29 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 Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, everyone.


** Sudan Statement


The Secretary-General has welcomed the signing yesterday in Addis Ababa of the Framework Agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, or SPLM-North.


The Secretary-General commends both parties for the political will they have demonstrated in reaching the agreement.  He urges them to use the momentum created to conclude a cessation of hostilities in South Kordofan without delay.


The Secretary-General calls on the parties to ensure the protection of vulnerable civilians and full humanitarian access to those in need in South Kordofan.


And we have the full statement in our office and online.


**Security Council


The Security Council this morning adopted a resolution extending the redeployment of three armed helicopters with their crews from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to the one in Côte d’Ivoire until the end of September.  The Council also extended the deployment of an additional 2,000 military personnel to the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) until the end of next month.


And in a separate resolution, the Security Council extended the terms of many of the ad litem, or short-term, judges sitting on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.


** Afghanistan


The Secretary-General has said that security for the United Nations in Afghanistan has become an increasing challenge for the Organization.


In his latest report to the Security Council on Afghanistan, which is available today, the Secretary-General also expresses concern over the number of civilian casualties, in particular Afghan children and women, being affected by the insecurity and conflict.


He says that a redoubling of efforts by all parties is required to reach a political settlement, for which the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) will continue to support and advise the Afghan Government on matters related to peace and reconciliation.


The Secretary-General also observed that the transition process must be Afghan-owned and that the UN Mission will provide support to local authorities.  The report is available online.


** Gaza


As you know, the Summer Games 2011 that are organized by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) began almost two weeks ago.


Tomorrow, more than 3,000 UNRWA students in Gaza are expected to break the first of four world records by playing parachute games at the Khan Younis Stadium.  The UN Relief and Works Agency has more details on its website.


** Lebanon


And I've been asked by reporters today whether the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has shared its indictment with the United Nations.  That is not the case, and any reports to the contrary are false.


**Press Conferences


For press conferences, today at 2:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by Mark Bowden, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, who will brief you on the situation in that country.


And then tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference on the occasion of the “Women Together Awards 2011”, and this event is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Austria.


And that is it from me.  Yes, please?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Regarding the Gaza flotilla, I wanted to know, where does it stand as far as international law is concerned?  Would Israel be breaking international law by stopping the boats, or will the organizer of the flotilla be breaking international law if they try to enter Gaza under blockade?  Where does it stand?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, in terms of the international legal side, we wouldn’t have any comment on anything speculative.  Right now, at this stage, we have simply been encouraging all countries in the region to help to avoid tensions in the region.  And the same time, the Secretary-General has made clear that he believes that the established aid routes, which is to say the land routes, should be used to get aid in and out of Gaza.  And so that’s our approach and that is where we stand for now.  I don’t believe we’ve come further along regarding the question of the flotilla, which is not in the area at present; is not in the Gaza area at present.


Question:  But Farhan, the UN does not recognize the blockade as being legal, does it?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Our position on the blockade is well known, and you know that we have repeatedly called for an opening up of Gaza and an end to the closures and checkpoints.


Question:  But is there a UN position on the legality of the blockade?  It’s not recognized by anybody except Israel, as far as I know, right?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Like I said, we’ve worked to make sure that this can be ended both through our individual efforts, through the Secretary-General’s efforts and those of our agencies on the ground, and also through our partners in the Quartet.  And we will continue to do that.  Yes, Masood?


Question:  Farhan, do you have any idea, is that flotilla on hold now or is it moving ahead?  Do you have any information on that at all?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not aware that it is in the Gaza area.  Beyond that, of course, you’d have to ask the flotilla organizers where they are with that. Yes, Shirwin?


Question:  Farhan, what’s the Secretary-General’s reaction to the growing chorus of African countries criticizing the ICC [International Criminal Court] warrant of arrest for Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi, basically saying that it undermines the work and the progress they have made to date?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, certainly, we do not second-guess the work that is done by the International Criminal Court, which, as you know, is an independent judicial body, and they’re perfectly entitled to carry out their own work.  That work does enjoy the support of the United Nations in the broadest sense.  And of course, in this case, the situation in Libya was referred to the International Criminal Court by the Security Council in its resolutions.


