|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.
Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told the Security Council this morning that the political process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in profound and persistent deadlock. Efforts to find the necessary common ground for resumed negotiations have proven extremely difficult, given the differences and lack of trust between the parties.
He pointed to some accomplishments in recent years. The Palestinian Authority has, in key areas, reached a level of institutional performance sufficient for a functioning State. Palestinians have seen law and order return to the main cities and Israelis have faced comparatively fewer acts of violence from the West Bank. Yet there is a limit to such achievements without more political and physical space, Mr. Serry said.
The Special Coordinator said that, without a credible political path forward, accompanied by more far-reaching steps on the ground, the viability of the Palestinian Authority and its state-building agenda — and of the two-State solution itself — cannot be taken for granted.
**Horn of Africa
Due to drought and famine in Somalia, more than 100,000 internally displaced people have converged on the capital, Mogadishu, in the past two months, in search of food, water and shelter, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reports. That number is growing every day, with daily arrivals averaging 1,000 this month. The agency says that the amount of food being delivered is not sufficient to meet needs, given the growing numbers of uprooted people who require assistance. Its staff has seen first-hand the desperation of hungry, displaced people, as they jostled for food being distributed by local charities. There has been serious crowding and looting, leaving some of the weakest and most vulnerable with nothing.
And this week, a vaccination campaign backed by the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, was launched for children living in communities around the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya. That campaign seeks to reach more than 200,000 children. Another similar campaign wrapped up today in southern Somalia. Preparations are under way for a further round in Gedo, near the border with Kenya and Ethiopia, where UNICEF hopes to reach 2.5 million children, provided it can gain access to southern Somalia.
And for its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) hopes to begin the first in a series of airlifts of food for severely malnourished children in Somalia shortly.
The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has reported that a UNIFIL convoy was hit by an explosion near Saida at 6 p.m. this evening, local time. Preliminary reports indicate that three soldiers were wounded, and one of them was taken to hospital. The Lebanese Armed Forces are on the spot and UNIFIL is seeking to obtain further details. [UNIFIL later reported that five soldiers had been wounded, with three transported to the hospital.]
The Special Envoy for Libya, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, is in Tripoli today, where he is continuing negotiations and discussions to find a political solution to the crisis. Yesterday, he held talks in Benghazi with the Libyan National Transitional Council and other members of the council.
Meanwhile, a UN team, comprising various agencies, finished a week-long assessment mission to Tripoli. This is their fourth such mission, and it is aimed to determine the humanitarian impact of the conflict on civilians. The team reports that among the challenges being faced are low medical supplies, rising food prices and significant fuel shortages.
The UN refugee agency has strongly condemned the recent deportation of Eritrean asylum-seekers by Sudan.
One asylum-seeker died while another was seriously wounded yesterday in eastern Sudan when they jumped off a truck carrying them to the Eritrean border, while in the process of being deported. They had been convicted of illegally entering Sudan under its national immigration laws. The agency says they had not been provided with access to asylum procedures, amounting to refoulement and constituting a serious violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Since May, Sudan has deported at least 30 people back to Eritrea, where the agency believes they are likely to face persecution.
**Press Conferences Wednesday
We will have three press conferences here tomorrow. At 10:30 a.m., President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire will meet with the press here in this room.
And then at 11:15 a.m., the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, will speak on the theme, “human right to water and sanitation”.
And then at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference with Force Commanders of the United Nations peacekeeping operations.
And finally, I just wanted to say that we welcome the fact that the UN Correspondents Association is screening the new film, Whistleblower, here, in this auditorium, this evening.
This is a film that highlights issues that are high on the agenda of the United Nations, including the fight against human trafficking and violence against women. We also welcome all efforts to draw attention to such human rights violations. The film addresses another important UN priority: the fight against cross-border organized crime, especially as it relates to countries overcoming violent conflict. The film underscores the importance of women participating in peacekeeping operations, particularly as police or military officers. Later in the summer, we plan to organize a discussion or other events related to the topics raised in the film.
That’s what I have. Questions, please? Matthew?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sure, there has been this incident in Kosovo in which the Kosovo national police have taken a border crossing, there is also a kind of a trade war where they have asked for an embargo on Serbian products, and I wonder, one, who… I guess Mr. [Lamberto] Zannier has already left so… but who is the new UN representative in Kosovo? And two, what does the UN… what is its response to this incident?
Spokesperson: Well, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) here in New York is discussing the situation with the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) on how the Mission can best contribute to defusing the tension resulting from the Kosovo police operations in the north. And on the first part of your question, once we have an announcement to make on that, we will make it.
