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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon everyone.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Secretary-General in Washington


The Secretary-General is in Washington, D.C., today, where he is speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies about the growth of UN peacebuilding.  He is talking about how peacebuilding saves lives, protects human rights and promotes the rule of law.


Although violent conflict has declined significantly in the past two decades, one and a half billion people still live in fragile or conflict-affected countries.  The Secretary-General, in his remarks, describes the United Nations determination to do everything possible to seize the post-conflict moment, and help societies find a safer, more prosperous path.  We expect to have the transcript of his remarks out later today.


The Secretary-General will also speak at an event this afternoon at the American Society for International Law, where he will focus on the central importance of the rule of law in today's world, with a particular emphasis on the responsibility to protect and efforts to move to an "age of accountability".


And this evening, he will attend a reception and awards dinner at the Atlantic Council.  The Secretary-General will be receiving the Council’s Distinguished International Leadership Award.  And he is also scheduled to meet with the United Sates Deputy Secretary of State, William Burns.  The Secretary-General is expected back in New York tomorrow.


**Security Council


Joseph Mutaboba, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Guinea-Bissau, gave the Security Council an update on the situation in the country in an open meeting this morning.


He reaffirmed the United Nations’ condemnation of the seizure of power by Guinea-Bissau’s Armed Forces and underscored the importance of supporting the mediation process led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).


Mr. Mutaboba said that any sustainable solution to the political crisis must be one that is inclusive of all national stakeholders.


He added that the delay in returning the country to normalcy is having a negative impact on its innocent citizens.  In that regard, he said, the Security Council may wish to consider the imposition of targeted measures against those continuing to impede the return to constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau.  And we have his remarks in my office.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) has confirmed that after regaining control over a number of areas in North Kivu province, Government military operations were suspended on 5 May for five days.


Those operations were led by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s armed forces, in conjunction with MONUSCO, against former elements of the armed group Congrès national pour la défense du people, in the Sake area of Masisi territory and against Mayi-Mayi Cheka elements.  The Mission says the operational pause is apparently aimed at encouraging deserters to re-join the Congolese Armed Forces.


**Refugees


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, and the World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, are calling on the international community to help Malian refugees and host communities in Niger.  Guterres and Cousin arrived in Niger last Friday and have since visited refugees and host communities in the Ouallam and Maradi regions, where villages face food shortages.


They said that the international community must mobilize itself to assist the local communities and refugees in need in Niger and in the Sahel countries.  Aid agencies crucially need more financial support.


They also stressed that the international community must come together in order to find political solutions in Mali.  This is absolutely necessary to avoid a crisis turning into a global threat to the security in the region.


According to the UN refugee agency, the continuing fighting in Mali between Government forces and rebel Tuareg fighters has left 150,000 displaced within the country and forced more than 160,000 to find refuge in neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger.  And others have arrived in Algeria.


**Press Conferences Today


Today 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.  And speakers will include the Chairperson of the Permanent Forum, Grand Chief Edward John.


That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Yes, Masood; hello.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  How are you; welcome back…


Spokesperson:  Thank you.


Question:  …from the long trip.


Spokesperson:  Thank you.


Question:  Can you tell us something, there are some conflicting [inaudible] in Syria.  Whereas the Special envoy says the situation is calming down relatively and with the observers, 50 observers in place, things are getting better and with more observers coming they will get better.  But, the other side which keeps on saying, no, it’s not happening.  So, can you clarify exactly what is your position in that situation?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think this has been addressed on a number of occasions…


Question:  Yeah.


Spokesperson:  …here in this room and elsewhere that there has been progress, but clearly not enough.  While in some places you will have seen a reduction in violence, the violence has not stopped altogether, and people continue to be killed as we have seen indeed just over this weekend.  I think there will be more tomorrow.  As you know, the Joint Special Envoy will be briefing the Security Council, and I would anticipate that the Joint Special Envoy will then speak to reporters in Geneva after that.  So, you may well hear more at that point.


Question:  There is no chance of the Joint Special Envoy coming to New York any time soon?


