2 June 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 Vannina Maestracci, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Bonjour, and welcome to the Noon Briefing.


**Italy


The Secretary-General has been taking part in events in Rome to mark the 150th anniversary of Italian unification.  This morning, he attended a military parade along with many foreign dignitaries.


He’ll shortly be heading to an official dinner, at which he is expected to offer a toast on behalf of the international community.  He’s expected to highlight Italy’s strong support for the United Nations and its whole agenda, from development and human rights to peace and security.  He’s also expected to pay tribute to Italy’s contribution to art and culture.  We'll have those remarks later.


The Secretary-General also had bilateral meetings in Rome today, with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian National Authority and with Xi Jinping, the Vice President of China.   And we should have those readouts later for you.  The Secretary-General will be back in New York tomorrow afternoon.


**Syria


The Secretary-General’s Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect have expressed their grave concern at the increasing loss of life in Syria as a result of the continued violent suppression of anti-Government protests.  The Advisers are particularly alarmed at the apparently systematic and deliberate attacks by police, military and other security

 forces against unarmed civilians taking part in protests over the past two months.  And that statement is online.


**UNIFIL


The Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) today convened a tripartite meeting with senior officials from the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israel Defense Forces.  The meeting focused on the incident on 15 May on the Blue Line in order to facilitate UNIFIL’s ongoing investigation into the facts and circumstances relating to the incident.


Following the talks, the Force Commander said that it is imperative that we do our utmost to avoid future incidents leading to violations of resolution 1701 (2006), and to prevent civilian casualties, rising tensions and the danger of escalation along the Blue Line.


**Deputy Secretary-General on Green Economy


And the Deputy Secretary-General opened this morning a General Assembly debate entitled “A green economy:  a pathway to sustainable development”.  She noted that developing countries face an array of challenges.  But they also stand to benefit enormously by leapfrogging over heavily polluting nineteenth-century technologies to pursue a twenty-first-century clean energy pathway.  The Deputy Secretary-General said the green economy must be tailored to national circumstances; there is no “one size fits all” approach.  And we have her remarks in our office.


**Secretary-General Appointment


And a Secretary-General appointment:  The Secretary-General has reappointed Edmond Mulet of Guatemala as Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.  Mr. Mulet previously served in this capacity from 2007 to 2010 and, while on mission in Haiti, he was temporarily replaced by Mr. Atul Khare of India.  We have more information on this appointment in our office.


**Honduras


And finally, you saw that last night we issued a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Honduras.  And that’s available.


**Security Council


This morning, the Security Council is holding consultations on its programme of work for the month of June.  And right after this, at 12:30, Ambassador Nelson Messone, the Permanent Representative of Gabon and the Council’s President for this month, will brief you on the programme of work for June.


**Press Conferences


And at 1:15 p.m., there will be a joint press conference by UN Energy and the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership.


And then tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference to launch the “UNAIDS — AIDS at 30: Progress of Nations Report”.  And speakers will include the Deputy Secretary-General as well as the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Michel Sidibe.


At 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by Xavier Bertrand, the French Minister of Labour, Employment and Health, and that press conference will focus on the French G-20 presidency.


**United Nations International School Graduation


And one last thing, this evening, more than 100 students will graduate from the United Nations International School at a ceremony in the General Assembly Hall.


Yes?  Erol, do you want to start?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Vannina.  Since Ratko Mladić was apprehended and extradited to The Hague Tribunal and there were reports that Mr. Brammertz’s report to the Security Council would be very… previously before that event has happened was going to be a very negative on Serbia.  Now, did the Secretary-General receive any other new report from Mr. Brammertz on cooperation of Serbia to The Hague Tribunal in the light of this event?


Associate Spokesperson:  I am…


Question:  And what can you tell me of course about that?  Did he talk to Secretary-General?


Associate Spokesperson:  I think your best bet… I mean, I can check what the Secretary-General… of course he is aware of the situation, he is being kept up to date.  But right now there is a judicial process going on, and so I think I will leave it in the hands of ICTY [International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia].  Mr. Abbadi, do you have a question?


Question:  [inaudible] Can I just go on and follow up?


Associate Spokesperson:  Sure.