Question: And can I ask just one, because it is also DPKO? I saw the Secretary-General’s, the remarks he made, farewell to Alain Le Roy. But I wanted to ask you again about… you said there is a process, but at least one diplomat has said that Jérôme Bonnafont has in fact said that he has gotten the job, he has been informed by the UN that he has the job. So I wanted… it seemed like the time to ask, if in fact that’s true that he has the job, why have any gap between Le Roy and Bonnafont on 10 August?
Spokesperson: Well, with respect, one diplomat doesn’t decide… credible or not, one diplomat does not decide who is the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. I think you know who decides that. And once a decision has been taken, we will make an announcement. But we are not there yet. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Martin. The new Foreign Minister of Pakistan, [Hina] Rabbani Khar, is going to New Delhi to resume the crucial discussions that broke off following the attack on Mumbai in 2008. Does the Secretary-General have any words of encouragement to this important development?
Spokesperson: Well, I think simply dialogue is vital in all circumstances, and I think the same applies here. Yes?
Question: On Libya, and you were reading this report on the Libyan… situation in Libya, by the UN personnel who were giving the assessment. They are suggesting basically there will be a shortage of food and supplies and so forth, especially in Muammar Qadhafi’s controlled part of Libya. So, what is it that they suggest that can be done to mitigate the suffering of the people?
Spokesperson: Well, first of all, let’s be clear the reason we are talking about in this context the situation in Tripoli is because the mission was focusing on that. This is not to say that there are no needs or requirements in other parts of the country. But this was the focus, and it was aimed at looking at the humanitarian impact. And it is obviously something that is a cause for concern and that there are clearly challenges that are faced amongst the ones that we’ve mentioned. Not food shortages, but rising food prices and low medical supplies and shortages of fuel. Those are the three areas that are of concern, and I am sure that our colleagues in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) who were part of that team would be able to give you some more details on that.
Question: They were also projecting that the situation is likely to get worse as Ramadan comes in, that’s what they had said in that report. And that’s the reason why I asked that question, because are there any contingency plans for this, to mitigate this situation that is going to erupt?
Spokesperson: As I say, I am sure that our colleagues in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs could give you more details. If an assessment is carried out to look at the humanitarian impact and challenges are identified, I don’t think then the report just lies on the table. Ways are sought to address those challenges and I am sure that’s what is happening right now.
Question: Also, in view of Mr. Robert Serry’s assessment that he gave in the Security Council today, where he basically is suggesting that with lack of movement between the two parties, Israel and Palestinians, the process is virtually dead, and, well, people have been saying that forever. My question is simply this: is the Secretary-General, in his capacity as the moral voice of the international community and so forth, can he come up with some sort of plan which can move this peace process forward at all? Or, we will… I mean, or it will be just inertia forever?
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General is a member of the Quartet, and the Quartet has spoken in the past and has met to discuss this topic, including quite recently. And discussions continue about the concerns that everybody has and the concerns that Mr. Serry has set out quite starkly today. It is obvious that this is a critical time. And it is obvious that there has not been the movement that we would have wanted to see. The Secretary-General will continue to push for there to be the movement that everybody would like to see, sooner rather than later. And he will continue to do that. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: A follow-up on that question, if I may? Robert Serry, the Special Coordinator, speaks about an agenda which should be advanced within the framework of Security Council resolutions and international law, the agreements and obligations of the parties and the Arab Peace Initiative. Whom does he think should advance that agenda?
Spokesperson: Well, you can ask Mr. Serry himself. I can’t; I am not a mind reader. I don’t know precisely what he has in mind here. But suffice it to say that this is a matter that is for the international community at large. And there are various avenues through which that can be expressed; whether it is the parties concerned, whether it is the Quartet, whether it is other regional players — there are a number of avenues here. But I am sure that Mr. Serry could elaborate on that if you ask him.
Question: I was just wondering why he does not specify who should advance that agenda in his statement.
Spokesperson: Well, as I say, check with him. Yeah?
Question: Sure, can I ask, yesterday, the Secretary-General and several of his officials met with the Eritrean Foreign Minister, and I was wondering if there is going to be a readout of that meeting? Or maybe I missed it, but is there a real readout?
Spokesperson: No, I don’t think you missed it. Or maybe I did as well. But I’ll check.
Question: Okay, that’ll be great. This is sort of a… there has been a controversy in Saudi Arabia as this pending anti-terrorism law, which Amnesty International said would criminalize peaceful dissent. So they posted on their website the draft law and had their website blocked by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I am just wondering, if the UN is aware of that, what they… given the issues around the right of peaceful protesters, what they think of this incident?
Spokesperson: We’re aware of the reports, the initial reports and then this latest report that you refer to. And I will check if we have anything further to say on that. Okay?
All right, thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.
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For information media • not an official record