11 November 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.


**Noon Briefing Guest


I’m joined again by John Ging, the Director of the Operational Division at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  Mr. Ging is here from the Security Council, where he has been briefing the members of the Council on Sudan and South Sudan.  But, of course, he is also here to speak to you and to take questions on the typhoon in the Philippines.  So, John, welcome back, and the floor is yours.


[The press conference by Mr. Ging is issued separately.]


Thank you, Mr. Ging, on that sobering note.  If correspondents have further questions for Mr. Ging, I would ask you to follow him out of the briefing room.  And I have a few other items and would be happy then to take questions that are not related to this.  Thanks very much, indeed.


**Haiyan


To add to what Mr. Ging just told you about Typhoon Haiyan, the Secretary-General spoke by telephone with the Foreign Minister of the Philippines this morning.  The Secretary-General offered his condolences for all those who have suffered as a result of the disaster and reaffirmed the support and solidarity of the United Nations.


He also told the Foreign Minister that he is dispatching the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, to the Philippines.  Tomorrow, the Foreign Minister, Ms. Amos and the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator are expected to launch a Typhoon Haiyan action plan.


**Secretary-General’s Briefing


So, this afternoon, at 3:30 p.m., the Secretary-General will brief the General Assembly on a number of recent developments following his return from last week’s travel to the Sahel, and that was the first joint trip by the heads of the United Nations, the World Bank and the African Union, as well as the European Union Commissioner for Development and head of African Development Bank.  He will tell the Member States that the delegation to the Sahel carried a clear message — that security and development must go hand in hand.


The Secretary-General will also discuss developments in other key areas, including the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria.  And, he will talk about the follow-up to the work of the Internal Review Panel that issued a report last year assessing UN action in the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka.  I think you can also expect the Secretary-General to speak about the super typhoon in the Philippines, as well.  And, his briefing to the Member States will be televised and it will be webcast.


**Secretary-General’s Travels


The Secretary-General will depart New York on Wednesday, 13 November, for a trip which will take him to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.   In Latvia, the Secretary-General will meet the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Speaker of Parliament.  And, while in Riga, he will also speak at a conference commemorating the ninety-fifth anniversary of the country’s establishment.


The next stop on the Secretary-General’s visit will be Estonia, where he will hold talks with the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and President of the Parliament.  He will visit a technology exhibition and robotics competition and he will give a public lecture at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


The last stop on the Secretary-General’s visit will be Lithuania, where he will meet with the President, and again, the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Speaker of Parliament.  And, while in Lithuania, the Secretary-General will visit a sustainable energy project, and he will also receive an Honorary Doctorate at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas.  The Secretary-General will wrap up his visit to the Baltic region on Monday, 18 November.


** Darfur


The joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping operation in Darfur, UNAMID, is gravely concerned about the escalation of intertribal fighting in some parts of Darfur in the recent weeks.  The mission has received reports of tribal fighting amongst Misseriya, Taisha and Salamat in different locations in the south-western part of Central Darfur in the past days.  The mission is in the process of verifying the scale of these clashes, including casualties.  The mission also reports that today a committee comprising prominent tribal leaders, including Misseriya and Salamat, is meeting in Central Darfur, aiming to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the current conflict.


** Warsaw


The UN Climate Conference, also known as COP 19, began today in Warsaw.  At the opening of the conference, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, said that the Conference must make progress towards an agreement in 2015.


In her remarks, Ms. Figueres also said that we need to work together to clarify options for climate finance and construct a mechanism to help people deal with climate change effects.  Her full remarks are available on the website of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.


**Cambodia-Thailand


In the case concerning the temple of Preah Vihear, the International Court of Justice rendered its judgment today that Cambodia had sovereignty over the whole territory of the temple’s promontory.  The Court also said that Thailand was obliged to withdraw from that territory its military or police forces stationed there.  The full judgment is available on the International Court of Justice’s website.


And that’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Nizar, yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Martin, obviously, after the coalition accepted the invitation to the conference, although not… the invitation has not been sent, but at least they declared that they are willing to go.  Are you sending the invitations soon?


Spokesperson:  Well, I am waiting to hear from the team with Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative, precisely where we stand with that.  Obviously, a key part is to ensure that both the Syrian Government delegation and Syrian opposition delegation is present at the Geneva II conference.  No date has been set at this point.


Question:  Do you think after what happened today in Istanbul, Mr. [Ahmed al-]Jarba slapping one of his colleagues in a conference — is he still, does he still enjoy the support of the international community?


Spokesperson:  I think I would leave that to the opposition.  Erol?


Question:  Thank you.  Martin, a technical one first, whether the Secretary-General today is going to brief the General Assembly, but whether this is going to be sort of interactive debate, since the Philippine disaster is happening, meaning are they going to discuss or Secretary-General will read his speech and then…?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, this is a briefing by the Secretary-General to the Member States and, as I mentioned, it is a lot of topics to work through.  And the Philippines is indeed one of them.  But, of course, I did mention the others:  Central African Republic, his visit to the Sahel with other heads of international organizations, Syria, amongst others, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  And then it would be for Member States to respond.  But, that part I would leave to my colleague, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, to explain how that might take place.  But, certainly you will be able to see the Secretary-General’s remarks televised and webcast.


