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.


** Syria


The UN-League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, concluded a visit to Iran today, and he gave a joint press conference with the Iranian Foreign Minister.  He told reporters that he was seeking the support and cooperation of Iran in his efforts to resolve this conflict peacefully, and added that he had received encouragement and cooperation from the Foreign Minister.


Asked about the discussions that he had yesterday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Joint Special Envoy said that President Assad had made a suggestion of building an approach from the ground up in some of the districts where there has been extreme violence and, step by step, end the violence across the country. We have the transcript of his remarks in my office.  The Joint Special Envoy also said that details of this approach needed to be worked out and of course discussed with the opposition.


After Tehran, Mr. Annan visited Baghdad and he’s been holding talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on the crisis in Syria and its impact on the region.


**Security Council


This morning, the Security Council met in closed consultations to discuss the situation in Cyprus, Sudan, and South Sudan.


And then this afternoon, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), Roger Meece, will brief the Council on developments in that country by videolink, and that’s in closed session.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


And Roger Meece spoke to the press in Kinshasa today and expressed his concern at the recent deterioration in the security and humanitarian situation in the east.  A number of towns in North Kivu, including Bunagana, have fallen into the hands of M23 forces, although those forces are reportedly pulling out of some areas.


Mr. Meece said that the UN Mission, MONUSCO, is doing its utmost, in coordination with the Congolese army, to protect civilians and is working with humanitarian partners to support their efforts to reach vulnerable populations.  It is vital that the violence is brought to an end immediately.


The Special Representative also voiced his concern about continuing reports that M23 mutineers are receiving external support and are well-trained, armed and equipped.  And as I mentioned, Mr. Meece will brief Security Council members this afternoon by videoconference.


**Democratic Republic of Congo – Humanitarian


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that more than 16,500 Congolese refugees have been registered at the Nyakabanda transit camp in Kisoro, in western Uganda.  Access to clean water is a major challenge at the camp, as the district water system is not working.  The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is helping to transport people from there to a nearby refugee settlement.


The Uganda UN country team has requested funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), and that fund has allocated $6.9 million to support food, nutrition, water and sanitation help, among other life-saving needs, for 30,000 Congolese who have arrived recently in Uganda.


** Kyrgyzstan


The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, is on her first visit to Kyrgyzstan.  Today, in the capital, Bishkek, she told reporters that progress has been made since a regional centre — the first UN human rights office anywhere in Central Asia — was set up in the country in 2008.


While in Kyrgyzstan, Ms. Pillay held talks with senior officials, including the President and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Interior.  She also met with human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations. 


The High Commissioner said that as the country is going through its transition process, aiming for long-term stability, peace and economic prosperity, it is essential that justice, accountability and human rights are at the core of this agenda.  Her full remarks are available online.  And tomorrow, Ms. Pillay will begin a two-day visit to Kazakhstan.


**Capital Master Plan


UN staff members reported to work in their renovated offices in the Secretariat Building for the first time this week, with 88 people moving back to the building.  The Secretariat Building will be reoccupied fully in January, with approximately 3,300 staff members moving back.  And all moves will take place over the weekends. 


The renovated Secretariat Building will provide UN staff with a more sustainable, safer, healthier and more secure work environment.  Compared with conditions before, the renovated UN Headquarters will consume at least 50 per cent less energy, which translates into a 45 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.


That’s what I have.  Questions?  Masood and then Stefan.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  About the situation in the Middle East, I’m especially talking about Egypt where there is confrontation going between the army, the [inaudible] and the President, who’s called this Parliament which is earlier dissolved back in session.  Does the Secretary-General have any [inaudible] as to this situation which is really grave at this point in time, although they are not [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is obviously watching this very closely and as in other situations where there are tensions, he would certainly wish that any differences that there may be are resolved through dialogue.  Stefan and then Edie.  Yes, Stefan?


Question:  Kofi Annan just in Tehran said that any solution for Syria must include Iran.  What’s their opinion, what’s the Secretary-General say about that? He does agree, it must include Iran to find the solution?


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has said in the past that Iran is a part of the solution in the same way that Mr. Annan has said this.  And indeed, the Secretary-General, as you will have seen, met with the Iranian Foreign Minister in Tokyo on Sunday.  And that was a very detailed conversation.  You would have seen the readout on that.  Just to reiterate, the Secretary-General has said before, in the same way that the Joint Special Envoy has, that Iran is a part of the solution to this crisis.  Yes, Edie?


Question:  Do you have any details on the briefing by Kofi Annan to the Security Council tomorrow?  I understand that he is not coming here, that it is by videoconference. 


