27 September 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.  And welcome to the briefing.


**Noon Briefing Guest


I am very pleased also to say that I am joined here today by His Excellency Nassirou Bako Arifari, who is the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Benin, and also by Gyan Chandra Acharya, who is the Under-Secretary-General for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked and Small Island Developing States.  And both gentlemen are here to discuss the launch of a new flagship report on the Least Developed Countries.  And the report’s title is “Productive Capacity-building in the Least Developed Countries and the Post-2015 Development Agenda”.  So, I’d like to ask, first of all, the Minister to say a few words, and then the Under-Secretary-General, and then we will open up for questions.  First of all, please, the floor is yours.


[The Spokesperson continued with his portion of the briefing after the press conference by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Under-Secretary-General.]


So, I have a few notes and I’m happy to take some questions, as well.


** Syria


I am sure you have already been informed already, but just to be sure, the President of the Security Council has announced that a formal meeting will be held on the situation in the Middle East at 8 p.m. this evening.  And that meeting will concern Syria.


And also to add, as I mentioned yesterday, the Secretary-General and the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will hold a high-level preparatory meeting for the International Conference for Syria at 6:30 p.m. this evening.  And I would hope that we will able to bring you some details of that and also related to the Security Council meeting that is going to take place this evening.


And on the chemical weapons investigators, those investigators who were looking into allegations of use of chemical weapons in Syria:  I can tell you that, since its return to Syria on 25 September, the mission under Professor Ǻke Sellström has been able to resume its fact-finding activities related to all pending credible allegations of the use of chemical weapons.  And those allegations include the 19 March incident at Khan al-Asal that was reported first by Syria and subsequently by other Member States.  And, as previously agreed with Syria, the other allegations include the 13 April incident at Sheikh Maqsud that was reported by the United States; and the 29 April incident at Saraqueb, reported by France and the United Kingdom.


In addition, the mission has continued to follow up with Syria and to evaluate information it has provided on three additional allegations it reported, including the incidents at Bahhariyeh on 22 August, at Jobar on 24 August and at Sahnaya on 25 August.  And in light of the proximity of these locations to Damascus, the Mission has undertaken preliminary visits to a field hospital in relation to the Jobar and Sahnaya incidents, where it has collected blood and DNA samples.


It should be recalled that the decision to proceed with an investigation for any given allegation is made on the basis of the mission’s technical and scientific assessment of the available information.  And in any event, under the General Assembly-approved guidelines, the mission is obliged to evaluate all available information related to all allegations reported by Member States, and that is, of course, for the purpose of preparing its final report.  And in this sense, and as the Secretary-General has previously stated, the final report of the mission will be comprehensive.  And the mission expects to finalize its activities in the country early next week.


**Climate Change


Now, I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Fifth Assessment:


The Secretary-General welcomes the report of the Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and is deeply concerned by its conclusions.  The report clearly demonstrates that human influence on the climate system is now evident in most regions of the globe, and it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-twentieth century.


Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.  The Secretary-General urges all countries to make every effort needed to reach a global legal climate agreement by 2015, and to take action swiftly in order to limit the effects of climate change.


**Secretary-General’s Speeches


And the Secretary-General began his day by attending a meeting of leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, at which he underscored how climate change is the greatest single threat to our sustainable development agenda and to our long-term security.


And he noted that Pacific Islands are among those that contribute least to global warming, and yet suffer the most.


The Secretary-General also addressed a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement on cooperation for the rule of law at the international level.  And he said that, in these turbulent times, the UN Charter must guide all of our efforts to keep peace between our nations.


And at a conference on facilitating the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty, the Secretary-General called on all members of the international community to break the stagnation in the disarmament process.  And he said that we must secure the Treaty’s entry into force, enforce a complete ban on nuclear testing and take further concrete steps towards achieving and creating a world without nuclear weapons.


The Secretary-General is also going to be addressing the closing session of the UN Alliance of Civilizations’ Group of Friends ministerial meeting.


And as you know, this afternoon, at 3:00 p.m., the Secretary-General will host a meeting of the principals of the Middle East Quartet.  And we will provide information on that meeting a little later in the day after it has taken place. 


And the Deputy Secretary-General has also been attending a number of events, including one on the Sudan-South Sudan consultative forum meeting and also a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


The Humanitarian Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Moustapha Soumaré, has expressed his concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Ituri district in the north-eastern Orientale Province of the country.  He also condemned the killing this week of 10 civilians, including three health workers.  These are the latest victims in a month-long escalation of violence.  I can tell you that the United Nations and humanitarian partners have delivered 1.8 tons of medicine, 80 tons of food and essential household items to the affected area.  However, much more is needed to be done, as most of the 100,000 people in need have not yet been reached because of the security situation.


You will also have seen that we issued a statement a little earlier, attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, on the death of a peacekeeper from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).


And I was asked yesterday about fighting in the East of the [ Democratic Republic of the Congo].  And, as we mentioned, fighting did indeed break out in Mabenga, north of Goma, when patrols of the M23 (23 March Movement) and the FARDC (Congolese Armed Forces) ran into each other.  Our Mission reports that two M23 were killed in the clash and one FARDC soldier was wounded.  And the fighting has since stopped.  The Mission is closely monitoring the situation and stands ready to protect civilians at risk in the area.  And the Mission has advised us again today that there has been no more fighting with regard to this specific incident.


** Sudan


On Sudan, the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said today that it is deeply concerned about reports that a significant number of people have been killed during demonstrations taking place across the country since this past Monday.  The Office has called on all parties to refrain from resorting to violence and on protesters to maintain the peaceful nature of their demonstrations.  And there is more information on the website of the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights.


