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


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Secretary-General’s Travel


The Secretary-General started the day in Amman with a meeting with the Jordanian Foreign Minister.  The Secretary-General then flew to Aqaba to meet King Abdullah.  We have provided separate details of those talks online.


About now, the Secretary-General is meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.  He has also met other Palestinian leaders and will be speaking to reporters.  From Ramallah, the Secretary-General will travel to Jerusalem for meetings with Israeli leaders today and tomorrow.  We expect further readouts of the Secretary-General's various meetings.  The focus is on the Middle East peace process.


The Secretary-General also took part in a Model UN event in Ramallah today, with a video link to Gaza, and he will attend a similar Israeli event on Friday.  The Secretary-General visited the grave of Yasser Arafat today and will be visiting Yitzhak Rabin's memorial tomorrow.  While in Ramallah, the Secretary-General also launched a new UN Development Assistance Framework that outlines how the United Nations works with the Palestinian Authority.


** Egypt


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, appealed today to all sides in Egypt to step back from the brink of disaster after a day of bloody violence left hundreds dead or injured.  She urged the Egyptian authorities and security forces to act with the utmost restraint.  She also called for an independent, impartial, effective and credible investigation of the conduct of the security forces.


Ms. Pillay added that reports of attacks on public buildings and religious sites by opponents of the Government are also extremely worrying, and those responsible for such criminal acts should be brought to justice.


Reacting to the announcement by the authorities of a month-long national state of emergency, the High Commissioner stressed that it should be implemented in conformity with Egypt’s obligations under international law.  In this context, it is of utmost importance that the rule of law and human rights be respected and protected.


** Syria


In a statement yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General announced the Government of Syria’s formal acceptance of the modalities essential for cooperation to ensure the proper, safe and efficient conduct of the Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic.  The departure of the team is now imminent.


As agreed with the Government of Syria, the team will remain in the country to conduct its activities, including on-site visits, for a period of up to 14 days, extendable upon mutual consent.  The Secretary-General believes that an effective mechanism to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons can serve as an important deterrent against their employment.  The full statement is available online.


**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea


The United Nations has called for $98 million in funding to respond to urgent humanitarian priorities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).  The humanitarian programmes being implemented by five UN agencies in the DPRK remain drastically underfunded.  Of the overall funding requirement of $150 million for this year, $98 million is still urgently needed for food and agricultural support, health and nutrition, water and sanitation interventions.  Around 2.4 million very vulnerable people in the most food insecure provinces need regular food assistance.  The full press release is available in our office and online.


Questions, please?  Mr. Abbadi?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  As you said, the High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for an investigation to determine the response between those who committed what can only be called massive massacre and massive human rights violations.  Why shouldn’t the High Commissioner herself initiate an investigation?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, normally, investigations of this type are done through the authorities in the country involved.  If the investigation goes internationally, it would have to be mandated.  Nizar?


Question:  Yes, regarding the closure of Rafah, how do you describe the situation… the humanitarian situation in Gaza now that Egypt has closed the borders?  The borders with Israel, of course, are under blockade.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the humanitarian situation in Gaza has always been of concern.  As you know, the Secretary-General visited there last year.  He investigated what was happening.  He met with various people there and he remains concerned.  In the back?


Question:  Yes, thank you.  Can you repeat your statement about Egypt in Spanish, if possible?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I can give you a short briefing.  [Reads statement in Spanish]  Matthew?


QuestionUna pregunta en inglés.  Okay, I wanted to ask you about Somalia.  There are these allegations that the AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] peacekeeping force there, as well as the national forces, perpetuated a gang rape, and it’s something that the AMISOM itself has said that it would investigate.  But, what I wanted to know is that, since the UN provides, you know, support to AMISOM though UNSOA [United Nations Support Office for AMISOM] and… and provides, you know, money and otherwise, does this human rights due diligence policy apply?  And what are the next steps if, in fact, either AMISOM or units of the national forces of Somalia, which they, in turn, support, are guilty of the gang rape as alleged?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’re going to have to see what the AMISOM investigation comes up with.  Obviously, it’s up to them to investigate and it’s very encouraging that they are going to investigate.


Question:  No, but I guess what I want to know is, even before they reach their finding, it seems like the UN should be able to say does this human rights due diligence policy, which Patricia O’Brien spoke about, which is a Ban Ki-moon policy, does it apply to the support the UN gives to AMISOM in Somalia?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll have to find out about that, Matthew.  I don’t have that information with me.  Peter?


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  On this chemical team coming to Syria, I remember Martin saying that it will consist of 10 experts.  My understanding is that among them there will be no P-5 members.  Can you give us the breakdown of the countries?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I can’t.  We don’t usually do that.  It will be a team, a UN team, and that’s the way they’re identified.  Nizar?


