30 January 2014
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 todayís noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


**Secretary-General in Germany


The Secretary-General met today in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and discussed development, human rights, disarmament and peacebuilding issues with her.† He said that he invited Chancellor Merkel to attend the Climate Summit that he is convening on 23 September at UN Headquarters in New York, which aims to mobilize action and political will towards the new climate change agreement which the world so urgently needs.


Earlier, he met with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and told reporters afterwards that they discussed the security situations in Syria, the Middle East, South Sudan, Central Africa and many other areas of mutual concern.


In the morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the opening ceremony to launch the work of the High-level Scientific Advisory Board. †He told the gathered scientists that, for too long, we have sought to burn and consume our way to prosperity. †That model is unsustainable. †And he added that the Board represents some of the worldís best scientific competence and will provide indispensable advice on the interface between science and policy for sustainable development. †And those remarks are posted on our website.


** Syria


The Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said in Geneva that there was a lengthy discussion today by the Syrian parties on terrorism.† He declared his disappointment that humanitarian aid has yet to be allowed into Homs, but added that negotiations on getting people out of Homs and bringing aid in are continuing.


Speaking to reporters in Berlin, the Secretary-General said that nobody thought that the peace talks would be an easy process and that more patience is needed. †The transcript of that press encounter is online.


Today, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees [in the Near East] (UNRWA) distributed more than 1,000 food parcels to the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus. †This is the first aid to enter the camp since 21 January, when the Agency had distributed 138 food parcels.† The Agency said that it is encouraged by the delivery of this aid and the cooperation of the parties on the ground. †It hopes to continue and increase substantially the amount of aid being delivered, because the numbers of those needing assistance is in the tens of thousands, including 18,000 Palestinians, among them women and children.


**African Union Summit


The Deputy Secretary-General spoke at the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa today, and he said that the world needs Africaís vitality, entrepreneurship and diversity.


He discussed recent crises in Africa, saying that he remains deeply concerned about South Sudan.† He said that combined efforts should now focus on protecting civilians, preventing gross violations of human rights and facilitating humanitarian assistance.† And he urged the parties to strictly adhere to the cessation of hostilities agreement signed last week and to intensify their efforts for reconciliation and domestic peace.


The Deputy Secretary-General also discussed concerns about the Central African Republic, saying that our common goal should be to stop the horrific clashes between Christians and Muslims and restore the harmonious relations that have existed for so long between the two communities. †He said that we must act immediately to prevent further atrocities. †And the Deputy Secretary-General pointed to the serious lack of funds for the international force (African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic), MISCA, and encouraged all UN Member States to be generous at the pledging conference to be held this Saturday. †His full statement is available online.


**South Sudan


The UN Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, reports that it has conducted 264 military and 61 police patrols in various parts of the country in the last 24 hours.† In Leer, in Unity State, the Mission has received credible reports of ongoing fighting in the town, but it is not in a position to verify and confirm this independently at this point.


The Mission continues to seek to verify reports of human rights violations, to collect evidence and document human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in a number of places, including the capital, Juba, and in Bor, in Jonglei State. Currently, 1,000 UN Mission troops and police are protecting more than 10,000 civilians at its premises in Bor.† Overall, 79,000 civilians are sheltering at eight bases throughout the country.


** Central African Republic


Meanwhile, on the Central African Republic, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the security situation remains tense, especially in the capital, Bangui.† It says that some 825,000 people are still displaced from their homes across the country, more than 400,000 of them in Bangui alone.


The Office also says that an improvement in the security situation is vital if humanitarian agencies are to have sufficient access to people in the provinces outside Bangui.† [The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] also says that, according to organizations working on protection issues, a comprehensive system in Bangui and other locations is a priority in order to identify, document, trace and reunify unaccompanied and separated children, and undertake public awareness campaigns to prevent family separation.


Meanwhile, the UN Childrenís Fundís (UNICEF) work on the identification and verification of boys and girls associated with armed groups led to the release of 23 children this week.† A total of 229 children have been released since May 2013.


**Security Council


In a formal meeting today, the Security Council extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus, UNFICYP, until 31 July.


It also decided to renew the measures on arms imposed by the paragraph l of resolution 1807 (2008), concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, until l February 2015.


** Cambodia


On Monday, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Miguel de Serpa Soares; the UN Controller, MarŪa Eugenia Casar; and the Secretary-Generalís Special Expert on the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, David Scheffer, met with Cambodiaís Deputy Prime Minister.


They agreed to continue their cooperation on matters relating to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), and reaffirmed their commitment to ending impunity for the atrocities of the former Khmer Rouge regime.† They also expressed their determination to overcome the funding challenges faced by the Chambers, so as to avoid any delay in the judicial proceedings and to assure the welfare of both national and international staff.


The Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia agreed that the Cambodia Government will be able to provide $1.1 million to cover the salaries of the Chamberís national personnel for the first quarter of 2014.† He also expressed the Governmentís view for achieving, as soon as possible, a clear road map towards a completion strategy for the Chambers.


**Secretary-Generalís Appointment


The Secretary-General has appointed Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania as his new Deputy Special Representative and Deputy Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). †He succeeds Georg Charpentier of Finland, who has served as Deputy Special Representative since October 2011. †Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed most recently served as the UN Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Resident Representative in Yemen.† We have more information on this appointment in our office.


**Climate


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, released today its Working Group 1 fifth Assessment Report.


The Report finds that warming of the climate system is unequivocal and human influence on the climate system is clear. †It also says that limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.† The Summary of this full report was launched in September last year.† And more about the full report is available on the Intergovernmental Panelís website. †Thatís it from me.† Any questions? Yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:† I wanted to ask:† there were several speeches made in the Security Council after the vote on the DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] Group of Experts.† Afterwards, there was a stakeout by the DRC Permanent Representative.† This is what I wanted to ask you about:† in terms of getting an update on the Minova mass rape prosecution or accountability for the units of the DRC army that the UN provides support toÖ to ask the DRC, and I just did, but I didnít really get an answer.† So, I wanted to know if itís possible, is MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] monitoring these proceedings that Mr. [Martin] Kobler said had been postponed for some reason, and when will it get back on track?† And also what is MONUSCO doing on the request that was also made in the Council that it investigate and act on alleged links between the FARDC [Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo] and the FDLR [Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda] militia?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Well, first of all, on your second question, the UN [Organization Stabilization] Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, acts on the basis of its mandate, and if there were to be functions added to its mandate, it would follow up accordingly.† But, that would need to be decided by the Security Council.


On the question of Minova rapes, as you know, weíve been providing updates as the Mission obtains information, and we will continue to do so.† Youíre quite right that the primary responsibility for prosecuting these people and investigating the crimes lies, as it should, with the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.† So, itís for them to answer.† But, yes, we have been following up, and continue to obtain information about what the follow-up by the Government is.


Question:† Thanks a lot.† Just one follow-up on that: †in terms of the mandate, it seems like, itís true that the Permanent Representative of Rwanda said, ďI called on MONUSCO to investigate these linksĒ, but I want to know from you: †is it within MONUSCOís current mandate not only to supposedly neutralize FDLR, but to examine the question of whether it has links with the army that MONUSCO is working with?† Would that seem to be related?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Iíll just refer you to the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, which make clear what the protection of civilians mandate is.† Yes, Mr. Abbadi?


Question:† Thank you, Farhan.† The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs made a statement in the Security Council whereby he emphasized the concept of national reconciliation to deal with conflict in various areas of the world.† What happened to the concept of preventive diplomacy and to the $65 million the department got in order to promote preventive diplomacy, which is the basis for preventing conflict in the first place?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Yes, the Department of Political Affairs and the United Nations as a whole does focus on preventive diplomacy.† That wasnít the topic of his speech yesterday, because the Security Councilís open debate had to do with healing after a conflict and reconciliation ó basically, the lessons we have learned about post-conflict situations.† So, consequently, he wasnít speaking in that particular speech about preventive diplomacy, but it does remain one of the main aspects of the work of his Department.


Correspondent:† The discussion also had to deal with the concept of peace, and preventive diplomacy is crucial in the promotion of peace.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Yes, but, like I said, he was in keeping with the theme of the open debate, which had to do with: †what have we learned from past conflicts in terms of how to heal and how to bring about post-conflict reconciliation?† So, that was simply the nature of the discussion of that particular day.† But yes, preventive diplomacy is something we believe in very strongly.† Itís obvious we would rather be able to prevent suffering rather than have to pick up the pieces afterwards.† Thatís always been our policy.† Yes?


Question:† Yes, sir.† About this Syria deadlock that we are talking about, Iím sure youíve been asked a million questions on it.† Can you tell me something? †Is there something that the Secretary-GeneralÖ anything new that the Secretary-General can come up with which would somehow at least move the parties forward?† At this point in time, we all know that theyíre deadlocked over this issue or that, taking aid to Homs, and so on and so forth.† Is there anything the Secretary-General and his team of advisers, do they have anything in their mind how to move this forward?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Well, the Secretary-General and his advisers, and, of course, in particular, the Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, have been trying to move forward with the parties.† What Mr. Brahimi said, in fact, in a press encounter just within the past hour, he made clear again that, although progress had been slow, there are certain signs of movement.† Heís been pushing to see what can happen.† At this stage, Mr. Brahimi expects that the current round of talks will be suspended tomorrow, and then he is trying to organize for when those talks can resume.† And we do expect them to resume some time in the following month.† Weíll have a more precise timeline, hopefully by tomorrow.


