12 February 2013
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.


**Security Council


At the opening of the Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict this morning, the Secretary-General strongly condemned Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons test.  He said that the test is a clear and grave violation of the relevant resolutions of the Security Council.  And you will have seen the statement we issued earlier today about that nuclear test.


The Secretary-General said that he was encouraged by the swift and overwhelming international condemnation of this wanton act.  This is a direct challenge to the Security Council.  It is absolutely essential that the Council act and speak with one voice and engage with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in a unified manner.  We have the Secretary-General’s remarks in my office, and those remarks are also on the protection of civilians.


Today’s meeting was preceded by Security Council consultations on non-proliferation and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  In a press statement issued after those consultations, Council members also strongly condemned the test, saying that it is in grave violation of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009) and 2087 (2013).  Council members will begin work immediately on appropriate measures in a Security Council resolution.


**Central African Republic


The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said today that an assessment mission sent last week to Bambari in the Central African Republic found looting and empty villages.  The joint mission by the refugee agency and Mercy Corps found that villages along a 100-kilometre stretch of road between Grimari and Bambari were almost completely deserted, with most residents hiding in the bush.  In Bambari, there has also been widespread looting, including of the UN refugee agency's own warehouse.


The assessment mission was the first to the region since the mid-December 2012 takeover by the Seleka rebel coalition of the major cities of the north and centre of the country, including Bambari and Kaga Bandoro.


The refugee agency said that access for humanitarian work in the Central African Republic remains very limited as a result of the lack of security guarantees.  The agency urged the Government and the Seleka rebels to allow better access for humanitarians to populations in need.


**World Food Programme


The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, began a visit to Tanzania today.  She will meet with President Jakaya Kikwete and Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda.  During her stay, Ms. Cousin will also visit the World Food Programme’s port operations in Dar-es-Salaam, to see a central logistics hub that is vital to the agency’s work in Africa


**Child Soldiers


Today is the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers.  The EU High Representative, Catherine Ashton, and the UN Special Representative, Leila Zerrougui, condemned the recruitment of children in conflicts in a joint statement, which is available in my office and also online.


**Democratic Republic of the Congo


I was asked yesterday about rapes in Minova, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The investigation led by the Congolese authorities and supported by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) is now on the ground in Minova and surrounding areas.  The investigation will include a large number of interviews with victims and witnesses.


In line with our human rights due diligence policy, a review of the Mission’s support to units of the Congolese Armed Forces involved in human rights violations will take place once the investigations have concluded.


**Noon Briefing Guest Tomorrow


Tomorrow, the guest at the noon briefing will be Ambassador Néstor Osorio, the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations.  He will be here to brief on the Economic and Social Council’s programme of work for the year.


Questions, please?  Yes, Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  On this… on the eve of President Obama’s visit to Israel, Israeli Prime Minister has announced building new settlements while he is calling for more sanctions on Iran.  What is… Secretary-General has got anything to do… to say about these new settlements now?


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General’s views and the views of the international community on settlements are very well known and I don’t think I am going to repeat them here.


Question:  Okay.  And Iran is showing, you know, that it is a sign of cooperating with the International Atomic [Energy] Agency (IAEA).  What does the Secretary-General have to say about that?


Spokesperson:  It is for Iran to comply with Security Council resolutions and to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency on the matters that are of considerable concern for the international community.  I don’t think that has changed.  Yes, please Mr. Abbadi, and then Iftikhar, yes?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  As you know, President Barack Obama will be visiting the Middle East around 20 March to try to re-launch the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  Would the Secretary-General wish to make any comment on this important occasion?


Spokesperson:  Well, I have seen the media reports; you’ve seen the media reports.  I am not aware that there has been an official announcement yet about any date for a visit.  The Secretary-General obviously is as keen as anybody else to see that there should be greater impetus in the peace process.  He has spoken very clearly about his concerns for the fate of the peace process and the two‑State solution, so any efforts to try to reinvigorate the peace process are of course to be welcomed.  But the details of how that is going to take place with regard to any visit by the US President, I mean, that is really for the US authorities to announce and provide details on.  Yes, Iftikhar?


