27 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, everyone.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Noon Briefing Guest


It is a great pleasure to welcome back to the briefing today Yury Fedotov, who is the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  And he is here to brief you on the launch of his office’s report, which is entitled, “Transnational Organized Crime in Central America and the Caribbean:  A Threat Assessment”.  And he is also joined by Amado Philip de Andrés, the regional representative of UNODC for the regional office which is for Central American and the Caribbean, and that is actually based in Panama City.


So he will also be available to help Mr. Fedotov.  So, first of all, I believe you have some remarks, and then we will go to questions.  So, please, the floor is yours.


So I have a couple of other items and am happy to take a few questions.


**Sudan-South Sudan


First of all, as you may have seen, we’ve issued a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Sudan and South Sudan.  Let me just read that for you.


The Secretary-General congratulates the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan for signing agreements on security, the common border and economic relations.  These agreements provide vital elements in building a strong foundation for a stable and prosperous future between the two countries.


The Secretary-General commends the leaders of both countries, particularly President Bashir and President Kiir, for demonstrating the statesmanship that made a comprehensive agreement possible, and for having once again chosen peace over war.


He praises the serious and constructive participation, by both sides, in the talks in Addis Ababa, as well as the continuing able leadership of the African Union High Implementation Panel led by President Thabo Mbeki in facilitating and mediating the talks between the two parties, as well as his Special Envoy’s supportive role to that effort.


The Secretary-General looks forward to the ministerial-level Sudan-South Sudan Consultative Forum that will be held in New York today with the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of both countries.


The Secretary-General calls on both Governments to find solutions to the future of the disputed and claimed areas and the final status of Abyei.  He urges both countries to now embark on the implementation of the agreements they have signed and to finalize the processes they have initiated.  The United Nations stands ready to continue assisting the parties, in collaboration with partners, in these endeavours.


And just to add, the Secretary-General will also speak at that high-level meeting on Sudan and South Sudan this afternoon.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


The Secretary-General spoke this morning at a high-level meeting on the situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  He said that while there has been a lull in M23 military activity in the past several weeks, the group was consolidating control in large parts of Rutshuru territory in North Kivu.


The Secretary-General also said that insecurity was increasing elsewhere in the Kivus as other armed groups take advantage of the instability.  He said he was very concerned about continuing reports of external support for the M23 and called on all those responsible to end this destabilizing assistance.  He said that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the DRC is inviolable and must be fully respected by all of its neighbours. 


The Secretary-General said that concrete options had to be considered to bring about a peaceful resolution that is based on enhanced dialogue, deepening integration and regional confidence-building.


The full remarks are available in my Office.


**Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty


Speaking at the sixth ministerial meeting of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty this morning, the Secretary-General noted that there is a direct link between ending nuclear testing and eradicating nuclear weapons.  The cessation of nuclear tests will constrain the development of nuclear weapons, he said.  The Secretary-General repeated his call to the eight States yet to ratify the Treaty to do so, adding that they are failing to live up to their responsibility as members of the international community.  His full remarks are available online and in my Office.


** Yemen


The Secretary-General also spoke at a meeting of the Group of Friends of Yemen this morning, saying that the people of Yemen have embarked on a path of change for their country.  One year ago, he said, Yemen was on the brink of civil war.  Now, despite the many challenges ahead, Yemen has a new, elected President, a Government of National Unity and a framework for economic recovery.  The Secretary-General said the United Nations is committed to helping the Government and people rise to their challenges.  And the full remarks are available online.


**High-Level Events


The Secretary-General will also be speaking shortly at an event on polio, where he will call for global solidarity to eradicate this disease once and for all.  In his remarks, he is expected to say that the world must now stand shoulder to shoulder with Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan to finish the job.  He will call on the international community to provide the urgent funding needed to carry out polio emergency plans.


Later, the Secretary-General will speak at a meeting on nutrition, where he is expected to commend the achievements of the Scaling Up Nutrition movement that was launched two years ago.


And as I mentioned, the Secretary-General will speak at the Sudan-South Sudan consultative forum.


And of course, the Secretary-General has many meetings with visiting world leaders today, and we’ll continue to provide details on those.


** Lebanon


The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, visited the Bekaa Valley today.  He examined the situation along Lebanon’s borders with Syria and the conditions of displaced Syrians in that area.  Today’s visit was his first working visit to this part of eastern Lebanon, where more than 34,000 Syrians have taken refuge.  Mr. Plumbly said that the visit had underlined to him the urgency of providing additional support to address the humanitarian needs of the displaced people and of the local communities assisting them.


So, questions, please?  Yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Sure, Martin, I wanted to ask you, the UN peacekeepers from Uruguay that were charged with abusing a boy there have now been… the charges have been… have been changed to something called private violence in Uruguay, and I am wondering, given the U… does the UN think that that’s a… thatha… that’s appropriate?  Is that consistent with zero tolerance?  Do they feel that the case is being handled in an appropriate way?


