15 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.  Apologies for the slight delay, as you know there has been some action at the Security Council stakeout with the Special Representative for South Sudan and the President of the Security Council.  So welcome.


**Secretary-General’s Statement on Syria


I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Syria.


One year ago today, Syrians emboldened by the changing tide of history in their region stood up in the streets of Damascus to appeal for their universal rights and freedoms.  Peaceful popular protests started a few days later in Deraa and spread to many other locations across the country.  The Syrian authorities responded with brutal repression, which has continued unabated.  Its consequences are tragically unfolding before the world’s eyes.  Well over 8,000 people are dead as a result of the Government’s decision to choose violent repression over peaceful political dialogue and genuine change.


It is urgent to break the cycle of violence, stop military operations against civilians and prevent a further militarization of the conflict in Syria.  The status quo in Syria is indefensible.  The Secretary-General stands in solidarity with the people of Syria and their legitimate aspirations to dignity, freedom and justice.  He calls for all violence to end, and for a resolution of the crisis through peaceful means.  He urges the Syrian Government and opposition to cooperate with the efforts of the Joint Special Envoy, and appeals to the international community to offer its determined and unified support to stop the bloodshed and find a political solution that responds to the will of the Syrian people and ensures respect for their fundamental rights.


**Syria - Humanitarian


The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, has also just issued a statement.


Ms. Amos says that as intense fighting continues in Syria, and people are caught up in the violence, it is increasingly vital that humanitarian organizations have unhindered access to identify urgent needs and provide emergency care and basic supplies.  There is no time to waste.  She says that, last week, the Government of Syria said that they needed more time to consider her proposals.  The Syrian authorities have now informed her that a Government-led mission will visit the governorates of Homs, Hama, Tartous, Lattakia, Aleppo, Dayr Az Zor, Rural Damascus and Deraa, starting this weekend.


A number of United Nations and Organization of Islamic Cooperation technical staff will accompany the mission and take the opportunity to gather information on the overall humanitarian situation and observe first hand the conditions in various towns and cities.  Ms. Amos repeats her call to the Government of Syria to allow humanitarian organizations unhindered access, so that they can help people in need, in a neutral and impartial manner.


**Syria — Special Envoy


And in response to several questions, and just to confirm what, I think, most of you already know, Kofi Annan, the UN-League of Arab States Envoy for Syria, will brief the Security Council by videolink tomorrow morning.  That briefing is in consultations, in other words, behind closed doors.


**Trip Announcement


I have an announcement on the Secretary-General’s travels.  The Secretary-General will depart New York this Sunday for a trip that will take him to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Republic of Korea.


In Indonesia, the Secretary-General will meet with the President, Foreign Minister and Health Minister.  And while in the Indonesian capital, he will deliver a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Jakarta International Defence Conference.  The Secretary-General will also give a lecture at the Indonesia Peace and Security Centre.


The Secretary-General will then travel to Malaysia, where he will meet with the Prime Minister, as well as the Foreign Minister.  And while he is in Malaysia, the Secretary-General will visit the Malaysian Peacekeeping Training Centre.  He will also attend an event to commemorate World Tuberculosis Day and give a public lecture at the Institute for Diplomacy and Foreign Relations.


In Singapore, the Secretary-General will hold talks with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.  And while he is there, the Secretary-General will deliver the Inaugural Fullerton Lecture of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).  The Secretary-General will also visit Singapore’s major water management site, which is part of the country’s sustainable urbanization efforts.


The last stop on the trip will be the Republic of Korea, where the Secretary-General will take part in the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit and hold a number of bilateral meetings on the margins of that event.


**Security Council


In a closed session this morning, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, briefed the Security Council on developments in South Sudan.  And as I mentioned at the start of the briefing, Ms. Johnson has spoken to reporters at the stakeout.  And the Council also discussed the situation in Haiti.


**Somalia


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, has condemned in the strongest possible terms yesterday’s attack at the entrance of Villa Somalia, the seat of the Transitional Federal Government, in Mogadishu.


Mr. Mahiga noted that Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack.  He has called on the insurgents to “cease immediately all attacks that continue to cause extraordinary suffering to the civilian population in complete disregard of the value of human life”.  Mr. Mahiga said that such acts of terrorism will not derail the peace process.  He also called on the Transitional Federal Government to provide assistance to the victims and stressed the importance of strengthening the Somali National Security Forces.


**Cyprus


The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities have continued their discussions on property.  And their next meeting will be on Thursday, 22 March.


**Press Conference


Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on OIC-United Nations cooperation.  And speakers will include the Secretary General of the OIC, Ambassador Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu.


**Special Adviser on Africa


I was asked earlier about the posts of Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.  I can confirm that these will be two separate positions.  Cheick Sidi Diarra is still the High Representative and, as you know, the Secretary-General appointed Maged Abdelaziz as Special Adviser on Africa on 8 March.


**Democratic Republic of the Congo


I was also asked yesterday about Peter Karim, a former rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who surrendered to the Congolese army, the FARDC, in 2007.  The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) informs us that it advocates strongly with the Congolese army to hold accountable all those who are suspected to have committed human rights violations.  Some progress has been made in this regard, often with the support of the Mission, including the recent arrest of three FARDC officers of the Congolese army last month in Province Orientale on several charges, including the use of children in the military and allegations of rape.   However, the Mission says that much more needs to be done in this regard.


