5 December 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.


**Secretary-General Statement — Yemen


I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Yemen.


The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks today against Yemen’s Ministry of Defence that reportedly killed more than 20 people and caused many injuries.


The Secretary-General calls on all concerned to fully cooperate with the investigation announced by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice.  He recalls that the Security Council has reaffirmed its readiness to consider further measures in response to any actions by individuals or parties that are aimed at disrupting the transition process.


The Secretary-General firmly believes that the only path to a stable, prosperous and democratic Yemen is through the ongoing peaceful and all-inclusive National Dialogue Conference, in accordance with the transition agreement and Security Council resolutions 2014 (2011) and 2051 (2012).


So that statement will be available online before too long and will be emailed out to correspondents also.


** Central African Republic


This morning, the Security Council adopted unanimously a resolution authorizing the deployment of an African-led force, known as MISCA, to the Central African Republic for a period of twelve months.


The resolution also requests the Secretary-General to undertake contingency preparations and planning for the possible transformation of MISCA into a United Nations peacekeeping operation.


And meanwhile, on the ground, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Central African Republic, Babacar Gaye, has condemned in the strongest terms an organized attack by unidentified armed elements in Bangui today, which led to loss of human life and also targeted assassinations.


In a joint statement, along with the representatives of the African Union, the European Union and France in the country, Mr. Gaye urged the Central African authorities to take the necessary steps to end the fighting and to restore calm.

And, as you know, the Secretary-General will depart New York for Paris this afternoon, where he will then attend the Elysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa. And, while in Paris, he will also participate in a meeting on the Central African Republic, and that’s on Saturday.


**Security Council


In addition to adopting the resolution on the Central African Republic this morning, the Security Council held consultations in which Council members discussed Liberia sanctions, the situation between Sudan and South Sudan and the Secretary-General’s recent report on Abyei.


This afternoon, the Security Council will receive briefings on the work of the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.


** Syria


Despite huge security challenges, humanitarian organizations continue to reach people in Syria with essential aid.  The World Health Organization, UNICEF and the UN Refugee Agency have reached more than 2.2 million children with polio vaccinations and more than 1.1 million children with measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations in all 14 governorates since October.


And meanwhile, the World Food Programme and its partners reached 3.4 million people with food assistance nationwide during their October food distribution cycle.  And that represents the greatest number of people reached per month since the start of aid operations in Syria.


** Somalia


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, strongly condemned the suicide car bomber attack on Puntland Government forces today in the port city of Bossaso.


Mr. Kay said that such cowardly acts would serve no purpose and that the UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) stands by the people of Puntland as they strive for stability and prosperity.


**Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe


The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, is in Kyiv today and tomorrow to attend the Ministerial Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE.


In remarks delivered on behalf of the Secretary-General, Mr. Feltman said that both the OSCE and the United Nations are convinced that people must be put at the centre of our security efforts.  He also said that the OSCE provides invaluable support to the implementation of Security Council resolutions, disarmament, and women, peace and security.


For Afghanistan, Mr. Feltman said that 2014 will be a critical year, with major developments on the country’s political, security and economic transition processes.  He reiterated the commitment of the United Nations and called on the OSCE for continued support for Afghanistan and its people.  His full remarks are available online.

**Human Rights


The winners of the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights for 2013 were announced today.


They are:  Biram Dah Abeid, a Mauritanian campaigner against slavery who himself is the son of freed slaves; Hiljmnijeta Apuk from Kosovo, who campaigns for the rights of people with disproportional restricted growth; and Liisa Kauppinen from Finland, who promotes the human rights of deaf people.


Also being recognized are:  Khadija Ryadi, a Moroccan human rights activist; the Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico, which provides legal protections for constitutional rights of Mexican citizens and residents; and Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, who has campaigned for girls’ education.


The awards ceremony will take place here in New York on 10 December, coinciding with Human Rights Day.


And, at an event marking the Day in Geneva, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said today that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted 20 years ago, crystallized the principal that human rights are universal.


