22 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, everybody.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Noon Guest


My guest today is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Roger Meece, and he is going to brief you by video teleconference from Kinshasa.


Mr. Meece has some opening remarks, I understand, and then of course can take some questions.  I also understand Mr. Meece will need to finish at around a quarter past the hour.  I will then continue with the rest of the briefing and take a few questions.  So, Mr. Meece, I think the lines have been tested already; I hope you can hear me.  And the floor is yours.


[Press conference by Mr. Meece is issued separately.]


**Statement on Mali


I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Mali:


The Secretary-General strongly condemns yesterday’s attack against Mali’s Interim President Dioncounda Traoré.  The attack follows intense mediation efforts by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) aimed at restoring constitutional order in Mali.  The Secretary-General urges the Malian military and security institutions to fulfil their primary function of protecting the State and its legitimate interim authorities, and underscores the need for those responsible for the attack to be held accountable.  The Secretary-General urges all actors in Mali to refrain from any actions that may undermine the transitional process and further endanger peace and stability in the country.  This statement is also available in French.


**Secretary-General on Rio+20


The Secretary-General addressed the General Assembly’s informal thematic debate on the road to Rio+20 this morning.  He said that we are one month away from a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform ideas and aspirations into bold action for sustainable development.


He said that we need a fundamental rethink of our current economic model and new tools, such as green economy policies and strategies.  But he said the current pace of negotiations is sending all the wrong signals.  He said that we cannot let a microscopic examination of text blind us to the big picture, and we do not have a moment to waste.  We have his remarks available in my office.


** Syria


The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, has completed a four-day visit to Syria to examine the progress of the UN Mission on the ground.  During his visit, Mr. Ladsous met with ministers and opposition members in Damascus to help facilitate the work of the UN Supervision Mission (UNSMIS), ensure the safety of the observers and provide them access and mobility to fulfil their Security Council mandate.


Mr. Ladsous says, “There has been enough killing, and destruction and arrests in Syria.  We all need to work together to stop this.”  He said, “This will only be done when all Syrian parties commit to end violence and to start a political dialogue.”  And there are more details available in a press release.


**Security Council Trip


The Security Council trip to West Africa is continuing in Côte d’Ivoire.  The 15 Council members are visiting Guiglo today, in the west of the country, where they will be briefed on security and humanitarian issues.  The trip will continue by plane into Liberia, where they will meet Ivorian refugees in Zwedru.  The delegation will return to Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire later today before leaving for Sierra Leone tomorrow.


Yesterday afternoon, the Security Council members held a meeting in Abidjan with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), at which they discussed Mali and Guinea-Bissau.


** Sahel


The World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a regional emergency operation to assist more than half a million people who have fled conflict in Mali and crossed the border into neighbouring countries.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will serve as World Food Programme’s primary partner in this response, which will cost around $77 million.


The World Food Programme Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, warned of a rapidly worsening refugee crisis in Sahel and said that donor support is crucial.  The World Food Programme has added that its plans to boost emergency operations to reach 9.6 million people during the peak of the lean season, from June to September, could be derailed unless sufficient funding can be secured to help bridge a shortfall of around $360 million.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


And tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., there will be a press conference; this is by the UN Environment Programme on a new Online Initiative to Support South-South Cooperation.  The speakers will include Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda in his capacity as President of the UN High-Level Committee on South-South Cooperation.


Some questions?  Yes, Oikawa-san?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you.  North Korea just announced that they, as of now, they don’t have any plan, intention to conduct another nuclear test.  Is there any comment of Secretary-General for it?


Spokesperson:  Well, I have seen varying reports on this topic.  I would simply reiterate what the Secretary-General said in his statement last month, that he urges the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] not to undertake any further provocative actions that will heighten tension in the region.  And at that time he also reiterated his call on the DPRK authorities to work towards building confidence with neighbouring countries and improving the life of its people. 


And the Secretary-General also said at that point that he reaffirms his commitment to work for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and helping the people of the DPRK, in particular, by addressing the serious food and nutrition needs of the most vulnerable.  So, if there is any update beyond that, I’d let you know.  But I would point out that there are varying descriptions of the latest statements from the DPRK.  So I think we would need to wait a little bit to clarify things.  Yes, Ali, then Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Lebanon officials, including the Lebanese Prime Minister, said the information included in the… Syria’s envoy to the UN, Mr. [Bashar] Ja’afari, the latest one that Lebanon has become a hub for terrorists, these information are false and maybe… my question is whether you have received anything from… officially from the Lebanese Government in this regard, and whether those allegations, if they are untrue, should be registered in the UN documents; I don’t know whether they should be registered as official UN documents if the Lebanese Government has said… is saying that this information is false.


