26 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome to the briefing.


** Sahel


The Secretary-General participated today in a high-level meeting on the Sahel, on the margins of the general debate of the General Assembly.


In his remarks, he said that any proposed military solution to the security crisis in northern Mali should be considered extremely carefully.  He added that this could have significant humanitarian consequences, including further displacement and restrictions on humanitarian access.


The Secretary-General said that, at the request of the Security Council, the United Nations is developing an integrated regional strategy on the Sahel that will strengthen regional capacities to combat insecurity, prevent and respond to large-scale crises, and promote democratic governance and respect for human rights.


He said that finalizing and implementing the strategy will require broad consultations with United Nations’ partners and strong coordination among the United Nations’ presences in the region.  The Secretary-General said that he intends to appoint a Special Envoy for the Sahel who will be responsible for coordinating the strategy and monitoring its implementation.  We have his full remarks in my office.


** Pacific Islands Forum


And earlier this morning, the Secretary-General co-chaired the first meeting of the United Nations and leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, here at UN Headquarters this morning.  He reaffirmed his commitment to enhancing cooperation and support for tackling the region’s challenges.  The Secretary-General’s full remarks are available in my office and online.


**Secretary-General’s Activities


In about an hour from now, the Secretary-General will launch his Education First initiative, which he will say seeks to answer the call of parents everywhere for the schooling their children deserve, from the earliest years to adulthood.  In his remarks, he is expected to spotlight how every one of us stands on the shoulders of the teachers, communities and families who believed in us and invested in our education.  The Secretary-General will stress that every child everywhere deserves that same chance.


He will then address a Security Council meeting on the role of the League of Arab States, at which he will say that the body has acquired a new sense of purpose with a new political era at hand in the Arab world.


Immediately following that meeting, the Secretary-General will take part in the mini-Summit on Somalia.  He is expected to say that, while the process of ending the transition was not always smooth, it was more inclusive and representative than any such efforts Somalia has seen in a generation.


Later this afternoon, the Secretary-General will speak at a meeting of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Advocacy Group.  There, he is expected to say that there is no doubt that the MDG framework has been a success, but the challenges are vast and that we need to inject new blood into the global partnership for development.


And then, at around 5:30 p.m., the Secretary-General is expected to speak to the press, together with the co-chairs of that Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group.


**Noon Briefing Guest Tomorrow


Tomorrow, I will be joined by Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  He will be here to brief you on the launch of his office’s flagship report, entitled “Transnational Organized Crime in Central America and the Caribbean:  A Threat Assessment”.


And as mentioned before, there are a number of forthcoming press conferences and stakeouts.  And you can check our website for further information or check with my office.


That’s what I have.  Questions, please?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Okay, Martin.  Let’s try, fast and furious.


Spokesperson:  Wow.  Okay, all right.


Question:  One, I wanted to ask you — and thanks for sending an answer about this, on some of the fighting in Darfur, but there seems to be more.  There is now reports in North Darfur, not tribes fighting each other, but the Government confronting a group that said it was going to join the Sudanese Liberation Movement.  But, in any case, there is reports of dozens of… of… of… of deaths in this conflict and I am wondering if… if UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] is aware of it and what they have to say about it?


Spokesperson:  Well, I should imagine, in similar circumstances to the ones that gave rise to the answer to your question the other day, that indeed our peacekeeping colleagues in the UN-African Union mission in Darfur are checking into these reports.  And as soon as I have something, I will let you know. 


Question:  And could I… there has been a… first of all, there… here, just mo… you know, at 11, there was a press conference here by the President of Cyprus and this issue of natural resources in Cyprus came up.  The… the… the leader of the Turkish republic of northern Cyprus, Mr. [Derviş] Eroğlu, has said that he is going to meet with the Secretary-General on Saturday, and he has given a preview of what he is going to say, which is that he is… he proposes and they have signed a contract for oil exploration on their… what they view as their coast.  And this President of Cyprus said that this is, you know, a terrible idea, it’s an affront.  So, given the UN’s role in Cyprus, I understand you are going to… he is going to have the meeting Saturday, but what is his view of the… the… the two?  Does each community have the right to sign its own contracts, do this exploration, or what should take place?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think, first of all, we need to hear directly ourselves what the representative from northern Cyprus has to say.  And that’s not going to be for another couple of days.  In the meantime, I think I would refer you to some remarks made recently by Alexander Downer, who is the Special Adviser in this particular area.  And he has been speaking about how a positive outcome to this long-running dispute and the differences that there are, a positive outcome to that would enable communities on the island to benefit from natural resources and be able to develop further.  So I would refer you to his comments on that.