Spokesperson:  He does so virtually and very successfully.


Question:  Okay.  The other…


Spokesperson:  Yes, Ali, and then I will come back to you, Masood.  And I am working my way up the line here.  Yes, Ali?


Question:  Thank you.  How do you view, how does the Secretary-General view the Parliamentary elections in Syria?  Is it a positive step towards the political reform that everybody is talking about, not only in Syria, but all over the world?  And I have another question about whether the SG has any comment on the arrest of new, new arrest in Bahrain of human rights activist.  Thank you.


Spokesperson:  On the latter, I don’t have anything fresh to report.  I know that the Secretary-General issued a statement not so long ago on developments in Bahrain both on the front of demonstrations and the need for those to be able to take place peacefully and within the law.  And also I think the Secretary-General in that statement addressed the question of the hunger striker.  So, that’s where we are with that.  I don’t have anything further at this point.  On the first part of your question, on the parliamentary elections that are taking place in Syria, I think it is possible that I will have something further on this a little bit later.  But, I think for now, simply put, it is rather difficult for a political process to unfold successfully and fully against a background of continuing violence.  Yes?


[The Spokesperson later added that only a comprehensive and inclusive political dialogue can lead to a genuine democratic future in Syria.  These elections are not taking place within that framework.  Moreover, a democratic process cannot be successful while violence is still ongoing.  It is essential that there be a cessation of violence in all its forms and action to implement the Joint Special Envoy’s six-point proposal.]


Question:  I wonder if the Secretary-General has any thoughts or comments on this weekend.  There was an article about Sudan saying in Sudan give war a chance; it was in The New York Times, and also, the World Bank is describing that the economic situation in South Sudan is on the verge of collapse because of the lack of oil revenues.


Spokesperson:  I don’t have any particular comments to hand on the article that you refer to.  If that changes, I will let you know.  Clearly, the lack of oil revenue in South Sudan is a cause for concern, and it also has ramifications in the Republic of Sudan, as well.  And so, it is obviously something that is part of the need for a swift resolution to the outstanding political problems that they have.  And, of course, even more pressing, the need for an end to the violence that has been continuing.  But, that’s what we have at the moment.  Yes, and then I will come to you, Stefano.  Yes?


Question:  [inaudible] I just want to ask on Sudan; on Friday the, the South Sudanese cabinet adopted a new map in which they put Heglig as within their territorial or added to the list of contested areas.  So, I wonder, given that the Secretary-General had said that they should pull back, is this redrawing of the map consistent with, with what he’d said?  And also, I’d asked on Friday for Eduardo to find out from UNAMID to, you know, confirm or deny this claim by the Sudanese that South Sudan is within Darfur, where, obviously, there is the UNAMID peacekeeping Mission, and I wonder, in the three days since, has UNAMID taken any steps to see of that’s the case or not?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything further on the last point, Matthew, and should that change, I will let you know.  On the other point that you mention about the map, what the Secretary-General did say, and has said repeatedly, is that outstanding differences including over territory need to be resolved in a peaceful way around a negotiating table.  And that is still his position.  Yes, Stefano?


Question:  About the electoral process in Egypt, I would like to know if the Secretary-General has expressed any concern yet about what is happening in Egypt in the last weeks.  And if the violence that is happening almost every day is… if this can be considered a normal or correct election, or there is some concern if the Secretary-General will express this concern.


Spokesperson:  Well, I know that you have discussed this on a number of occasions with Eduardo in my absence in this room, and I don’t have anything further to add at this point.  Yes, Masood?


Question:  [inaudible] in your absence about the Palestinians [inaudible] being prisoners and, on hunger strike that Mr. Serry also commented upon, that Eduardo pointed out the other day, but has there been any progress in, because it, it is a basic, very… human rights concern about their condition, about, also, they were about on the verge of really, verge of dying and so forth, so have the Israeli authorities been approached again to be careful about all this and to release these people, that the…?


