|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, everybody. Welcome to the briefing.
Needless to say, as you know, this morning, the Security Council met in closed consultations to discuss nuclear proliferation and the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea.
**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
And as you will also have seen, we issued a statement on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The Secretary-General said that despite its failure, the launch of a so-called “application satellite” by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was deplorable as it defied the firm and unanimous stance of the international community.
He said that today’s launch was in direct violation of Security Council resolution 1874 (2009) and threatened regional stability.
The Secretary-General urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea not to undertake any further provocative actions that will heighten tension in the region.
He renewed his call on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea authorities to work towards building confidence with neighbouring countries and improving the life of its people. The Secretary-General reaffirmed his commitment to work for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and help the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in particular, by addressing the serious food and nutrition needs of the most vulnerable.
And meanwhile, the Secretary-General is in Switzerland on the second day of his European trip.
He is spending the day in meetings of the UN Chief Executives Board, the CEB. The CEB is the highest level of coordination within the United Nations System. It meets twice a year and brings together the heads of UN agencies under the chairmanship of the Secretary-General. It aims to help coordinate the work of these organizations and to ensure that the UN system can deliver effectively internationally, regionally and nationally.
Later today, the Secretary-General is due to meet the President of the Swiss Confederation.
**OCHA — Syria
This morning, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, said that at least a million people remain in need of urgent humanitarian help in Syria.
Even as the political and military situation evolves, the immediate priority for humanitarian organizations is to obtain unhindered access, especially to people in areas which have seen heavy fighting.
It is extremely important that negotiations to enable humanitarian organizations in Syria to deliver aid remain separate from other efforts to resolve the crisis. It is also vital that we are able to make emergency humanitarian supplies and services available to people in a way that protects civilians and aid workers.
So, that’s what I have for you. Questions, please. Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: On this [inaudible]… on this situation in Syria, Mr. Annan is still in Geneva, he has not travelled anywhere else; is...?
Spokesperson: To my knowledge, no further travels at this point.
Question: Okay. I just want to know that basically, now the situation as it exists now, am I to, are we, is that, that the, he is looking at the Security Council to authorize the mission so that people can go to Syria for monitoring…?
Question: …and to have the people in place in Geneva to, ready to go to, Syria.
Spokesperson: Well, not necessarily in Geneva, but let’s take this back to the beginning. Yes, it is certainly the case that the Security Council is looking at a resolution, as you know, that would authorize a mission so that the ceasefire or the cessation of violence can be monitored and observed. As soon as there is a resolution, and therefore a mandate, an advance team would be ready to leave immediately so that as quickly as possible, there would be an initial presence on the ground. I think it is important to understand that, obviously, an advance team would be a welcome set of ears and eyes on the ground, but plainly, at least initially, it could not possibly be everywhere at once. And, therefore, I think the expectations of what a small advance team is able to achieve needs to be tempered. It is really incumbent on the sides to adhere to this ceasefire and, obviously, as the Secretary-General said yesterday, it is rather fragile. But, as Mr. Annan said, he was encouraged by the development to something which perhaps quite a few people had not expected even to happen the day before it did.
Question: Does Mr. Annan still remain positive about this, encouraged about this or has there been a change, and…?
Spokesperson: Well, just to answer that bit, Masood, as certainly Ahmad Fawzi, his Spokesperson, was speaking earlier today in Geneva, and that was the word that he used.
Question: Ahmad Fawzi had said, I think from Geneva, that there is advance team ready. Now advance team when you, when you mean you don’t mean a full observer mission, just…
Spokesperson: Absolutely not, no. It means an advance team — that means an initial team. Obviously, the larger mission would take longer to deploy.
Question: You don’t know how many people will be there in the advance team — 20, 30?
Spokesperson: It is a small advance team and my understanding is that as soon as a resolution is passed, as soon as the mandate is there, those people are all ready to move. They are ready to deploy immediately. And then, of course, the larger overall mission would need to be fully constituted and then deployed as quickly as that is possible.
Question: The Secretary-General, how…?
