12 December 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.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Secretary‑General’s Travel


The Secretary‑General is on his way back to New York from Doha in Qatar, where yesterday he attended the opening of the Fourth Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations.


In his remarks, he said that again and again we are reminded that our differences are nothing compared to our shared humanity.  The Secretary‑General urged participants to continue their dialogue beyond the Doha event and to ensure that it leads to real and concrete action.


While in the Qatari capital, he also inaugurated a rule‑of‑law and anti‑corruption centre and took part in the youth event of the Alliance of Civilizations.  The Secretary‑General also held a series of bilateral meetings, including with the Emir of Qatar and the Foreign Minister of Lebanon.  And we have issued readouts on those meetings.


**Security Council


The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, will brief the Security Council on the human rights situation in Syria, under the agenda item “The situation in the Middle East”, that’s today at 3 p.m.  And she is expected to go to the stakeout at about 4:30 p.m.


** Lebanon


Yesterday evening, the radars of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) detected the firing of one rocket from the general area of the Qaissiyeh valley.  The rocket hit a private home in the village of Houla in southern Lebanon, causing serious injuries to a woman.  There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for this attack.  UNIFIL is investigating the incident, trying to locate the launching site of the rocket fire.  The Force Commander, Major‑General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, strongly condemned the rocket attack and expressed concern at the recent escalation of incidents involving serious security breaches in southern Lebanon.


** Cyprus


The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities discussed the issue of property today in Nicosia.  They’ll meet again next week.


**International Criminal Court


Today at 12:30 p.m., the new Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou B. Bensouda, will be here to brief you following her election.


And the Deputy Secretary‑General addressed the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court this morning, at which Fatou Bensouda was indeed designated the next Prosecutor.  The Deputy Secretary‑General extended the Secretary‑General’s warmest wishes to the States parties.  She said he is fully aware of the Court’s challenges, particularly in relation to the execution of arrest warrants, and added that the Secretary‑General will continue to support the Court as appropriate wherever he can.  And we have her remarks in my office.


**Press Conference


Tomorrow, I will have as my guest here, Awa Marie Coll‑Seck, the Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, and by video link, Robert Newman, Director of the Global Malaria Programme of the World Health Organization (WHO), and Ray Chambers, the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy for Malaria.  They will be briefing you on the launch of the 2011 WHO World Malaria Report.


That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Yes, Ali and then Mr. Abbadi?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  In fact, the Lebanese Foreign Minister said publicly yesterday that the Secretary‑General is visiting Lebanon the second week of next year.  Can you confirm that?  And I have another question, that the French Foreign Minister said that he strongly believes that Syria is behind last week’s attack on UNIFIL.  What is your response to that, please?  Thank you.


Spokesperson:  On the first question, no, I can’t confirm that.  And on the second question, as we have already said, an investigation in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces is under way.  And we don’t have any formal update at this stage.  As UNIFIL said, the mission’s forensics and investigation teams were sent to the site, and they are working in close cooperation with their counterparts in the Lebanese army to determine all the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident.  But there is no formal update at this stage.  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  How would the United Nations answer the critics who say that the Durban meeting produced only meagre results and that was due partly to the fact that some delegations, in particular developing‑country delegations, had to leave earlier than Saturday because they did not have a room reservation and they could not afford to pay for another day?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think you will have seen the Secretary‑General’s statement that was issued over the weekend on Saturday about the outcome of the Durban Climate Change Conference.  The Secretary‑General believes that this is a significant agreement that defines how the international community will address climate change in the coming years.  And I guess there are four key points here.  One is the decision to launch a protocol or legal instrument; this is really going to be essential for stimulating greater action and for raising the level of ambition as we combat the challenges of climate change.   And then secondly, the Secretary‑General is also welcoming the agreement to establish a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.  And that is very important for the carbon market, which is a key aspect in this whole debate.  Thirdly, he is gratified that the agreements that were reached in Cancún are now going to be actually turned into real action, notably the Technology Mechanism and the Adaptation Committee.  And then finally, he has welcomed the launch of the Green Climate Fund, and is pleased that a number of countries have said that they intend to contribute to the Fund.  So, if you look at it overall, this is really an important advance in the work on climate change.  As you know, there was a lot of feverish debate over the course of that meeting in Durban.  But there was a constructive spirit that was evident right to the end and the Secretary‑General certainly hopes that that spirit will endure in the decisions and the work that remains to be done.  Okay, further questions, please?  Yes, and then I am coming to you, Matthew.


Question:  Good morning, thank you.  I would have asked you on Friday if I could have, but on Thursday, the Iranian Ambassador sent a letter to the UN leadership — the SG, the GA President, Ambassador Churkin.  It involved the American drone that the Iranians are somehow in possession of now.  Is the SG in receipt of his letter?  In the letter, it calls for, “effective measures be taken to put an end to these dangerous and awful acts [inaudible] the US responsibilities”.  Is the SG in receipt of his letter and what comments, if any, has he made on that situation?


Spokesperson:  Yes, the Secretary‑General has received the letter, and we don’t have any comment on it.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure.  Questions on the Sudan and the Congo, but I wanted to… in your… in the way you presented this afternoon’s Council meeting, you said that Navi Pillay will brief under the question of the Middle East on Syria.  But there was a big dispute on Friday and the President of the Council, Vitaly Churkin, said she will also be briefing on Palestine and said that and expected, “the Secretariat to convey this to Ms. Pillay”.  Are you aware of that and is… did you… are… is she briefing on Palestine or not?


Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t read too much into that, into my summary of what Ms. Pillay intends to brief on.  I am sure you could ask her office precisely what the details are.  Don’t read too much into my simple summary of trying to ensure that you know that Ms. Pillay will be speaking in the Council and also that she will be speaking to you afterwards.  Yeah, other questions, please?


Question:  [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  Yeah, I am just looking to see if there are other questions, Matthew, and that doesn’t seem to be the case, so I am coming back to you.


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask about the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Since last you’ve answered on this the Carter Center has said there was substantial irregularities, and there are reports of people being taken out of their homes and sort of disappeared or arrested without charge.  What does MONUSCO and the UN now say about the elections in which it took place?


Spokesperson:  Well, three points.  MONUSCO has noted with deep concern the findings of the observer missions that have reported so far.  And MONUSCO is strongly urging the Independent National Electoral Commission to undertake a timely and rigorous review of the issues identified by observer missions with the full participation of witnesses and observers, including foreign observer groups, who may offer to provide technical advice in this regard.  The second point is that MONUSCO emphasizes the need for the parties to settle all election disputes by peaceful means through established institutions, including the National Mediation Committee, and underscores the importance of thorough and transparent handling by the Supreme Court of Justice of all formal challenges.  And the third point is that MONUSCO is reiterating its call to all political actors to desist from incitement to violence and confrontation.  MONUSCO is urging the State security and law enforcement agencies to exercise restraint.


Question:  Does MONUSCO have a protection‑of‑civilians mandate outside the Kivus, i.e., in Kinshasa?  There are reports of security forces under the control of Mr. Kabila taking opponents out of their houses, and I wonder if that is something in which MONUSCO… because they always talk about protection of civilians.  Does it apply there?


Spokesperson:  As you know, the security in the country is a sovereign matter, and there are formed police units in various parts of the country, very small in number, but they have been trained with the help of the United Nations.  And the key point is, however, that it is a national responsibility to ensure security.  And that is why MONUSCO is urging those State security and law enforcement agencies to exercise restraint and comply with the international human rights law in dealing with public demonstrations, and obviously to respect the rights of all citizens, including supporters of political and candidates.  Okay, yes, Masood?


Question:  So on Friday, Israeli airplanes struck inside Gaza again, killing several civilians and some children.  Does the Secretary‑General have anything to say about that?


Spokesperson:  Well, again, this is a topic that unfortunately we have had to comment on in the past.  The Secretary‑General is certainly worried about the recent escalation in Gaza and southern Israel, which puts civilian lives at risk.  And he deplores the civilian casualties that have resulted in Gaza.  Israel has a responsibility to use maximum restraint.  All militant activities and rocket fire must end.  And the United Nations is actively engaged on the ground to help restore calm.  Other questions?  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  In her remarks this morning on the International Criminal Court, the Deputy Secretary‑General spoke about partnership between the United Nations and the ICC.  How does that relate to the character, the independent character of the ICC?


Spokesperson:  Well, as you well know, and as you have just said, it has a distinct mandate from the United Nations.  But as the Secretary‑General has repeatedly said, and as the Deputy Secretary‑General noted on his behalf this morning, the Secretary‑General will continue to support the Court as appropriate wherever he can within the two distinct mandates that they have.  That’s clear, that’s something that the Secretary‑General has spoken about on a number of occasions.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, on Sudan, I wanted to ask a couple of things.  One is, there is reporting over the weekend of increased fighting in Southern Kordofan, around Tolodi.  I am just wondering if the UN knows anything about that and in terms of what the UN either does or should know, in the Council’s meeting last week Mr. Ladsous, I think, said he didn’t know if this town of Jaw, which was the fighting was about, is in South Sudan or North Sudan.  I wanted to know if he has since made any finding in that regard.


Spokesperson:  Well, on the first points, you are quite right that South Kordofan is somewhere where we do not have a presence as we have said before.  And so we are not in a position to be able to say anything further than to simply say that we have seen the media reports, as you have.  On the second point, simple fact is that the border line has not been demarcated in that area, and it is unclear as to whether the fighting has been taking place on one side or the other.  But fundamentally, the most important thing here is that the two sides have to stop the military engagement, stop fighting.  They must make progress in establishing the border‑monitoring mechanism, which is supported by the Security Council.  And this mechanism will enable the parties to investigate and verify reports of cross‑border support and military engagement along the border.  So, the parties have to recommit themselves to addressing unresolved issues at the negotiation table.  So, just to reiterate, the border line has not been demarcated in that area, and it is unclear whether the fighting has been taking place on one side or the other.


Question:  Does that mean that the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)… would it by not going does this somehow imply that it is on the other side of the line?  Would they go if it were in their territory?  Have they gone?


Spokesperson:  I mean, I think if it hasn’t been demarcated, then it is obvious that we can’t say where the fighting has been taking place.  Right, one more question, okay?  Yes, one more?


Question:  Yeah, this is something maybe either you have an answer or you’ll be able to get one — Mr. Ladsous…


Spokesperson:  That’s a fair assessment, either I will or I won’t.


Question:  Sure, Mr. Ladsous the last time that he did a rare stakeout for him said that there will be a status‑of‑forces agreement imminently for Abyei, for UNISFA, and then last week the Ethiopians’ representative here told me that there is still no SOFA in place.  I wanted to know, you know, why is that, and can we get an explanation from either, you know, DPKO or Mr. Ladsous why there is no SOFA, and what danger this may put the peacekeepers in?


Spokesperson:  I will ask, for sure.  Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.


[He later added that a status of forces agreement for UNISFA is still being negotiated.  Presently, the status of forces agreement for the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) still applies.]


* *** *


For information media • not an official record