|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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. Nice to see you all.
The Secretary-General spoke to the General Assembly this morning on the conflict in Syria, which he said is reaching new and appalling heights of brutality and violence. Although the United Nations cannot independently verify the figures, he said, some have estimated as many as 40,000 people have been killed. The Secretary-General condemned the seemingly daily massacres of civilians, saying that the assaults on human dignity must end and those responsible must be held to account.
The Secretary-General said that, with winter upon us, potentially 4 million men, women and children inside Syria will be in need before the New Year. We also expect the total number of refugees to reach 700,000 by early next year. At the same time, the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan is only 50 per cent funded and the Regional Response Plan is only 38 per cent funded. The Secretary-General said he planned to visit refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey soon to assess the situation on the ground. We have his remarks in our office.
The Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, also addressed the Assembly, saying that the only option that all sides should work for is a negotiated political process. He warned that there is no trust among the parties in Syria, and he doubted that a workable peace plan could be developed by regional Governments in the near future.
He said that the final communiqué of the Action Group for Syria, which met in June in Geneva, contains the building blocks for a peace process. Those elements need to be translated into a Security Council statement. And his remarks are also available in our office.
As you’re aware, the resolution on the question of Palestine was adopted by the General Assembly yesterday afternoon, by a vote of 138 votes in favour to 9 against, with 41 abstentions.
Speaking afterwards, the Secretary-General said that the General Assembly vote underscores the urgency of a resumption of meaningful negotiations. We must give new impetus to our collective efforts to ensure that an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine lives side by side with a secure State of Israel.
He urged the parties to renew their commitment to a negotiated peace. The Secretary-General counts on all concerned to act responsibly, preserve the achievements in Palestinian State-building under the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, and intensify efforts towards reconciliation and the just and lasting peace which remains our shared goal and priority. And his remarks are available online.
Early next week, the Secretary-General will travel to Doha to attend the eighteenth session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. On Tuesday, 4 December, he will attend the opening of the high-level segment of the session of the Conference of Parties, and will give a press conference with the Executive Secretary of the Framework Convention, Christiana Figueres. He will also meet with officials from different countries and regional groups attending the talks, as well as business and finance leaders.
Following that, he will visit Kuwait, where he will meet with the Emir and the Prime Minister, as well as with his newly-appointed Humanitarian Envoy for Kuwait, Abdullah al-Matouq.
At the end of the week, as he informed the General Assembly this morning, the Secretary-General intends to visit camps for Syrian refugees in both Jordan and Turkey and draw attention to the humanitarian needs there. In Jordan, after visiting one refugee camp near the Syrian border, he will meet with Government officials in Amman. In Turkey, he will travel first to a refugee camp before going to Ankara to meet with the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. The Secretary-General will return to New York at the end of the week.
The Security Council is meeting today on women, peace and security. Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN-Women, told Council members that, wherever there is conflict, whether in Mali, Syria, the Middle East, or eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, women must be part of the solution.
She highlighted what women’s groups in Mali are doing right now to contribute to non-violent solutions to the crisis. In spite of their absence from official conflict-resolution processes, women leaders in the north are using informal channels to call on the leaders of armed groups to participate in peace dialogues.
The Deputy Secretary-General delivered a message on the Secretary-General’s behalf, saying that engaging women and promoting gender equality as part of our work for peace and security is a daily responsibility and an unfinished mission for all of us. He said it is time for us to finally recognize the role and power of women to help us build a peaceful world.
And Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous said that peacekeeping missions have supported important progress in some areas, notably women's political participation at local and national levels. He added that in other areas — including the protection of women activists — more could be achieved. All those remarks are available in our office.
Today is the last day of India’s Security Council presidency. Morocco will take over the presidency of the Security Council in December.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
As reported yesterday, the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) is closely monitoring M23 armed group movements. There are reports of M23 movement in different locations. The Mission is planning aerial reconnaissance to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire. We will provide an update when we have a clearer picture of the withdrawal process.
**Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs
The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, will travel to Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand between 2 and 8 December. The mission is the first official visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar by Ms. Amos in her role as UN humanitarian chief.
And for press conferences, following this briefing, at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by Maged Abdelaziz, the Special Adviser on Africa.
**Noon Briefing Guest on Monday
And then on Monday, the guest will be Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. And she will be here to brief on her recent trip to Yemen.
Any questions? Yeah, Joe?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Farhan, I have two questions; one on Syria, one on Qatar. There is concern growing that as the Internet and telephones have been shut off, there could be a major offensive [inaudible] the Secretary-General or Mr. Brahimi [inaudible]. And are they… are they… share their concerns? And on Qatar, the Qataris put a poet in jail for life for [inaudible] that he apparently insulted the Emir. If the Secretary-General’s meeting with the Emir, is there something he might bring up?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, we’ll see when he goes to Qatar. We’ll try to provide readouts of his meetings and we can then talk about what issues are brought up at that point. Regarding Syria, the Secretary-General made very clear his concerns about the violence, and particularly the increasing violence in recent days. Both he and Lakhdar Brahimi, as you know, spoke to the General Assembly about that. And of course, those concerns continue today with the reports of violence that we are aware of.
