienna. The Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, Afghanistan and Central Asia were the topics the Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, H.E. Mr. Lamberto Zannier, talked about with Mr. Ban. The Armenian Foreign minister was also in town.

The third meeting of the Paris Pact partners meeting brings together Ministers and representatives from more than 55 countries as well as from international organizations and regional partners. The participants came to discuss problems related to the trafficking of opiates from Afghanistan and look at ways to block financial flows from the illicit drug trade, prevent diversion of precursor chemicals needed to produce heroin, reduce drug abuse and how regional initiatives can help combat drugs from Afghanistan.

But the main reason for this trip was to have a serious of bilateral meetings that dealt with the events in Syria. This was really a Syria in Vienna series with the Foreign Ministers of Russia and France in town.

It seems that nobody wants at this moment to see a regime change in Syria despite the fiery talk of some. There is clearly a shrinking away from the reality that the devil unknown might be worse then the killing devil in the Assad family.  Who are the Islamists that vie for power – will the pro-Iranians or the pro-Saudis win? It is not a Shi’a-Sunni confrontation – but rather a conflict of interest between the Saudis, Iranians,Turks,  and Russians. Is it possible that Russia actually looks after Christian interests in a bifurcated Muslim world. Is secular Bashar al-Assad still the best there is? With the Austrians sitting on the Golan Heights, Austria is very much involved – the security of their military is part of the equation and the interests of the Israelis, in view of  confrontation with Iran, is also something to be taken into account.

Meeting Mr. Lavrov who just got back from Damascus, and Mr. Alain Juppe who flew in from Paris and seemingly other foreign ministers that came to discuss the situation – turned the event into a Syria event and Ausatria might now look at it offering Vienna for folllow-ups to other Middle East future events as well.

Let us see what the Australians (yes, this is not a spelling mistake – it is indeed Australians not Austrians) what do they have to tell us:

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said earlier this week “crimes against humanity are likely to have been committed” in Syria since the crackdown began.

According to the United Nations, more than 5400 people have been killed, while thousands are missing and tens of thousands more have fled the country. Monitoring groups have put the number of dead at more than 6000.

“We might all agree on a very short-term goal; the stopping of massacres,”

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told a press conference after talks in Vienna with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

“We must do everything possible to bring an end to the violence and to allow large-scale humanitarian aid to reach the Syrian population.”

But Juppe did not offer much hope that Russia would be on board.

He said Lavrov had declined to comment on France’s call for “humanitarian corridors” to allow aid to reach the Syrian population.

“There was no specific discussion of the French initiative. From what they said, they have nothing specific at this time,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov told Interfax news agency.

“We want to work with the Arab League to implement its plan for political transition,” Juppe said, referring to proposals for a transfer of power from Assad to the vice-president and the creation of a coalition government.

Juppe also said France was ready to back the idea of a UN special envoy to Syria.”

“If Ban Ki-moon goes that way, we will back him,” he said.     

Read more on this: – and above tells us that the UNSG visit to Vienna will bring further world attention to Vienna as gateway to the Middle East. Will Vienna host meetings between the Israelis and Palestinians in the not too distant future?

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