14 August 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.


Briefing by the Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


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


**Secretary-General’s Travels


The Secretary-General has arrived in Jakarta and is on his way to Timor-Leste.


Earlier today in Seoul, the Secretary-General had a number of meetings related to sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals.  He met with the Republic of Korea's Global Compact Network, which brings together business leaders in support of the work of the United Nations, including on sustainable development and corporate social responsibility.


The Secretary-General also visited the headquarters of UNICEF, and met a number of officials, children and goodwill ambassadors.  He praised UNICEF Korea for its strong fundraising and advocacy work, and recalled the role of UNICEF in the country's recovery after the Korean War.


The Secretary-General visited the National Assembly to meet a wide range of parliamentarians active in supporting the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals].  He also held talks with the Speaker of the National Assembly.


** Syria


Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, arrived in Syria today at the start of a three-day mission to draw attention to the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the impact of the conflict on civilians caught up in the fighting.


She met in Damascus today with the Syrian Prime Minister, Wael al-Halki, the Deputy Foreign Minister, Fayssal Mekdad, and Dr. Ali Hayder, Minister of State for National Reconciliation.   She also met with the Head of the UN Mission, General Babacar Gaye, and is expected to meet the President of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Dr. Abdul Rahman Attar.


** Somalia


The Secretary-General is seriously concerned about delays in the selection of the new Somali Parliament, and recent acts of intimidation and violence which should not continue or be allowed to threaten the successful conclusion of Somalia’s transition.


In a statement we issued last night, he called upon the Somali political leadership, the traditional elders and other parties to rise above their differences and to act in the best interest of the Somali people.


The Secretary-General has been encouraged by the progress achieved in Somalia's political process, and stresses that this progress must not be lost.  He recalls the commitment of the United Nations to the peace, security and stability of Somalia, and emphasizes that action may be taken against any actor seeking to threaten the peaceful conclusion of the transition.


The full statement is available in our office and online.


Also, in a statement today, Mark Bowden, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, expressed his concern at recent reports of civilian casualties in Kismayu caused by naval gunfire and airstrikes.


**Personnel Appointment


The Secretary-General today announced the appointment of Gyan Chandra Acharya of Nepal as Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.  Mr. Acharya will replace Cheick Sidi Diarra, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his dedicated service and achievements.  Mr. Acharya is currently the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Nepal to the United Nations. 


We have a full biographical note in our office.


**World Humanitarian Day


The global campaign that aims to make social media history by attempting to reach one billion people on 19 August to celebrate World Humanitarian Day has passed its first milestone – the 100 million mark.


The campaign jumped in momentum following a live performance on Friday night at the United Nations General Assembly by Beyoncé, who sang “I Was Here” to more than 1,200 fans, celebrities, humanitarian workers and dignitaries.


The video of the song, which Beyoncé and songwriter Diane Warren donated to the campaign, will premiere on 19 August.


** Darfur


I was asked yesterday about the status of Ibrahim Gambari, who had been the UN-African Union Joint Special Representative for Darfur.


Mr. Gambari tendered his resignation from the posts of UNAMID [United Nations-African Union Operation in Darfur] Joint Special Representative and Joint Chief Mediator, ad interim, effective 31 July.  This was accepted by the Secretary-General and the African Union Chairperson.  The end of his assignment was noted in the last report of the Secretary-General on UNAMID.


The announcement of Mr. Gambari’s successor will take place once consultations have been finalized.  The Deputy Joint Special Representative (Political), Aichatou Mindaoudou, has been appointed Officer-in-Charge of the mission and the Joint Mediation in the meantime.


As was noted in his last report on UNAMID, the Secretary-General appreciates Mr. Gambari’s service and contribution to peacekeeping in Darfur.


Questions please, Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Some human rights organizations in the United States and elsewhere are calling on the Secretary-General and the Security Council to extend the United Nations Mission in Syria, which, till now, has not been reviewed as yet, and some countries say that it will expire on 18 August. What is the Secretary-General’s position on this?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is waiting for the Security Council to take its decision, and we will implement that decision once it has been taken.


