Timekeeping

When he was president of the UN Security Council in February 2009 Japan’s then ambassador to the United Nations, Yukio Takasu, told reporters that he’d bought a Seiko clock for each of his 14 fellow envoys on the council so they’d arrive on time for meetings. A few weeks later, Iran’s mission would charge him with tardiness and refuse to accept a letter from a sanctions committee. Takasu, who was chair of the Security Council’s Iran Sanctions Committee, told his U.S. counterpart, Susan Rice, that he decided on hand delivery of the letter “as he believed that a face-to-face meeting would send a positive signal of engagement,” a recently released cable from WikiLeaks reveals.

But the delivery didn’t go as planned:

The Japanese had successfully scheduled a meeting at Deputy Perm Rep level to hand over the letter, but when the Japanese Perm Rep arrived the Iranians complained that he was “three minutes late” and said that the Iranian Deputy Perm Rep had suddenly been called away to other business. A lower-level Iranian official said that because he had no instructions to accept the letter by hand, he could not receive it.  The Japanese subsequently faxed the letter to the Iranian mission.

Takasu also tried to arrange a meeting with Syria’s envoy, Bashar Ja’afari, who “responded angrily” when told of the letter requesting information on an alleged arms shipment from Tehran to Damascus. The cable, dated March 10, 2009, goes on to say that

he would only receive the letter if sent by “official route,” as opposed to being hand delivered.  The Japanese mission later faxed the letter to the Syrian mission and sent via courier a signed copy of the original.

Ja’afari can expect more heated encounters with the council in the weeks ahead.