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 noon briefing.


**Secretary-General’s Travel


The Secretary-General will be leaving New York this afternoon for a visit to the Republic of Korea and Timor-Leste.


As we announced earlier this week, in the Republic of Korea, the Secretary-General will visit the southern city of Yeosu.  There, he will take part in the closing ceremony for the 2012 Expo and speak at an international conference on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.


In Seoul, the Secretary-General will hold talks with a number of officials, and he will also visit two universities to highlight women's empowerment and global health.


In Timor-Leste, the Secretary-General will hold talks with the President and Prime Minister, and deliver a speech in Parliament. He is also expected to visit the country's police academy.


Also, he will meet with key people in education, visit a school and give a lecture at the University of Dili on the role of education in nation-building.  This will be in advance of the launch of the Education First initiative on 26 September, his new global effort to promote universal access to quality, relevant and inclusive education.


The Secretary-General will return to New York on 17 August.


** Syria


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq are all reporting increases this week in the number of refugees from Syria.  UNHCR data show a total population of 146,667 people as of 9 August.  In several countries, we know there to be substantial refugee populations who have not yet registered.


In Turkey, the refugee population has now exceeded 50,000 people, with more than 6,000 new arrivals recorded this week alone.


In Iraq, there are now 13,730 refugees.  A growing number of Iraqis are also returning from Syria, including 2,993 who have come back since the start of August.  Since mid-July, 23,228 Iraqis have left Syria to return home.


In Lebanon, 36,841 Syrian refugees are now either registered or assisted, but many thousands who have recently arrived in Lebanon are not yet registered with UNHCR.


In Jordan, the number of refugees has now reached 45,869 people, with 3,891 of these having arrived so far in August.  UN and NGO partners are working to improve living conditions in the camps, which at present are difficult.


** Rwanda


The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, visited the Kigeme refugee camp in southern Rwanda yesterday.  More than 11,500 Congolese are housed there.


Ms. Amos said that the Government of Rwanda has played a crucial role in the relief effort but that more resources are needed to scale up the response.  The Rwandan Government and the United Nations refugee agency are in charge of the coordination effort in the camp, with UN agencies and their non-governmental partners providing basic services such as water, sanitation, health and food.


Ms. Amos also met Rwanda’s Prime Minister Pierre Habururemyi and Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo in Kigali.  The discussions centred on the ongoing relief efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and the ways in which the United Nations and its partners are supporting them.


** Somalia


The members of the Security Council, in a press statement issued yesterday afternoon, welcomed recent progress in completing the tasks outlined in the Roadmap to end the Transition in Somalia.  They particularly welcomed the National Constituent Assembly’s adoption of the new Somali Provisional Constitution.


Council members said that that the adoption of the Provisional Constitution represents an important milestone in Somalia’s transition to more stable and accountable governance.  They called upon all participants in the transition process to ensure that the selection of the members of the new Parliament happens as quickly as possible, and in a transparent manner.


Meanwhile, the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), in a joint letter, warned that they are closely monitoring reports of potential spoilers, or those using "reprehensible means" to undermine the peace process.  They are prepared to take action, including possible targeted sanctions, in line with resolutions of the UN Security Council, and decisions by the African Union and IGAD.  They called upon all concerned to take part in efforts to complete the transition by 20 August 2012, and play a constructive role in the forming of Somalia's new institutions.


Questions, please?  Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question: Yes, sir.  This recent report that is emanating from Washington that Mr. (Lakhdar) Brahimi, former UN envoy, will be appointed in place of Mr. Kofi Annan, is that true?


Deputy SpokespersonMasood, to repeat what Martin has said here for the past two weeks, we have nothing to announce.  If and when we have something to announce, we will announce it.


Question:  Can you even know… do you even know whether he is on the shortlist of candidates?


Deputy Spokesperson:  As Martin has said repeatedly, we are not going to engage in a speculative game here.  If and when the Secretary-General has something to announce, we will announce it.  Sir?


Question:  Sir, it seems the Israeli Government is worried about plans by the Secretary-General to go to Tehran for a Non-Aligned Movement meeting and has contacted the Secretary-General about that.  Can you confirm that?  Can you tell us what his plans are?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we see reports coming out of Jerusalem, and we have no trip to announce.  The only trip we have to announce is the one that I announced at the beginning of this conference.


