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.


**Security Council


This morning, the Security Council adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) by 12 months.  Briefing the Council, Tarek Mitri, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said that, despite the fact that the Libyan people have come a long way since the liberation of the country 17 months ago, the security problem remains formidable and is arguably the predominant concern for most Libyans.


This afternoon, the Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, will brief the Council in closed consultations on the Secretary-General's latest report about resolution 1701 (2006) pertaining to Lebanon.  He will then speak to reporters at the stakeout following consultations.


**Syria


The World Food Programme (WFP) said today that two years into the Syrian crisis, it faces severe challenges in expanding its emergency operation to feed millions of conflict-affected people due to funding shortages.


The World Food Programme’s plans to reach 2.5 million people inside Syria and more than 1 million refugees in neighbouring countries are threatened by a lack of resources.  To date, it has distributed more than 83,000 metric tons of food in Syria.  Outside the country, it has distributed more than 1 million food vouchers and half a million food parcels.  In Jordan’s Za’atari camp, more than 3 million meals were handed out in three months.


Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said that as the crisis enters its third year, now is not the time to reduce or stop the World Food Programme operations.  There is more information on the Programme’s website.


**Saudi Arabia


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights today strongly condemned the executions of seven Saudi Arabian nationals, saying “they clearly violate international safeguards in the use of the death penalty”.


Navi Pillay noted that, under international safeguards adopted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and reaffirmed by the General Assembly, capital punishment may be imposed only for “the most serious crimes” and only after the most rigorous judicial process.  She noted that neither of these fundamental criteria appears to have been fulfilled in these cases.


The High Commissioner also said that the information she had received suggested that the seven accused men had reportedly only made brief appearances before the court, and were not allowed to speak or given adequate opportunities to conduct their defence.  There is more information available on the UN Human Rights Office website.


**Human Development Report


The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s 2013 Human Development report entitled “The Rise of the South:  Human Progress in a Diverse World” is being launched in Mexico City today by Administrator Helen Clark, and President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto.  The Report examines the profound shift in global dynamics driven by the fast-rising powers of the developing world — and its implications for human development.  The Human Development Index, the report’s annual rankings of national progress in health, education and income, will also be disclosed, covering a record 187 countries and territories.  The report can be accessed at UNDP’s website.


**Sustainable Development Goals


In his remarks to the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals this morning, the Secretary-General urged it to formulate an ambitious, concise and action-oriented set of goals.


One of the main outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, was the agreement by Member States to launch a process to develop a set of sustainable development goals.  The Secretary-General said that the Group has the responsibility to define sustainable development goals with universal support in order to secure the legacy of the Rio+20 Conference and lay a foundation towards a better future.


**Côte d’Ivoire


The UN mission in Côte d'Ivoire (ONUCI) has condemned the killing of at least four people in an attack by unidentified assailants yesterday, in the village of Zilebly in the country's western region.  The mission’s peacekeepers in the area have been put on high alert and are mobilized in support of Côte d'Ivoire’s security forces.  The mission reaffirms its determination to assist the Government of Côte d'Ivoire in its efforts to consolidate the country's return to peace.


**Press Conference


At 12:45 p.m., there will be a press conference here on the presentation of the outcome statement of the global network on safer cities.  Speakers will include Dr. Joan Clos, the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).


Yesterday, I was asked a question on the UN Watch letter on Oswaldo Payá.  We can confirm the petition has been received.  The UN Human Rights mechanisms including special procedures of the Human Rights Council have been informed about the case, and are in touch with representatives of the victim.


Questions, please?  Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yes, sir.  Two questions again, one was that I asked you yesterday about the situation in Kashmir, which is again getting bad to worse, where yesterday five policemen were killed and there was a reaction, now there [inaudible] going on all day, and again there is a confrontation, but… and also the report by the United Nations mission over there has not been received as yet, it’s been over two months.  Is there any problem…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Masood, when we have a comment to make on it, we will make it, but right now we haven’t received anything yet.


Question:  So, okay, but does the Secretary-General have anything to say about this [inaudible] situation?


Deputy Spokesperson:  What he has said is what he has said in cases such as this; violence is not the answer, violence should come to an end and that the killings must stop.


Question:  Also, the other question was about Iraq.  Iraq today, again, there were 25 people killed in a terrorist attack.  The Secretary-General’s representative over there, does he believe that this is [inaudible]?  Which organization does he suspect is carrying out the systematic attacks, terrorist attacks ins… inside Iraq?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well…


Correspondent:  And then…


Deputy Spokesperson:  …I don’t have any comment on that.  I imagine the Iraqi Government should be… is investigating these attacks and should be in a position to let you know who they think is organizing these attacks.  I would suggest you contact the mission.  Yes?


[The Deputy Spokesperson later noted that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Martin Kobler, strongly condemned today’s attacks targeting the Ministry of Justice and other locations in the capital, Baghdad.]


Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any comment on threats by Hamas leaders and some other Palestinian leaders of possible violence if President Obama visits a mosque on the Temple Mount and even the Western Wall with Israeli escorts?


Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I think the Secretary-General is on the record as noting that violence is not permissible and should not be undertaken by anyone.


Question:  [inaudible] context, would…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I don’t have anything on that.


Question:  But… but, is there a possibility or is it fair to suggest that perhaps, preventively, since these threats have been made and this visit is coming up within the next week or so, the Secretary-General might consider addressing this in the specific context?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We will have to see.  I can’t say anything on that right now.  Matthew?


Question:  Hi, Eduardo.  I just want to start by… I have several questions, I want to make sure that I… can I ask them?  May I… I mean I want to… yesterday, things ended kind of abruptly, so I have some from yesterday and some from…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I am a very abrupt person.


Question:  Okay.  So, I have actually seven questions, I was… I’ll put you on notice, okay?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, give me four.


Question:  Give you four?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Give me four.


Question:  All right, how many answers?


Deputy Spokesperson:  As many as I can give you.


Question:  Okay, all right.  So, the first one has to do with… I mean, you’ve probably heard of this incident in which Thailand apparently shot Rohingya migrants from Myanmar.  There is a lot of controversy about it, there was an incident at sea, I wanted to know if the UN has any… any view of this, particularly given its role in Myanmar.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to get back to you a bit later on, I don’t have anything with me right now, but I’ll check and see if we have something for you.


Question:  Okay, I also wanted to ask, there is a… reported in Der Spiegel, the German paper, saying that Tony Blair, who I understand is… is… has a role in the Quartet and for the UN in… in the occupied territories, is receiving a salary of $11.7 million a year from Kazakhstan.  And I wanted to know whether this could be viewed as any kind of a conflict of interest, whether apparently he doesn’t file a, at least a public, financial disclosure, I wanted to know any… maybe you can get this answer, whether he does, given his UN role, do a financial disclosure to the UN and whether direct payment by a Government could be viewed as a conflict of interest given his role… his UN service.


Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll have to check on that, Matthew, I don’t have anything on that.


[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that Mr. Blair is not a staff member of the United Nations, and that any questions on this issue should be referred to his office.]


Question:  Okay.  I think we… you have there… reload [inaudible].


Deputy Spokesperson:  Masood?


Question:  I had asked Martin, two days ago… oh yeah, by the way, how is Martin?  Martin, is… is he okay?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Fine, thank you.


Question:  Yeah?  Okay.  I had asked Martin and he said we’ll get back to you on Monday, and I think again on Tuesday about this Israeli soldiers going into Al-Aqsa Mosque and, first of all, harassing the women who were involved in religious service over there and then also, what you call, ransacking and destroying the Koran.  He said we’ll get back to you, and that was on Monday.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we are still checking, I have nothing for you on that.  I have received nothing yet, so we will continue checking and see if we can get a reply for you.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, this is… this is just… I wanted to ask you about… about UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force].  I know that earlier I had asked you about the… Croatia saying it was going to withdraw… now the Parliament there has voted to withdraw 100 peacekeepers, there are other reports that other countries have pulled out, what’s the status of… of troop-contributing countries to UNDOF and how does it impact the work that’s able to be done on the ground?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay, right now we have three countries that are current troop contributors — the Philippines, India and Austria.  Croatia has also been contributing troops, but on 20 February, the Permanent Mission informed the Department of Peacekeeping Operations the Government had decided to withdraw all Croatian military personnel from UNDOF due to the deteriorating security situation.  From 27 February, all operations of the Croatian contingent within UNDOF were restricted to static activities and the timeline for their withdrawal has not yet been set.


Question:  What per cent… is there some… I mean, so I am just trying to figure out what… what kind of a per cent of capacity could we say that UNDOF is?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t have that.  I can tell you that UNDOF currently has 1,008 troops as of 12 March.  So, I imagine that is the Philippines, India and Austria.


Correspondent:  Okay.


Deputy Spokesperson:  One more question, Matthew?


Question:  Okay, and I am going to waste… I mean, I am wasting this one, because I… I feel that you are not going to answer it, but I feel compelled to ask it.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Good.


Question:  The former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Mr. Patterson, has… has spoken on… on the UN’s finding that the Haiti cholera claims were… were not receivable, and he called it disgusting, and a new… he… he used some very har… strong language and he’s not… he’s not an NGO [non-governmental organization], he is not one of the victims, he is a former Head of State, and I just… I really wonder whether the UN in… in the… in the… with real passage of time doesn’t think that for its own kind of cred… ongoing credibility that offering some of its legal reasoning for finding non-receivability of claims of the death of 5,000, at least, people is… is acceptable.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, first of all, we don’t comment on comments by people in the media, and secondly, whatever we have said in the past on the situation in Haiti, on cholera in Haiti, stands.  The committee that was struck by the Secretary-General said that it was due to a confluence of events, that no one person or group could be blamed.  From the beginning, the Secretary-General has taken actions with the UN family of organizations to address the situation of cholera in Haiti and they have come a long way; we are looking at the plan for the next 10 years to eradicate cholera from Haiti, and that’s where we stand.


Thank you very much, have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record