6 July 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.


Hi, and welcome to the noon briefing.  Does this mike work? Yes.


**Guests at Noon Briefing


So today we have five guests at the noon briefing, and I am going to introduce them and they will make brief remarks, and then we will go to questions and answers.


Our first guest is Dmitry Titov, the Assistant Secretary-General for the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  Our second guest is Ivan Šimonović, the Assistant Secretary-General for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Next to him is Jarmo Viinanen, the Permanent Representative of Finland; and next to him Mr. Léo Mérorès, the Permanent Representative of Haiti.  And then finally we have Mr. Remongar T. Dennis, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Liberia.  And they will brief you on the United Nations Rule of Law Indicators.


Please go ahead.


[Briefing on the United Nations Rule of Law Indicators issued separately.]


Okay, so I have a few notes for you and then we can take a few questions.


**Secretary-General Travel


The Secretary-General arrived in Spain this morning.


In Valencia, the Secretary-General and Crown Prince Felipe opened a new UN Support Base.


The Secretary-General said the base provides a vital back-up to the UN Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy.


UN peacekeeping, peacebuilding and special political missions depend on communications, he said.  For too long, those operations were served by one hub, leaving them vulnerable.


Upon returning to Madrid, the Secretary-General had a working lunch with Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez, and met Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.  We expect a readout of those meetings later.


And just about now, the Secretary-General is attending a meeting hosted by the Prime Minister on food security, sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals.


The Secretary-General will fly on to Geneva later today.


[The Spokesperson later issued the following readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with the Spanish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister:


The Secretary-General met with the Prime Minister of Spain, H.E. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and the Foreign Minister of Spain, H.E. Trinidad Jimenez, in Madrid today.


In their meeting, the Secretary-General and the Prime Minister discussed the Middle East peace process.  The Secretary-General underscored the importance of the role of the Quartet.


They also exchanged views on Syria and Libya.  They discussed the need to support democratic transition in countries in the region, such as in Egypt and Tunisia.  They also discussed Western Sahara.


The Secretary-General and the Prime Minister also discussed Afghanistan.


They exchanged views on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), global sustainability and food security.


The Secretary-General thanked the Prime Minister and the people of Spain for funding the UN Support Base which he opened with H.E. Crown Prince Felipe in Valencia earlier in the day.


The Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister, in a separate meeting over lunch, discussed the Middle East peace process and the role of the Quartet.  They also discussed Libya, Cyprus and Western Sahara.]


**Southern Kordofan


And yesterday we issued a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the situation in Southern Kordofan, Sudan:


The Secretary-General expresses his disappointment that the parties to the conflict in South Kordofan State, Sudan, have not yet agreed to a cessation of hostilities and deplores the grave humanitarian impact of continued fighting, particularly in light of the end of the UNMIS mandate on 9 July.


The Secretary-General calls on the parties to immediately cease hostilities, ensure the protection of civilians and provide all support necessary for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need.  The Secretary-General calls on the parties to resolve the underlying issues to the conflict through political dialogue, as agreed under the Framework Agreement between the Government of Sudan and Sudan People's Liberation Movement (North) on 28 June 2011.


The Secretary-General offers the continued support of the United Nations to the Government of Sudan and all stakeholders toward resolving the conflict, implementing a ceasefire, and facilitating the provision of humanitarian assistance to those in need.


**Security Council


And this morning the Security Council heard a briefing by the Special Representative for Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, on the situation in the country.


Mr. de Mistura said the transition is on track.  He added the process must not be just about security, but it should also be tied to social, economic and human rights aspects.


And we expect to see him at the stakeout once the Council meeting is over. There were still a few speakers left when I came down here, but that was a while ago, so it should be soon.


The Security Council this morning also adopted a resolution on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda that allows ad litem judges to be eligible for election as President of the Tribunal.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


And concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a new UN report finds there has been a continuing lack of accountability, justice and security for the hundreds of people who were raped last summer in the far east of the country.


An investigation into human rights abuses perpetrated in the Walikale territory of North Kivu found that the attacks could constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.


A judicial inquiry into the violations by the military prosecutor’s office was suspended due to concerns over the protection of victims and witnesses.  Some who cooperated with authorities have suffered reprisals, according to the report.


The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said that since the Walikale attacks, there have been many other instances of rape and other types of sexual violence being systematically used as weapons of war and reprisal by armed groups.


She said the Government should pursue efforts to bring perpetrators to justice and ensure that victims and witnesses are protected.


**Press Conference


And finally, tomorrow we will have a press conference at 12:30 p.m., on the occasion of the signing of the Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Office for Partnerships, and the Permanent Memorial Committee on Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  That’s at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow.


And that’s what I have for you.  And it’s really late, but I’ll take a few questions.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Vannina.  Regarding East Africa, one of the officials from the UN system had been warning about a pending humanitarian crisis as a result of famine and drought.  What is the Department of Humanitarian Affairs doing to encourage donors to come forward to try to help mitigate this crisis?