Question:  What’s the view of the Special Envoy, Mr. [Abdul Ilah] al-Khatib?  He seems to be making very slow progress; does this hurt the work that he is doing?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as far as that goes, Mr. Al-Khatib’s work continues, and as you know, he, in particular, has been very precise about making sure that the African Union is included in his discussions.  He was in South Africa just over the weekend dealing with the African Union on the question of Libya.  And he will be attending the high-level meeting that the African Union is holding in Malabo, in Equatorial Guinea, starting tomorrow, where he will take up Libya issues with them.  So that continues.  Yes?


Question:  On the situation in Afghanistan, I am sure you must have issued a statement earlier.  I was not here.  Has the United Nations assessed the situation as it seems that the Taliban, or the extremist Taliban, are growing more aggressive and there have been attacks against United Nations also earlier.  Are you assessing the security situation?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, not to comment on yesterday’s event, but what I can tell you, just before you came in, I read out the fact that the Secretary-General’s latest report on Afghanistan is out as a document, and it does highlight our security concerns for Afghans as well as for our personnel.  So I’d just refer you to that.  Yes?


Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  I heard what you said about the Special Tribunal, but I wonder:  how prepared is the United Nations for the event of publishing the indictment from the Special Tribunal, especially that there are a lot of personnel, UN personnel, in Lebanon?  How prepared are you?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t want to speculate about any events that could happen once there are indictments.  We are not at that stage today, certainly.  But certainly, if there are developments on the ground for which we need to take account, we will adjust to those as they take place.


Question:  But there are no special preparations in the UN, within the UN facilities and personnel in Lebanon?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  There is nothing I have to disclose on this at present. Of course, when it comes to questions of security, we always periodically review security at all of our various duty stations.  If there are developments on the ground that would affect it, we then adjust our security posture to take account of what those developments would entail.  Yes, Joe?


Question:  Farhan, perhaps I should know this, but what is the procedure for announcing the indictments?  Is it supposed to be given to the Secretary-General, and it is up to him to announce, or I think the Prosecutor was going to do it?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I think you would need to talk to my colleagues in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and they could tell you what their procedures are.  That’s about them.  Like with the International Criminal Court, they are an independent body and they can follow their procedures.


Question:  Is the Secretary-General expecting to receive it at some point?  You said it hasn’t happened yet; is that something that is going to happen?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  The Tribunal does try periodically to inform the Secretary-General and the Security Council of their work.  You’ve seen the briefings by the Tribunal Prosecutor, which he makes every few months to the Security Council; and we expect periodically to be kept abreast of their work.


Question:  So he could announce indictments without first sending them to the Secretary-General?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Like I said, they are an independent body.  They have the ability to deal with their own indictments through their own procedures.  In this case, and most recently, as you know, one of the chambers of judges is reviewing indictments that were handed to them by the Prosecutor several months ago.  Yes?


Question:  Farhan, there have been some news about arrests of wives of jailed people in Saudi Arabia; attacking their houses at night and arresting the wives for protesting the jailing of their husbands.  Do you have anything about that?  And is there anything from the Human Rights Council on this situation?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Not that I am aware of; I can check whether we’ll have a response.  Yes?


Question:  How about the cemetery in Jerusalem?  Did you check about that?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We didn’t get any… we didn’t have any verification of what you were saying a couple of days ago, so there is no response at present.  Yes?


Question:  Sure, I have some questions about Sudan.  One is, you’ve read this statement on South Kordofan.  It was said yesterday in this DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] briefing by a UN official that the UN has not accessed portions of the Nuba Mountains, where most of the fighting is taking place.  Can you say, on what, is this now, do you believe that this Agreement changes that?  When will the UN actually get to these areas where people have said to be being killed by Government bombing?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, as you know, in the statement itself, the Secretary-General did call on the parties to ensure the protection of vulnerable civilians and full humanitarian access to those in South Kordofan.


