11 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome to the briefing, and welcome to our guests as well.


**Noon Guest


And I am pleased to welcome back as my guest at the briefing, Valerie Amos, who is the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.  Ms. Amos is here to brief you on her recent activities, I am sure.  Ms. Amos will first outline what those activities have included, and then take questions.  And that will be until 12:30 p.m., and then I’ll have some more notes for you and we’ll be able to take questions.  Okay, please, Ms. Amos, the floor is yours.


[Press conference by Ms. Amos is issued separately.]


**South Sudan


The Secretary-General is back in New York after participating in the independence ceremony of South Sudan on Saturday.  And speaking in Juba at the event, the Secretary-General said that the birth of this new nation marks the culmination of a long struggle and opens a new chapter: a day when the people of South Sudan claim their freedom and dignity that are their birthright.


He said that, while we gather in celebration, we are mindful of the enormous challenges ahead: deep poverty, lack of basic infrastructure and institutions of Government, and also political insecurity.


The Secretary-General added that a viable South will need a viable North, and vice versa.  He called for South and North to declare, unequivocally, that they remain committed to addressing the unfinished business of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  And we have his speech available on our website.


**Security Council


The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Libya, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, is briefing the Security Council in closed consultations this morning and he intends to speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout later.


Mr. al-Khatib travelled to Tripoli last Saturday and held talks with both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Libya.  He underscored the need for a political solution to the crisis that spares the Libyan people further suffering and meets their legitimate demands and aspirations for a democratic future.


The Special Envoy raised ideas with respect to the management of a transition in Libya.  The Special Envoy also listened to the views of the Government of Libya regarding the impact of sanctions and NATO operations.


**Somalia


As you have just been hearing, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has declared Somalia, which is facing the worst drought in six decades, as the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.


António Guterres saw the desperate situation of Somali refugees first-hand at the Dadaab camp, which is the world’s largest, in Kenya yesterday.  Every week, thousands of refugees arrive at the site in northern Kenya, which has experienced an increase in child mortality rates. 


Prior to the current crisis, Dadaab was already home to more than 300,000 people, but its population is approaching 400,000 again, as you heard from Ms. Amos.  Camp workers are struggling to help refugees spilling out into areas around the main sites.


Mr. Guterres highlighted the need for massive humanitarian assistance to be delivered within Somalia, where access is severely limited.


**Cyprus


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus, Lisa Buttenheim, has expressed her sadness at the deadly explosion at a naval base in the island’s south today.


Ms. Buttenheim said that she has been in touch with President Dimitris Christofias to offer the UN’s assistance.  The UN peacekeeping mission in the country has reduced its electricity and water consumption, given the damage sustained by a power plant near the blast.  The mission has also offered to donate blood.


**Afghanistan


The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN-funded Mine Action Coordination Centre for Afghanistan strongly condemned the killing of four deminers in the country’s west.  The four deminers were among 31 people abducted in Farah Province on Wednesday.  They were later executed.


Michael Keating, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, said that deminers provide life-saving services to vulnerable Afghans, regardless of political, religious or ethnic consideration.  And the United Nations has urged the Government to investigate the incident.


**Secretary-General to Visit Finland


The Secretary-General will visit Finland later this week, and will meet with President Tarja Halonen.  On Friday, 15 July, the Secretary-General and President Halonen will participate in a discussion panel about sustainable development.  And this will take place in SuomiAreena, where, among other things, they will discuss the role of the United Nations in advancing the goals of sustainable development.


After visiting Finland, the Secretary-General will travel to Geneva, where he will meet with President Micheline Calmy-Rey of Switzerland and attend the World Trade Organization’s Third Global Aid for Trade Review.


Questions, please?  Yes, Bill?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Martin, what does the Secretary-General consider to be his appropriate role, or the Secretariat’s appropriate role, in dealing with the issue of the maritime border between Lebanon and Israel and the request that has come from Lebanon, and might come from Israel any day now, to really work to establish the line and figure out who has what in terms of exploratory rights?


Spokesperson:  Well, as we’ve said before, it’s necessary for there to be an approach from the two or more parties to a topic that is disputed.  And I don’t want to get into hypotheticals; we have not received anything from the Israelis at this point, and let’s address that a little later, should it happen.


Question:  What have you received from the Lebanese side regarding this matter?


Spokesperson:  Well, as I think you know from past exchanges on this, a request for assistance.  And what we’ve said is what I just said, that typically, you would require there to be requests, not necessarily jointly, but concurrently from the two parties concerned, or more parties if more parties are involved.


Question:  Just one more thing on this.  Have you received a proposed map from the Lebanese side establishing where they believe the appropriate line should be?


Spokesperson:  I don’t know the answer to that, I need to check.  All right?  Okay, yes, other questions?  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Also on this South Kordofan — I understand the Secretary-General raised it when he was travelling there — I just wanted to know, what’s the current, sort of, freedom of movement of the peacekeepers in South Kordofan?  There is some footage existing of them saying that they are not to leave their base until their status is somehow either agreed on or formalized.  Is it… do they currently… are they conducting patrols?  Have they… is it their understanding they are supposed to stay in the base until they either leave or authorized to go out?  What’s their current mandate and movement?  They…


Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the mandate expired and has not been renewed or extended, at this point, at least.  And that does obviously have implications for the movement of peacekeepers and therefore the freedom of access for humanitarian workers that Ms. Amos just addressed a moment ago.  I’d need to check with our colleagues in Peacekeeping Operations precisely what is happening with the peacekeepers at the moment.  But clearly, if a mandate has expired, you move into a different phase.


