18 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, and welcome to the briefing.


**Secretary-General’s Travels


The Secretary-General is travelling to Geneva, ending a three-day visit to Finland.  He is expected in Geneva shortly.


Speaking to a reporter before leaving Helsinki, the Secretary-General said that he had a successful visit with President Tarja Halonen.  He said that they had discussed sustainable development, as well as recent political concerns, including Libya, Yemen, Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  On Libya, the Secretary-General once more stressed the need for an immediate and verifiable ceasefire.


**Horn of Africa


An airlift of 20,000 tents by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to Ethiopia is scheduled to begin today.  Yesterday, the first of a series of UNHCR emergency airlift flights to bring aid to Somalis in refugee camps began with the arrival of 100 tons of tents in Nairobi.  The family-size tents were immediately dispatched to the Dadaab refugee camp complex near the Kenya-Somalia border.  The airlifts will support UNHCR’s efforts to help more than 430,000 Somali refugees in Kenya and Ethiopia, who are fleeing drought and conflict.


And meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that there are 4.5 million people in need of aid in Ethiopia, about 3 million people in Somalia, 3.5 million people in Kenya, and 120,000 people in Djibouti.  UNICEF says 480,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and they need immediate nutrition support.


**Security Council


The Security Council heard a briefing this morning by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Choi Young-jin.


He said that a new chapter had opened in the country with four major tasks to address: the restoration of law and order; national reconciliation; the holding of legislative elections; and economic recovery.  Choi added that efforts related to these challenges appeared to be moving in the right direction.  But there is a need for a rapid restoration of law and order throughout the country for the other tasks to be carried out successfully.


He said that the UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) was assisting the Ivorian authorities with security in the west of the country by setting up eight new military camps there.  The Security Council is now holding consultations on Côte d’Ivoire and Mr. Choi is likely to talk to reporters at the stakeout after that.


**United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime


The head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) began a visit to Iran today.  During his three-day visit, Executive Director Yury Fedotov will meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior officials to discuss counter-narcotics efforts.  Mr. Fedotov voiced hope that the international community will support Iran’s anti-narcotics measures.  And while in the country, he will also visit Iran’s border area with Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as a drug-rehabilitation centre.  There is more information on Mr. Fedotov’s visit available on the UNODC website.


**Thailand-Cambodia


The International Court of Justice ruled today that Cambodia and Thailand must immediately withdraw their military personnel from the Preah Vihear temple, which is a provisional demilitarized zone.


The Court also stated that Thailand should not obstruct Cambodia’s free access to the temple, or prevent it from providing fresh supplies to its non-military personnel.  Cambodia and Thailand have also been urged by the Court to continue the cooperation they’ve entered into through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and allow ASEAN observers to have access to the provisional demilitarized zone.


**Yemen — Humanitarian


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that humanitarian needs in Yemen are increasing due to the continued conflict in Abyan, in the south of the country.  The Office says that the number of people fleeing the violence is on the rise daily and that fighting is continuing in civilian areas.  A protracted fuel shortage is having an adverse impact on businesses and humanitarian operations, and is also disrupting the water supply in camps.


**Secretary-General’s Statement


A little earlier we issued a statement on the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the Brazilian–Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC).  And the Secretary-General congratulated both countries’ Governments on what is seen as a significant milestone, and a very substantial contribution to regional nuclear disarmament.  We have the full statement available in my office.


That’s what I have for you.  Questions, please?  Yes, Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  On Bahrain, you probably have read the reports that the main opposition group, Al Wefaq, has protested the portion and the seats assigned to it.  The [inaudible] probably gave it 35 seats as against… I mean in the 300‑seat parliament.  They say it’s not enough; it would not, I mean, be able to pull in the changes that they want.  So, do you think that in the light of what the Secretary-General has said the whole talk should be all inclusive?  This apportion of the seats to the main opposition group is good enough…


Spokesperson:  Well… I beg you pardon?


Question:  Can the talks be successful at all?


Spokesperson:  Well, certainly the Secretary-General has taken note of the apparent withdrawal of the Al Wefaq National Islamic Society from this national dialogue process.  It is obviously incumbent on the Bahraini authorities, the Bahraini Government, to really create the right conditions so that all political stakeholders, and that includes this Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, to be able to fully participate in this national dialogue, and so that it can also then lead to the kind of reforms that the Bahraini people are looking for.  So, in short, the Secretary-General is aware of the withdrawal of this group, and secondly, he believes that it is really for the Bahraini authorities to create the right conditions so that as many people can participate as possible. 


Question:  A follow-up?


Spokesperson:  Yes. 


Question:  There was a… there’s reports that the Government there while talking about dialogue has fired some 2,000 public workers for participating in peaceful pro‑democracy protests.  Is that, you know, Human Rights Watch and others have called for him to rehire these people, said it is inconsistent with that.  I just wonder if the UN, because there was that sort of praise that came out of the Secretariat for a dialogue.  What’s the comment on the firing of these people for protesting?


