7 November 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.


**Secretary-General’s Statement on United States Elections


I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the elections in the United States.  You will have seen this statement was issued during the night here in the US.


The Secretary-General warmly congratulates President Barack Obama on his re-election as President of the United States.


The Secretary-General looks forward to continuing to work with President Obama and his Administration in the spirit of the enduring partnership between the United States and the United Nations. 


Many challenges lie ahead — from ending the bloodshed in Syria, to getting the Middle East peace process back on track, to promoting sustainable development and tackling the challenges posed by climate change.  All will require strong multilateral cooperation.


The Secretary-General and the United Nations will continue to count on the active engagement of the United States on these and other crucial issues as it strives to meet the hopes and expectations of people around the world.


**Economic and Social Council


The President of the UN Economic and Social Council, Miloš Koterec, has also congratulated United States President Barack Obama on his re-election.  He says he looks forward to working closely with the United States on global development issues.


**Security Council


The Security Council received an update this morning on the work being carried out by the International Criminal Court on Libya.  Fatou Bensouda, the Court’s Prosecutor, briefed Council members on the discussions the Court has been having with the Libyan Government concerning the cases of Seif al-Islam Qadhafi and Mohammed Senoussi.


The Security Council also adopted a resolution authorizing African Union Member States to maintain the deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia until 7 March next year.


**Hurricane Sandy — Caribbean


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said today that the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, has allocated $5 million to Cuba and $4 million to Haiti from the Central Emergency Response Fund to assist people affected by Hurricane Sandy.


This is in addition to a $100,000 emergency cash grant already allocated by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Friday for Cuba.  This is part of the $1.5 million in funds that UN agencies have made available for Cuba to date after the Hurricane.


**Hurricane Sandy — Staff


And as you are all aware, the storm Sandy severely affected the New York region, including many of the UN's own staff.  In order to help alleviate some of the hardship to these victims, the Secretary-General and staff at large, with the support of the United Nations Staff Union, have established the United Nations Relief Fund for the victims of storm Sandy in the New York and tri-state communities.


To show our solidarity and support to the victims, we are encouraging United Nations staff members to make voluntary contributions for the immediate needs of UN staff and the local community.  Additionally, for medium- and long-term needs, the United Nations Relief Fund for the victims of storm Sandy in the New York and tri-state communities will undertake a number of fundraising activities which will be announced separately.


And finally, for staff who wish to volunteer their time, we have also been in contact with a number of charitable organizations supporting victims of this disaster, and we will have further details on that later. 


And, as I have just mentioned before that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been coordinating the efforts to supply relief to communities in the Caribbean who were affected by Hurricane Sandy.


** Syria


The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, completed a visit to Lebanon today on the first stop of a three-day regional trip to see the increasing humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.


She held talks in the morning with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati on the situation and challenges facing Lebanon and the humanitarian response from the World Food Programme and partners.  Ms. Cousin also travelled to the Bekaa Valley and visited a distribution centre where refugees receive food vouchers from the World Food Programme.  And there is a press release with more information on this available online.


**Press Conferences


Tomorrow at 11 a.m., here in this room, there will be a press conference by Chris Field; he is the Director of the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science and is co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group 2.


That’s what I have for you.  Questions, please?  Yes, Sylviane?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  I have two questions.  The first is what should Obama’s win mean for the United Nations?


Spokesperson:  Well, as we’ve just mentioned, the Secretary-General has congratulated President Obama on his re-election, in this statement which was issued during the night.  He has also written to President Obama and will be speaking to him once their respective schedules permit that.  Obviously, as the Secretary-General has made clear, there are many challenges ahead:  the bloodshed in Syria, the Middle East peace process, sustainable development and also climate change.  And dealing with all of those, the role of the United States is indispensable.  And so, the Secretary-General is certainly looking to the United States to continue the active engagement that there has already been, in this spirit of strong multilateral cooperation, which is really required in dealing with the matters I have just mentioned, and other crucial topics that there are to deal with around the world.  So, the Secretary-General certainly is very much looking forward to continuing to work with President Obama and his Administration and very much in the spirit of the partnership that there has long been between the United States — the host country — and the United Nations.


