U.S. Defense Secretary Visits Europe for Meetings on Aid to Ukraine
The United Nations sent a written complaint on Tuesday to the U.S. government expressing its concerns about American surveillance of the private communications of Secretary General António Guterres and other senior U.N. officials, and accusing the United States of interfering in the business of the global organization.
The complaint came after news reports on leaked classified documents, reviewed by The New York Times, revealed that the United States was intercepting Mr. Guterres’s mobile phone calls on a range of issues, including Russia and the war in Ukraine, U.N. dealings with African leaders, the situation in Afghanistan and climate change.
“The U.N. has made it clear that such actions are inconsistent with the obligations of the United States of America, as enumerated in the U.N. Charter and the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations,” Stéphane Dujarric, the U.N. spokesman, said on Tuesday.
Mr. Dujarric said that the surveillance was intrusive and that the documents contained distorted intelligence analysis that was harmful to Mr. Guterres’s role as the head of the world’s top organization for global diplomacy and humanitarian aid.
The United States mission to the United Nations did not comment on the complaint on Tuesday, but Nate Evans, the spokesman for the U.S. mission, said on Friday that Washington was “engaging with allies and partners at high levels over this.”
In the leaked documents, the United States appeared to be critical of how Mr. Guterres handled Russia in the negotiations for securing the Black Sea grain deal, whereby Ukraine could ship its grain through the Black Sea and Russia could work within existing sanctions to sell fertilizer.
One document seen by The Times states that Mr. Guterres was “taking steps to accommodate Russia in an effort to protect the Black Sea grain initiative,” and that his actions were “undermining broader efforts to hold Moscow accountable for its actions in Ukraine.” It mentions a letter Mr. Guterres wrote to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, in which he emphasized efforts to help improve Russia’s export of fertilizers.
The United Nations said that Mr. Guterres had condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a violation of international norms and the U.N. charter and had called its aggressions “war crimes.”
American and European officials have repeatedly stated that the export of Russia’s fertilizer under the grain deal was not subject to sanctions.
According to documents seen by The Times, the United States listened in on a cellphone conversation Mr. Guterres had with his deputy, Amina J. Mohammed, a Nigerian diplomat, on Feb. 19, in which Mr. Guterres expressed dismay about an announcement by the European Union’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, that Europe needed to send more weapons and ammunitions to Ukraine.
Mr. Dujarric said the United Nations would take whatever security measures necessary to protect against spying and surveillance.