5 October 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.


So, good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Security Council


The Security Council President has just read a press statement, in which Council members condemned Wednesday’s terrorist attacks in Aleppo, Syria, in the strongest terms.  The President of the Council said that the members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to peace and security.


And in a press statement issued yesterday evening, the members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the shelling by the Syrian armed forces of a Turkish town.  You’ll recall that the Secretary-General has also expressed his views on both of these topics already — on Aleppo and on the shelling.


** Myanmar


The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that four months after intercommunal violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, people continue to leave their homes in search of food, health care and other assistance.


According to local authorities, there are some 75,000 uprooted people in camps in Rakhine, up from an initial Government estimate of 50,000 shortly after the unrest broke out in early June.  Many more people are believed to have been indirectly affected by the violence.


The refugee agency says that the humanitarian community is committed to assisting all affected communities in accordance with the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality.  There is more information on the agency’s website.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


On Wednesday, I was asked about the situation in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The UN Mission there, MONUSCO, is concerned by all civilian deaths and is closely monitoring the increased level of violence in Goma by working closely with the Congolese security forces to enhance local security. 


A detailed plan has been developed by the provincial security team which was drawn together from the Congolese armed forces, the Congolese national police, and the Mission, MONUSCO.  The plan includes the intensification of day and night patrols, the deployment of security checkpoints on major routes around the city and the establishment of a crisis centre.  All three groups are conducting additional patrols and the Congolese armed forces and the Congolese national police are staffing checkpoints.  MONUSCO has increased its level of patrolling and security activities as part of the Goma security plan, which complements this initiative.


So that’s what I have.  I am happy to take a few questions.  Yes, Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yes, two questions on this, one, is there any reaction from the Secretary-General on the situation in Jordan, some demonstrations breaking out and people calling for elections and so forth?


Spokesperson:  We are obviously monitoring this very closely, and I would simply make the general point that the Secretary-General has made many times, that all leaders everywhere need to listen to the voices of the people and to the genuine and legitimate aspirations that they have.  That’s what I have for you at the moment.


Question:  Another concern to the… at this point in time for the Muslim world is this: there was a report of the outbreak of SARS virus in Saudi Arabia which was contained in that incident when uh, Margaret Chan had come when she said it was contained for a little while.  But do you have any update on that? 


Spokesperson:  The short answer is no.  I would check with the World Health Organization.  If we have anything further, I will let you know.  Any other questions?  Yes?


Question:  Sure, Martin.  I wanted to ask you, there… there… I know that the UN is, you know, involved in this national dialogue process in Yemen.  There was recently a conference of this group called the Akhdam — they call themselves the national union of the marginalized — and they’ve… they claim that they are being not allowed… not participating in the national dialogue, with the Government making no outreach to them. I am wondering whether the good offices of the Secretary-General believes they should be included?  If any steps are taken to include them?


Spokesperson:  I think the best thing there is that we will check with Mr. Benomar, who obviously, as you well know, has played an instrumental role in developments there, and I am sure he will be able to bring me up to date on where things are.


Question:  Thanks a lot.  And also I wanted to… you… you… this… I saw the UNHCR report about Rakhine State in Myanmar and I am remembering, I am thinking back to the… to the… to the stakeout by… by Mr. Nambiar, where we both were, after the meeting of the Friends of Myanmar.  And seemed like in that… I mean, he… he may have just been summarizing what had been said in the meeting, but he seemed to say that, you know, at least some of the members of the Group of Friends thought that it wasn’t the Government’s fault what had happened in this intercommunal violence, and the Government was, you know, doing something of a good job to put it down, but if… if the number of refugees are increasing and if, as some people at least report, the Government… the, for whatever reason, Rohingya are not being allowed to return to the… as, in terms of building permits and destruction of homes, is it the UN’s position that the Government is doing enough?  What’s… what… is there… what’s the connection, I guess, between what seemed to be the conclusion of the meeting, you know, last week, and this new information that in fact the flows continue?


Spokesperson:  Well, I would go back to what the statement said that came out of that meting that referred to what has been happening there and indeed in other areas too.  That’s the first point.  The second is, remember that the Group of Friends is precisely that — it is a group of Member States meeting with the UN’s Special Adviser and indeed the Secretary-General.  And so you can’t, you should not equate the Group of Friends with the United Nations as an institution; it doesn’t work like that.  So the United Nations as the Secretariat and agencies that are related to the work that is going on such as the refugee agency, UNHCR, they are working extremely hard on the spot.  And if they express some disquiet, it is for good reason, okay?  Any other questions?


Question:  Sure, I guess, and maybe I’ve missed… maybe someone in the UN system has said something, but the… there is quite a bit of controversy around Serbia’s cancellation of this gay pride march in Belgrade.  Did I miss it or has the Secretary-General made some statement on this?


Spokesperson:  I don’t think you’ve missed a statement on that, Matthew.  And I don’t necessarily think that there would be a statement in formal terms.  The Secretary-General has repeatedly made his views clear, both on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and also on the rights of all people.  I think he has been pretty clear on that.  Yes, Evelyn?


