23 April 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 briefing.


**Noon Guests


Today, my guests are Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium, Special Representative to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership; Thomas Teuscher, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership; and Mr. Ray Chambers, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria and an MDG Advocate.


Her Royal Highness will be with us for the presentations, and then unfortunately; she has a previous commitment.  But Messrs Chambers and Teuscher will be here to take your questions after the presentations have been made. Your Royal Highness; you have the floor.


[Press conference on the Roll Back Malaria Partnership issued separately]


Good afternoon again, ladies and gentlemen.  We’ll continue with the briefing.  Ladies and gentlemen, if I can have your attention please, we’re going to continue with the briefing.


**Security Council


This morning, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, told the Security Council that achieving a full and sustained cessation of violence and seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Syria is at the centre of our efforts in the Middle East.


He also said that achieving peace for Israelis and Palestinians is an undiminished priority.  At its recent meeting in Washington, the Quartet recognized the urgent need for tangible signs of progress on the ground.  The Secretary-General follows closely the situation of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention centres.  Some 320 remain under administrative detention.


He went on to note that the Quartet, while reaffirming its previous positions, stated that the situation in and around Gaza will remain unsustainable so long as it is not reunited with the West Bank under the legitimate Palestinian Authority adhering to the PLO commitments.


The Secretary-General has welcomed the recent meeting and joint public commitment of Israelis and Palestinians.  What is important now is to transform this fragile opening into an opportunity to incrementally promote dialogue while ensuring continued international support for the Palestinian Authority’s institution-building efforts.


**Secretary-General Travel


The Secretary-General will depart on Wednesday for a visit to India.  His first stop will be Delhi, where he will have meetings with the senior political leadership to discuss current regional and international issues and matters of global concern.


The Secretary-General will also receive an honorary doctorate degree from Jamia Islamia University.


He will then visit Mumbai, where he will meet with Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister of Maharashtra State, and meet with a small group of key business leaders committed to utilizing their expertise to promote the health of women and children.  He will also visit health facilities, where he will have an opportunity to witness first-hand the progress being made in communities through his discussions with women, children and health workers.


The visit will conclude with an event hosted by Millennium Development Goal Advocates Mukesh Ambani and Ray Chambers, which will include the participation of representatives from Government, the private sector, civil society, the creative community and the United Nations.


**Myanmar


The Secretary-General will be chairing a meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar this afternoon.  He is expected to speak to reporters following that meeting, at around 5:30 p.m. at the North Lawn Building stake-out position.


**UNMISS


The UN Mission to South Sudan, UNMISS, has deplored the continued aerial bombardments in Bentiu town, which is heavily populated by civilians.


The head of the Mission, Hilde F. Johnson, called for the bombings to stop and reminded the parties of their obligation to abide by international human rights and humanitarian law, to take all measures not to harm civilians, and to guarantee the safety of international aid organizations and United Nations personnel and assets.


**Round-table Discussion


This evening, the United Nations, in partnership with the State of Israel, will organize a round-table discussion to mark the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, the mastermind behind the systematic mass deportation and murder of European Jews during the Holocaust.


The round table, “The Trial of Adolf Eichmann:  50 Years Later”, will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., in the ECOSOC Chamber.  Minister Yossi Peled, a member of the Knesset, along with Holocaust survivor and UN Messenger of Peace, Elie Wiesel, will open the discussion organized by the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme.  Correspondents are invited to attend.


**Crime


In his remarks at the opening of the 21st session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna today, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that there is a growing recognition that transnational threats, violence and corruption are major impediments to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.


These crimes impact every economy, in every country, but they are particularly devastating in weak and vulnerable countries, Mr. Fedotov said.  He said that it is estimated that up to $40 billion is lost through corruption in developing countries.  Trafficking and smuggling increase in conditions where there is conflict, lack of security or a weak rule of law.


