5 August 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 and apologizes for the delay.


**Youth


The Secretary-General participated in a global interactive dialogue on UN youth initiatives this morning.  He said that he is fully committed to working with young people and exploring how they could contribute more to creating a sustainable, equitable future of opportunity and dignity for all.


In his remarks, the Secretary-General also said that his Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, is working with the UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development to bring all parts of the UN together under an action plan for youth.  He said that for the first time, the UN system will have a common strategy for youth development.


The action plan focuses on five areas:  employment and entrepreneurship, political inclusion, civic engagement and protection of rights, education, including comprehensive sexuality education, and health.  The full remarks are available online.


So, that’s what I have for you, short and sweet.  Questions, please?  Yes, Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  In Pakistan, it’s being reported all over that the Secretary-General is going to be visiting Pakistan soon.  Over here, can you confirm it, that that is happening and the dates and so forth?


Spokesperson:  Masood, as someone rightly points out, please use the microphone.  In the meantime, I shall go to someone else.  Yes, Joe?  I’ll come back to you, Masood.


Question:  Yeah.  We just had the stakeout with several Foreign Ministers from Latin American countries.


Spokesperson:  You don’t say?


Question:  That’s my preface.  The question is, how come you didn’t say anything or do you have any comment to make in terms of the Secretary-General’s reaction?  What he said in response to… to his meeting with them, because they said… they indicated that he shared their concerns and understood what their objections relating to the United States’ alleged interference with individual rights, et cetera, relating to the [Edward] Snowden revelations.  So I’m just curious why there wasn’t anything said about this meeting.


Spokesperson:  Well, you don’t have to be quite so curious ‑ although I know that’s a natural inclination and a good one.  It’s because I don’t have anything yet.  It’s as simple as that.  The meeting took place between the Ministers and the Secretary-General shortly before they came to speak to you.  As yet, I do not have the readout of that meeting.  As soon as I do, I will share it with you.  Yes?


Question:  Yes, sir.  My question is, of course, about the Secretary-General’s travels abroad, especially to Pakistan, after…  I mean, on the stories in Pakistani newspapers are saying that he is arriving there sometime next week or so.  Can you confirm it?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have any announcements to make, Masood.  Okay?  Next question?  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Martin, I wanted to ask you about the… the announcement that you made on 1 August about the procurement of UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] by… by DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations].  Basically, in looking into it I… I really have a question about it, but I wanted to say that it appears that the same model…


Spokesperson:  Let’s have questions.


Question:  Okay, I want to ask you about the crashes that took place in Pakistan and Wales of this… of this very model.  And I wanted to know how many other companies bid?  And most importantly, how much is the UN paying and who’s going to be operating the drone?  Basically, questions that it would normally, in procurement, be put on the website saying here’s who won.  So how much is it going to cost and who’s going to run it?  And what would you say to those who say it’s the wrong model because it crashed in Pakistan and in Wales?


Spokesperson:  Well, it’s going to cost €10 million a year for a contract lasting three years initially, with an option for two further years.  Twenty-five companies from 11 countries visited the country, in other words, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to familiarize themselves with the area and the Mission’s operations.  And then, a number of these companies later made proposals, as requested by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and their proposals were evaluated in line with the established procedures and requirements.  And then, in July, at the end of its evaluation, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations reported, as we’ve said, that it selected the Italian company Selex ES as the vendor to procure its Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) with one unarmed and unmanned aerial vehicle known as the “FALCO”.  With regard to the first part of your question, I don’t have anything for you on that in particular.


Question:  And who actually operates… who actually will operate the drone and who will get the information that’s provided?


Spokesperson:  The unmanned aerial vehicle will be operated by the contractor under the strict control and security of the United Nations, with all data provided exclusively to the peacekeeping mission concerned, which is MONUSCO.


Question:  Could that ever be shared with the FARDC [Congolese Armed Forces] in the context of support?


Spokesperson:  Provided exclusively to MONUSCO.  Yes?


Question:  Thank you.  Martin, any reaction to the official results being announced in Zimbabwe, the sweeping victory of Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF?  I thought there might be an update from you guys.


Spokesperson:  Well, think again.  So, we did have a statement on Friday, I believe, if I remember correctly, and I don’t have anything further for you at this point, except simply to say that, obviously, the Secretary-General continues to follow this closely.  And, as we said at the time and it still holds true, any concerns that have been raised about certain aspects of the electoral process should be pursued through established channels and these concerns should then be considered transparently and fairly.  And the other key part of the Secretary-General’s statement was that there should be clear messages of calm to the supporters of all parties in Zimbabwe.  And clearly, for the time being, that message of calm, not just from the Secretary-General, has been heard.


Question:  There had been clear indications from some Governments, particularly from the United States and others, of fraud and vote rigging.  Are you going to make a pronouncement on that, or are you going to defer to the courts in Zimbabwe?


Spokesperson:  I’ve just said that concerns which have been raised about certain aspects of the electoral process should be pursued through established channels.  Yes, Pamela?  Thank you.


