26 January 2012
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 everyone, and welcome to the briefing.


**Secretary-General’s Statement on Syria


I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Secretary-General being killed.


The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the killing yesterday of Dr. Abd-al-Razzaq Jbeiro, Secretary-General of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and extends his condolences to his family and colleagues.  The Secretary-General condemns the attack that killed him, which targeted a vehicle clearly marked with the Red Crescent emblem.  He calls on the Syrian Government to investigate this crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.  The Secretary-General reminds all of their obligation to respect and protect humanitarian workers as they perform their duties and impartially serve all those who are in need.


**Secretary-General in Davos


The Secretary-General arrived in Davos today to attend the World Economic Forum.  At a luncheon with the Elders, the Secretary-General spoke about efforts to deliver a better life for women and girls around the world.  The Elders is an independent group of global leaders initially brought together by Nelson Mandela to work for peace and human rights.


The Secretary-General said the “Every Woman, Every Child” campaign is uniting a vast array of partners who are improving the health of women and children, and bringing us closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  He also said the Elders’ own “Girls, Not Brides” campaign was also important in this context.  He said that the private sector was uniquely positioned to help in these international efforts.


The Secretary-General met with the President of Switzerland, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter.  We issued a readout on the meeting with the President.


The Secretary-General will also meet Prime Minister Raila Odinga of Kenya.  And later on this afternoon, he will have meetings with the Danish Prime Minister and Brazilian Foreign Minister.  We’ll issue readouts as we get them.  This evening, the Secretary-General will co-host a dinner with Bill Gates to mark the tenth anniversary of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.


**Security Council


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Bert Koenders, briefed the Security Council this morning.  He said that Côte d’Ivoire had made significant progress towards restoring normalcy.  He added that the holding of legislative elections was a major step forward in restoring constitutional order and completing the peace process.


Mr. Koenders added that it was now important to focus attention on other priorities, including national reconciliation, disarmament and security sector reform.  Equally important, he said, was the need to address the root causes of the Ivorian crisis, as well as the question of impunity.  The Security Council is now holding consultations on Côte d’Ivoire.


And then this afternoon the Council will hear a briefing on the assessment mission about the impact of the Libyan crisis on the Sahel region.


**Holocaust Remembrance


All this week the United Nations has been holding events to remember victims of the Holocaust.  Tomorrow, the annual Holocaust memorial ceremony takes place in the General Assembly Hall, starting at 11 a.m.  And tonight, two photo exhibits on the theme “Children and the Holocaust” will open in the Visitor’s Lobby of the United Nations Headquarters at 6 p.m.  All events are open to the media.


Questions, please?  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  On Libya, the situation continues to deteriorate in the prisons, especially in Misrata.  Doctors without Borders have, they have now withdrawn from the area because of the situation and a lot of people have been injured as a result of beating and torturing, and Navi Pillay, the Commissioner, has referred to appalling, to grave reports on the situation.  Does the Secretary-General condemn this violence by the militia?


Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General spoke at some length about what has been unfolding in Libya, including just in the last few days.  And he expressed his concern about the internal fighting that has been seen.  That’s the first thing.  And he also mentioned, as you did, that Navi Pillay addressed the Security Council yesterday, as did his Special Representative, Ian Martin.  They both expressed their concern about the fact that the protests had gone beyond exuberant democratic spirit and spilled over into violence, and that is something that clearly is not acceptable.  And secondly, they also talked about these reports of torture and both of them condemned those alleged activities and it is obvious that the Secretary-General would share those concerns about those allegations.  Okay, other questions?  Matthew?


Question:  I wanted, this is… I want to ask something that I had wanted to ask yesterday, which is a simple factual question.  The Secretary-General again yesterday spoke about this issue of lack of helicopters in South Sudan, and you know, and I wanted to, I have asked Hilde Johnson, I have asked you, I am going to ask, now I think it should be pretty straight forward: when did the Secretary-General know that the UN system did not have helicopters in Sudan, in South Sudan?  And I am asking because there are credible allegations that, if the UN knew and didn’t act until it was too late, that there is some degree of kind of negligence, or a need to reform something so that there is an ability to protect civilians which didn’t take place in Pibor.  So, when did he know?  I just… it’s a very simple question.


Spokesperson:  Well, after the Russian utility helicopters were attacked by South Sudanese forces last autumn, Russia decided in December to withdraw four of its helicopters and ground the remaining four.  That’s what I can tell you at the moment.  If I have any further information on that, I will let you know.


Question:  Just… and thanks, I really… that’s at least… just if we could know when in December, and also how this related to what Russia says, as they said it, they said this in mid-November.  So, I just…


Spokesperson:  Well, I am telling you…


Question:  Sure.  Because it makes a big difference if it is 1 December or 28 December, so…


Spokesperson:  Indeed, and as I say, I don’t have the exact date now, but I am trying to help you.


