21 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 briefing.


** Syria


A new session of the tripartite talks on Syria involving the Russian Federation, the United States and the United Nations will take place next week in Geneva on 25 June.  The United Nations delegation will be headed by the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.


Meanwhile, UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] reports that soaring summer temperatures, overcrowding and worsening hygiene are the latest threats facing some 4 million children affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria.


Without enough safe water and sanitation, it is likely that a rising number of children in Syria and those living as refugees around the region will fall sick with diarrhoea and other diseases.  As the escalating conflict triggers larger population movements, UNICEF has accelerated efforts to provide sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services, reaching almost 9 million people since the beginning of the year.


**Security Council


In a press statement read on camera this morning, the members of the Security Council welcomed the progress made by the Libyan Government under the stewardship of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and encouraged it to continue this progress, delivering concrete results.


Security Council members expressed their deep concern about the recent acts of violence in Benghazi, which claimed lives of many people, and called upon all Libyans to rally around their legitimate institutions, both civilian and military.  They stressed the necessity to reject violence in all its forms, and to resolve disagreements peacefully and through dialogue.


**Palestinians


The heads of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have expressed their concern at deteriorating food security in the West Bank and Gaza, where one in three Palestinian households now struggle to feed their families.


The two agency heads visited a Bedouin village between Jerusalem and Jericho today, where a food distribution carried out jointly by their two agencies was taking place.


Preliminary results of a joint UN survey found that in 2012, a total of 1.6 million people, or 34 per cent of households in Palestine, were food-insecure, a dramatic rise from 27 per cent in 2011.  Contributing factors include high unemployment rates, stagnant economic growth, the financial problems of the Palestinian Authority, the continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza.


**Stakeout/Press Conference Today


This afternoon at 1 p.m., Paulo Pinheiro, the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, along with Karen AbuZayd, member of the Commission, will address the press at the Security Council Stakeout.


**Press Conference on Monday


And on Monday at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister for Women’s Rights of France.


** Guinea


I had a question on Guinea the past couple of days.


The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Said Djinnit, who is the International Facilitator of the political dialogue in Guinea, is expected to be back in Conakry tomorrow to pursue his consultations with the parties as a follow-up to the outcome of the dialogue meeting, which took place from 5 to 9 June.


We will see what more we have to say after that.


Questions, please?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Sure.  As I am sure you know, just now, Sin Son Ho, the Permanent Representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, held a press conference in which he said he called for the dismantling of the “UN Command” uh, in South Korea, and he said it is not really a UN body at all, and quoted Boutros-Ghali and Kofi Annan to that effect.  So what I wonder is as, as, the office of the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, as the head of the UN system, has, does he, what is his position on the legal status in terms of the UN of the “UN Command”?  And separately, does he have any, what, what, what, what, would be, what’s his response to a call to, to dismantle this entity?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, as you know, the Secretary-General is just getting off the plane from China now, so he is going to be reading the transcript of the statement by the Permanent Representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and we’ll have something later on to say.  But the United Nations has never had any role in the command of any armed forces deployed in the Korean peninsula.  In particular, the United Nations did not at any time have any role in the command of the forces that operated in Korea under the Unified Command between 1950 and 1953.


Question:  So just one follow-up, and maybe, maybe you will answer it or can get an answer to it.  Would this, given what you have just said, would this constitute kind of an unauthorized use of the UN’s name, which is something that is in the UN rules and, and is otherwise actionable?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll have to check on that, Matthew, I don’t have the answer right now.  Carla?


Question:  Two questions:  why is Carla Del Ponte not speaking on Syria at 1 o’clock?  And the second would appear to be unrelated:  um, can you comment on, upon this enormous destabilization in Brazil, 100 cities protesting and, and how, where do you think this is going?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, you’ll have to ask Ms. Carla Del Ponte why she is not speaking.  It’s not… we don’t decide who speaks on behalf of the Committee.  With respect to Brazil, we note that the President of Brazil has said that the democratic right to protest is something that is the right of every person in a democracy, peaceful protest, and we welcome that, and we encourage all sides to engage in dialogue as to the, for a successful outcome and resolution of the situation.


