|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. Welcome to the briefing.
The Secretary-General spoke at the Security Council’s open meeting this morning on the impact of HIV/AIDS on peace and security, telling Council members that, whenever AIDS is part of the equation, the United Nations is working to be part of the solution.
He said that, for UN personnel, predeployment HIV training is standard. We have trained over 1,500 peacekeepers as peer counsellors. Meanwhile, the number of blue helmets seeking voluntary counselling and testing increased from fewer than 2,000 to more than 14,000 in just five years.
The Secretary-General also urged all Member States to link efforts to combat HIV and AIDS with our campaigns against sexual violence and for the rights of women. That means addressing the dangerous interaction between AIDS, the international drug trade, sex trafficking and the abuse of women.
I’ll keep my briefing today short, because, at 12:15 p.m., the General Assembly President and the UNAIDS [Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS] Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, will be here to talk to you more about this week’s high-level events here in New York.
** West Bank
Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, condemned the desecration of a mosque today in the village of Al Mughayyir in the occupied West Bank.
Mr. Serry said that the actions of Israeli extremists are highly provocative and threatening. And he also noted the condemnation of this attack by the Israeli Government and stressed the need for forceful action against this and other attacks.
At the end of his 10-day visit to Iraq, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonovic, urged the Iraqi Government today to do more to protect civilians from violence.
He added that it is important that the Government does all it can to ensure that any person suspected of perpetrating acts of violence is held accountable according to the law.
Mr. Šimonovic condemned the numerous cases of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and alleged torture that have been reported throughout Iraq. He reiterated that torture is unequivocally prohibited under international law and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.
Staff from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) visited conflict zones south and east of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, last week and found significant displacement, widespread violence and an urgent need to support Libyan organizations in providing basic supplies and services.
Displaced people that one team from the refugee agency met in Government-held parts of Libya seem to be coping, albeit under difficult circumstances. However, an aid crisis could be looming. Although warehouses are well stocked with basic food items, it is apparent that the combined impact of protracted conflict and sanctions is eroding the Government’s ability to deliver assistance effectively.
A separate refugee agency team that visited Misrata spoke to several people who reported kidnappings in the city and its surroundings. Local relief agencies and human rights groups in Misrata estimate that at least 1,000 people, mainly men, have been kidnapped or have disappeared since the conflict started in February. There are more details in the UN refugee agency’s briefing notes.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says the situation in Abyei town remains quiet but unpredictable. The humanitarian response operation is gaining momentum, with aid agencies working hard to meet emergency needs before the rainy season starts cutting off access to parts of Warrap State.
Meanwhile, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says the number of displaced in Abyei is close to 100,000, of whom 67,000 have so far been registered. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ Office says that many people are still on the move or hiding in the bush amid heavy military activity in the region.
And UNICEF says it is ramping up relief supplies in the region to assist the internally displaced, half of whom are children. UNICEF says it is paying particular attention to disease prevention, although no major outbreaks have been reported.
At approximately 12:45 p.m., so after the press conference by President Joseph Deiss and Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, there will be a press conference to introduce two new Goodwill Ambassadors for the Permanent Memorial to honour the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.
And then at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference by President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria.
And at tomorrow’s noon briefing, my guest will be Professor David Freestone, who is a Visiting Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence at George Washington University. And that’s to brief on the occasion of World Oceans Day.
And then at 1:15 p.m., there will be a press conference by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court.
So I have eight minutes for questions.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Martin. On Western Sahara, the Saharawi militant, Mustapha Salma Ould, is now sitting before the UNHCR office in Nouakchott. He’s not allowed to go back to his family and home in Tindouf, in Algeria, because he has expressed a political point of view on Western Sahara. He has appealed to the UNHCR to do something for his case. But so far nothing has been done. Is UNHCR going to do anything?
Spokesperson: I’ll have to ask them. As you know, that’s the kind of topic where I would need to seek some extra advice from colleagues in the field.
Other questions, please? Easy as that? Okay, thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record