7:50 am - Sunday November 8, 2015

Ban had considered to cut short India trip for Paris rally

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon had considered whether he should cut short his trip to India to attend a unity march in France to show solidarity in the wake of a terror attack in Paris but eventually decided to continue with his trip, his spokesperson said.

“The Secretary-General was considering whether he should cut short his trip to India. In the end, he decided to stay on with his programme (in India),” Ban’s Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters here yesterday when asked if it was not possible for the UN chief to fly from India quickly for the rally given that New Delhi and Paris are not far.

On behalf of Ban, the Paris rally on Sunday was attended by Staffan de Mistura acting as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General.

French President Francois Hollande had invited world leaders to participate in the march in the wake of the three days of terror in which 17 people were killed last week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were in attendance, walking hand in hand and showing support and solidarity to France and protesting against terrorism.

The Obama administration drew flak from various quarters for its failure to send a higher-profile official to the rally.

The US was represented only by Ambassador to France Jane Harley but experts and media commentators said the presence of President Barack Obama or a senior administration official would have sent a strong signal of solidarity and condemnation of terrorism.

Haq said the Secretary-General’s heart goes out to the people of France and that he had issued a statement from Ahmedabad welcoming the march and declaring his strong committment to the “essential work of countering extremism, fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, and upholding the rights to freedom of speech and expression.

“Certainly, even though he was not there personally, his thoughts were with the people of France, and…De Mistura represented the UN system,” Haq said.

Ban wrapped up his three-day visit to India yesterday, meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi along with other political and business leaders and UN goodwill ambassadors.

Ban visited Gujarat and New Delhi and attended the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, stressing India’s role in the post- 2015 development agenda, climate change and sustainable development.

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