**Roma


And the other day, I was asked about reports regarding the Roma community in France.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has expressed her concern over the continued social exclusion and segregation of Roma in many European States.  Ms. Pillay has also said that, alongside worrying reports about Roma increasingly becoming the targets of hate speech, demonstrations and violence by non-State actors, the authorities themselves have in some cases adopted policies that increase the vulnerability of Roma populations.


She has also noted with concern that forced evictions of Roma in France were taking place in ways that were incompatible with international standards and national legislation.  And she also stressed that this issue needs to be resolved with full respect for human rights.  And, of course the Secretary-General has often spoken out in support of marginalized and vulnerable groups and he is monitoring these developments closely.


And that’s what I have. Questions, please?  Mr. Abbadi, then Matthew.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Is the Secretary-General pleased that an informal consensus has been reached within the Security Council and soon to be turned into a formal consensus on at least one aspect of the Syrian crisis — namely, the chemical weapons?


Spokesperson:  Well, of course, we need to await the outcome of this evening’s meeting of the Security Council.  But, obviously, the Secretary-General has been calling consistently, and for a long time, for there to be unity in the Security Council.  And so, if we are, indeed, as it seems, moving in that direction, of course he is going to welcome that most strongly.  I think we would need to wait until the end of the day here in New York before we comment further on that.  But, obviously, he is closely engaged in this topic.  The bigger picture that is related to this development, with regard to chemical weapons, is, of course, a political solution to the crisis and the need to convene as soon as possible a peace conference in Geneva.  And, I know that the Secretary-General will be focusing on that aspect, as well, at his meeting that he will be holding this evening with Mr. Brahimi and other members of the international community.  So, stay tuned, I think is what I would say at this point.  Thank you, Mr. Abbadi.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, Martin, I, I wanted to ask you again about this, a, the Chadian troops that, that are accused of rape in, in Mali.  I, I heard this morning that they have actually already left the country, have been repatriated.  Is that your understanding of it?


Spokesperson:  No, it is not. I think I would need to check back, but that is not my understanding.


Correspondent:  Okay, all right.  Please do, if, if you could, because it is, I have heard that from a UN official that had spoken with…


Spokesperson:  Well, as I say, that’s not my understanding with regard to the individuals who are specifically suspected of involvement in this alleged incident.  So, I will check again with Peacekeeping Operations.


Question:  And just… and… and just one related question:  I was also told that the… this was that… that… that the… the… the… the… the group that left and went to Gao had, was supposed to be re-hatted and… and somehow something went wrong and they were not, that’s why they weren’t paid.  And I wanted to, if we could get some, if that is the case, I mean what… either the basis of their leaving their posts or were they, in fact, ever paid, uh, as part of MINUSMA (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali) or was this one of the reasons that they left their posts?


Spokesperson:  As you know, this is something that we have said the Mission is looking at very closely, as well as my colleagues in Peacekeeping Operations.  I don’t have anything further for you on this, beyond what I have already said.  And if they do have more information, I am sure they will let me know, and then I can in turn let you know.  Other questions, please?  Okay, yes?


Question:  Sure, can I… I wanted to ask you about… it’s… we are getting near the end of September, I know we are not at the end of September, but I wanted to know about this rep… the report on the UN’s actions and inactions in 2009 in Sri Lanka.  I did notice that the Secretary-General, obviously, in his speech to the General Assembly, said that the… that… that… that… the… an internal review has identified systemic failure.  But, I wanted to know if the report itself is going to be made public in any fashion.


Spokesperson:  Well, as you point out, the Secretary-General did, indeed, refer to this in his speech in the General Assembly.  I think you can take that as a sign of how seriously he takes this whole process.  He did refer, indeed, to the difficulties and failures within the UN system, but also within the international community as a whole.  And that is something that we need to look at for the future.  And so, therefore, this report and the findings are clearly quite important.  When we get to that point of coming out with details, I will be sure to let you know.  But, we are not at that point yet.  And, as you rightly point out, there is still, as far as I can figure it out, three days to go.  All right, anything else?  Last question.


Correspondent:  Okay.  Oh, then I am going to jump over, they were kind of inter… they were about readouts…


Spokesperson:  I have been in this room for an hour, so I think it is quite good timing, okay?


Correspondent:  Okay, all right, all right, I am going to… I am going to jump in final… final readout, I wanted to ask you, I was looking during the… the… the press conference held by Hassan Rouhani at the readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with him, which I know was a couple of days ago, but it has this one li


Spokesperson:  Yesterday.


Question:  Yeah, well, okay.  It feels like a couple of days ago, in any event.  The line has… has this line where it says various human rights issues were raised, and I just want to know, since it didn’t come up in this Hassan Rouhani press conference, can you say a little bit more about that?  I don’t know if you… I… I have seen you’re up there a lot, not necessarily the names of individuals raised, but did the issues of the human rights issues involve, for example, press freedom, what… what more can you say about this… this rather intriguing line?


Spokesperson:  Well, yes, you’re right, I have been up there, as you put it; that’s my job, I think.  And part of my job is to be able to help journalists to the best extent that I can.  And that is one of the reasons for being there.  What I can tell you is that yes, indeed, the Secretary-General was touching on a number of different matters relating to human rights. I am not going to get into all of the details, but he did, specifically, say that the international community and he personally welcomed the recent release of prisoners, including the human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.  And he encouraged the Iranian authorities to continue in this vein.  And I think I would leave it there at that point.


Thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record