16 September 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the Noon Briefing.


**Noon Guest Today


Today, I will have as my guest Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli, Chief of the Treaty Section of the Office of Legal Affairs and Udo Janz, Director and Special Adviser to the High Commissioner for Refugees in New York.  They will brief you on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the fiftieth anniversary of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.


When they come, they will make their presentation.  In the meantime, I have a few announcements for you.


**Security Council


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Haiti, Mariano Fernández, briefed the Security Council a little earlier.  The Council’s debate on Haiti is still going on, and he will speak to you at the stakeout when it wraps up.


And this afternoon, the Security Council will hold meetings on Liberia and then Libya.


** Libya


With respect to Libya, the UN refugee agency, or UNHCR, and its partners continue to be concerned about the situation of third-country nations, including refugees, in Libya.  They have been working closely with the Stabilization Team of the National Transitional Council to improve protection for refugees and migrants.


UNHCR has restored its hotline services in the capital, Tripoli, and has received many calls from refugees and migrants who say they have been detained, need food assistance or other protection incidents.  It has also been contacted by the local military council in Zintan, in the Nafusa Mountains region, to find solutions for some third-country nationals — reportedly Somalis.  There is more information available on UNHCR’s website.


** Pakistan


With respect to Pakistan, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that 5.5 million people have been affected by the floods so far in Pakistan.  More than 230 people have died, with 1.1 million homes damaged and destroyed and 4.5 million acres inundated.  The United Nations is currently finalizing its emergency response plan, which will be launched early next week.


The United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, is delivering safe water, sanitation, and health supplies, such as vaccines, to ward off disease.


For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed food to more than 15,000 people in the most-affected districts.  It aims to provide half a million people with emergency assistance by the end of this month and will scale up its deliveries to reach 2.2 million in October.


The World Health Organization (WHO) took part in a rapid health assessment, which found that one quarter of health facilities in affected areas are inaccessible, submerged by floodwaters or damaged.


**South Sudan


With respect to South Sudan, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says that South Sudan is seeing a growing refugee influx from Southern Kordofan, in Sudan.


Over 8,000 civilians have fled into the newly independent State, according to the agency.  It adds that there has been a surge in arrivals since last week — with up to 500 people a day from 100 people a day in August.  UNHCR says that most of them are currently scattered in remote northern areas of Unity State, where humanitarian access is limited.  Food supplies from the World Food Programme have been air dropped to the region.


UNHCR has conducted basic registration at the border and identified the most vulnerable among the new arrivals.  It is also working on a site to relocate the refugees away from the border.


** Cyprus


With respect to Cyprus, the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities discussed the economy chapter today in Nicosia.  Their next meeting will be on 27 September, when they will discuss the chapter on the European Union.


**Press Conferences


I have two press conferences to announce.  On Sunday, at 8 p.m., Jonas Gahr Støre, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, will address the press at the North Lawn Building stakeout.


And, on Monday, we will have Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as our guest at the Noon Briefing.


And then, at 5:00 p.m., here in the auditorium, there will be a press conference by Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.


That’s all from me.  Pending the arrival of our guests, do we have any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Any update on Syria?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, the Secretary-General had his press conference yesterday and made his remarks; I think that’s where we stand on Syria.  No further update.


Question:  Can we — another question — can we ask the Observer of Palestine to come here and to brief us?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check with the Spokesperson when he gets back on Monday, and I will have to check with the Observer of Palestine.  I imagine he is very busy these days, but there is no reason why we can’t ask him and let’s see what he says.  Matthew?

(The Deputy-Spokesperson later informed that the Observer of Palestine had had two press encounters the previous day to which all media had been invited)


Question:  Sure, yeah, thanks.  I wanted to ask you to confirm something which is that Mr. Al-Khatib, the mediator on… on Libya has submitted a letter of resignation.


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I have no information on that.  We’ll have to…


Question:  [inaudible] I guess, you know, today, just find out today whether it’s true or not and state that.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’d have check on that, yeah.


Question:  Okay.  And I also wanted to ask you, does… does the UN have, there are reports and, in fact, video of Haitian police using tear gas against protesters in Haiti calling for [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] to leave or calling for there to be further action on… on the allegations of rape and sexual abuse by peacekeepers there.  Does the UN think it’s appropriate to have used tear gas against Haitian citizens questioning what the Mission is doing?  What’s the, I guess… what’s the statement on the way in which that demon… to the demonstrators, generally, and the way in which the demonstration was put down with tear gas.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I believe that the MINUSTAH people have commented on that.  We have seen the reports, we are encouraged by the fact that the Uruguayans have, in fact, responded in a very positive manner with the investigation.  We are very pleased that President Martelly has commended them for it, and that he is pleased with the way they have responded.  There will always be demonstrations, and it is up to the police forces to use the type of force that is appropriate.  I can’t comment any further on that without having seen the videos.  But we will try and get a reading from our MINUSTAH people.