Question:  I have a second question.  My second question is: do you have any update on Mr. Edmond Mulet’s visit to UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] in Lebanon?


Spokesperson:  Well, certainly he is on a visit to the region.  It’s part of a regional tour of UN peacekeeping forces in the Middle East, and so Edmond Mulet, who, as you know, is the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, at the moment is on a two-day visit to UNIFIL, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon; and the focus there is on UNIFIL’s activities on the ground, especially the cooperation and strategic partnership that it has with the Lebanese Armed Forces.  And also, he is looking at the implementation of its mandate under 1701, the Security Council resolution.  And Mr. Mulet has had meetings today in Beirut.  He met the Speaker of the Parliament, Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister Najib Mikati.  And during these meetings, he has been accompanied by the head of the mission and Force Commander, Major-General Paolo Serra.  So, that’s what I have for you on that.  Okay, all right, thank you very much.  Yes?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to get a couple… several questions, one is on Sudan.  There is… the Sudanese Government has announced that it is ending this tripartite agreement that was to have provided humanitarian aid to Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States that the UN was a party to.  They said that… and they blamed the rebels for it, but in any case, they are saying that it is… it is over.  What… is there a UN response to that?  Do they think the programme should go forward?  What do they say about it?


Spokesperson:  Well, not just the United Nations, but the United Nations, the African Union and the League of Arab States are concerned about the reports in the media that quote the Sudanese Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs as saying that the Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding on humanitarian aid will not be extended.  The Tripartite members -- in other words, the UN, the African Union and the League of Arab States -- have requested an extension of the Memorandum of Understanding, so that they can continue working on the initiative with the Government of Sudan and with the SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] North to ensure that urgently needed humanitarian aid reaches civilians affected by the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.  And the UN and its humanitarian partners stand ready to provide life-saving assistance to all people affected by the conflict, when the security situation permits.  So, just to reiterate, the Tripartite Members have requested an extension and stand ready to provide assistance when they can.


Question:  This is… and I don’t know if you will have a comment on this, but it is reported that Turkey will be asking, or has asked NATO to place Patriot missiles along its border with Syria.  And I just… you know… since… given the… the intense interest and focus on Syria, do you think… does the UN think that that would be a… a… a… a good thing and what do they think about it?


Spokesperson:  Well, we have seen the reports on this, but have not seen official announcement on that, and I don’t have any particular comment at this point, okay?


Question:  And then, this is… I don’t know if you have… even in the midst of this Hurricane Sandy, in Haiti over the last weekend there was… there was reportedly a big… fighting that led to 25… up to 25 dead in Cité Soleil and Port-au-Prince; and the reason I am asking you is that there are some… some of the people reporting on this say that the… the… the… it’s… it’s unclear whether when the UN arrived, what the UN viewed its role as doing, it’s called the gangs, but then one of the gangs is called Government-affiliated, so I wonder, is there any MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] statement on… on what took place there and what they may do in the future in terms of patrolling or… or protection of civilians?


Spokesperson:  I haven’t seen one; that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.  And I will check right after this.


Question:  And this is kind of a… if you don’t mind I am going to ask you just…


Correspondent:  I have a question.


Spokesperson:  Yes, please, Sylviane and then I will come back, yeah.


Correspondent:  Sure, no problem.


Question:  Could you tell us if there is any plan for the Secretary-General to visit the Middle East very soon?


Spokesperson:  I am not aware of any plans to visit the Middle East any time soon, no.  Okay.  Yes?