Associate Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General made clear in recent days that there has been an offensive that has been going on. If you look at his remarks, he has talked about the sort of violent attacks that have characterized recent days, and he is very concerned about it. Yes, Tim?
Question: Mr. Haq, does the Secretary-General have any comment on the new announcement of settlements by the Israeli Government [inaudible]?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, on settlements, as you know, we don’t have a formal statement on this, but as you know, we’ve continually spoken out against any new settlement activity. The Secretary-General believes it to be unhelpful to the peace process, and I would also refer you to the statements of the Middle East Quartet which have been very clear in their stance on settlement activity as well. And that remains the case with this latest announcement. Yes, please?
Question: Recently, the actor Javier Bardem has criticized Morocco for their actions in Western Sahara, saying that they shouldn’t be allowed to assume the presidency of the Security Council because of them. Does the Secretary-General have a response or a statement regarding that?
Associate Spokesperson: In terms of membership in the Security Council, as you know, that is determined by the Member States. That is a decision by the Member States and they have made their decisions accordingly. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I want to ask two questions on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I… I heard what you said about the monitoring, but there is… is a quote by Mr.… by Makenga of the M23 saying that their pull-back is somehow being hindered by… by MONUSCO. So I just wanted to know what the UN’s position is. Is it the UN’s understanding that M23 does withdraw with weapons, and also do they have any… have they signed any MoU or any other kind of agreement with M23 for the areas, for the buffer zone or for humanitarian access to zones ceded to M23?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, first of all, regarding the media reports that you just cited and the quotes about hindering M23, we are aware of those reports and those reports are not correct. United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, especially those present in Goma, are engaged in facilitating the withdrawal from the city of M23 troops, as agreed by the leaders of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in Kampala last weekend. And we will continue to proceed with that.
Question: The other question I wanted to ask you is, it’s been bouncing around for a few days now, but there is now documented incidents in the towns of Minova in which FARDC (Congolese Armed Forces) soldiers retreating from Sake… apparently there were 22 rapes reported and it seems pretty clear that they are the work of the FARDC. And so what I am wondering is, since there was… it was said yesterday on this screen, some MONUSCO presence in… in Minova and some inquiry since then, which units of the FARDC were in town when these took place. And I am asking because the DPKO claims to have a human rights due diligence policy that precludes working with the units engaged in such conduct, so which units were they?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, as you know, we have human rights officers deployed as part of the UN Mission there, MONUSCO. And they will look into these latest reports, as they do with other sorts of allegations, and we’ll have to make our own evaluations accordingly once that work has been done.
Question: But, I guess, will the UN say which units it finds to have been present so that the public can assess whether they actually live by this human rights due diligence policy described by Mr. Šimonović and others in this room?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, we have the due diligence process and we’ll follow that process. It really depends, of course, on the information that they receive, whether these allegations are borne out, who is responsible and so forth.
Question: And that will be public? This is what I am… I just want…
Associate Spokesperson: We’ll have to see what the human rights officers come up with. Obviously, we try to make public as much as we possibly can. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Regarding the reports of the UN vehicles that were damaged in the… and the peacekeepers near Damascus, I was sort of surprised to hear that the UN conducts its troop rotation still for UNDOF through Syria. And so I was wondering why it is the case where the UN is… is transferring its UNDOF forces through Syria, as opposed to maybe other safer countries?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, we have standard procedures that we follow, and we were following that. Today, by the way, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force did confirm that a convoy of 13 armoured UN vehicles received fire earlier today while en route from Damascus International Airport. Small arms fire is believed to have hit most convoy vehicles, but there have been no injuries reported. And you will have seen the statement that we also put out yesterday about the injuries sustained by peacekeepers a day ago. All right, yes?
Question: Yeah, I wanted to… there… there are… Radio Dubanga is a… a well-known source in Darfur, and they are reporting that aerial bombardment by the Government, this obviously would be in a zone policed by UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] in east Jebel Marra, they named the villages and they said that, you know, children among… children are among the victims, and I am wondering, is this the type of… does UNAMID have any information on this, or are they going to decide what… what… what is UNAMID’s statement on reports of continued bombardment within Darfur itself by the Government?
Associate Spokesperson: We will check with UNAMID what they have to say on that. Yes?
Question: Mr. Faq, my first… standard procedure change. Could it be said that the [inaudible] TCCs (troop-contributing countries) to have… providing the forces through Syria one of [inaudible]?
Associate Spokesperson: We always make evaluations about security conditions. Obviously, if there is a need to change procedures given the lack of security in certain areas, we will make those decisions accordingly.
And with that, I should let you know, at 12:30 p.m., Maged Abdelaziz, the Special Adviser on Africa, was going to brief you. But if you are ready now, he would like to come in as soon as possible. So if you can stay here, he will be coming just in the next couple of minutes, and he will brief you right then. Thanks very much. Have a good weekend.
* *** *For information media • not an official record