|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.
The Security Council heard a briefing in closed consultations this morning on Western Sahara from Christopher Ross, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy. Mr. Ross presented the Secretary-General’s latest report to the Security Council, which urges the parties to engage in genuine negotiations. To do so, the Secretary-General writes, each party must accept that neither will obtain the totality of its demands, but rather has to engage in a logic of give and take.
**Central African Republic
Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, visited the Central African Republic today and appealed for urgent efforts to establish security and stop abuses against civilians. He reiterated international calls for a full return to constitutional rule.
Mr. Feltman said he was visiting the country to express the grave concern of the United Nations about the deteriorating security and human rights situation there and to convey solidarity with the people, who are suffering and extremely vulnerable at this moment.
The Under-Secretary-General spoke following a day of meetings in the capital, Bangui, including with representatives of political parties and civil society. The Under-Secretary-General also met with the Prime Minister in Douala, Cameroon, on Saturday. We have more details on Mr. Feltman’s visit in a press release, and we also have his remarks to the press in Bangui.
Yesterday, Côte d’Ivoire held its first local elections since 2001. The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (ONUCI) reports that the vote took place in an overall calm atmosphere. However, the mission notes that a number of incidents have been recorded, including acts of intimidation and vandalism in around nine of the country’s 197 municipalities.
Ahead of these elections and during the vote yesterday, UN peacekeepers provided technical support to Ivorian authorities. They also assisted in providing security, in support of national and local security forces. The mission has urged all actors to ensure a peaceful process. And the mission is closely monitoring the situation.
The Secretary-General spoke this morning at a General Assembly event to commemorate International Mother Earth Day. In his remarks, he said that he was deeply saddened by the destruction and casualties resulting from this past weekend’s earthquake in China’s Sichuan Province. He said that the people of China have shown great resilience and solidarity, and that the United Nations is prepared to provide relief and to mobilize international support to help with the recovery.
The Secretary-General also spoke at the inauguration of the newly renovated Economic and Social Council Chamber this morning.
And in remarks to the Commission on Population and Development, the Secretary-General said that, whether it takes place within countries or across borders, migration can bring people together. He added that it is not a question of whether to halt the movement of people across borders. The question is how we plan for such movements and make the most of them.
All of his remarks are available in my office and online. And a formal statement on the earthquake in China is also available.
And a reminder that, following this briefing, at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference here sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations, and that’s on the occasion of International Mother Earth Day. [This press conference was later cancelled.]
Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, congratulated Iraqi citizens on the peaceful conduct of the provincial council elections on Saturday.
He commended the work of the Independent High Electoral Commission for its high level of professionalism in conducting the first elections under its full responsibility, as well as the commitment of the thousands of Commission staff who carried out these elections as planned. Mr. Kobler praised the efforts of the Iraqi security forces who provided a peaceful environment for the elections. He also called on the Government of Iraq to schedule the postponed elections in Anbar and Ninewa as soon as possible.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia condemned the killing of a radio and television journalist yesterday in the capital, Mogadishu. Augustine Mahiga described the killing as “yet another appalling attack” on Somali journalists. He called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. And Mr. Mahiga noted that four journalists have been killed since the start of this year. There is more information on this available online.
**Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice
The twenty-second session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice began earlier today in Vienna. At the opening of the week-long event, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, said that crime undermines sustainable development and hinders access to education and employment. There is more available on the website of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Tomorrow at 10 a.m., there will be a press conference sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations, on the launch of the International Crisis Group report on Mali.
And then at noon, I will be joined by John Wilmoth, the Director of the Population Division in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, along with Graeme Hugo, the Director of the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide. And they will be here to brief you on global migration trends.
Questions, please? Yes, Matthew?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sure, Martin. I wanted to ask you, you know, some questions. One is, there is a report of… of pretty serious fighting in Nigeria as the Government tries to go after Boko Haram in the town of Baga, some people are saying up to 185 people were… were killed. Does the UN have any… I mean — I know that there was a Nigeria House there, there is a country team — is the UN aware of… of what the… what the… the… the… the… particularly for civilians, the death count is, and what… what do they have to say about this pretty serious fighting?
Spokesperson: Well, we are aware of the reports, and I would anticipate that we will something more to say on this a little bit later.
[The Spokesperson later issued the following statement:
The Secretary-General is shocked and saddened at the reports of high numbers of civilians killed and homes destroyed as a result of violence between military forces and an extremist group in the north-eastern town of Baga in Borno State, Nigeria, on 19 and 20 April. He expresses his condolences to the bereaved families and calls on all extremist groups to cease their attacks. The Secretary-General reiterates his firm conviction that no objective sought can justify this resort to violence. He underscores the need for all concerned to fully respect human rights and safeguard the lives of civilians.]
