|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.
** Middle East
I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the evacuation of protesters in the E1 area.
The Secretary-General is following with concern developments regarding the announced plans for Israeli settlement construction in the so-called E1 area, on which he expressed his grave disappointment in his statement of 2 December. He notes that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. The Secretary-General repeats his call that any such settlement plans for E-1 must be rescinded.
He notes that the recent Palestinian demonstrations in the E1 area, as well as the Israeli evacuation of the protesters, were largely non-violent. The Secretary-General stresses the importance for protests to continue to remain peaceful and for the right to peaceful protest to be fully respected.
In this particularly difficult period for the region, all concerned should make serious efforts towards creating the conditions for a resumption of meaningful peace negotiations and to protect the future of the peace process, which is in danger.
The Security Council will hold consultations at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon to discuss the situation in Mali. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will brief Council members on the recent developments there.
An estimated 30,000 people may have been displaced as a direct result of the fighting in central/northern Mali. It is feared that the number of people affected may be greater, as it has been reported that some Islamist groups have prevented people from moving south.
The Mauritanian Ministry of Interior has confirmed that thousands of refugees are on their way from Mali to the border with Mauritania. No significant numbers of refugees have been observed arriving in Burkina Faso and Niger. Since March 2012, some 230,000 people have been displaced by the fighting and insecurity in Mali.
The World Food Programme (WFP) said today that the conflict in the north of Mali has triggered wide displacement within the country and into neighbouring countries, uprooting half a million people and placing pressure on vulnerable host communities still recovering from the Sahel drought.
Insecurity is severely limiting the Food Programme’s access to the north. However, the WFP has managed, through its partners, to move emergency food to 270,000 conflict-affected people in the north, including 70,000 internally displaced persons. The World Food Programme is using all available means of transport, including small boats reaching Timbuktu along the Niger River.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the head of MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Mr. Roger Meece, has welcomed the return to Bukavu today of Dr. Denis Mukwege, chief medical doctor at the Panzi hospital, whose contribution to the physical and mental rehabilitation of women victims of rape in the province is recognized worldwide.
Mr. Meece said that Dr. Mukwege’s courageous decision to return after he was attacked at his residence on 25 October 2012 demonstrates his infallible commitment and dedication to the several cases of sexually abused women reported daily in the province. Mr. Meece also reiterated the hope that more light will be shed on the attack and authors will be brought to justice.
MONUSCO supported local government officials and the National Congolese Police force in South Kivu to ensure the safe return of Dr. Mukwege and will continue, within the limits of its mandate, to provide Dr. Mukwege with all the assistance he needs to pursue this important work.
**Concert in General Assembly Hall
And tonight, at 6 p.m., there will be a concert in the General Assembly Hall co-hosted by the President of the sixty-seventh General Assembly and the Secretary-General.
The concert is entitled “A New Year’s Concert of the Sixty-Seventh Session of the General Assembly” and features the Viva Vox Choir from Belgrade. Television announcer Zoran Baranac will serve as the master of ceremonies. The concert will also be webcast live to the UN Headquarters and to all duty stations.
That’s it. Questions, please? Tim, then Sylvian?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Eduardo. The 30,000 people displaced you mentioned, is that since the offensive was launched last week by the Islamist groups?
Deputy Spokesperson: I believe it is, yes. Well, the 230,000 people is since March 2012.
Question: And the Islamist groups have prevented people moving south since this offensive was launched?
Deputy Spokesperson: That is what they have seen on the field, yes.
Question: Okay. Could you update where Mr. Said Djinnit and Mr. Prody both… where they are now?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have that information right now, but we can get it for you. Sylvian?
Question: Thanks, Eduardo. On the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, there are… on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, there are today’s… there are two new nominations. One of them is a new judge that will be swearing in on Wednesday, coming Wednesday. Can you please update us on this, now… on this, what’s happening on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll have to check with the Tribunal and get back to you on that. I don’t have anything in my papers right now on that.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later provided the press release from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon concerning the recent appointment of a new judge on the Tribunal's Appeals Chamber.]
Correspondent: Okay, thank you.
Deputy Spokesperson: Okay. Matthew?
Question: Sure, Eduardo, two… two… two things, actually. One, just factually, is the UN… what can you say about reports that the… the… the Islamists from northern Mali have taken over the town of Diabali? And also, I wanted to ask you, I tried to ask over the weekend, so I am going to ask you again now, given that the resolution 2085 (2012) says that the Secretary-General is supposed to confirm the… the Council’s satisfaction in advance of military action, when did the Secretary-General speak to the Council and confirm their satisfaction with these military acts?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, Mr. Feltman is briefing the Council this afternoon in consultations, as I stated to you. The Secretary-General has been speaking to a number of leaders over the weekend, and right now, from what I can see, the situation is evolving quickly and we hope to have something for you later on today.