Question:  Did he receive any phone call?  Did he talk to anybody, either with Mr. Brammertz or with somebody else regarding these events, since obviously the Secretary-General many times mentioned that this is very important for the UN?


Associate Spokesperson:  Right, you remember his statement last…


Correspondent:  I do remember.


Associate Spokesperson:  Yeah.  Last Thursday, I think — and so yes, I will check, I’ll check if there has been, you want to know about a phone conversation between the Secretary-General and Mr. Brammertz, is that it? 


Question:  And anybody else within that inner circle.


Associate Spokesperson:  I’ll check.  It’s internal for us, so there is always back and forth, but I’ll see what… Yes, sorry?


Question:  The statement issued yesterday regarding Bahrain…


Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.


Question:  …welcoming the lifting of martial law in Bahrain.  How… is there anybody verifying that they have actually lifted the martial law?  Because, as I understand, the MPs are still in jail, the peace activists are in jail, more than 800 people are still in prison for demonstrating, and there is a crackdown today, including Jordanians taking part in the crackdown — the military, Jordanian military.  Do you have, what’s your way of collecting information about Bahrain, and how do you view this statement?  Is it tough enough to make the authorities there refrain from what they are doing?


Associate Spokesperson:  I think on the implementation of the lifting of the state of national safety, it’s something that the UN is monitoring.  If you want precise details on that, again, I’ll have to check.  But it is something that we are following up on.  And as you know, the Secretary-General welcomed that and is, of course, waiting to see how it will be implemented.


Question:  But in the statement there is no call to releasing the members of Parliament who are in custody, and who are incommunicado.


Associate Spokesperson:  Actually in the statement, the last paragraph…


Question:  Yes?


Associate Spokesperson:  I think it reiterates his call on the authorities and the security forces in Bahrain to act in accordance with the relevant international norms and standards with regards to human rights and fundamental freedom.  I think that answers your question.


Question:  Yeah, but this is totally general, this is totally general.  It doesn’t specifically address the agreement [inaudible].


Associate Spokesperson:  I think that actually addresses it, but… Other questions?  Yeah, Matthew?


Question:  Yeah, sure.  I want to ask you, there is a lot of things that are being reported…


Associate Spokesperson: I’m sorry, what?


Question:  On Côte d'Ivoire…


Associate SpokespersonOui.


Question:  …there have been at least a number of, you know, major NGO [non-governmental organization] reports out about the killing of pro-Gbagbo supporters by Ouattara forces since, you know, since Gbagbo was put under arrest.  There is also an ICG report saying that the Government formed by Ouattara has virtually no members of Gbagbo’s party.  So, on both of these two fronts, both the protection of civilians and on the sort of, quote, reconciliation, what does UNOCI [United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire] say?  I mean, it seems that both of these respected NGOs have said that things are not going well, that the retaliation killings taking place, which presumably UNOCI should be trying to stop and that the Government…


Associate Spokesperson:  I can…


Question:  So, what’s the UN’s response to that?


Associate Spokesperson:  On human rights violation and abuses, there is the international commission of inquiry.  It’s about to report — it was in Côte d'Ivoire, maybe it still is — and it’s about to report to the Human Rights Council in June, that session.  So, I can check for the exact date if that’s helpful, but I think it would be that first and then I think the High Commissioner also will have a report during that session, also in June, in Geneva on Côte d'Ivoire.  So, that’s the first thing.  On the formation of the Government, I don’t really have a comment.


Question:  Just to be clear, and I am talking about what UNOCI does day to day, the quote, protect civilians, which is part of its mandate…


Associate Spokesperson:  Yeah, yeah.


Question:  Human Rights Watch is saying that since 11 April, hundreds of Gbagbo supporters have been killed in the Yopougon neighbourhood.  So, I wanted to know, is it something that UNOCI… it’s not happening?  Is UNOCI trying to stop it?  Does UNOCI have some… are there two… you know, it seems like a very different picture than what UNOCI is saying.


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, UNOCI’s mandate includes the protection of civilians, as you know.  So, if there are allegations they’ll certainly go and investigate them.  They have a human rights division, and it documents human rights abuses and violations.  I can check specifically if you want the Yopougon thing, okay.  Anyone else?  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you, Vannina.  As you know, the seventh informal round of discussions on Western Sahara will take place in just a few days.  What does the Secretary-General hope will be achieved during these informal talks?