Question: Can I ask, maybe… you may have seen this story, it goes back to February, where a Canadian UN police officer from Haiti was accused of sexual abuse or exploitation and left the country. Now it is being pointed out that, particularly under Canadian law, he… he can’t be charged in Canada for… for alleged crimes committed outside of the country, and so human rights lawyers and others are saying this is a big… a kind of a blind spot in the UN’s accountability system. What, one… one, what’s happened to the… to the individual that was accused of this, or was said to be, left the country in the face of the charge in February? And two, is it… is it in fact the case, can the UN say that he could be charged in Canada if Canadian law seems to prohibit that?
Spokesperson: I’d have to check on that, Matthew. I am aware that an individual did leave Haiti earlier this year, but I need to check on the details. Yes, Sylviane?
Question: Thank you, Martin. Can you have any reaction on what is happening in the border between Syria and Lebanon? It is becoming like a very important matter. Do you have… maybe you read something on this matter?
Spokesperson: I haven’t…
Correspondent: The Hermel area and also the Al-Sayyed area, next to… between… border between Homs and Lebanon.
Spokesperson: I don’t have a specific update; simply to reiterate that the Secretary-General’s concerns that he has already expressed on a number of occasions about the danger and risk of spillover, but I don’t have anything specific related to recent developments. What I would tell you is that I would anticipate that a little bit later today I will have some more information on the meetings that the Secretary-General is holding today related to Syria.
Question: Do you know if Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi will be speaking to the press after his meeting with Ban Ki-moon?
Spokesperson: Almost certainly not, which is why I am saying I will probably have some information for you.
Question: Another thing, any reaction of the new appointment of the Syrian opposition? They just named George Shatil… George Sabra… sorry, Mr. George Sabra as caretaker of the opposition. Do you have any reactions on that? And can it be any… it cannot affect the mission of Brahimi?
Spokesperson: I need to check further with my colleagues in the Department of Political Affairs on that. I don’t have anything for you on that at the moment. Yes?
Question: I want to ask about Myanmar and then something, I guess it’s in-house, but I want to be sure to… to get to it, it seems like a good day to do it. One is, you’ve probably heard of this, what’s… maybe even seen this footage from Meiktila in Myanmar. It seems that… that with the fighting, now video has come out showing the police standing back as crowds attacked Muslim stores and homes and burned them. So I remember… I know that Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar was there, maybe just after the violence, but has the UN… I know that he briefed the Council, he seemed to be saying things are… are… that the Government is trying, but it’s difficult. But the… these… this footage seems to show that at least some part of the authorities there at a… a minimum stood back if not were… were part of the problem in Meiktila. Is there any change of thinking in the UN’s way? Does Mr. Nambiar have any comment on this… this pretty troubling footage?
Spokesperson: Not on that specifically. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be in due course. But simply to reiterate what we’ve said, that it is obvious that there needs to be dialogue with communities; that’s essential for building confidence. And also just to reiterate that we are able to deliver assistance. We do have access, but we need better access. There are still obstacles for us and other non-governmental organizations to do the job that they need to do to provide assistance in these areas. But if I have any thing specific on that particular report, I will let you know.
Question: And this is one, this is, it came up last week. This is a pretty… it’s a pretty straightforward one, but it… it has to do with this idea that at least some believe that… that when UN reports, for example, on Western Sahara, are… are ready, they’re not put online right away. They are made available through… as… as was said, through the… through the [inaudible] lady in paper form but not put online. So you’d said I am aware of the distinction, I don’t mean… I… I actually I am not. I just wanted to understand, what explains this gap between the UN having printout from digital files of a report like Western Sahara and it being made available to the public, if you can?
Spokesperson: Well, given how long you have been covering the United Nations, Matthew, then it is fairly staggering that you are not aware of the distinction. And I am happy to explain it to you afterwards. Thanks very much. Have a good afternoon.
Correspondent: I can tell you I am receiving a lot of questions about this.
Question: I have a question for you.
Question: Please, if Mr. Nabil ElAraby, the Secretary General of the Arab League, will it… will he stay until the meeting of Security Council on the Middle East Wednesday… till Wednesday? Will he be staying until then?
Spokesperson: The Secretary General of the League of Arab States?
Question: Yeah, Nabil ElAraby. Do you know?
Spokesperson: Yes, I know who it is; I am just… wanted to check if that is who you are asking about. I think you’d need to check with the League of Arab States. I don’t know the answer to that. I can tell you about the Secretary-General of the United Nations, but not about the Secretary General of the League of Arab States. You need to check with them. He is certainly in town today, that much I know.
Thank you very much. Have a good afternoon. Thank you.
* *** *For information media • not an official record