|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.
This morning the Secretary-General told the Security Council that while terrorism is a significant threat to peace and security, prosperity and people, the international community continues to pursue a robust and comprehensive response. Collective efforts have disrupted attacks and disabled terrorist networks.
He said that in combating terrorism, the international community must also work as one. This is why he hopes that Member States will decide to create the position of a United Nations Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to promote better coordination, collaboration and cooperation among all players.
He expressed his gratitude for the contribution of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to create the Counter-Terrorism Centre, and encouraged all member states to contribute to these efforts. By working together — from strengthening law enforcement to tackling the underlying drivers of extremism — we can greatly reduce this major threat to peace and security, he said.
Ahmad Fawzi, the Spokesperson for the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on Syria, spoke to the press in Geneva today. He said that more than 35 observers had been deployed in Syria, with the number expected to increase to about 50 today.
Asked about the prospects for the peace plan, Mr. Fawzi said that one of the biggest achievements so far was that the Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan, had been able to unify the international community around a single plan. At the same time, he said that there were no big signs of compliance on the ground, although there were small signs of compliance. Some heavy weapons had been withdrawn, and some violence had receded. He underscored once more the need for all violence to stop. We have more details upstairs.
I was asked earlier about the violence in Cairo. What I can say about our response is that the Secretary-General condemns the violence and expresses his sincere condolences to the victims’ families and people of Egypt. The Secretary-General stresses the right of people to demonstrate in a peaceful and orderly manner. He calls on all parties to respect this right and to act to prevent violence, respect human rights and uphold the law. The Secretary-General calls for calm and stresses the importance of creating an environment for peaceful, inclusive and credible elections.
**South Sudan — Human Rights
The High Commissioner for Human Rights will make her first visit to South Sudan from 8-12 May. While in the country, Navi Pillay is scheduled to meet President Salva Kiir and other senior Government officials. She will hold talks with the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, civil society organizations and others. Ms. Pillay also plans to visit the town of Bor in Jonglei State. More information on her visit is available online.
** Middle East
Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said he was deeply troubled by reports about the critical condition of at least two detained Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for more than two months. Mr. Serry urges all sides to find a solution before it is too late, and calls on Israel to abide by its legal obligations under international law and do everything in its power to preserve the health of the prisoners.
I was asked yesterday about the threat of violence in Myanmar between the military and the Kachin. In his talks with the Secretary-General, President Thein Sein clearly stated that he had called upon the military to halt all offensives in the ethnic areas. We do not have any confirmed information of the situation in the conflict areas, but as far as we are aware, the President's directive for a halt of all offensives remains in force though its implementation at the ground level may be complicated due to long-standing differences and tensions on both sides.
The Secretary-General reiterates his call on both sides to refrain from any provocation and to cease all violence in order to prevent any escalation and to reach a ceasefire without further delay, even while efforts continue to be made for political reconciliation between the government and armed ethnic groups.
I have an announcement to make, an appointment. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, has appointed Mr. Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen of Denmark as his Executive Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL). Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen will replace Mr. Michael von der Schulenburg. The Secretary-General is grateful to Mr. von der Schulenburg for his excellent service as the head of UNIPSIL, and which has contributed to the peacebuilding and development priorities of Sierra Leone. We have more information on Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen in our office.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, has concluded his 2-week visit to the United States today. He is addressing a press conference in Washington at 1 p.m. today. A press release on his visit is available in the back of the room, including details of the press conference.
And then on Monday at 1 p.m., in this Auditorium, there will be a press conference on the occasion of the opening of the eleventh session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
That’s it from me. Questions, please? Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Do you have any comment on this, the Secretary-General have any comment wherein the… Mr. Kofi Annan, the Special Envoy to, I mean, Syria, saying that situation as he sees it is improving in Syria and that things continue to be on the right footing. Does the Secretary-General differ with him? I mean he has been very, very critical of the Syrian Government’s [inaudible].
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as Fawzi said, and I quoted him, there has been small steps taken to improve the situation; the large steps remain to be taken. Some armour has been removed from cities, and as General Mood told the media yesterday, the fact that there are observers there has in fact helped to calm the situation down somewhat and the expectation is that as more observers arrive and begin doing their work, there will be a greater sense of calm in the area. I think it is realistic to say that it is going to be a slow process; this has been taking place over the past year, it is not going to end in a day or in a week. But right now the only option that we have is to try and get all sides to cooperate to stop the violence, to allow humanitarian efforts to take place and to help the people who most need that help.
There are foreign journalists now in Syria. We saw them yesterday at the press conference that General Mood held even though it was held impromptu on very short notice. So there are small steps of improvements in the situation. Obviously the larger steps remain. But as well the peace plan proposed by Mr. Annan has brought together the international community in terms of two resolutions in the Security Council within a space of a week. So there has been movement forward. It is not going to be as fast as most of us would like, the violence has not ended yet, but there is movement forward and right now that seems to be the only option we have.
