2 August 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.


**Abyei


I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the death of four peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei.


The Secretary-General is saddened by the death of four peacekeepers serving in the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), who were killed by a landmine detonation during a patrol in Mabok, south-east of Abyei Town, on 2 August.


The Secretary-General expresses his deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of those killed, as well to the Government of Ethiopia.  He also expresses his concern for the well-being of the seven other peacekeepers who were injured in the explosion.


**Trip Announcement


As we announced earlier this morning, the Secretary-General will leave for Japan and the Republic of Korea on Saturday, 6 August.


While in Japan, he will visit Fukushima to see first-hand the devastation caused by the March earthquake and tsunami in the city of Soma.  He will visit an evacuation centre and speak with students at a high school in Fukushima City.


In Tokyo, he will meet with Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto.  During his visit, the Secretary-General hopes to express his admiration to the Government and to the people of Japan as they work towards recovering from the recent triple catastrophe.


He will then travel to the Republic of Korea, where he will launch the Global Model United Nations Conference in Incheon.  He will also address the opening of the Academic Impact forum in Seoul.


The Secretary-General will meet with President Lee Myung-bak and Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, the speaker of the National Assembly, and the National Assembly’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Working Group, as well as with members of the Global Compact Korea network.  And while in the Republic of Korea, the Secretary-General will encourage his compatriots — especially young people — to be even more active in the work of the United Nations.  And he will return to New York on Sunday, 14 August.


** Somalia


In Somalia, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says its ability to deliver assistance is being hampered by the fighting in the capital, Mogadishu.  It adds that in the last weeks, its staff has seen the spontaneous development of settlements for internally displaced people across the city.


There were already over 370,000 internally displaced people in Mogadishu before the recent drought- and famine-related displacement, which has driven some 100,000 more people into the city, according to the agency.  In July alone, more than 27,000 people were displaced into Mogadishu from the surrounding areas; and that’s almost as many people displaced in the entire first quarter of this year.


Meanwhile, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is appealing to the air transport industry for free or heavily discounted cargo space to help it transport emergency nutrition supplies to the Horn of Africa.  Every month, UNICEF has some 5,000 metric tons of therapeutic and supplementary food to move from warehouses in Europe to Nairobi as quickly as possible.  Some transport companies have already come forward and UNICEF is asking others to follow this example.  UNICEF says that there are more than 2.3 million acutely malnourished children in the Horn of Africa and that more than half a million could die if they do not get help within weeks.


**Security Council


The Security Council has adopted its programme of work for the month of August, in consultations this morning.  And Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the Council President for this month, will discuss the programme of work with you in this room, starting at 12:30.


Yesterday afternoon, as you know, the Council held consultations on Syria, and received a briefing on the latest developments there from Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco.  And Council members have been continuing their discussions on that topic today.


** Syria


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, warned the Syrian authorities today the world is bearing witness to the grave violence being perpetrated against the Syrian people, and she urged them to stop the bloodshed.


She expressed serious alarm at reports that at least 145 people have been killed and many others injured since Friday.  Ms. Pillay says she stands in solidarity with peaceful protestors who are demanding that the persistent violation of their human rights ends now.  She again urged the Government to allow a human rights fact-finding mission into the country to assess the situation first-hand.


** Libya


The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Libya, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, met in Beijing today with China’s Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, to brief him on his efforts to reach a political solution to the crisis in Libya.  That included his recent talks with both Libyan parties during a visit last week to Tripoli and Benghazi.


The Special Envoy also informed the Chinese Foreign Minister about his talks with the Chairman of the Ad Hoc High-Level Committee of the African Union for Libya, and other regional parties.  Those talks are aimed at enhancing international cooperation and unifying all efforts towards ending the crisis in a manner consistent with the legitimate aspirations of the people of Libya.


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


**Questions and Answers


Question:  On this situation in the occupied West Bank, the one that’s also on your website, that the Israelis and that Israel’s restrictive zoning laws have forced the citizens out — the people living in West Bank — out of their houses, particularly Palestinians.  Do you have any comment and what’s the Secretary-General doing about it; has he talked to the Israelis lately about this?


Spokesperson:  Yes, the Secretary-General, as you know, met Defence Minister Ehud Barak last week and they certainly did discuss the topic of settlements.  And as he has done on previous occasions, the Secretary-General did raise that topic, yes.


Question:  But this is the thing that has happened, I think yesterday, that has…


Spokesperson:  As I say, the Secretary-General has consistently raised the question of settlements, and he did so in his most recent encounter with the Israeli authorities.  Okay, other questions please?  Yes, and then I am coming to you.


Question:  So, the Security Council President for August will talk about any definitive things they are going to talk about on Syria today?  Can you comment on anything about that?  Yesterday’s meeting — I read they didn’t come up with any concrete action.


Spokesperson:  No, I don’t have any comment specifically on the meeting yesterday.  I can tell you that the Secretary-General was encouraged that the Council took up this issue.  And as you know, as I just mentioned, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs did brief the Council yesterday afternoon.  I know that the Secretary-General believes that what’s happened in recent days in particular is totally unacceptable.  And he is deeply concerned about what has been happening recently, not least the number of people killed and injured in the last few days.  The Secretary-General believes that President [Bashar al-]Assad has lost all sense of humanity.  So, other questions?  Yes?


