21 January 2011
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon everybody, and welcome to the briefing.


** Côte d’Ivoire


On Côte d’Ivoire, I want to make clear that the call of the Ivorian defence and security forces loyal to Mr. [Laurent] Gbagbo to stop and search United Nations vehicles is a serious violation of the Status of Forces Agreement and Security Council resolution 1962 (2010).  It is therefore unacceptable.


The United Nations condemns the continuing use of the State broadcasting corporation (RTI) to disseminate false information about the United Nations and its mission, UNOCI, as well as continued obstruction of the United Nations peacekeeping mission’s legitimate actions to implement its mandate from the Security Council.


I also want to reiterate that attacks on civilians or international peacekeepers constitute crimes under international law, as does incitement to commit such crimes.  Those engaged in such activity will be held responsible.


**Security Council


The Secretary-General addressed the Security Council’s open meeting on institution-building this morning, and he told Council members that building effective and legitimate institutions is a difficult task, even under the most favourable circumstances.  It presents even greater challenges in post-conflict situations.


Unfortunately, he said, the track record of international support to institution-building is mixed and we can do better.  The Secretary-General emphasized the importance of reinforcing national ownership and leadership and build on existing institutions; avoiding one-size-fits-all solutions; and sustaining institution-building, not only for years, but decades.  We have his remarks in my Office.


The open meeting is continuing.  The Security Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement afterwards.


** Darfur


The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Sudan, Georg Charpentier, said there are areas of Darfur where security conditions are allowing the return of internally displaced persons, as seen in the recent movement of displaced people from Kalma camp back to their areas of origin in West Darfur.


He said the prospect of returns and resettlements picking up pace is encouraging and is playing a crucial role in ongoing efforts to seek a political and peaceful solution to the conflict. 


Charpentier said that the Mission remains concerned by the outbreaks of violence in some areas, and will continue to assist vulnerable persons.  He added that the Mission must also seize all opportunities to build on positive trends in order to allow displaced populations to regain a sense of normality in their lives and move beyond aid dependency.


**Palestinian Rights Committee


The Secretary-General spoke at the opening session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People this morning.  He said he is very concerned at the lack of progress towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  And he said that we need to move beyond the current stalemate and return the parties to meaningful negotiations aimed at resolving all permanent status issues and achieving a historic agreement.  We also have those remarks in my office.


** Afghanistan


The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has expressed its deep concern and surprise at the recent call to delay the inauguration of the National Assembly.  It further recalls the position of the members of the Security Council, in their meeting on 22 December last year, including on the timely inauguration of the Wolesi Jirga.


The UN Mission says that it, along with other concerned members of the international community, continues to support a reasonable, enduring and peaceful resolution to this issue by the relevant Afghan stakeholders, with full respect for the Afghan Constitution and democratic principles, so that Parliament can convene as soon as possible.


Afghanistan’s peaceful future lies in the building-up of robust democratic institutions based on the rule of law and clear respect for the separation of powers.


**Annual Humanitarian Appeal


The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) launched its annual appeal document today.  With the vast majority of the Office’s funding being extra-budgetary, it is asking for $250 million this year to allow it to carry out its job of coordinating humanitarian assistance.


To put this in context, last year, the Office called for $11 billion for 19 crises affecting 71 million people.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs believes that its appeal for $250 million to coordinate relief is a very economic investment.


With 250 disasters having occurred in 2010, the Office is seeking new and better ways of carrying out humanitarian work.  It also aims to improve its understanding of the affects of global challenges, such as climate change.


** Pakistan


Rauf Engin Soysal, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan, has just concluded a two-day visit to Sindh Province, where more than 7 million people were affected during the height of the flood crisis.  He said that during his visit, he was pleased to see that the humanitarian community is continuing its efforts to help the people in Pakistan.  Mr. Soysal said that the United Nations and non-governmental organizations are providing emergency relief as well as early recovery assistance, which is urgently needed for the long-term recovery of the country.


