23 May 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.


** Nepal


I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Nepal:


The Secretary-General is concerned that despite the fast approaching deadline for the Constituent Assembly to complete its work by 28 May 2011, there is still no agreement on the important issues that divide the parties, namely on the integration and rehabilitation of former Maoist combatants and key aspects of the constitution.  The Secretary-General recently discussed the situation with Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal, and the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, spoke by telephone with the leaders of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal — Maoist (UCPN-M) and the Nepali Congress to urge the Nepali leaders to act effectively at this critical juncture.


The Secretary-General underlines that it is now more than ever incumbent upon the key political actors to show leadership and carry out the necessary compromises to preserve the peace process and complete the drafting of the new constitution.


** Sudan


The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has strongly condemned the burning and looting being perpetrated by armed elements in Abyei town.  The Mission notes that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are responsible for maintaining law and order in the areas they control, and it calls upon the Government of Sudan to urgently ensure that the Sudan Armed Forces fulfil their responsibility and intervene to stop these criminal acts.


In a statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the escalation of violence in Abyei, which has included increased troop movements and exchanges of heavy and small arms fire between the security forces of the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan.  The Secretary-General calls on both parties to immediately cease their military operations, withdraw all forces and armed elements from Abyei and desist from further acts of antagonism. 


The statement is available in my Office and online.


**Security Council


The Security Council, whose members have been in Sudan in recent days, issued a press statement yesterday, condemning the attack by Southern Sudanese forces against a UN convoy on 19 May and also condemning the escalatory military operations being undertaken by the Sudanese Armed Forces.


The members of the Council deplored the unilateral dissolution of the Abyei administration and called for it to be re-established by mutual agreement without delay.  And they demanded the immediate withdrawal of all military elements from Abyei and the full implementation of the Kadugli Agreement.  The Mission has arrived in the Southern Sudan capital, Juba.


**Secretary-General in Nigeria


The Secretary-General is in Abuja, in Nigeria, today, where he met with President Goodluck Jonathan and the Foreign Minister of the country, Henry Odein Ajumogobia.  In their meeting, the Secretary-General commended the President for his role in the resolution of the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire.  The Secretary-General and the President discussed the deterioration of the security situation in Southern Sudan and the way forward towards Southern Sudan's independence in July.  They also discussed the need for consensus with regard to the situation in Libya.


The Secretary-General then addressed the Presidential Committee on the status of the Millennium Development Goals.  He told its members that improving women’s and children’s health was one of the keys to progress.  He said he was pleased that the Government was working to allocate a portion of its oil wealth to support health initiatives for women and children.


He later visited a primary health care centre near Abuja.  He told the assembled crowd that, like them, he was born in a small village and that his mother gave birth to him almost alone.  We will have these remarks for you later, as well as his joint press remarks with the Nigerian Foreign Minister.


Yesterday, after arriving in Abuja, the Secretary-General visited the Maitama hospital, where he said that, around the world, health systems are not working for women and children.


And at the weekend, he was in Côte d’Ivoire for the inauguration ceremony of President Alassane Ouattara in Yamoussoukro.  He met with UN staff and peacekeepers in Abidjan, and he also visited a camp for internally displaced people there yesterday.


** Lebanon


Today marks two months since the abduction of seven Estonian nationals in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.  The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, and the Head of the Delegation of the European Union, Angelina Eichhorst, made a joint appeal for the immediate and urgent release of these innocent tourists.


The joint appeal says that this criminal act is a reminder of a dark part of Lebanon’s history, which could threaten Lebanon’s standing in the international community.


The United Nations and the European Union commended the Lebanese authorities for the steps they have undertaken but emphasize that no effort must be spared to bring these men safely back to their country and to their families.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


Tomorrow, at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference on the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord in Bangladesh.  Speakers will include Lars-Anders Baer, a former member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and author of a report on the implementation of that Accord.


And at tomorrow’s noon briefing, my guest will be Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who will brief on her recent activities.


That’s what I have.  Questions?  Yes, Masood, then Nizar.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  On this situation, ongoing situation, in Pakistan where the terrorists have attacked a Pakistani naval base, do you have a statement… and killed about 10 Pakistan soldiers and have also, in that process, about 30 other people have been killed.


Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything for you.  We’re obviously aware of the reports and the incident.  And if I have something for you later, we’ll obviously make sure that you see that.  Yes, Nizar?


Question:  Will the Secretary-General discuss the recent stance by President [Barack] Obama on the Palestinian State?  He rescinded the pledge to be within the ’67 border.  Will the Quartet and Secretary-General reconsider their recent statement on that?


Spokesperson:  There is no reason for the Secretary-General to do that, nor for the Quartet to do so.  Both statements are very clear, and there is no need for them to be changed.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Another question regarding the executions in Bahrain, the sentences, death sentences; is there any statement to stop, or to appeal to the Bahraini Government to respect the right of these people?


