|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, and welcome to the briefing.
This morning, the Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, briefed the Security Council in closed session by video conference. And as you know, those consultations just ended. And I understand that members of the Council may then brief journalists at the stakeout.
You will also have noted that Mr. Annan issued a statement prior to the briefing in which he said all parties have obligations to implement fully the six-point plan. And this includes both the military provisions of the plan and the commitment to move to a political process. And he urged all Syrians to seize this opportunity.
The Secretary-General arrived in Geneva this morning on the first part of a three-country European trip, which will also take him to Belgium and Luxembourg. Immediately upon arriving in Switzerland, he spoke by telephone with the Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan.
And as you will have seen, the Secretary-General spoke at a press conference with the Geneva-based international media. He said the situation in Syria was looking calmer, and that today was a critical moment for ending the violence. But, he added that the world was watching with sceptical eyes since many promises previously made by the Government of Syria have not been kept. The Secretary-General said without UN observers, it is difficult to fully assess the situation. He said the United Nations was working with the Security Council to send an observer team as promptly as possible.
He also reiterated calls for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea not to go ahead with a rocket launch, which he said was against the will of the international community.
And on the tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, the Secretary-General urged the leaders of both countries to show political will and leadership by ending hostilities and by calling a presidential summit to negotiate a durable solution to their differences.
Tomorrow, the Secretary-General is due to chair a meeting of the United Nations Chief Executives Board.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said today that she was alarmed by continuing reports of serious human rights violations against the population of Mali, especially in rebel-held northern areas. She noted that reports from the north of the country suggested that civilians have been killed, robbed, raped and forced to flee, although she said it was difficult at this point to be sure of the scale of the human rights violations taking place.
And you will have seen that earlier in the week the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, issued a statement condemning the reports of acts of sexual violence committed against Malian women and girls. And both of those statements are available online.
**African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur
The Joint Special Representative for the African Union and the United Nations Mission in Darfur, Ibrahim Gambari, said today that the Mission had entered a new phase. Speaking to reporters in Khartoum, Mr. Gambari said that the launch of the Darfur Regional Authority, in February, had created new opportunities for the Mission to assist in bringing concrete peace dividends to the people of Darfur. He also noted an improvement in the humanitarian situation and a reduction of clashes between the parties to the conflict. Mr. Gambari said, however, that he did not underestimate the significant challenges that remained in Darfur and that the presence of the Mission, UNAMID, remained critical. His full remarks are available online.
**Lord’s Resistance Army
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Central Africa, Abou Moussa, and the Special Envoy of the African Union for the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) issue, Francisco Madeira, are on a working visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After holding meetings in Kinshasa, the two officials are today in Dungu, in the Eastern Province, the base for the DRC component of the Regional Task Force that has been authorized by the African Union to track the Lord's Resistance Army.
And since the beginning of the year, the Eastern Province has recorded more than 4,200 people displaced by the Lord's Resistance Army, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Dungu is one of the hardest hit areas with nearly 1,200 displaced people. Tomorrow, the two officials will go to Obo, in the south-eastern Central African Republic, where the Regional Task Force for that country will be based.
That’s it. Questions, please? Yes, Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: [inaudible] Kofi Annan and Mr. Ban Ki-moon saying that they are ready to send an observer mission, are there any contingency plans already in place, observers to be placed over there to monitor the ceasefire?
Spokesperson: Well, what I can tell you is that, clearly, the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations has been planning for a number of scenarios, so that if we got to the point where an observer mission was to be deployed, it would be possible to move quite quickly to do that. And that’s what the Secretary-General has also said in Geneva during his press conference. Clearly, as you know, there needs to be a Security Council mandate. Once that is in place, then, obviously, things can move. The intention is to be able, with the support of the Council, to move as quickly as possible.
Question: Can I infer just that, whereas there are some plans in place, as soon as they get the go ahead, they will send the teams?
Spokesperson: It is obvious that the planning for a number of scenarios has been going on for some time. That is obviously necessary to be able to respond to whatever mandate is then provided by the Council. And obviously also the Secretariat, be it the Department of Peacekeeping Operations or others, can provide guidance to the Council on what form would be most appropriate for any mission. And that applies often to other mandates from the Council too. Yes, Iftikhar, yes?
Question: When the last report came in, was the truce still holding?
Spokesperson: Say again?
Question: I said, when the very last reports came in, was the truce still holding in Syria?
