17 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the briefing.


**Security Council


The Security Council held a closed meeting this morning concerning the term of the Secretary-General.  In that meeting, Council members approved, by acclamation, a resolution in which the Security Council recommends to the General Assembly that Ban Ki-moon be appointed Secretary-General of the United Nations for a second term of office, from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2016.


Speaking in Brasilia, the Secretary-General has just said that he is deeply honoured by the Security Council’s vote.  He said that, with this recommendation by the Security Council, he will humbly put himself for consideration by the General Assembly.  And we will have the full transcript of the Secretary-General's remarks shortly.


**Secretary-General in Brazil


The Secretary-General is wrapping up his trip to Brazil, where he met with the Ministers of Social Development and Environment today.


The Secretary-General met with President Dilma Rousseff yesterday.  And he noted that this year, President Rousseff will be the first woman in the history of the United Nations to open the General Assembly’s annual high-level general debate.  The Secretary-General also invited her to take a lead role at an international meeting on nuclear safety and security that he will convene in September.  We have the full readout of that meeting in the Spokesperson’s Office.  And the Secretary-General will return to New York tomorrow morning.


**Secretary-General’s Trip Announcement


And then the Secretary-General will travel to Baltimore on Sunday, 19 June, to address the Annual Meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors.  The Secretary-General will take this opportunity to present United Nations priorities and discuss how the UN and local leaders can work together, particularly to advance the sustainable economic recovery and climate change agendas.


**Sudan


The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) continues to maintain a “protection perimeter” outside its base in Kadugli to support the thousands of internally displaced people who have gathered there.  The peacekeeping force also continues to provide military protection for the World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse and other key locations in Kadugli, and to work with the UN country team to provide food and medical assistance to the displaced.  Security at the base is bolstered by the presence of a 120-person light infantry company from Bangladesh which was recently airlifted from Juba to Kadugli.


The UN Mission continues to engage politically at all levels to urge the party leaders in Kadugli and Khartoum to cease hostilities, allow civilian return, cease restrictions on the Mission’s freedom of movement, and re-engage in the political discussions.


Regarding Abyei, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the estimated number of people displaced as a result of the Abyei crisis is now approximately 112,800 people.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is concerned that the appeal for Sudan is only 43 per cent funded at this time, with $731 million received out of the $1.7 billion sought.


The World Food Programme Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, expressed her deep concern today about the escalation in the conflict in South Kordofan.  She said that any further escalation in the conflict may undermine the World Food Programme’s efforts to reach the 400,000 people it was feeding before this latest outbreak of fighting.


The Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kang Kyung-wha, will begin an eight-day mission to Sudan next Monday.  During the mission, Ms. Kang is due to visit Khartoum, South Sudan, Darfur and the transitional areas, and will meet high-ranking officials, including the Vice-President of South Sudan and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Chief Justice of Sudan.  In Darfur, she will visit several camps for the internally displaced and places of detention.  The Deputy High Commissioner will use the opportunity to raise key issues and lend her support to human rights defenders.


**Libya


The World Food Programme (WFP) says it has delivered vital food assistance to more than half a million people affected by the conflict in Libya.  So far, distributions have been made to more than 270,000 people in eastern Libya, 136,000 people in western Libya (mainly in the Nafusa Mountain area) and an additional 125,000 people in the city of Misrata.


Since the beginning of April, the World Food Programme has sent 1,600 metric tons of food assistance to the people of Misrata, enough to feed 125,000 people for a month.  Another 2,000 metric tons of aid is on the way.  And we have more details in a press release.


And meanwhile, almost 650,000 people have left Libya and not returned.  The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that there are 243,000 internally displaced people in Libya.


**Climate Change


Today is the final day of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.  Christiana Figueres, the UN’s climate change chief, said that the negotiations had made clear advances on key issues and had identified areas that will require high-level political leadership ahead of the conference in Durban, South Africa, later in the year.


She noted the link between negotiations on mitigation under the UN Climate Change Convention and mitigation under the Kyoto Protocol.  Ms. Figueres said that, “Governments are realizing that this link needs to be dealt with to get to a global solution, and that will require high-level leadership during the year”.  And we have a press release with more details on that.


**Press Conferences on Monday


On Monday, at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference to present the human and economic case to urgently address non-communicable diseases.  Speakers will include Ambassador Rodney Charles, who is the Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations.


