25 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


Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, spoke to reporters in Geneva today before the start of the second tripartite meeting of the Russian Federation, the United States and the United Nations on preparations for a conference on Syria.


He said that since the previous meeting on that subject on 5 June, the situation on the ground in Syria has hardly improved, with the Syrian people facing relentless destruction, killing, suffering, injustice and uncertainty.


Mr. Brahimi added that the events in the city of Sidon in Lebanon yesterday, where more than 50 people were killed, are a stern reminder to all of the risks of the conflict in Syria spreading across the border to neighbouring countries.  He supported the statement issued by the Secretary-General yesterday and joined the Secretary-General in expressing support to President Michel Sleiman and to the Lebanese Army.  We have his remarks in our office.


**Security Council


The Security Council heard a briefing on the situation in Mali this morning.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Mali, Bert Koenders, gave an update by video teleconference on the security situation, the mediation and national reconciliation process, the preparation for elections and the humanitarian and human rights situations.  He said that the Preliminary Agreement signed last week was critical because it paved the way to the holding of elections nationwide and also committed the parties to a post-electoral dialogue.


The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, said that the UN was deploying a mission in a new geopolitical context, with asymmetric threats not previously encountered in a UN peacekeeping environment.  He added that if the Council authorizes a transfer of authority to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), that Mission would then become the third largest UN peacekeeping mission.


The Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Ameerah Haq, added that despite formidable constraints, the UN was on track to meet requirements for the Mission’s deployment.


** Iraq


Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, condemned in the strongest terms the killing and injuring of dozens of Turkmen protesters who were calling for more protection, including two prominent Turkmen.  He said that such attacks aim to heighten tensions in the particularly sensitive region of Tuz Khurmatu.  Mr. Kobler urged Iraqi leaders to ensure that communities are protected and to take all necessary measures to defuse such an alarming situation.  


**Background Briefing


Tomorrow at 9.30 a.m., there will be a background briefing here by senior officials of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs on the Millennium Development Goals Report 2013.  The contents of the briefing, the report and all related material are under strict embargo until Monday, 1 July 2013, 9 a.m. Geneva time; 3 a.m. New York time.


**Noon Briefing Guests


And tomorrow, I will be joined by Force Commanders from our missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Golan, Lebanon and South Sudan.


Questions, please?  Mr. Abbadi?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  If and when the second Geneva conference takes place on Syria, does the Secretary-General anticipate attending?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, let us wait and see how the dynamics evolve and how the conference is called, when it is called.  But he will be paying very close attention to how the situation evolves from now till then.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure.  Something I was… I’ll just start with something I was gonna ask you yesterday and has to do with this conference in Bahrain, held by UNPAS about e-governance.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes?


Question:  And I think given in a… I mean, in the past year, there have been a number of… even I think Navi Pillay had expressed some concerns about the human rights situation in Bahrain about its… it’s reported there that unregistered organizations, it is still illegal to join them and you can be sent to jail for joining them.  So I was wondering, I… I have been looking pretty closely at what they put out, was there any kind of consideration of the… of the… of the human rights/rights to association issues in Bahrain before holding it there, or is there anything being said at the conference to sort of note that, or have the UN holding it there be in some way a positive thing, or is it just was not considered?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the conference is something that is held in different parts of the world; this year, it happened to be in that part of the world and it was Bahrain.  Awards are not given to Member States and do not imply endorsement of Governments’ agendas.  They are there to recognize specific public institutions for their technical achievements in service delivery.  The e-government authority of the Kingdom of Bahrain has been spearheading innovative initiatives utilizing ICT [information and communications technology], and its ranking in terms of e-government development is among the top in the Arab region, according to the UN e-Government Survey.  The winning institutions are selected through the Committee of Experts on Public Administration, an advisory body to ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council].


Now you are well aware that since the beginning of 2011, the United Nations has called on the Government of Bahrain to defuse tensions and allow peaceful protests, to conduct dialogue and implement reforms, as well as to act in accordance with its international human rights and other obligations.


Question:  Can I… just one follow up, thanks a lot, I appreciate that.  I have been trying to… I… I wanted to know this… I… I know that the… the… the Secretary-General’s Envoy on [resolution] 1559 (2004), Roed… Mr. [Terje] Roed-Larsen, is also at the same time the… the head of the International Peace Institute and is widely, or it’s been reported and not denied, that they opened an office in Bahrain, it is funded by the Government.  So I wanted to know what the UN, not just what are the UN rules of sort of part-time SRSGs [Special Representatives of the Secretary-General], but what, in this case, in which a… a particular Member State has funded an office of… of the… I… of the… of the organization run by a part-time SRSG, does the UN think there is any possible conflict of interest, and did Mr. Roed-Larsen play any role whatsoever in the siting of this conference in Bahrain?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We will have to find out for you, Matthew, I don’t have that information.  Joe?