Spokesperson:  Well, not specifically right now.  But I would simply remind you that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has been quite clear on this.  First of all, reiterating their call for prompt and impartial and transparent investigations into allegations of grave human rights violations in Bahrain.  And the High Commissioner’s spokesperson has also said that the High Commissioner is deeply concerned about the reported scale of arbitrary detention and the trials of civilians before military courts, leading to life imprisonment and death sentences.  And that’s something which the High Commissioner has said and the Secretary-General has made similar views known as well.  Yes?  I am going to the next question and I’ll come back to you.


Question:  A follow-up on that…


Spokesperson:  Is this the follow up on a follow-up?  Is that right, or…?


Question:  No, this is another thing; it’s in the same region as Bahrain.  I mean, do you have any report about Jordanians, 600 Jordanian officers transferred to Bahrain in order to help the Government there in their clampdown?


Spokesperson:  No, I don’t.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you, I guess it was on Friday, about this, the initial stage of this most recent clash in Abyei, the attack on UN peacekeepers escorting the Northern forces.  Both the spokesmen for President Obama and the Security Council have said that Southern forces were responsible for that attack, and I just… I haven't seen anything from UNMIS.  Is that based on a UN finding or… what has UNMIS found about that initial clash on 19 May?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think that we discussed this last week in which the conversation was roughly along the lines of there being an investigation required, and that the Mission had said that there needed to be an urgent investigation to look into this by both parties, and that remains the case.  We need to know of course.


Question:  But what is, I mean, what does the United States and the Security Council know that UNMIS doesn’t?  UNMIS actually had soldiers present.  Can you… I am just trying to figure out, is there some… is there a reason for UNMIS not saying what it knows, or have these other two parties jumped the gun?


Spokesperson:  I shouldn’t have thought so.  I don’t think that that’s the case.  There are clear statements, both today and over the weekend from the UN Mission in Sudan, most recently today, as I mentioned at the beginning, strongly condemning the burning and looting that’s going on there.


Question:  But that’s for afterwards.  I’m talking about the initial attack.


Spokesperson:  And the initial attack, in the statement, was obviously condemned quite clearly by the Mission and it said that the act constitutes a serious breach of previous agreements.  It calls on the parties to immediately investigate the incident and to take appropriate action.  It was at the time, as the statement says, the convoy was transporting troops, 200 troops of the Joint Integrated Units of the Sudan Armed Forces, to their designated post.  So I think that you can probably read that as clearly as I can.


Question:  Okay.  I wanted to also ask the UN, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Special Rapporteur, Mr. [Tomas Ojea] Quintana, has spoken in Thailand pretty critically about the Government’s actions on human rights, and has also said that he is not allowed into the country; I guess at one time he was, but now he is not.  Is this something that Special Envoy [Vijay] Nambiar raised when he was there?  How did… how should we put together the different… I guess, just factually, did he… did he ask the Government to let Mr. Quintana in?  Does he believe that Mr. Quintana should be able to enter the country?


Spokesperson:  Well, certainly he should be able to enter the country, no question.  That’s the role of a Special Rapporteur — to be able to have access to the place that they are looking into.  But as you know, we have put out last week a fairly extensive readout of the briefing given by Mr. Nambiar to the Security Council.  And I would simply underscore one point, and that is that we continue to urge the Myanmar authorities to do more in order to be consistent both with their recent stated commitments and to meet the expectations of both its own people and the international community, full stop.  If I can find out whether that specific point that you’ve raised was mentioned, then I’d be happy to let you know.


Question:  Is there really no chance of having some form of Q and A with Mr. Nambiar at the stakeout or any other forum, just to get to the bottom of these questions about his visit?


Spokesperson:  The readout does the trick in this particular case, I think, Matthew.  Yeah.  Yes, Erol?


Question:  Just a small follow-up.  Mr. Abbadi mentioned that several times; is Secretary-General planning to have his monthly press conference soon, because some of us are planning to be travelling and would like to attend that?


Spokesperson:  Well, as I have mentioned to you, the Secretary-General has been available to the press in various formats, whether it’s stakeouts here or a press conference in Geneva.  I am sure that there will be a press conference before too long.  And when we have worked out when that will be, we’ll let you know.  Okay?  Yes?


Question:  There are these reports of France, or sometimes, it’s said, NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization], bringing attack helicopters to, into the Libyan theatre, with the idea of using them, I guess, to protect civilians, but it made… given… and I under the resolution 1973 (2011), there seems to be some role for the Secretary-General to coordinate or get notifications; has he received anything in regard of the shift to attack helicopters in Libya?


Spokesperson:  To receive notifications, that’s right, and to relay them to the Security Council.  I am not aware of any notification on that particular topic.  We’re aware of the reports.  That doesn’t mean there has not been a notification; I am not aware of one.  I have already asked our colleagues who deal with this to check whether there is any development on that front.


Question:  Just factually, I wanted to know, I think Mr. [Edmond] Mulet is coming back from Haiti, from his time in Haiti at the end of this month.  And some had said he is going to become the Deputy in DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations].  What happens to Mr… is that true, and what happens to Mr. [Atul] Khare, does he remain with DPKO or does he…?


Spokesperson:  Yeah, you asked that question by e-mail on Friday, and when we have an answer we’ll let you know, okay?  Other questions?  Okay, have a good afternoon, everybody.  Thanks.


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For information media • not an official record