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


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


**Noon Briefing Guest Today


Today, I am joined by John Ging, Operations Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and he is here to brief us on his recent visit to Mali.  Mr. Ging, the floor is yours.


[Press conference by Mr. Ging is issued separately.]


**Secretary-General Travel


Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.  The Secretary-General arrived in Vienna earlier today from Abu Dhabi.  He has just finished a meeting with Austrian President Heinz Fischer, and we'll provide more details on that as soon as we can.  The Secretary-General also spoke by telephone with the President-elect of Cyprus.  We’ve just now issued a readout on that conversation.


One of the main reasons for the Secretary-General's visit to Vienna is to attend the fifth Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, which starts tomorrow.


Today, the Secretary-General attended the Alliance's youth event, where he said the world needed to draw on the energy, idealism and action of young people.  He said the world relied on the younger generation to speak the language of tolerance and respect and to drown out the voices of hatred and division.  His remarks are available in our office.


**Security Council


Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, provided an update on the situation in the Middle East in an open meeting this morning of the Security Council.  He noted the continued frustration at the failure over many years to break the impasse between the Israelis and Palestinians, but added that it is now time for all of us to act decisively if we are to salvage the two-State solution.


Mr. Feltman said that the United Nations was concerned to learn of the death in detention over the weekend of a Palestinian man, Arafat Jaradat, who had been arrested by the Israelis.  He said that the United Nations underscores the importance of restoring calm and calls for an independent and transparent investigation by the Israeli authorities into Mr. Jaradat’s death, the results of which should be made public.  He added that the United Nations was deeply troubled by today’s rocket attack into Israel, saying there is no justification for such attacks.


Discussing Syria, Mr. Feltman said that the Secretary-General strongly condemns the reported ballistic missile strikes in Aleppo, as well as the series of bombings in Damascus, and he repeated the Secretary-General’s call for the need to immediately end the supply of arms to both sides in the conflict.


**Refugees — Indian Ocean


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, today reiterated his call for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to work together to reduce the recent spike in deaths among people smuggled on boats in the Indian Ocean.  Nearly 500 people died at sea last year after their boats broke down or capsized, making the Indian Ocean one of the deadliest regions in the world for people fleeing their country by boat or being trafficked by smugglers.  The High Commissioner called this figure alarming and stressed that the problem requires a far more concerted effort by the countries of the region to address the causes and prevent lives from being lost.  There is more information on the UN refugee agency’s website.


**Disaster Risk Reduction


The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, is in Palestine today where she met with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to discuss Palestinian resilience to disasters.


She also presided over the launch by Palestinian authorities of the first national disaster loss database and visited the UN-managed Shu’fat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem, to review community conditions and emergency preparedness.


Palestine is highly vulnerable to natural hazards, mainly earthquakes, floods, landslides, droughts and desertification.  A recent winter storm has affected 12,000 people in the West Bank and caused more than $50 million in damages.


That’s it from me, we have time for a couple of questions.  Matthew?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Sure, I wanted to… two questions about the… the Democratic Republic of Congo.  One is that there is this… there… there… there have been reports for a few days of fighting around Rutshuru.  Some people are saying it is two different factions of the M23 (23 March Movement), other people say it is the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda)… quite different militia, and some… so what is… what is… does MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) have access to this area?  Do they have any sense of… of who is doing the fighting?  And I just wanted to ask, maybe you will have this or you could get this, the peace enforcement brigade as envisioned by the Secretary-General, would it be covered by this human rights due diligence policy of the UN system in terms of which units of FDA… FARDC it would work with?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, to answer your first question, MONUSCO reports that on 24 February, in Rutshuru, North Kivu Province, an exchange of fire took place between rival factions within the M23 armed group.  During the fighting, four M23 elements and four civilians were killed.  Twenty people were also injured, the Mission adds.  MONUSCO’s base in nearby Kiwanja was put on high alert and a patrol of armed infantry support vehicles was deployed to ensure the protection of civilians.  Two patrols of UN peacekeepers continue to be present on the Rutshuru-Kiwanja axis.  With respect to your second question, we will have to see what the Security Council decides, a decision hasn’t been taken yet for that force.


Question:  But, I mean… I… I thought that the… the human rights due diligence policy is an initiative of the Secretary-General, that’s why I am asking you, because I don’t think…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll have to see.  Right now, there is no other force in the DRC.  So that is a hypothetical question.  Yes?


Question:  [inaudible] from the missing staff in the Golan Heights?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m sorry?


Question:  There was… there was a missing staff from the peacekeeping operation in the Golan Heights yesterday.


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we are aware that one of our staff members is not accounted for.  We are dealing with the situation with the appropriate authorities.  That is all we are going to comment today.  Okay, thank you very much, one more question, last question.


Question:  Okay, I want… I… I saw that you were quoted that Sudan has come up with the money to… to get its voting rights restored.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.


Question:  So I wanted to ask you one follow-up to… to that, which is that they have complained repeatedly now for months that they are unable to get a bank account in New York, that… that… that… be… that… and I know that it’s something that the UN Secretariat, the Controller… I was at a meeting months ago where she said we are about to have good news the next day.  What steps are being taken by this… by the UN to make sure that the host country lives up to its agreement to have it that missions here can have bank accounts?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, to the best of my knowledge, that is a situation that the host Government has to deal with with respect to individual Governments.  In this case, we found a mechanism for the Sudanese to be able to pay the part of their arrears that they had to pay.  But other than that, I have nothing else to say on that.


Question:  What happened to the good news, though?  The Controller said there was going to be good news. 


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the good news is that I am here with you, Matthew.


Correspondent:  Okay, good.  That is good.  Thank you for being here.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Have a good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.


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For information media • not an official record