|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.
The Security Council heard a briefing on Libya this morning from the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe. He told the Council that, as the fighting in Libya continues for a fifth month, there have been some marginal gains on the battlefield by the opposition forces, but no dramatic changes in the overall situation.
Mr. Pascoe said that both sides are willing to talk, but they are still emphasizing maximum demands at this point and patience is clearly required before detailed discussion can begin.
The Secretary-General and Special Envoy Abdul Ilah al-Khatib have stressed to all their interlocutors that a ceasefire tied to transitional arrangements which address the aspirations of the Libyan people is the only sustainable political solution to the crisis in Libya.
Mr. Pascoe added that both the Libyan Government and the National Transitional Council have requested the use of frozen assets to meet humanitarian needs. The Secretary-General has forwarded these communications to the Security Council’s Sanctions Committee for their attention. [The Spokesperson later clarified that the Secretary-General had forwarded the communications to the President of the Security Council.]
After the Security Council discusses Libya, Council members will hear from Under-Secretary-General Pascoe about the countries he has recently visited, including Tunisia, Egypt and Somalia, as well as other countries in the region. That will be in closed consultations.
Also, the Security Council this morning extended the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) by one year.
And this afternoon at 3, the Security Council will hold consultations on Sudan and the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
In a video message issued today, Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that a year has passed since Pakistan faced the largest natural disaster in its history. Nearly 20 million people were affected as floodwaters swept across the country, covering an area the size of the United Kingdom.
She said that the scale of this disaster galvanized everyone, including those people and countries who provided emergency funding to the largest appeal in the history of the United Nations.
In close cooperation with the Government, the humanitarian community provided emergency aid, including food, water, shelter and health care. Today, Ms. Amos said, we continue to support families, helping them to rebuild their lives, their homes, their livelihoods. And she pledged that we will continue to support the people of Pakistan, who showed remarkable resilience, courage and strength in overcoming a crisis of such immense magnitude. And we have her statement in my office.
**Horn of Africa
The World Food Programme (WFP) welcomes a surge in donations as it scales up its operations and assistance to those affected by drought and famine in the Horn of Africa. In recent days, the Programme has received more than $250 million in pledges from Governments, companies and individuals. So far, half of the $2 billion in aid required for the humanitarian response has been committed. Nearly 12 million people are in need of urgent assistance, and this number is expected to rise.
For its part, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) today renewed its calls for additional funds to expand its activities in the region. In Somalia, the extra money will allow the agency to ramp up its assistance and deliver relief supplies, including blankets and high-energy biscuits, to those in need.
The Secretary-General is today announcing his intention to appoint Bert Koenders of the Netherlands as his Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire and Head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI). Mr. Koenders will replace Choi Young-jin of the Republic of Korea, who will complete his assignment on 31 August. The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Choi’s dedicated service and excellent leadership of the mission for the past four years during a critical period and under very challenging circumstances.
Mr. Koenders is the Co-Chair of the Working Group for the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness — that’s the Busan Conference — and the Chair of the Rutgers World Population Foundation. We have more information on this in my office.
**United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said that, at 10 minutes past midnight last night, 10 men attacked and vandalized its Summer Games site in north-west Gaza. The attackers damaged a large billboard, burnt a UN flag and torched part of the stage. None of the UN security personnel at the venue was harmed.
Regardless of the attack, the Agency said that later today, children participating in the Gaza Summer Games will attempt a world record for the largest number of children flying kites.
The Relief and Works Agency condemned this attack, which is an attack on the children of Gaza as much as on the United Nations. It called on the authorities in Gaza to investigate and bring those responsible to account. And it said it would repair and rebuild the damaged infrastructure and go ahead with the event as planned today.
And I can tell you the Secretary-General shares the Agency’s views on this attack and he wishes the children the best as they seek to break the kite-flying record today.
**Press Conference and Stakeout
On Friday at 11 a.m., here in the Auditorium, there will be a briefing by members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the conclusion of the Committee’s current session.
And then at 4 p.m., Ehud Barak, Minister of Defense of Israel, will address media at the 2nd floor stakeout position in the North Lawn Building; that will be after his meeting with the Secretary-General.
