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


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


**Secretary-General’s Travel


The Secretary-General arrived in Beijing a few hours ago.  He has already taken part in a social media conversation with young people through the UN’s “Weibo” microblogging site with the help of Sina Weibo, China's largest network of that kind.  The Secretary-General took questions on a wide range of topics from peacekeeping to youth unemployment and from Syria to sustainable development.  You can find out more on the UN website, where you'll find a link to the webcast.


Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will be meeting the Chinese leadership.  He will also take part in an event to recognize the contribution Chinese people have made to the "Future We Want" campaign for sustainable development.  On Thursday, the Secretary-General will take part in a major conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and will then travel on to South-Eastern Europe.


**Joint Special Envoy on Syria


The Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan, has just met with President Putin.  He reports that he had a good discussion with the President, discussing the situation and the crisis in Syria, focusing on what measures need to be taken to end the violence and the killing and how we move on to the political transition.


He says that, obviously, the discussions in the Security Council regarding the resolution also came up.  And he would hope that the Council will continue its discussions and hopefully find language that will pull everybody together to move us forward on this critical issue.


He noted that we need to do whatever we can to stop the violence, to stop the killing, and the Council, he expects, will be sending a message out, that the killing must stop and the situation on the ground is unacceptable.  He said that hopefully, the Council will come together in a united manner and press ahead in search of peace.


**Secretary-General Call with Russian Foreign Minister


Yesterday, the Secretary-General spoke with Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov.  During their call, the Secretary-General expressed his condolences for the recent loss of life following the flash floods in the Krasnodar Region of the Russian Federation.  They also discussed the situation in Syria and the imperative need for the violence to stop at once.


He called on Russia to use its influence to ensure the full and immediate implementation of the six-point plan and the Action Group communiqué, as well as resolutions 2042 and 2043 of the Security Council. 


The Secretary-General also referred to his note to the Security Council from 13 July 2012, and the letter of the same date to the Council from the United Nations-League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan.  The Secretary-General noted that the Joint Special Envoy was in Moscow for talks and stressed the importance of these discussions, given the escalating and alarming situation in Syria.


**Syria — Journalists


The Director-General of UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], Irina Bokova, today voiced alarm at the killing of seven Syrian journalists between 10 June and 4 July.  The Director-General stressed the need for the authorities to investigate these cases and take steps to ensure the safety of journalists in Syria.  In total, at least 22 journalists — local and international — have been killed while covering events in Syria since the start of 2012.  The full list of assassinated journalists can be found on the Organization’s dedicated webpage.


**Syria — Refugees


The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said today that the number of Syrian refugees registered or assisted in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey has almost tripled since April to 112,000.  These are mostly women and children.  The actual number of Syrian refugees is thought to be significantly higher, as many people seek to be registered only when they run out of resources.


Adrian Edwards, UNHCR representative, has said the agency is grateful that Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey have maintained open borders and that refugees are being welcomed.  He noted, however, that two weeks after the launch of the regional response plan for Syrian refugees, only 26 per cent is funded.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and partners warn that this low level of funding is having a profound effect and profound impact on the humanitarian support being offered in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey.


**Somalia


The United Nations refugee office said today that the number of Somali refugees in the Horn of Africa has now exceeded 1 million.  The most recent arrivals continue to cite insecurity and dwindling food resources as the main reasons for their flight, the office said.


Despite last week passing the 1 million mark for the first time since Somalia descended into violence in 1991, data compiled by the office for the main arrival countries of Kenya and Ethiopia also shows lower but steady numbers of people leaving Somalia.  There is more information on the office’s website.


The Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, said today that Friday, 20 July, marks the first anniversary of the declaration of famine in Somalia.  He said that tens of thousands died in the crisis, but the situation would have been far worse without the extraordinary response from the international community.  Famine conditions are no longer present but people are still in crisis, with 2.5 million people in urgent need of aid.  Malnutrition and mortality rates are still among the highest in the world.


**Security Council


This morning, the Security Council met in closed consultations to discuss the 1701 report on Lebanon, the situation in Yemen and other matters.  This afternoon, the Council will also meet in closed consultations to discuss the United Nations mission in Kosovo and other matters.