Spokesperson: Let me just go to Matthew, and then I shall come back to you. He came in behind you; you were blind-sided.
Question: Ooh, okay.
Spokesperson: Right. Yes?
Question: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about South Sudan. Yesterday, you know it was said that the Secretary-General had asked South Sudan to pull out of Heglig. The statement that was made at the stakeout late yesterday afternoon by the ambassador of South Sudan that they are not leaving; they said that they will only leave if there are neutral peacekeepers or monitors sent in. So one, I wanted to know if there is any move by the UN just… just in order to respond to that statement, to actually send anyone there to try to monitor, and also whether the Secretary-General has any comment on… on what seems to some to be a, you know, rebuffing of the call of the international community, including the African Union, European Union, Security Council, by South Sudan in not leaving Heglig.
Spokesperson: Well, I think you put your finger on it, Matthew. The international community is rather clear about what needs to happen both with regards to Sudan and South Sudan. The Council’s presidential statement said the Security Council demands a complete, immediate and unconditional end to all fighting, withdrawal of the SPLA from Heglig and to SAF aerial bombardments, and to repeated incidents of cross-border violence between Sudan and South Sudan, and an end to support by both sides to proxies in the other country. So, “demands”. And the Secretary-General himself, in his statement, said he was alarmed at the escalation of fighting and he called on both parties immediately to cease hostilities, remove their forces from each other’s territory and avoid further bloodshed. And he also underlined the necessity that both Governments respect the territorial integrity of the other, and ensure their own territories are not used to provide support for rebel groups. So this is the Security Council and the Secretary-General speaking very much in the same line, very similar language, and as you mentioned, other sections of the international community, as well. And crucially, it would be for the Security Council to address any further action of the kind that you have referred to. It is very clear what the international community expects both parties to do.
Question: My only, just, just to put a point on it, my question is, is since, I mean, the statement that you are giving for the Secretary-General he said it before South Sudan said openly “we are not leaving”, which they said yesterday afternoon at about 5 p.m.
Spokesperson: Well, it doesn’t change, that doesn’t change…
Question: Sure, I just so…
Spokesperson: …that doesn’t change what the Secretary-General believes.
Question: …so, here is my question: my question is, you just read out a statement in which the Secretary-General deplored a country for disrespecting the international community. I wanted to know what, what is the appropriate adjective? What, what is his response to, to South Sudan’s response to the call of the four parties that we’ve mentioned?
Spokesperson: He is alarmed by the escalation. And as you well know, the Council also expressed its alarm by the escalating conflict between the two countries. And Masood, sorry, then I am coming to you. Yes?
Question: I just want to ask, there have been reports of accusations from the Government side, as well as the rebel side, that there have been truce, I mean violations of ceasefire…?
Spokesperson: Where are we now?
Which country are we in at this point?
Question: [laughter] Syria. I mean, rebel groups, as well as the Government, which is saying, accusing each other that there have been firing on demonstrators, peaceful demonstrators and that the rebel groups firing on the Government troops. Have you anything to say about that?
Spokesperson: No, except to reiterate what I just said — one, that is precisely why a monitoring or observer mission is important. But, there needs to be a ceasefire to observe. This is not about interposing between warring factions; that doesn’t work. So, there does need to be a ceasefire and that is why it is important for an observer mission to be able to observe. We don’t otherwise have the eyes and the ears on the ground to be able to ascertain precisely what is happening. But, to reiterate that, even with those initial eyes and ears, it will not be possible to be everywhere. That’s just a fact of life. And the other point is, of course, as I already mentioned, the Secretary-General has made clear, that this is an extremely fragile process and that even one gunshot could unravel the process. So, everybody needs to exercise maximum restraint; everybody needs to go that little step further having already moved quite a way beyond what people might have expected. This is really the time to build on that, and to all those who have influence on the parties, really they do need to exercise that influence continually right now. Yes?
Question: Regarding the May 6 elections in Serbia, do you have any information on this, and do you know if there will be observers from the OSCE present? And will the UN be involved in any way?