Beyond that, what I would like to point out is the continued denial of freedom of movement obstructs the monitoring and assessment of needs for the 7,000 internally displaced persons who vacated the UN Mission in Sudan’s Protection Perimeter in Kadugli after they were instructed by local authorities to return to the town; in other words, the town of Kadugli.


The parties to the conflict must ensure protection of civilians and guarantee the freedom of movement for all UN personnel.  And these and other events in that region, we are trying to get the necessary access so that we can follow up on that.


Question:  And can you, it was also said that the Governor of South Kordofan State, Ahmed Haroun, the ICC indictee who the UN flew around, is himself responsible for blocking access to Kadugli town.  Does that remain the case?  And what is the… Does the UN… Does it in any way change the UN’s relation to Ahmed Haroun?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  The UN’s relation to Ahmed Haroun, as with other officials, is to deal with them on the strictest need.  In other words, if there is a particular need that involves, for example, the protection of civilians for which we believe we need to get in contact with him, we would do that. 


Question:  Can I ask you on Abyei?  It was said at the same briefing that — and I know that I had asked you what the plan was to do human rights monitoring with this new UNISFA [United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei] force, but it seems you’d said that it will just be included in the report, but that won’t be filed until after 9 July.  So I wanted to ask you more specifically, what, who in the UN system is actually planning?  Is it credible that the UN Secretariat, DPKO, can monitor human rights, as requested by the resolution, in the Abyei region, and what are those plans?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We have responsibilities in the resolution for human rights monitoring and to report back on how we will fill that out.  And we’ll take up those responsibilities very seriously.  And the details of that will be shared with the Council and then, at that point, with you, as well.


Question:  Okay.  One Darfur question, if you don’t mind?  There is a report by Radio Dabanga that IDPs [internally displaced persons] in Darfur who have been chased out of Shangil Tobaya, various towns and have gone to Tawila have received no assistance from the UN system — WFP [World Food Programme] and others.  It’s hundreds of people, so they have, this is a report and I just wanted to know, last time there was somehow a denial that there is any problem of providing aid to people, but does the UN acknowledge or is it aware of this report, and what is it going to do about it?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, first of all, the general point is:  yes, you had, I think, some days ago tried to bring up a different report about an area where it was believed that UN aid was not forthcoming, and that report simply was not the case.  The World Food Programme confirmed that aid was going to that area.  They have said that their normal aid patterns to parts of Darfur have been going on and I believe that to be the case.  If there is anything to the contrary, I’ll let you know.


Question:  Just one follow-up on that, because on that previous report the issue that the people in the camps were raising is that they are now given vouchers and told to go to merchants that they have very little trust in, rather than food.  So that was, I mean, WFP is providing vouchers but it is no longer providing food as it once did, is what the people in the camps have said, and I just wonder what was the basis of the decision by WFP to make that change that’s led to this unhappiness?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the World Food Programme has said that it’s been conducting distributions and conducting them as before.  If there are changes on the ground, and how that’s been carried out, you’ll need to ask the World Food Programme for particulars on that.


Question:  Can I ask a Myanmar question? There is now the Government; the Government media there has published an article saying that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi should not hold a previously scheduled campaign in rural areas; that it might lead to riots.  And also that the NLD [National League for Democracy] should, as an illegal political party, cease activities.  So I am wondering what, there have been a series of what seemed to some to be an escalation by the Government since the visit of the good offices of Vijay Nambiar, and at what point is, is now the UN aware of this and does it have any comment on these Government threats on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her previously planned democracy trip to the countryside?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We’re certainly aware of the latest reports and you will have seen what we have said about the need for inclusive political participation.  You have seen what we have said, including in recent weeks, about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and we stand by our previous remarks.


Have a good afternoon, everyone.


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For information media • not an official record