27 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, and welcome to the briefing.


**Security Council


B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Security Council on the Middle East this morning, telling Council members that, judging by the passions of last week, the parties remain far apart.  But, he added that there are now some building blocks in place that could help make negotiations more effective than before — a clear timetable, expectations that the parties must come forward with proposals and an active role by the Quartet.  It will not be easy to chart a way forward, he said, but now is the time for everyone to give diplomacy a chance.


Mr. Pascoe told the Council that the Palestinian Authority is capable of running a State.  He added that the main obstacles to a Palestinian State are not institutional, but political:  the unresolved issues in the conflict between the parties, the continuing Israeli occupation, and the Palestinian divide.  He said that as deliberations continue on the Palestinian membership bid, we must spare no effort to help the parties back to the negotiating table.  And we have his remarks in my Office.


** Sudan


The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says that it expects the number of refugees fleeing into western Ethiopia from Sudan's Blue Nile State to continue to rise.  Since the influx started at the beginning of September, 25,000 refugees have crossed into Ethiopia.


UNHCR says that most of the refugees are staying in local communities but that many are sleeping in the open, presenting increased risk of illness and disease.  UNHCR is helping to move them into a camp where basic services and better protection can be provided.  Today, the agency, together with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), launched an appeal for funds to help these refugees.


** Pakistan


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that access to safe potable water is a critical issue in Pakistan’s flood-affected areas.  More than 2.5 million people in flooded areas are in need of water and sanitation assistance.  Relief agencies are concerned about the lack of hygiene and overcrowding, which could increase the possibility of illness, notably water-borne diseases.


So far, the Pakistan Rapid Response Plan launched earlier this month is only 3 per cent funded.  For its part, the United Nations Children’s Fund is focused on bringing safe water, sanitation and hygiene.  It is also seeking to provide life saving care and nutritional services to tens of thousands of women and children.  The Fund says that nearly 9,000 schools have been damaged by flooding and that more than 2,300 schools are being used as temporary relief camps.


** Cyprus


The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities discussed European Union matters in Nicosia today.  Following the meeting, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Alexander Downer, told reporters that the leaders will meet again on Friday.  The next phase of negotiations will begin next week, leading up to a meeting with the Secretary-General in October.


** Libya


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that humanitarian access in Libya to Sirte is limited due to fierce fighting.  Some 6,000 people have been displaced from the city, and relief workers have pre-positioned food and medical supplies on its outskirts.  There are between 100,000 and 150,000 internally displaced people in Libya, the Office says.  There are also concerns about the situation of third-country nationals — both migrants and refugee- and asylum-seekers, who have been made more vulnerable to human rights violations since the outbreak of the conflict.


**Press Conference


Tomorrow at 3 p.m., here in this auditorium, there will be a press conference to mark the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Security Council resolution 1373 (2001).  Speakers will include Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations and Chair of the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, and Assistant Secretary-General Mike Smith, Head of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate.


That’s what I have.  I am happy to take questions.  Yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  [inaudible] on the action of the Italian Government to transfer refugees from the island of Lampadusa on board ships that, at least two of them are… one in the port of Palermo and one in the port of Cagliari.  And they have been there for three days now.  One of them has 700 refugees from Tunisia.  Do you have any reactions or any knowledge of this, or do you plan anything?


Spokesperson:  I have asked for information, I don’t have it yet.  So as soon as I have that, we’ll make sure that you have it.  I don’t have it now.


Correspondent:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  Yes, Richard?


Question:  I know there were some questions and answers about the security incident with the Turkish security.  I wonder, on day two, if you can update us as to whether there is an investigation, and is there anything new before I follow up?


Spokesperson:  I think the short answer is I don’t really have anything to add to what I said yesterday, Richard.  Okay?


Question:  They tried yesterday, but I wonder if you could explain, considering the nature of this incident, why did the Secretary-General feel he had to apologize?


Spokesperson:  Well, as I said, we believe these misunderstandings have been satisfactorily resolved, and I don’t have anything further to say on that, I simply don’t.


Question:  Can you confirm, since you are the Spokesperson and security understandably doesn’t want to say anything, what was the level of injuries suffered by UN Security in this incident?


Spokesperson:  Yeah, I know what my job is, Richard, I know what your job is too.  So, I think we both understand each other.  I do not have anything further on that matter.  Let me simply say that I think everybody appreciates the dedicated work of UN Security personnel both here at Headquarters and around the world.  Okay, other questions.


Question:  But, why doesn’t the [inaudible] simple, as simple as the injuries be worth revealing or confirming?


Spokesperson:  As I say, Richard, I said yesterday what I have on this, and that’s what I have, okay?


Question:  I want to ask…


Spokesperson:  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  One of the… one question that I… that I sent you earlier today and then… and then something else that’s just factual on this.  And one is, is there any dis… you’ve said that there is… there is an attempt to look into avoiding this in the future, in whichever way it is.  And I wanted to know if that involves in any way telling delegations to, you know, heed the instructions of UN Security or to not, it seems with the apology, the implication is that the UN Security were in the wrong, although they were the ones injured.  So I wanted to know, is there some message going out to the delegations to… to… I mean, I say this because people in UN Security say they said “stop”, they didn’t stop and that’s what happened.  So is that viewed… is that viewed by you as part of the… something that the Secretariat could… could clarify to delegations, or is it just, if anything happens, UN Security is wrong, as it appears to some?


Spokesperson:  What I said yesterday was that necessary action is being taken to prevent such misunderstandings in the future.  And that action could take various forms.  I don’t know at this stage what that could include.  Clearly, liaising with delegations in the run-up to the General Assembly is an important part of such activities to prevent misunderstandings.