Spokesperson:  This is a matter for the authorities in Uruguay, for their justice system.  And that is the case with all troop-contributing countries; that the responsibility rests with the contributing country when there have been allegations and when charges are placed.  So I think we need to see how that plays out in full before any further comment.


Question:  And also, if you don’t mind, also on Haiti, the… the… the Prime Minister, Mr. [Laurent] Lamothe, has said that the… the cholera outbreak is, “under control”, and that when he met… and that in the meeting with Ban Ki-moon the… the topic of how the cholera came in didn’t come up.  I… separately, you know, each one is… I guess it’s a two-part… part question.  Is it the UN’s assessment that… that cholera is now under control and… and I guess you will confirm that it didn’t come up, but did… did the Secretary-General, I guess, have any thoughts as… any renewed thoughts, is there any progress on the claim that was filed with the [Office] of Legal Affairs here about how the cholera was introduced?


Spokesperson:  The readout that we provided on the meeting explains what was discussed, and the focus was precisely on helping to ensure that there is better sanitation, helping to ensure that those people who are still being afflicted and struck down with cholera get the assistance they require, and particularly looking further forward to vaccination programmes to help ensure that you can slow down and eventually, hopefully arrest the advance of cholera.  So that was where the focus was, quite properly, in that meeting, and it is indeed the focus of the United Nations on the ground in Haiti.  And I think as you’ve heard similarly for the Haitian authorities working very closely with the United Nations there.  Other questions, please?  I think there is… yes?


Question:  All right, yeah, I wanted to… it’s a… again back to Darfur, I… I am assu… I assume that it had… has… has UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] been able to confirm this fighting between cattle… you know, cow… tribes on cattle, but between the Government and rebels?  And also, I just, this is… this is a re… return to this issue of the national strike, staff that went on strike for their… they feel that their purchasing power has been cut in more than half.  They… they apparently received an e-mail now saying that… that UN policy… that all the days they were out on strike, they don’t… they… you know, that they don’t get paid.  I guess I am wanting to confirm if that’s the case, but more importantly, what’s been done on this issue of them being paid in a Sudanese currency that has decreased substantially during their employment with the UN?


Spokesperson:  I would just simply need to check with our colleagues in UNAMID, Matthew, on the second part of your question there relating to staff.  I think we have already made it clear that we take staff conditions very seriously everywhere, not least in Darfur, where conditions for working are extremely difficult and challenging at the best of times.  So any staff grievances or questions are taken very seriously.  And I am sure that they are being looked at.  I would need to check with UNAMID on the details and the most recent angle that you are mentioning there.  And on the first part of your question, it is my understanding that the mission is aware of the reports and it trying to verify those reports.  Okay, time for one more question, Matthew?


[The Spokesperson later added that UNAMID said that it was prevented by Government security authorities from access to the Kushina area (approximately 20 kilometres south-east of Tawilla, North Darfur) to verify reports of fighting between Government and Movement forces.  UNAMID peacekeepers are continuing to endeavour to gain access to the area.  The Mission is calling on Government officials at all levels to allow its personnel unrestricted freedom of movement throughout Darfur.  Also, UNAMID is verifying reports of fighting, on 20 September, between Government and other forces in the Sartony (Central Darfur) and eastern Jebel Marra ( South Darfur) areas.]


Question:  Okay, great.  Uh, uh, this actually is about… it’s… it’s… there was a sort of an unresolved question at the stakeout yesterday about… after the Somalia meeting with Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman spoke and Mr. [Augustine] Mahiga was there, although I… I… I don’t think he spoke, and it’s a question has arisen here, which is whether the Kenyan Navy is in fact part of AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia].  Mr. [Ramtane] Lamamra of the African Union, responding to a question about the shelling of Kismayo by the Kenyan navy, said that Kenya is part of AMISOM and nobody sort of disagreed with that.  I just wanted… as since the UN should know, as… it’s, as you know, providing support to AMISOM, is that incorrect?  Was what was said there… is what was said there incorrect?  And I guess a more substantive question:  it was also said at the stakeout that Somaliland, a part… a portion of what people think on the map is Somalia is not part of the process or the meeting yesterday.  Is that the case, and what is the UN’s deal with Somaliland?  Thanks for letting me finish the question.


Spokesperson:  As we have said before, AMISOM does not have a naval component.  And I think that you would need to continue to speak to the Kenyan authorities if you wish to have further information on that.  And indeed speak to AMISOM itself.  But our understanding is that there is no naval component within AMISOM.  Everybody is aware of what has been happening offshore, and indeed onshore.  Once again, the Secretary-General has made very clear and there have also been meetings, as you know, between the Humanitarian Coordinator, outgoing, for Somalia, Mark Bowden, and the Kenyan Defence Minister and his staff about the need to ensure that in any military operations that the greatest possible care is taken to avoid civilian casualties.


Question:  On the Somaliland part of it, is there, and maybe I’m… I’m… you don’t have the…


Spokesperson:  Matthew, I heard the question; that’s the answer.  I don’t have anything further on that at the moment. 


Correspondent:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  Thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record