28 February 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


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


**Noon Guest


Today my guest is Georg Kell, Executive Director of the Global Compact Office.  He is here to discuss the business role at “Rio+20” and the Global Compact's plans for a Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum, to be held 15—18 June.


After Mr. Kell has finished and we have done the Q and A, I will read out some statements I have and take a few questions, because immediately afterwards we have the press conference on female genital mutilation, which I am also co-hosting with the Italian Minister of Labour, the Permanent Representative, a survivor and some other people.  So the question period today will be kept very short.  Georg, the floor is yours.


[Press conference by Mr. Kell is issued separately.]


Good afternoon again, ladies and gentlemen.


**Syria


This morning, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, told the urgent debate on the human rights and humanitarian situation in Syria that her Office has received disturbing reports of a rapidly deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation.  Recent reports further indicate that Syrian military and security forces have launched massive campaigns of arrest, arbitrarily detaining thousands of protestors, as well as activists and others suspected of anti-Government activities.


She was particularly appalled by the recent escalation of violence in the country.  She said that the International Commission of Inquiry report, which was published on 22 February, concluded that “the Government has manifestly failed in its responsibility to protect the population; its forces have committed widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations, amounting to crimes against humanity, with the apparent knowledge and consent of the highest levels of the State.”  It further stated that anti-Government groups have committed abuses, but not “comparable in scale and organization to those carried out by the State”.


She called upon the Syrian authorities to cooperate fully with international mechanisms, including Mr. Kofi Annan, who was recently appointed as Joint Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States and of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to Syria.  She also renewed her earlier calls for full cooperation with her Office, including through the establishment of a human rights field presence in the Syrian Arab Republic.


**Security Council


This morning, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East.  Mr. Pascoe said that Special Envoy for the UN and League of Arab States Secretaries-General, Kofi Annan, arrives in New York tomorrow to begin talks with the Secretary-General.  Mr. Pascoe said he hoped Mr. Annan will have the opportunity to meet with all members of the Council to hear their suggestions on how to bring this terrible situation to an end. 


Mr. Pascoe noted that the Syrian Government has manifestly failed to carry out its responsibility to protect its people.  Unfortunately, the international community has also failed in its duty to stop the carnage, and actions and inactions to date have seemed to encourage the regime in its belief that it has impunity to carry on wanton destruction of its own civilians.


Mr. Pascoe said that the “Friends of the Syrian People” conference last week brought together representatives from more than 65 nations and organizations, and called on the Syrian Government to halt attacks on civilians and allow immediate access for vital relief goods and services.  The message to Syrian authorities should be clear:  the bleeding of Syria must cease.


Mr. Pascoe reported that the Middle East peace process talks that began 3 January have stalled, and prospects for their resumption remain dim.  He said the framework set by the Quartet in its statement of 23 September 2011, with the aim of reaching an agreement before the end of the year, remains relevant.  The situation on the ground in both Gaza and the West Bank remains dangerous and ultimately unsustainable.  His full statement is available in our office.


**South Sudan


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, will be travelling to Sudan, Uganda and Kenya this week to meet with the respective Heads of State and Government, and senior Government officials.  The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says that her discussions will focus on the current situation in the country and critical issues affecting the implementation of the Mission’s mandate.


**Humanitarian Affairs


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Emergency Director John Ging will travel to the Central African Republic from 29 February to 2 March.  Conflict and insecurity have caused widespread displacement in the Central African Republic.  More than 95,000 people are displaced across the country, particularly in the north and south-east.  Nearly half the population does not have enough to eat, and two in five children under the age of five are chronically malnourished.  The purpose of the mission is to assess the humanitarian situation, discuss ways to strengthen the response and ensure better access to people affected by conflict, displacement and food insecurity.


**United Nations Children’s Fund


An annual flagship report focusing on children in cities is being launched today by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Mexico.  The report — The State of the World's Children 2012:  Children in an Urban World — says that 1 billion children live in urban areas.  It adds that many of those children lack access to schools, health-care and sanitation, despite living alongside these services.  The report says that the world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history, and that the number of children living in urban areas continues to increase.


