|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.
With the start of the month of May, Togo has assumed the rotating Presidency of the Security Council, replacing Rwanda. Ambassador Kodjo Menan of Togo, the Council President for this month, will brief you at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow in this room on the Council’s programme of work for May.
A statement we issued last night expressed the Secretary-General’s concerns about the surge of violence throughout Iraq, in which many people have been killed and hundreds injured over the past week. The Secretary-General calls on the Iraqi Security Forces to exert utmost restraint in maintaining law and order, and he calls on the demonstrators to preserve the peaceful nature of their protests.
He is also concerned about the recent decision to withdraw licenses from several TV channels in the country and urges relevant authorities to reconsider their decision. He recalls that freedom of the press is a fundamental pillar of democracy. The Secretary-General urges all Iraqi leaders to come together and engage in constructive and inclusive dialogue with the firm determination of overcoming the deep political crisis the country is facing. And the full statement is online.
The head of the joint African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur, UNAMID, has wrapped up a series of field visits across the region’s five States to assess the security, humanitarian and political situation.
During his visits, Mohamed ibn Chambas met with representatives of internally displaced people, traditional leaders, State authorities and UNAMID staff. Mr. Chambas said that the best solution to the conflict in Darfur is to achieve a lasting peace, so that citizens can live without fear or intimidation. He also reiterated UNAMID’s commitment to protect civilians, saying that the mission and its partners will continue to do their best to address the needs of the communities. There is more information on this on the UNAMID website.
Tomorrow morning, the Secretary-General will speak at an event on the safety of journalists and other media professionals in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day. The discussion will look at how to secure the safety of those working in the media, both online and offline, in order to promote a free, independent and pluralistic press. The event will be held in Conference Room 3 of the Conference Building here at United Nations Headquarters, and it will be webcast live, as well.
Questions, please? Mr. Abbadi?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Martin. The Arab League, in its discussion with the Pres… with the White House, have… has indicated that the Arab side is ready to negotiate the possibility of borders between Israel and the West Bank. The Officer-in-Charge of Foreign Affairs, Ms. [Tzipi] Livni, in Israel has welcomed that as a positive step. Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to that?
Spokesperson: We are obviously aware of those developments, and we are obviously watching that quite closely. The Secretary-General is expected to meet with Ms. Livni tomorrow, in fact. And I will also be checking with our colleagues in UNSCO [Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process] to see if they have anything further to add on this. But, obviously, we are watching this very closely. The Secretary-General has repeatedly said that there needs to be progress on the two-State solution, that we need to overcome the impasse that there has been now for many months. And so, obviously, we want to see how this develops and we will watch it very closely. Yes?
Question: Thank you. The Secretary-General, in the past, has asked Venezuelans to talk to each other. And yesterday, we saw in the National Assembly in Caracas a fight, tremendous violence, and we are hoping if there will be any statement regarding this.
Spokesperson: I am not sure that there would be a statement, except to reiterate the general notion that it is better to speak to each other and to work through any differences using dialogue. I think that that’s self-evident. Other questions, please? Yes?
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask about South Sudan. First, I wanted to know, the Government has… has said a few days ago that… that those who attacked the UN peacekeeping convoy were from the David Yau Yau rebel group, and I wanted to know if that’s also the UN’s understanding. And also that… that the Government offered all rebels seemingly an amnesty, which the Yau Yau group has… has rejected, but I wanted to know if the UN thought it was appropriate; could amnesty be offered to those who killed the peacekeepers? Those are the two questions.
Spokesperson: Well, it’s obvious that there should be no impunity for such crimes. And on the first part of your question, I’d have to check; I don’t have anything on that.
Question: Is it… and… and just as one follow-up, is it… because I know that it… well, I… whether the Mission or Hilde Johnson, in particular, spoke with the Government about this amnesty offer to make sure that there was this either a carve-out or it didn’t either cover or seem to cover those who killed the peacekeepers of this…
Spokesperson: I have said what I am going to say on that.
Question: Okay. Okay. Yeah, I also wanted to ask you… okay, this has to do with a… with a suspension of action that was ordered by the UN Dispute Tribunal about relocation of translation staff. There is going to be a protest, they say, 1:30 p.m. today at the traffic circle, and they’ve… what they are saying is that there have been broken promises, they’ve claimed that they have an order that they can’t be relocated, but that people are, nevertheless, being relocated into the Albano Building. So, I wanted to know, given this… it’s May Day, of course, but what… what… is the Sec… is the Secretariat… is it their understanding this order means that the people can’t be relo… relocated, or are these moves still taking place, as the staff union says?
Spokesperson: Well, as you yourself know, there is a case before the Dispute Tribunal. And, therefore, I cannot comment on the details of that case. But, people are perfectly entitled, of course, to express their opinions, and that, obviously, in a peaceful way. Other questions, please? Yes, Nizar?