And then, at the noon briefing on Monday, I will have as my guest Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  Yes, Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yes, Martin, about this issue, which was raised yesterday also about Cuba being antagonistic, opposing Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s recommendation by the Security Council, but Cuba has sent a press release saying that they didn’t do it, that countries may have done it.  Has the mystery been unravelled and have they told you formally that they didn’t do this…?


Spokesperson: What was the last part of your question, sorry? I didn’t hear the last part of your question.


Question:  I said has the mystery been unravelled, as who basically opposed it, was it Uruguay or Paraguay?  Because Cuba has now officially denied it.


Spokesperson:  I think the key point here is that, as I just told you at the outset and as you already plainly know, the Security Council has approved a resolution unanimously that recommends to the General Assembly that the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, be appointed for a second term.  It is now for the General Assembly — all 192 Member States — to decide on that recommendation.  And any other comment, I think at this point, is not really necessary.  Yes?


Question:  Can I follow up on that?  Has GRULAC [Group of Latin American and Caribbean States], the South American-Caribbean group, endorsed the Secretary-General yet, or are they still meeting to do it?  And does it matter?


Spokesperson:  I think it would be best for the members of that group to tell you what they have or have not decided.  I think the key point again is simply that you have a resolution that’s been passed amongst the 15 members.  And it is now for the 192 to consider the recommendation of the Council.  And the Secretary-General says he has put himself forward for consideration, and we wait to see the outcome of their deliberations on that resolution.


Question:  Can I ask one more question on Sudan?  How can all the agencies operate there, considering (a) there is fighting and (b) the restrictions of where they can go?  They’re talking about delivering an enormous amount of aid, and I am just curious about how they can possibly do it.


Spokesperson:  I think the answer is with great difficulty, unfortunately.  The security in South Kordofan, the security and humanitarian situations really remain a very serious concern.  There is intermittent fighting, artillery shelling and a military build-up; and all of these are continuing in various locations in South Kordofan State.  And in addition, we really condemn strongly the detention and abuse yesterday by the Sudanese Armed Forces in Kadugli of four peacekeepers who were on patrol to assess the situation in the town.


And finally, I would say on this score regarding South Kordofan, that the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and other armed groups have to immediately stop intimidating and harassing UN staff, who are, after all, critical to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance that you are talking about to vulnerable populations.


And in Abyei, this afternoon, local time, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) confirms that six shells fired by the Sudanese Armed Forces landed 150 meters from a UN Mission base near Agok.  There are no reports of casualties at this point.  And we are in the process of verifying the details on that.  The Sudanese Armed Forces are saying that this shelling was part of an exercise; the Sudan People’s Liberation Army is saying that the shelling was targeting their positions and intimidating the local population around Agok.  So it remains to be determined precisely what happened.  But it is a fact that the shells landed very near the base.  Both sides really have to stop military actions that are not only a threat to the UN personnel on the ground, but also, of course, to the local populations, who are already in fear in the area because of the military action that there has been.  I am going to come to Matthew, and then to you, Mr. Abbadi.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I want… was going to… I guess I will ask on Sudan and then there is a follow-up on this re-election thing.  But on Sudan, is this… in Darfur, the case of the UN staff member Hawa Muhammad, now Amnesty International are saying that the Sudanese Government is no longer letting her meet with her lawyer or family.  That’s the UN staff member that was arrested in May, is supposedly now in Khartoum and I wanted to know, what has the UN done to follow up on this case of its own staff member detained by the Government?


Spokesperson:  Let me find out if there are any further details on that.  But you will have heard me say, I think, that the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights is going to be there starting Monday.  What’s your question on the re-election process?


Question:  Oh, yeah… I was at the… it does… GRULAC, I believe has… at least as of 11 a.m. hadn’t appointed, but I wanted to know, I heard yesterday that there is some briefing by the Secretary-General on Tuesday that has been arranged.  And I wanted to know, or some sort… some sort of a media opportunity, and I just wanted to know, is that in connection with the anticipated GA [General Assembly] vote?  Or what’s the topic about?


Spokesperson:  I think that we will be able to talk about what media events are or are not happening at the start of the week.  Thank you very much.


Question:  Does that mean to make the Deputy go and make invitations for this Tuesday?