Question:  Yes, Martin.  Does the Secretary-General have any comments on the latest developments in Kashmir, Indian-held Kashmir, where clashes have taken place between protestors and Government security forces following the execution of Kashmiri activist Afzal Guru?  Does the Secretary-General believe that the ends of justice were fully served by the… in the case of Afzal Guru?


Spokesperson:  We don’t have any particular comment on that specifically, but the Secretary-General is obviously following developments quite closely.  And we would simply reiterate the call for the need for dialogue to help to overcome the difficulties that there are.


Question:  There is…


Spokesperson:  Yes?


Question:  There is a humanitarian aspect to this situation, because the Indian authorities are not giving the body of Afzal Guru to the… to the family.


Spokesperson:  I don’t have any comment on that, Iftikhar.  Yes, Stefano, and then I am coming to Joe.


Question:  Yes, about the North Korean test, does Secretary-General… he is saying that, you know, he expects the Security Council to… to act.  We’ve had already three resolutions and are… what exactly does the Secretary-General expect that will be, you know, a good response by the Security Council?  And then another question is the fact that the presidency of the Security Council this month is South Korea, is it just a coincidence that the test by North Korea was done now, or is it in… you know, another complication?


Spokesperson:  Whatever the timing, it is a provocation, there is no question about that.  But to be able to look into the minds of the North Korean leadership to understand why they did a test and why they chose to do it on the 12th of February is something that I really cannot quite manage myself.  With regard to your first question, it is for the Security Council of course to decide what measures would be in any resolution or what the resolution would say.  It is not for the Secretary-General to dictate what would be in a resolution.  He has made clear — you will have seen the statement that was issued overnight and his remarks just now in the Security Council — his concern about this test and what it means for international peace and security, what it means for regional stability.  And that’s why he has stressed that what has happened is a direct challenge to the Security Council and it is absolutely essential that the Council should speak with one voice and engage with the DPRK in a unified manner.  And that’s the core of his message at the moment.  Yes, Joe?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Do you know whether, since news of the atomic test, nuclear test, from North Korea came out, whether the Secretary-General has tried to contact directly any of the members of the leadership of North Korea or if not, whether he plans to try to do so in the near future?


Spokesperson:  As the Secretary-General said when he was speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday, he is in contact with the parties.  He is able to have contact with the DPRK authorities indirectly.  As he himself said, you cannot just pick up the phone and speak to the North Korean leadership, that’s not how they operate.  They will be aware of the Secretary-General’s views, not least because they will also have heard him speak in the Security Council Chamber just a little while ago.  Yes?


Question:  Thank you very much, Martin.  The Secretary-General’s condemnation of the nuclear test was clear, his statement was clear.  Talk a little bit, if you will, about the difficulty in the unique nature of his job inasmuch as he is asking for the Security Council to speak with one voice, he didn’t necessarily say that they need to deliver a resolution with sanctions in it when three rounds of sanctions have not worked, because the test went off last night.  They launched a missile last month, sanctions have not worked, that’s clear.  Sanctions have worked, however, at keeping food out of the mouths of every-day North Koreans, and that’s something that the SG would take interest in as well, as a great humanitarian.  So talk about the line that he has to kind of walk there, maybe in between the DPRK’s Government and its people.


Spokesperson:  Well, he has also spoken very clearly about the dire humanitarian and human rights situation in the DPRK and the need to address that.  And the fact that the tensions that there are as a result of these tests make it harder to deal with the humanitarian and human rights aspects of the DPRK.  He, of course, has spoken out on a number of occasions about the plight of ordinary North Korean citizens who may not have enough to eat.  He has spoken out on that on many occasions and about the shortfall there is in the funding for humanitarian efforts in the North.  So I think, just to put that part in perspective, just as I said a little while ago, it is really for the Security Council to deliberate on the resolution, which they say that they plan to do.  So it is not for the Secretary-General to come up with a shopping list of what should be in that resolution.  Yes?


Question:  Sure, Martin.  I have some other questions, but you mentioned the remarks of the Secretary-General at the Council on Foreign Relations.  I wanted to ask you, he was asked… he was asked a question about Sri Lanka, specifically about the Charles Petrie report and to provide an update on whether the recommendations in it have been carried out.  And at least the way I heard it, he… you know, he… he… maybe he… he… he answered and said in Mali we have… we have deployed human rights observers and he said something about we did the same in Sri Lanka, maybe I misunderstood that part of the quote, but what is the update?  What steps have been taken by the Secretary-General since the Charles Petrie report was given to him with its pretty damning critique of the UN’s action and inaction?