Question: Yes, regarding the… the Lebouneh incident which took place last week, yesterday, the Secretary-General of Hizbullah said that UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] has turned a blind eye on many similar incursions in the past.  Why didn’t UNIFIL this time report them, too, since they… of course, the incident happened near the UNIFIL point in Lebouneh.  When the Israelis went in, these were ignored… I mean, why didn’t UNIFIL take action?  Why didn’t they stop them?  And why didn’t they report that in 1701 reports?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check on that.  I don’t have that information with me.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask about Mali.  Since the election that took place, Captain [Amadou Haya] Sanogo, who was the coup leader… whose coup precipitated the… the… all of the recent action there, has been promoted three steps up in the army to become a general, and I wondered, given that he’s, you know, widely described as a coup leader, does the UN, either Mr. [Bert] Koenders or anybody, have any comment on the promotion to this level of the army of the leader of the coup?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll have to check.  I don’t have anything on it.  We just got the report this morning, so we’ll check on that.  Please?


Question:  Do you also have something about the visit of the UN team to Syria?  You’ve talked about three sites, I don’t know if you can identify where the team is going to be, like in Homs, I mean, the different places, where the Syrian Government or where the British are announcing…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Martin addressed this last week; it’s in the transcript.  We’re not identifying the other two locations yet.  Sir?


Question:  Any update on the helicopter which was captured in Sudan?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, no update at all.  Nothing yet.  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  There is still concern about the possible further violence in Egypt.  Has the United Nations taken any preventive measures to protect its offices and staff?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We don’t discuss security matters, Mr. Abbadi, in press conferences or with the media.  Matthew?


Correspondent:  Sure, I want to ask about DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] and then DPI [Department of Public Information], which I know is your favourite topic.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.


Question:  But, on the DRC, the… the legislator that was arrested after speaking on the radio and being critical of Joseph Kabila.  Now, I guess it’s a very quick trial over there, he’s been sentenced to three years in jail for his comments on the radio and I wonder, MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo], UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], DPA [Department of Political Affairs], is there any reaction to somebody getting three years for comments on the radio station?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, let me see what we have here.  MONUSCO is aware of the media reports and is closely monitoring the case. As you are aware, the United Nations does not comment on judicial proceedings by independent courts.  The back?


Question:  [In Spanish:  Question about a request from the Prime Minister of Turkey for a meeting of the Security Council.]


Deputy Spokesperson:  [In Spanish:  The Secretary-General would have no comment on the proceedings of the Security Council.  Later, the Spokesperson confirmed that the Security Council would hold consultations at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday on Egypt, with a briefing by the Deputy Secretary-General.]  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you.  Still on Egypt, since the Secretary-General issued his strong statement… condemnation of the situation there, has he spoken to any leader in the country?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has been conducting extensive diplomacy over the past few weeks.  He is in contact with a wide variety of people and that’s where I leave it.


Question:  I meant since he issued the condemnation?


Deputy Spokesperson:  That’s where I would leave it.  Matthew?


Correspondent:  Okay, Somalia and this DPI question.  I just wanted to know…


Deputy Spokesperson:  You’re reluctant to get to the DPI part.


Question:  I’ll leave it to the end, because I think sometimes it ends up being the last question.  So, I wanted to know whether… with the MSF [Médecins Sans Frontières] statement that you had yesterday, since then it said that Al-Shabaab either looted or took over, it’s a little unclear, one of the hospitals that MSF is leaving in a place called Marare, and I wanted to know, does the team… does the UN team there have any information on that?  What’s going to happen?  It turns out that MSF was running hospitals in eight cities with doctors and nurses that were Somali nationals.  Is there any plan to try to get another NGO [non-governmental organization] to run the hospitals?  Has one been taken over by Al-Shabaab and are they going to run it as a hospital?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I said yesterday, Mr. [Philippe] Lazzarini, the Humanitarian Coordinator, is looking to see how the humanitarian agencies can, in fact, replace what Médecins Sans Frontières was doing.  And your DPI question?  It’s the last one.


Question:  Oh, okay, it’s a triple-barrelled question.  Here you go, not triple-barrelled.  One is, yesterday, I tried to ask a number of times, the stakeouts done by Ms. [Valerie] Amos and Mr. [Babacar] Gaye didn’t go online until at least after 8 p.m., so they couldn’t be used for stories.  And I wanted… I’m aware that things happen and there’s a need for patience, but maybe if we could get a readout on this stress test.  Are these videos going to be ready when the general debate time comes around, so there’s not an eight-hour delay?  And the other question is actually more positive, I heard this morning from DGACM [Department for General Assembly and Conference Management], not DPI, that there will now be… arrangements are being made for some media seats to be provided in the [General Assembly] during that week.  And I wanted you, obviously, to confirm it in a more formal way, and also to make sure that those seats are not only for media travelling with the Heads of State, but some will be for resident correspondents here, whether on a lottery basis or however.  Can you…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check on that, Matthew.  As you know, the General Assembly is run by the Office of the President of the General Assembly and, in conjunction with DGACM, we will find out for you.  Thank you very much, ladies and gentleman, have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record