14 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.


**South Sudan


The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said today that it is deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation in and around the town of Pibor in Jonglei State.


The Mission strongly condemns the violence, looting and displacement affecting civilians and humanitarian organizations there.  It also expressed its concern over statements issued by the armed group led by David Yau Yau, demanding that civilians leave the towns of Pibor, and also Kapoeta, in Eastern Equatoria State.


The Mission said that the Government of South Sudan has the primary responsibility to protect the population.  It also called on the civilian and military authorities to immediately take control of the situation and also to hold perpetrators to account.  Mission troops have already been patrolling Pibor and that was before the looting started, but it has reinforced its presence in the town since. Its peacekeepers have clear instructions to assist in protecting civilians.  And there is more information available online from that statement.


**Lebanon


The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, met today with the Lebanese President, the Speaker of Parliament and caretaker Prime Minister in Beirut.  He also met with the Force Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces.  Discussions in the meetings were particularly focused on the situation in the area of operations of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and its cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces.


Mr. Ladsous said afterward that the United Nations places the utmost importance on security and stability in Lebanon, particularly during these extremely turbulent times.  He assured his interlocutors of the UN’s complete support and engagement at every level to bolster the efforts of the Lebanese leadership to safeguard Lebanon from the negative impact of regional developments.  And there is a press release on a number of these meetings that is available in my Office.


**Security Council


The Security Council this morning received a briefing from Valentin Inzko, the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the latest developments in that country. 


Yesterday afternoon, the Security Council wrapped up its meeting on terrorism in Africa with a presidential statement in which the Council noted with deep concern that terrorism continues to pose a serious threat to international peace and security, the enjoyment of human rights and social and economic development of States, and undermines global stability and prosperity in Africa.  The full statement is online.


**Bangladesh


The International Labour Organization, ILO, today welcomed the Accord on Building and Fire Safety in Bangladesh.  It also welcomed the support of international trade unions, apparel brands and retailers for this agreement.  ILO said that the need for urgent improvement in workplace safety requires the industry to work together to implement a plan of action that supports the vital role of Government, employer and worker organizations in Bangladesh.  ILO says it stands ready to support this initiative.


**Questions from Yesterday


I was asked yesterday about the Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).  Resolution 1701 (2006) clearly places the responsibility for preventing weapons smuggling into Lebanon on the Government of Lebanon.  The resolution authorizes the UN Interim Force in Lebanon to assist the Government of Lebanon in this endeavour at its request, but it has not been requested to assist the Government on the land borders with Syria.  Therefore, the Mission, UNIFIL, is not deployed on the land borders between Lebanon and Syria.


The Government of Lebanon has requested UNIFIL’s assistance to the Lebanese Navy in preventing the entry into Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel.  Based on this request, UNIFIL’s Maritime Task Force has been deployed since October 2006 with the mandate to assist the Lebanese Navy in preventing arms smuggling by sea into Lebanon.


And on a different topic, I was asked about whether the Secretary-General had received a letter from a Sri Lankan Muslim leader.  The answer is no — or, at least, not yet.


**Press Conference and Stakeout


Tomorrow at 10 a.m., here in this auditorium, there will be a launch of the 2013 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.  That’s organized by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), and will be followed by a press briefing in the same room, here at 11:15 a.m.


And then at 1 p.m., there will be a press encounter by the Co-Chairs of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.  The President of Liberia, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, on behalf of his President, will address the press at the second floor stakeout of the North Lawn Building, here at UN Headquarters.


So, Mr. Abbadi, and then Iftikhar, yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Martin, has the Secretary-General spoken to Mr. Nawaz Sharif, the winner in Pakistani election, now that the results are final, or has he sent any message to him?


Spokesperson:  On the first part of your question, not yet.  On the second, typically, this would be once a Government is formed, as I understand it.  That is not yet the case.  So the Secretary-General, I am sure, will be in touch at some point, but not just yet.


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Speaking about the deteriorating situation, there is one developing around the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands between Japan and China.  What can the Secretary-General do, specifically in the framework of the preventive diplomacy, to defuse tension around these islands?


Spokesperson:  As you know, we have had this conversation a number of times.  This is a topic that is being handled by regional groups and regionally, and by the countries concerned, and I don’t have anything further to add on that at this point.  Yes?  Yes, you.


Question:  Yes, I am wondering, can you give some comment about that China has just launched a peace proposal between Israel and Palestine?


Spokesperson:  Well, I’d need to look into the details.  We are aware that there has been some activity recently, including visits to China by regional leaders, and I think that the Secretary-General is clearly aware of that.  I’d need to look into it in a bit more detail before providing any further information on that.  Yes?


Question:  Martin, can you give us an update on contacts by the Secretary-General and Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi on trying to get this new conference on Syria off the ground, and particularly whether the Secretary-General has any comment on indications by the Syrian Government that they may not attend such a conference?