Spokesperson:  As I say, we’ll be able to provide some details a little later.  What I can do right now is read you what the Secretary-General has just said in Brasilia.  Of course we will be providing this transcript — it’s probably being sent out as I speak — and also audio and video will be available.  And the Secretary-General has said:


“I am deeply honoured by the unanimous vote of the Security Council to recommend me to the General Assembly for a second term as Secretary-General.


“With this recommendation by the Security Council, I will humbly put myself for consideration by the General Assembly.


“It is an immense privilege to serve this great Organization as Secretary-General, and I am grateful for the confidence and support.


“During the past four-and-a-half years, we have worked closely with all the Member States, including the Security Council, to achieve progress on critical global issues of peace and security, development and human rights.


“I am proud of all we have done together, even as I am aware of formidable challenges ahead.


“In the twenty-first century, the United Nations matters in a different and deeper way.


“I am motivated and prepared to continue our work together with the Member States, upholding the principles enshrined in the Charter.”


And that’s the statement the Secretary-General has just made in Brasilia, and which we will make available to you quite shortly.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi, and then Masood?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Just on the question of the selection of the Secretary-General or the decision of the Council to recommend him for a second term.  I noted that you used two expressions, different expressions.  One is “by acclamation” and the other one was “unanimously”.  Unanimity, as you know, does not exclude a vote, but the Secretary-General has just indicated that it was a unanimous vote.  So, there was a vote, wasn’t there?


Spokesperson:  It was by acclamation.  I think that’s clearly what the Council President’s statement said, if I remember correctly.  I think I have it here, the resolution itself.  It was adopted by the Council and it says that it is being… well, you have the text, anyway.  It’s already gone out.


Question:  But did you say whether by unanimity, or by acclamation; the Secretary-General, just as you indicated, just said it was by unanimous vote.


Spokesperson:  And I think the President of the Council said as a preface to his remarks at the stakeout that it was by acclamation.  Yes, Masood?


Question:  On this latest reported Israeli threat, that this flotilla which is coming towards Gaza, it will definitely attack it in the same way that it did last time when it came from Turkey.  I think this is also being done by Turkey, basically.  So, I know last time, the Secretary-General had issued a statement of warning about this, but the thing is that it is bringing aid.  So has he spoken to anybody about this as yet, within the authorities in Gaza, with the Israelis?


Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the Secretary-General has done a number of things.  He has written to a number of the littoral States around the Mediterranean, urging them to encourage their citizens not to take part in a flotilla for two simple reasons.  One is that the region is tense enough as it is.  And the last thing we need is more tension.  And the second is that there are established channels for aid to be delivered and they should be used.  The Secretary-General has also made quite clear that it is incumbent on the Government of Israel to ease the closure of the border with Gaza and to allow the free movement of people and goods.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I have two helicopter questions.  One is… there was this incident that emerged yesterday of an UNMIS helicopter landing in Magennes in, it seems to be, a disputed area, and it said that the helicopter was detained by the Sudanese authorities, that it contained a US and a UK diplomat who were, may have been taking a part… I just want to understand, is it… what’s the UN’s version of that?  Did they provide notice to the Sudanese Government?  Were the diplomats separated from the helicopter?


Spokesperson:  What I can tell you is that on 16 June, which is yesterday, a UN Mission team landed in Magennes, which is, as you mentioned, a contested area along the Upper Nile and Southern Kordofan border, and that team was briefly detained by Government of Sudan police.  The Mission team was accompanied by two members of the UK and US consulates in Juba.  And, according to the Government of Sudan, officials in the area, the flight did not have the requisite landing permits, although the Mission had obtained flight clearances from the Government of South Sudan in Juba.  And then, yesterday again, the entire team was released and returned to… then was able to return to Malakal in Upper Nile State.  No one was harmed in the incident and the Mission is following up to determine further details on this. 


Question:  Is it known what… not that there is… what the purpose of the trip was and why these consular officials were on board?


Spokesperson:  As I said, they’re following up to determine further details.