That’s it from me.  We have time for one or two questions.  Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Now, number one, I wanted to ask you, now that you talked about this Palestinian question and that it took, I mean, Gaza is not united, but the West Bank and so forth, and then in the background of this meeting happening on the Holocaust.  Has the Secretary-General talked to the Israeli authorities about releasing thousands of Israeli, I mean Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails who have not been had recourse to law?  That is the bottom line.  Will he be in talking, once again, to the Israeli parliamentarians or Knesset leaders who hear about this issue?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General, as you know, Masood, and we said it when he visited the region in January/February, spoke extensively to leaders of the region; he expressed his views.  His Special Representative there, Mr. Robert Serry, is in daily contact with Palestinian and Israeli authorities; they know what the Secretary-General’s views are.  And again, Mr. Pascoe, this morning, again reiterated the Secretary-General’s views at the Security Council.  I would invite you to read his speech, which is available in our office.


Question:  Yes, sir, my question is basically related to the events that are going to take place here today.  In that, in the backdrop of that, which is also a very solemn event about the Holocaust, is a very solemn event, and it is a very tragic event that happened.  But, the arrest and incarceration of thousands of Palestinians without recourse to law is also tragic.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, they are both tragic; and again, as Mr. Pascoe said this morning, achieving peace for Israelis and Palestinians is an undiminished priority for the United Nations.  We are working on that, and we are working very closely with the authorities to try through the Quartet — if you read the Quartet statement of a few weeks ago — trying to get the dialogue reinvigorated, trying to get the dialogue… the people back at the table to discuss these issues and that a comprehensive resolution is necessary.  That requires political will on both sides to achieve the goals of peace and security for a Palestinian State and an Israeli, and a Jewish State living side by side.


Question:  But this, and there is a question on Syria that I wanted to ask; there is a report in the Washington Post today that lots of, from Jordan into Syria, lots of Jihadists have come in and they are now fighting and they want to replace this Government forcibly.  Does the Secretary, I mean, at this point in time, the United Nations Secretary-General have anything to say about these jihadist group who have now come into Syria and they want to overthrow this Government?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Masood, there are a lot of issues at play in Syria right now, which underscores the importance of having observers there.  The Security Council authorized to the Secretary-General on Saturday to increase the number of unarmed observers to 300.  We are taking steps to implement that as expeditiously as possible.  The first 30 should be on the ground — quite a few of them are there now, but the first 30 should be on the ground by the end of the month — and then we will be working to get the other 270 in there as expeditiously as possible.  The importance is for the international community to have an objective source of information as to what is happening in Syria.  There are all kinds of reports coming from all kinds of sources, but up until now, we have not had the wherewithal on the ground to be able to evaluate what is going on there.  So, the presence of observers will help us understand who is doing what and allow the Secretary-General to recommend courses of action to the Security Council and to the General Assembly as appropriate.  Matthew?


Question:  Yea, a follow-up on Syria and then a couple of other things.  On Syria, Robert Mood has apparently said that he is coming to New York or is already in New York.  Since there was some controversy about him leaving Damascus and going back to Norway, I wanted to know, I had asked Mr. Fawzi, Kofi Annan’s spokesman, who said ask the Secretariat, does Mr. Robert Mood work for the UN?  Who paid for his trip to New York?  Obviously, I would like to know if he is the Force Commander, but even if he is not, what is his role coming to New York to design this mission to Syria?


Deputy Spokesperson:  His role was to go to Syria and engage in the preliminary discussions with the Syrian Government.  He accomplished his mission.  He went back to Oslo and now he is coming to New York.  I imagine that they are going to be discussing with him what he saw on the ground and what his views are.  He was on the ground in Syria, he knows what the lay of the land is and he is the perfect person to have this kind of relationship with.


Question:  Does he currently have a contract with the UN system?


Deputy Spokesperson: I would have to check on that, I don’t know.


Question:  Okay. I also…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Nizar?


Question:  [inaudible] regarding this Holocaust event.  Is the Secretary-General going to raise the issue of implementation of the recommendations of the Goldstone’s committee report?  Is he going to raise that, I mean this, this ceremonial, rather, I mean, one representing [inaudible]?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, this is a ceremony marking the Holocaust and I think we are going to leave it at that.  I don’t have any further information.