Spokesperson:  Well, obviously, the Secretary-General remains in touch with Mr. Brahimi, directly and through others who have been working very closely with him from UN Headquarters here in New York.  With regard to this proposed conference, obviously this is a work in progress, as Mr. Brahimi said at the time after the announcements made in Moscow.  It was a very important step, but a very important first step, and plainly, there is a lot of work to do on that.  I am not going to get into individual statements that are being made or have been made with regard to the possibility of this conference; simply to say that it does represent an important opportunity.  This is something that we have already said publicly, and therefore it is incumbent on all concerned to seize that opportunity to find a way, at long last, to end the bloodshed and the suffering of the people of Syria both inside the country and as refugees outside the country.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I want to ask you about Guinea.  You… you’d announced some… some days ago that, that a protest had been called off and that Mr [Said] Djinnit was involved in that.  It’s now said that the… the opposition have said that they are… the protests are back on, that the talks with Alpha Condé led nowhere.  So I am wondering, is the UN still involved and what does it say about this turn of events?


Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, what we said was that Mr. Djinnit was continuing as the international facilitator, along with local interlocutors.  And so that process of engagement continues.  If I can get any specific update on the latest, then I will let you know.


[The Spokesperson later added that Said Djinnit is currently back in Conakry pursuing consultations with the Guinean parties in an attempt to restore the political dialogue in order to pave the way for the holding of free, fair and peaceful legislative elections.]


Question:  And I… I… I wanted to ask you about Somaliland, as well.  It’s something, there has been a new development, in which, at least it is said from there that… that… any way, the… I mean the… the upshot is that the Soma… Somaliland says that UN planes can no longer, for now, land in any Somaliland airport and they are ascribing this to a decision they say by the UN, and I am unclear which part of the UN, to turn over their airspace, full management of… of their airspace to the… the Government of Somalia, so they’re… you know, it is their argument they should be, at a minimum, autonomous if not independent, but I… is it… can you… does the UN have any comment on… on… on… on its planes being barred from Somaliland and what impact would that have on… on the develop… delivery of UN programmes there?


Spokesperson:  I’d have to check, Matthew, I don’t know the answer to that.  I’d just have to check.  Any other questions over here?  Yes?


Question:  A couple more, Myanmar and Abyei if there is more.  But in Myanmar, there is…


Spokesperson:  Well, on Abyei, I don’t have an update for you.  Should there be an update, I will let you know.  We’ve asked, we heard your questions; and I am not using the royal “we”, I mean myself and my colleagues heard the questions, and if and when I have something to add, then we will let you know.


Question:  The only thing I was going to add new on this is that the Government… the… now a spokesman for the South Sudan Army has… has ascribed the killing of the Paramount Chief and the UN peacekeeper to North, quote, what he calls North Sudan, so I just… that’s a new… that… that’s what they are saying, so I don’t know if their investigation is finished, but that’s what they are…


Spokesperson:  Well, I think we have mentioned that it needs to be safe enough on the ground to be able to conduct an investigation, and I don’t want to prejudge the outcome of it, in any case.


Question:  And, and I just wonder if you have anything on… on Myanmar.  There is this new… and I know… the… the Cyclone Mahasen bearing down and a lot of… lot of groups have been saying that the Government should… should take particular care to… to have the Rohingya be safe.  There have also been some deaths of people that were being evacuated by sea.  What’s the UN’s involvement and the plan… in… in… in the evacuation and does the UN think that the Government is doing enough, given the concerns raised that… that… of how the Rohingya will be impacted by this cyclone?


Spokesperson:  Well, certainly the evacuation and relocation operations in Rakhine State in particular are being led by the Government.  Humanitarian agencies are working closely with local authorities to preposition relief stocks,


and those humanitarian agencies also stand ready to assist with the response as required.  Just to be clear, the evacuation and relocation operations are being handled by the Government.


Question:  And then, how does the… I mean, be give… because of Nargis, and I know that the Secretary-General went there and was particularly concerned, is this viewed as a stor… does the UN view this as a similar event, as a lesser event, just because I am obviously… the last time, the Gover… it’s not necessarily the Government’s fault, di… it resulted in a lot of death and a need to bring in UN… UN aid after the fact.  So is there, that’s why I am asking whether there is some UN role of getting ready, at least maybe from afar.


Spokesperson:  Well, I just said so.  I just said so, Matthew.  I said the humanitarian agencies are working closely with the local authorities to preposition relief stocks and they also stand ready to assist them with response as required.  To my knowledge, Cyclone Mahasen has not actually hit yet.  So it’s a little too early to say what response will be required.  The intention is to try to prepare as much as possible.  The evacuation and relocation operations are being led by the Government, and that’s what I have at the moment.  All right, yes, Evelyn, yes?


Question:  Martin, a question on Somaliland:  does the UN give a lot of relief aid there or any kind of aid?  Because the Government there wants its own autonomy and says it doesn’t need too much outside help.


Spokesperson:  We can certainly check.  I think the whole question of independence, Member States and so on, as you well know, this is a matter for Member States.


Correspondent:  No, I am not saying…


Spokesperson:  Yes, and as a general statement of principle here, but obviously both on the question of aircraft and the question of relief aid, we will check.  Thanks very much; have a good afternoon.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record