Question:† A follow-up, another question separate from this: †the Secretary-General had a meeting with Mr. [Fidel] Castro in Cuba a couple of days ago.† I read the readout and so forth.† I just want to know, how did he find him?† Did he find him, that he was looking more frail and sick?† That was not mentioned in the read out.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† No, and we donít tend to mention those in readouts.† Iím told he was quite impressed by Mr. Castro during their meeting. †The details of the meeting are in the readout.† Yes, itís clear that Fidel Castro has had some health problems, but they were able to discuss issues with each other for about an hour, for nearly an hour.


Question:† Did they talk in English or Spanish?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Iím not sure.† I believe that, in most of his meetings, he had an interpreter with him.† So, I believe thatís how that happened.


Question:† Thank you, Farhan.† On Syria, still, you said there are small steps of progress in various areas, but there doesnít seem to be any progress whatsoever regarding the issue of the transition Government.† The Syrian side insists on having Government representatives in the transitional Government and the other side rejects that.† Is the Joint Special Representative prepared to present a plan of his own to the parties at some stage?† Thank you.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Well, I think if Mr. Brahimi has any particulars plans, he will present them to the parties first and we wouldnít be able to talk about it in the press until after the fact.† So, I wouldnít have anything to say on this for now.† Regarding the pace of the talks, though, as I said earlier, both Mr. Brahimi and the Secretary-General had made it clear that they expected the process not to be an easy one, but to be a fairly delicate and sensitive one that will require time.† And the Secretary-General has encouraged having some patience, and weíll see whether we can move farther. †But, at least for now, the parties did get to the table.† They have spoken to each other.† This is a small step forward.† But thatís the step that you need to take to be able to make the progress that we actually need to make.† Yes?


Question:† I wanted to ask about Central African Republic and I still wanted to know, there are these now, more confirmed reports of at least 10 people killed by French forces using cannon fire, and itís unclear if all of them were Sťlťka fires.† But, the reason Iím asking you, rather than simply only asking the French, is that various human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, theyíre reporting in some detail that the French are not acting to protect Muslims, even currently.† So, although Iím happy to try to ask the French, Iím curious, whatís the UNís role given its mission in Bangui in terms of coming to some conclusions about the propriety of actions or justÖ Iím surprised the idea that, given the Human Rights Watch report, that the idea would be ask France about this incident.† Is there any knowledge on the UNís part of the 10 people who were killed and the protection of Muslims in Bangui at present?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Well, Matthew, because youíre asking about a French military operation, itís something for which we do not have the factual details.† So, it only makes logical sense that youíd ask the French Government about what Operation Sangaris is doing.† Similarly, with the multinational force, MISCA, we have no role in that, either.† If we find out about any violations by any parties, whether they are parties within the Central African Republic or by outside forces, we would investigate those as much as we can through our peacebuilding office, BINUCA [United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic].† But what BINUCA would need is ultimately the factual details about whatís happened.


Question:† Thanks a lot; thanks for that.† Iím wondering, for example, this Human Rights Watch report, which is online and itís a written report with photographs, it says a man was lynched by anti-Balaka, and that the French forces were 50 metres away and did nothing.† So, what Iím wondering is, I just want to be clear on what responsibilities there are, because the UN does report on some militariesí actions.† In the face of a report like that, does the UN in the Central African Republic go to try to ascertain what happened?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Of course, the UN tries to ascertain any reports it receives of atrocities or other wrongdoing.† In this case, we would need details from the other parties there, such as the French forces.† Yes?


Question:† I just want to ask because of conflict in all those issues.† Thereís a report that Indian and Pakistani forces, again, exchanging fire at the border today.† Has the Secretary-General or anybody talked about it?† Is there a report by UNMOGIP [United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan] on this special incident thatís happening now?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† I havenít seen a report from UNMOGIP about any of this, no.† Have a good afternoon.† Oh, yes, okay, sure.


Question:† To totally change the pace, thereís one of the [Edward] Snowden-released documents, but thereís a reason Iím asking you is itís published in a Danish website ďInformationĒ and it talks about the Copenhagen climate change talks of 2009.† And this seems to be the document and it says that the NSA [United States National Security Agency] was involved in monitoring communications at the discussions in order to advise the United States on the position of other Governments and presumably at the UN.† So, Iím wondering, this seems to get more closely into things that are of much import to the UN, to the Secretary-General.† Is there any response as to this memo coming out and the propriety of such surveillance?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Well, we wouldnít have any specific response to this because ultimately, again, this is a case where weíd need to know what the basic facts are and whether there was any such surveillance thatís happened.† However, our basic point that weíve articulated many times in recent months still holds: †that the inviolability of diplomatic premises needs to be respected by all States.


Have a good afternoon, everyone.


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For information media • not an official record