Spokesperson:  Well, you know very well, because we’ve announced it, that the Deputy Secretary-General is heading this internal group that is looking at the follow-up to the Petrie report, that is under way.  And there is not much more to add at this point, except that that work is under way.


Question:  But I guess… I mean, when I… when… in going over the report, it does make some recommendations and seems like it wasn’t…


Spokesperson:  Yes, Matthew, and as those recommendations…


Correspondent:  Right.


Spokesperson:  …those recommendations, all which…


Correspondent:  [inaudible]


Spokesperson:  Those recommendations, all of which the Secretary-General believes are serious and important because the whole report was of that nature, are being looked at, are being studied, and it would be the result of this group that is under the leadership of the Deputy Secretary-General to look at how those recommendations can be implemented and to what extent in different parts of the overall UN family, but it is a work in progress.  There is work going on on this; the meetings have already started with the different parts of the UN system that have to do with this.  Yes?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  You spoke of the SG’s indirect communications with the DPRK, I just wanted to get clarification, does he have talks or does he have an open line of communication with the delegation here in New York or are they not permitted to talk?  I mean, I know you can’t speak for them, but can you shed a little more light on how he can communicate with them, because in a time like this, it is really important that they be able to talk?


Spokesperson:  No, I can’t shed any more light on that.  Yes?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask whether the Secretary-General has received or is… a letter from President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority or the State of Palestine on… about this prisoner, Samira Sami, who has been on hunger strike for 200 days.  I was told that this letter was given to the Secretariat, I don’t know in what format.  Are you aware of the letter and what… it asked the Secretary-General to use his good offices to somehow work on this case?


Spokesperson:  I think I will need to check further with our colleagues in Jerusalem — Mr. Serry’s team — to find out a little bit more about that, I don’t have anything concrete here right now.


Question:  The reason I ask is because Ambassador Mansour came back, it was in the middle of all this DPRK action, came by the stakeout and said that he… somehow he had given this letter, I don’t know if it was to… the… the… the Secretary-General himself, or someone, so maybe I am… I’m just wondering if you can…


Spokesperson:  Yeah, we will check, Matthew.


Correspondent:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  Yes, we will check.  Yes, Stefano?


Question:  Yes, this is about the… the… the wave of arrests in Iran of journalists, there have been two more arrests just a couple of days ago.  Do we have from the UN… we had some reaction and have also yesterday the reaction of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights that was talking about, in general, their position.  I would like to know what the Secretary-General specifically has on this particular issue of the last arrest of journalists and especially in referring it to the article 19… I mean the rights of… Declaration of Human Rights, because those journalists apparently have been accused of reporting news abroad.


Spokesperson:  Well, the main point here is that the Secretary-General has consistently said that journalists need to be able to carry out their work freely, without fear of intimidation, or indeed, of repression.  On this particular case, I don’t have anything specific, and I would need to check with my colleagues to see if there is anything forthcoming.  Yes?


Question:  On Sudan, the… the… the Deputy Defence Minister of South Sudan has said that… that… that there is a big build-up along the border by… of the Sudanese army and he… he says that he has raised this as a… as very much a concern that there may be renewed military hostilities.  Since… I mean, is… is UNMISS — double S — aware of this, of this build-up?  And also, I… I know I asked you before about the… the… the Malian insurgents being in Darfur, there is now reports of up to 200 vehicles, maybe that is overblown, but has UNAMID taken any… have they checked this out and said… said it is a mirage or are these 200 vehicles really in Khartoum… in North Darfur?  Two questions, I understand.


Spokesperson:  Yes, I think I understand that too.  Well, actually it is probably more than two, but that’s okay.  On South Sudan, I will check with my colleagues, but as you know, their area of operations does not extend into Sudan, and therefore they would not have a sight of what is going on there.  On the second question about any rebels who may have fled Mali, there are varying reports, as I said to you before, Matthew, and we don’t have anything to confirm or deny one way or the other at this point.  If that changes, I will let you know, but simply to say that there are varying reports out there.


Okay, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record