Question:  I appreciate that, and I wanted, if you don’t mind, I wanted to ask, there is, I have heard now from multiple sources within Security and elsewhere that a suspicious package containing cocaine was found in the UN scanner recently and was… the host country was called.  They are saying that it was up to 40 pounds of cocaine, and people have asked me within Security, why wasn’t the FBI called?  Why wasn’t the package actually picked up so they could find out who was getting it?  I’d like to know if either now or as soon as possible today, can you, will you confirm this find of cocaine in the scanner and why were… why was only the NYPD apparently called and what’s OIOS doing about the possibility of drug trafficking inside the United Nations?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, I will need to come back to you with some more details.  But the most important thing here is that this was not connected to the United Nations, and that’s why the host Government, the city authorities in the shape of the NYPD were brought in to assist and they have taken over.  Once I have a few more details, I will let you know.


Question:  But just, and thanks again, I appreciate that, it just… I am just wondering because it is said that it was found inside the UN in a diplomatic pouch by the UN scanners, so how is the UN not…?


Spokesperson:  Because it was not a diplomatic pouch.  That I can say categorically, it was not a diplomatic pouch.


Question:  But how did it get into the UN?


Spokesperson:  Matthew, I said I am going to get, give you more details, and you can play 20 questions with me now or you can let me get some details for you later.  Okay?


[The Spokesperson later issued the following note to correspondents:


Last week, two suspicious mail bags were intercepted by the Security and Safety Service at United Nations Headquarters in New York.  Neither the United Nations nor anyone located in the United Nations was the intended recipient of this delivery and the bags were not UN bags, diplomatic or other.


The relevant host country authorities — the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the New York Police Department (NYPD) — were notified about the discovery of the suspicious bags and the material handed over to their custody.  The United States Mission to the United Nations was also kept informed.


As the host country authorities are investigating, we would refer you to the DEA or NYPD for any further details.]


Question:  No, I mean, exactly, just what, a detailed explanation of how it came in and who, to whom it was addressed, things like that.


Spokesperson:  Yeah.


Correspondent:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  Other questions?  Anne, I saw your hand tentatively going into the air.


Question:  I wanted to know if there has been any reaction by the Secretary-General to the fact that, on 19 January, Iraq executed 34 people in one day, keeping in mind of course the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, considered this shocking.


Spokesperson:  Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights did indeed speak out about that, and the United Nations position on the death penalty is well known.  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  The Secretary-General, I understand, had not yet spoken at the Davos meeting, but is he carrying any special message to the meeting?


Spokesperson:  A number of messages.  I think the overall theme of the meeting this year, or the meetings this year, is clear to everybody and it is primarily focused on the economic crisis and the need to look at what is going on in the world through that particular prism — the difficulties that people are evidently facing.  So it is partly that as a key message.  In other words, the importance of social justice and social equality and the need to look at particularly the difficulties faced by young people, by youth.  So that is one part of the message.  And the other is, of course, that he will be seeking to provide some details, as he did here yesterday and to the Member States earlier in the day, about his action agenda for the coming five years.  So, in addition to that, of course, as I just mentioned, it is a venue that brings together a rather extraordinary mix of Heads of State and Government, business leaders and other notable, and therefore it stands to reason that the Secretary-General would be able to meet with some of them in different formats to talk about some of these topics and other bilateral matters that come up.  Yes?


Question:  Yeah, thanks.  I wanted to… one is a repeat question I think you may have an answer to it, and one is a new question, both related to the ICC.  One is about Mr. Gambari attending this wedding ceremony in Khartoum and being photographed with Omar al-Bashir.  He has now said, Gambari has, that he has no apologies, that he attended the ceremony, he has no apologies.  So I just wanted to ask again, what is the UN’s policy on interacting with ICC indicted individuals and does this policy apply to, and is implemented by, Mr. Gambari?


Spokesperson:  I think that you should have received already some information on that.  And if not, then I will make sure that you have it.


Question:  Okay, yeah, no, at least I am not aware of receiving it.  The other one has to do with… I heard that he is meeting with a Kenyan official while in Davos and then, not one of the indictees…


Spokesperson:  Prime Minister.


Correspondent:  Yeah.


Spokesperson:  Prime Minister.


Question:  Prime Minister.  Four people, including the Deputy Prime Minister and former Finance Minister resigned today, Mr. Kenyatta, have four individuals of the six charged have been… had charges confirmed and therefore been sort of indicted by the ICC for post-electoral violence.  And I just wondered, one, does the UN have any comment on that, and two, maybe you will say it is hypothetical, but I am left puzzled by this Gambari thing.  Would the Secretary-General meet with the Deputy Prime Minister now that he is invited by… indicted by the ICC or is it just the policy, what is the UN policy?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, I think the ICC is an independent judicial institution.  And it needs to be able to carry out its work in an independent fashion.  And so I don’t think that it is appropriate to comment further on cases that are being looked at and in the judicial process already.  And you are right — I don’t see that it is appropriate to respond to a hypothetical question.


Question:  But can you see why the Gambari photo creates some confusion, of I mean, I am told they are willing to see what is written, but there, almost no matter what is written, it seems to some that attending a wedding ceremony is hard to describe as a humanitarian gesture or as a… I mean, I don’t know what you are going to say, so I will wait to see it.


Spokesperson:  Well, that’s probably…


Correspondent:  But, I have been asking for a while, that’s why I am asking today.


Spokesperson:  You will get it, Matthew.


Correspondent:  Okay, great.


Spokesperson:  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record