Spokesperson:  Well, again, I think that falls into the category of doing everything possible to create the right atmosphere for that process, for those talks to continue. 


Correspondent:  Okay, so, you… yeah.


Spokesperson:  Any other questions?


Question:  Oh yeah, sure, I actually… yeah, I wanted to ask you, first on Myanmar, and this is… over the weekend, a refugee in Australia has confessed to committing dozens of extrajudicial executions on behalf of the Government there.  So there is a big uproar in Australia saying that this gives more credence that the UN should conduct its own independent inquiry into war crimes in Myanmar.  And I wonder, as with some other questions that have started building up, whether the good offices function of the UN is aware of this confession in Australia and if it… if it has any comment on it, does it think that Mr. Ohida’s request for an investigation should be [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  Let me check on that.  I have asked already previously for some further information on the questions you have asked.  So let me see if I can get something on this.


Question:  And I also… I mean, obviously South Kordofan… I mean, I understand that a lot of it rides on the Security Council mandate, but there have been over the weekend more and more reporting of, you know, bombing, torture, you know, torture of surrendering Nuba soldiers.  And so I just, what’s the UN, you know… have any troops… have any of the existing peacekeepers left the area?  Are they there?  What are they doing?  What does the UN say about events in the last 48 hours in South Kordofan?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think the answer remains the same as last week.  Whether you like it or not or whether we like it or not, the United Nations does not have a mandate to operate there.  It is something that, clearly, we had wished to be otherwise.  And the Secretary-General made very clear that there should not be any vacuum or gap in our ability to monitor what is happening.  But that is the case.  That is the case.  And as for the presence of the troops, the peacekeeping troops there, they are in the process of moving out as they are required to do under this liquidation resolution.  But they have not yet fully withdrawn.  That’s where we are.


Question:  [inaudible] and I mean, I understand [inaudible].


Spokesperson:  I think it’s very important here to look at the reality.  The reality is that the Security Council passed a resolution.  The reality is that the Government of Sudan did not allow the mission to continue.  Did we want it to be otherwise?  Yes, we did.  That’s why the Secretary-General went to Khartoum.  It’s regrettable that we do not have the ability to do what needs to be done.


Question:  One thing, and thanks, I really appreciate that.  Is it Alain Le Roy, when at the stakeout, I guess last week, he’d said they have no mandate to use force or to patrol, but if they witness things, they will respond as humanitarians.  So, that’s sort of for what I was asking for.  It’s like what, have they witnessed anything?  Have they resp… I mean, I don’t mean to, but he seemed to say that they wouldn’t just sit entirely idly by, that there was some sort of baseline…


Spokesperson:  Well, they are not in a position to do that, they are not in a position to move.  They are not in a position to move, and that’s the reality.  That’s the reality at the moment, okay.


Question:  And there is also… this just less, less physical violence, but there is this idea of a currency war that South Sudan is creating its new currency and so North Sudan has said it is going to create a new currency and won’t redeem any of the Sudanese pounds that are in circulation in South Sudan.  I am just… one, I am wondering if the UN has any comment, and two is, is this the kind of issue that Menkerios would work on or who is there?  It seems to be…


Spokesperson:  No, I don’t think we have any comment on that at the moment.  If that changes, I’ll let you know, okay.  Yes?


Question:  On Afghanistan, as the general populace is leaving, there is upscale, I mean in the fighting and in killings and so forth.  Does the Secretary-General’s, I mean, Representative in Afghanistan have anything to say about the situation that exists in Afghanistan now?


Spokesperson:  I’ll check whether the Mission there has had anything or will have anything to say on the most recent developments.  But obviously both Mr. de Mistura and the Secretary-General are on record about what has been happening in recent times in Afghanistan and I don’t think that that will have changed dramatically.  But if we do have anything further, I will let you know.  Yes?


Question:  I understand that was your response based on the question on the Sudan pact.  Here there is the risk of genocide, I mean, at least as being… has been saying the last couple of weeks that something is going on that the UN doesn’t know because it cannot monitor.  And I would like to know if there is any step that the Secretary-General is doing in having the help of certain countries that we know have the capacity through satellite and things to actually know what is really going on, and if there is a situation where genocide is suspected then in the case, you know, take the steps through the Security Council or something?


Spokesperson:  Well, with respect, this is something that the Security Council also can take the lead on, and you may wish to direct your questions to them.   Yes?


Question:  Good morning, good afternoon, Martin.


Spokesperson:  How are you?


Question:  Can we talk about the Libyan Contact Group today or is it too soon?


Spokesperson:  Talk about…?


Question:  The Libyan Contact Group.


Spokesperson:  By all means.


