9 May 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Secretary-General Statement — Pakistan


I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the forthcoming national elections in Pakistan.


The Secretary-General has been following preparations for the forthcoming national and provincial elections in Pakistan on 11 May.  He hopes that all eligible Pakistanis peacefully take part, regardless of their religious affiliation, ethnic background, or gender and carry out their civic duty on this important day.  He commends the efforts of the Government, the Election Commission of Pakistan, political parties, civil society and religious leaders to encourage voter turnout, particularly amongst women.


The Secretary-General is concerned about the wave of violence and attacks in Pakistan that has targeted politicians, political rallies, and election offices ahead of the elections.  He conveys his heartfelt condolences to the families of all the victims.  He acknowledges the efforts being made by the Government of Pakistan to ensure the safety and security of candidates, party workers, election officials, observers and voters on the day of the elections.


The Secretary-General wishes every success to the Government and people of Pakistan for the national and provincial elections in Pakistan.


** Syria


The Secretary-General spoke by telephone separately this morning with the United States Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister.  They discussed the recent statements on Syria made during the Secretary of State’s visit to Moscow.  The Secretary-General commended both men for their leadership and initiative.


The Secretary-General has also been in touch today with the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.


The United Nations stands ready to play its role in helping to bring about a peaceful settlement.


The Secretary-General strongly encourages all parties to seize this opportunity.


The United Nations and the Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, will intensify efforts on this matter.


**Security Council


The Security Council held consultations on Sudan and South Sudan this morning.  Council members received an update on developments between those countries by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Haile Menkerios, who spoke to them by video teleconference.  This afternoon, the Security Council will hold a meeting followed by consultations on Guinea-Bissau.


** Guinea


Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, has been in Conakry in Guinea since Tuesday, in his capacity as International Facilitator, pursuing consultations with the Guinean parties in an attempt to restore political dialogue.


He had appealed to the opposition to postpone its demonstration scheduled for today in view of the escalation of violence in recent weeks.  The opposition agreed to postpone the demonstration.


Together with the two national facilitators, Mr. Djinnit issued a statement yesterday expressing concerns about the rise of violent incidents during demonstrations related to the electoral process.  The statement welcomes the decision of the opposition leaders to postpone the demonstration.  The facilitators call on all Guineans to contribute to the restoration of a peaceful atmosphere in the country in accordance with the “anti-violence declaration” signed by the Government and the political parties on 24 April.  Mr. Djinnit urges the political parties to resume an inclusive dialogue without delay.  He is pursuing further consultations with the parties today.


** Maldives


Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco wrapped up a three-day visit today to the Maldives.  Briefing the press in the capital, Malé, he said that the country is at a critical juncture.


Mr. Fernandez-Taranco said that the forthcoming elections will be an important step in the democratic transition.  He encouraged all political actors to contribute to free, fair, inclusive, credible and non-violent elections.


He stressed that, while respecting the Constitution, the credibility of the electoral process and acceptability of the results depends on whether all candidates wishing to participate in the presidential elections are able to do so.


**Secretary-General Appointment


The Secretary-General is announcing the appointment of Atefeh Riazi, of the United States, as Chief Information Technology Officer at the Assistant Secretary-General level in the Department of Management.  She will replace Choi Soon-Hong; and the Secretary-General and the Under-Secretary-General for Management are grateful for Mr. Choi’s commitment and dedicated service to the Office.


Ms. Riazi brings with her wide-ranging experience in the public and private sector, focusing on leading complex organizational change involving large departments in challenging environments to deliver vital business transformation through the use of innovation and technology.


And there is a full biographical note in my office.


** Haiti


I have been asked about our response to a press conference about cholera in Haiti yesterday.  I can tell you that on 7 May 2013, the Organization received a letter from the attorneys representing the claimants who are seeking compensation from the United Nations in connection with the cholera outbreak in Haiti.  The letter is addressed to the Legal Counsel.


By way of background, you may recall that the Secretary-General determined earlier this year that the claims brought against the Organization were not receivable, pursuant to Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.  This decision was communicated to the claimants on 21 February of this year.


I am not in a position to provide you with further details on the letter from the claimants, except that I can confirm that it was received by the Organization.  It is not the United Nations’ practice to discuss in public the details of, and the response to, claims filed against the Organization.


**Press Conferences Today


Immediately following this briefing, the Deputy Secretary-General, will be here to brief you on the Somalia Conference, which he recently attended in London, as well as his recent visit to Thailand and Singapore.


So, I have time for a few questions before the Deputy Secretary-General then joins us.  First of all, Iftikhar, and then Tala?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yes, regarding the Secretary-General’s statement on the elections in Pakistan, I know that UN was involved in training the election officers, but is it involved in monitoring the elections, too?


