25 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.


Good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Trip Announcement


The Secretary-General will leave for the Republic of Korea on Saturday, arriving there on Sunday.


On Monday, he will receive the Seoul Peace Prize.  The Secretary-General welcomes this as recognition of the United Nations’ efforts.  While in Seoul, he will meet with the President, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Minister for Gender Equality and Family.


The Secretary-General will address the National Assembly on the topic of “The United Nations and Korea: Together, Building the Future We Want”.  The Secretary-General will deliver the keynote speeches at both the twenty-second Rehabilitation International World Congress and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.  He will also meet with the board of the UN Academic Impact.  The Secretary-General will return to New York on Wednesday.


**Deputy Secretary-General’s Press Conference


The Deputy Secretary-General gave a press conference in Geneva today, where he spoke about Syria, Mali and the Millennium Development Goals, among other matters.


On Mali, he described his visit to Bamako last week, where he said he had seen a unique sense of common purpose among the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States and the United Nations in supporting the Malian authorities’ efforts to establish constitutional order and national unity.  He discussed the UN’s work to support a political process in Mali, as well as its assistance with planning for a possible military mission.  We have the transcript of his press conference in my office and online.


And the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that more than 5 million people have been affected by the humanitarian crisis in Mali.


** Pakistan


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that 1.3 million people in Pakistan are in urgent need of food and safe drinking water following the recent monsoon.


More funds are required to meet the critical needs in the areas affected by floods.  Among them, the World Food Programme requires $25 million to continue and to extend food distributions to 700,000 people for two months.  The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund has allocated $9.9 million for water, food, shelter and health care to 1.3 million people in the seven hardest-hit districts of Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh.


** Côte d’Ivoire


I was asked yesterday about an incident at the Nahibly camp in Côte d’Ivoire.  The United Nations mission in the country, UNOCI [United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire] is conducting an internal investigation into the incident.  And after that review, measures will also be taken to avoid similar occurrences in the future.


I want to point out that only a few police personnel from the UN mission were inside and 10 peacekeepers were stationed outside the camp, when several hundred youths attacked the site.  Ivorian security forces bear the primary responsibility for providing security for the Nahibly internally displaced persons site.


I was also asked about the peacekeepers' rules of engagement in the mission.  As mandated by the Security Council, protection of civilians is a priority for the UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire.  Both the mandate and the rules of engagement are very clear:  peacekeepers are authorized to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment.  And this includes the use of force to protect civilians under imminent threat.


**Press Conferences


A couple of press conferences today.  One at 1:15 p.m., here, by the Special Rapporteurs on the human rights situations in the Palestinian occupied territories and Myanmar.


And then at 3 p.m., the human rights experts on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions and enforced disappearances will meet the press. 


And then, as you are aware, tomorrow, UN Headquarters will be closed for the Eid holiday.


And then on Monday at 9 a.m., there will be a press conference by President Don Evo Morales of Bolivia, on the occasion of the global launch of the International Year of Quinoa, 2013.


There will be a number of other press conferences on human rights matters taking place here next week, and I would urge you to check our website or check with my Office for more details on that.


Questions, please?  Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yes, sir.  I’d like to know, first of all, about the situation in Pakistan, on which you just updated us about.  Has there been an assessment team already there?  And also if you remember that there was a flash appeal made for Pakistan about two, three years ago, for the flood.  Was that flash appeal ever funded properly or not?  And would you be also making such a flash appeal now?  And is… and has Government of Pakistan asked for…?


Spokesperson:  Well, Masood, I would ask you to be in touch with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for more detail of that kind.  What I did mention was that the Central Emergency Response Fund has provided just short of $10 million for key areas.  And you also heard that WFP [World Food Programme], amongst others, needs urgent funding for the work that it is doing.  So, plainly, there is a funding shortfall, and regardless of the title that is put on it, the money is required urgently.  But for more details, I would ask you to please check with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


Question:  What you’re saying is that they may be making a flash or you don’t know, you don’t have any update?


Spokesperson:  No, that’s… no, I am saying: please check with them.  And I am telling you what I have been able to tell you based on the information I have to hand.  Right, Sylviane?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  The fighting and the violence in Syria, specifically Aleppo, is becoming really dangerous and unsustainable.  Just after the call, [Lakhdar] Brahimi’s call to a ceasefire, do you have any update on the… on the response to rebels and the Syrian regime on this particular matter, the ceasefire, first of all?  And the second is: also, the spillover in Lebanon and the situation in Lebanon, in the border between Syria and… and Lebanon; and the third thing is the assassination threat at 18 personalities in Lebanon, they are targeted and it is official. Do you have any response to how the United Nations can do about this?


