14 September 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 Vannina Maestracci, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Bonjour, and welcome to the noon briefing.


**Noon Guest


Today I am joined by Michael Keating, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan.


We are already very late, so I’ll just give you the floor for a few minutes.


[Press conference by Mr. Keating issued separately.]


Okay.  So, it’s already really late.  I’ll go on with the briefing and take a few questions.


**Culture of Peace


We issued a statement last night in which the Secretary-General says that he is deeply disturbed by the recent violence in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East.  Nothing justifies such killings and attacks, he says.


He condemns the hateful film that appears to have been deliberately designed to sow bigotry and bloodshed.  At this time of rising tensions, the Secretary-General calls for calm and restraint, and stresses the need for dialogue, mutual respect and understanding.


The Secretary-General echoed this message this morning at the opening session of the General Assembly High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace.  In his remarks to the forum, he also noted that the world spends almost twice as much on weapons in one day than the United Nations spends for our global mission of peace, human rights and development in one year.  He called it a moral outrage.


The Secretary-General said that it is possible to create a culture of peace through education.  He said that next week, he will launch a new global initiative called “Education First”, to give every child the chance to attend school, and that it is how we build a culture of peace.


** Syria


The Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is continuing his meetings in Damascus.  Today, he met with the Russian Ambassador, as well as the Chinese Chargé d’Affaires.  Yesterday, he had discussions with the Iranian Ambassador.


And just a little bit earlier today, he met with a delegation of the National Coordination Committee, led by its Chairman, Hassan Abdel Azim.  While in Damascus, Mr. Brahimi is also meeting with UN staff.  Earlier today, he held a town hall meeting with the remaining staff from the liquidation team of the UN Mission — some of whom will be staying on to support the new Office of the Joint Special Representative in Damascus.


On the humanitarian side, he met yesterday with the officer in charge of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and he will meet with a representative from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs later today.  He also met with the UN Resident Coordinator yesterday.


And tomorrow, Mr. Brahimi will hold more meetings, including with a group of Arab ambassadors and chargés d’affaires, a European Union delegation, an opposition group and civil society representatives.  And Mr. Brahimi will meet the Syrian President in the morning.


** Sahel


On the Sahel, the World Food Programme (WFP) said today that, ahead of the October harvest, the humanitarian needs in the Sahel region are still huge in the lean season.  WFP added that the coming rains would help the harvest but it would not be enough.  The local populations have barely had enough time to recover from the 2010 crisis and rebuild their assets before the situation degenerated again.  WFP and its partners are implementing a regional response to reach more than 10 million people with food assistance.


And that’s all I have for you.  I’ll just take a few questions because it is almost 1 p.m.  Evelyn, please?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yes, do we know any more about Mr. Brahimi’s schedule?


Associate Spokesperson:  I gave you a lot on his schedule.


Question:  When is he coming back to New York?


Associate Spokesperson:  He is in Syria right now.  No, I don’t know when he is coming back to New York.  George?


Question:  A follow-up on that question?


Associate Spokesperson:  Sure.


Question:  When he does come back to New York, whenever it may be, will somebody encourage him to come and speak to us?


Associate Spokesperson:  You can certainly relay that message and I will also, to Mr. Fawzi.  Yes?


Question:  [Correspondent’s name], from News First, Sri Lanka.  I want to know, a team of UNHRC representatives are currently visiting Sri Lanka.  Are they doing so based on an invitation extended by the Sri Lankan Government or are they doing so as part of the UN-sponsored resolution which was adopted in March in Geneva?


Associate Spokesperson:  I’m sorry, you said a team from OHCHR or UN…?


Correspondent:  UNHRC.


Associate Spokesperson:  UNHRC?


Correspondent:  The Human Rights Council.