**Secretary-General’s Message to President of Republic of Korea
And finally, I can tell you that the Secretary-General has written to President Lee Myung-bakto convey his condolences to the families of the victims of the flash floods and mudslides that took place in recent days, and to express his solidarity with the people and Government of the Republic of Korea.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Okay, sure. Yeah, I want to ask you a couple, Somalia and Sudan. First, on Sudan, there has been an acknowledgement by the Governor of Southern Kordofan, Ahmed Haroun, that in fact bodies were moved and buried in bulk, i.e. mass grave — essentially an admission that the mass grave reports from the satellite project are true. And I wonder if that… is the… is the… is the… what does the UN think of that and… and… and… and what… what’s their sort of the response by, you know, by… whether… by the UN system? Either the human rights side or the… or the peacekeeping side, as to what should be done?
Spokesperson: Well, first of all, as I think I mentioned at the start of the briefing, there will be a closed consultations session on Sudan this afternoon. And I would be fairly confident that Ivan Šimonović, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, would make himself available to reporters at some point to talk about some of these matters.
Question: Is he going to do a stakeout, I guess?
Spokesperson: That, I do not know. But I would be fairly confident that he’d make himself available to reporters in some shape or form. And we will follow up after the meeting on that.
Question: And I wanted to ask on Somalia. There is this… there is the Government, the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] there has… has… has somehow said that the UN system is hoarding food, it’s not distributing food in Mogadishu. He said this publicly, that he thinks that the… the… totally outside, I… it seems like of… of just the difficulty of getting into the Al-Shabaab areas, there seems to be some… some allegation by the Government that the UN is not performing well. And I just… I… I… I… since this is a Government, it’s the recognized Government, UN-recognized Government there, is there any response by the… by the UN to that?
Spokesperson: I think there is from the World Food Programme, yeah. I think if you check with them, they have been pretty clear on what is really the case.
[The Spokesperson shared the response from the World Food Programme, which said that it is very concerned about the incorrect and damaging perception generated by inaccurate television reports regarding food stocks in Mogadishu warehouses allegedly not being distributed.]
Question: And, I wanted to… there is… there is… somehow within the Somali Mission here a controversy has arisen about the… the… the former deputy, Idd Bedddel Mohamed. There was a letter sent around, including to the Secretariat, by the former, now former Foreign Minister of the TFG, just before he left, he wrote a letter changing the status of this ambassador. So, the current Perm[anent] Rep[resentative] said it’s unclear to him if this letter was valid or not, and I wanted to know if… if the UN… maybe you won’t know it off hand, but if… if the letter has been received and if it’s viewed by the UN as a valid letter from somebody who is now no longer the Foreign Minister?
Spokesperson: Well, if the Permanent Representative himself is unsure of whether the letter is valid, then, you know, that is something that speaks for itself, if that’s the case. I’d have to check. I don’t know anything further on that. Yes?
Question: Yeah, I am Janet from Turkish Journal. I want to ask you a question. I saw that the Secretary-General was supposed to meet with Richard Serry on the Middle East this morning at 11 a.m.…
Spokesperson: Robert Serry.
Question: Robert Serry, I am sorry. Has anything come out of that meeting that you know about or…?
Spokesperson: Typically, we do not provide readouts on meetings that the Secretary-General holds with his own officials. This is the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
Question: Is there anything that you can answer on Turkey and Israel? Is that what Ehud Barak is going to speak about tomorrow, do you know, or…?
Spokesperson: Again, I could not anticipate what the Defense Minister of Israel is going to raise. But as we have already said, the report from the Panel on the flotilla incident of last year is in the works, and is expected to be handed over to the Secretary-General in the latter part of August, so next month. I don’t have anything further for you at this point. Okay. Yes, Masood?
Question: Yeah, in view of Mr. Lynn Pascoe’s briefing basically suggesting that there is a total deadlock and impasse in Libya, does the Secretary-General… who does the Secretary-General see as an arbiter who will be acceptable to both sides, meaning the [Muammar al-]Qadhafi side and the rebel side, who can at least move the process forward, because…
Spokesperson: That person is very clear. It’s Mr. al‑Khatib, and not just recognized in that capacity by the Secretary-General, but by the Contact Group as well, and, indeed, by the parties concerned. And that’s why he has been shuttling between the two sides. No one says it’s easy. Mr. al‑Khatib himself has said so. But it’s his job and role, and responsibility, with the blessing of the Contact Group and others in the international community, and as instructed by the Secretary-General, to continue to push this.