She added that, in the past two decades, much has been achieved, with the fundamentals for protecting and promoting human rights largely in place.


I am largely in place, and I am happy to take questions.  I’ll come to you in a second, Matthew.  Yes, Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yes, sir.  I just want to find out about, uh, since you were mentioning all the crises: since the Syrian crisis, it seems that the Middle East peace process has again taken a back seat, although Israel keeps on building settlements, the Secretary-General keeps on telling them not to do so and they keep on doing it, so the process is the same.  It’s at, I mean, at one point it’s at, at this time, it is stagnating.  What is it that can be done in, to, you know, to jumpstart this process again?  It is still, I mean, the United States is busy with Syria, Russia is busy over there, so where is it… the United Nations is the only hope for the Palestinian people?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think you will have seen that the Secretary-General met just yesterday with the Foreign Minister of Israel, and he reiterated his belief that negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian sides are the best way to achieve the two-State solution and he expressed his support for the talks that are going on.  And, he also stressed the importance for the parties to create the conditions conducive to a resumption of meaningful negotiations, and he encouraged Israel to take steps to ease the situation in Gaza, in particular.


I think the Secretary-General also is full of admiration for the role played by Secretary of State John Kerry of the United States in this process; and of course continues to encourage, as I just said, both the Israeli and Palestinian sides to push on with those talks, which are of course, not easy, but they are talking place.


Question:  Yes, sir, the only problem, the thing is yes, Mr. Kerry has been very aggressive in trying to promote this peace process, which the Secretary-General has recognized, but the thing is Mr. Kerry after the Iran deal and it seems that and he’s slowed down and the fact that the Israelis do not pay attention to any international community’s appeal to them…


Spokesperson:  Well, to be honest, Masood, that’s really polemics rather than questions that I am hearing; and you know, firstly, I did just say that the Secretary-General met with the Foreign Minister of Israel just yesterday, and as you can see, did speak about this particular topic.  And those negotiations, difficult though they may be, but important as they are, are continuing.  And of course there are other aspects to this field of diplomacy, with Iran and Syria and other elements going on, but I do believe that it is feasible to be able to keep several balls in the air at once.


Question:  Yes.  Sir, only thing that I wanted to point out over there which when you, when you cut short that… noting that it was polemics, I was just talking about this Quartet.  The Quartet seems to be not doing anything.  Is the Secretary-General going to activate, ask the Quartet to start to become more active in this?


Spokesperson:  Well, there was a Quartet meeting not that long ago and they continue to be active. And of course, Robert Kerry is on the ground in the region and is very hands on in this entire process, okay. Yes, Matthew? And then I am coming to you.


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask about… two questions about the Golan.  One is the… the… this attack on the, the Irish contingent there… there seems the… the Irish military has come out with its own findings and that, there… there are, there are different accounts, but it seems that a Gen… uh, a Lieutenant–General Conor O’Boyle says that they were deliberately targeted and it seems by armed groups and I wanted to know we’ve heard very little of it from DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] or UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force], what is their finding on this attack on the Irish contingent which the Irish military is speaking so much about?


Spokesperson:  And what’s the second question?


Question:  The second one has do with whether a… the… the… the Israeli, uh, Defence Minister has recently said publicly that they deliver aid cross-border into Syria and the, it’s somehow mediated by UNDOF and I wanted to know what that could mean.  What, what is UNDOF’s position on cross-border aid from Israel and into Syria?


Spokesperson:  Well, UNDOF, to answer that question, has no role in the transfer or delivery of supplies to Syrian civilians.  With regard to the first question about a security incident, I will ask my colleagues to give me some more details on that, if possible.


Question:  Just to, just to make sure that I am putting it right, because it does, it may, again, he may be mis… mis-speaking, but there are, there at least two articles, I think he toured the… the border area, the Israel, Israeli Defence Minister and used this word “mediated”, so I wanna make sure that I am not making a mistake in saying, maybe it’s a matter of informing UNDOF that they are leaving supplies on the border, if there is some way just to know what is UNDOF’s knowledge of Israeli…


Spokesperson:  They’re not involved in the transfer or delivery of aid supplies to Syrian civilians.  What other question did you have?


