|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.
**Secretary-General in Sudan
The Secretary-General has arrived in Juba, where he will attend the independence ceremony of the new Republic of South Sudan tomorrow.
Before arriving in Juba, he stopped over in Khartoum, where he met with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti.
The Secretary-General told reporters afterward that, while the people of North and South Sudan will soon live in different countries, their futures will continue to be closely linked. He called on all Sudanese, from the North and South, to come together to shape their common future.
At the same time, the Secretary-General pointed to continuing challenges, including the violence in Southern Kordofan and the need for the parties to make the political compromises necessary to finally resolve the question of Abyei.
And we have his remarks available in the Spokesperson’s Office.
The Security Council this morning unanimously approved a resolution establishing the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) for an initial period of one year. The Mission will consist of up to 7,000 military personnel and up to 900 civilian police personnel. And the Security Council also welcomed the appointment by the Secretary-General of Hilde Johnson as his Special Representative for the Republic of South Sudan.
The Security Council is hearing from Said Djinnit, head of the UN Office for West Africa, about the latest developments in that region. We will have his remarks available in our Office, and Mr Djinnit is expected to be the guest at today’s noon briefing, once the Council’s discussions on West Africa have ended.
And we also have Hilde Johnson’s bio data available in our office.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that very few civilians remain on the front lines in Libya.
Misrata remains inaccessible by road, but assistance is arriving regularly by sea.
Despite the volatile security situation in the Nafusa Mountains region, humanitarian supplies and personnel are able to enter the area through a border crossing with Tunisia.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the shortage of medicine and the departure of medical personnel continue to affect the health system in both Government- and opposition-controlled areas.
More than 700,000 people have fled Libya, while nearly 220,000 are internally displaced.
The UN and other organizations have confirmed the presence of explosive remnants of war and large caches of small arms in some several heavily populated areas of Libya.
UNICEF is helping to protect children, who are particularly at risk since they are prone to picking up the weapons and playing with them. And we have more information in our office and on the UNICEF web site.
**UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, who is on a two-day trip to Ethiopia, has today warned that humanitarian efforts to help Somali refugees arriving in the country could be overwhelmed if there isn’t a more rapid international response to the crisis.
Mr. Guterres yesterday visited the Dollo Ado area in south-east Ethiopia and spoke to refugees escaping a drought and a conflict inside Somalia and saw the dire conditions first hand.
With 1,700 people from Somalia now arriving each day into Ethiopia, agencies and the Government are struggling to cope with such high numbers. Kenya, too, is experiencing a similar influx of refugees. There’s more on the UNHCR website.
**Horn of Africa
As the drought continues to affect the Horn of Africa, the World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food assistance to 6 million people in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and eastern Uganda.
The Agency, however, expects the numbers to rise to 10 million in the days ahead, as the situation worsens.
The World Food Programme is working with these Governments, but says it will require nearly $500 million in funds. It currently faces a shortfall of nearly $200 million.
Meanwhile, UNICEF also warns that 2 million children face malnutrition and are threatened by this crisis.
UNICEF and its partners are setting up child immunization campaigns and working in the vital areas of water, food and sanitation.
However, funding shortfalls, and denial of access in some areas, could disrupt essential activities. UNICEF is asking for $32 million for the coming three months to be able to provide life-saving services.
And as I mentioned earlier, we do hope to have Said Djinnit, the Special Representative and head of the UN Office for West Africa, here soon. He is in the Council now, but once he is done, we expect him to come here.
**Guest at Noon on Monday
And then on Monday, our guest will be Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, to brief on recent activities. That’s it from me. Yes, Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Farhan, on this report that is published in the New York Times on Lebanon, has Israel launched a formal protest to the Secretary-General about it, that report which accuses Israel of using fire to dispel the demonstrations and so forth?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: We have not received any formal complaint. Beyond that, I think we’ve made clear the nature of this report, which is the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006), concerning Israel and Lebanon. And the Secretary-General based that report on information, including that gathered by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Question: Basically, you have not received any sort of notification from Israel, protesting or otherwise rejecting it or something?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: No, not formally received it so far. That may be on its way, but not so far, no. Yes, please?