Question:  Okay, this is a kind of a… it’s just a… a… a… a… and I don’t know if… and I wouldn’t expect you to sort of necessarily have it here, but there… there is some controversy around a letter from the Government of Somalia or previous for… Minister to the Secretary-General appointing Idd Beddel Mohamed, who is currently… who has been the… the Deputy Permanent Representative seeking to upgrade him to Alternative Perm[anent] Rep[resentative] and… and some are saying that given the change in the Government, the letter was signed by the wrong minister, it’s no longer the minister, so is there some way to confirm…?  I have seen a copy of the letter that’s dated 29 September, addressed to the Secretary-General, but is there some way to know whether this letter has been accepted by the Secretary-General or what… maybe to get a description of what the Secretariat does when it gets a letter that is in fact contested of… whether it is signed by the right person or is backed by the Government?


Spokesperson:  I’ll certainly look into that. And just as a general point, plainly, Matthew, correspondence to the Secretary-General does not flow across my desk, and therefore I am not necessarily immediately privy to everything.  And then we go away and check, okay, and it’s as simple as that.  And that, I am referring to the instance yesterday, okay?  The fact that I don’t immediately have it to hand, it doesn’t mean that the letter has not been received or is not being dealt with, and I’d appreciate it if you reflected it in that spirit.


Question:  Sure.  The reason I’ve said is because the OIC [Organization for Islamic Cooperation], in the case of the Rohingyas, they have put out a press release and sent it, I believe, to the whole press corps here, but it wasn’t… it wasn’t a secret letter, it was a… they made an announcement, so… but I…


Spokesperson:  Secret or not, there is a process of receiving a letter, because many letters are received, some of which have been made public already; others have not.  And there needs to be a certain amount of order and respect for that order, I think.


Question:  Sure, sure. But can I then…? I mean because I saw…


SpokespersonSylviane has a question and I think I might start putting up tennis courts here, but right, let’s see.  Right, next one, yeah?


Question:  [Laughter] Yeah, just make… question is, do you know when Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi will be back to New York?  When will he visit?


Spokesperson:  He is, at the moment he is visiting, he is in Cairo.  There are meetings, I believe, that involve the League of Arab States and European Union officials, potentially ministers, I believe.  And, as I understand it, he will be there for those meetings.  He will continue to be visiting the region.  He is due to be here in New York at some point — and I will check precisely on when that is — but certainly the intention is, as I believe Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman said yesterday, that Mr. Brahimi will in due course be coming to brief the Council again, as he has done before by video link, and then by Mr. Feltman yesterday to provide an interim update. 


Correspondent:  Thank you.


Spokesperson:  Okay, my pleasure.  Yes?


Question:  Sure, I just… back to this OIC letter, and I… I understand what you are saying, I think I just… it struck me that it was a letter… I thought that it… it… it seemed to me that the UN would have heard of it, since they put out the press release, but I understand what you are saying.  But now that… now that it is confirmed that it was received and processed, I wonder if you could say… I mean I guess some of these communications are confidential, but in terms of processing, does that mean it was… the OIC was written back to, or what’s the response to their…?  Because they made a very, you know, straightforward request and maybe… I heard what you said yesterday, but the… the… their request is that the Secretary-General, you know, seek to put the item on the agenda of the Security Council for action, and…


Spokesperson:  Well, as I mentioned yesterday, there is already a clear public line on what needs to happen in Rakhine State and the concerns that there are, expressed both by Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar and by the Secretary-General and others, including, for example, the Resident Coordinator in Myanmar itself.  Processing a letter that has been received can involve a reply, of course, in writing or in other ways.  And the specific topic that you have raised with regard to the [United Nations] Charter, I have already mentioned the line that there is on that at the moment, and it really would be for the Security Council to look at that.  But as I say, the Secretary-General has been very vocal on this topic; he remains deeply concerned, as does Mr. Nambiar, about the reports that there are and the tensions that remain and the humanitarian needs that there evidently are, including not just people on land who have been displaced, but those who fled to sea.  This is extremely troubling.


Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record