Associate Spokesperson:  In East Africa?


Correspondent:  East Africa.


Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.  I think it’s about to launch an appeal; I’m not sure if it has already, but obviously, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is urging donors to give generously, of course, so that UN agencies and partners can address the situation in East Africa.  You will have seen that; I believe Valerie Amos spoke out about that not too long ago, and there has been other press releases on this from OCHA.  Yes.  Yes, sir?

[The Associate Spokesperson later said that there are OCHA Consolidated Appeals in East Africa for Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia.]


Question:  I guess this is just a by the way.  I just want to know who placed this resolution – I picked it up in your office — Office of the Spokesperson — and it is calling for the establishment of a world government.  I don’t know whether you guys have seen it; this is… are you aware of this?


Associate Spokesperson:  No.  Where did you pick it up?


Correspondent:  I picked it up right from the Spokesperson’s Office.


Associate Spokesperson:  Okay, well, I’ll look at it.


Question:  [holding up a copy]  You still have copies there.  I’d just like to know…


Associate Spokesperson:  My vision isn’t good enough that I actually can’t read it from here, sorry.  I’ll look at it right after.  Okay.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I want to ask a few things; one is I saw there as this statement yesterday by the Secretary-General on South Kordofan, but since then this Satellite Sentinel Project has said that in fact the government has, is massing troops on the border there I, in, I guess in the run-up to the independence day on 9 July.  And I just wonder, is the UN, is it aware of that?  Can it verify that and what, what’s the status of peacekeeping in South Kordofan?


Associate Spokesperson:  Do you mean how many troops we have in South Kordofan?  I think about a thousand in South Kordofan — UN troops.  And as far as the — we are aware of the reports that there has been troops along the border area.


Question:  Did they have freedom of movement?  Do the peacekeepers that have been there, can they…?


Associate Spokesperson:  I think the Secretary-General — and in a previous statement but this would still be, this would still be valid today — has called for unrestricted movement of UNMIS personnel, but also aid agencies.  You know one of our big concerns is that there is humanitarian access, and people in need can have assistance.


Question:  So, when… just one thing…?


Associate Spokesperson:  Sure.


Question:  …shall we interpret, when the statement says he calls for unrestricted access, this means that the UN peacekeepers are in fact not free to move and verify where people have been killed?  I mean, I am just trying to figure out; there are people there SPLM (North) says many villages [inaudible]


Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, we are calling for unrestricted access for both the peacekeepers and the UN agencies.


Question:  That means you don’t have it; you see what I mean?


Associate Spokesperson:  Yeah.


Question:  Okay. and I just want…


Associate Spokesperson:  There are some restrictions on movements, yes.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  The United Nations is sending a ship from Benghazi, Libya, to Misrata, carrying food for the people in Misrata…?


Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, WFP — the World Food Programme, I am sorry — is indeed doing that and I think you can get more information on it with them.


Question:  No, my question is, was this done in consultation with the Libyan regime, Qadhafi regime, or independently of it?


Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t know.  I’ll have to check with WFP.  Yes?


[The Associate Spokesperson later said that the World Food Programme had a general consent of the Government to assist those in need in Libya but did not liaise with them for every move of staff or assets within the country.  For the safety of our staff and assets, the World Food Programme liaises with authorities on the ground, as appropriate, when organizing deliveries and distributions.]


Question:  Good morning; I asked Martin yesterday about the old case of four Iranian diplomats who were abducted by Phalange militia and supposedly turned over to Israeli authorities.  But there is a lot of, uh, hearsay, here and the other place from three decades worth of that story, but the long and short of it is no one has ever seen or heard from them since.  According to a couple of reports, the Secretary-General was asked by Lebanese and Iranian diplomats to go to the Security Council and look for some kind of action, some kind of an investigation, even though it is 30 years late.  And there are a couple reports that say the SG did go to the UNSC and do this.  Martin said he would; he didn’t have any information on it yesterday; he’d look into it for me.  Did he leave anything with you?


Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.  I remember your question from yesterday and we’re following up on it, but I have nothing to confirm right now.


Question:  Is there, I mean, it’s just a simple question of whether he spoke to the Security Council or not, and if they did anything back again, and can you give me any indication of when I might be able to get some information on that?


Associate Spokesperson:  We’re trying to get it to you as soon as possible, as we always do.  Yes, sir?


Question:  Has there been a recent deployment of UN troops in Somalia recently?


Associate Spokesperson: Sorry?


Question:  Has there been a recent deployment…?


Associate Spokesperson:  It is AMISOM troops in Somalia, not UN troops.


Correspondent:  AMISOM troops, yeah.


Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, so that’s the African Union, not us.


Question:  Yeah, is the UN aware of recent deployment of troops in Somalia?


Associate Spokesperson:  I am not, but I’ll check.


