|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. Sorry, I am late.
**Statement on Violence in Syria
I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the violence in Syria:
The Secretary-General is alarmed at the escalation of violence in Syria, which has reportedly left at least 70 killed over the past week alone, bringing the total casualties since mid-March to over 1,000 dead, many more injured and thousands arrested. The Secretary-General is deeply troubled by the continued serious violations of human rights, including disturbing reports of the deaths of children under torture, live ammunition and shelling. All killings should be investigated fully, independently and transparently. The Secretary-General takes note of the announcement by the Syrian authorities of an amnesty and the establishment of a committee to establish a national dialogue. He emphasizes, however, that violent repression by security and military forces must end immediately for a genuine and inclusive dialogue to take place and lead to the comprehensive reforms and change called for by the Syrian people.
And the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has condemned the refoulement of Eman al‑Obeidi by Qatar to Libya. Her forced return yesterday violates international law. UNHCR confirms that she had refugee status in Qatar and that it made attempts to transfer her to a third country. The Secretary-General shares the agency’s concerns for the safety of Ms. al-Obeidi. UNHCR is trying to meet with her in Benghazi — in eastern Libya, excuse me — and is making every effort to make sure her best interests are respected. UNHCR is ready and willing to take her out of eastern Libya as soon as possible.
And also on Libya, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that an inter-agency mission is continuing to assess needs in and around the Libyan capital. The team has confirmed that 49,000 people have been uprooted and are urgent need of assistance in Khums and Zlitan, east of Tripoli.
Another inter-agency mission arrived in Misrata earlier this week after setting sail from Benghazi. The Office says that the chief concern is the situation in the Nafusa Mountains in western Libya, where assessing humanitarian needs remains challenging due to the security situation in the area.
And on Yemen, UNHCR, again, says it is alarmed by the deteriorating situation in Yemen, where two Somali refugees were among those killed in clashes last week between armed tribesmen and security forces near the capital, Sana’a. The two refugees were a 14-year-old boy and a young woman who had fled the violence in Somalia and sought refuge in Yemen. The agency says the fighting is also affecting internally displaced people (IDPs) from a previous conflict in the country’s north, while in the south, clashes have uprooted some 20,000 people.
** Syria — Children
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Violence against Children is deeply concerned at the continued acts of violence perpetrated against children as unrest continues in Syria. Violence against children must stop and children’s safety must be upheld at all times, she stresses. And that statement was out yesterday afternoon I believe, and it’s online.
**Refugees — Tunisia
And at least 150 people have drowned and scores are still missing after a boat capsized off the Tunisian coast earlier this week, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said. It added that this appears to be one of the worst and deadliest incidents in the Mediterranean so far this year. The overcrowded boat was carrying some 850 people, most from West Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It left the Libyan capital last weekend and was headed for the Italian island of Lampedusa.
And I was asked yesterday about clashes in Darfur. The UN-African Union mission in Darfur, UNAMID, reports that there were two separate incidents in the vicinity of Kabkabiya, North Darfur.
In the first incident, a Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) convoy was ambushed in Ed Al Nabag on the afternoon of Wednesday, 1 June. The number of SAF personnel killed, injured or missing cannot be confirmed. Three vehicles belonging to the SAF were destroyed and four others were captured by the armed men.
The second incident took place nearby, on 2 June, in a village 15 kilometres east of Kabkabiya. According to reports, police were ambushed by members of an unknown armed group, resulting in several killed.
And at 12:30 p.m., so right after this, there will be a press conference by Xavier Bertrand, French Minister of Labour, Employment and Health, on “The social dimension of globalization: priorities of the French G-20 presidency”.
And then on Monday at 1:30 p.m., there will be a press conference entitled “Médecins sans Frontières outlines what’s at stake for HIV treatment at the UN High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS”.
And as you know, the Secretary-General will be back at Headquarters this afternoon. On Monday, at 11:30 a.m. in this room, the Secretary-General will brief you on his recent travels to Africa, the G-8 Summit and Italy, as well as on current issues, before he embarks on another trip in the latter part of next week.
**The Week Ahead at the United Nations
And we also have The Week Ahead available for you in the office.
**Questions and Answers
Question: [inaudible] the press conference of the Secretary-General…?
Associate Spokesperson: I’m sorry, Erol?
Question: Sorry to interrupting you. Is this a press conference that you are announcing of the Secretary-General on Monday?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes, I am, at 11:30 a.m. here. Great, no questions. [laughter] Yes?
Question: I also asked yesterday in reference to ICTY, do you have anything, please, for me?
Associate Spokesperson: No. I mean, he is in touch with leaders in the region regularly, but nothing specific. Yes?
Question: Sure. Thanks for the answer on Darfur. I want to ask you a… the Sudanese Government has said that Minni Minawi, a long-time Darfur rebel, SLM, has no place in the Doha peace process, essentially cutting him out of it. And I wanted to know one, if the UN has any response, and also whether… what’s the process for appointing a new…? Mr. Bassolé who used to be the UN-AU coordinator of that process, is there going to be a new one, and if so, where does it stand? And who in the UN system is, I guess, watching that process to see the… the… the cut out of this long-time rebel figure?
Associate Spokesperson: I don’t know, but I’ll check. Anything else? No? No? Yes?
Question: [inaudible] yeah, there is a report in Austria of an Austrian soldier; it said that the Austrian military has become aware of charges of rape against him in Kosovo. It says he was serving in an international force there. So, it’s unclear to me if that means, you know, if it was UNMIK or KFOR. I’d like to know — I don’t expect you to know right now — but can you find out whether and if it was UNMIK what… you know, what UNMIK can say about these charges of an international peacekeeper in Kosovo charged with rape?
Associate Spokesperson: I’ll ask our DPKO colleagues, yes. Perfect, have a great afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record