Spokesperson: As you know, it’s a lot calmer than it has been. And, as you also know, what the Secretary-General has said is that this is extremely fragile and there needs to be a lot of work to follow up and to maintain that momentum. He has said very clearly that, obviously, while the situation does look calmer compared with what we have seen in the past weeks and months…
Question: Calmer means no shooting?
Spokesperson: Say again?
Question: Calmer means no shooting?
Spokesperson: Calmer means that it, as you know, had been extremely violent and, indeed, there had even been a spike in the violence in recent days. That certainly tailed off by the deadline of 6 a.m. this morning Damascus time. It is very difficult for us to be able to — we’re monitoring it very closely — but it is very difficult — and to come back to Masood’s point — it’s very difficult to be able to assess fully what is happening on the ground if you don’t have observers n place, and that’s why it is important to move to that next step as quickly as possible. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I want to ask you about Sudan, the Sudans and Western Sahara. On Sudan, you may have read something at the beginning, I am sorry if I missed it, but I want ask you about a direct quote from Salva Kiir. Salva Kiir has said that he told Ban Ki-moon, quote: “You do not need to order me because I am not under your command; I am a Head of State accountable to my people and I don’t have to be ordered by someone I do not fall under the command of”. Is this what he said regarding pulling out from Heglig?
Spokesperson: As we’ve said in different contexts, Matthew, we don’t disclose what interlocutors say in conversations. We’ve provided a readout, indeed, as I gave you yesterday, on that conversation, and that’s where we are. I think the key here, as the Secretary-General repeated — we had a statement yesterday afternoon — and as he repeated in Geneva this morning, or this afternoon Geneva time, that he is obviously gravely concerned about what is happening — this escalating conflict between Sudan and South Sudan. And the key here is he has urged both sides to cease hostilities immediately and hold a presidential summit to negotiate a durable solution to their differences. And what he is saying is that this — and I think we did mention this yesterday — it requires political leadership and political will at this time for the people of both countries.
Question: Since then, there are reports of Sudan bombing the city of Bentiu in… in South Sudan. Is that something that UNMISS can… can… can confirm?
Spokesperson: Yes it is.
Question: Okay. And how… where are the casualties, how many bombs were dropped…?
Spokesperson: We don’t have any further details at the moment, but the Mission has confirmed reports of bombs being dropped near the bridge at Bentiu in Unity State, and the Mission is verifying further details. Yes, Masood?
Question: Further point on that. Are there any independent observers who tell the United Nations that the rebel forces themselves are also adhering to this so-called ceasefire stipulations?
Spokesperson: Well, again, we don’t have the wherewithal at the moment to assess fully what is happening on the ground. That is simply not something that is possible at the moment. And what we have said and what the Secretary-General has said again is that it is important for all sides to really exercise maximum restraint and to cease all acts of violence. And the Secretary-General also appealed to all friends of Syria to exercise maximum influence in halting this tragic conflict. And that clearly applies to both parties that have been involved in the bloodshed that we have seen over the past few months. But, again, it is really difficult to fully assess the situation on the ground in the absence of United Nations observers, that’s just a fact.
Question: I wanted to ask you on Western Sahara on this controversy of a… of two different versions and possibly three of the report on MINURSO. One of them that was circulated 6 April — talked about surveillance by the Moroccan side of MINURSO — it said, specifically, that Moroccan police surveillance outside the compound discouraged visitors from approaching MINURSO. And then this is modified in an 11 April version that came out as are the final recommendations. So, I just want to know, what is the pro… first, what is the process, what was the input that the Secretariat received between the 6 April and 11 April and it wasn’t… the 6 April was put, you know… it’s put out… it’s a… it’s a formal document that Security Council members got that was put out in other ways, what was the input and how do you explain the… the changes seeming to go all in one direction?
Spokesperson: Well, it’s not unprecedented for reports to be the subject of discussion and sometimes changed. And it is now for the Security Council members to consider the report they have. That’s it.
Question: But, I mean, yeah, it happened last year, but in exactly the same way, I guess, I am wondering who… what’s the level of input, does DPKO, Mr. Le Roy (sic) in particular, consult in this case with the Moroccan side before… what’s the process, who produces this report, Mr. Ross, DPKO?
Spokesperson: Well, to save your time I won’t repeat what I’ve just said, except to say that’s what I have to say.
Question: Right, but do you understand…?
Spokesperson: Any other questions? Any other questions? Okay, thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record