** Cyprus


The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities met in Nicosia today and discussed governance, power-sharing and European Union matters.  They also spoke about their meeting with the Secretary-General next week in Geneva.  Speaking to reporters after today’s talks, Alexander Downer, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, stressed the need for the negotiations to maintain a good momentum.


**Deputy Secretary-General


The Deputy Secretary-General will depart on Monday for Geneva, where she will attend the first meeting of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health.  The Commission, chaired by President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, will lead a process to propose a framework for global reporting, oversight and accountability on women's and children's health.  The Deputy Secretary-General serves as a Commissioner.


She will then travel on to Paris where she will participate in events for the Commemoration of Holocaust victims.  From Paris she will travel to Auschwitz-Birkenau where there are a number of commemorative events planned.  And she will return to New York on 2 February.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


I was asked yesterday about the Commander of the soldiers who conducted the raping and looting in Fizi recently.  I can tell you that MONUSCO — the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — has told us that the Congolese authorities have confirmed today the arrest of Lieutenant Colonel Kibibi Mutware in Fizi.


Lieutenant Colonel Mutware was the commander of the FARDC [Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo] soldiers who perpetrated the raping and looting incident in Fizi on 1-2 January.  Victims interviewed by a MONUSCO Joint Protection Team have alleged that Lieutenant Colonel Mutware participated in the attacks.


The Congolese authorities have further informed the Mission that that they are currently transporting Lieutenant Colonel Mutware and the other FARDC personnel in custody in connection with the incident to Uvira for trial.  MONUSCO's Force Commander has been dispatched to Fizi to liaise with the FARDC command and monitor the situation.


That’s what I have for you.  I’m happy to take questions.  Yes, Mr. Abadi?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Martin, as you know, today’s the beginning of the discussions among the parties to the conflict of Western Sahara in Long Island, Manhasset.  Has the Secretary-General met with the Personal Envoy, Ambassador [Christopher] Ross?  What does he expect will come out of this meeting?  And is he concerned about the enormous financial resources that have been spent on this conflict of 35 years [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  Well, what I can tell you is that the delegations are expected to arrive tonight and the discussions will then begin tomorrow.  As I think we’ve told you already, you can expect a communiqué to be issued by Mr. Ross at the end of those informal discussions and that will probably be on Sunday afternoon.  As you all recall, at their last talks, the parties initiated a discussion on innovative approaches to create an environment in which more progress could be made.  And the point of this meeting is that the parties have been asked to make concrete proposals on these approaches.  So, let’s see what happens over the next couple of days, and watch out for the communiqué on Sunday afternoon.  Yes?


Question:  Is the Secretary-General concerned about the financial resources that have been devoted to this conflict?


Spokesperson:  What the Secretary-General is concerned about is indeed the length of this conflict.  He’s encouraged by the family visits which have resumed with the direct involvement of the UN Refugee Agency, and welcomes initiatives of this kind which can help to build confidence and help people who are the ones suffering because of this extremely long-running conflict.  Yes?


Question:  A follow-up on that.  I mean, the proposals or the concrete proposals that you spoke about, are they mainly confidence-building measures?  Or proposals related to the political aspects of the issue?


Spokesperson: What was agreed at the last talks was that they were initiating discussion on innovative approaches.  It doesn’t specify any further than that.  To create an environment that could be more propitious for progress to be made.  So this could cover a number of areas, and obviously, it’s for the parties to the talks to figure out precisely what proposals they’re making and then we will hear more from the communiqué that Mr. Ross will put out after.  Yes, Masood?


Question:  Yes, I want to know about the ongoing situation in Tunisia.  Is the Secretary-General at any point in time expected to appoint a special envoy to go in and judge the situation as to what can be done about it?  Because this situation is going back and forth and spiralling out of control.


Spokesperson:  Well, as I’ve mentioned to you before, he’s closely monitoring what’s happening.  The Department for Political Affairs is clearly very closely watching events as they have unfolded and continue to unfold, and is briefing the Secretary-General.  And I can tell you that he continues to be concerned that there needs to be stability and there needs to be a move to ensure that the will of the people can be fully expressed in democratic elections.  And, furthermore, he’s also been concerned that there has been, in recent days, continued violence.  He’s monitoring things very closely, Masood.