Question:  Sure, I have a couple of questions on Sudan.  One is, I just wanted to nail this down.  There is a report out that the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, met with and it is reported with Mr. [Djibril] Bassolé and he was described as the Joint UN-AU peace negotiator for Darfur.  So I wanted to be sure that there is not…


Spokesperson:  Described by whom?


Question:  By BERNAMA, the Malaysian News Agency, in the article, and I wanted to… because I had asked you whether Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari is the new Bassolé.  Is he the new Bassolé or is Mr. Bassolé still playing some role?


Spokesperson:  Let’s be very clear.   Mr. Bassolé is the Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso; he does not work for the United Nations anymore.  He met with President Bashir in his capacity as Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso, and no relation to the United Nations.  We’ve already said that Mr. Gambari has an interim role as the co-chair of the mediators, and that is the case.


Question:  And I think I did… I had asked you when if it is possible to know when his term as UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] Joint Special Representative expires.


Spokesperson:  Yeah, I don’t have the answer to that.  I am sure that if my colleagues are aware of it, they will let you know.


Question:  Okay.  The other thing I wanted to know is, it was said, now it’s more than two weeks ago when, when Mr. [Ivan] Šimonovićbriefed us about this, what was called then a leaked report on South Kordofan describing UN peacekeepers…


Spokesperson:  It wasn’t just called that, it was leaked.


Question:  Okay, it was leaked, but the question is, it was… it seemed to be pretty final… final form and he said it would be released in two weeks.  It’s now been more than two weeks.  So I wanted to ask you, where is the report?


Spokesperson:  I think it’s in the works, and I understand that it will be finalized quite soon.  But I don’t know exactly when.


Question:  I mean, it won’t take… I guess if it’s possible to know what… what, given that the document seemed… it certainly had no grammatical mistakes and described events on specific days and specific places; what takes so long to actually release it?


Spokesperson:  Well, as I think you know, there are a number of different people involved in that process, and I think that’s one of the reasons.  And I am sure that it will be released as soon as possible.  Okay.  Yes, and then Masood, yes?


Question:  Yeah, I just wanted to ask you, has the Secretary-General made any remarks about what’s going on in the negotiations between Turkey and Israel to try to normalize relations?  Does he, did he have any comments on that or…?


Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, what we have said is that the panel that is preparing the report on the flotilla incident of 31 May last year are continuing their work, and it is anticipated that they will present their report to the Secretary-General later this month.  And that’s where we are with that.


Question:  But I had a question.  Ehud Barak told the press last week and the week before and he told Haaretz — Israeli English-language daily — that he doesn’t want the report presented in full, that he would prefer that the report… just that a public statement come out.  Do you think that will happen, or do you think the report, full published report, will come out?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, the Secretary-General needs to be presented with the report.  And he will then decide what the next steps are.  But at this point he has not decided.  Masood?


Question:  On this, on your briefing and the talk, where you said that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Libya has gone to China to brief Chinese about it.  Is there any particular reason for him to fly to China to particularly brief them on the situation in Libya?


Spokesperson:  He will also be briefing officials in India, as I understand it.  And this is part of the efforts to ensure that the international community at large are all on the same page.  And as you know, both of the countries I have just mentioned are important countries, and they are both Security Council members.


Question:  I know; the reason why I asked is that this step is being taken whereas as far the urgency in the situation concerned, was China asking for it, did he ask for it, or it’s a regular thing?


Spokesperson:  The topic that the Special Envoy is dealing with is anything but regular.  It’s an extremely important and extraordinary role that he has to carry out.  And it’s imperative, as I just said, that there is a unifying of all efforts and I have mentioned before that there are many different players involved and it’s important and it’s recognized that the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General has the key coordinating role here.  So, I think it’s self-evident that he would want to be able to speak to important players.  You will recall that he has also visited Moscow in that connection.  So, other questions, please?  Yes, yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I want to ask you on Sri Lanka, the Government, and it’s described as being something of a response to the Panel of Experts of Ban Ki‑moon’s report, has issued a… Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s issued a 16-page report acknowledging the killing of civilians saying it was inevi… saying it was impossible to stop, saying a number of things, and I wonder if it’s something… one, if it’s been transmitted to the UN or, or if not, if the UN is aware of it and how the Secretary-General views this as… is it… is it sufficient… sufficient response to the report?  What are the next steps, including reviewing the UN’s own activities in the final stages of conflict?


Spokesperson:  Well, on the last bit, we’ve addressed that quite recently and I have no further developments there, but I have addressed that quite recently with you.  And then on the specific report that you mentioned, we’re aware of the report and simply to restate at this point that national accountability is the key here.  And obviously the international community is watching very closely how that national accountability process plays out.  The rest of the recommendations in the report are there for everybody to see, and that includes national accountability, it includes in that report the various other recommendations that there are related to follow-up measures.  And the international community has access to that report in its entirety and can act on it if it wishes.


Question:  But is… I mean, does the Secretariat or the Secretary-General see this report by the Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka which holds no one accountable, no one responsible, I guess for these, for the deaths in the final stage of the conflict, is that… is that responsive to this what you’ve just… all that you’ve just said, national accountability, the recommendations of the report…


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, just to answer the very first part of your question which I hadn’t done yet, I need to check whether it has been officially transmitted to us and what status it would have in that context.  I don’t have the answer to that at this point.  We will have a look at that.


Okay, other questions?  All right, good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record