30 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Secretary-General Travel


The Secretary-General has arrived in Istanbul at the start of his trip to Turkey and Saudi Arabia.  It’s already early evening in Istanbul.


Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will take part in a Partners Forum for the Alliance of Civilizations, which is being held at the invitation of the Turkish Prime Minister and which is designed to broaden public and private support for the initiative.  He will also have a meeting with his High Representative on the Alliance of Civilizations and the Foreign Ministers of Turkey and Spain, who are the co-chairs of the Forum.


The Secretary-General will meet with the Prime Minister of Turkey and attend a separate event on sustainable energy linked to the forthcoming Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.


On Friday, the Secretary-General is expected to co-chair a major international conference on the future of Somalia and hold a range of bilateral meetings with other leaders attending the conference.


As we mentioned last week, the Secretary-General will travel to Jeddah on Saturday for meetings with Saudi leaders and to co-chair the second meeting of the Advisory Board of the newly established UN Counter-Terrorism Centre.


** Syria


This morning, in closed consultations, Deputy Joint Special Envoy Jean-Marie Guéhenno and Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed the Security Council on the situation in Syria.  Mr. Guéhenno is scheduled to brief the media in Geneva just about now, and that can be seen on UN webcast, most likely either channels 11 or 12.


** Sudan


After 86 days in captivity in the South Darfur region of Sudan, British aid worker Patrick Noonan, who was working for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), has been released and is looking forward to seeing his family.  Working as a logistician in Nyala, Noonan had been in Sudan for about two years when he was abducted by armed men on the morning of 6 March 2012, along with a Sudanese driver who was released later that same day.


The World Food Programme, along with the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS), the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), Government of Sudan authorities and the Embassy of the United Kingdom had been working on the release in close cooperation with the relevant local authorities in Darfur.  The full press release is available online.


** Afghanistan


The number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan has dropped 21 per cent in the first four months of this year, according to a new report by the human rights section of the UN Mission in the country.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Jan Kubiš, said that civilian casualties continue to occur at unacceptable levels.  He said that the use of landmines and suicide bombers by anti-Government forces is unacceptable and that the forces don’t show any improvement in the protection of civilians.  There is more information online.


**Noon Guest Tomorrow


And the guest at tomorrow’s noon briefing will be the High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonió Guterres.  He will launch his office’s flagship book, The State of the World’s Refugees.  There is more information in our Office and with the Office for the High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva.


That’s it from me.  Questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  While in Turkey, as you mentioned, the Secretary-General will discuss the Alliance of Civilization issue and Rio+20.  Would he also take up the situation in Syria with the Prime Minister of Turkey?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, he will be meeting with the Prime Minister and with the Foreign Minister, and I imagine there will be a broad range of subjects discussed.  I think Syria, of course, is on the front burner of everybody’s stove, and I think we will have to wait for the readout to see what in fact they discuss.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, Eduardo, I wanted to ask you a couple of Syria-related questions.  One is, the Chief of Staff of the Zimbabwe Army, Major General Trust Mugoba, has said that Zimbabwean troops are training for deployment as peacekeepers in Syria, and he just states it as a fact.  And so I wanted to know, maybe you will have that or maybe you can find out, is it the case that… that UNSMIS has recruited and will be deploying Zimbabwean peacekeepers in Syria?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, what we have now is 300 observers, members of the observer mission, that is all that has been mandated by the Security Council and that is all that we have in the pipeline.


Question:  So what is the 29 May article in… in All-Africa saying that Zimbabwe is training to deploy; it’s false?  I guess I don’t understand.


Deputy Spokesperson:  I really don’t know.  We will have to check on that.  As far as I know, as I said, the Security Council has mandated 300 observers and that’s what we have on the ground — unarmed observers.


Question:  Also I wanted to ask you, the… the… Mr. Guéhenno, I know that before he took this post with… as a dep… one of the two deputies of Kofi Annan, he was on the special… senior advisory group on peacekeeping operations, and it’s part of the press release, it’s a little unclear the full membership, but I wanted to know, was… is he still on it, given his other job and at the time that he was pla… on the senior advisory group on peacekeeping operations with this controversy about the Sri Lankan general?  Was Mr. Guéhenno representing France or the Secretary-General and the United Nations?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we will have to find out about that, Matthew, I don’t have that information with me.  Okay, thank you very much…


[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that Mr. Guéhenno represented France.]


Correspondent:  I have another question.


Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m sorry, Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you.  The situation is critical in… in… in Mali and the crisis and tension are continuing in the country.  The President of the African Union has just proposed the establishment of an intervention force composed of African soldiers, but under the mandate of the Security Council.  Would the Secretary-General go along with that proposal?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we will have to see what the proposal entails, right now we have… I have no information about that.  We would have to check out and see what our reaction is.  We will have to see what the proposal is first, and we will have to see if that squares with what was agreed in the April framework agreement for the complete and effective return of the civilian Government to the administration in Mali.


Question:  [inaudible] on the Congo and then one question about right here.  On… on the Congo, when Mr. Meece was here by video briefing about the… the unrest in the east, I asked him if… you know, what he thought of the idea that Rwanda is supporting the… the… the mutinous soldiers, some affiliated with Bosco Ntaganda, some not.  He said that’s not the case, everything is going well, the size of it meeting… since then, a UN official, the chief for Goma, Ms. Gabriel Selasi, has said on record to BBC to its credit that Rwanda has… has not only supported, but trained and recruited the rebels.  So I wanted to know, was she speaking for the UN and what is the UN’s position on Rwa… Rwandese support for the rebels and did… is Mr. Meece withtrac… retract his… the denial that he made on that very screen on 22 May?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, as you know, things flow.  Nothing is static.  What Mr. Meece may have said that day has been overtaken by events, and what we have now is that 11 nationals… 11 individuals claiming to be combatants of the M-23 armed groups were received at a MONUSCO base in Rugari in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo on 20 May.  They said they had abandoned their positions; they were transferred to a MONUSCO camp in Goma in North Kivu on 22 May where they are currently being hosted by MONUSCO.  The members of the group say they are Rwandans and they were recruited in Rwanda for what they believe to be service with the Rwandan army.  Instead, they were sent to the DRC to join M-23.  MONUSCO has informed the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo of their presence in the camp and is awaiting a decision on how the Government should like to proceed.  The Mission has also informed the ICRC of their presence in the camp.


Question:  And was there ever going to be an update to Meece… to Meece’s… I mean, that is an update and I thank you for it, but it had… if it weren’t asked, Mr. Meece’s statement would have just stood?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, people say things and then life moves on.  They cannot be coming on television everyday to talk about the latest developments.  If you ask a question, we give you the answer…


Question:  Okay, no…


Deputy Spokesperson:  …we give you the answer.  That’s what we have done today.  And that’s the way the process works.


Question:  Okay.  And I also… this is… this is something that… that your colleague, Martin Nesirky, said on Friday he would answer.  And the question is whether journalists here at the UN have a right to see complaints or files maintained against them at MALU.  He said he would an… he said this wasn’t the forum, he would get back to me offline, but I continue to await and I have not heard.  So I wanted…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, as you know, Martin is with the Secretary-General.  I imagine when he comes back he would be looking into it.


Question:  [inaudible] policy question, he said the rules were very clear, so I am waiting for…


Deputy Spokesperson:  As Martin said, he would look into it and get back to you.


Correspondent:  Okay.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record