Spokesperson:  I do believe that my colleague has provided an answer to you on that.  And so, let me check what that is, okay.  I believe that you already received an answer on that.  Tala, yes?


[The Spokesperson later said that the United Nations is not involved in election observation, but is in contact with different observer groups.]


Question:  Martin, actually, it’s a follow-up also to Pakistan.  I know that you read a general statement, but is there anything specific on the kidnapping of the former Prime Minister’s son?


Spokesperson:  No.  I think what I just read out; that statement covers pretty much everything.  Okay.  Yes, and then I am coming to you, Joseph.  Yes?


[The Spokesperson later noted that, in the statement he had read, he said that the Secretary-General is concerned about the wave of violence and attacks in Pakistan that has targeted politicians, political rallies, and election offices ahead of the elections.  He conveys his heartfelt condolences to the families of all the victims.  He acknowledges the efforts being made by the Government of Pakistan to ensure the safety and security of candidates, party workers, election officials, observers and voters on the day of the elections.]


Question:  Do you have an update on the abduction of the peacekeepers on the Golan Height and are the negotiations still going on?  And do you have an idea what the claims of the captors are?


Spokesperson:  Well, what I can tell you is that they are still being detained in the village of Al Jamla, and negotiations to secure their release are indeed still going on.  As I have mentioned before, the interlocutors to whom the United Nations has reached out have been helpful.  I am not really in a position to give too much more details at this point.  Yes, Joseph?


Question:  Yeah, Martin, this is really a follow-up to an inquiry I sent you concerning the statement you read from UNIFIL the other day on the alleged violations by Israel of resolution 1701 due to their overflight of Lebanon and I just asked you whether if we’ll get a similar comment or statement from UNIFIL or reaction from UNIFIL to the series of violations by Syria and Iran of 1701 in sending weaponry into Lebanon in violation of that resolution to Hizbullah.


Spokesperson:  Yes, thank you, Joseph, I did receive your e-mail and I did say that we were checking.  And when I have something, I will let you know.  But I don’t have anything at the moment.  But thanks for reminding us.  Okay.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I want, I want to ask about the, the death of the Pakistani peacekeeper in, in, in South Kivu.


Spokesperson:  Yes.


Question:  It is reported that, that there have been two arrests made in Walungu… um… the, the, the authorities there and of South Kivu have confirmed these two arrests and I am wondering, one, now that people have been arrested, is the, is the UN able to say what armed group they may have been a part of at least 10 people that attacked?  What’s from… what’s going to be the UN’s kind of… either, either, involvement in questioning them, or does the UN want them referred to the ICC, since that was cited in, in, in the Secretary-General’s statement?  What’s going to happen now that two people have been arrested?


Spokesperson:  Well, we are obviously aware and the Mission is aware of the news reports on the arrests by Congolese security forces of two people alleged to be involved in the attack against peacekeepers in South Kivu last Tuesday.  And, as you pointed out, one MONUSCO peacekeeper from Pakistan died in that attack.


The Mission is monitoring the situation and its peacekeepers are in high alert.  I don’t have anything further on that particular topic at the moment specifically regarding whether the Mission will be seeking access to the two people who have been arrested.  I think I would need to check further with the Mission.  Typically, as you know, those kind of judicial inquiries, investigations would be conducted by national authorities.  But let me check further.


But as you mentioned the peacekeeper, let me just also tell you that the Mission informs that a memorial ceremony in honour of its fallen peacekeeper was held earlier today in Kavumu, South Kivu.


And the body of the peacekeeper is being transferred to Pakistan.


So, one more question, Matthew, and then the DSG will be arriving.


Question:  Oh, okay.  I, I, I was — or maybe I am assuming — if, if there was more… if, if you had something you’d say something, right?


Spokesperson:  Good assumption.


Question:  Okay.  I wanted to ask if you can confirm that the Secretary-General was travelling to Mozambique.  The reason I ask — I know you sometimes say, or you often say that travel…


Spokesperson:  No, probably always.


Question:  But in this case, UNICEF and, and other UN agencies are, are the source of the, of the report, so I am thinking maybe, either do they not follow that policy or is that… is it…?


Spokesperson:  Well, typically, as you know, the Secretary-General’s travels are announced by me or by others at Headquarters.  And so, if and when we have an announcement to make, we will make it, okay?


Question:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  All right, thanks very much.  And the Deputy Secretary-General will be here quite shortly.  Thanks very much.  I’ll just go and get him.


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For information media • not an official record