Question:  The… the… the daughter of a… of a very prominent Bahrain activist — the daughter’s name is Zainab al-Khawaja — has been sentenced to… to two months in jail for tearing up the picture of the, you know, royal… royal… a Bahraini royal, and I am wondering, does the Secretary-General or the Secretariat have any view of this arrest in terms of freedom of speech, or just in terms of the right to oppose one’s Government?


Spokesperson:  No specific comment on this specific case.  If that changes, I will let you know.  But you will have seen that the Secretary-General met already with the Foreign Minister from Bahrain.  And I would refer you to the readout that we gave on that.


Question:  Two, there is only two more, one is the Kachin National Organization in… in… in Myanmar has… says that it has either sent a letter to the Secretary-General or maybe it is an open letter, I am not sure which, but in any case they said that not only the Rohingya has a problem, but they have a problem in Kachin State and northern Shan State, and they are asking, I guess, the… the… the good offices of… of Vijay Nambiar, or the UN generally, to… to somehow bring about an end to this vio… armed conflict, or at least the suspension of it.  Have they… has a letter been received and, and what does the UN think of the situation in Kachin State?


Spokesperson:  I will check whether a letter has been received.  It is entirely possible; I just need to check.  You will have seen that, when the Secretary-General met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, there was a reference to the need to deal with the unresolved conflicts that there are in different parts of the country as part of the overall transition that there is.  And you will also know that there will be a Group of Friends of Myanmar meeting.  Obviously, the remaining difficulties that there are — including related to the Rohingya and to Kachin and others — they remain topics that are very much on people’s minds, and doubtless will form part of the backdrop to that meeting.  So I would also encourage you to look out for the outcome from that meeting.  Okay.  Yes?


Correspondent:  Martin, I realize you are the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, but…


Spokesperson:  I’m glad you recognize that. 



Question:  [Laughter] Yes, but one quick question.  In your sense, why is Yom Kippur not recognized as an official UN holiday?  In other words, why is the General Assembly taking place today on this holiday?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think that’s probably a matter for the Member States concerned.  I think there are other holidays in the calendar of other faiths and religions that are not necessarily UN holidays.  I think everybody respects the right of those who follow a particular faith or religion, or a member of that particular faith or religion to mark it.  And I think it is for Member States — you could possibly check with the General Assembly press office — but I think it is probably a matter for Member States which holidays are specifically marked in the UN calendar, so to speak, and those which are not.  But obviously, everyone also recognizes that Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the calendar for the Jews everywhere, and obviously, people will wish to mark it in that way.  It is an important day for them all.  Yes?


Question:  Okay, I left this one for last.  I am not sure how you… how… the… and I… I heard the Secretary-General at the beginning of the luncheon yesterday say that he’d been informed by President [Barack] Obama in the morning that he wouldn’t, you know, that he wouldn’t be there and… and, so I guess I wanted to ask, there has been some… since it seems like Presidents, US Presidents of the host country have generally done it, and there doesn’t… we don’t yet have an explanation of sort of why it couldn’t be done this year.  It seemed like President Obama gave a speech and then he went to the Clinton Global Initiative, then he went to DC and there was nothing else on his schedule.  Was anything said in terms of what… does the UN have any comment on… on the President of the host country not being present, and can you give any guidance as to why he wasn’t present?


Spokesperson:  Well, look, it is obvious that the latter part of your question, you should speak to the US authorities.  He is the President of the United States, and so I would refer you to them for the reasoning.  The Secretary-General made very clear that the President had spoken directly to him.  It’s not that we did not know the schedule for the President of the United States in advance, as you seem to suggest, but that the Secretary-General met personally with President Obama after their respective speeches in the General Assembly, and it was there that the President personally spoke to the Secretary-General about his not being able to attend the lunch.  As you will also have seen, the Secretary of State was there; Hillary Clinton, she was there.  And she also spoke on behalf of President Obama, as you will have seen and heard.  And I think that everybody recognizes — and the Secretary-General did make the point — that perhaps President Obama is quite busy these days.  I think everybody understands that, okay.


All right, thanks very much. Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record