Question:  There is a resolution that is going to be adopted, that is slated to be adopted, that is called a wind down, but it’s unclear if… maybe you can, when you ask them what the status is, whether under that even without the consent, its… there is some reference to “with the consent of the parties”.  If North Sudan doesn’t consent, what presence… what is it… essentially just…?


Spokesperson:  That’s precisely why I say we’re moving into a different phase.  And I think that that remains to be clarified.  What remains unchanged is our concern about our ability to provide the protection that’s needed for humanitarian workers to go about their work.  Yes?


Question:  Thanks, Martin.  This may not be your side of things, but is there a deadline for the Palestinian Authority to submit its formal application for statehood to the UN?


Spokesperson:  I think that that would be something for the Office of the President of the General Assembly to answer.  If, on the assumption that they are listening into this, perhaps they will contact you; otherwise I will check and ask them to follow up with you.  I don’t have anything on that at this point.  Okay, further questions?  Yes, Masood, and then I am coming back to you.


Question:  On this Libyan impasse you’re talking about — and you had said that the Secretary-General’s representative is going to brief us, and he has not done so — where does it stand, the complaint of the Libyan Government against the so-called that… I mean, Russians who are now complaining about that… France, what do you call, arming the rebels was wrong and it should not have been done under… so there is interpretation of resolution 1973 (2011) in play.  So, where do we… how do we get to the bottom of this at this point?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think I have said that Mr. Al-Khatib will be briefing at the stakeout later.  And I am sure that that’s something that, if you ask him, he will be able to address.  I think we have covered that topic in previous briefings, and I don’t really have anything further to add on that at this point.  Yes?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to… the Secretary-General met with the President of Eritrea.  I wanted to know if that was his first meeting with him.  And also the readout didn’t seem to make any reference to the widespread allegations that Eritrea supports Al-Shabaab and is a destabilizing factor in Somalia.  Was this something that was discussed, or was not in the readout, or not discussed at all?


Spokesperson:  Well, the readout speaks for itself, Matthew.


Question:  Is that his first meeting with the President of Eritrea?


Spokesperson:  I’ll check, but on the other topic that you’ve mentioned, I think the readout speaks for itself.


Question:  Also there is… I wanted to know, elsewhere in Sudan, Darfur, the Abdul Wahid Nur faction of SLA [Sudan Liberation Army] has said that it should… you know, it’s called for a uniting of all remaining rebels in Sudan to overthrow an Islamist State, and I just wonder what is the understanding of UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur], given this large peacekeeping mission, of the impact of the breakaway of the South on its mandate in Darfur, and is there going to be a replacement to Mr. [Djibril] Bassolé as a sort of joint UN-AU mediator on the Darfur topic or is that mediation completed?


Spokesperson:  I would need to check on any replacement for Mr. Bassolé.  And as for the mission and mandate of UNAMID — the joint UN-African Union mission in Darfur — that remains unchanged.  That is mandated by the Security Council.  That hasn’t changed.  Any other questions?  Yes?


Question:  Just two quick questions.  First about the African Union.  At its last Summit last week or just before that, the leaders, some of the African leaders, were concerned that NATO was conducting the Libyan campaign with little or no consultations with some of the African leaders.  What is the view of the Secretary-General on that allegation?  And then secondly, I want to know whether the UN is following the spate of bombings in Nigeria by Boko Haram, or whether the Secretary-General is planning to or has spoken to any Nigerian officials expressing concern about the spate of bombings by Boko Haram?


Spokesperson:  Well, on the last question first, of course the United Nations is monitoring what has been happening in recent weeks, specifically.  And also, if I am not mistaken, we have also said something about it, and let’s come back to you after this briefing to check that you have the wording that we provided at the time.  On the African Union, their last Summit meeting where, as you mentioned, some leaders expressed some disquiet, this is really a matter for the African leaders to take up with NATO specifically.  What I would simply say is that the resolution under which the NATO forces and other countries who are working with NATO is very explicit about what the aim of this undertaking is, and that is to protect civilians.  And that remains the case.  Okay, further, yes, Masood?


Question:  On Canada’s decision to boycott the Conference on Disarmament after North Korea was elected a chair of its conference, and also, they are also saying that because of this decision, they may even not give their dues to the United Nations.  Do you have any reaction to that?  Canada’s Minister has been saying this. 


Spokesperson:  We’re aware of the reports on this, and I would expect we will have something to say a little later on this, but I don’t have anything right at the moment.  But we’re aware of the reports.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Yeah, in Geneva the UN Appeals Tribunal (UNAT) released a series of decisions, one which is upholding a finding that a whistleblower in UNDP [United Nations Development Programme], Anton Shkurtaj, should be paid… should be paid for a violation of due process.  This case has been bouncing around for some time, and I guess I just wonder, now that that seems to be the final stage of it, is it the Secretary-General’s view that this UNAT decision should be implemented, and as a whistleblower, this person should be compensated by UNDP?


Spokesperson:  I’d have to check on the ruling; I have not seen it yet.  Okay.  Right, thank you.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record