26 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Secretary-General’s Travels


The Secretary-General is in Vienna today, where he has been meeting Austrian leaders, including the President and the Foreign Minister.  We have issued a readout on those meetings, which focused on developments in the Middle East, Africa and South-Eastern Europe.


Shortly, the Secretary-General will attend the inauguration ceremony for the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.  He is to say that he welcomes the Centre’s commitment to opening its doors to all the world’s religions and that he fully supports its vision of religion as an enabler of respect and reconciliation.  He will encourage the Centre to cooperate closely with the UN Alliance of Civilizations.


The Secretary-General visited the UN Office at Vienna, where he met Yury Fedotov, the Director-General of the Office and head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.  He held a town hall meeting with UN staff based in Vienna and met staff from UNCITRAL [United Nations Commission on International Trade Law], the main UN body dealing with international trade law.  He also met with the outgoing and incoming Executive Secretaries of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.  He is scheduled to be back in New York tomorrow afternoon.


**Democratic Republic of the Congo


In a statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General welcomed the joint communiqué and subsequent outcome of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) Summit, held in Kampala on 24 November.


The Secretary-General calls on the M23 to immediately lay down their arms in accordance with the agreements reached in Kampala, and comply with the immediate withdrawal of their forces from Goma.  The Secretary-General encourages the parties to build on the dialogue among the leaders of the Great Lakes region to address the fundamental causes of the conflict.


The Secretary-General reiterates his personal commitment to support these efforts.  He is also determined to ensure that the United Nations presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo be adjusted to respond to the evolving challenges, in line with relevant Security Council resolutions on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) began distributing vital food assistance late last week to roughly 81,000 displaced people who have taken refuge in and around Goma, amid the ongoing unrest.  The agency’s food rations are being distributed to families in 12 sites where families have sought shelter in and near the city after clashes in North Kivu last week.


**Climate Change


The UN Climate Change Conference in Doha began today with calls for Governments to work hard so that the meeting can constitute another step forward in the global response to climate change.


The Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, said that reports all point to the urgency to act to keep global average temperatures from rising beyond an internationally agreed level of 2° C, beyond which climate impacts become extremely serious.  Ms. Figueres said that the door is closing fast because the pace and scale of action is simply not yet enough.  She added that Doha must deliver its part in the longer-term solution.


The Conference is attended by Government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations, research institutions and the media.  More than 100 ministers are scheduled to attend the high-level segment of the meeting, which begins on 4 December and ends with a decision-making plenary on 7 December.


**Press Conference


And tomorrow at 11 a.m., here in the auditorium, there will be a press conference by Ambassador Riyad Mansour of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations.  Questions, please?  Nizar?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Regarding the ceasefire in Gaza, do you understand… does the Secretary-General understand that the blockade of… how… how… how does he interpret the agreement reached there?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General was in the region last week.  He met with the leaders of Egypt, of Jordan, of Israel; he met with the President of the Palestine Liber… of the Palestinian National Authority in Ramallah.  He is aware of what is happening, negotiations continue, apparently, I believe, and we are watching to see what will happen.  We are not going to comment any further right now.


Question:  Do you observe any release of… easing of the blockade since then?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we have seen media reports this weekend that farmers are being allowed back to their lands and that the fishing zone has been increased from three to six miles.  We will have to verify that, of course, but these are the reports that are coming out, so right now we are cautiously optimistic that the ceasefire is holding and we support efforts to end the violence, which was the reason why the Secretary-General went in the first place; the violence had to end and a negotiated agreement has to be undertaken to resolve the situation and result in a two-State solution where Palestinians have an independent State living side by side with a secure Israel.  That continues to be our position.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, Eduardo, I want to ask you several questions about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  One is, just a factual one, who attended for the Secretariat these meetings in Kampala in which that statement came out which assigns a number of roles to… to MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo]?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The Chef de Cabinet, Madame Malcorra, attended as the Secretary-General’s personal envoy.