Question:  [Inaudible] accountability, of course, that being implemented with regard to those perpetrators of the Holocaust and [inaudible] example of that, these people who committed similar crimes a few years ago still aren’t touched, and there doesn’t look like there is a will among the international community to pursue, bringing them to justice.  Isn’t that a part of [inaudible]…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I didn’t, I can’t hear; the microphone isn’t turned on properly.


Question:  I, I said, since Eichmann and the likes of Eichmann were tried, shouldn’t there be some accountability for those who perpetrated crimes as established in the Goldstone report and bring, being brought to justice, rather than just remembering the past?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing for you on that right now.


Question:  Another thing regarding this situation in Bahrain.  Mr. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is still between death, in limbo between death and life; the last thing we heard that he has stopped drinking water and rather than releasing him, his daughter, who is a lawyer, was taken into custody.  What is the latest efforts being done by the United Nations to [inaudible] for his release?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has called for all people who are incarcerated to be treated according to international human rights law and international law.  It is sad that this situation is going on, but it is up to the Bahraini authorities to treat this person according to international humanitarian law.


Question:  But, is that all that you, I mean, United Nations can do?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll have to check on what else we are doing for you.


Question:  Another thing, the Saudis seems to have, to be taking parts of Yemen.  There are reports coming from Yemen that the northern border area has been systematically cut from — parts of Yemen have been cut and annexed to Saudi Arabia while they are building a fence between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.  Is there anybody monitoring that, given that the situation in Yemen seems to have [inaudible]?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I have no information on that.  We will have to see if our political people have anything.  Please?


Question:  What nations will be contributing to the observer, the 300 observer…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we are not commenting on the nationalities yet.  These things are under negotiation and once we have the information, it will be communicated to the media.  One more question, Matthew?


Question:  I have two, and so I will do them fast.  One is, and you might have any fast on this, there is the, DPRK made, made some statements over its State media saying that they would reduce Seoul to ashes, and speaking about Lee Myung-bak, it seems like, I just wondered whether the Secretary-General has any response to that statement.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has consistently called for there to be a ratcheting down of rhetoric and a ratcheting up of negotiations — and one of his priorities is, obviously, peace in the Korean peninsula.  So, I think I will leave it at that.


Question:  Do you think you’ll have some statement later today or that’s…the statement?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t know.  We will have to check.


Question:  And the, I wanted to, the other thing I wanted to ask you is, it’s something of a follow-up.  You gave a response about this project in Walikale in the Congo, and I appreciated that.  But since then I have received more information from people well-versed in the project, and they said that their response is not factual; that the project was never going to use cement to build the shelters for the mills.  They cite an April 2011 meeting of the committee on, in Goma, and said that the minutes still exist.  And so my question to you, as I understand, you are sort of the middleman here in the sense of the response, but given the questions raised and given the obvious failure of the project, is the Office of Internal Oversight Services looking into the project and, can you, can you get, I asked you even when you gave the response for some answers as to how badly planned it was and Mr. Meece’s role in it, but now that there’s now, it doesn’t, there never was cement.  It was supposed to be wood and local craftsmen [inaudible].


Deputy Spokesperson: Well, Matthew, I don’t know who your sources are.  My sources are the people here in the Secretariat who are running the project.  They gave me the information; I gave it you; that is the information we have.  So that is all that we have.  [To another correspondent trying to ask a question]  No, I am sorry the… one more question, okay?


Question:  Thank you very much.  My question is the follow-up on Syria.  So, it is about the observatory mission authorized by the Security Council resolution last week.  So, on some newswire story it says that you told me that, on record, that the additional 270 will be deployed next week.  Is it correct?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, they will be deployed as expeditiously as possible.  The first 30 are expected to be in place by the end of the month, and the rest of the team will be deployed as expeditiously as possible.  I can’t give you a more exact time frame or a date by which they will all be there, but they will be sent out as expeditiously as possible.


Thank you so much. Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record