28 November 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.


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the noon briefing.


**Noon Guest


Today’s guest at our noon briefing is Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  And she is joined by Rima Salah of UNICEF.  She will brief on her recent missions to the Central African Republic and Somalia.


After the question period with Dr. Coomaraswamy, I will then have a few announcements and take a few questions of my own.  Dr. Coomaraswamy, the floor is yours.


[Press conference by Radhika Coomaraswamy is issued separately.]


**Secretary-General’s Travel


Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.


The Secretary-General is leaving New York about now for a visit to Busan in the Republic of Korea.


As we mentioned last week, the main purpose of his visit is to participate in the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness on Wednesday.  The forum is an important element in the discussions around the emerging aid architecture leading up to 2015, the deadline year for the Millennium Development Goals.  The meeting will also contribute to the discussions on international development cooperation at next year's Rio+20 Conference.


While in Busan, the Secretary-General will have a range of bilateral meetings with leaders from both the public and private sectors.  He will also visit the UN Memorial Cemetery in Korea to pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the Korean War.  This will be the first visit to the cemetery by a UN Secretary-General.  The Secretary-General will be back in New York Thursday.


**Security Council


The Security Council received a briefing on Yemen this morning from the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar.  Mr. Benomar discussed the agreement reached last week in Yemen and he intends to speak to reporters at the Council stakeout once consultations on Yemen have ended.


You’ll recall that, in a statement last week, the Secretary-General called on all sides to honour their commitments made in the Agreement in good faith with a view to its full implementation, immediately ceasing all violent acts, refraining from any further provocations, and working towards a fully inclusive transition process that is responsive to the legitimate demands of the Yemeni people.


This afternoon, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Ian Martin, will brief the Security Council on that country, in an open meeting followed by consultations.  Mr. Martin will also speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout afterwards.


** Somalia


The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, says she is extremely concerned by Al-Shabaab’s seizure of property and equipment belonging to several non-governmental organizations and UN agencies working to alleviate suffering in southern Somalia.


She adds that any disruption to ongoing humanitarian efforts threatens to undermine the fragile progress made this year and could bring back famine conditions in several areas.  She calls on groups associated with Al-Shabaab to withdraw immediately from humanitarian compounds seized this morning.  Ms. Amos also calls on Al-Shabaab to reverse its announcement, made earlier today, that a number of UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations working in areas under its control must cease their operations.  Humanitarian organizations working in Somalia remain strictly neutral, and their only task is to save lives, she says.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


In a statement issued yesterday, the Secretary-General underlined the United Nations’ support for the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He called on all political leaders and the people of the country to exercise restraint throughout the process to ensure that the elections are held in a peaceful and secure environment.


He also appealed to them to address any disputes that may arise through the established mediation and legal channels.  The Secretary-General stressed that it was the primary responsibility of the Government for maintaining a secure environment for the elections.  The full statement is available online.


** Syria


The Commission of Inquiry established on Syria by the Human Rights Council presented its report today, documenting patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, including sexual violence, as well as violations of children’s rights.


The Commission said it was gravely concerned that crimes against humanity have been committed in different locations in Syria and it called upon the Government to put an immediate end to the ongoing gross human rights violations, to initiate independent and impartial investigations of these violations, and to bring perpetrators to justice.  The Commission reiterates its call for immediate and unhindered access to the Syrian Arab Republic.  The report is available in our office.


** Cyprus


The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities discussed governance and power-sharing today in Nicosia.  Following their next meeting this Thursday, the leaders will meet every Monday until mid-January of 2012.


**Press Conferences


Tomorrow’s guest at the noon briefing will be Nigel Fisher, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti.


**Palestinian Solidarity


And the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will hold a special meeting in observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on Tuesday, 29 November, at 10 a.m. in Conference Room 2, North Lawn Building.


That’s all from me.  Questions?  Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Last week, the Secretary-General called on the Israeli Prime Minister and Israeli Government, asking them, appealing upon them to release the taxes and levies that it had collected and was withholding for the… against the Palestinians.  Has the Israeli Government responded to him at all?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General made his call last week, and we are waiting to see what response his call will get.


Question:  So, so far there has been no response?


Deputy Spokesperson:  So far, to the best of my knowledge, there has been no response from the Israeli Government on the release of tax dollars, no.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I have two questions, but first I want to ask one about this incident that took place between the US and Pakistan in which more than 20 Pakistani soldiers were killed by a US attack.  I just wonder, especially since the UN has a mission in Afghanistan, do you have any… does the UN have any response to that, any comment?  Do they think greater care should be taken?  What do they make of the incident?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we are aware of the reports and we are waiting to see if we get a line on that.  I have got nothing on that for you right now.


Question:  I was following up, this is an ongoing situation, but Pakistan has been complaining time and again and obviously it is the United States that is involved in it; on drone attacks and attacks which have been taking place for a very long time, and United Nations doesn’t seem to even recognize that as a problem.  Is there any particular reason that the Secretary-General chooses to ignore this situation?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, to the best of my knowledge, thus far, there has been no Security Council resolution or General Assembly resolution on this situation and on the cross-border bombings.  And the Secretary-General, if we have something on that, we will let you know.


Question:  I wanted to ask you, you did have a, I guess a line on the Congo election.  But I wanted to… I mean I know that the statement was prepared before some of the events that took place, including there was a big incident at the airport in Kinshasa where the opposition candidate Tshisekedi was barred from holding a rally which would have been, it seemed to have been legal, during the legal time for rallying.  He was stopped, the UN offered to drive him back to his house rather than sort of enforcing his rights.  He has called for Mr. Meese to be removed, as being too pro-Kabila, and I wondered, what’s the UN’s response both to this opposition candidate saying that the UN is not objective, and what was the UN’s role during the barring of campaigning in the run up to the election?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the bulk of MONUSCO’s forces are deployed to the east of the country.  Maintaining a secure environment for elections is a primary responsibility of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in the statement last week the Secretary-General once again underscored his complete support for the MONUSCO mission in the Congo.


Question:  I mean there are descriptions of UN helicopters over Kinshasa sort of watching as authorities barred this rally.  That’s what I… I understand the bulk may be there, but I am just wondering, what… It just seems strange to some, it seemed like the UN was standing by while campaigning was being prohibited by a Kabila ally.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I said, maintaining a secure environment for the elections is a primary responsibility of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  We will leave it at that.  Okay.


Question:  Do you have any… there is… there are reports that the Government of Sudan has… is prepared to execute 19 stated members of SPLM North, including a noted poet and others, and many human rights groups have spoken out on that and I wonder if the UN, whether Menkerios or otherwise, has any comment on this planned execution.


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing on that right now, but if we get something we will let you know.


**Statement on Elections in Morocco


I have a statement here attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on elections in Morocco.


The Secretary-General welcomes the peaceful conduct of the legislative elections in Morocco on 25 November pursuant to the constitutional reforms proposed by King Mohammed VI and approved by referendum on 1 July 2011.  He encourages the Government to be formed in the coming weeks to pursue the implementation of these reforms and to respond concretely to the legitimate aspirations of the people of Morocco in close consultation with all national stakeholders, including the women and the youth.


Okay, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record