Question:  Okay.  On the statement, the Chair’s statement coming out of Istanbul on 15 July, paragraph 6 — what I am trying to do is get some understanding of how the UN is interpreting these paragraphs — paragraph 6 says the Contact Group reaffirmed the leading role of the United Nations for facilitating dialogue and supporting an inclusive political transition process.  And so, my question is, since 32 nations, and it would seem Al-Khatib, have said that the NTC or the TNC, as people are calling them, will be the recognized official interim Government at this point.  What does that mean in terms of a political process, because does that mean it is self-explanatory or is, are they going to transition to elections or just trying to have a smooth… that’s why I am trying to ask this, is there a bridge there?  Do you want me to reread it to you?


Spokesperson:  I have it in front of me, thank you very much.


Correspondent:  Okay.  Thank you, sir.


Spokesperson:  The point here is that the Contact Group was again underscoring the leading role of the United Nations and, in that, obviously the efforts of Mr. Al‑Khatib, the Special Envoy for Libya of the Secretary-General.  And the idea is that the Special Envoy will travel to Libya at some point, and he has a continuing role as he has played so far in speaking both to the authorities in Tripoli and to those in Benghazi.  And he will continue to do that. 


We’ve said throughout that it is ultimately for the Libyan people to decide their future, and that there are a number of steps that need to be gone through to get to that point, including as I mentioned a little earlier in the briefing the need for an immediate and verifiable ceasefire, and obviously including greater humanitarian access, and importantly, this political process that is being referred to here. 


So, in short, the Contact Group recognized again the role played by the Special Envoy, and was providing support to the Special Envoy’s efforts, and very importantly, urging all those involved to cooperate with him and to coordinate efforts.  As I was mentioning last week, there are many goodwill people and groups and countries, groups of countries and groups… Let me start again, there are many groups of countries and countries that are of goodwill and have something to say on this matter.  It is important that their efforts are coordinated.  And this is something that the Contact Group also underscored.


Question:  But then now under paragraph 13, the last sentence, participating, the participants reiterated the coordinating role of the UN in leading the international efforts to assist Libyans in the field of post-conflict planning for early recovery and peacebuilding.  This is kind of wide range… I mean, is there a wide range… is there a narrow interpretation or exactly?  And my segue on that is, some analysts are saying that this whole issue of being able to tap into the sanction monies, the US is talking about the $30 billion, and now I think the New York Times came out Saturday and said only $3-some billion is liquid, is way beyond the scope of the resolution 1973.  I don’t know if we are ready to get into that yet, but that’s only some analysts are saying that nobody can touch that money because it has been sanctioned by a resolution.  How does it get freed up unless there is another resolution?  I do not pretend to know what the Security Council will do on this, I am just asking you, maybe we could get to it at another point if you may not be ready to answer it now.


Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t pretend to know the answer to that either.  But what I can tell you is that it was important, that at an early stage the Secretary-General recognized that there was a need to plan for the post-conflict phase.  And that’s why he appointed Ian Martin to look at that.  Ian Martin reported to the Contact Group on the steps taken so far.  The Contact Group has encouraged the United Nations to accelerate further the work on that planning, which will be obviously an important part of the process.  As to the funding and so on, I think that it’s too early to speak about that.  Yes?


Question:  A follow-up on Libya.  One is, with the decision by the Contact Group to recognize the National Transitional Council as essentially the Government of Libya, I wonder if that changes… I know that the UN Secretariat gave these courtesy passes to former Ambassador [Abdurrahman Mohamed] Shalgham and his deputy, Ibrahim Dabbashi.  But then it imposed some conditions that they couldn’t speak at the stakeout, but they could come into the building.  Is this… does the Contact Group, given the… you know, its decision about who is the legitimate representative of Libya change anything about the Secretariat’s decision on these two diplomats that have gone to the Benghazi side?


Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge, because the Contact Group is not responsible for recognizing or otherwise.


Question:  Could we get Ian Martin… I just want to ask this one, could… Mr. Al‑Khatib, to his credit, you know, comes to the stakeout every time he briefs the Security Council.  Is it possible, given Ian Martin’s now even more prominent role in this, you know, transition in Libya, to have him either do a stakeout or come to the this room just to describe what his work is and where it stands?


Spokesperson:  We can certainly ask.  Yes?


Question:  [inaudible] in Libya that while they are saying that they will now cancel most of the funds to the new rebels and so forth, the Canadian Foreign Minister is on record having said yesterday that no funds can be given to anybody until the Security Council authorizes that, and because they have been frozen according to the resolution 1973.  So what is the United Nations take on that… until Security Council releases it or what?


Spokesperson:  I just said that I wouldn’t presume to know the answer to this.  It’s surely something that the Council would have a view on, but I don’t have anything on that at this point, okay.  Right, have a good afternoon, thank you.


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For information media • not an official record