|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 Vannina Maestracci, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Bonjour, and welcome to the noon briefing.
**Secretary-General in General Assembly
This morning, the Secretary-General attended the screening of a documentary on the theme of forgiveness and reconciliation in the General Assembly Hall.
Later, the Secretary-General participated in a General Assembly meeting on mediation and conflict resolution where he presented to Member States his most recent report on the subject and the United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation. In his remarks to this meeting, the Secretary-General said he was pleased to report that the United Nations was making real progress, working hard to enhance its readiness to implement and support mediation processes.
He said that the Department of Political Affairs, which anchors many UN mediation efforts, has been strengthened, and that the Department’s Mediation Support Unit has become a key provider of mediation services within and outside the UN system.
He said that, overall, the United Nations has improved its support for inclusive and effective mediation processes. But he added that if we are to sustain these efforts, mediation efforts must be adequately resourced.
You saw that last night, we issued a statement on Somalia, in which the Secretary-General strongly condemned yesterday’s attack on the Jazeera Hotel in Mogadishu, where the newly-elected Somali President was meeting with the Kenyan Foreign Minister.
The Secretary-General said that he is convinced that such acts will not reverse the recent achievements or weaken the determination of the Somali people to achieve peace and security in their country. He reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to support the new President and the Somali people in their efforts. And the full statement is available online and in our office.
Earlier today, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, arrived in Damascus. During his visit to Syria, Mr. Brahimi will hold talks with the Government, and with representatives of the Syrian opposition and civil society. He will also meet the UN country team. Mr. Brahimi is accompanied by Mokhtar Lamani, who will remain in Damascus to assume his new function as Head of the Office of the Joint Special Representative for Syria in Damascus.
And the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon visited the Palestinian refugee camp of Burj Barajneh in Beirut today, to see first-hand the humanitarian and living conditions at the site. It was Derek Plumbly’s first visit to the camp, which is one of 12 official refugee sites in Lebanon. He noted the difficulties facing the camp’s residents, but hailed the efforts of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA, to address some of the day-to-day challenges. There is a press release with more information in our office.
In a report released today, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, says that the number of deaths among children under five has been on a continuous decline for over two decades around the world. The number has dropped from nearly 12 million in 1990 to an estimated 6.9 million in 2011.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said that the global decline in under-five mortality is a significant success, but millions of children are still dying each year from largely preventable causes for which there are proven, affordable interventions. Mr. Lake stressed that these lives could be saved with vaccines, adequate nutrition and basic medical and maternal care.
And tomorrow at 11:15 a.m., here in the Auditorium, the President of the General Assembly will hold his end-of-term press conference.
And then at noon, the guest at the noon briefing will be Michael Keating, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan.
And that’s what I have for you. And I am going to take a few questions. Monsieur Abbadi?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Vannina. [inaudible] led to violence and to the unforeseen death of the United States diplomats in Benghazi, Libya. Demonstrations have now spread to other parts of the Muslim and the Arab world, and the situation might lead to further violence. This is the time par excellence for hearing voices of reason to calm the situation. Where is the voice of the Alliance of Civilization?
Associate Spokesperson: I will check with them. I am not sure they issued something. But you know the position both of the [Secretary-General] and, of course, of the Alliance of Civilization, which is that, you know, the UN rejects defamation of religion in all its forms. At the same time, of course, the acts of violence, such as the ones that happened in Libya, are unacceptable. But especially something like the Alliance of Civilization, you know, once you encourage dialogue and it is a strong force to do such a thing. So if you want I will check with them. Do you want a specific statement? Because the [Secretary-General] has been clear and Mr. Feltman has been clear, specifically on Libya, but of course that would apply to other places. But I will check with the Alliance to see if they have put out or are planning something. Yes, Tim?
[The Associate Spokesperson later said that the United Nations High Representative, Jorge Sampaio, had sent a letter to United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In that letter, Mr. Sampaio said that such an attack should be strongly condemned, and that its perpetrators and instigators should be identified and prosecuted within the rule of law as there is never any justification for violent acts of the kind in a democratic State. He also wrote that the persistence of a climate of intolerance and the alarming increase in acts of intolerance, discrimination and violence based on religion or belief in many parts of the world are of great concern, calling upon all States to take bold action to strengthen international efforts to foster global dialogue for the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels.]
Question: Just as a follow-up, any comments on the film itself, from the Secretary-General or the Alliance?
Associate Spokesperson: Not at this point, no. Oui?
Question: Yes, about the visit of Mr. Brahimi in Damascus, is he planning a meeting with President [Bashar al-]Assad?
Associate Spokesperson: Is he planning a visit?
Question: Yeah, I mean, is it scheduled, or is it going to be…?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes, he will meet with President Assad. He will meet with other Government officials, representatives of the opposition, as well as civil society. Oui?
Question: Do you know when the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General, new Representative to Libya, Mr. Tarek Mitri, will be in New York?
Associate Spokesperson: When he will be in…?
Correspondent: New York.
Associate Spokesperson: No, I do not. The announcement we made yesterday? No, I do not. I can ask. In New York, right? Okay. Tim?
Question: You said yesterday that the Secretary-General has received a letter from the Mali Government asking for support. When will the Secretary-General be announcing his strategy for the Sahel? Will it be at the strategic peace special meeting or before?
Associate Spokesperson: I believe the letter right now which, yes, I did confirm yesterday that it was received, right now, it is being studied and, yes, indeed at the high-level meeting on the Sahel, which will happen during the General Assembly time, you know, should aim to put forward a strategy for the Sahel, and that will, of course, include Mali.
Question: So there is no written report before?
Associate Spokesperson: No, not right now. I don’t believe so. Oui, Monsieur Abbadi?
Question: Tension is now mounting between Japan and China over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, and the situation seems to be deteriorating further. Is the Secretary-General concerned about this issue, and is he contemplating any measures to lessen tension in the region?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, of course he is concerned about tensions anywhere. As far as measures go, I’ll check if there has been anything on that, but I don’t know right now.
That’s it? Have a wonderful afternoon, I’ll see you all tomorrow.
* *** *For information media • not an official record