The United Nations has lodged a formal complaint with the United States over reports that Washington spied on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other senior U.N. officials.
“We have now officially expressed to the host country our concern regarding the recent reports that the communications of the secretary-general and other senior U.N. officials have been the subject of surveillance and interference by the U.S. government,” U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters Tuesday.
The reports related to Guterres and the U.N. emerged as part of a trove of highly classified U.S. documents that were leaked and circulated on social media sites for weeks. They included sensitive information about Russia’s war in Ukraine as well as information about U.S. allies, including Israel, Turkey and South Korea.
Dujarric said the U.N. sent a letter Monday evening via the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. He said no reply had been received by Tuesday afternoon.
“We have made it clear that such actions are inconsistent with the obligations of the United States as enumerated in the Charter of the United Nations and the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations,” Dujarric said.
The U.S. government has not commented on the substance of the leaked documents. However, on April 13, Jack Teixeira, the Air National Guard member suspected of leaking the documents, was arrested in connection to the case. He faces two criminal charges: unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information, and unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents.
The BBC first reported last week that Guterres may have been spied on, including his private conversations with Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. The leaked documents also contained Washington’s concerns that Guterres was too accommodating to Moscow.
The U.N. chief has been working to keep alive a nine-month-old grain deal that allows Ukraine to export its food products through the Black Sea. Moscow has repeatedly complained that benefits it was supposed to receive in exchange have not materialized and is threatening to leave the deal. But Guterres has been very vocal from the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that it is a violation of the U.N. Charter and international law.
“The secretary-general has been at his job for quite some time,” Dujarric said on April 13 when asked about those reports. “He’s 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 on his private conversations. Unfortunately, either for various reasons, it allows such private conversations to be distorted and made public.”
The latest report, published Monday by The Washington Post, recounts Guterres’ anger over a letter from Ethiopia’s foreign minister rejecting the U.N. chief’s plan to visit northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region during a February 2023 trip to Ethiopia to attend the African Union Summit. Guterres did visit Addis Ababa on the trip but did not go to northern Ethiopia.