Associate Spokesperson:  I’m going to check, but I’d advise you to be in touch with the Human Rights Council, which is holding its session right now in Geneva.  So, you’ll probably get more information from them.  I am happy to pass along those contacts.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, Vannina, I wanted to, eh, yesterday the, the former chief human rights officer of UNAMI in Iraq, Mr. Boumedra, testified to the US Congress about his service with the UN.  He said that reports that he, that he prepared about Camp Ashraf about human rights conditions and photographs never — this is his quote — he said, he said “no first-hand report of mine ever reached UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon or top officials in New York”.  He accused, he accused Mr. Kobler of censoring them, only providing positive information.  And I, and so I am wondering, since this is now to Congress specifically said that Ban Ki-moon is not receiving information by human rights officials, what is the UN’s response to this open testimony to Congress yesterday?


Associate Spokesperson:  I haven’t heard the testimony, but I can assure you that the Secretary-General is informed by people in human rights and other divisions of the UN of information that needs to get to him.  I’ll check, though, if we have a further comment on that.  Yes, please?


Question:  I’ve heard the Secretary-General yesterday met the Permanent Representative of China, and the Chinese Ambassador raised the issue of disputed islands, disputed between Japan and handed him a statement and map — it was reported by the Chinese State television.  Could you confirm that?  And I am just wondering if you could enlighten us on what the Secretary-General’s response to it is?


Associate Spokesperson:  So what I have for you on that is the following:  The Secretary-General is the depositary of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and, as such, he receives charts and geographical coordinates — such as the ones received from China yesterday — and gives them due publicity.  Pursuant to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the functions of the Secretary-General in this regard are limited to processing incoming information with utmost impartiality.


And that’s what I have for you on that subject.  Anything else?  Ronda?  Can you — do you mind, Matthew?


Correspondent:  Sure.


Associate Spokesperson:  Thank you.


Question:  About documents disappearing at, in, in the, at the UN, uh, there was Major General Mood’s report of conflicting accounts of what happened at Houla that was submitted to the Secretary… to the UN Headquarters, and he said that at a press conference on 15 June. And he said that he would, that, that it was possible to do a further investigation on the ground.  But that was, as far as we can tell, never given to the Security Council, and when asked what happened to it, there has been no information.  Is there some way to find out what happened to that report of conflicting accounts of what happened in Houla, and why that just disappeared at the, in the, at UN Headquarters and was never given to the Security Council?


Associate Spokesperson:  Ronda, I’m not exactly sure which report you’re talking about.  But I mean, al-Houla has been addressed in the report of the Commission of Inquiry, when they gave their last report in August in Geneva.  And you know, they are going to give an oral update on Syria — the Commission of Inquiry — in Geneva on Monday on the situation in Syria.


Correspondent:  That’s why this is so important…


Associate Spokesperson:  But that’s fine, I am not sure, I’m sorry, a recent…


Correspondent: [inaudible] this was conflicting…


Associate Spokesperson:  Can I finish?


Correspondent:  …and they have, they said they couldn’t get information from on the ground and this was information on the ground and it’s never been presented.  So…


Associate Spokesperson:  I wasn’t at Headquarters at that time.  I am going to check…


Correspondent:  I’d appreciate that.


Associate Spokesperson:  …I’m not sure exactly what happened, I’m sure.


Correspondent:  Thank you.


Associate Spokesperson:  You’re most welcome.  Is that a raised hand?  I’m not sure, Matthew, I can’t tell.


Question:  It is, it is, and I am sorry, I thought you were pointing at me otherwise I wouldn’t have started asking this question.  But the question is as follows:  the, the, it seems like that, that in Southern Kordofan, in Blue Nile, there has still not been delivery of humanitarian aid.  And yesterday the, the, Ahmed Haroun, who is a Minister of the Government and is indicted by the ICC and the UN previously flew him to Abyei, he accused the UN and other members of the tripartite structure of, they’ve blamed it on them, said that food hasn’t been delivered because they didn’t come to three meetings in and around Khartoum.  So I just wanted to know, it seems like the kind of thing the UN should have a response to.  Is there a response?


Associate Spokesperson:  Absolutely, and the response I have for you is that the tripartite is ready to start needs assessments and the delivery of aid in South Kordofan State and Blue Nile State as soon as it receives the green light from the Government of Sudan.  It has staff, trucks, helicopters and supplies all ready to go.


If that’s it, have a great weekend, and Martin will be back on Monday.


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