Question: Martin, I wonder if Mr. Ban Ki-moon discussed yesterday with Mr. [Nabil] ElAraby the future role of Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi as a Joint Representative. Did they touch on that? Is… how can they reconcile, for example, the Arab League resolutions with the Security Council resolutions and the Geneva document?
Spokesperson: We offered a readout on that meeting; I am sure you saw it. I don’t have anything to add to that. Obviously, we are aware of media stories surfacing yet again about the Joint Special Representative. I really don’t have anything to add beyond what Mr. Brahimi himself said recently at the stakeout. I think he was fairly clear, and I don’t have anything to add to that. Other questions, please? First of all, Evelyn, and then Mr. Abbadi, yes?
Question: Is Mr. ElAraby still in town, or you don’t know?
Spokesperson: Well, you could check with the office of the League of Arab States, I think. I don’t know.
Question: And any update on Syria, after yesterday’s hoo-ha?
Spokesperson: Well, it’s an all-encompassing question, Evelyn. Do you want to narrow it down a little bit?
Question: Yes, the US is talking about giving arms there and you were talking about why you couldn’t go ahead on the chemical weapons team. Any reaction to that?
Spokesperson: On the first, we’ve said all along, the Secretary-General has said all along, that militarization of this conflict and the further militarization of this conflict is not helpful. With regard to the second part, there has been no change since I sat here yesterday. We would like to see progress on that. I spoke at some length yesterday about that; I don’t think I need to go over it again, except to say that we are ready to go. The mission team is ready to deploy. It is doing its best from outside to gather information. It will continue to do that, and we will continue to be in touch with the Syrian authorities, with a view to being able to have the team go in sooner rather than later.
Question: Martin? A follow-up on that?
Question: I wonder if the investigation team, the chemical investigation team, are looking into the cases mentioned by Mr. [Bashar] Ja’afari yesterday inside… those who were affected by Saraqib attack, those who were taken to Turkey, and if any experts went there to see for themselves if there have been…
Spokesperson: Well, Nizar, I did answer that question yesterday. The team is mandated to investigate those allegations which have been presented in formal requests by Member States. There have been formal requests from three Member States, as you know — from the Syrian Arab Republic, from France and the United Kingdom — setting out a number of allegations. And it is based on those requests that the mission was established and is doing its best to carry out the work, investigating the allegations from outside of Syria, and in the hope of going into Syria for on-site activities that would involve samples, speaking to medical staff, medical records and so on. There have… there are no other formal requests. There are many allegations, and many media reports, but there are no other formal requests to investigate.
Question: Sure, I… a follow-up on that?
Spokesperson: Mr. Abbadi next, yes?
Question: I have other ones, as well. On Syria, just… just… just sort of to understand, yesterday, there was a… the Russians hosted a… a… a journalist… a Russian State journalist that had been in Syria for some eight months, Anastasia Papova. Among other things, she said that she was in Khan al-Assal just after the attack and interviewed people. So, she said that she has… you know, she is offering this evidence. She said that the Pinheiro panel didn’t want to speak with her, saying that they would only speak first-hand to refugees, but I am wondering whether it is the Secretary-General’s understanding that his… his… this probe, if it can’t get into the country, or while it can’t get into the country, is this the type of evidence that they would be willing to take a look at? It just… it’s sort of… it was an open question raised yesterday.
Spokesperson: The mission is looking at many different kinds of material that is available. And if this journalist, Ms. Papova, has information that she thinks is useful, then she should seek to contact the team. I am sure that she could do that through the Russian Mission. I am sure that that would be feasible. Whether it turns out to be admissible evidence or not is another matter, but there is no reason not to at least make the offer. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Martin, as you indicated, the Secretary-General will make a statement tomorrow at the meeting on the protection of journalists and the expression… free expression. Would his statement be made available ahead of the meeting?
Spokesperson: If there is a desire for that to be the case, I am sure we could look into it in the usual way that we provide material in advance to journalists under embargo. I’ll look into that. Why not? Yeah, last question?
Question: Okay. It’s kind of a stranger question. I just wanted to know, the… the… the… there is a UN internship that’s being auctioned off online. You… I am not assuming that you’d know of this, but I’ve… I have seen it, I have written an article about it… it’s a…
Spokesperson: Well, you want it? You want it or something?
Question: No, no, not at all, I wanted to know if it is legal, I guess. There are… they are saying that people should pay $22,000 to work in the UN, and it’s… it’s for the… for the UN NGO Committee on Human Rights, for six weeks. They are auctioning it off openly to benefit something called the RFK Young Leaders Foundation. But, it seems… it seems to smack of… it says, like, you’ll learn how the UN really works. I am wondering if… if the UN is comfortable with positions inside the building being sold for money online.
Spokesperson: I’ll have to look into that; I am not aware of that particular unusual story, Matthew. But, I am happy to look into it.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Question: Do you have an update on Libya?
Question: On Libya?
Spokesperson: Not beyond what I said yesterday and beyond the statement that we’ve issued, I don’t have anything on that, no.
* *** *For information media • not an official record