Question:  I want to ask about Michael Williams and then about a meeting of the Secretary-General yesterday.  But there are these reports that after Michael Williams filed with the Council about the Nakba Day violence that Israeli has cancelled his visit and has “cut ties”, — that’s how it is described.  What’s the UN’s understanding the relay of Israel’s reaction to the report and has a visit by Michael Williams been cancelled by the Government?


Associate Spokesperson:  So on our reaction to those media reports, the Secretary-General is aware of Israeli media reports today revolving around his latest report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).  The report of the Secretary-General and its conclusions concerning events on the Blue Line on 15 May are based on the investigation carried out by UNIFIL and discussed with the Israel Defense Force, and the Lebanese Armed Forces in recent tripartite meetings.  The Secretary-General stands by his conclusions and observations.  He stresses that the Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, enjoys his full trust and support, as does the Force Commander of UNFIL, General Alberto Asarta.


Question:  All right.  And I wanted to ask, there was, yesterday afternoon there was a meeting between the Secretary-General and, I guess, some of his advisers and a Sri Lanka opposition leader Ranil…


Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.


Question:  I wasn’t able to go, and I sort of didn’t understand it because previous photo ops with other opposition leaders like Tzipi Livni have been in fact open, at least for the photo-op portion.  So I wanted to ask you, who attended on the, on…  Is it true that Patricia O’Brien and Mr. Nambiar both attended?  Who attended on the Sri Lanka side, and separately, is there a readout of the meeting?


Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t have a readout of the meeting.  And this is like — remember the DRC opposition leader — it’s kind of the same thing.  Readouts of either political leaders that are in the opposition or civil society, we don’t always put those out, Matthew.  I don’t know who was in the meeting; I can try and ask, but I am not sure we would be giving that out.


Question:  I mean, I guess because the meeting with Tzipi Livni, who is not an elected official but is an opposition leader, I mean she is not [inaudible]?


Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, I understand, but I am giving you another example which is the one with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and we didn’t give you a readout on that one.  Remember that one?


Question:  [inaudible] what explains the difference in these cases?


Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t remember the Israel one, actually, so… but I know for the DRC and this one we are not putting it out.  Yeah?


Question:  [inaudible] you’re all going to try to find out whether the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts report on possible war crimes in Sri Lanka was discussed at this seemingly secretive meeting?


Associate Spokesperson:  Sure, I’ll try to find out for you, yes.  Yeah?


Question:  There are reports today again, as there were a few weeks ago, about the Palmer report.  Is there any due date?  Where does it stand right now?  When is the Palmer report going to be made public and who does it have to be handed over to?  Is it the Security Council?  Is it…?


Associate Spokesperson:  It has to be handed to the Secretary-General, and we understand that… [correspondent’s phone rings]


Correspondent:  Sorry about that.


Associate Spokesperson: Come on, Benny!  [laughter]  So I guess you don’t want that answer; okay, good.


Correspondent:  I do want it.  Sorry.


Associate Spokesperson:  So, yes, it has to be handed to the Secretary-General and I understand that the Panel intends to submit it in the coming days, although I do not have a specific date.  Yes?  Hello, sir.


Question:  Wait, wait; so is it completed by now?  Is the report…?


Associate Spokesperson:  The Panel of Inquiry is meeting to finalize its report this week.


Question:  Can you take us…?  [correspondent’s phone rings again]


Associate Spokesperson:  Okay, Benny, seriously, is that you?  [laughter]


Question:  Can you tell me when was the last conversation that the Secretary-General had with the President of Syria, [Bashar] al-Assad, and if he is intent to have, you know, new one, and especially if he is aware that the city of Hama there has been a situation where they think the situation can escalate and…?


Associate Spokesperson:  Right.  I mean, obviously the Secretary-General is aware of the latest violence in Syria and as you know he is monitoring the situation there very closely.  And he has expressed his concern over the ongoing violence in the country.  As far as the last phone conversation goes, I’d have to check that.  I don’t know it off the top of my head.  So, I’ll check for you.  Yes?


That’s it?  Perfect.  Have a great…


Question:  May I [inaudible]?


Associate Spokesperson:  Is your phone going to ring?  Because if your phone rings, I am not answering.


Correspondent:  I promise, it won’t.


Associate Spokesperson:  What?


Correspondent:  I promise it won’t.


Associate Spokesperson:  Okay.  [laughter]


Question:  Is it possible that the report would be issued without a complete agreement with all the members, or does it require the complete agreements of all members?


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the Panel is independent on substance, so we are not going to speculate on the results of its work.


Question:  But just procedurally, is it supposed to be submitted by consensus of all members of the Committee or is it possible that there will be dissent?


Associate Spokesperson:  I think that’s a question for the Panel, but again, on substance they work independently, and I am not going to speculate on the result of their work.


Thank you very much.  Have a great afternoon.



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