27 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.  I want to welcome the group of students from Suffolk University joining us here today for the noon briefing.  I hope you enjoy yourselves as much as I do.


**Secretary-General’s Travel


The Secretary-General took part in the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul today, and also had a wide range of bilateral meetings.


In his statement to the plenary session of the Summit, the Secretary-General told world leaders the prospect of nuclear terrorism threatens international security and that the international community was united in its resolve to defuse that threat.  He outlined five areas to focus on, including the need for a verifiable and legally-binding fissile material cut-off treaty, and a possible follow-up meeting in New York to the 2009 Security Council Summit hosted by President Obama.


The Secretary-General also reiterated his concern about the continued non-compliance of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran with relevant Security Council resolutions concerning their nuclear programmes.  He also urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to reconsider its announced plan to launch a satellite.


During the day, the Secretary-General met a number of leaders on the sidelines of the Summit, including the Prime Minister of Spain, the Jordanian King, Ukraine's President and the Brazilian Vice-President.  We've issued readouts on those meetings and also the text of the Secretary-General's remarks at the Summit.


** Syria


The following is a statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan:


The Syrian Government has written to the Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan accepting his six-point plan, endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.  Mr. Annan has written to President Assad urging the Syrian Government to put its commitments into immediate effect.


Mr. Annan views this as an important initial step that could bring an end to the violence and the bloodshed, provide aid to the suffering and create an environment conducive to a political dialogue that would fulfil the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.


Mr. Annan has stressed that implementation will be key, not only for the Syrian people, who are caught in the middle of this tragedy, but also for the region and the international community as a whole.


As the Syrian Government acts on its commitments, Mr. Annan will move urgently to work with all parties to secure implementation of the plan at all levels.


The Joint Special Envoy expresses his appreciation for the wide backing he has received for his mediation efforts, and appeals to key countries to support this development and help ensure its effective implementation.


**Security Council


This morning, the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, told the Security Council the situation remains uncertain and difficult.  The unfortunate reality is that the parties have not found common ground to resume direct negotiations.


He noted Quartet Principals will meet in Washington, D.C., on 11 April, and said it will be increasingly difficult to sustain the achievements of Palestinian State-building without a political horizon — something the Quartet will have to address.


He said it is imperative that the Quartet assume its responsibilities in directing collective efforts towards overcoming gaps in trust and substance, so that we don’t lose sight of the ultimate and agreed goal of a two-State solution.


**Sudan-South Sudan


You will have seen that we issued a statement last night in which the Secretary-General voiced his deep concern about the military clashes in the border region of Sudan and South Sudan.  He called on the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan to fully respect and implement the agreements they have already reached on security, border monitoring and Abyei.  The full statement is available online.


And the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, also says that the recurrent fighting is fuelling concerns about the safety of Sudanese refugees in the Yida settlement.  The agency says it is in regular discussion with refugee leaders about the urgent need to relocate in order to avoid civilian casualties among a population that has already endured a great deal of trauma.  There is more in the UNHCR briefing notes.


**Secretary-General’s Appointment


The Secretary-General has appointed Major General Fernando Rodrigues Goulart of Brazil as Force Commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  Major General Rodrigues Goulart replaces Major General Luiz Ramos, also of Brazil, who completed his assignment on 27 March 2012.  We have more information on this appointment in our office.


That’s all from me.  Questions?  Matthew?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yeah, sure, I have a couple of questions.  One is, yesterday, there was, you know, a report released by Amnesty International and they held a press conference here.  Among other things, they said that they named the countries that still have the death penalty and saying many of them are in Asia.  They named specifically Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.  So the question rose, they said they’d like to see the Secretary-General be raising this issue of the need to abolish, or at least put a moratorium on, the death penalty.  They didn’t know whether the Secretary-General has, in fact, raised this issue in his recent trip, and so I wanted to ask you, has the issue of the death penalty arisen in any of the countries that he has visited that still have and practise the death penalty?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the United Nations is against the death penalty, as you know, and the Secretary-General raises this issue when he has an opportunity to do so.


Question:  I mean, I have seen readouts of… with a number of leaders in Malaysia, certainly with the Heads of State or Prime Ministers of, you know, the other countries that he visited.  So, I just wanted to know, factually, can we say that he didn’t raise it since it is not in the readout, or was it raised but not in the readout?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, there are a lot of things that are raised that are not in the readouts because they are considered not to be for readouts.  As I said yesterday, we select the issues that are for public knowledge, and other issues that are in private conversations remain private.


Question:  Right, but I mean, is it… so I guess I am just asking you, yes or no, did he raise it in any of those three countries?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I can’t say.


Question:  Are you… can you find out?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we can try and find out, but I don’t guarantee any answers on that.


Question:  I also wanted to ask — this is something I tried to ask Mr. Ladsous, the head of DPKO, without success — in the C-34, the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, there is some controversy about a statement Mr. Ladsous made in his closed session to them.  He said that we’re… the UN wants to use surveillance, and they take this to mean either drones or intercepted communications, and they are pushing back, and I think, I am not sure if the UN is using drones, but I’d like to… I tried to ask Mr. Ladsous, are you using drones?  And he didn’t answer at all, so I am asking you, as the spokesman for the UN, does the UN currently use or intend to use drones or intercepted communications, and if so, how will the information stay only with DPKO and not be shared with powerful member countries?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, to the best of my knowledge, we don’t use drones now, and to the best of my knowledge, we are constantly exploring ways of doing our work in a more efficient and effective manner, especially when it comes to the costs of how we do our operations.  But, right now, I have nothing else to add to that.


[The Deputy Spokesperson later clarified that Under-Secretary-General Ladsous mentioned the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ feasibility assessment of the use of unarmed drones for surveillance and information gathering in his address to the General Assembly's Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations in February.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support are in the early stages of exploring the potential use of this technology, including by discussing the required support from Member States if their use is recommended.  There are no conclusive findings or recommendations at this stage.]


Question:  Is there some… I mean maybe that you can… is there some way to know what Mr. Ladsous was referring to when he said surveillance?  Are Member States correct that he meant drones?  Because the idea is… they are concerned that it will start being implemented without any vote or mandate given to them by Member States.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, if Member States are speaking about issues that are raised in closed meetings, we certainly don’t partake in that.  If these issues were discussed in the closed meeting, it was meant to be a closed meeting.


Question:  I guess the question is if it is public money that the UN will be using on drones, are there… is there a confidential drone programme?


Deputy Spokesperson:  If it is public money that is being used on drones, that money will be accounted for in the normal way.


Question:  Right.  All right.  Can we get a DPKO statement on drones?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, if you can ask DPKO.


Correspondent:  I tried; Mr. Ladsous was walking very slowly up the stairs from the Security Council, he had every opportunity to, yes or no on the drone, and he…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I suspect you have your answer.


Correspondent:  I guess, his… the drones are for real.  Okay.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record