Question:  Regarding… just a follow-up regarding the Philippines disaster, whether the United Nations already know who is delivering the aid, would you recognize someone?  Would you appeal to some entity, State or so, in particular, that what is needed as Mr. Ging just said to speed up the delivery of the aid also?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think Mr. Ging spoke eloquently and at some length about the requirements.  And, as you also heard him say, Ms. Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator will be launching a flash appeal — that’s tomorrow in Manila with the Foreign Minister of the Philippines.  So, that’s another important moment.  Work is already under way; colleagues are on the ground, both from UN entities, agencies, funds and programmes like the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and others, but also, of course, international non-governmental organizations and all in close coordination with the Government of the Philippines.  And, you heard John Ging speaking about the Government’s own response already right from the get-go.  So, this is… it is an enormous disaster; there are huge needs, but the international community is coming together.  I would expect that the Secretary-General will have something to say about that this afternoon.  Matthew, please?


Question:  Sure, thanks a lot, Martin.  I… I wanted to ask you about the… the… this report on the fi… the UN’s fi… in the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka, does this… does it being included on the, I guess, the agenda for this afternoon?  Does that mean the report is actually now going to be released and have there been any steps taken to implementing any of the… the recommendations that are made in it?  And, also on Sri Lanka, there is the… the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting coming up in Colombo, at least two Prime Ministers are… are not attending in… in… regarding accountability issues, and I wanted to know, does the UN have any involvement in… in… in… in and around Colombo during the [Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting]?  And do they, do you, does the Secretary-General, or the UN system, see any… anything that should take place during this meeting with regard to accountability for war crimes issues?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have any comment on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.  And, with regard to the report that you referred to, I would simply ask you to listen to what the Secretary-General has to say this afternoon.  Yes, Nizar?


Question:  Yes, Martin, regarding the rounding up of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, the brutality the police are treating them, two were killed, hundreds injured, many thousands were rounded up and put in inhumane situations in jail.  Is there any, the United Nations can do that… uh, to alleviate the plight of these people?  Millions are threatened to be expelled from Saudi Arabia like that.


Spokesperson:  I have seen the reports, and we have seen the reports.  I don’t have any comment at this point.  Yes, Ann?


Correspondent:  Yes, regarding the Secretary-General’s trip to the Baltics, in an effort to deepen their political cooperation and economic integration into the European Union…


Spokesperson:  You might wish to hold the microphone a little close, yes.


Question:  Yes.  Six Eastern European countries, namely, the Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Belarus, will meet at this Eastern European summit in Vilnius on 28 to 29 November, during Lithuanian presidency of the Council of Europe.  What expectations does the Secretary-General have as to the outcome of this important summit, which is being hosted by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė and the President of the European Council, and is considered to be the biggest multilateral political event during the Lithuanian presidency?  I didn’t hear any mention of this Eastern European summit.


Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is not there yet, and so I think if you wait, he will be visiting Lithuania, and I would anticipate he will have something to say on that when he is there.  Okay.  Yes, Joseph?


Question:  Yes, you mentioned about the climate change conference that is going on in Warsaw.  I guess, first of all, how long will that be?  And secondly, if it overlaps with the Secretary-General’s trip to the Baltics, is any consideration being given for him to, given the high importance he ascribes to having a binding agreement by next year, is there any consideration for him to make a personal appearance and appeal at that conference in person?


Spokesperson:  Well, I know that [Acting Deputy Spokesperson] Farhan [Haq] was asked a similar question last week, and I would give a similar answer:  Basically, stay tuned.  Okay, any other questions?  Yes, please?  And then Matthew, yes?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  The Syrian National Coalition has released a statement saying that relief aid should be allowed into the besieged areas in order for the Geneva talks to move forward; has the UN made any progress into getting into those areas and providing any relief?


Spokesperson:  Well, leaving aside the statement you referred to, we have made our own statements consistently, including Valerie Amos just last week about the need for humanitarian access.  There has been some access, but by no means what’s required.  And so, we would continue to call upon all those who have the ability to provide the access that is needed to do just that.  Thank you, last question, please?


Correspondent:  Okay, I want to ask you about DRC ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) and also Lebanon.  In the DRC there are these rep…


Spokesperson:  I said last question, so choose.


Question:  I’ll go with the DRC, but… I… I wanted to know that there are reports of people being… being arrested by the Congolese army in Kiwanja and in Bunagana for suspected collaboration with M23 (23 March Movement), these are civil… at least, appa… apparently civilians that weren’t part of the armed group.  What is… a… MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), is MONUSCO aware of this?  Are they tracking this and what do they say about it?


Spokesperson:  We’ll check with the Mission.  Thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record