|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.
**Secretary-General at General Assembly
This afternoon at 3 p.m., the Secretary-General will brief the General Assembly on the Summit of G-20 leaders and the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, both of which he attended.
The Secretary-General is expected to say that at the G-20 meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, he encouraged leaders to focus on reducing poverty, creating jobs and prioritizing sustainable development.
He will thank President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and her team for their leadership and note that in Rio we saw the further evolution of an undeniable global movement for change. Civil society and the private sector played an unprecedented role. He will say that the core of Rio+20 is the outcome document. This provides a firm foundation for building a sustainable future. The Secretary-General is expected to speak to reporters briefly after the briefing to the General Assembly.
This morning, the Security Council met in closed consultations to discuss the situation in Sudan and South Sudan, and matters related to the Counter-Terrorism Committee.
**Syria – Humanitarian
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and more than 40 other humanitarian aid organizations appealed today for nearly $200 million to help meet the needs of the growing numbers of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. They had originally asked for more than $80 million in March, but the increasing number of refugees has pushed that figure up to help the nearly 100,000 Syrian refugees.
In the past three months, humanitarian agencies in neighbouring countries have been registering an average of more than 500 Syrian refugees a day. It is anticipated that by the end of the year, there could be 185,000 refugees, due to new arrivals and existing refugees in neighbouring countries requesting assistance or protection. There is more information available on the refugee agency’s website.
**Sudan – Pillay
The High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Sudanese authorities today to ensure that tomorrow’s planned demonstrations are allowed to proceed peacefully. Navi Pillay urged security forces to not resort to violent measures and mass arrests as they have over the past two weeks.
She noted that dozens of people — including human rights defenders, journalists, students and political opponents — have been arrested since the start of the protests in the capital, Khartoum, on 17 June. Ms. Pillay also urged protestors to ensure, on their part, that no violence or damage to property takes place during the demonstrations. There is more information available on the website of the UN Human Rights Office.
The United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, visited the town of Bint Jbeil in south Lebanon today. He said that he was particularly impressed by the reconstruction efforts that have taken place since the war of 2006, and by the determination of the people to rebuild their homes and livelihoods, and by the economic activity and prosperity they have generated.
Mr. Plumbly said that the implementation of resolution 1701 since 2006 has made possible unprecedented calm in south Lebanon. The strong cooperation that exists between the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the Lebanese army and the local population is instrumental in its success. He expressed hope that the prevailing calm will continue and that the remaining requirements of the resolution will be met in order to achieve a long-term and permanent ceasefire along the Blue Line. There is more information available in my office.
**International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia acquitted the former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadžić on one of two genocide charges he faces. The court, based in The Hague, upheld 10 other counts of the indictment. The Prosecution charges Mr. Karadžić with a total of 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws of war, committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995.
Questions, please? Yes, Nizar?
**Questions and Answers
Question: [inaudible] the attack yesterday that took place against the Syrian television. Mr. Ja'afari [inaudible] at General Assembly criticized the United Nations for not even sending condolences to the victims or any condemnations to that attack. Do you consider it a terrorist attack, and is that regrettable or not by international standards?
Spokesperson: It’s regrettable by any standards, Nizar. Any violence that’s taking place in Syria at the moment should be condemned and it’s unacceptable. And of course, it is unacceptable, particularly that this was an assault on working journalists, and that is reprehensible.
Question: Is it condemned here?
Spokesperson: I just said so. Yes. Questions?
Question: Another thing about it. You did nothing about the 11 hostages in Syria; the Lebanese. Now it’s almost one month and 10 days since they were abducted. Is there any progress on that? Also, is there a statement from the United Nations?
Spokesperson: We’ve spoken about this before, Nizar. And, as I said before, the Secretary-General would certainly wish that those being held were released as soon as possible. Yes, Hank?
Question: Thank you, Martin, good morning. I wouldn’t expect that you necessarily know because it just happened in the General Assembly, but we have reviewed our videotape and there’d been another technical glitch in the middle of the Syrian Ambassador making a statement in the General Assembly. The volume on the English translation, in the middle of his statement in his national capacity after he made his statement in his [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] capacity, dropped to almost negligible. You almost couldn’t hear it. And it seemed conspicuous to me, seeing there had been a couple of technical glitches as he spoke in the General Assembly in the last 10 weeks or so. What’s the status on any inquiry or investigation that the SG’s Office might have done? Because it certainly does seem conspicuous for that to happen, yet again today.
Spokesperson: Well, I’m hearing that from you. So, I need to look into it. Other questions, please? Yes?
Question: Thank you. This proposal by UN Envoy Kofi Annan to form a national unity Government [inaudible] in Syria means somehow that Assad will step down?
Spokesperson: I don’t think that we can prejudge what the discussions will be in Geneva at the weekend, as you know that the Joint Special Envoy’s office has said that there will be discussions tomorrow, on Friday, at the senior official level, ahead of this Action Group for Syria meeting that will then take place at the ministerial level on Saturday. So you will have heard the Joint Special Envoy is looking for an outcome and a productive meeting at the weekend, but I’m not going to prejudge what that outcome might be. Yes, Matthew?