Correspondent: Mr. al-Khatib himself has not been… I mean, he has been at it for quite some time… has not been very successful so far, let us just say.
Spokesperson: It’s, as you well know, this is not easy. Fighting continues, civilians continue to be killed and there is obviously, there are a number of challenges on the ground, whether it is humanitarian or otherwise, security. It is not easy. But that doesn’t mean that you stop trying, and that’s precisely what Mr. al-Khatib will continue to do. And that’s what Mr. Pascoe was briefing the Council on; the evident difficulties that there are, but the need to push ahead.
Question: The Secretary-General, as you just said in your briefing, has recommended the Security Council Sanctions Committee to somehow consider allowing, I mean, easing the funds, giving the funds to the rebels, to ease up…
Spokesperson: No, he did not recommend. He has received requests from both parties and he has forwarded them to the Council, and more specifically to the Sanctions Committee. And it’s for them to take a view.
Question: It’s for them. So, if a similar request comes from the Qadhafi Government, he will do the same?
Spokesperson: What I just said, Masood, was that both sides — the Libyan Government, so Tripoli, and the National Transitional Council — have requested the use of frozen assets for humanitarian needs. Both sides. And those communications have been forwarded by the Secretary-General to the Sanctions Committee, which is obviously the Security Council, and it’s for their attention.
Question: As for the countries which unilaterally release Libya’s funds, not by Security Council resolution…
Spokesperson: Masood, I think we’re tying ourselves up in knots here. It’s very simple. Both Tripoli and Benghazi have said that they’re requesting the use of these frozen assets to meet humanitarian needs. And they have both made that request to the United Nations. And the Secretary-General has forwarded both of those requests to the Sanctions Committee of the Security Council for their attention. That’s it.
Question: Yeah, I understand, I absolutely understand what you said. What I am saying, there is a report that England, Britain, is basically considering releasing funds without any authorization. I mean, obviously it will not be difficult for Britain to take an authorization from the Security Council Sanctions Committee, but that… I mean, there is… if they believe that rebels have a pause, so if they release the funds without authorization from the Security Council…
Spokesperson: Well, again, I am not getting into hypotheticals here. I am simply telling you that requests have been made by both sides, and those requests have been forwarded, and it is for the Sanctions Committee to take a view on it, or at least to take a look. Okay. Yes?
Question: I wanted to ask another, just another Sudan question. One thing that seemed to come out of this UNISFA [United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei] briefing about Abyei yesterday was that the Government of Sudan has told the UN that it can’t use any of the… the… the assets of the former UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] that are in the North, including this base at El Obeid, and apparently other actual physical assets of the UN system can’t be removed and taken to the South. And I wanted to… I mean, I… this I heard, but I didn’t… I didn’t… it was impossible to… there was no stakeout afterwards or briefing by Mr. [Alain] Le Roy. Is it possible to know, what is the status of the UN… the UN moved a lot of equipment in when they set up UNMIS. Was there any thought of taking it out before the mandate expired? How much is it worth? Is it… is the UN… does… is it within its rights to remove it? It just seemed to be kind of a strange system. And just related to that, there was a briefing by the peacekeepers, Force Commanders here, but I was basically told that no one answers for UNMIS any more since it doesn’t exist; that Major, that Moses Obi is now in charge of UNMISS [United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan] in the South, but no longer answers for UNMIS. And I just wanted to know, how does that sort of…? I guess, how does that work if this review of what happened in Southern Kordofan turns out to be negative, who is responsible for what happened with UNMIS?
Spokesperson: On the first part of your question, I’ll see what I can find out with the help of my colleagues in DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations]. And on the second, it’s a topic that I know you did raise with the Force Commanders and with DPKO separately, so I don’t intend to explore that further here.
Correspondent: The difficulty that it has is… I was told by Michèl [Bonnardeaux]… Michèl said, you know, Mr. Obi will answer, you know, not to be… he ended up not answering it. He said, “I am not going to answer it.” So, it’s sort of…
Spokesperson: Again, I don’t intend to explore that further here; you’ve made your point on camera and understood. Right, okay. Yes, please?
