4 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.


So, good afternoon, everybody.


**Guest at Noon


And I would like to welcome Mr. Le Roy.  Alain Le Roy, as you know, is the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.  And as you also know, it’s Mr. Le Roy’s last press conference here as the head of Peacekeeping.  So, thank you very much for coming to the briefing today, and indeed on numerous other occasions.  So, Mr. Le Roy, the floor is yours.


[Press conference by Mr. Le Roy is issued separately.]


So, I just have a couple more items and then I’d be happy to take a couple of questions.


** Somalia


As we told you yesterday, three new areas in southern Somalia have deteriorated into a famine situation.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also says that, according to the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit, the famine could rapidly spread to more areas in the south unless there is a massive increase in the humanitarian response.  Of the 2.8 million people in urgent need of food aid in southern Somalia, relief organizations are reaching only an estimated 20 per cent.


The Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, has called on all parties to support an urgent increase in assistance in accordance with humanitarian principles.  And at least 2.8 million people, including 1.25 million children, are in critical need of assistance in southern Somalia.  And the humanitarian community is striving to secure safe and unhindered access to provide the life-saving assistance that’s needed.


**United Nations Environment Programme


The United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, has released a new report which says that pollution from more than five decades of oil operations in the Nigerian region of Ogoniland has penetrated further and deeper than many have supposed.


The region’s environmental restoration could be the most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean-up exercise undertaken if contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and ecosystems are to be brought back to full health.


The Executive Director of UNEP, Achim Steiner, says that the oil industry has been a key sector of the Nigerian economy for many years, for which the country’s people have paid a high price.  He voiced hope that the findings of the new report can break decades of deadlock in the region and serve as the foundation for action to remedy the many health and sustainable development challenges facing Ogoniland.  And there is more information available on the website of the United Nations Environment Programme.


So, a couple of questions, preferably not on cyberattacks.  [laughter]  Yes, Giampaolo?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I have no questions, but I have a request for you.  We received a letter from the director of The Whistleblower, and for the Secretary-General with a brand newcopy of the movie.  So I will give this to you. [hands letter]  This is from the director of the movie, for the Secretary-General.


Spokesperson:  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much for that.  Yes, Ali?


Question:  Is the United Nations… do you have any plans to contact the Syrian authorities in order to meet the requirements that were set by the PRST [Security Council presidential statement] yesterday?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think the Secretary-General spoke quite clearly yesterday, as I recall.  He said that he would try his best efforts, including trying to talk to President [Bashar al-]Assad directly and other senior Government officials in trying to move this process forward.  And he also said, of course, that it would be for him to work with his senior advisers to ensure that the report [to the Security Council] is provided within the seven days.  He said already that that provision within the statement of the President of the Security Council would be met without delay.


Question:  So has he tried today to contact President Assad?


Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge, but as you know, the Secretary-General said he would try his best efforts, including speaking to President Assad directly, and to other senior Government officials.  Yes?


Question:  Thanks, Martin.  On the UNEP report that you read, I just wanted to know whether the Secretary-General is going to add his voice to the issue, especially regarding what is to be done going forward, once this report has now been public in terms of what the Government should do and what the oil industry should do.  Is the Secretary-General going to highlight the expectations…?


Spokesperson:  Well, the report is there in full on the website.  So I would encourage you to take a look at it.  And it was released today.  And I would expect that the Secretary-General will be briefed on its contents in due course.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I want to ask about Kosovo and Nepal.  In… for Kosovo, there are reports that the Serbs agreed to have their protesters move away from those gates — one and three — that Mr. Le Roy mentioned, but that now there is another report saying the Kosovo government has said that’s unacceptable; they’re a sovereign country, they control the border.  So I wonder if… what’s the… what’s UNMIK’s [United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] understanding of the… of this and its role in trying to resolve this?  And has the Secretary-General gotten a letter from Vuk Jeremić, who says that he has written to the Secretary-General, I guess since their meeting, urging him to do more on this issue?


Spokesperson:  I’ll check on the letter.  And I think that Mr. Le Roy spoke quite clearly about what’s happening in Kosovo and the discussions that are going on at the moment, and I don’t have anything to add to that.  Yes, Tim?


Question:  Can you tell us what action the Secretary-General has taken about the threat to shoot the helicopters?


Spokesperson:  Say again?


Question:  The incident in Abyei with the four dead peacekeepers.  Mr. Le Roy said the Secretary-General made an approach to the Sudanese Government.  Can you give us details on what kind of protest he made?


Spokesperson:  Well, I can certainly confirm that there was a meeting between the Secretary-General and the Permanent Representative of Sudan, and including, of course, some of the Secretary-General’s senior advisers.  And as you heard Mr. Le Roy say, the Secretary-General made it abundantly clear that this was a question of saving lives and that delay of any kind was unacceptable.  Yes?


Question:  Yeah, I just have one quick question.  [United Kingdom Foreign Secretary] WilliamHague and the EU [European Union] have talked to Turkey about Syria and asked Turkey, because they have a big influence on Assad, to get involved.  Is the Secretary-General planning to speak with either the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, or Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan about getting involved in this?


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General speaks quite regularly to officials around the world, including in Turkey.  I don’t know that the Secretary-General has spoken to either of the gentlemen that you mentioned, the Prime Minister or Foreign Minister, in recent days.  But of course, he is aware of Turkey’s role in the region, and has been supportive of Turkey’s efforts in the region too.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I want to ask about Nepal, but first, one, just to follow up and just to get your answer on this, if, as Mr. Le Roy just said, the Sudanese Government threatened to shoot at UN helicopters and… and whether this led to or not it’s… is in some way, temporally, at the same time that these peacekeepers were dying, why does this… why does it come out in response to sort of a question or even a follow-up to a question, why didn’t the UN speak about, yesterday at the stakeout, did Mr… did Ban Ki-moon… was he aware of this… this action by the Sudanese and why wasn’t there an answer?


Spokesperson:  Well again, it’s hypothetical, the start of your question, and I have been extremely clear, and Mr. Le Roy has been extremely clear about what happened.  The key point here is that we should be mourning the death of four peacekeepers who were just being deployed into an area under a Security Council mandate.  And I am sure that you will be hearing more about this in the coming days.


Question:  And a follow-up question, if I could, there is a report in The Hindu newspaper about this project in Nepal, it’s… and the reason I am asking about it is that it’s a pretty… it’s a lengthy article and it says… it says the Secretary-General personally told Prime Minister [Jhala Nath] Khanal that he was committed to developing Lumumbi as, quote, he… that he owes that to his mother, who was a Buddhist, and he would visit Nepal soon in this regard.  I think, this part may be false, but it seems like it’s… it’s a pretty widely distributed newspaper.  Does the Secretary-General have any involvement in… has he said anything about this Chinese-sponsored project in Nepal?


Spokesperson:  I would have to check.  I don’t know about that.  But requests and reciprocal offers to visit countries are very often made, as you well know.


Question:  Sure, sure; actually that part is not the part I am really asking about, I am just wondering if he actually spoke about a particular… it turns out to be it’s a kind of a controversial development project, so he spoke or did speak about this?


Spokesperson:  As I say, I don’t know the answer to that, Matthew, and let’s see what we can find.


Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record