Question: First, there have been reports of renewed bombings by the Sudanese Air Force in Darfur, specifically in East Jebel Marra. We know eyewitness accounts of bombing. I guess they are fighting an SLA group there, but civilians are on the move. I just wonder, since there is UNAMID, has UNAMID checked into this? Can… is it true or not true? What’s UNAMID doing to forestall bombing civilians if it is true?
Spokesperson: Let me check on that, Matthew. I don’t have any information on that at the moment.
Question: I also want to ask you, I mean, if you could… I know I asked you yesterday about this Eritrea report that came down, I just want to…
Spokesperson: And you got an answer.
Question: I did. And the problem is that since I have spoken to several Council members, they say that Tayé Zerihoun, in consultation with them, said it was taken down at the request of certain Council members. It wasn’t done, at just… simply at the Secretariat taking a second look at the report and taking it down. Some Council members were consulted and others weren’t. I just want to… maybe the Council members are not… you know, that’s not what he said, but it is what he said. I’m saying that… I guess I just… it seems very important to get down to the bottom of how the Secretariat, for its own credibility, issues reports and when everyone seems to admit it, or agree, the Secretariat is free to take down reports on its own initiative. But there seems be some pushback from the Council whether they should be consulting with only some members. I want to ask specifically whether the US was consulted prior to the withdrawal of this Eritrea report.
Spokesperson: I’m not privy to what may or may not have been discussed in consultations of the Security Council. We replied to you yesterday about the reasons for the report being taken offline. And I don’t have anything beyond that, Matthew.
Question: The reason I’m asking this is that people that saw their response said that’s not what took place in consultations. They contacted me. It’s not like I’m trying to make a problem, I’m just saying it seems very important. Maybe Mr. Zerihoun can either do a briefing or make himself answer the question and someway try to clear up what seems to be a disagreement between what’s said here and now what I think what’s said by Council members that were in the consultations. It seems important, so that’s why I’m asking. Could you ask him whether he can speak on this topic?
Spokesperson: Well, perish the thought. You’ve been making trouble, Matthew. So I don’t have anything further on that. If I do, I will let you know. Yeah. Yes?
Question: Thank you for allowing me to follow up on my earlier question. Just based on the earlier two technical glitches, which the Syrian Ambassador thought glaring enough to actually have a press conference on that. I just want… is the SG concerned at all that there might be any politically motivated technical hijinks happening in the General Assembly?
Spokesperson: You’ve heard me say already that the Department of Public Information apologized for the technical glitches that there were on those two occasions, and that’s what they were. Any other questions? Yes? Yes, Masood?
Question: Has there been rethinking on the part of the UN Special Envoy, Mr. Kofi Annan, about inviting Iran into the Saturday conference on Action Group for Syria?
Spokesperson: As I said yesterday, Masood, Iranians will be briefed by the Joint Special Envoy and his office after the meeting on Saturday. That also applies to Saudi Arabia, as I understand it.
Question: Qatar is invited? Am I correct to understand that Qatar is invited?
Spokesperson: I believe so, as are a number of other countries, but a number of other countries are also not invited. So the Joint Special Envoy has this meeting taking place, this Action Group for Syria, and that will be taking place on Saturday. Let’s await that meeting, as everybody does with some anticipation.
Question: I just want to follow up on that. What’s the idea of not inviting Jordan and Lebanon, although Turkey is invited in this case?
Spokesperson: Look, as I just said, some countries are represented, some are not. Some countries are represented within, for example, the League of Arab States context. The League of Arab States will be present. I wouldn’t read too much into this. As I’ve just said, there will be an ample opportunity for the Joint Special Envoy to brief other countries after the meeting, and of course, diplomacy goes on in the background the whole time. Okay. Yes, Masood? And then last question to you, Matthew. Thank you very much.
Question: Yes, Sir. Did you get any, you know, response to the shrine burning in Kashmir? Do you have a response to that at all? Is your answer still the same that you don’t have [inaudible] you don’t have any?
Spokesperson: No, I don’t have anything. Yes, my answer is still the same. Right. Last question, Matthew.
Question: Sure, I want to ask you… I want to ask you about the Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations. I understand it met yesterday and it’s meeting today. Then, those are the two meetings until the next round. So, since it’s impossible as a journalist to cover the meetings and enter the Teacher’s Building at 730 3rd Avenue, to make sure, I want to ask you, since Ms. Frechette does not have a spokesperson, to confirm that Sri Lankan General Shavendra Silva, allegedly engaged in war crimes, did not attend these two days of SAG meetings. And if the Secretariat has any comment on… is that a response to Ms. Frechette’s ruling that he shouldn’t participate or is it simply, as Sri Lanka says, that he is out of town?
Spokesperson: I don’t have any comment on that, Matthew, except to say that you evidently spoke to the Sri Lankans, I think they can speak for themselves.
Question: But, I guess I’m wondering, is that it’s a UN body, right? He appointed Ms. Frechette to chair. She’s put out a statement saying that she doesn’t have any spokesperson, so I have no one to ask but you. And seems it’s a matter of public interest, whether an alleged war criminal attends and advises the Secretary-General.
Spokesperson: Well, as I say, as I say, Matthew, I don’t have any comment on that, except what I’ve just said. Should that change, I will let you know. All right? Thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record