Question:  Will he recommend?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is waiting for the Security Council to take its decision, and once a decision has been taken, as I said, we will implement it.  Edie?


Question:  Eduardo, Kofi Annan’s spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, said today in Geneva that Lakhdar Brahimi had been selected to replace Kofi Annan as the Special Envoy to Syria.  Can you tell us when an announcement of this appointment is expected?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m acting here as the Secretary-General’s Spokesperson and I have nothing to announce. So once we have an announcement to make we will make it. Matthew?


Question:  Without you making the announcement of the name, there’s some discussion that – as was true under Kofi Annan — Syria will only recognize whomever the person is, whether Mr. Brahimi or some other individual, as the UN’s special representative, not as the Arab League’s representative, and I wanted to know, is that acceptable?  And they’ve said that publicly, that they see this role as UN, not Arab League – is that acceptable to the Secretary-General?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, to the best of my knowledge, the Secretary-General is in close consultations with the League of Arab States’ Secretary-General, and it will be a joint decision.


Question:  On whom to appoint.  But I’m saying, if Syria says openly that they’re only accepting him as a UN person…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I haven’t seen that report, Matthew.


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  Is the Secretary-General going to meet with Lakhdar Brahimi during this trip in Jakarta, or anywhere in that region?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have not seen anything on his agenda that would seem to indicate that.  I mean, he’s going to Timor-Leste, I don’t know if Mr. Brahimi is in the neighbourhood, but…


Correspondent:  Mr. Brahimi is now in Bali or yesterday he was in Bali.


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t know, I have seen nothing on the agenda to indicate that the Secretary-General is meeting Mr. Brahimi, and, as I said, if and when we have an announcement we will make it, but right now we don’t have any announcement to make.  Masood?


Question:  Yeah, again, I’m just going to ask you, you said that the Secretary-General is waiting for a signal from the Security Council, but isn’t it the Secretary-General that has to take a position at least to recommend to the Security Council to extend the mandate of the UNSMIS [United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria] over there?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General makes his recommendations, but it is up to the Security Council to decide, and we’re not going to prejudge what the Security Council may decide.  Matthew?


Question:  Yeah, there was an attack on the Defence Ministry in Yemen by supporters of Ali Saleh, and I am wondering:  given that there’s this good offices envoy in the UN’s involvement in Yemen, what do they make of this?  Is this – some called it a coup, others just called it Ali Saleh’s attempt to get back in power, to get his people better jobs – what’s the UN’s read on this?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, I see nothing about that, we’ll have to look into it and get back to you on it.


Question:  Also I wanted to add – I don’t know if you have anything on this – the UN’s own staff in South Sudan is protesting in 10 different states, saying that they would like to be paid, not necessarily the same rate but in the same currency as international staff are…And they seem – it’s a peaceful protest, but it’s a pretty extensive one.  I’m wondering what the UN’s response is to it?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to look into that, Matthew.  We’ll have to check and see what the regulations are and we’ll have to see what the policy is.  I don’t have any information on that.  OK, Masood, last question?


Question:  No, I don’t have any other thing. Thanks.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Ah, OK. OK, last question, Matthew.


Question:  This is actually – I just wanted to make clear what I was asking you about in terms of Côte d’Ivoire.  You sent me a response yesterday; I was glad to get it, but it was about the wrong report. There was an incident about three weeks ago -


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, no – I know which one you mean. That report has not been finalized.  It’s in the process of being worked on, and as I said, or as I’m saying now, once we have something to share, we’ll share it.


Question:  Because Mr. [Bert] Koenders, right after the event took place, has said, “that we reject all the allegations, we did the right thing”.  And I’m just wondering:  is that statement somehow on hold, pending the report?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We’re not going to prejudge what the report says; let’s see what the report says and then we’ll see what we comment on that.


OK?  Have a nice afternoon, everybody, thank you.


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For information media • not an official record