Question:  And I wanted to know, factually, the… the… it seems that even the Turkish Mission and delegation acknowledge that… that they were… they… they requested and received extra passes, that their delegation involved not only the Prime Minister, but a Deputy Prime Minister and five, separately… five separate ministers and then a bunch of security.  And so the ques… I guess my question is: is it possible to know what other countries were given extra… extra passes in this way, because it seems to… it seems to some in Security to have contributed to the… to the incident?


Spokesperson:  Let me ask.  Yeah?


Question:  And just one last one on this, if you don’t mind?  I mean, I am just… maybe you will answer this one.  I wanted to know, I think, because the question became, it seems, you didn’t say it was an apology, but the Turks have said in the Turkish press that it was, that he received an apology.  And it seems to have taken place around 2:30 p.m. on Friday.  So, I just… if there is a way to… given all the constraints that you’re under, to say, what did the Secretary-General know at that time that led him… that led him to say something that the Turkish side took as an apology?  Did he speak to Mr. Starr?  What was the basis of his information?  Forgetting what you… even if you don’t want to say what the information was, what did he know at 2:30 p.m. Friday that led him to say something that was interpreted as an apology?


Spokesperson:  Well, as I have said, we believe that this has been satisfactorily resolved.  I confirmed yesterday that the Secretary-General did indeed meet the Prime Minister.  And I don’t really have anything further on that.  Okay, yeah, other questions?  Yes?


Question:  I’m sorry, just on this.  I understand also that there had been previous incidents similar to this one between the Turkish delegation and UN Security.  Even if you won’t specify exactly what necessary action has been taken to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future, is this same action been taken in the past, and if so, why was that action not taken in the first [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  As I said, necessary action is being taken to prevent such misunderstandings.  And that’s where we are.


Question:  So would the necessary action begun to be taken before this incident happened?


Spokesperson:  I think we’re getting a little tied up in pedantics here.  Let’s just simply say that there were misunderstandings involving security between UN uniformed officials and security officials of member delegations, and these have been satisfactorily resolved.  And it’s clear that after such misunderstandings, in the light of such misunderstandings, they need to be looked into.  And then the necessary action is being taken to prevent such misunderstandings in the future.  And that’s what I have, okay?


Question:  Where did this incident or incidents take place?  On the second floor, or the fourth floor behind the GA…?


Spokesperson:  Richard, why don’t we accept that I have told you what I have to say, and I have not got further details that I have available to me, okay?  That’s the position.  I think you have done your own homework and as have others.  The information I have for you is simply to say that we believe that this has been satisfactorily resolved.  Okay, other questions?  Yeah?


Question:  One, just more on that.  Did Mr. Starr give a yes or no in terms of giving some kind of a press availability about UN Security as regards this incident and otherwise?


Spokesperson:  Not explicit, but I believe it’s no.  Okay. 


Question:  I want to ask you about Kosovo.  There is this incident on the border, I am thinking maybe… I don’t know if you have information on it, but it’s the seven Serbs injured and four NATO peacekeepers — that’s the report of this.  What is… what does [United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] know about this and what’s it doing, if anything, in response to it?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think, as you know, we clearly do keep a close eye on this.  And the Mission, UNMIK, is obviously closely monitoring what is happening.  As the Secretary-General himself has said, and as I have mentioned also, it is absolutely vital that there needs to be restraints and a return to the dialogue which had successfully started under the auspices of the European Union.


Question:  And also, if I could ask about Abyei.  Just this morning, in front of the Security Council, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti said that the UNISFA, the UN Mission in Abyei, is only 50 per cent deployed and implied that, therefore, the Sudanese Armed Forces will not be leaving Abyei by 30 September.  I wanted to know, one, is it… is it true?  What’s the… I mean, maybe you will know this, or you could find out later today, what… what the percentage of the deployment is, and also if it’s the UN’s understanding that the Sudanese had committed to leave by 30 September without regard to a particular percentage of… of UNISFA’s deployment?


Spokesperson:  I would need to check precisely what the position is with my peacekeeping colleagues on the deployment.  I think that we’ve already said that the deployment has not been straightforward.  So let me see if I have any details on that.  Yeah, other questions?  Yes?


Question:  I lost track of when the meeting’s scheduled for, but when… what does the Secretary-General plan to say, or might he have said something to the Syrian Foreign Minister in light of his harsh criticisms of the regime there?  Can you give us any insight into that meeting today?


Spokesperson:  The bilateral meeting between the Foreign Minister and the Secretary-General took place, I think, about an hour ago.  I would anticipate that we’ll have a readout.  I do not have that readout available just yet.  As soon as we have it, we will distribute it, but I don’t have it at the moment.  I think…


Question:  Readouts can be pretty pro forma at times, so I thought maybe you would [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  Well, yes, they can be, but then, but not always.  And, so I would urge you to read what it says when it comes.  Okay, all right, any other questions?


Correspondent:  [inaudible] I want to ask one more about Myanmar, which is, I know that there is this Group of Friends on Myanmar meeting this afternoon.


Spokesperson:  That’s right.


Question:  There has been a lot of reporting recently about increased fighting in… in eastern Myanmar, in the ethnic or even called rebel-controlled areas, there is a dam that is trying to be built, so I am wondering, I guess, one, what… if it’s the special… the good offices, Mr. Nambiar, if he thinks things are going well?  Is he aware of this fighting?  Is he going to speak about it in the meeting, and could he speak to us after the meeting to know what the UN thinks of events in Myanmar?


Spokesperson:  I think we will have some form of readout — I am not calling it a readout — but some form of summary that would help you after the meeting.  I do not know at this point precisely what is on the agenda, I mean everything that is on the agenda, I don’t know that.  But, I think that we would aim to provide a summary of the discussions, as seen from the Secretary-General’s perspective, after the meeting.  Yeah.  Anything else?  Okay, have a good afternoon.  Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record