|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.
**Deputy Secretary-General Travels
The Deputy Secretary-General will be travelling to London to participate in the Somalia Conference, which will take place on 7 May. That Conference is co-hosted by the Governments of Somalia and the United Kingdom.
At the Conference, the Deputy Secretary-General will deliver a keynote speech on behalf of the Secretary-General. And, on the margins of the Conference, he will hold bilateral meetings with high-level Government officials from Somalia, the United Kingdom and other relevant stakeholders.
Yesterday, the Secretary-General met with the Israeli Justice Minister and Chief Negotiator in the Israeli-Palestinians peace talks, Tzipi Livni. They discussed the current state of play of the Middle East peace process, as well as regional developments, in particular, in Syria.
The Secretary-General strongly encouraged efforts towards the resumption of credible negotiations to achieve the two-State solution, expressing hope that renewed United States engagement would lead to a substantial initiative soon.
He welcomed the positive engagement of the Arab League Peace Initiative follow-up committee. He stressed the importance of creating an environment conducive to a resumption of talks, and encouraged Israel to take positive steps in this regard. He reiterated that the announcement of the E-1 settlement should be rescinded. While reiterating his concern over the situation of Palestinian prisoners, he expressed appreciation for the announcement by the Government of Israel of the upcoming release of several hunger-striking prisoners.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said today that it is very concerned about the large number of casualties, reportedly including many civilians, and massive destruction of houses and property, as well as displacement that has taken place over the past few weeks in north-eastern Nigeria.
The Office of the High Commissioner called on the Nigerian Government to make sure its efforts to achieve security are in full compliance with human rights principles and it urged security forces and the military to respect human rights, and avoid excessive use of force when conducting operations.
While welcoming the important step the Government has made by establishing a Committee to open talks with Boko Haram, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Nigerian authorities to make sure that perpetrators of serious human rights violations are held accountable.
** Great Lakes
Mary Robinson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, is in Burundi today, as part of her first visit to the region.
She met today with the President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, as well as the Great Lakes peace envoys of both the African Union and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
The Special Envoy called on leaders to maintain the “political will and urgency for peace”. She added that there had been agreements before, but this time had to be different and that implementation should start now.
Tomorrow, the Special Envoy will be in South Africa.
And there is more in my Office on that trip.
Thanks very much. And questions, please? Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Is Mrs. Robinson addressing the issue of sexual violence going on in the DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo]?
Spokesperson: Amongst other topics, she is certainly meeting with women’s groups and others to discuss that topic. The Framework Agreement, certainly, is aiming at a comprehensive approach to this, and obviously, that includes tackling sexual violence in armed conflict and, obviously, specifically involving women. So, if I have more details, and I believe Mrs. Robinson will be providing more details as the trip goes on — then we will certainly provide those to you, too.
Question: Can I ask a follow up on that? And I want to… I, I don’t know, if… if… if you know at this stage whether she got any kind of an update on the, the Government’s actions on the Minova mass rapes. But I also wanted to ask again about this question of privacy that I think I, maybe, maybe it was two days ago I asked you. There is a report in the French press that… that doctors were forced to turn over files of women without their consent. Is there any response from the UN to that?
Spokesperson: Not at the moment; I will check again, Matthew. Yes?
Question: Martin, there was a statement from the commander of this Free Syrian Army and the Russian Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov, both of whom expressed openness for possible talks; I just want to ask if you have any comment on that.
Spokesperson: I have no immediate comment on that. Clearly, the whole aim of international efforts is political dialogue as a way to move forward and to end the bloodshed. But I would need to look into that further before commenting any more. But thank you for the question. Yes?
Question: Sure, I want to ask, uh, I had asked you previously about Madagascar, and today was the deadline for candidates to step forward in the elections. It turns out Mr. [Andry] Rajoelina has announced that he is running, which breaks a promise and, some say, breaks the road map. He has also denounced the candidacy of Lalao Ravalomanana. So, I am wondering: is the UN following this, as the last response you sent me said that the road map is being complied with, that there are, there are various ways, including Mr. Rajoelina expressing an… an opinion and now running, that the road map is not being followed; it seems to, some is not being followed. Is there any response from the UN today?
Spokesperson: We’ll check with DPA, with the Department of Political Affairs.
Question: And I wanted to… I… I know… I… I… I hope I, we’ll see how you respond to this. I… I… I’ve obtained an… Inner City Press published a… a… a DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] memo about… about abolishing posts. The reason I am asking, if it was a… if it was a small issue I wouldn’t, but it, it seems to, you know, it indicates that posts will be abolished by July 2013 and it says that this is because, in line with the reduction of peacekeeping activities in the field, and since, you know, in covering the Council, obviously, there are news missions being formed, Mali, I am wondering whether this abolition of posts that was announced in February 2013 is still the case or it’s been in some way reversed.
Spokesperson: Well, you may have obtained a copy of a memo; I have not seen it, and I am not going to comment on leaked documents. But if there is anything that I receive from our colleagues in Peacekeeping Operations, then I will let you know. Yes?
Question: I know that you… you…. you… you… I want to, one, we [inaudible], and one sort of in, in-house… of… in-house one first… and it has to do with this internship question. I know I, I am assuming that when you have more you will say more, but I, yesterday I was saying, you know, they, they could contact NGO, and I am looking again at this page. It seems pretty straightforward that, at least, you now, maybe I am wrong, that, that an NGO that is accredited to the UN shouldn’t be offering an internship at the UN for $22,000; and the bidding is still open. So, I guess, what I am, I am wondering is, does the UN intend to somehow take action on this while the bidding is open? Is… is… is… is… can the person who is currently bidding $22,000 actually enter the UN as an intern under the terms that were offered?
Spokesperson: Matthew, we have said very clearly that internships at the United Nations are not for sale. Internships at the United Nations, United Nations internships, are unpaid. I also said yesterday that the Office of Legal Affairs is looking into it, and that includes contacting a number of people. You seem to assume what is and is not being done. And I don’t think that is right to do that. They are doing their job to find out. It obviously does look unusual, to say the very least, and we are trying to find out the full details. And once we have something further to say, we will. But just to repeat that United Nations internships are simply not for sale. And furthermore, they are unpaid. Other questions?
Question: It has to do with any readout of the meeting the Secretary-General and Dr. Åke Sellström are having today.
Spokesperson: Well, if there is any detail on any meetings that may or may not be held, then we will let you know. Last question, Matthew?
Question: Sure. It has to… you… it was about the, the Deputy Secretary-General going to this Somalia conference in, in London. Is it the UN’s understanding that the issues of Somaliland, there is a lot of controversy about whether the U… the new UN mission, how it covers Somaliland, whether it should be a separate unit, Somaliland wrote a letter to the Council last month that didn’t get distributed, but I am… they… they are… they… are they participating in… or does the UN think that in going to this conference it is dealing with the whole, with both Somalia and what is called Somaliland and Puntland, or just a certain part of Somalia?
Spokesperson: As I mentioned at the outset, this is a conference that is co-hosted by the Governments of Somalia and the United Kingdom. So, I suggest that you check with them on who is and is not invited and taking part.
Thanks very much. Have a good weekend.
* *** *For information media • not an official record