11 July 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


The Security Council began consultations on Syria just a short while ago.  Kofi Annan, the UN-League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy for Syria, is briefing Council members by videolink from Geneva, while the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, is on hand to discuss the work of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS).


The Secretary-General’s report on the Mission is out as a document, and in it, he encourages the Security Council to maintain a Mission presence capable of adapting to the opportunities that may arise should the parties accept a political solution.


The Joint Special Envoy is expected to talk to the press in Geneva following these consultations.  And that press encounter will also be webcast and will also be available in New York on in-house television.  We’ll put out a transcript of Mr. Annan’s press remarks later in the day.


This afternoon, the Security Council will receive a briefing on West Africa from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the region, Said Djinnit.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


Roger Meece, the Special Representative of the Secretary General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, briefed the Security Council yesterday afternoon on the situation in the eastern region of the country.


Today, the United Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) once more expressed its concern about the deterioration in the security and humanitarian situation in North Kivu and the impact of the fighting on the civilian population.  Those concerns are also shared by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA); particularly they are concerned about the impact on the civilian population.


The Mission’s activities include conducting aerial reconnaissance flights over areas where M23 rebels are present, in order to obtain tactical information and verify reports.  The Mission has also reinforced its troop presence in Goma and has intensified its efforts to protect civilians, including through intensified patrols.  The Mission stresses that the violence must cease immediately.


And I can tell you the Secretary-General called President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo today to discuss the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in eastern DRC and identify possible steps to resolve the crisis.  The Secretary-General expressed grave concern over reports that the M23 mutineers fighting Government forces in North Kivu are receiving external support and are well trained, armed and equipped.  Stressing the need do everything possible to dissuade the M23 from making further advances and to cease fighting immediately, the Secretary-General urged Presidents Kagame and Kabila to pursue dialogue in order to defuse tensions and bring an end to the crisis.


** Libya


In a press statement issued late yesterday, the members of the Security Council welcomed the holding of the first national elections in Libya for nearly half a century, which the members considered a milestone for Libya’s democratic transition.  The members of the Security Council congratulated the Libyan people on this occasion and commended their peaceful participation in the process, while strongly condemning the isolated incidents of violence that occurred.


** Mali


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the number of Malian refugees registered in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger is now more than 200,000, with an increase of 15,000 in Mauritania alone since the end of June.


Humanitarian workers have limited access to areas in the north, especially Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal.  However, the World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners have delivered food and nutritional supplements to more than 50,000 people in those areas, as well as 6,600 people in the Mopti and Segou regions.


More than 1,500 children are being treated for varying levels of malnutrition through the efforts of UNICEF and its partners.  Also, more than 7,000 hygiene kits have been distributed and work has begun on water supply networks.


That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Yes, please, in the back?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  [inaudible] yesterday’s questions [inaudible] about human rights in Saudi Arabia.  There is… a Shiite clergy was arrested in Saudi Arabia.  Anything new about that?


Spokesperson:  No.  I guess that’s the third day in a row that the question has come, and this is the third day in a row that I will tell you that, no, we don’t have anything.  Okay.  Yes, please?


Question:  My question is about Libya.  The voting process in Libya was not without incidents.  For example, in parts of Benghazi, hundreds of protesters were reported to have burnt ballot boxes, and on 6 July, a helicopter carrying voting material was fired on in eastern Libya and an electoral worker was killed.  Allegedly, hundreds of [inaudible] polling stations, mostly in eastern Libya, did not open due to lack of security.  My question is, based on these incidents, can we conclude that the election was not successful and do people in eastern Libya… will be represented fairly, as it wasn’t the case during Qaddafi [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think the Secretary-General’s Special Representative has spoken quite clearly on the incidents, including the one involving the helicopter.  And the Secretary-General has also issued a statement in which he has stated his views on the election process.  Of course, there were hiccups along the way, but as the Security Council pointed out, this is a part of a transition process and was successful in those terms.  But I would urge you to take a look at what both Ian Martin and the Secretary-General have already said on this topic.  Yes?


Question:  Yesterday, it was found out that 54 refugee immigrants in [inaudible] from Libya to Italy, died on the sea.  Apparently, we know that this happened because only one survived and was able to tell the story to… actually to the UNHR spokesman… said something about that.  Now because he’s been saying that for 15 days, this very small boat was between Italy and Libya, how is it possible that these people could die of thirst, practically, and we know that there is a lot of ships, military ships too, and… we are not in the middle of the open ocean, or in the Atlantic Ocean, but we are in a part where, for 15 days, not being able to see, to spot…


Spokesperson:  What’s your question?


Question:  The question is, is the Secretary-General… has… is, you know, he planning a statement or something?  A high tragedy like this… to prevent a tragedy like this to happen, what’s… what’s… because… the question is, when do we find out, because one survived, how many people are dying and we don’t even know?