Spokesperson:  I think some of the details, for example on the timing, are still being worked out and some of the other details of the logistics, which would be in the hands of the Security Council.  But, yes it’s my understanding also that it would be by videolink from Geneva.  Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan has been in Tehran and Baghdad, and he is on his way back to Geneva with a view to doing the video conference tomorrow.  Yes?


Question:  I wanted to… I heard what you said about Mr. Meece and I… I… I guess it’s probably going to be impossible to do a stakeout with him, given that he’s not… that’s he doing by video…


Spokesperson:  Well, actually, difficult, but not impossible.  And there are such things in this modern world as a virtual stakeout.  So let’s see.


Question:  Oh… just in case he… he… he… he… I’m not able to ask him himself, I want to ask you if maybe we can get an answer… the spokesman for the Governor of North Kivu in the Congo has said, “They, the peacekeepers, are not here to do tourism, they should get engaged,” adding that UN troops simply shut themselves in their bases while the rebels took Bunagana, [inaudible] and other locations north of Goma.  So I mean… I don’t know if that’s true… I just… it seem like there… there seems to be that the local governor is saying that the UN peacekeepers, as he said, shut themselves in their base.  Is that… is that not the case… why does he believe that to be the case… what’s the communication level between the Governor… government of North Kivu and MONUSCO?


Spokesperson:  As I’d said at the outset, and I’m glad you were listening, MONUSCO is doing everything within its power to work with the Congolese armed forces.  It’s obvious that there is already redeployment going on.  That’s both by the FARDC and the UN peacekeepers.  This is obviously extremely precarious.  You will have seen also that the UN attack helicopters have been used.  That’s a sign of the gravity of the situation.  So Mr. Meece will be briefing the Council.  We will be doing our best to provide some kind of follow-up on that.  I can’t actually promise what form that will take, but certainly we will be trying to do that.  Everyone is aware of how serious the situation is there.  Although, it may not have looked like it to you, the Secretary-General, even while in Tokyo, was quite active on this front and continues to be personally involved.  Sometimes on themes such as this, it doesn’t always play itself out in the public gaze and the spotlight, but I can assure you that the Secretary-General is personally extremely concerned about what’s happening and is personally engaged in trying to work something out to improve the situation.


[The Spokesperson later added that the United Nations Mission, MONUSCO, is doing its utmost, in coordination with the Congolese army, to protect civilians and is working with humanitarian partners to support their efforts to reach vulnerable populations.  Indeed, one peacekeeper regrettably lost his life in action last week.]


Question:  Just one… and thanks… thanks for that.  I mean, I know that he met with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, for example, which…


Spokesperson:  Well, there are other meetings… there are other meetings on the sidelines that were not formal sit-down meetings.  For example, the Secretary-General did speak on the sidelines to Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State of the United States, and also to the Cabinet Secretary from the United Kingdom responsible for international development, Andrew Mitchell.  Just as examples.


Question:  Do you have any comment on this piece of news that Russia is sending warships to Syria?  Today it came out.  I’m reading from Reuters.  Russia dispatched a destroyer-class warship to Syria, plus four more military ships.  Any comments?  Any fear that this might escalate the tension?


Spokesperson:  The short answer is no, I don’t have any comment on that.  I’d have to look into it a little bit more.  Yes, Nizar?


Question:  I have three questions.  One about Saudi Arabia.  Yesterday, I asked [inaudible] disappearance of Sheikh Nimr [inaudible] and the tension [inaudible].  Is there any follow-up [inaudible] given that this Sheikh is a very important [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  Eduardo heard the question and I heard the question, but I don’t have any response at the moment.  What’s your next question?


Question:  How about the tension [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  What’s your next question?  I said I don’t have any information on that.


Question:  The disappearance of Nabeel Rajab, the human rights activist in Bahrain [inaudible] yesterday [inaudible].  I understand what about [inaudible].


Spokesperson:  Again, I’d have to check.  I don’t have any details on that.  I’ve seen the reports, but I’d have to check.  What’s your third question?


Question:  The tension between the… the northern border of Lebanon with Syria.  It seems there are clashes happening there with [inaudible] from Syria.  Are there [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  Of course, as we’ve said before, and the Secretary-General himself has said, this particular aspect is extremely worrying because it underscores the risk that there is for the events in Syria to spill over into neighbouring countries and into the wider region.  Of course, we’re monitoring that extremely closely and, of course, conversations do take place on that particular aspect of what’s happening and unfolding in Syria.  But I don’t have any specific for you at this point.  Simply to underscore that our concern for what is happening along that border and to reiterate the Secretary-General’s general concerns about the possibility of wider conflict and wider tensions within the region.  He is very concerned about that.  Yes?