Question:  And the other thing on the Middle East peace process that he just issued a statement saying that, I mean, calling… about the settlements and so forth… calling for Israel to stop the settlements again and again.  But it seems that nothing… Israel will not budge over there.  Does the Quartet ever have a plan at all, to move forward, or it just stays just right there?  Statements alone will not help us at this point in time.


Spokesperson:  Well, statements are a part of the diplomatic portfolio, if you like.  And it’s obvious that there are other items that can be used, and that includes visits to the region.  As you know, United States officials who are part of the Quartet have been visiting the region, and so there are many aspects to this.  Working the telephones is another.  That continues to happen.  Yes?


Question:  Martin, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, after meeting with his Ugandan counterpart in South Africa this morning, said there were uncertainties regarding the vote in Ivory Coast.  Quote, “We believe there are some discrepancies in the manner in which the election has come to the final pronouncement of the vote.”  He also criticized calls for Gbagbo to go into exile.  I’m not sure if the UN has made any pronouncement on that.  What is the UN position regarding Mr. Gbagbo going into exile?  And your reaction to Mr. Zuma’s uncertainties?


Spokesperson:  The United Nations has said, but not just the United Nations, but also the African Union, of which the Republic of South Africa is a member, they have called for Mr. Gbagbo to step down.  Step down.  And for Mr. [Alassane] Ouattara to be able to carry out his role as President as elected by the will of the people.  That’s where we are.


Question:  They’re disputing that pronouncement that he is the winner.


Spokesperson:  Well, as I said, the African Union, of which South Africa is a member, has a very clear position on this.  ECOWAS, the West African regional organization, has also been very clear on this, as has the Security Council and as has — of which South Africa is also a member — and as has the General Assembly.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure. I wanted to ask about Sudan and Haiti.  In Sudan, there are reports that this SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] newspaper, based in Khartoum but mostly publishing for the South, called Ajras Al-Hurriya, has been blocked by the Government from publishing because of the coverage it gave the vote in South Sudan.  I’m wondering if… it’s a Reuters report… I’m wondering if UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] or, I mean, those most closely covering the referendum have any response or comment or action, have made calls to the Government?  What’s happened on that?


Spokesperson:  I’ll ask my colleagues who are covering this, who are obviously monitoring it quite closely.  I’ll ask them if they can help us with that.


Question:  Okay.  And just also on Sudan, I wanted to… you gave this statement by Mr. Charpentier that people are returning… there is also this number now, it’s risen to 43,000 of new [internally displaced persons] based on the fighting.  So I just wondered is it possible… is he saying that, on balance, that more people have been re-settled than have been newly made [internally displaced persons]? And if the progress is actually negative, why is he putting such a positive gloss on events there?


Spokesperson:  I said just now, quoting Mr. Charpentier, that the Mission remains concerned about outbreaks of violence and will continue to assist vulnerable people.  He’s spelled out where security conditions have allowed for the return of internally displaced people.  And that’s something that is worth drawing attention to, if those people for a long time have not been able to return, and they now can.  No one in suggesting that there isn’t still a lot to do.


Question:  And also, Charpentier, he did a press conference in Khartoum where he said the… basically… I’m trying to think of the best way to put it… I’ll go to Haiti, I’ll gather my wits, and then… on Haiti, I just wanted to ask you two things about this case against Baby Doc, if possible.  One is that Amnesty International has said that they call on the UN to provide technical support to any Haitian possible trial of [Jean-Claude] Duvalier to make sure that it meets the standards of the international community.  I wanted to know if the UN, if that’s something they would think of doing.  And also, on this matter of the filing of the criminal complaint by UN current staff member, Ms. [Michele] Montas, I just wanted to get to the bottom of this.  There’s a rule, it’s 1.2 of the Staff Regulations, and it says, “UN Staff shall avoid any action and in particular any public pronouncement that may adversely reflect on their status or on the integrity, independence and impartiality required by that status”.  So I’m not, all I want to know is that, it seems that to go on CNN and say that Duvalier is a dictator — while probably true — seems to implicate the rule.  So I wanted to ask very specifically, did Ms. Montas ask Mr. [Edmond] Mullet or anyone else to waive this rule in this case?  And, if so, is it fair to say that the UN looks favourably or doesn’t think that this filing runs afoul of this rule?