Spokesperson:  Well, Ali, that’s really for the Lebanese authorities.  If they wish to communicate something officially to the United Nations, they are of course welcome to do so.  And when such official communications are received, if it is requested, they’re of course made available to all Member States.  But I think it’s for the Lebanese authorities to provide documentation, if they wish it to be made available to the broader public and to the Member States.  Mr. Abbadi, and then Iftikhar, yes?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  The Secretary-General met with the new French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius; they discussed, among other things, Rio+20, but also the Middle East peace process.  Is there any readout available further to those discussions?


Spokesperson:  Not really, Mr. Abbadi.  I think we provided a readout on that, as we did on the Secretary-General’s subsequent meeting yesterday with the new French President, Francois Hollande.  Nothing really beyond what we have said there.  Yes, Iftikhar?


Question:  Martin, what impressions, if any, the Secretary-General has come from the NATO summit in Chicago?  Whether he feels there can be an end to this war without any peace negotiations taking place, and whether the United States and the NATO forces will be able to maintain the scheduled withdrawal from that country?


Spokesperson:  Well, the schedule for withdrawal is certainly a matter for the members of the force, not just the NATO members, but the other members of that international force.  That’s the first thing.  The second thing is that the Secretary-General went to this summit meeting in Chicago to attend the special meeting that was held there on Afghanistan yesterday with the express purpose of sending an unmistakable message and clear signal that, when there is the drawdown and the withdrawal and the transition to the Afghan security forces being in the lead and indeed taking control of the security of their country, that is not the end of the story.  There will still be a strong international involvement in different forms.  You will have heard some of that from NATO and the members, and other members of the international force; you will also have heard it from the Secretary-General.  There is a lot of work to be done, of course, in the civilian sphere.  We also have to recognize that, while the United Nations will always be able to provide support as it has done, this needs to be carefully calibrated with what is realistically feasible in the budget climate that we face at the moment.  So there needs to be a very clear discussion; this was one of the reasons the Secretary-General went to Chicago about what will be the funding for the post-2014 period; how can we make that sustainable, not simply for the national security forces of Afghanistan, but for the civilian work that need to be done, too.  Yes?


Question:  Sure.  Martin, I wanted to first ask you this:  back in March, Inner City Press reported that Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary-General for Near Eastern Affairs, would be replacing Mr. [B. Lynn] Pascoe.  This now seems to be getting closer, and I understand, unlike maybe the State Department, you guys don’t confirm that, but I wanted to ask you something that is a pretty pervasive thought or criticism of this, which is that why would the Sec… What… What would the Secretary-General say to those who say this would put his and the UN’s policy in this important issue, area of the Middle East, seeming to be either a subset of or the… conflated with United States foreign policy in the same area?  Would he have any response, is there anything to be said to that, uh, analysis?


Spokesperson:  The short answer is no, Matthew.  If or when there are any appointments to be announced, we will make announcements, okay.  I don’t have anything for you on this, okay.  Yeah.  Any other questions?  Yes, Mr. Abbadi, last questions, yes?  Matthew, this is the last question.  Yes?


Correspondent:  One question in the whole noon briefing, I don’t understand.


Spokesperson:  This is the last question, Mr. Abbadi. 


Question:  As you indicated from your reading, the situation in Central Africa is becoming critical.  And you indicated that the World Food Programme and UNHCR need some $70 million for Mali and some $360 million for the region, but there is no indication that they are… they have appealed for the contributions, but there is no indication that they are holding any appeal conference or meeting towards raising the funds.  Do they plan to do that?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think the public appeal that is being made, along the lines of the one that’s been made today, is where we are at the moment.  As you know, there was an inter-agency visit, Ms. [Helen] Clark and Ms. [Valerie] Amos both visited the region as well not so long ago.  This was also part of the process of raising the profile of this crisis.  I am not aware of any specific donors’ conference, if this is what you are referring to.  If my colleagues in the humanitarian part of the UN can help me with that, then I’d certainly get back to you.



All right, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon, thank you very much.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record