Question: Yesterday evening, Serbs attacked a security post between Serbia and Kosovo and one police officer was killed and the Serbian President called to end the violence. According to the BBC, there was supposed to be today an urgent UN meeting. Is this true or this is part of the Security Council consultations about Kosovo?
Spokesperson: I think the latter conclusion is correct, that there is, as I mentioned, at 3 p.m. there is a session of the Security Council in consultations, in other words, behind closed doors, on Sudan and on UNMIK, the UN Mission in Kosovo. And I think it is in that context that the topic will be raised. As I think you are also aware, the Secretary-General will be seeing the Foreign Minister of Serbia later in the afternoon. At least that is scheduled to take place, and I would anticipate that we would have a readout of that meeting. And furthermore, Robert Sorenson, who is the Officer-in-Charge of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, he has expressed his deep concern about the situation in northern Kosovo. And he has called upon all parties to refrain from any action which could further exacerbate the situation. And obviously, UNMIK strongly condemns the violence and believes that dialogue based upon mutual respect is the way to resolve differences. And that’s what I have for you. In addition, UNMIK is obviously ready to assist in efforts to calm the situation, according to Mr. Sorenson. And clearly, the KFOR, Kosovo Force, and EULEX, the European Union Mission, have a clear role in helping to restore order and helping to resolve those differences.
Question: Can I ask a follow-up on… on… someone said that there was a delegation also coming from… from Kosovo, from Pristina. Has there been any request to the Secretary-General’s Office to meet with the ministers from Kosovo?
Spokesperson: I don’t know the answer to that, Matthew. If I am provided with an answer, I will let you know.
Question: Okay, and I wanted to ask one more, the Channel 4 of the UK has… has, just, you know, I guess it’s dated today… maybe came… it was shown last night, I am not sure. But they’ve put on… on camera, a report involving an officer from the Sri Lankan 58th Battalion, who has said — and this in quotes on their website — you know, this… “The Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, phoned Brigadier Shavendra Silva and ordered him not to take them prisoner, but to kill them. This is the notorious white flag incident.” So this is getting a lot of play and I wanted to… to… one, obviously because the Secretary-General has commissioned a report that includes this incident, ask if there is any response to this now on-camera kind of whistleblowing, but also because of the… uh, Chef de Cabinet’s, you know, having provided assurances and then this happened, whether he has any response or in any way if he has seen the film… can we… he feels… I know you said some senior advisers have, I just wanted to know, is there some UN response to this pretty explosive report that’s come out on Channel 4?
Spokesperson: We are aware of the report, Matthew, the latest that Channel 4 report. We don’t have anything further to add at this point beyond what we have already said.
Question: And if you’re thinking of referring… it’s some… it’s actually a Member State raised this yesterday whether they… whether… is it the Secretary-General’s position that… that… that he could transmit his Panel of Experts report to the Human Rights Council at some appropriate time and request action, or is that… is it his idea… I know you said like it’s out there and they can act on it, but is this something that’s sort of being held in reserve, is it an action that is being considered or is it… has he basically done all that he is going to do on it?
Spokesperson: Well, it doesn’t need to be held in reserve, because it is out there. It’s available. And all Member States and, indeed, international, other international organizations and obviously human rights NGOs have had access to it for quite some time. And I am sure that all those concerned are in a position to read it carefully and to draw their conclusions that they wish to draw from that report, to see what action may or may not be taken by them. I think that’s the clear context. It’s out there. Okay, have a good afternoon. Yes, last question?
Question: I just have two questions. I know you’re pressed for time. Is it possible for me to call you and discuss with you about United Nations press association screening of The Whistleblower? Will the Secretary-General make a statement about that, because he has seen the film? And there was a press conference yesterday about the topic on…
Spokesperson: Yeah, I did address this yesterday and the day before yesterday very precisely, and I don’t propose to repeat it again, except to say that we welcome the film because it addresses questions that are high on the agenda of the United Nations, including the fight against human trafficking, the fight against violence against women and the fight against organized crime, particularly in the context of areas where there has been armed conflict. That’s what I have to say for now, and it is something that I’ve said now twice already. And we welcome the film because it addresses those topics that are on the agenda of the United Nations.
All right, okay. Have a good afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record