**Pakistan


The World Health Organization (WHO) said that a staff member and international consultant were injured when their vehicle was shot at by armed men in Karachi, Pakistan.  The two men, who were supporting a national polio immunization campaign, are in stable condition.  The World Health Organization is grateful to the Pakistani medical professionals for the rapid and high-quality medical aid they provided.  The World Health Organization said that this incident will not distract from the progress Pakistan is making this year, as the country is closer than ever to polio eradication.  There is more information on the WHO website.


**Appointment


The Secretary-General is today announcing the appointment of Adama Dieng of Senegal as Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.  Mr. Dieng will replace Francis Deng, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his dedicated service and achievements within a challenging mandate.  Mr. Dieng is currently serving his third term as Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, appointed in 2001.  We have full biographical details available in our office.


That’s it for me. Questions, please?  Yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Good morning.  Thank you.  I heard the statements that were issued out of the Secretary-General’s office and the Special Envoy’s office about their communications with Russian officials.  Did either the Secretary-General or the Special Envoy say anything specifically about the importance of extending UNSMIS’ [United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria] mandate?  I heard what they said about obviously stopping the killings, trying to get the Council to come together and get something done, but what about, you know, especially, with time running out, how important to them is extending UNSMIS’ mandate?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the extension of UNSMIS’ mandate is a decision that the Security Council is going to have to take very soon and I don’t know what the Secretary-General… all I can comment on what the Secretary-General’s conversations were are what’s in the readout.  But I imagine… I would imagine that the conver… the topic may have come up in the discussions.  Yes?


Question:  For the Secretary-General’s China trip, apart from sustainable development, which you mentioned, what would the other issues be [inaudible] with Chinese leaders?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, obviously the… China plays an important role in the United Nations.  It is a member of the Security Council, a permanent member.  It is playing a very important role in this conference with Africa.  China’s economic development has been a model for many countries to look at in terms of analysing their own potential for growth and it is a model for South-South cooperation.   Yes?


Question:  [inaudible] about the Secretary-General’s visit to South-Eastern Europe, particularly is he going to go to Kosovo or Bosnia?


Deputy Spokesperson:  He is going to Bosnia and he is going to Kosovo.  Yes?


Correspondent:  Thank you.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew?


Question:  Yes, sure.  I wanted to ask two, I guess they’re DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] questions that Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous just refused to answer at the stakeout.  One has to do with UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon].  What is DPKO’s plan to make up for the… Spain cutting in half its troop contribution, up to 500 soldiers being removed from UNIFIL?  The second question has to do with the Congo and MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo].  There are reports that MONUSCO’s gunship helicopters that they used against, they said M23, actually killed some civilians in North Kivu, and I wanted to know, I guess get an official answer from DPKO, what the number of casualties of their use of gunship helicopters was, and whether they acknowledge or deny that… that at least one person, the woman’s name is [Buchiet Agath], was in fact a civilian killed by MONUSCO. 


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll have to find out, Matthew.  As you know, the situation is very complex there and the terrain is very difficult, so we’ll have to wait and see what DPKO comes up with. 


Question:  And I guess I just want… since I… I’m arriving late because I waited for… through the Ladsous and Plumley stakeout, there, the spokesman for DPKO said they’re quote “on the record that they won’t answer any question from me, including about UNIFIL”, so I wanted to know, does the Secretary-General… what does he think of an Under-Secretary-General, of his, based on critical investigative coverage, refusing to take any questions, including about manpower in UNIFIL?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, I’m not going to comment on that.  You are here, you’re asking questions, we answer you.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s where we leave it.  Okay?


Question:  [inaudible]


Deputy Spokesperson:  Thank you.  One more question.


Question:  Yes, sure.  It has to do with Syria.  I had asked yesterday and I guess Martin had said he would try to get an answer.  Maybe you’ve announced, I’m sorry if I’ve missed it, that Jean-Marie Guehenno, who used to actually have Mr. Ladsous’s post, has announced that he’s going to write a white paper for the French Government.  Does this mean that he is no longer the Deputy of Kofi Annan for the Joint Special Envoy Office for Syria?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Mr. Jean-Marie Guehenno has been offered a post by the French Government.  He will be leaving his position as Deputy Joint Special Envoy shortly and when we have something else to announce on that, we will.  Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record