Question:  If you don’t mind, I mean, there is… there is, there is a case, I mean, I know that there is going to be the screening of the movie called the Whistleblower.  But there is a pretty high profile case of the… a UN system whistleblower, Tony Shkurtaj, he was the… he was… he had worked for [United Nations Development Programme] in North Korea, he filed an administrative complaint, he was ordered… the secretariat was ordered to pay money; or the UN… the UN system was ordered to pay back pay for, to this whistleblower, but, at least according to him, the UN just keeps appealing; and it’s not paying.  And I wonder, one, is it true?  Is there some way to get, to…to know what the position of the Secretary-General and the Secretariat is on a finding of an actual live whistleblower and what’s… why hasn’t the two rulings in the case been complied with here?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, if as you say the situation is under appeal, we don’t comment on ongoing legal cases.


Question:  But, is it the Secretariat’s position to just… to just continue or just automatically appeal, or is there some basis for this appeal?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I would have, I can’t comment on that, we would have to see what the nature of the appeal is.  I believe our guests are here?  No, they are not.  Any… yes, please?


Question:  Yes, our colleague asked about Syria, and you said you had nothing on Syria.  Were you talking about the apparent incursion of Syria into Lebanon or… Do you have anything on that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we have seen the media reports, but I haven't seen any reports from our people in the field.  So, I don’t have anything on that, no.


Question:  Here we are.  So, yesterday evening at the stakeout the Permanent Representative of Russia, Vitaly Churkin, said on the record and on camera that he believes that there has been no new head of [United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] named by Ban Ki-moon because Ban Ki-moon has been pressured by countries.  He said that’s obvious, and it’s unfortunate.  And I wonder, what is the position of the Secretariat when a coun… you know, a P-5 member of the Council says that Ban Ki-moon has given in to pressure and therefore hasn’t appointed anyone to UNMIK hoping that the Mission, I guess, will shrivel up and go away?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check up with our colleagues in [Department of Peacekeeping Operations} on the UNMIK situation; and I don’t have a brief on that.


Question:  [inaudible] Mr. Mamoud Abbas made the statement today that they are going to seek full membership of the Security Council.  Did you have a reaction from the Secretary-General about it?


Deputy Spokesperson:  As the Secretary-General said yesterday, it’s a question for Member States to consider, and it’s a question for the Palestinian Authority to decide which way it is going to go.  He is not going to comment on that.


**Secretary-General appointment


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have one more announcement to make here:


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced today the appointment of María Eugenia Casar, of Mexico, as Assistant Secretary-General, Controller, Office of Programme Planning, Budgets and Accounts, Department of Management.  Ms. Casar will replace Mr. Jun Yamazaki.


The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Yamazaki’s dedicated service as Controller and for his strong sense of professionalism and commitment to the ideals of the Organization.


Question:  What’s the nationality of the [inaudible]....?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Mr. Yamazaki?  Ms. Casar is Mexican.  Yeah.


Question:  Does the Secretary-General support this Oman Government’s effort to negotiate on behalf of United States the release of the two Americans held in Iranian jail [inaudible] Iranian territory?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has always considered that for humanitarian reasons that these… that the Iranian authorities might consider doing what President Ahmadinejad said the other day, which is releasing them on bail, and that is where we stand on that.


Question:  Can we say that he says that it is okay for the Omani government to negotiate?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, that is for the Omani Government to decide; it’s not a question for the United Nations to comment on.


Question:  Yeah, there is a… maybe it was about a week ago, Mr. Mulet announced in front of the Security Council that… that Khartoum and Juba had both agreed to withdraw their troops from Abyei, the disputed region.  And that this agreement had been reached and it was reported as news quoting the UN as saying that was true.  Now officials in Sudan have said that’s not true; that the UN misspoke; that they never agreed to leave.  So, I wonder, what is the UN’s… is the UN… was it accurate when the UN said it, but Khartoum is the one reneging, or was it inaccurate when the UN said it?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I would suggest you speak with DPKO on that.  They will probably have a better idea of the… of what happened than I do.  Just speak with them.


Question:  I mean, it’s a big thing for the UN more generally.  Right?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We are waiting for our guests to show up.


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For information media • not an official record