Spokesperson:  On the third point, the Secretary-General has spoken very clearly about the need for political stability and the need for dissociation from regional developments.  On the second point about the spillover, the Secretary-General has just been briefed — that’s why I was a little bit late — on developments in Lebanon and indeed in Syria, and I will get to that in a moment.  On Lebanon, he is obviously fully briefed on the tense situation that there has been and the political difficulties that there are.  I would simply reiterate what the Secretary-General said in his telephone calls with the President and the Prime Minister on the need for there to be political stability and continuity at this time. 


On your first point, as I say, the Secretary-General has been briefed on the latest developments related to Syria.  The Secretary-General welcomes the reported announcements about a suspension of violence during the Eid holiday.  Obviously, the world is now watching to see what will happen on Friday morning.  It is in everybody’s interest, not least the long-suffering Syrian people, that the guns fall silent tomorrow morning for the Eid holiday.  There are three points I want to make on this.  One is that, while the Secretary-General is welcoming these reported announcements, it is important that all sides will adhere to this.  We all understand that there is a lack of trust between parties, and therefore we all understand that we cannot be sure yet what will transpire; but the hope is that the guns will fall silent for the people of Syria, so that they have peace and quiet during this holy holiday.


The second thing is that, should the guns fall silent, should there be a suspension of violence, then humanitarian workers are ready to move in.  Convoys are ready to go to be able to reach areas that have not been easily accessible because of the fighting.  So this would be UN humanitarian workers, working with and through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.  So, a great deal of thought and planning and prepositioning has gone into this.  We would simply, fervently hope that the guns do fall silent, that there is a suspension in the violence, so that humanitarian workers can help those who are most in need.


And the third point is, as the Security Council said yesterday, and as the Secretary-General and the Secretary General of the League of Arab States have made clear, those with influence in the region, countries and parties, really need to exercise that influence on all parties so that this suspension of violence can really take place and then take hold, because, ultimately, the aim is to drive towards a ceasefire and, beyond that, on to a political track, so that the aspirations of the Syrian people can be met.  Yes, Masood?


Question:  A follow-up on this.  There are reports that some of the Syrian rebel groups have been given American Stinger missiles.  Do you have any response, because those missiles are capable of bringing down helicopters and airplanes, and that is what they did in Afghanistan?


Spokesperson:  We have seen those media reports, as we have on supplies of weapons of all kinds to all sides.  And, as we have repeatedly said, the further militarization of what is happening in Syria is clearly undesirable.  Other questions, please?  Yes, Hank?


Question:  Good afternoon, Martin, thank you.  The Sudanese Ambassador called for a condemnation of what he called an Israeli airstrike on Sudanese territory yesterday, and I believe you were asked about it at noon yesterday and had no comment.  Is there any change today, anything to say?


Spokesperson:  No. 


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you about Myanmar.  There… there are reports of a… of a second large wave of violence, they say a thousand homes burned, 56 people killed.  I wanted to know whether… whether the UN system can confirm the numbers and also what, given the good offices and other elements of the UN that engage with that, what… what… what they plan to do or have anything to say.


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, you will have seen that the Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator has made a statement today in Yangon on the violence that has flared up in Rakhine State.  What I can tell you is that the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Vijay Nambiar, says that the most recent outbreak of violence in Rakhine is deeply troubling.  A member of his office is in the country at the moment and is in touch with authorities on this subject.  Mr. Nambiar’s office has expressed its concerns at the possibility of a new spiral of violence, which could damage the social fabric in the State and put back the national efforts of an opening up in Myanmar.


As I say, you may also have seen that the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar has voiced his grave concerns about the situation in Rakhine.  And Ashok Nigam, the Coordinator, says that access to all affected people is critical and that the UN appeals for immediate and unconditional access to all communities in accordance with humanitarian principles.  And finally, I would say that it is possible that I’ll have something further on this a little bit later.


Question:  Definitely.  Can I… I just want to ask one… maybe, maybe it will be part of that further.  I wanted to know whether Thant Myint-U is work… is working with Nambiar’s office, Mr. Nambiar’s office?  I’ve heard that from people there who’d be the… it’s a relative of the former Secretary-General that… if you could just… is he working with the UN or not, I’d like to know that?


Spokesperson:  I have no idea.  I’ll ask.


[The Spokesperson later said that Thant Myint-U was not working for the office.]


