17 June 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen; welcome to the noon briefing.


**Secretary-General’s Travel


The Secretary-General will be leaving shortly for China.


During his visit, he will meet President Xi Jinping, the Premier of the State Council, Li Keqiang, and other senior officials.


The Secretary-General will also visit a peacekeeping training centre, attend a workshop on clean energy and meet business leaders involved in the Global Compact Network in China.


He will return to New York on Friday.


**Security Council


The Security Council began an open debate on children and armed conflict this morning, and Leila Zerrougui, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative dealing with that subject, told the Council that the evolving nature and tactics of armed conflict have created unprecedented threats for children.


She said that she intends to visit Syria and the region in the coming days to assess first-hand the consequences of the conflict there on children.  She also noted the abuse of children in the recent fighting in Mali and in the Central African Republic.  But, Ms. Zerrougui also noted progress and added that, in 2012 alone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia and South Sudan signed action plans to end the recruitment and use of children.


Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, detailed the efforts to give attention to child protection at the earliest stages of planning operations and discussed the work done by Child Protection Advisers.


We have his and Ms. Zerrougui’s briefing notes in my office.


** Iraq


Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, has strongly condemned the latest wave of car bomb attacks that targeted crowded areas in several Iraqi cities Saturday during rush hour, killing and injuring dozens more innocent people.


He said that nothing can justify such despicable and heinous crimes, targeting innocent people going about their daily business.  And he called once more for all Iraqi political leaders to sit together with good faith and determination, to address all the problems that the country continues to face.


** Myanmar


The United Nations in Myanmar has warned that the humanitarian situation for some 140,000 displaced people in Rakhine State remains bleak, a year since inter-communal violence flared up.


Humanitarian organizations have been supporting displaced communities with food, health care, water and sanitation, shelter and other life-saving relief supplies.  Food aid is distributed on a monthly basis, with nearly 2,200 metric tons provided in May alone.  More than 71,000 people now have access to temporary shelter.  However, significant gaps remain, including limited funding for camp management and coordination activities.


The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, Ashok Nigam, says that sustainable solutions must be found to restore a lasting peace and harmony between the people of Rakhine State.  Reconciliation between communities is the larger priority.  He added that the international community stands ready to support the Government in its efforts to foster peace and harmony in Rakhine State.


**UNESCO


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said today that the World Heritage Committee has decided to remove the site of Bam, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, from the List of World Heritage in Danger.


Bam was inscribed on this list in 2004, shortly after it was struck by a major earthquake.  The Committee has now noted that remains of the desert citadel had been sufficiently stabilized and its management was sound enough for the site to be declared safe.


The World Heritage Committee opened its thirty-seventh session in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, yesterday.  The 12-day session will be devoted to the inscription of new sites on the World Heritage List, but also to a review of the conservation of properties already on the List.


Particular attention will be paid to the World Heritage sites of Mali and of the Syrian Arab Republic.


**Secretary-General’s Appointment


The Secretary-General has appointed Major General Jean Bosco Kazura of Rwanda as the Force Commander for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).


Major General Kazura is to assume command on 1 July.  This is the date when, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2100 (2013) of 25 April and subject to review by the Council, the transfer of authority is to take place from the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) to MINUSMA.


We have more on this appointment in our office.


Questions, please?  Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  On Friday, the Secretary-General, again, he expressed his concern about the settlements in the… in the occupied West Bank, as well as East Bank in Jerusalem, East Jerusalem, which is not, I mean, it’s a very, very controversial territory.  The Secretary-General has been making that statement again and again.  The international community has been telling the Secretary-General the same thing again and again.  Is there… Secretary-General does have the power to at least ask the Security Council to take robust measures, meaning, thereby, to somehow pass a resolution asking Israel to once and for all do something about it?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General, as I said, he has been very robust in his statements on the situation.  He has also been very robust in his support for any attempt to revive peace talks between the Palestinian side and the Israeli side.  And these initiatives continue.  Secretary of State [John] Kerry has been travelling to the region; the Secretary-General has been very active through statements and through conversations with leaders around the world.  And this is where it stands.