Question:  I have a follow-up to go with this Brahimi question.  Can you, I was just in the North Lawn and I was told that Mr. Jeffrey Feltman of DPA [Department of Political Affairs] is meeting…I saw Bashar Ja’afari go in.  I’m told that the topic is Mr. Brahimi.  So my question to you is:  because Martin was willing to say that there are consultations with the permanent members of the Security Council about such an appointment, is Syria and its permanent representative, will they be conferred with prior to an announcement, whoever the name is?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I will have to check on that.  I don’t know exactly who the consultation list is comprised of.


Question:  I’d like to follow up on the refugee issue.  Does these, do these figures include the refugees leaving Syria, the Palestinian refugees who were already there in Syria, as refugees as well?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I… I’m not, I wouldn’t, you would have to check that with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office.  Hank?


Question:  Thank you, good morning.  The US produce as much more corn, there has been a drop… as severe impact on that reduction.  There is a US federal law that dictates 40 per cent of the corn growing in the US has to be used for biofuel.  Mr. [José Graziano da] Silva, the head of FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization], UN’s FAO, his call for that law to be at least suspended, I suppose, for the year.  Does the Secretary-General stand by that?  What’s his take on that?  Does he typically stand behind organizational heads for something like that?  Forty per cent of US corn would conceivably feed a lot of hungry people in the world right now.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is very concerned about the food situation.  As you know, the United Nations is taking a look at the food crisis and all of these elements coming into play, but for more specific answers, I would contact the FAO if I were you.  Masood?


Question:  A follow-up on my earlier question.  If there is a shortlist?  Will you or the Secretary-General confirm names?  It is okay to tell the journalists that these are people who have been considered?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, Masood, we’re not going to be playing that game.  If and when the Secretary-General has something to announce, he will announce it, but we are not going into the game of speculation.  Nizar?


Question:  When is the Secretary-General going to submit his report to the Security Council regarding UNSMIS [United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria]?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe it’s sometime next week.  If I’m not mistaken, I think it’s the 16th… oh, 16th, probably. Yeah.


Question:  Just a follow-up, does the Secretary-General support Mr. Silva’s call?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General supports the question of alleviating the possible food shortages that are being seen around the world.  Obviously, the increase in prices of food is detrimental to development and is also very detrimental to security.  People go hungry, they get upset, and when they get upset, they demonstrate; they cause a certain imbalance in society.  So obviously he is concerned about the impact of the food prices.  We’re taking a look at the impact of food prices.


Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you, in Darfur, it is said that the entire refugee camp in Kassab… a town called Kutum, that people have had to flee fighting between the Government and rebels.  I’m just wondering, since there is a UN peacekeeping, you know, Chapter VII armed mission there, what exactly is the mission doing in terms of protecting civilians from the effect of this fighting?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 25,000 people, i.e., the entire population of the Kassab IDP camp, have left the camp and are living with host families and relatives nearby.  Some 22,000 of these people are dependent on food aid.  The internally displaced people cited the lack of security, including rapes and unauthorized detentions, as the reason why they left the camp.  The displaced people need food, household items and basic health supplies.  Humanitarian partners are drawing up plans to respond to these needs.


Now this camp, to the best of my knowledge, is not a UN camp.  This is a camp run by NGOs.  So OCHA and the UN system are looking into what’s going on.


Okay?  Masood, last question?


Question:  Yeah, yes, sir.  Just a question about this non-aligned ambassadors or foreign ministers who are going to Ramallah to attend a meeting with the President of Palestine.  They were stopped by Israelis.  Is there any update on that?  Has the Israeli Government allowed them to go?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have not heard anything about that, but Mr. [Robert] Serry made a statement last week, and Martin apparently reported on it here, and that’s the last we heard on that.  Okay, one more question.


Question:  Sure, I’m, I just want to, sure, yesterday, Martin said, I asked him about this issue of Yemen, and not being able to vote on the Syria resolution.  I got a kind of answer sent from the Yemen perm[anent] rep[resentative], making some representation.  Martin said he was going to check whether, number one, the check had bounced, and also whether – I want to update question two – the UN has assured Yemen that it would not re-deposit this bounced check, because Yemen still hasn’t paid, and their diplomats saying that this is a gambit by Ali Saleh supporters.  So it’s very important to get a UN response on what; what’s the status of Yemen’s dues payment, and what happened with the check that bounced?  Is it being re-deposited or the cashier’s cheque…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We will have to check into that, Matthew.  We will get back to you.


Yeah. Thank you so much.  Having a great weekend, ladies and gentlemen.


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For information media • not an official record