Question: But, I guess I… I really want… and I want… I guess, if you are not going to answer it now, I want to put into… at some point, the resolution said it had to be in advance, that the satisfaction had to be confirmed from the Council, so whatever Mr. Feltman, you know, receives today is long after the fact. So, I just wanted to know, are you going to say when… did he… did he… in your view, did the Secretary-General comply with resolution 2085?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the resolution 2085 has been overtaken by events as you’ve seen over the weekend. The resolution stands, the Secretary-General has been in consultations with a number of leaders in the region, Mr. Feltman will brief the Security Council this afternoon. But, as I understand it the actions taken over the weekend were result of the President of Mali inviting the French to send their troops in to help them quell the advance movement of the Islamists.
Question: So, just one… I mean, and thanks a lot for that. There is one last question, where France has said that its actions have been… reside in the framework of international law, so they are not referring to the resolution, they are referring to some other international law where they can do this?
Deputy Spokesperson: You’d have to ask the French.
Question: Right. That’s why, I mean, the Secretary-General has a duty under this resolution…
Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General… we may have [a statement] for you later on today, Matthew. Anything else? Ali?
Question: Should the formation of the… this international force to be sent to… to Mali expedited because of the events there, or shall we wait… I mean, the international community is going to wait until the 28th?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we are going to have to see what the Security Council decides. Obviously, the Security Council is aware of the movements of the past weekend. It is also aware of the fact that actions are taking place quite rapidly on the ground, and they are going to have to… they may have to revisit their decision and the mandate. We’ll have to see. They are meeting this afternoon, we’ll see what the outcome of that meeting is, and if we have anything else for you, we will let you know. Tim?
Question: Can you tell us which leaders the Secretary-General spoke to?
Deputy Spokesperson: I’m sorry?
Question: Can you tell us which leaders the Secretary-General spoke to over the weekend?
Deputy Spokesperson: I will save that for a little bit later on. I believe, all I can say, he spoke with Foreign Minister [Laurent] Fabius, he spoke with President [Alassane] Ouattara in their capacities, and we will leave the rest for a statement later on.
Question: This is in connection with continuing tension between India and Pakistan. Has the Secretary-General taken note of a threat given today by a top Indian General to take retaliatory action against Pakistan?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the…
Question: For the… for the 8 January attack that Pakistan says never happened?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we are aware of these reports, but we have nothing to say at the moment. Matthew?
Question: Sure, I want to ask about Darfur and then also about the Capital Master Plan. In Darfur, as you probably… pretty… saw these… these two UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) press releases of Friday — well, maybe one was Thursday — where the… they named a town called Rakero, and they said that the Wali of North Darfur had said it had been taken over by… by rebels, and then they issued a correction and they said that he hadn’t said that, he doesn’t know what’s happened to the town. And I am wondering if in the three days since UNAMID, given its duties it has of protection of civilians and otherwise, do they have anything in three days, since even if the Wali of North Darfur doesn’t know, does UNAMID know what’s the status of civilians in the town of Rakero?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll have to find out, Matthew, I don’t have that information with me.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the information from the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur is that the mission is aware of these incidents and is presently investigating.]
Question: And then I wanted to ask you about this… this… about the Capital Master Plan. There… I got a kind of a strange answer that I wanted to figure out what’s behind it. We have been told that the press corps that was getting… we were going to move in February, now it’s going to be April, and the Capital Master Plan, I asked why and they said it’s due to lack of adequate labour due to the increased demand of overtime paying construction repair jobs after Hurricane Sandy. So I just, I wanted to know, it seemed… is Skanska using union labour? Does Skanska have its own work force or people just brought in on an ad hoc basis? All the work that’s being done under the Capital Master Plan of $2 billion, has it been sort of catch as catch can, or is there… what’s… what’s specific about this permanent broadcast facility that requires overtime or sort of ad hoc construction labour?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’d have to refer that… I’ll have to ask the Capital… the people who run the Capital Master Plan for an idea of that, I don’t exactly know what their contractual obligations are. What I do know is that normally, contractors contract. And, if the market has grown significantly since Hurricane Sandy in terms of construction, the prices have gone up, all of these things have to be factored in. But, I will find out from the Capital Master Plan.
Question: Yeah, yeah, thanks a lot and just one thing, because it seemed to say that this permanent broadcast facility, because it can’t be completed the press can’t move. And I just wanted to know, I don’t… this wasn’t explained either, whether this… does this involve this piping in the… the… the television to the offices or is it only some people that would be affected, if you could just…?
Deputy Spokesperson: No, it involves basically… I believe it involves the press theatre.
Question: Say again?
Deputy Spokesperson: The press theatre. Where we hold the press conferences and the press… the daily briefings. We have to have that set for everybody to move.
Question: So, people would… could move their offices and come back here for the briefings or the whole thing is [inaudible]?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, all of this is being taken a look at, Matthew, I don’t have anything for you right now, but we will find out. Tim, last question?
Question: Last question. Today, the Swiss Mission sent a letter to the Security Council, [inaudible], the Secretary-General calling for the Syria conflict to be referred to the ICC. Does the Secretary-General support this measure?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll have to see what the Security Council decides, first of all, and then we will see what the Secretary-General has to say on it.
Question: The Secretary-General wouldn’t have an opinion in advance?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t believe he’d want to second guess what the Security Council may decide.
Deputy Spokesperson: Okay? Thank you, have a very nice afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record