Question:  The Secretary-General was in China at the same time there was a delegation from the DPRK, and he was meeting with some of the same people, and I am wondering if there was any discussion about how to have more discussion going on among the, the parties, the six parties.  Is he, did he do anything to try to help the Six-Party Talks get back on track, or something happen?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we issued a readout on what the Secretary-General said…


Correspondent:  But it was very general.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we are not going to get into specifics.  What I can tell you is that the Secretary-General continues to encourage the DPRK to build trust with neighbouring countries to resolve outstanding issues through dialogue.  He has also urged the DPRK to comply with all relevant Security Council resolutions to achieve a verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.


Question:  Okay.  I had a follow-up, if I can?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes?


Question:  Sorry, I struggle every day when I come in here.  It’s dreadful, this shelf and so forth.  The United States puts out an annual report on human trafficking and other violations.  And since we, there has been a big discussion about child soldiers in Chad, and they also mentioned Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, because these were countries that receive US military aid.  Is this something that has reached the United Nations or is it going to affect Mali or, or Darfur or whatever…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I think we have been quite clear in our statements on the force going into Mali, that they will be vetted and that there will be a four-month grace period to meet all UN requirements.  That’s as far as I…


Correspondent:  It seems to be that it is not just Mali; it is Darfur, it is also a few places.  It is not just Chad.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, well, you know, we have, we have our own Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, who was here, I believe, at the beginning of the week, and I think she spoke eloquently on that, and they have their own report.  I’d invite you to take a look at it.  Joe?


Question:  Yeah, Eduardo, I am gonna follow up once again on a question I asked earlier in the week.  I don’t know if you had a chance to check on this, but it was just a question regarding the Secretary-General’s not attending the G8 Summit and whether there had been an invitation or request by the Secretary-General’s Office to participate, because Syria was the central subject and the heads of the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank were there.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I suggest you ask the hosts; they are the ones who issued the invitation.


Correspondent:  Well, you said you were, you said you were gonna check.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I am giving you the answer now, Joe.  Erol?


Question:  Eduardo, just last Friday we have heard Secretary-General first, then we have heard in the coolers, in the corridors, rather, the Russian Ambassador and then Ambassador [Susan] Rice talking not with the same voice on Syria.  So does the Secretary-General — since that was the main line of his approach to the solving of Syrian problem — still think that international community really can talk with one voice, and whether he is more encouraged or what he is after this G8 meeting in Ireland?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think the Secretary-General, well, Mr. Brahimi, who is the Secretary-General’s and the Joint Arab League Special Representative, have, has always said it is not going to be an easy task.  There is a meeting, as I announced, on 25 June between the representatives of the Russian and US Governments and Mr. Brahimi.  This is a step, obviously, that we hope will move the process forward and that we will get a peace conference going very shortly.  So, this is something that is in the works right now.  As you know, it has not been very easy, and we don’t expect it to be easy.  It is a tough slog.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I mean, I, I wanted to ask you about this Liberian deployment to Mali again.  I, I did go back and forth with UNMIL [United Nations Mission in Liberia], the Mission, and they said that the plane that, that was unable to fly was an American plane.  But on vetting, they wouldn’t answer on it, who, how these troops are being vetted.  And it looks from, from at least some, some reporting that they were trained by the United States about a month ago.  So, I wanted to know, you keep say, you have been, you, you and others have said that the troops going into MINUSMA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali] are vetted by the UN, are given training after the various descriptions, and I wanted to know, has this really being done by the UN or are various countries doing it?  Can we get a, I guess what I am saying, can DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] say, since they themselves said repeated that people are being vetted and there is gra…, grace period etc., what are.  Who has been giving the training to each of the components?  And had the decision already been made who is in MINUSMA?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll try and get you that information, Matthew.


Question:  This question is about what is happening in the Golan and whether the Secretary-General has tried to carry out any investigation about the letter, the issues raised in the letter by the Syrian Ambassador about the role of Qatar in the kidnapping and other problems of what has developed in the Golan.  Is, is anybody looking into that at this point?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the investigation of what is going on and what has gone on in the Golan obviously continues, but we have found no substance to that accusation.  Matthew, last question?


Question:  Okay, all right, then I will go with this one.  There are, there is, there is, there is something called Greening the Blue, which is a UN entity that is, says that it, it estimates the carbon emissions and carbon reductions of various components of the UN system.  So I am just wondering, I, when I, and I have tried to ask them directly and haven’t received a response, which is whether the UN’s, the Office of the Secretary-General estimates the carbon footprint, the carbon effects of, of his travel, which obviously is, you know, travel quite necessary, but offsets, you know, studies it, can disclose what that a quantity is and whether it is in any way offset?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll try and get that information for you, Matthew.  Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good weekend.


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