Question:  So, does that, is that, do that deny, does that deny that they mediated?


Spokesperson:  Matthew, what other questions do you have? I have given you an answer.  What other questions do you have?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you this, I wanted to ask you the Mali mission, MINUSMA, there have been, there is been reporting in France about the, the… the… the… the lobbying by companies such as Sodexo, Thales, GEOS and others to become the logistic suppliers to the MINUSMA mission.  And, I wanted to know, where does that stand?  I haven’t really heard much about it, but are… are… are the… the logistics contracts that were previously fulfilled by Pacific Architects and Engineers when it was an African Union mission, are they being put up to bid and, and where, where does the process stand, and what would you say to those who say it seems to be a bunch of French companies, uh, now standing in line to get these DPKO contracts?


Spokesperson:  I’d say that there is always an entirely transparent procurement process in any tendering for contractual arrangements with companies in Peacekeeping Operations.  And I am sure that my colleagues in the Department of Field Support, who would be handling that, as I understand it, would be able to help with any details on that.  All right, yes, and then I’ll come to you.  Yes, please?


Question:  Thanks.  I was curious about the, how the deployment of the troops are gonna work in terms of going into CAR [ Central African Republic]; and I know that France uh, being the rotating president, presidency for this month will take much of the, shoulder a lot of the responsibility.  So, I was just curious how the humanitarian operations are going to go and if they are going to deal with all logistic concerns and really take the lead on this.


Spokesperson:  Well, at this point, this is a Security Council-mandated enhanced operation that is African-led and also with a French contingent, as you mentioned.  I would refer you to them for more details on an actual deployment.  At this point, as you know, and as I mentioned earlier on, and you will see in the resolution there is a request from the Security Council to the Secretary-General to work on contingency preparations and planning for a potential transformation of the mission I just referred to into a potential UN peacekeeping operation.  But, that’s not happening at the moment. So, what we are talking about at the moment is this operation MISCA, which is an operation designed to help protect civilians. That is what needs to be deployed to its full extent, and I would ask you to be in touch with the relevant countries that are part of that deployment for more details.


Of course, it is absolutely crucial that that force can get out of the capital; and conditions in the capital are bad enough, as we have seen today, for the people of the country and for those people who are in the country to help them. So, there is a really urgent need for this force to be fully configured and to be able to get out of the capital, also so that people who have not yet been reached can be reached. We do — meaning the United Nations — have personnel who are in the capital and outside the capital.  But, the conditions to provide assistance to those who need it are extremely precarious.  And, therefore, security is absolutely crucial here, being able to re-establish some kind of order.  And also, as the Deputy Secretary-General said in his remarks to the Council just very recently, this is something that is in danger of spiralling out of control.  The Council has acted swiftly and decisively with this resolution, and it is now really crucial that it is put into effect as quickly as possible for the people of Central African Republic.  Yes?


Question:  Martin, there were reports yesterday that the Rohingya Muslim refugees has been swapped to human traffickers by Thailand, Thailand.  Does Secretary-General has anything on this subject?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, I would refer you to my colleagues from the UN Refugee Agency, who may have something on this topic.  I would also need to check with them myself; I don’t have anything on that at this point, okay? Yes?


Question:  Sure, I, I wanted to ask you in… in… in South Sudan the… the… the… the media, large and small they are complaining about unwritten rules being issued by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, requiring information on, in… in… information they say is not in the statute from journalists and they say it is basically to silence the media in South Sudan.  Since there is a UN peacekeeping mission there, I am wondering, do they have any comment on… on these Government moves concerning the press in South Sudan?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in South Sudan has been quite vocal on the need for press freedom and freedom of the media.  So, I would refer you to what she said in the past.  But, I will look to see if there is anything specific on this latest aspect that you are referring to.


Thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.


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