Spokesperson:  On the first, it would be for the Haitian authorities to request assistance, and not for Amnesty International, terrific work though it does.  The second point, we talked about this at some length yesterday, and I’m really not going to go further.


Question:  Now there is this rule…


Spokesperson:  Matthew, I’ve said — we talked about it at some length yesterday.  I’ve made the position quite clear, and I don’t want to talk about it further, Okay?  If you have other questions, did you remember what you wanted to say about Darfur?


Question:  I mean I actually, I’m saying, because this is a situation where you have a UN rule — are you saying the rule doesn’t apply?


Spokesperson:  I made the position very clear yesterday Matthew, and I’m not going to…


Question:  I’m not at all clear what the position is.  Is it that the rule does not apply?


Spokesperson:  Matthew.  Next question?


Question:  Can we move to the next question?


Spokesperson:  Exactly.


Question:  Thank you Martin.  Concerning the situation in Lebanon, and, I’m sure you’re following it closely as well, it seems to be going back towards… any contacts by the Secretary-General yesterday overnight to help reach some settlement in the situation there?


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General is obviously concerned, as we’ve repeatedly said — I’m not aware that he has spoken specifically to anybody in the last 24 hours on this in the region.  That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t isn’t fully briefed on what is happening.  Yes, Ali?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Does the Secretary-General want to see the formation of a new government in Lebanon as soon as possible?  And would he recommend a national unity government?


Spokesperson:  It’s not for the Secretary-General to recommend how a sovereign country goes about forming a government.  What, simply, the Secretary-General has said is that it’s obvious that what’s important is stability.  And for there to be the forming of a government, and that this needs to be done through open dialogue between all the parties concerned.  And that’s as far as we would go.  Yes, Tim?


Question:  How many instances have there been of Gbagbo forces stopping and searching UN vehicles?


Spokesperson:  I don’t know of specific examples.  This is, as you know, this is something that was announced on State television, radio, overnight, and we’ve said very clearly that this is simply not acceptable.  Yes, Mr. Abadi?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  You indicated earlier that the Department of Political Affairs is following the developments in Tunisia.  Are these efforts limited to the collection of facts, or are they put within the responsibility of the Department within the area of preventive diplomacy and preventive action, for which the Department received some $65 million about three years ago?


Spokesperson:  I’m sure my colleagues in the Department for Political Affairs are looking at this from a number of angles, Mr. Abadi.  Yes, Sylviannne?


Question:  A follow-up on Lebanon, the question.  Do you have, does the UN have a contingency plan to move the UN personnel from Beirut to Cyprus?


Spokesperson:  As I’ve said to you, we don’t discuss security arrangements.  As you all know, UNIFIL has said very clearly that it has, and has had already in place, adequate measures.  But to go further than that, that’s really not appropriate.


Question:  I’m talking about Beirut.  I’m not talking about UNIFIL.


Spokesperson:  I’m talking about the measures that the United Nations has in Lebanon, and UNIFIL forces, I know where they are located.  And UNIFIL forces have said very clearly that the right preparations are in place.  More generally, on security, we don’t talk about that.  Yes, Thomas?


Question:  The European Union decided to use sanctions against Belarus.  Yesterday, Philip Crowley from the United States State Department said that the United States also are preparing some steps — the same kind of steps — against Belarus.  Is the United Nations supporting these sanctions, and will it be one of the points of the talks between the Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister from Estonia?


Spokesperson:  On the first part, sanctions and measures of that kind are a matter for the Security Council and it’s for Security Council members to speak about that.  And on the second, we’ll provide a readout of that meeting with the Estonian Minister later this afternoon.  Okay.  Thank you very much.  I wish you a good afternoon.  Thanks very much.


Question:  [inaudible] question?  That sucks.


Spokesperson:  Thanks very much.


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For information media • not an official record