Question:  Only reason why I ask this, sir, is because this has been going on for a very long time.  But, the Secretary-General, has he thought about invoking… he has the powers to at least ask the Security Council to take more stringent steps.  Has he ever decided to do that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is in constant contact with the members of the Security Council, and they know what his thinking is on the situation in the Middle East.  Iftikhar?  Microphone, please?


Question:  Does the Secretary-General plan to open contacts with the new Iranian leader in order to get these stalled talks on Iranian nuclear programme going?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you read that the Secretary-General’s statement over the weekend; he has welcomed them.  The Secretary-General… Iran is a Member State and the Secretary-General will conduct his business with Iran, the way he does with every Member State.


Question:  No, no, has he made any contacts with the new Iranian leader?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t believe he has, no.  Matthew?


Question:  Maybe I missed it; yeah, thanks a lot.  There was obviously some pretty high profile uh, uh, uh, seeming crackdown in Turkey over the weekend, both in Taksim Square, Gezi Park; doctors were charged with treating protesters and I am wondering:  I know that, earlier, you know, some time ago, there was a comment.  Is there any… what does the Secretariat think of what took place there?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ve seen the reports, Matthew, and the Secretary-General stands by the statement that Martin, the comments Martin [Nesirky] made last week.


Question:  Does he feel that the statement that he made last week was either complied with or had some effect on what took place?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, he, Martin, gave an answer to a question last week; the Secretary-General continues to stand by it.


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  I am not sure if I missed it; when the Secretary-General had this announcement on chemical weapons use in Syria.  Does he think that the US [ United States] evidence is credible?  And how is, how is his approach to the claims by Washington?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General made his comments at the press stakeout on Friday.  I would suggest you read his comments, because he discussed it…


Correspondent:  I was… I was there.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, then I suggest you read the transcripts, which are available.  Tim?


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  You announced last week the Secretary-General’s trip to China.  Can you tell us some more about it?  How long is he going to be there; who is he going to meet? Is he going to raise…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I just read… he is, he is going to be meeting the President, the Prime Minister, senior officials.  He will be visiting a peacekeeping academy there and he will be returning to New York on Friday morning.


Question:  Okay.  Will he be raising issues, such as North Korea, sending their refugees back to North Korea?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we will have to see what he raises.  I don’t have… I am not going to anticipate what the Secretary-General will raise.  When he has raised it, we will issue readouts of his meetings with leaders and we’ll see what he says.  Pam?


Correspondent:  All right.  Just on the, a few follow-ups…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Microphone.  Push the button.


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  Just a few follow-ups:  On the Syria chemical weapons, at the moment of the press stakeout, he had just received the letter from Ambassador Susan Rice, so we found out later.  Has he… he said he would read it and get back to us.  So, could you just get a readout on what his view of that letter is; in other words the evidence in that letter?


Deputy Spokesperson: We’ll have to check on that.


Correspondent:  He… he said he was getting it to [Ake] Sellström, but what were his, he said he would get back on his take on the letter.


Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll check on that.


Question:  Okay.  And then a follow-up on Iran; will the Secretary-General be trying to reach out to the new Iranian President on the issue of peace talks, which he has said are… the nuclear programme talks which he said, the Iranian President said he wants to reopen?  So, that may be a second one, and then the third is just on China:  can you get a readout, or request a readout, on any conversations with the Chinese officials on Syria?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, on the third one, we’ll have to see what comes out of the readouts.  On the second one, the Secretary-General, the President-elect of Iran was just elected this weekend; he does not assume office until 1 August, I believe.  Let’s give time, an opportunity to see what is happening, what’s going to happen.


Question:  So, this is a follow-up; he has made the point already that he wants to reopen the nuclear talks.  And so, maybe you can just ask if there is any kind of readout from the Secretary-General if…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has always said that dialogue is the way to go.  That it was important for both sides…


Correspondent:  Right, but that is a general statement.  You’ve now had a broa… you know, the new Iranian President, even though he has, President-elect, has now said he wants the talks, I mean, if there is any kind of response to that, it would be helpful to know.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, when we have something, we will let you know. Edie?