Question:  Martin, I apologize if I missed… if this question was asked.  But at the MERCOSUR [Common Market of the South] briefing that just occurred, some of the speakers… the Ministers were saying that the Secretary-General sympathized or agreed with their view that there was a violation of privacy in the overall intelligence gathering in the United States and the diversion by several countries in the air space of the Bolivian President’s plane.  Can you be more specific about how… what the Secretary-General did say about… or how he reacted?


Spokesperson:  Pamela, the short answer is no.  And the slightly longer answer is not yet.  Once I have something further, I will let you have it.  The meeting took place not long ago.  I don’t yet have a readout of that meeting, but with regard to the incident relating to President [Evo] Morales’ plane, the Secretary-General is already on the record on that.  And I don’t need to repeat that here.


Question:  But would you say their characterization was correct or you weren’t…


Spokesperson:  Wait for the readout please.  Yes?  Thank you.


Question:  Do you have any information on arriving of inspectors… experts to Syria on chemical weapons?


Spokesperson:  Yes, as we told you just last week.  They are preparing for deployment within days and they are gathering in The Hague.  In other words, the group under Dr. [Åke] Sellström of about 10 people from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Health Organization (WHO), they are congregating and preparing in The Hague so that they could then be deployed and carry out the mission that they intend to do, which is to visit three locations contemporaneously, including Khan al-Assal, which is near Aleppo, as you know.


Question:  This week?


Spokesperson:  Say again?


Question:  Is it going to be this week?


Spokesperson:  We’ve said that deployment will be within days.  We have not said exactly when and we are not going to.  Yes, Iftikhar?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Does the Secretary-General agree with the assessment of Secretary of State John Kerry that the military… that the military action taken by Egypt was aimed at saving the democracy and that has been done?  Does the Secretary-General agree with this?


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has made his views clear about developments in Egypt, the need for reconciliation, the need for a political process that is inclusive.  And he’s also made it clear that protests should be allowed to go ahead, but they should be peaceful protests.  He’s also repeatedly called for either the release of Mr. [Mohamed] Morsy and other members of the Muslim Brotherhood or for a transparent judicial process to begin; and finally, also, the Secretary-General has spoken directly to Egyptian leaders on numerous occasions to make those points.  All of this should be aimed at a political process of reconciliation that is inclusive and that enables a return to civilian governance as soon as possible.


Correspondent:  Martin, you have not answered the question.


Spokesperson:  I have; it’s just you didn’t like the answer.  Masood, yes?


Question:  I also didn’t like the answer you gave me.  The other thing…


Spokesperson:  It goes with the turf, I’m afraid.


Question:  I’m sorry.  I wanted to ask you two things.  One about this huge terror threat that the United States has cited to close all the embassies… I mean, at least 22 embassies in the Middle East and so forth.  Did it impact United Nations operations at all and did it… what do you call… and what does the Secretary-General think about this threat, number one?


Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t think you would expect me to speak about security as it relates to UN operations.


Question:  Okay, and the other question I wanted to ask you was about the statement issued by Ms. Navi Pillay over the weekend that these executions or killing of the soldiers… Government soldiers by the opposition groups or these so-called other groups should also be investigated.  Does the Secretary-General agree with her position?


Spokesperson:  Absolutely.  Yes?


Question:  Martin, thank you.  As you may know, the Congress in Uruguay is moving forward with its plan of decriminalizing the production and consumption of marijuana in the country.  So, I wonder if the Secretary-General has any comment on that.


Spokesperson:  Well, not specifically.  What I would refer you to is a statement attributable to the spokesperson for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that was issued on Thursday last week.  And I think that sets out that there are…there are challenges and that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime welcomes the discussion that’s taking place, but that this dialogue, UNODC says, should be conducted on the basis of the agreed conventions in line with international law.  So I would refer you to that statement by the spokesperson for UNODC in Vienna.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  A follow-up on Egypt, and then one thing about one of the appointments you announced last week.  On Egypt, Tawakkol Karman, who I know was… has been on the panel of the Secretary-General, has said publicly that she tried to join the protests… the peaceful protests in Egypt and was blocked at the airport and told to leave.  So I wondered, particularly given her UN role, but generally as a Nobel Prize winner and as a person advocating peaceful protest, does the UN have any comment on her… her blocking from entering Egypt?


Spokesperson:  Well, we’re certainly aware of the reports.  To my knowledge she did not visit Egypt in her capacity as an MDG [Millennium Development Goals] advocate.  If I have anything further on that, I would let you know.  And that would have been the case over the weekend.  It’s simply that I did not have anything to pass on to you at that point.


Question:  Yes, and I wanted to ask about…


Spokesperson:  Microphone.


Question:  The announcement of the Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa…  I just wanted to… there are public reports of Wandira Kazibwe… there are public reports of or at least inquiries in Uganda active as of July 31… questioning for alleged malfeasance.  And so… is there any… do you have any comment to the people that would say, it seems like kind of a strange time to make such an appointment.  Was this considered in the due diligence?  Is it a rejection of the active investigation taking place in Uganda?


Spokesperson:  Yes, of course, it was considered.  And our understanding is that those investigations have ended.


Thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record