Question:  Okay.  The other is that the Sri Lankan Air Force has confirmed in Colombo that they have offered the UN the use of their Mi-24 helicopter gunships, attack helicopters, and I wanted to know, there is some controversy about whether, one, what the UN thinks of it in light of the Panel of Experts report, but also whether this US law called the Leahy Law, which requires a US review of things contributed to UN peacekeeping that the US is paying for, what’s the UN’s thinking of, at this point on this offer?  Obviously there is a need for helicopters; there is also an outstanding report that they were crimes committed in northern Sri Lanka.  Is there, where does it stand with the UN on this?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, I would need to know and have confirmed from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations that an offer has been received and what that offer includes.  I don’t have that at this point.  Okay.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thanks, Martin.  As you know, the Secretary-General has repeatedly urged President [Bashar] al-Assad of Syria to protect his people and respect their rights and listen to their demands for reforms.  The President has answered today with more violence, more repression, killing four people and injuring 25 people.  Has the time come for the Secretary-General to strongly condemn the Syrian regime?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think the Secretary-General has repeatedly said and said so again just yesterday at a stakeout with the Brazilian Foreign Minister, as I think you are aware.  And he, as he himself said, has expressed his position repeatedly and said that the situation is of deep concern and that he has discussed and talked about this with President Assad on several occasions.  And he has said, and again this was at the stakeout yesterday in Brasilia, that it is totally unacceptable that many civilians peacefully demonstrating to have their genuine wishes for greater freedom and democracy heard have been killed and wounded.  And again he strongly urges President Assad and his authorities to stop killing people and to engage in inclusive dialogue and to take bold measures, decisive and bold measures, before it is too late.  And that’s what he said, speaking most recently yesterday when he was, after meeting with the Brazilian Foreign Minister.  And I am sure that his views will not have changed in this respect.  He does remain extremely concerned about what is happening.


Question:  But the repression is growing now, and as I have just indicated, there are four people dead this morning and more than 25 injured.  And the people in Daraa have called now for setting up a revolutionary council which they said will soon be announced.  My point is, has the Secretary-General now… has the time come for the Secretary-General to take a stronger stand regarding this repressive regime?


Spokesperson:  Well, Mr. Abbadi, with respect, I think that the Secretary-General has taken a rather strong stand and has done for quite some time and he continues to do so.  And I am sure that the latest events will only strengthen his conviction that it is really incumbent on the Syrian authorities, led by President Assad, to stop killing and wounding people and to listen to what the people are saying.  And that is that they are calling for greater democracy and freedom.  And I don’t think that you are going to see the Secretary-General’s views change, except to feel stronger in the conviction that these changes need to take place in Syria.  Yes?


Question:  What’s the NATO military reaction inside Libya that you’ve talked about?  Is it still the considered opinion of the Secretary-General that it is within the parameters of resolution 1973 (2011) and so forth?


Spokesperson:  I think we’ve had this conversation a number of times.


Question:  Civilians are being killed; Libyans on the other side from Mr. [Muammar al-]Qadhafi’s side say civilians are being killed.  Civilians are civilians, whether they are in Qadhafi’s region or whether they are in another region.


Spokesperson:  The purpose of the resolution is to ensure that civilians are protected.  And that’s the purpose of the resolution.  And any action being taken by the military forces that are engaged in working through this resolution, their actions are intended to thwart efforts by Colonel Qadhafi’s authorities to target civilians.  And that is what they are trying to do, which is precisely to stop that, to protect civilians.  And this they have been doing.  Yes?


Question:  Something that is much, it’s closer to home, and…


Spokesperson:  Well, this business is close to home; it’s about protecting civilians.  That’s core business for the United Nations.


Question:  No, what I mean to say is… I wanted to… I wanted to contrast this and say that it may be a smaller issue, but I wanted to ask you, this issue of the broadcast engineers, I know you said that Ms. [Angela] Kane gave a press conference; I now understand that they have received letters saying that Friday, that’s it.  So, what I wanted to, they are terminated if they haven’t been selected for UN employment from their union jobs.  Since there was that letter from the AFL-CIO and also in a letter from US, from New York Congress people, I know it’s been said that when there is an answer, is there any intention to answer those two letters, prior to the final termination of these UN, UN workers inside the UN?


Spokesperson:  As I’ve said before, and you’ve just referred to this, Ms. Kane did talk about this at some length, and if there is anything further, then I’ll let you know.  I don’t have anything further, Matthew.


Question:  Is that the UN system’s response to the AFL-CIO and to the Congress people?


Spokesperson:  What I actually said, Matthew, was that if I have anything further, I’d let you know.  And I’ll see if there is anything further, okay?


All right, thank you very much.  Have a good weekend, as well.


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For information media • not an official record