Questions, please?  Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  This abuse of children…


Spokesperson:  Say again?


Question:  On the abuse of children that you just talked about, there is a report coming from Ramallah — it’s a Reuters report — which says that Israeli army since 2010 has detained 8,000 Palestinian children in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and that children have been subjected to all kinds of torture, as young as 12 years old.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about this, this report that was reported [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  I would need to check on that particular report, I have not seen it.  But, as you well know, the Secretary-General has spoken very clearly about detainees, Palestinian detainees, and that would obviously apply also to children.


Question:  Just another question on a separate subject, on this Ethiopian attack into Eritrea, have you taken, has the Secretary-General taken note of this?


Spokesperson:  Let me check on that for you, Masood.  Other questions, please?  Yeah?


Question:  Sure, on… I want to ask you, there are… there is some build-up… there was the… yesterday, broadcast in the UK a follow-up to the film [Sri Lanka’s] Killing Fields, an hour long, and there are two UN things I want to ask you about and then… One is, they detail in sort of flash to a UN report saying that a UN employee named Peter Mackay gave the Government GPS coordinates of the UN facility in January 2009, and the facility was shelled by the Government and after the Defence Secretary was contacted, the shelling moved some 100 metres, so they are saying that that shows the Government both did it and had the ability to stop it.  The second one, it shows Shavendra Silva, the special… senior advisory group on peacekeeping, at the scene in Putumattalan, where he said it was a highly successful operation; Chanel 4 says that 1,500 civilians were killed in that operation.  So I wonder, I mean, I don’t know if you can respond to those two, but I’d really like… particularly the UN staff issue, whether that’s true or not, and also does… I mean, what does the Secretary-General say as this evidence mounts?  Can it really… does it still remain entirely a Member State issue, whether an individual depicted in this way on a widely broadcast documentary is a UN adviser on peacekeeping?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, I haven’t seen this documentary, so I don’t really have any comment on it at this point.  And I have heard the questions you have raised, and we will look into them.


Question:  And… I mean, do you… do you intend… do you… I guess because it involves the UN, I… again, I guess you are saying that you are going to look at and get back, is that what you’re saying?


Spokesperson:  That’s precisely what I said, Matthew.  Yes, Tim?


Question:  [inaudible] Secretary-General’s message on Syria, has he attempted to contact President Assad recently, and will Mr. Annan or Ms. Amos be returning, or any other top official be going back to Damascus soon?


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has not been in touch personally with President Assad for quite some time now.  That’s the first thing.  The second thing is that, as you know, the Special Envoy, Mr. Annan, was in Damascus last weekend and he met President Assad.  You have seen what has happened in the interim, the response to his proposals, and you will also have heard me say what you already knew, that Mr. Annan will brief the Council tomorrow.  I don’t have any details on further movements at this point.  But, as you know, Ms. Amos has announced that technical staff at this point will be taking part in this mission that the Syrian Government will be undertaking — so technical staff from the United Nations and from the OIC.  That’s what I have at this point.  Yes?


Question:  [inaudible] fast has been launched by the Tibetan Youth Congress to draw the world’s attention to the human rights situation in Tibet, which includes the 24 Tibetans that have set themselves on fire.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about this hunger strike?  And what about the Liaison Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, right here in New York?  And will they report this hunger strike to Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva?


Spokesperson:  Well, I did address this topic yesterday at the briefing and, in fact, I think I covered just about every point that you raised just then, and I would urge you to take a look at what I said yesterday.  Yes?


Question:  Maybe I missed it; will Mr. Annan, after briefing the Security Council, be briefing the reporters over here by telep… by video?


Spokesperson:  I personally think that’s unlikely, but I think that we all understand the keen interest there is in this topic and in this particular briefing.  I am sure that my colleagues in Geneva who are working with Mr. Annan will be considering how they will communicate with the media after that briefing.  But just to reiterate, that briefing itself is closed.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Great, I wanted to just sort of try again on this idea of who is on Kofi Annan’s team, because, I mean, I know that they are busy, but it seems… I mean, there was a letter from the Secretariat to the Mission, it also talked about a guy called Robert Dunn, who I believe is with DPA.  Is there some way to just get… I have seen Ahmad Fawzi quoted as Kofi Annan’s spokesman, so that… is that… I mean, I guess I can ask you, is that true, is he the spokesman?  And what’s the problem with just sort of naming the members of the team, including what the status of Mr. Guéhenno is?  Was he the deputy, is he the deputy?


Spokesperson:  Yes, Ahmad Fawzi is the Spokesperson and Communications Adviser to Kofi Annan as Joint Special Envoy, that is correct, and has been widely quoted as such.   So as for the other people in his team, if and when I have something to give you, I will give you that.  And you can continue to ask me with great pleasure, but…


Question:  [inaudible] straightforward, I mean, it seemed… it seems easy enough to know who did he ask to bring in and which of them work for the UN?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think the point is that they have quite a lot things to do at the moment.  If and when I have something, I will let you know.


Thanks, have a good afternoon.  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much.  Thanks, good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record