Question:  Yes, with regard to the continuing saga of Mr. [Edward] Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong, now supposedly still in Russia, or at least in a Moscow airport, has the Secretary-General, or to your knowledge anyone else at the United Nations, been asked to try to intercede and try to mediate what is becoming a potential dispute among China, Russia, the United States and possibly several Latin American countries?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I think the short answer to that is no.  Nizar?


Question:  It is regarding the attack today on Turkmens in Baghdad in Iraq, and also the incidents which took place in Lebanon the last couple of days, especially in Sidon.  The Gulf States… some of the Gulf States ‑ rich, wealthy ones ‑ are financing many groups like these, be it from Mali up to Lebanon and Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan.  Should the United… shouldn’t the United Nations address this issue and address the people of the Gulf States to stop financing and spreading the ideology which allows such a thing?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Oh, well, Nizar, we have all kinds of reports from all kinds of people saying all kinds of things.  When these reports come before the Security Council, the Security Council takes note of them.  And it is up to the Security Council to decide where they have their focus.  Masood?


Question:  Yes, sir.  I just… I had two questions ‑ maybe one has already been asked ‑ about these talks which are supposed to happen in Geneva on Syria.  Mr. Brahimi today said that those talks could not happen the way things are going; it is quite impossible for them…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, he didn’t quite say that.  He said he didn’t see the talks happening until after July.


Question:  Yeah, I mean, he was suggesting that there are problems at this point in time.  Now, given that he is also accepting the fact there are problems that are emerging now, has the Secretary-General got any new ideas to move this process forward?  Do you… do you think that he can use his good offices to put this process forward?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as Mr. Brahimi said, we have to wait until the Syrian opposition meets on 4 and 5 July.  They have to decide upon who is going to represent them.  The Syrian Foreign Minister has already said that Syria will attend the conference; we have to find out who is going to attend from the opposition side.  And on that, we are working hard to get the meeting going.  Let us see what happens at the meeting today.  But as Mr. Brahimi said, it is not going to be easy, but a lot of people are investing a lot of time and energy in trying to get the parties together to put an end to the violence and to bring some sort of free, peaceful resolution to the conflict.


Question:  On another question which I have been asking, about the situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir, which has now suddenly flared up again, Indian Prime Minister went there and the situation has gone out of hand.  Has the Secretary-General taken note of this?  Has he good offices…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe Martin addressed this question last week; I have nothing to add to that.  Tim?


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  The Secretary-General released a statement on Lebanon yesterday, and Mr. Brahimi mentioned it again today.  Does the Secretary-General see a direct threat now to the Lebanese institutions, such as the army?


Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General has said for a long time of the threat of the spillover of the Syrian situation in bordering countries, and Lebanon is a country that has a balance of power inside the country, and the effects of the Syrian conflict right now obviously are having some kind of an impact there.


Question:  A follow-up on that, please?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes?


Question:  Ahmadal-Assir himself, the terrorist who was behind what happened in Sidon, he… he said that he was supported by Qatar and that he is financed and everything, and that was common knowledge in Lebanon; that it is a foreign intervention from a State in the Gulf providing money and weapons to such terrorist groups sponsoring terrorism.  I mean, this is not something, a spillover from Syria, obviously.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I am sure that if the Lebanese Government has a concern, they will raise it with the Secretary-General or with the Security Council, Nizar.  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  This… does the Secretary-General have any reaction or comments to make regarding the peaceful transfer of power in Qatar?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We will… we may have something later on.  I don’t have anything right now, but I am sure that it is something that the Secretary-General is going to be very… will receive with… with a certain amount of satisfaction.  It is always nice to see a peaceful change of power in any part of the world.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I… I wanted to… to a… to ask you whether… there are… there are reports that in South Darfur, that the Dreige camp next to Nyala, that four people were… were… were… were killed and nine injured when pro-Government militia opened fire in the camp, and since there is UNAMID there, I am wondering, do you have anything on that?  Do they… do they… do they… have they given you information about the death of people that they are supposed to be protecting?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll try and find out for you, Matthew.


Question:  And I also wanted to know, the… the… also, the… the Dep… the former Deputy of… of UNAMID, Mohammed Yonis, it is reported, is the new Foreign Minister of Somaliland, and I wanted to know, one, if you can… if you can confirm that, and two, if there…


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have got no information on that.


Question:  …if there are any rules that pro… that… that… that govern former UN officials… not… and you’ll see, I’ll… I… I am gonna finish this question because the Gover… former UN officials going t… to work in things where they may be lobbying the UN.  I am asking specifically about Ibrahim Gambari, who used to be the Head of UNAMID, it is reported that he is now a paid consultant to Qatar, and I wanted to know, is that… many institutions have revolving-door rules, like if you leave the employment, you can’t then lobby for a year, or maybe it is two years, and I wanted to know, is there any UN rule to that effect?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll have to find out for you.  Okay, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record