Associate Spokesperson:  I think what his Personal Envoy has already put into motion — and which is basically exploring innovative approaches so that they can have more of these informal talks which will eventually lead to a formal round of talks.  I think that’s where we are at.


Question:  Does the Secretary-General think that the Moroccan proposal is such innovative talk?


Associate Spokesperson:  Is such what?


Question:  Innovative method?


Associate Spokesperson:  I think we should let the parties and the neighbouring countries meet at the beginning of next week, and then we’ll see what they come up with.  And the Personal Envoy, as you know, will make a statement on the 7th, will read a communiqué, as always, and he is the one who is best placed obviously to give you an update on the talks.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you on Libya, and I like your approa… maybe you will be able to get an answer where others haven't.  This, Ban Ki-moon’s envoy on Libya, Mr. al-Khatib, just a simple factual question, is he still a paid senator in Jordan?  Has he ever been made a UN staff member?  And if so, what’s, you know, is he an Under-Secretary-General?  What’s his role?


Associate Spokesperson:  I think I have heard you ask that question before. [laughter]


Correspondent:  Yeah, maybe I am thinking like, a simple question to DPA [Department of Political Affairs] will get the answer.


Associate Spokesperson:  I’ll check.  Okay.


Correspondent:  That would be great.


Associate Spokesperson:  Anything else?  Yes, sir?


Question:  I’d like to know, on Tuesday, Mr. [B. Lynn] Pascoe said that African leaders are sharply divided on the issue of Libya, but he never gave specific details, you know, regarding that division.  Can you explain what he meant by the fact that African leaders are “sharply” divided on Libya?  Do you have any details that you can use to clarify his comments?


Associate Spokesperson:  I really don’t want to speak for Mr. Pascoe.  I think if you go back to his briefing to the Security Council, there might be more details in there.  Okay, I mean, if you want, you know.


Correspondent:  That’s what he said.


Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, and that’s fine, but I don’t think we’d like to go into the specifics of the differences.  On the contrary, we’re focusing on the common and shared principles and coordination efforts of the UN with the African Union and with all other organizations to resolve the crisis in Libya.


Question:  If you wanted to focus on resolving it, he was the one that brought it out, you know, nobody knew about those kinds of thing, and he said that they’re sharply divided.  So…


Associate Spokesperson:  But I believe that in the — I’ll go and check the briefing, but I am pretty sure that in the briefing that he also said that there was a major common cause here and a major common stand on things.  I can if you want to come back, we can look at the briefing together, yes?  Or even right after, I think I have it here.  Matthew?  [laughter]


Question:  Sure.  No, I think maybe you will have a “if asked” about this.  There is the rebels in Darfur, the SLA [Sudan Liberation Army], have said that they had an engagement with the Sudanese army in Darfur.  They say two of their fighters were killed; they killed 127 soldiers, according to them.  It seems like a big enough fighting that UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] should either be aware of or be able to confirm or deny it.  Do you have anything from UNAMID on that or can you…?


Associate Spokesperson:  Yeah, absolutely.  Not yet, but I will definitely follow up on that for you.  Wait, hold on.  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you.  I have asked this question on several occasions.  When does the Secretary-General plan to give his monthly press conference?


Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t think there is a date set, but we’ll let you know as soon as we have something.  He is travelling right now.  When he gets back I think we’ll have a better picture.  Matthew, last question?


Question:  Yeah.  I don’t know how fun this will be, but I mean, it’s… the UNIS [United Nations International School], you’ve mentioned the UNIS graduation…


Question:  Yes.


Associate Spokesperson:  …and somebody said to me that, I guess it’s a commencement speaker, some executive from Coca-Cola, and I just, I know it’s a UN school, but how are these people selected?  What’s the process?  Is there some, you know, can corporations then use it to sort of promote themselves as a UN connection?  How is this… can you both confirm that that’s the speaker and how are the speakers selected?


Question:  No, I can’t confirm that.  And I’ll check on how they are selected.  Okay, good afternoon.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record