Question: Farhan, when do you expect the release of the [Geoffrey] Palmer report on the flotilla?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: At this stage, all I can tell you is that the Palmer panel is continuing its work. We don’t have a date at this point.
Question: Are they still working on the text?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: All I can say is that they’re continuing their work, and we’re hopeful that they will complete their work, but I don’t have a date for you. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I want to ask, in South Kordofan, there is now more and more detailed reporting about, accusing the Egyptian peacekeepers for staying in their base; people were killed just outside. And supposedly there is a letter from Al-Hilou, the SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] North leader, accusing the UN commander there, asking why the militias that were searching people house to house were stationed right next to the camp. Is it true that they were stationed right next to the camp, and what is the UN’s response to this criticism that they stood by while civilians were being killed?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I think we’ve made our clear our response to that. There were very heavy problems involving the fighting in Kadugli, and it did constrain the ability of our peacekeepers to act. We’re looking into how the response was handled, but certainly we have made clear, even at the time, we made clear the tremendous problems caused by the parties themselves in terms of the fighting, which did impede the ability of the peacekeepers to carry out their basic functions.
Question: What about this, very specifically, the setting up of this pro-Government militia right next to the UN peacekeepers’ base? Is that, did that take place?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: We’d have to check what the location is of that, and I’ll check with our peacekeeping colleagues on that.
Question: And also, were there two Nuba local staff that were in fact killed? There is an article in the Independent listing them by name. Is that something that the UN can confirm?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: No, that’s not. And I believe we said at the time there were some lists of staff that had come to us of staff who’d purportedly been killed and we checked up, and those staff were in fact alive. So that’s what we said at the time. I don’t know whether the situation has changed; but certainly the information we had at the time was that the staff… that the reports of staff killed were not true.
Question: And since, there has been no indication?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I have no indication that that’s changed since then. Yes?
Question: I had asked Martin [Nesirky] on Tuesday, I believe, about any information on speculation as to Mr. [Alain] Le Roy’s successor. He referred me to your previous comments last week. And I looked at the transcript of your briefing on Friday; there was no mention of it there. Do you know anything about any possible successors to Monsieur Le Roy?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I can simply repeat what I said at the time, which is simply this: At the time that we announced his impending departure at the end of August, we made clear at that point that we would be looking for a replacement for Mr. Le Roy. As a result, the Member States of the UN should feel free to take the opportunity to offer and submit any suggestions for candidates; and we would take those suggestions into consideration. And that’s where we stand.
Question: So, you’re waiting for suggestions?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: That’s what we said and we stand by that. Yeah?
Question: Can I ask one, has, just to ask you, has France presented the name of Gérard de Bonnafant as its candidate for the position?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have any names to confirm or announce. At this point we’re just in the stage of trying to receive names.
Question: One more on Sudan because of what’s happening today. So UNMISS is — with two S’s — has been created, but what happenings with UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan]? What is the current role and sort of status of Mr. [Haile] Menkerios? How long is he going to stay in the region, I guess either winding up UNMIS or dealing with the border issues?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, he will be winding up UNMIS, whose mandate expires at the same time as the mandate of the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan comes in. Mr. Menkerios did give basically a closing press conference yesterday, and I think we shared his remarks from that conference, and I’d refer you to that.
Question: And what, just before you began, there was a press conference here by the chair of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries and, in which, I just want to sort of ask you whether it’s, he seemed to indicate that he believes that the UN Mission in Afghanistan was using non-UN personnel for security, and that some of them were killed. He said, he didn’t, he said to ask, so I guess I am asking you: is it the UN, is it DPKO’s [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] and UN’s position that they don’t use mercenaries in any, including in Afghanistan?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Yeah, I’d just refer you to our stance against using mercenaries. We do have a policy on that and I’d refer you to that. You can get some more information from our colleagues in Field Services on that; in Field Support. Yes?
Question: Farhan, what happened to your guest for today?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: He is, like I said, he is in the Security Council, which is in consultations. He should be coming, but he may be tied up. So what we now have to do, then, is I’ll cut this short, since I guess we’re done with this. But we will then try and squawk if he is available; we can try and bring him in once he is available and he can talk to you in this room.
Thanks very much. Have a good weekend!
* *** *For information media • not an official record