Question:  Eduardo, does the Secretary-General have any comment on the North Korean offer of talks with the United States?


Deputy Spokesperson:  He has noted the proposal; he has consistently stated that the parties should resolve their differences through dialogue.  And for any meaningful dialogue, for any dialogue to be meaningful, it should be firmly anchored on the common goal of the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.


In the same vein, the Secretary-General stresses the importance of the inter-Korean dialogue, which is key to defusing tensions on the Korean peninsula and ensuring durable peace and security in the region.


Question:  Yeah, going back to Turkey.  You know, five people died so far and at least 5,000 people injured.  And is Secretary-General going to make a phone call to Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan or wants to release another statement?  He is so silent.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the question was answered last week, and when we have something else for you, we will get it to you.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure.  Once again, you have, I wanted to ask a couple of things about troop-contributing countries.  One is this issue of Fiji going into… to… to… to UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force].  I remember, I mean, the, it had been said for some time that, because of the coup in Fiji, that no new Fijian peacekeepers would be selected, there were some, couple of rotations I think in Iraq.  But, has that policy, I mean, it seems like it has been, but was some determination made by the Secretariat that democracy has been restored in Fiji or is it just the… the desperate need for UNDOF peacekeepers has waived the previous, at least stated policy of not accepting peacekeepers from a country after a coup?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I think the previously stated policy was that they were not going to accept peacekeepers who had been implicated in human rights violations, and that the peacekeepers who were going were going to be vetted.


Question:  So these are, these have been, I… I don’t want to… I, actual… I… I… I may, I’ll go back to the policy, but these, these, the individuals, the 170 that are being sent are, have been vetted?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I suggest you discuss that with DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations].  They are the people responsible for the peacekeepers.


Question:  And I wanted to ask also the other TCC [troop-contributing countries] count…, question is, has to do with this issue of Chad and MINUSMA, and I know it, it’s come up a couple of times, but I have been listening to the debate this morning and I haven’t heard it addressed either to Mr. Ladsous’ speech or Ms. Zerrougui’s.  Since Chad is listed as a child soldier recruiter, is there any issue with, you know, blue-hatting them and paying them as peacekeepers in Mali?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, that question was asked last week and it was answered by Martin, and I have nothing to add.  Anything else?  Masood?


Question:  Yes, sir, on this Myanmar, there is, there are reports from the Burmese media and so forth that there, in some parts of Rohingya community, Rohingya community lives in Burma, there is evidence of genocide of Muslims going on.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about that or has his Special Representative, Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar, had said anything to say about that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll check with Mr. Nambiar’s office to see what his latest thinking is on that.  Matthew?


Question:  Okay, great.  Sri Lanka, Somaliland and staff; very quickly.  One is on Sri Lanka, the DSG [Deputy Secretary-General] had said back in May that his report on… on lessons learned from the 2009 events would be finished by mid-June.  So, now that we are past mid-June, I am wondering, can we, is it… is it… has it… is it finished; has it been given to the Secretary-General, when did it end?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, just as my knowledge, that report is for the Secretary-General and he will share the contents with the people he feels are necessary to be shared with.


Question:  But, can you say whether it’s actually been finished?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not sure; I’ll have to check on that for you.


Question:  Okay.  And the Somaliland question is, it’s, there is a lot of back and forth, I know that Nicholas Kay went there and of, at least to my understanding, is he was told by the Foreign Minister of Somaliland that UNPOS is, uh, UNSOM [United Nations Support Mission in Somalia], excuse me, is not wanted in, in, in Somaliland.  And then I have seen a UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] solicitation for, for, for guarding services at the UN common compound in Hargeisa and Burao.  So, I am wondering, one, I was kind of surprised that the UN is, is, is soliciting outside guards, and I am wondering why DSS [Department of Security and Safety] doesn’t do it; but two, do these guards, does this involve an, un, any UNSOM, uh, presence in Somaliland, or are they, in fact, leaving, as they were requested to?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to get back to you on that, Matthew.  I don’t have anything here with me right now.  I am taking a look to see…  No.  Bear with me.  No, I am afraid I don’t.  We’ll have to check and get back to you.  Last question?


