5 March 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, I have as my guest Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.  She is here to brief you on the upcoming anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake on 11 March 2011.  Ms. Wahlström will make her presentation and she will answer questions.  Afterwards, I will have a few things to report to you and take your questions.  Ms. Wahlström, the floor is yours.


[Press conference by Ms. Wahlström is issued separately.]


**Syria


Kofi Annan, the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis, will visit the region from 7 March.  He will begin his mission by meeting with Secretary General of the League of Arab States in Cairo.  He’s scheduled to visit Damascus on 10 March, followed by visits to other countries in the region.  The purpose of his first visit is to seek an urgent end to all violence and human rights violations, and to initiate the effort to promote a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis.


As well, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos will visit Syria this week, arriving in Damascus on Wednesday, 7 March, and leaving on Friday, 9 March.  As requested by the Secretary-General, her aim is to urge all parties to allow unhindered access for humanitarian relief workers so that they can evacuate the wounded and deliver essential supplies.


**Security Council


This morning, the Secretary-General told the Security Council that both Garowe II and the London Conference present new hope to end the cycle of institutional instability and bring Somalia back fully to the international arena.


He commended the leadership and efforts of the United Kingdom to sustain international support for Somalia following the London Conference, and Turkey for agreeing to host the Istanbul II conference.  The Secretary-General noted that this is a critical moment for Somalia.


The Secretary-General reported that, since his last briefing to the Council, three major developments have provided impetus to the Somalia peace process.  First, the Garowe II Consultative Conference held last month.  Second, the adoption of Security Council resolution 2036 (2012) on an expanded and well-resourced AMISOM.  And third, the London Conference held just 11 days ago.  These developments, coming in quick succession within less than a month, present a rare opportunity to the Somali people and to the international community to rapidly advance the peace process, albeit with guarded optimism, and to bring Somalia fully back to the international arena.


Also to the Security Council this morning, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, said via videoconference that the challenges before us have a very tight time frame.  He noted that Somalia today has the greatest opportunity to end the two-decades-long conflict and then bring lasting peace and stability to the whole country.  But capitalizing on this momentum and ending the transition on time will require more efforts and support from all international actors in the coming months.  We must ensure that all of us are pulling together in this regard.


The President of the Security Council read a presidential statement saying the Council remains gravely concerned about the threat posed to Somalia and the international community by terrorist attacks by Somali armed opposition groups, in particular Al-Shabaab, and welcomes the commitment made at the London Conference for renewed international action to address this threat, while ensuring full respect for the rule of law, human rights and international humanitarian law.  The Council also stresses the importance of addressing conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.


**Japan


This evening, the Secretary-General will speak at a concert hosted by Japan to mark the one-year anniversary of the earthquake.  He is expected to say that while many wounds will never fully heal, there are many hopeful signs.  The Secretary-General will also call for the experience of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear incident to be used to become stronger, more resilient and more united.


**Press Conference Today


And today at 2 p.m., there will be a press conference by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, who will be briefing on the situation in Darfur.


**Secretary-General’s Statement on Congo


And we have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the accidental explosion of an ammunition depot in Brazzaville.


The Secretary-General is profoundly saddened by the loss of life and destruction caused by the accidental explosion of an ammunition depot in Brazzaville on Sunday, 4 March.  He extends his deepest condolences to the families of the bereaved and to the Government and people of Congo as a whole.  The United Nations expresses its support to the Republic of Congo at this difficult time and reassures the authorities of its continued cooperation and assistance to ongoing humanitarian relief operations.


That’s all I have.  Questions?  Erol?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you Eduardo.  We have heard what Mr. Annan said to us when he was preparing for his mission to Syria.  In addition to that, was any additional sort of message articulated in the meantime that he would first present to his counterpart, to Mr. Assad obviously, when he is going to meet him?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the main message, as he said himself at the news briefing that he held last week, is that the violence and killing must stop and that negotiations must take place and that people must come together and deal with the situation peacefully.  That was his message last week, and that as far as I know remains his message.  Tim?