Question:  Okay.  And I wanted to ask you, there is… there is… I’ll jump ahead to this one, there is an article in today’s Time magazine which is very damning, it says, defining peacekeeping downward.  But what I want to ask you about, in it, it describes an incident in September in Pinga in D… in DRC in which it says Mayi-Mayi Cheka, the leader, Mr. Colonel Cheka, decapitated civilians and threw the heads at the peacekeeping base and the peacekeepers didn’t even come out.  So I wanted… this is a pretty damning indictment and I wanted to… I am sure DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] has seen it, did this happen, is it true and how is it consistent even with the current mandate of MONUSCO?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check, I haven’t seen that report yet today, but we will have to check with DPKO to see what reports they have on what happened there.


Question:  And is there any more… prior to the weekend I asked… try… I tried to ask Mr. Ladsous, then I asked Mr. Dwyer, what about these protests that had been reported for days now of MONUSCO in Bunia, in Bukavu, in Kisangani, what’s… what measures are taken to protect staff?  What’s the response, I guess, of the UN to the critique that it did nothing as M23 took Goma?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I stated last week, the mandate of MONUSCO is to protect civilians, it is not to fight the M23 on its own.  And that is the responsibility of the Congolese Armed Forces and the maintaining of security is a primary responsibility of the Congolese police.  So in that sense we… we… in fulfilling our mandate, we haven’t left Goma, MONUSCO is still there, MONUSCO is still present in all the areas where it has been in the Congo, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and that situation remains.


Question:  And… and what is it, if you don’t… since I remember you saying last week that one benefit of sort of remaining there is to keep… you know, keep records of abuses.  There are many abuses, reports of the FARDC [Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo] and an affiliated militia going to a town called Minova that’s between Sake and Bukavu and looting to… looting houses, raping women, so I wonder, has MO… has MONUSCO accessed that town and do you have some report on this, on these abuses?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll check with DPKO to see what they have on that, Matthew.  Nizar?


Question:  How does the Secretary-General view the crisis in Egypt?  I mean, what’s his opinion on what is going on in Egypt at the moment?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, let me see what we have here.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Friday it was very concerned about the possible huge ramifications of the declaration made recently by the President of Egypt for human rights and the rule of law.  The Office also feared that this may lead to a very volatile situation over the next few days, and the Secretary-General is keeping an eye on the situation and on developments in Egypt — very fast-moving developments.  There was supposed to be a series of meetings today, we will have to see what happens then.


Question:  Another issue regarding the Third Committee resolution which is to be discussed tomorrow on Syria.  From the draft resolution it looks like there is no mention of the armed forces which have, according to the Human Rights Council, committed a lot of atrocities and even sometimes crimes… war crimes.  How does the Secretary-General view that?  I mean, a resolution coming one-sided just like its Government without balancing it to what is happening from the other side?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we are going to have to see what the Security Council resolution says.  I am not going to comment on a resolution that hasn’t been adopted yet.


Question:  No, this is… I… I meant the Third Committee.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Oh, the Third Committee?  Well, we’ll have to see what happens with that resolution when it comes out.  What the Secretary-General has said continuously is that the violence on both sides must end, and the political solution must be found and that there is no way that a military victory is going to be possible in this situation, and that people who violate international humanitarian law and human rights law will have to be held accountable by the international community and by the legal system.  That continues to be his position.  Matthew?


Question:  Yeah, can I ask you, there… I’m sure you’ve seen this, the… the Sri Lankan Government has put out about, after 12 days, its… its own, through the Foreign Ministry, comment on the Charles Petrie report of the UN’s activities in Sri Lanka in 2009 and they are, you know, underst… I… you know, not surprisingly, critical of it, but they specifically say they believe that the redactions that were made were made in order to… to… withheld information that makes the Sri Lankan Government look better.  Since one of the redactions which became clear was that the Secretary-General saying that President Rajapaksa should be given more time for a domestic accountability mechanism, what’s the U… it seems like it will draw some UN response, what’s… what does the UN say to… to Sri Lanka’s criticism of the report and what steps have been taken as were mentioned in this room in terms of setting up a senior panel of advisers and sort of acting on the Petrie report?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Ms. Malcorra and Mr. Petrie were here a couple of weeks ago, they commented on the report, I have nothing additional to add to what they said.


Question:  Do you know of anything… any… can you, I gue… maybe can you check what steps have been taken since those… since… what’s the time frame for this senior…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll check on that.


Correspondent:  Okay, thanks, I appreciate it.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay.  Okay thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record