8 May 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Security Council


Kofi Annan, the UN-League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy for Syria, briefed the Security Council this morning by videoconference from Geneva about the latest developments in the country.  And Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, also provided an update to the Council about the deployment of the UN Stabilization Mission in Syria (UNSMIS).


The Joint Special Envoy, as you know, will be talking to reporters in Geneva shortly, and you will be able to see that press stakeout live on the UN Television and by webcast from Geneva.


**Secretary-General Trip to Washington


The Secretary-General has returned to New York this morning, following a day-long trip to Washington, D.C.  Yesterday evening, in Washington, the Secretary-General attended a dinner celebrating the Atlantic Council's fiftieth anniversary, where he received the Distinguished International Leadership Award.


In his acceptance remarks, he issued a call for collective global leadership to see us through the challenges of what he called “The Great Transition”.  And he said that few events in modern memory have been more inspiring — or more challenging — than the Arab Spring, adding that we must help these nations in transition.


The Secretary-General said that we cannot predict how the situation in Syria will end, but we do know there can be no compromise on fundamental principles of justice and human rights, in Syria or elsewhere.  No amount of force can squash people’s aspirations to live in dignity and decency.  His prepared remarks are available in our office.


** Afghanistan


The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, has begun a trip to Afghanistan, where she called upon donors and humanitarian agencies to give continued support to the Afghan people.


She met with Vice-President Mohammad Karim Khalili, and emphasized the UN’s support for the people of Afghanistan during the transition period and beyond.  She noted that there are still 5 million Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries and a significant number of people who are internally displaced.  There are more details in a press release from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


**UNHCR


At least seven migrants have died as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Europe, according to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.  Exhausted survivors from a boat carrying 90 Somali refugees that landed on one of Malta’s most popular beaches this weekend told UNHCR that five men and two women aboard perished during the week-long voyage. 


This is the fourth such boat to have arrived in Malta this year, bringing a total of some 210 people.  A further 45 boats have arrived in Italy, of which 26 originated from Libya.  The latest deaths brings the number of reported or confirmed dead among people attempting to reach Europe from Libya to 81 this year — or two people every three days on average.  UNHCR has reiterated its call to ship masters in the Mediterranean for heightened vigilance and continued adherence to the longstanding maritime obligation of aiding those in distress.


**UNAIDS


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has launched a new campaign today, “Believe it.  Do it.”, aimed at bringing attention and action to the global goal of ending new HIV infections among children by 2015 and ensuring mothers living with HIV remain healthy.  According to UNAIDS, each year, about 400,000 children become newly infected with HIV.  As many as 42,000 women living with HIV die from complications relating to HIV and pregnancy.


** Haiti


I was asked yesterday about a Haitian police operation against illegal weapons and the UN Mission’s role.  The operation is directed by the Government of Haiti and led by the Haitian National Police.  Its purpose is to detect illegal weapons and disarm the persons carrying them.  It was launched because the number of weapons in circulation has increased lately.  The UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, is supporting the Haitian National Police in this operation.  This is in line with its mandate, which includes assisting efforts by the Haitian authorities to establish the rule of law and provide for the stability and security of the country.


**Press Conference Tomorrow


On Wednesday, at One United Nations Plaza here in New York, United Nations Development Programme Policy Adviser, Sebastian Levine, will brief the press on the forthcoming launch of the UNDP Africa Human Development Report 2012 — “Towards a Food Secure Future”.  The Report looks at the paradox of why hunger continues to be so prevalent on the continent and puts forward a series of policy recommendations across the development agenda. 


And that’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  As you said, in his remarks to the Atlantic Council on 7 May, the Secretary-General called for collective leadership.  But, as you know, that collective leadership has been vested in Security Council under the Charter.  That Council, the Security Council, has failed on many occasions to exercise collective leadership, namely for example, in Syria and the Middle East.  Where does the Secretary-General think the collective leadership will come from?


Spokesperson:  It comes not just from the Security Council, but the international community in general.  And I think you will have seen in recent days and weeks that there has been a coming together within the Council to tackle the developments in Syria, and the Secretary-General has welcomed that approach in the Council.  Obviously, this is going beyond Syria and looking at the Middle East and elsewhere, this is something that, of course, is of concern to the Security Council and is within its mandate to help ensure peace and security around the world.  There is, of course, a broader role the Secretary-General is talking about for the leaders around the world, globally to look to their responsibilities.  And I think he is looking at it in that broader context given the multifaceted challenges that we face around the world today.  Yes?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask, it’s in a story where a UN… UNAMID is saying that flights have been suspended by Sudan between El Fasher and Entebbe in Uganda, and then the Sudanese Government denies it.  So what’s the… what are the facts?