**Cyprus


The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities discussed the issue of property today.  The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Alexander Downer, said that the leaders will continue their talks on Thursday, 8 March.


**Press Conferences


And as I said at the beginning, immediately following this briefing, there will be a press conference in support of the Global Efforts to End Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  Participants will include United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo, Italian Minister of Labour, Social Policies and Gender Equality, Elsa Fornero, Ambassador Cesare Maria Ragaglini of Italy and an FGM survivor.  This event is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Italy, along with UNFPA and UNICEF.


That’s all from me.  I have time for a few questions.  Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Just a couple of questions.  First question is about Syria, the situation now as Mr. Pascoe reported and Ms. Navi Pillay has been saying, and the Secretary-General has spoken again and again.  Today there is a report that Saudi Arabia is arming the opposition groups in Syria, number one.  And number two, what happens when Saudi Arabia intervenes, it becomes more of an ethnic conflict.  So has the Secretary-General taken note of this?  Has the Secretary-General or Ms. Navi Pillay had opportunity to visit this question as to why are these people arming…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has taken note of the question, and in one of his statements, I believe a few days ago, he said that the military option is not a solution for Syria and that arming either side is not an option for Syria.


Question:  But everybody is blaming, I mean obviously, the Government, which is oppressing the people, but the thing is that the conflict is being exasperated by these situations that are developing, especially Saudi Arabia arming Sunnis, and there are Shi’ites over there, and then it becomes [inaudible], I mean, ethnical.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, two wrongs don’t make a right, Masood.  The Secretary-General has been saying since the beginning of the conflict that this violence and killing have to stop.  The violence and killing from both sides have to stop.  Arming either side does not help the killing and violence to stop.  Therefore, the killing and violence must stop in order for the humanitarian aid to start flowing, and for a political solution to be found to the crisis in Syria. 


Question:  On another question, about this, another report in the newspapers today about Indian army and its excesses in Kashmir, which reports say that Indian Government is not allowing the civilian courts to consider cases against the army of human rights abuses and killings.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything on that at the moment; we will look into it and get back to you on it.


Question:  Sure, yeah, I wanted to ask you about the Secretary-General’s trip to Angola.  When he left, he said, “I had hoped to meet with parliamentary leaders, including the opposition.”  So I wanted to know, I mean, had he just hoped or had there been some… since there is an election coming up in the country, did… were meetings cancelled?  Did he… why didn’t he meet with the opposition?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to check with them when they get off the plane and find out exactly what happened there.


[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that there were some unanticipated changes in the programme, but this can happen on trips with such busy schedules.  The meeting with civil society did go ahead, and it included a wide range of voices.]


Question:  Okay, and I also wanted to ask you, there is a General Assembly resolution that has been getting discussed, and it has a paragraph in it that would direct the Secretary-General to ensure that peacekeeping operations, special political missions, special envoys, do not undermine the efforts of the ICC [International Criminal Court].  And it seems to most people to be a reference to Mr. Gambari taking photographs with President Bashir of Sudan and UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] having flown Ahmed Haroun, who had been indicted for war crimes.  What I wonder is, is the Secretariat… what is their response to this implicit critique of how they have been dealing with ICC indictees, and what is their comment on this?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we don’t take it as an implicit critique, we take it as a statement by the General Assembly.  We will have to see what the resolution says and then in that sense we will take action appropriate to what the resolution says.  Anything else?


Question:  Yeah, there is.  I had wanted to ask about Darfur.  I think I had asked you on Friday, and you sort of acknowledged that something had taken place and that UNAMID was going out on a patrol.  Has… is there… it’s now Tuesday, is there any response from UNAMID to whether this incident, in which it said that 12 people died, took place and what is UNAMID doing about it?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We’re waiting for a response from UNAMID; we haven’t had a response from them yet.


Okay, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon.  And we will begin the press conference on female genital mutilation shortly.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record