Spokesperson:  Well, the humanitarian community, including the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), has made clear on numerous occasions, including after this latest awful incident, that it’s really the responsibility of those at sea to stick to the tradition there is to help those in distress on the high seas.  And, as you pointed out, this is not the middle of the Pacific Ocean or the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; this is an extremely busy part of the world in terms of shipping.  So it is really important that those on ships, whether commercial vessels or military, they should be on the lookout, yes, and they should be helping, if they see people in need.  And the Secretary-General is obviously aware of this latest incident and it is as distressing to him as it is everybody else.


Question:  Can I just say also, the UNHCR spokesman, woman actually, said that she thinks that the tragedy could be avoided if States in the area are easing up with the legislation with what happens when you rescue those refugees and then bring… because apparently, they risk, you know, a situation where they have the problem, then who or probably because there is also accusation that they facilitate illegal immigration and so on.  So what… does the Secretary-General have something to say… will say something about this proposal, to actually act on the legislation of those States?


Spokesperson:  Look, I think the most important point here is that there is a tradition, a long-standing tradition, to help people in need, in distress, on the high seas and that’s the key focus at the moment.  I think you’d need to speak to UNHCR about the particular point that you raised.  Yes, Masood?


Question:  I asked you a question yesterday about Egypt and you said you’re still watching the situation, there’s nothing to say.  The situation seems to be going out of hand at this point in time in Egypt.  The confrontation between the army and the judges and President Morsi.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about that?


Spokesperson:  We’ve said already, Masood, that we’re obviously watching this extremely closely and it’s obvious to everybody that it needs to be dealt with through dialogue.  It’s obvious that there are tensions and the way to resolve those tensions is through speaking to each other.


Question:  I’m sorry, Martin, did you say something earlier about the stakeout for Mr. Kofi Annan?  What time is it going be?  One o’clock?


Spokesperson:  I did and I’m happy to repeat it.  I didn’t say anything about the time, because that’s not yet clear, except that it will obviously be after the consultations that are taking place right now.  It will be a press stakeout in Geneva that will be webcast and will be available on in-house TV here.  We’ll also provide a transcript.


Question:  We won’t be able to interact, or ask questions?


Spokesperson:  No, that’s not the case.  No, that’s not the case, but you will be able to hear what he says and you’ll be able to hear the questions and there will be transcripts later of both of those sides of the conversation.  Yes?


Question:  Just a follow-up on Navi Pillay, the UN Human Rights Chief’s statement last week that the situation in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court, citing that the evidence points to the commission of crimes against humanity.  Is there any response to this legal, humanitarian quest by her?


Spokesperson:  You’d have to ask her if there’s been any direct response.  I think she’s made her views very clear on a number of occasions, but I don’t have any feedback from her on that particular point.


Question:  I wanted to ask you, yesterday, there was a troop-contributor… ‑contributing countries meeting in the North Lawn about UNSMIS, the Syrian Mission, and afterwards a number of the attendees told me that… that Mr. Ladsous had proposed or essentially stated that the military component of UNSMIS will be reduced by 50 per cent.  He was informing troop-contributing countries of this as a fact.  Several of them said, how does this square with the idea that it’s entirely up to the Security Council.  So I’m wondering… can you kind of… can you… what is the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ thinking and did he… did he, as many attendees say, actually put that number on it, prior to the Security Council’s meeting, and if so, why?


Spokesperson:  There’s a lot of careful planning that goes into any changes that may or may not take place.  You have to prepare, based on certain assumptions that you have made in your planning.  And as you all know, because you have read the report, I’m sure, it sets out a number of options, but provides a key recommendation.  And it’s obviously for the Security Council, as they are now doing, to deliberate on this matter, but you have to make planning assumptions that can also… that can obviously be changed based on the outcome of the deliberations.  There’s nothing unusual in that.


Question:  One other question about the meeting and this may seem too… it seems like Mr. Ladsous and Tony Banbury, the Deputy of the Department of Field Support, attended and moments later I saw Ameerah Haq, the new head of DFS, you know, out and about in the North Lawn and so, I’m just wondering, is there some… what’s… these meetings… what’s the… what’s the balance of… of kind of responsibilities between DPKO and DFS and why didn’t the head of DFS attend this well-attended and important meeting about Syria?


Spokesperson:  I think, again, Matthew, it’s very obvious that what’s happening in Syria is extremely important.  It’s also very obvious, as I’ve mentioned it earlier on in the briefing, that there’s quite a lot going on in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  So sometimes there needs to be a division of labour in how these things are handled.  So I’m not specifically saying that’s the case there, I’m simply pointing out that sometimes you need to have a division of labour, and again, there’s nothing unusual about that.  Okay, any other questions?  Okay, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thanks very much.


Question:  [inaudible]


Spokesperson:  Thanks very much.


Question:  [inaudible]


Spokesperson:  You asked two questions.  Thanks very much, indeed.  Thank you.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record