Spokesperson: Well, wearing my old hat, I would have been able to answer that question as spokesperson for the OSCE. I don’t wear that hat any more, and I would refer you to them on that. I can check whether there has been any request to the United Nations. I don’t believe that is the case, but let me check.
Question: Regarding Kosovo, there will not be any elections, according to what I read; they are not going to be involved in those elections. So, is there any status report on that?
Spokesperson: Not to my knowledge, no. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask you — I’d asked you before — about this idea of whether the UN, particularly MONUSCO, hires private military contractors and I have since become aware of three contracts with Saracen Uganda, which is widely described as a private military contractor. It is to provide, they say, unarmed security in, in Entebbe and in Kampala. But, what I wanted to know is the following: doesn’t MONUSCO have its own peacekeepers and even a DSS component? What’s the rationale for a UN peacekeeping mission hiring outside security that some people call mercenaries and some don’t, and how does it just, how does it comply with GA resolutions and other UN statements about the use of mercenaries?
Spokesperson: Well, I think, with all due respect, Matthew, nobody except you is using that word, because this is, this is something that DPKO has explained very clearly to you already, and you are bringing it here to raise it again.
Question: I will tell you, I have asked all week for them to explain it. All they confirm is that Saracen was hired, and in terms of them being mercenaries, I can tell you for a fact that the Somalia-Eritrea sanctions committee viewed, had issues with them performing, for, in Somalia, so I am just asking…
Spokesperson: Well, let me just…
Question: …it’s been a week; I am waiting. What is the statement? What is the clear statement of why the UN hires private security?
Spokesperson: Well, as I say, DPKO have addressed that, and let’s also just understand that the people we are talking about, this company, those people are being used to control access, in other words, at the entrances to the UN facilities that are in Uganda. We are not talking about inside the DRC. And also, it is important to note that those people are unarmed. That’s what I believe you have already been told. I don’t have anything further on that.
Question: I wanted to have...given that the company is owned by the President’s brother of Uganda, can you understand why? Maybe you can try to say it’s only me, but, in fact, it is not, that there are some concerns of the UN hiring, seemingly unnecessarily, an outside private military contractor owned by the relative of the president of the country they are in.
Spokesperson: As I say, Matthew, I think DPKO, Peacekeeping Operations, have responded to you, and I am sure if you have further aspects that are not clear to you, that they will help you with that.
Question: And I wanted to ask you about, there is a ruling in the, in the Dutch courts today saying that, that the UN cannot be pursued legally for failure to prevent genocide in Srebrenica. The plaintiffs have said that this is a, this is inconsistent with what the UN says about accountability. I wanted to know, I am sure you do — it looks like you do — is there some response by the UN of people saying that it looks inconsistent, for example, even the Rwanda genocide statements that were made in the North Lawn this week and the UN to be invoking its own immunity, or some say impunity in, in regard to Srebrenica?
Spokesperson: Well, we certainly understand that the Supreme Court of the Netherlands rendered a judgement today. And we’ll study the judgement once it has been published; it hasn’t been published yet. So, once it is published, we will study it. And the United Nations continues to be committed to bringing to justice those responsible for the heinous crimes committed in Srebrenica through the efforts of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
Question: But, does the UN, just to put one final question on this, does the UN itself, whether it is DPKO or those involved, feel any responsibility whatsoever for having brought people together and then stepped out and failed to protect them?
Spokesperson: As I say, this is a judgement that has been rendered today, and we’ll study it. And similarly, the UN continues to be committed to bringing to justice those who were responsible for those crimes in Srebrenica. Yes, Masood?
Question: Just one, one question: since the Secretary-General [inaudible] office, second, for a second term, how many trips has he taken abroad? Just for the update.
Spokesperson: I can check for you; I can’t tell you immediately off the top of my head. I’ve been on most of them, but not all of them. But, let me come back to you.
[The Spokesperson later said that the Secretary-General has made seven trips covering 18 countries since the beginning of 2012.]
Question: Okay, thank you.
Spokesperson: All right, have a nice weekend. Thank you. Bye-bye.
* *** *For information media • not an official record