7 February 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 today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Hello everyone.  Good afternoon.


**Secretary-General’s Travels


About now, the Secretary-General is attending the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Games in Russia, along with President Vladimir Putin and the President of the International Olympic Committee.


In a video message aired at the ceremony, the Secretary-General said that the Olympic spirit of fair play, mutual respect and friendly competition prevails.  He called for us all to take that spirit and spread it around the world — for peace and a truce between all warring parties around the world; for human rights and an end to discrimination; and for a life of dignity for all. 


Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General had separate meetings with the Presidents of China and Ukraine and also with the President of the International Paralympic Committee.  We’ve issued readouts on all those meetings.


The Secretary-General will return to New York tomorrow and will be back in the office on Monday.


** Syria


I had been asked earlier today about whether civilians could leave the Old City of Homs in Syria.  The United Nations can confirm that 83 people were evacuated from Old Homs City today, during a three-day humanitarian pause agreed between the parties to the conflict.  The people — women, children and the elderly — were then delivered to places of their choice, escorted by United Nations and Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff.


Also, in a statement we issued last night, the Secretary-General expressed his deep concern at the continued armed escalation in Syria, most deplorably the ongoing aerial attacks and the use of “barrel bombs” to brutal, devastating effect in populated areas.  He condemns once again the indiscriminate use of any weapon against civilians, in contravention of obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.  All civilians must be protected in any situation.


The Secretary-General reiterates that further violence serves the agendas of those who see military means as the only way forward, at the expense of the Syrian people.  He appeals to all Syrian sides to work immediately on reducing the levels of violence and focusing on a peaceful solution to the conflict.  And that statement is available online.


**South Sudan


We have an update from the UN Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS.  The Mission continues its military and police patrols in parts of the country, including in the capital, Juba, as well as in Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Unity States.


Yesterday, a Mission patrol in Bor, Jonglei State, observed that looting in most areas appears to have been widespread.  The Mission also noted population movements in the centre of the town; however, residential areas were largely empty.  At its site in Bor, the Mission is protecting some 6,000 civilians.


And in Malakal, in Upper Nile State, the Mission says the town is deserted and generally quiet.  Currently, the Mission is protecting approximately 22,000 civilians at its site in Malakal.


On the humanitarian front, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that an estimated 738,000 people remain displaced inside South Sudan and another 130,400 people have fled to neighbouring countries including Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya. 


UN agencies and humanitarian partners have reached some 300,000 people across 44 displacement sites in the country with assistance, including food, shelter and water.  Agencies are also working on ways to address longer-term needs, and ensure food production and availability.


Health partners continue to provide emergency medical care.  Nearly all children at the UN Tomping base in Juba have received vaccination for measles, and vaccination and health awareness campaigns continue in parts of the country.


And the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, says it began distributing this week basic relief supplies to an estimated 10,000 people displaced in and around Malakal.  It adds that this is the first aid to reach the displaced people outside of the UN base in Malakal.  Insecurity and widespread looting of humanitarian assets meant that agencies were unable to deliver aid outside of that base until now.


The aid items include plastic sheeting, jerry cans, buckets, kitchen sets, mosquito nets, sleeping mats and blankets, which were airlifted into Malakal airport from UNHCR’s regional stockpile in Nairobi.


** Central African Republic


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Central African Republic, Babacar Gaye, met today with the Head of State of the Transition in the Central African Republic, Ms. Catherine Samba-Panza.  This was their first official meeting since her election.


During the meeting, the Head of State of the Transition said that the lynching of an alleged ex-Seleka combatant by soldiers of the national army, last Wednesday in Bangui, was unacceptable.


The Special Representative noted with satisfaction the determination of the Head of State of the Transition to bring the perpetrators of this act to justice as soon as possible.  Mr. Gaye also encouraged the Head of State of the Transition to prioritize justice, reconciliation and political dialogue.


Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, says that almost 9,000 people have fled to Cameroon in the past 10 days to escape violence in the Central African Republic.  This brings the number of Central African Republic refugees in Cameroon to more than 20,000 since the current crisis began.


Almost 840,000 people also remain displaced inside the Central African Republic.  With no immediate prospect for their return home as the rainy season begins, the Refugee Agency fears a worsening humanitarian crisis.  The agency warned that there is a high risk of cholera and other public health issues, particularly in Bangui, where more than 413,000 people still live in makeshift sites.


** Philippines


The World Food Programme has helped more than 2.8 million people receive emergency food and nutrition support in the three months since Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines.  The agency has done that while working in partnership with the Government of the Philippines, non-governmental organizations and UN agencies.


In the coming weeks and months, the World Food Programme will help families rebuild their livelihoods while continuing to meet the immediate needs of the most vulnerable.


Much work is still needed to clear debris, rehabilitate community infrastructures and recover agricultural land to allow long-term recovery and development activities to take effect.  The World Food Programme plans to implement cash- and food-for-work activities for some 500,000 people to support this process.


