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, welcome to the briefing.


**Secretary-General in France


The Secretary-General delivered the keynote address at the Council of Europe’s World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, in France, today, and he pointed to the challenge for leaders to listen to their people.  Where Governments have failed to live up to their obligations under international law, we have to remind them to do so.  The Secretary-General said that he has consistently urged leaders to stop flouting human rights and start meeting the legitimate demands of their people.


The Secretary-General said that the situation in Syria has dramatically worsened and is posing serious risks to the stability of Syria’s neighbours and the entire region.  He said that the escalation of the conflict along the Syrian-Turkish border and the impact of the crisis on Lebanon are extremely dangerous.  He expressed concern about the continued flow of arms to both the Syrian Government and opposition forces and urged those countries providing arms to stop doing so.


Before leaving Strasbourg, the Secretary-General met with Moroccan Prime Minister Abdel-Ilah Benkiran.  They discussed the process of political reforms in Morocco and also the negotiating process on Western Sahara.  He also met with Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Jean-Claude Mignon, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.


The Secretary-General has now arrived in Paris, where he will meet with President Hollande tomorrow.


**Press Conference


At 2 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, here in this auditorium, there will be a press conference by Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women, and the leadership team of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.


That’s what I have. Questions, please?  Yes, Matthew?


**Questions and Answer


Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you, reports of the shelling in Kadugli by the SPLM-North and there is also… there are quotes at least from the UN, I didn’t realize that they had people from OCHA there, WFP and also they’ve… they… anyway, I just want to know, can the UN confirm what is… what’s… what has been the effect of the shelling?  Do they have any comment on the shelling?


Spokesperson:  Well, what I can tell you is the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that up to five mortar rounds are reported to have landed in Kadugli town in South Kordofan — some landing near the office of… a compound belonging to UNICEF, the Children’s Fund.  There have been no reported injuries to any UN staff; however, as a precautionary measure, all staff have been relocated to the base of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), which is outside Kadugli town.  There is no presence of the mission in Kadugli itself.  The mission confirms that all international staff and most of the national staff have moved to this UNISFA logistics base, which is about five kilometres from the town.  I also understand that flights in and out of Kadugli have been put on hold.  And UNISFA is assessing the situation and the flights are expected to resume soon.


Question:  And I just… no… and… and because… thanks a lot.  So, often when… when something happens in Southern Kordofan, it is said that there is no, you know, the UN has no way to confirm, or… so I am just… I mean, the shelling is a separate issue, but I just wonder, is it that the UNISFA and… and WFP and UNICEF people that are in Kadugli, are they… is… is it not part of their mandate to ever confirm anything, or… or… or is it only some parts of Southern Kordofan the UN has no presence and can’t confirm, that’s…?


Spokesperson:  I think it is obvious that there are parts where the humanitarian needs are most acute, where we do not have access and require access.  Okay, other questions?  Yes, Nizar?


Question:  Martin, about the [inaudible] situation in Gaza today, according…


Spokesperson:  Say again?


Question:  The situation in Gaza; there were attacks today by Israel on civilians and other… and fighters in Gaza and many casualties happened, then fire rockets… rockets were fired against.  Do you have any statement on that?


Spokesperson:  No statement.  I think you are familiar with what we say when there are such incidents.  And certainly, at the moment, given the tensions in the region, we would not wish to see incidents of this kind in either direction.


Question:  About the refugee camps inside, within north-west of Syria, these camps, will they be under the supervision of UNHCR or Red Crescent or Red Cross, or will they be just left under the rebels’ control?


Spokesperson:  If you are referring to displaced people within Syria, I know that our humanitarian colleagues seek access as much as possible.  But I think for the most part, they are working through and with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.  If my colleagues from the refugee agency have anything further on this, then obviously I’d let you know, but I don’t have anything specific at the moment. 


Question:  Of course, if they are under rebel-controlled areas they could come under shelling, wouldn’t they?  I mean, if there is no international supervision there?


Spokesperson:  Look, as I say, I need to check further.  I don’t know the answer to this specific point at the moment.  But obviously, people displaced inside Syria and indeed those who have gone to neighbouring countries remain at risk, either because of the approaching winter and the difficult conditions that that would bring, plus the risks that remain on the security front.  And we have seen that again today with the exchange of fire across the Turkish-Syrian border.  And obviously the Secretary-General, as he said in Strasbourg, considers this and developments in Lebanon to be extremely dangerous.  And he would certainly, again, urge maximum restraint in this matter.


Question:  But Syria has said they don’t know who is firing into Turkey.  I mean, is there any possibility of international cooperation to establish who is really firing into Turkey and [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  Look, the most important thing here, whoever is doing the firing needs to stop because this is extremely dangerous.  This is the sixth day in a row that we have seen such exchanges, and the Secretary-General has called already on Thursday for maximum restraint, and I would repeat that today.


Question:  One last question?


Spokesperson:  Yes, yes, Nizar.


Question:  Regarding the attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, did you issue any statement regarding these settlers or the attacking the worshippers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque? 


Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything specific for you on that, Nizar.  I am happy to look into it to see if we have anything.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask, there is a group of Congolese living as refugees in Rwanda.  They call themselves the Forum for Congolese Refugee Students.  They said that they have petitioned the Secretary-General and… and the part I wanted to ask you about is that they are saying that MONUSCO doesn’t protect civilians enough; it’s a general claim.  They also claim that… that… that MONUSCO is somehow biased and it doesn’t report on… on the abuses committed by the Congolese army, with which it works, and that Tutsis, they say, are… are disproportionately harmed without UN reporting in eastern Congo.  I am wondering, are you aware of this letter, and what do you make of the criticism?


Spokesperson:  I am not personally aware of that letter.  That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or has not been received, but I am not aware of it.  I will need to check, Matthew, okay?


Question:  And can I ask something about Haiti?  There is… there is… Amnesty International and other groups who are focused on amnesty, they’ve… they’ve put out an alert saying that there are… there three human rights lawyers in Haiti that have suffered, you know, death threats and… and other types of… they are in danger, according to Amnesty International, one of whom is Mario Joseph, who has spoken, if not in here, across the street, about MINUSTAH and the cholera, and I just wonder, does MINUSTAH… are they aware of these threats?  Do they have… is it part of their mandate in any way to either, you know, provide protection or somehow…?  What’s their response if human rights lawyers are under threat directly in Port-au-Prince?


Spokesperson:  Well, we certainly are aware of the reports that you mention, and if I have anything further on that I would let you know, but I don’t have anything at the moment, okay?


Question:  And how about just as, I guess… I guess you may… I mean, I’m thinking this may be more in the wheelhouse, in the Maldives, the arrest of former President Nasheed, is there… is there… given the UN’s, you know… I know it’s… there have been attempts by the UN to… to… to… to work on the transition, how there will be either accountability, what’s the response to… to… to this recent arrest?


Spokesperson:  Well, again, we’ve seen the reports.  There is a legal process that’s in train, and I think that needs to be able to run its course.  You are right that the Department of Political Affairs has worked beforehand, indeed during that crisis, helped to mediate.  So obviously we are keeping a very close eye on that on that whole political scene.  But this is a specific legal matter, and we would expect that legal process to run its course.


Okay.  All right, thanks very much. Have a good afternoon, thank you.


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For information media • not an official record