Spokesperson:  Well, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, UNAMID, confirms that as of last Wednesday, the Government of Sudan has requested that all the Mission’s flights between El Fasher in North Darfur and Entebbe in Uganda, be routed through Khartoum.  Until then, UNAMID had regular direct flights between El Fasher and Entebbe four days a week.  No reason has been given to the Mission by the Government of Sudan.  The Mission says it will take some time for the flights to resume to and from Entebbe as they work out the details on the ground.  I think, as you probably already know, Entebbe hosts the UN Regional Service Centre to which peacekeeping missions in the region have been moving their administrative support staff.  So, it is a regular conduit, not just between UNAMID and Entebbe, but other missions in the region.


Question:  Is there, I mean, just as one follow-up, and this may be… maybe DPKO will know this, like what percentage of the work at Entebbe is actually directed to UNAMID in Darfur?  I am just wondering how serious a snafu, not only for Darfur, but for that Regional Centre…


Spokesperson:  Well, look, the point is that the administrative work is taking place there in Entebbe.  You don’t need to fly to and from, but it also serves, in addition to being an administrative centre, it is a logistics base through which flights are routed. 


Question:  And does the UN think that this has something to do with the tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, and Uganda having said that they are essentially on the side of South Sudan and would…


Spokesperson:  Well…


Question:  …shoot down planes, there has been a lot of language said recently by the Ugandan leaders.


Spokesperson:  Well, we are obviously aware of various reports there have been, but no reason, as I said, has been given by the Mission, by the Government of Sudan to the Mission.  Okay, other questions?  Yes, Stefano?


Question:  Yes, about the refugees trying to reach Malta or Italy, is… can you be more specific and what it should be the rules of how the… because there have been in the past, there have been some polemics, especially between the Italians and Malta, on how to react when the [inaudible] is stopped… one of those vessels, one of those boats full of refugees, because the accusation that were going around is said the Maltese were not reacting actually… were not reacting… the Italians said then we have to go to rescue them in… even they are not to go towards Italy, but they are going towards Malta, but [inaudible].  So, what the UN… how is UN seeing this kind of polemic that is going and the people are dying in the meantime?


Spokesperson:  Look, I think there are a couple of points here.  One is that the UN is not going to inject itself into any polemics of, that there may be between individual Member States.  The fact remains that UNHCR, the refugee agency, is simply reminding everyone at sea, specifically shipmasters — in other words, those in charge of vessels in the Mediterranean — to keep an eye out.  In other words, there should be heightened vigilance.  And they should adhere to the long-standing maritime obligation.  And it is a tradition, as well as an obligation, of aiding those in distress.  I mean, I think that is common humanity.  And it is indeed an obligation for those, for mariners.


Question:  I’m sorry, but my specific question was that the UNHCR had noticed that some… Italy or Malta, or someone else is not at the moment, or in the past, is not doing what it should do in this case, means by it stop one of those vessels [inaudible].


Spokesperson:  This is not to point the finger at any particular country; this is a general request, a general concern and reiteration by the UNHCR, the refugee agency.  It may be that if you speak to them directly, they have something further to say.  But, that’s how I understand it at this point, Stefano.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  I wanted to know, there is a report of a proposed law in Libya, called law 38, which would grant amnesty for, quote, “acts made necessary by the 17 February revolution, and for the revolution’s success of protection”.  So, some people are saying this is basically an amnesty law that whatever was… whatever harm may have been created in the course of the rebellion are… are being forgiven.  Does Ian Martin, or does the UN’s accountability people, have any view of this law?


Spokesperson:  I’d have to check with our colleagues in the Mission in Tripoli.  I haven't seen anything on that.  That doesn’t mean they haven't been working on this topic, but I haven't seen anything myself.  So, I will check, Matthew.  Anything else?  Yeah?


[The reporter was later informed that Ian Martin would brief the Security Council this Thursday and would take questions from reporters afterwards.]


Question:  And, just as, this is a factual… you know, are you… do you have anything on this reported shooting of UN… of UNDSS staff in Nairobi?  It’s reports that three of them have, you know, been shot and injured.  I don’t believe they have expired, but are you aware of that?  Can we find out whether there was any nexus between that and their work, or what is behind it?


Spokesperson:  I’ll check on that.  That’s the first I have heard of that, yeah.  Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record