[The Spokesperson later said that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on Thursday regretted the decision by Serbian authorities to ban all public gatherings scheduled for this Saturday.  She urged them to facilitate the rescheduling of a pride parade for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community that was planned for Saturday, instead of preventing its members from exercising their fundamental freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.


Pillay’s call came after a statement by the Serbian Ministry of Interior announcing that all public gatherings scheduled for Saturday would be banned based on security assessments. Last year’s parade was also banned for security reasons. A pride parade held in Belgrade in 2010 faced attacks and violence, including by individuals who pelted the marchers with stones, threw bottles at the crowd and committed acts of vandalism. Many police officers and other individuals were injured.


“Responding to violent attacks against a vulnerable community by banning them from peacefully gathering and expressing themselves further violates their fundamental human rights,” Pillay said.  “States should confront prejudice, not submit to it.”  “I urge the Government to take steps to ensure adequate protection of the LGBT community, as well as other vulnerable communities and minorities, such as the Roma, so that they are able to exercise their freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.”


The High Commissioner noted that Serbia’s progress in the promotion and protection of human rights since 2008 had been cited by a number of United Nations human rights mechanisms, adding that its Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations Human Rights Council next year would provide another forum to analyse the concrete steps the State has taken in the field of human rights.


“In recent years, Serbia has been demonstrating its strength in delivering on its human rights obligations, and the Belgrade Pride Parade 2012 will be another opportunity for it to reaffirm its commitment to the advancement of human rights for all, especially the most vulnerable communities,” she said.  “I urge the authorities to facilitate the rescheduling of the 2012 parade for the LGBT community.”


Pillay added that the United Nations Human Rights Office was ready to assist the Government of Serbia in these efforts, in close partnership with international and regional organizations, as well as national institutions and civil society organizations.]


Question:  I’d like some statistics from you, if you don’t have it immediately, later.  How many speeches did the Secretary-General have to give during the big week last week, aside from the meetings with the… and follow-up to the 100 different ministers?  And also, do you have how many days he has travelled this year?


Spokesperson:  You are right, I don’t have them to hand, and will certainly be able to provide them very quickly.  As an overview, there were 200 events or meetings that the Secretary-General took part in or…


Question:  Last week…?


Spokesperson:  …during that general debate period; those seven or eight days.  That included obviously a large number of bilateral meetings between the Secretary-General and visiting leaders, as well as some 50 or so events at which in many cases of course remarks were made whether they were speeches or some other kind of remarks.  So I think we’d be able to give you the proper statistics in fairly short order.  As for the travel, yes, we can provide those statistics as well. I would also refer you to a useful part of the Spokesperson’s, the Office of the Spokesperson website, which has a list of all of the trips, including details on what the Secretary-General did on those trips.  So that’s a quick way to take a look, but of course we can also provide those statistics.  Yes, Masood?


[The Spokesperson later said that the Secretary-General had given 43 speeches or remarks during the General Assembly debate.]


Question:  There is a report today in The New York Times also which says that Iran has offered a new plan, the way ahead out of Security Council sanctions and on its nuclear programme.  Has Iran discussed that with the Secretary-General, international communities?  It’s just between United States or is being offered only to the IAEA?  Do you have any information about that?


Spokesperson:  No, I don’t, Masood. There are all kinds of reports out there.  What’s most important is that Iran needs to comply with the existing Security Council resolutions, and it needs to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Iran has been speaking with the P5+1, E3+3, however you wish to describe that group, and those discussions are likely to continue, I think, at some point from what I understand, and that, of course is extremely important that that dialogue should continue, because that’s the way that this — and the only way — that this can really be handled effectively and properly.  Yes?


Question:  Martin, I have discussed this with the President of the UN Correspondents Association; he is a little bit sceptical about anything being done to improve it, but I thought it would be a good idea to raise it.  What can be done to reduce what can only be called a level of paranoia in dealing, between he security and the, well the bureaucracy more likely, and the media?  And I think I had mentioned to you the situation that I encountered last Friday, where I merely wanted to thank you… to say thank you to a delegate who had been very, very constructive in his response to a question I had asked at an earlier time.  And I was straightforward with MALU and the security guards, and said I just want to say thank you, you are welcome to stand with me and hear what I have to say.  And I was told under no circumstances could I possibly stay there.  I had to move 40 feet over to this… the official stakeout area and scream thank you across the whole delegates’ entrance, which seemed to be not appropriate, as far as I was concerned.  And then I was practically stopped after that.  Now, the problem with something like this aside from the fact that…


Spokesperson:  Carla, can I stop you right there?


Correspondent:  Yeah, yeah.


Spokesperson:  Listen, you are right; we have discussed this, and I am happy to take this up further if you wish to, but I am not sure that the briefing room is the right place to do that, because you are not actually asking a question, you are making a statement.  So I am happy to take…


Correspondent:  Well, it’s a question of what…


Spokesperson:  …up at a later point, okay?


Correspondent:  Okay.  What can be done, yeah.


Correspondent:  Thank you very much, thank you.  You have a last question, I am sure, Matthew.


Correspondent:  No, no, I’m…


Spokesperson:  You don’t?  Okay, thanks very much.  Good afternoon, thank you.


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For information media • not an official record