Question:  Two questions.  One is that the Government of Cyprus is drawing up plans for possible inflow of refugees of 200,000 from Syria.  Is the UN planning anything on that [inaudible]?  And second point is about the Secretary-General’s reports… proposals on Syria, I think his report has already been circulated to the Security Council members.  That will be talked about tomorrow in the discussion?


Spokesperson:  That is part of the discussion that needs to take place.  The Secretary-General has indeed reported to the Council, as I think that most of you know and are aware of.  And as you are aware, the extension of the Mission and the nature of the mandate, that’s in the hands of the Council.  The Secretary-General was asked to provide recommendations.  This he has done, fairly starkly set out in that report and it’s obviously for the Council now to deliberate on that.  Mr. Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, is, of course, on hand to be able to provide any further details on that report to the Council when they meet tomorrow.  And your first question was about Cyprus and refugees.  I’ve seen those reports.  We’ve seen them.  I’ll need to check with the UN refugee agency to see… to find out to what extent this is tied to the refugee agency’s own work in the region.  Okay.  Yes, Stefano?


Question:  About this situation in Nigeria where there are attacks against Christians continuous and they’re being just a few days ago an escalation it seems.  What… the UN already said that the situation is getting… that the UN wants that there be crimes against humanity in this case, right?  But the point it… what is the point when the Government is considering it is not doing enough to protect the civilians in some cities in Nigeria?  What is the… how many people have to die before there is a kind of… this declaration, because the situation is getting worse and worse and it doesn’t seem that there is any change on the way the people are protected in Nigeria?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think there are two aspects here.  The first is that you need to speak to the Nigerian authorities about that part of the question that deals the Nigerian authorities’ response to the events there.  More generally, we have been quite vocal about the concerns that we have for the violence that there is and the number of people who have died, both Christian and Muslim.  It’s deplorable the level of violence and the frequency of it and we’ve issued a statement on this and that still stands.  Yes?


Question:  I don’t know if I should say in advance I have three questions, but I’ll try to do them quickly.  One is in Yemen…


Spokesperson:  You’ll do anyway… You don’t…


Question:  … it seems to be working well, so I’ll make full disclosure. Here comes three.  One is on Yemen.  Over the weekend, there were reports obviously of Aden and other towns in the south of protests and it said that three unarmed, you know, peaceful protesters were killed by the authorities.  And I just wondered, I know that obviously the UN is engaged in Yemen, mostly in Sana’a and elsewhere, but is there any response by the UN system, either on a human rights basis or a political good offices basis, to what some are saying is a crackdown against perceived separatists, but unarmed protesters in southern Yemen? 


Spokesperson:  I’ll need to check with my colleagues and particularly with Mr. Benomar on that.  He has been to the region again.  I’m not exactly sure of his whereabouts at the moment.  But I’m sure that we can get some kind of update.  Number two?


Question:  That would be great.  The other one is, you may have seen this, there’s a study released today about the UN’s use of private military contractors by the Global Policy Forum, that in a press conference they released it…


Spokesperson:  I’ve seen the report.  We’re obviously aware of it and I would hope to have something later today.


Question:  Okay, great.  See, this is going really fast.  The other one is, I thought maybe you would the… you could clarify this one.  While he was in Tokyo, I believe the Secretary-General was asked about DPRK and he said as part of his answer, he seemed to say that he had met with the panel of experts of the DPRK, which I just wanted to I guess to ask, is that normal?  In what context did he do such a meeting, if anything could be said about this meeting between the Secretary-General and a very technical, at least some people see it as kind of a technical committee?


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has all kinds of meetings and yes, he did meet with the panel of experts on Thursday of last week.  As you know, that panel does not report to him.  But there are many people and groups he meets. For example, this afternoon, a group of Korean Red Cross representatives, they don’t report to him, but he still meets them.  So it’s not unusual for the Secretary-General to seek to be briefed on matters that relate to the work that he does.


Question:  Does he have… if I can ask… any sanction panel… of sanctions committees set up by the Security Council?


Spokesperson:  Well that’s a rather open-ended question. 


Question:  [inaudible]


Spokesperson:  That’s a rather open-ended question and I’d think that I’d simply say the Secretary-General makes it his business to be briefed on topics that are important and it’s not always done in the same format.  There are different ways of doing that.  Last question.  Masood?


Question:  Just a simple question.  What [inaudible] earlier.  Is it going to be a possibility of virtual stakeout with the Secretary-General or former Secretary-General Mr. Annan?


Spokesperson:  We’ve been checking with his office and obviously that office is virtual at the moment because they’re flitting between countries and in airplanes so, but… so I don’t have a clear answer at this point.  I will let you know as soon as I know something.  But, I cannot say with certainty at this point whether this Joint Special Envoy will be speaking to reporters after the briefing to the Council tomorrow.  Alright.  Thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record