Spokesperson:  Well, as you mentioned, and as others have said, Mr. Serry has stated publicly and has been in touch with the Israeli authorities about the need for this matter to be handled with due regard to international humanitarian law.  And crucially, whenever a hunger strike is involved, of paramount importance is the well-being and the welfare of those individuals.  And I think that that’s what must be kept uppermost on our minds at this point.


Question:  Does, does, but the thing is, in that context of what I am saying, is that there have been no call for the Israelis to let these people go, who basically have not committed a crime.  They are just on hunger strike in protest against Israeli atrocities.


Spokesperson:  As I say, I think Robert Serry has been quite vocal on this, and if there is any update we will let you know.  Yes?


Question:  Martin, do you have any response, any reaction to Vladimir Putin’s inauguration as President of Russian Federation?


Spokesperson:  No specific comment at this point except to say that the Secretary-General has already written to Mr. Putin — now President Putin.  And that is something that would tend to happen when any new President is elected and then subsequently inaugurated.  If we have anything further, then I will let you know, for sure.  Yes, and then Matthew?


Question:  Does he plan to call the French new elected President in France?


Spokesperson:  Well, I am sure that the Secretary-General will in touch with the newly-elected President of France by letter, at the very least.  And if there is anything further on that, I’ll let you know.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I want to ask about Nepal and Lebanon.  Nepal, this is a kind of specific question, but there is a report in Republica, a paper there, that a police officer was killed by a UN vehicle; this was, it was published on Friday and I just wonder, is that the case, and more than that, what did the UN, given that it has immunity or legal immunity, what does it do in circumstances such as this?


Spokesperson:  So this, uh…


Question:  This was in Nepal.


Spokesperson:  In Nepal, right.  I don’t have anything on that, Matthew.  I’ll check.


Question:  Okay, and then also, this you may, you may have something on, I believe that Lebanon, Government of Lebanon, has complained to UNIFIL about a Spanish officer of the UNIFIL contingent rep, crossing barbed wire and meeting they say with Israeli forces for 20 minutes, they say it violates their sovereignty and I wonder, one, did it actually take place?  Is it a violation of the SOFA or, or whatever the understanding is between and, and what’s the explanation?


Spokesperson:  Let me find out about that particular topic, because I haven't heard about that.  Let me check on that for you.  Anything else?  I just thought I saw a hand there, but yes, please, go ahead!


[The Spokesperson later added that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) provided the following information:  Yesterday, a UNIFIL technical team was carrying out measurements on the ground to ascertain the exact location of the work carried out by the Israel Defense Forces in the general area of Kafr Kila.  In carrying out its work, the technical team was accompanied and assisted by UNIFIL Spanish troops.  In the process, one of the peacekeepers inadvertently crossed the Technical Fence and quickly came back, as soon as he realized it.  This issue has been addressed at the tactical and operational level between the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL.]


Question:  Sure.  No, no, I am sure you have seen this, like it says that MINUSTAH is participating with the Haitian police forces in setting up cordons and they seem to be concerned that people are trying to either reform a Haitian Army or, you know, somehow pressure President Martelly to do so.  Is that, can you say a little, I mean, what, how serious is that threat, and does MIHUSTAH have a view on whether the Haitian Army as it should be reconstituted?


Spokesperson: Well, plainly, this would be a matter for the Haitian people; the Haitian authorities.  MINUSTAH has a specific mandate in helping with the rule of law and with the security.  And, if the Mission has anything further to add to the reports that you are referring to, then I will let you know.  But, at this point, that’s what I have to say.  Okay.  Yes, Masood, last question, yeah.


Question:  On this Egyptian situation that exists now, at this point in time, there have been accusations that the police have been firing on people and people have been injured.  They were protesting about this Egyptian general continued rule.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about this situation?


Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General did speak about this; or rather there was a statement on that topic.  He expressed his concern about the violence that has been there, and not to be dismissive of Stefano’s question about the election process; again, the Secretary-General has addressed this and the need for there to be a democratic process.  Violence obviously does not help that process.  But, we don’t want to prejudge the outcome; nor do we want to get into hypotheticals.  Suffice it to say that it helps enormously if an electoral process can unfold and can take place without violence.


Okay, thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record