Question:  A follow-up on that.  He said last week it is important there should be only one mediation process or one process.  And he said it quite forcefully, and the Secretary-General followed this up later on.  But now the Russian Foreign Minister is going to Cairo to meet the Arab League and a Chinese envoy is gong to Damascus.  Does the UN have any comment on this at all?  Is this a rival?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not going to comment on what other countries may be doing, they are Members of the UN, they are Members of the Security Council and I suspect they will be cooperating with Mr. Annan.  Mr. Annan will probably take into account what they are doing, and he will be discussing the situation with them.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I want to ask you, in South Sudan, Jonglei, where there is a peacekeeping mission run by the UN, there are now reports of more killing in something of Nyirol county, Murle and Lou Nuer, and I am wondering, first, what is the U… what’s UNMISS doing in that regard, and two, is there finally after all this time a casualty count by the UN of those killed in Pibor town in Jonglei State, at the cusp of the year?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the UN is aware of the situation in Jonglei State.  As you know, they’re beginning I believe a process of trying to disarm the various factions some time this week, if I am not mistaken.  And I’ll have to find out for you what the exact body count was from Pibor.  I don’t have that.


Correspondent:  I’m still here, that’s two months ago, and…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Yeah.


Question:  Okay, all right.  And I also wanted to ask you, the… the report has come out of the International Commission of Inquiry into Libya; it came out on Friday.  And it describes, you know, 60, at least, killings of civilians by NATO, including [inaudible] in which it says 18 rescuers were killed, presumably by mistake.  Since I remember Ban Ki-moon saying here that NATO complied fully with the Security Council resolution and international law in Libya, what is his response to this report?  Does he believe the numbers, does he not believe the numbers, and if he believes the numbers, is he amending his statement in any way?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the report came out Friday, give us a chance to take a look at it and to analyse it.  Anybody else?  Masood?


Question:  I want to, is there any, the Secretary-General has any ideas about the situation vis-à-vis Iran [inaudible], and especially in view of the fact that they have been quoted quite often that the American intelligence official said that since 2007 there is no danger per se from into Iran to develop any nuclear weapons now.  So where does the Secretary-General stand, because he keeps on saying that Iran should come through with this and that, and now where does he stand now that most of the intelligence community is saying [inaudible]?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I can tell you that the Director General of IAEA, Yukiya Amano, has said that IAEA continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.  IAEA continues to verify non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under the Safeguards Agreement, but Iran has not provided the necessary cooperation, Mr. Amano has said.  I think what is underscored there is again what the Secretary-General has been saying all this time: that Iran has to prove to the international community that its intentions are peaceful — and up to date, it has not complied with that.


Question:  No, I am… I would like to know what further proof do they need, now that even the American intelligence agencies are saying, maintain that they believe that [inaudible] quoted in The New York Times also that Iran is not pursuing any, unable to produce any nuclear weapon?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, all the Iranians have to do is open up their facilities to IAEA inspectors to be able to verify that.  Right now, and to date, they have refused to do so.  So obviously the international community has not had international nuclear safeguards inspectors in Iran inspecting these sites to be able to verify the claim that they are not pursuing a military option.  Matthew?


Question:  Okay, this is something I think I’ll… the Secretary-General on Friday made an announcement, I want to ask you a question about it, I think there hopefully there will be an answer.  The previous Deputy Secretary-General, the outgoing Deputy Secretary-General, Asha Rose Migiro from Tanzania, an African, she is being replaced by a gentleman from Sweden.  Many in the African group say, what is going on?  There is still not a Special Adviser on Africa, so I guess the question is, how is this to be seen in terms of regional representation?  How is this not a loss for Africa and what… when was the position of Special Adviser on Africa going to be filled?  And also on posts, there seems to be advertisements in The Economist of four of the USG posts, but not all of them.  Only, you know, DESA, DPI and two others — not the Department of Political Affairs and others.  How does the Secretary-General’s Office decide which positions to make available to the public at large and is it true that the Department of Political Affairs is devoted to the United States and is only awaiting an appointment by the US State Department?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, this is all part of a process.  When we have announcements to make, we will make them.  The Secretary-General made an announcement on Friday, he announced the appointment of Mr. Eliasson as the Deputy Secretary-General, he announced the appointment of Susana Malcorra as his Chief of Staff.  As other announcements come due, he will announce them when he is ready.


Question:  But he purported to take questions on it, so this is a question I would have liked to ask on posts.  What does he say to members of the African group that say Africa is… didn’t do well in his first term and has now even less, is there a response to it?  Is that not the case?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think that the Secretary-General looks for competent people to fill positions and the Africans have candidates for a number of positions, and I am sure that they will be considered, as well as other regions.


Question:  Is there a reason why the Special Adviser on Africa post, despite two years in a row the GA saying it should be filled by a full time individual, wasn’t?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have that information, I am sorry.  Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record