Question:  And the last, yeah, is, this, there was this meeting, I believe in Mexico City, of the Staff Management Committee and the staff union has said that, basically, the Secretariat tried to abrogate their negotiating rights and ended the meeting several days early, including wasting resources of people that flew down there.  Is there some, I’m… you’ve probably seen that e-mail as a staff member, but is there some response from the Secretariat to the claim by their union that they are not negotiating in good faith and wasted resources?


Deputy Spokesperson:  As a matter of fact there is.


Correspondent:  Great.  Let’s do it.


Deputy Spokesperson:  The Staff-Management Committee meeting in Mexico City (SMC-II) ended prematurely on Friday, as you have well noted.


The impasse arose related to the role of the Committee itself which, since 2011, has been governed by the Secretary-General’s bulletin (ST/SGB/2011/6), which provides that issues be resolved by consensus.  The General Assembly, in its resolution 67/255, requested that the bulletin be revised in line with existing staff regulations.  A draft revised bulletin was shared with members of the Staff-Management Committee, which removed the requirement for agreement by consensus.


Staff representatives disagreed with the General Assembly.


While we recognize the importance of this issue to staff representatives, the position of the Member States is clear and the administration cannot revisit the issue with the General Assembly, as suggested by staff representatives.


Management demonstrated flexibility and encouraged the staff representatives at the SMC-II on several occasions to provide constructive suggestions that could be incorporated into the draft revision of the said resolution.  Regrettably, staff representatives at SMC-II were not prepared to stick to the programme of work that had been agreed upon and discussed the many other important agenda items.  It was, therefore, not possible to continue this meeting.


Question:  Can I just ask one, because I have seen the, the president of the union’s uh, e-mail says that, that, this proposal, which I, you, I said, you are saying is not a proposal, but in any case, management’s presentation of this issue was done after the document submission deadline, sort of at the eleventh hour, so if it was so clear, why didn’t the Secretariat tell them in advance?  Probably you could have figured it out it was going to break down in Mexico, I mean… well… well, is it the case that this was turned into, to the other side too late?


Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t believe it was; I believe it was sent about four weeks prior to the meeting.


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  Now there is this discussion on no-fly zone in, in Syria, and a lot of countries are bringing in their views on it.  What does the Secretary-General think about it and do you guys think it will reduce the violence in Syria?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has had a very clear position since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, and that is that any militarization of the situation is unhelpful and counterproductive.  That remains his position.  Carla?  Microphone, please?


Question:  Can you comment upon The New York Times’ very interesting reports that [Barack] Obama’s mentor Zbigniew Brzezinski stated:  “What exactly is our objective here?  It is not clear to me that every non-democratic Government in the world has to be removed by force.  The Syria war is a struggle for power, and not democracy.  Is that something we should be engaged in?”


Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ve got no comment on that.  Last question?


Question:  Just a follow-up on the no-fly zone.  What you just said indicates the Secretary-General thinks of a no-fly zone as a military intervention.  Is that the case?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Not exactly; but what I said was that any militarization — and a no-fly zone implies a militarization, because somebody is going to be enforcing, somebody is going to be attacking if something happens, obviously.


Question:  Well, there was a proposal floated; it is not effect, by the US to have a very limited one, 25 miles into Syrian territory, in which there would not be shoot-downs of any planes, or would at least have potential, less potential of any military action and of course the UN Security Council has authorized this in the past, uh, is… is that out of the question in terms of his view of militarization?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, so, the Security Council will have to decide on the course of action it wishes to take, and of course, the Secretary-General will have his consultations with members of the Security Council and make his opinion known then.


Question:  But, these includes um, a, uh, a view against a no-fly zone?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, what I am saying is that any further militarization is counterproductive.  Now, it is obviously the Security Council’s decision as to how it wants to proceed; and once the Security Council is in consultations on a proposed resolution on that basis, of course, the Secretary-General will be in consultations with them and will be expressing his opinions on what he thinks should be done.  And he will listen to what the Council has to say, and of course, any Security Council resolution is obeyed by the Secretariat.  Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record