Correspondent:  Thanks.


Spokesperson:  Yes?


Question:  Please repeat the timing and location of today’s second event?  Sorry.


Spokesperson:  Here, and, just bear with me, at 3 p.m.


Correspondent:  Thank you very much.


Spokesperson:  Okay.  And the other one is at 1:15 p.m., also here.  So you can stay put.


Correspondent:  Thank you.


Spokesperson:  Yes, Masood?


Question:  Over the past three or four days, in particular, consecutively, until yesterday, whenever there has been a rocket fire where… from… I mean that’s what Israel claims, Israel comes and kills four or five Palestinians every time there is any rocket fire… I mean, I am just basing it on Israel saying there was a rocket fired, so they came and killed 10 Palestinians, four Palestinians.  If, I mean, there is a war of attrition going on over there, people are being killed and no proof that what damage has those rockets done or really in fact was the… were there rockets fired.  So…


Spokesperson:  So what’s your question, Masood?


Question:  The question is simply this:  has the Secretary-General or the United Nations over there ever verified what those rockets are doing over there, have they killed anybody or when Israel…?


Spokesperson:  Well, I know for a fact that the Secretary-General himself on visits to the region has been able to see the effect of the violence on both sides — rockets and what has happened in Gaza.  And as Mr. [Robert] Serry said — and you heard me mention this already — yesterday, he called for maximum restraint, and clearly, the Secretary-General does also.  We have seen the reports of a possible brokered ceasefire; if that comes to pass, of course that would be most welcome.  But the key thing is that, for all sides, both sides to exercise maximum restraint. We all know that the region is tense enough as it is.  Okay, other questions, please?  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Okay, I have three questions; I’ll try to ask them quickly.  One has to do with Abyei.  There… there is… it’s reported that the… that Thabo Mbeki has suggested to the African Union Peace and Security Council that six weeks be given to… for further negotiations on Abyei and a member of the Security Council this morning told me that they were waiting to hear from Mr. [Haile] Menkerios, so I wanted to know when… what was… what’s Mr. Menkerios’s role in… in… in… in this… in both the process in Addis and the six week in…?  Does the UN have any view?  South Sudan has said this is inconsistent with resolutions, et cetera, but does the UN have any view whether kicking the can down the road for six weeks on Abyei is… is a good thing or not?


Spokesperson:  As you know, Mr. Menkerios helps to support the African Union efforts in this regard.  And if I have anything further on the specifics, I will let you know.  Next one?


Question:  The other one is this lawyer in… in Equatorial Guinea, may… it’s become pretty high profile, a lawyer, Fabian Nsue, went to prison on… on… went to visit one of his clients in… in Black Beach prison on Monday and hasn’t been seen since.  So a variety of human rights groups have said this is a bad thing; I understand, you don’t have a peacekeeping mission there, but there has been some UN and UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] back and forth with Equatorial Guinea on human rights.  Is anyone in the UN system aware of this human rights lawyer’s disappearance and do they have anything to say about it?


Spokesperson:  Let me check with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, okay.


Correspondent:  Okay, cool.


Spokesperson:  Alright.


Question:  This maybe the… the… the former…


Spokesperson:  Third time is lucky?  Is that what you are trying to say?


Question:  I am hoping.  Yeah, yeah, I’m not… I… you know, the former Foreign Minister of the Maldives, Ahmed Shaheed, was here yesterday in his capacity as the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, but he said on the record afterwards that he believes the UN has been too soft on those in power in the Maldives and should hold the Government… draw a red line and hold the Government, including in this… this transition and the arrest of the former President to its, you know, compliance with the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] and other documents, and I am wondering, what is the… given that he is kind of a UN official or is there, independent UN expert on human rights…


Spokesperson:  Well, let me stop you right there, because he is not a UN official.  He is not a UN official.  You know that very well, that Special Rapporteurs are independent experts who are appointed by the Human Rights Council.  The Department of Political Affairs has been extremely assiduous in its work to help to try to bring the sides together in the Maldives and to deal with the consequences of what happened there last year.  So, plainly, there is still work to do in that reconciliation process.  There is also a judicial track that must be allowed to run its course.  Our colleagues in [United Nations Department of] Political Affairs do remain engaged in seeking to help those in the Maldives to try to come together and to work in the right direction.  But just to reiterate, Special Rapporteurs are independent experts and they speak with their own voices on their own authority, okay?


Correspondent:  Sure.


Spokesperson:  Alright, other questions, please?  All right, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon, and a good weekend.  Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record