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United Nations, April 14 – The US spying on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is no surprise to him but he is concerned about distorting private conversations and making them public, according to his Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
He pushed back on Thursday in suggestions in leaked US documents that Washington considers Guterres soft on Russia.
The documents suggested that US officials’ opinions about Guterres were based on communication intercepts or spying.
Dujarric said, “The Secretary-General is not soft on any one country or another. On the conflict in Ukraine, he has been very clear about the violations of international law, very clear about the violations of the Chartera.”
About the eavesdropping, he said that Guterres “has been in politics and a public figure for quite some time. So he’s not surprised, I think, by the fact that people are spying on him and listening to his private conversations”.
“Unfortunately, either for various reasons, it allows such private conversations to be distorted and made public”, he added.
The revelations about phone-tapping Guterres are among the latest to emerge from a slew of leaked documents that showed US spying on its allies like Israel and South Korea.
The secret US documents were posted on Twitter, Telegram and Discord, a social media for computer game enthusiasts.
The alleged leaker, according to the Justice Department is 21-year-old Jack Texeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, an outfit equivalent to the Territorial Army in India.
He was arrested on Thursday and Attorney General Merrick Garland said that he is to be charged under the Espionage Act with removing or transmitting classified defence information.
According to media reports, the documents asserted that Guterres accorded priority to protecting the Black Sea grain agreement that the UN along with Turkey worked out with Russia to allow foodgrain exports from Ukraine.
The deal was made to avert drastic food shortages in some developing countries that relied on Ukrainian foodgrain and stabilise international food prices.
“Our efforts, his efforts, have been to mitigate the impact of the war on the world’s poorest, and that means doing what we can to drive down the price of food and the price of grain and fertiliser worldwide”, Dujarric said.
According to media reports, one of the leaked documents revealed spying on a private conversation between Guterres and Miguel Graca, the director of his executive office.
In that conversation, he reportedly expressed displeasure with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request to visit his country.
But Dujarric said, “I think you all saw him and I was there with him (in Ukraine). He did go to Kyiv, and he had some very important meetings with President Zelensky”.
Guterres visited Ukraine three times since the Russian invasion, most recently last month when he reiterated categorically, “The position of the United Nations, which I have consistently expressed, is crystal clear: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a violation of the UN Charter and international law”.
In leaked documents, according to reports, US officials accused Guterres of “undermining broader efforts to hold Moscow accountable for its actions in Ukraine” and asserted that he told Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the UN would back Moscow’s efforts to export food grains even if Russian organisations or individuals under sanctions were involved.
Dujarric said, “You know what his position is on peace talks. You know what his position is on the Black Sea Grain Initiative. You know what his position is on the need to get Russian fertiliser and ammonia off. You know what his position is on war”.
In addition to ensuring that foodgrains continue to reach the world markets and countries facing critical shortages, the UN wants Russia to be able to fertilisers and ammonia so that agriculture is not disrupted.
Asked if the UN was acting to protect its communications after the spying, Dujarric declined to give details, but said, “Just as we try to keep our people physically safe constantly, we will continue our endeavours to try to keep our communications safe”.