Question: Okay, I also want to know about this, these Palestinians who are incarcerated, who are on hunger strike about whom you just gave a statement, why does the Secretary-General [not] ask for their release, they have not committed a crime? I mean instead of their release you have been soft peddling; you say, no, no, please be careful, [inaudible].
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General has always said that people who are prisoners have to be treated according to international law and that the law of the land has to be followed and legal procedures followed. And that is what he is calling upon in this case.
Question: I mean, if they were anybody else, he would have… any… any other case, Secretary-General goes directly and says these people are… their human rights are being violated, and they should be released, or action should be taken.
Deputy Spokesperson: No, as I said, the Secretary-General has called upon the Israeli authorities to conform to international law on the issue of the prisoners and that is where we stand on that. Matthew?
Question: Yes, sure I wanted to ask first about Sudan. I had asked you yesterday about it that South Sudan since the resolution passed here has said that… that two areas of theirs were subject to aerial bombardment. I don’t know if you have anything on UNMISS, but I also… now Sudan itself is saying that there had been an incursion, including into Somaha in East Darfur state. And so since there is a UNAMID there, I am just wondering, can… can… does the UN have any position, can they confirm either of these two alleged violations of the resolution?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, in terms of South Sudan, the UNMISS was informed by the Unity State Governor of the alleged attacks by the Sudan armed forces in Panacuach and Hufra, as well as [inaudible] of 3 May. The information has not been independently confirmed by the Mission yet.
Question: And what about the one in Darfur, it has… has Sudan not raised to UNAMID this alleged incursion into the territory patrolled by UNAMID?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t seem to have anything on that. We’ll check and find out. [inaudible] up there?
Question: Thank you. Since I believe that the International Red Cross does have access to the Palestinians in jail in Israel, is there any statement that you are aware of that… is the Red Cross following this with the Palestinian prisoners?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, you’ll have to ask the Red Cross on that, I don’t have the information here. You have to check on their website and see if they have issued a statement.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Deputy Spokesperson: Tim?
Question: Human Rights Watch released a report today on the South Kordofan saying that scores of people have been killed there in recent months in public attacks by the Sudan Government and thousands are hiding in caves because they have no home to go to. Is the UN making any progress in getting humanitarian access to South Kordofan and bring out…?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we are trying to get humanitarian access; I believe we have two humanitarian people in the area, but of course we are waiting for the Sudanese Government to grant us access to be able to get aid into the area.
Question: When you say the area, is that the Nuba Mountains?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have the exact location for them, no. Masood?
Question: Yes, I am just [inaudible] on this Palestinian prisoners, I mean, Israel still has not responded to Secretary-General’s, what do you call it, appeal at all? Has it responded?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General…
Question: [inaudible] Mr. Serry’s, what do you call, call for, I mean, somehow to deal with them humanely, possible.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, Mr. Serry is in constant touch with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities; that’s his job, that’s why he is there, and the conversations continue. Matthew?
Question: I want to ask about Yemen. I saw the story, I guess it is a UN news service story, talking about the Special Adviser witnessing the turnover of power from one of the military leaders that was supposed to turn it over. So I wanted to… I… I wanted to also ask about, it seems like that… that two of Ali Saleh’s relatives remain, at least reportedly, in… in… in positions with the army there, his son Ahmed and his nephew Yahyah. Is the UN… does the UN… is it their position that these two Saleh relatives, as many of the protesters in Yemen say, should also transition out as this other general did just the other day?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we can confirm that mediation efforts by Special Adviser Jamal Benomar have culminated in the orderly transfer of command of the third brigade from Colonel Tarik Mohammed Abdullah Saleh to Colonel Ram al-Halili in line with President Hadi’s decree. This transfer and the 24 April handover of the Air Force command have helped to defuse recent political tensions and ensure compliance with President Hadi’s decree on new military appointments. Special Adviser Benomar and his team have been in Yemen for the past two weeks. They continue to support Yemeni-led efforts in the transition process, in particular the preparations for an inclusive national dialogue. That’s what I have on that.
Question: Thanks a lot. Is it possible to get… I mean, obviously, it is not in that statement, but to get some response on this idea of the… the… the… the remaining Saleh immediate family relative that remain… that sort… sort of seems to be a subject of some tension in the country?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, it is a process, and as I have said, he continues with his team to support Yemeni-led efforts on the transition process. So the support of the United Nations for the transition process continues and we’ll see how that develops. One more question, Tim?
Question: The Secretary-General spoke about terrorism this morning. Is he going to name a sort of anti-terrorism coordinator, or was he asking for permission to do that?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, first of all he has to get the permission to do so, and that’s what he asked the Security Council to do, yes.
Okay, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Have a good weekend.
* *** *For information media • not an official record