Visit to Vienna

So, I thought I had it all worked out: land in Vienna at 1 pm, see Austrian diplomats at 2.30; my boss would also be landing at 3 pm, he had another meeting at 4 pm and we could see the UN Special Envoy together at 5 pm.

Except when I landed I found a voicemail from the UN Special Envoy’s office saying, sorry, they suddenly had to go to Italy and could only see us at 3 pm. Called my boss, just getting onto his plane in Brussels; he was furious. Got into town and decided to see what would happen if I showed up in the Special Envoy’s office at 2.30. (The Austrian diplomats were happy enough to postpone to 5 pm; it turned out they had another meeting at 3.30.)

Indeed, that worked out; the Deputy Special Envoy agreed to see me immediately (he has featured here before). Had a good chat with him before he disappeared off at 3.05 to see the Austrian foreign minister at 3.30 (which explained why the Austrian diplomats I had spoken to earlier were happy to postpone my meeting with them).

By this time a) my boss had phoned to say that he was zooming straight in from the airport and b) grumbling noises were emanating from the next office where the Special Envoy himself was struggling with his new communications device. (The Special Envoy has also been mentioned here before.) After twenty minutes I was finally ushered into his presence. At precisely that moment my boss appeared looking ever so slightly flustered. But we had a quarter of an hour’s pleasant conversation before he had to go off to see another senior UN official also based in Vienna (for reasons which are obvious if you look at the report we published on Thursday), and then I managed another ten minutes with the Special Envoy on my own before he threw me out so that he could get to Rome.

People have been asking me why it is that the Special Envoy’s recent remarks bear such a close resemblance to the report we put out a week ago, with an undertone of us taking orders from him – or possibly, from the more paranoid commentators, the other way round! Little do they realise just how chaotic the communication between our two offices has been; it was the first time I had seen the Special Envoy in over a year and I had hardly been in touch with his deputy since our day in Slovenia together in September. What it does show is that we are on the same wavelength in broad terms, even if there is occasional static.

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