**Compact Signing Ceremony


The Secretary-General will sign his senior managers’ Compacts for the year 2014 at a ceremony on Thursday, 13 February 2014, at 9:45 a.m. in his Conference Room on the 38th floor of the main Secretariat building.  The press is cordially invited to attend.  Senior managers at Headquarters will be physically present, while those away from Headquarters will participate via video-conference. 


The Compacts set specific programme objectives and managerial targets for a given year.  But they also help set the tone at the top for improving performance and accountability across the entire Organization.  Their collective signing in public reinforces the commitment of the Secretary-General and his senior leadership team to a culture of results, transparency and accountability. 


**Correction


And finally, I have a correction to make from yesterday’s briefing: I had said that the Security Council President had read out a press statement that day. That’s incorrect; what the President read were elements to the press.


And that’s it for me.  Any questions?  Yes, Lou?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  I wanted to ask about this recording of Victoria Nuland that’s kind of gone viral on the Internet.  One of the things that comes up in there is a discussion about how Under-Secretary-General [Jeffrey] Feltman was discussion with Ms. Nuland about Robert Serry going to Ukraine — just let me finish the question — and it gives it a feel that, you know, the UN and the United States are discussing how best to approach Ukraine.  And I just wondering if this is normal and what exactly was the background for this.  Maybe you could help sort of make it clear, because it’s unclear what exactly was going on.  And second question, on Syria, maybe if you could explain what role the UN is playing in this humanitarian pause and evacuation operation, if any, if it’s just sort of acting as a go-between or if there’s something more?  Thanks.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, to take your second question first:  Yes, the UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are working to help facilitate some of the actions that are being taken during this pause, including helping with the departure of civilians from the Old City of Homs and the entry of food and other supplies in there.  Some of this operation, of course, is still ongoing and we’ll provide further details as that progresses.


Regarding your first question, we can’t comment on the purported leaks of the private conversations of others.  As to the UN’s efforts in relation to the crisis in Ukraine, the Secretary-General has been trying through his personal contacts and in other ways to encourage a peaceful resolution.  As we announced at the time, and after speaking by phone directly to President [Viktor] Yanukovych, he did send Robert Serry to Kiev from 28 to 30 January to convey the United Nations solidarity with Ukraine and to encourage dialogue.


In the conversations we have had with Ukrainians inside and outside the Government, as well as with various international actors who have sought to help resolve the crisis, the UN has been clear in advocating that any solution should be arrived at by Ukrainians, peacefully and through dialogue.


And I might add that the Secretary-General did meet with the President of the Ukraine today and we have a read-out available of that. Yes?


Question:  I mean, I understand your policy on leaks, but I wanted to…in what Ms. Nuland said, she said there’s a new name for the UN guy, Robert Serry.  So, I wanted to know at a minimum, can you say, was there some… basically, I think the request is that it makes it appear that Feltman said he got Ban Ki-moon to name Serry and to send him.  Are you denying…?  Just forgetting how that came out, if one were to ask you, did Feltman tell Ban Ki-moon, Serry should be the guy and to send him to Ukraine, is that false?  What would you say?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I would say that the decision to send Robert Serry was Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s decision.  By the way, I’m not convinced that the Geoffrey referred to in the phone transcript is Jeffrey Feltman.  It’s quite possible that it’s a different United States official named Geoffrey.  Yes?


Question:  Farhan, we understand that Deputy Secretary-General [Jan] Eliasson has met with Omer Bashir in the summit in Addis Ababa for one hour and that this was done with referral first to the ICC [International Criminal Court] and that the meeting should have been deemed necessary for it to happen.  Does the OLA, the Office of Legal Affairs, or the Secretary-General have an opinion on this?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, it does.  The Office for Legal Affairs has made it clear that any dealings with President Bashir would have to be justified on the basis of operational necessity.  And the Deputy Secretary-General, when he met with him, did that in full compliance with that policy — in terms of the necessity of dealing with someone who, as you know, plays a role both with our Missions on the ground inside Sudan, but also in this case, in the resolution, in efforts to find a peaceful resolution of the crisis in South Sudan.


Question:  Did he refer back to the ICC before the meeting, because the Secretary-General never held a meeting with an indicted person by the ICC without referring back first to the ICC.  Did he refer back or is he referring now after the meeting?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I was informed that he followed all the appropriate procedures in terms of having the meeting.  Yes?


Question:  Farhan, I’m asking about what happened today in Palestinian… the Israeli army attacked protestors in Ein Hejleh village and they forced protestors to go out from the village.  I’m asking of you, if anyone talked to the Israeli or the Palestinian authorities to know what’s going on there.  Thank you.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, at this stage we need further details on the ground about what’s happened.  We have, as you know, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator on the ground and that will be entrusted with getting any further information about what’s happening.  Sangwon?


Question:  Some follow-up on Homs.  Can you talk about how young the children are?  Is there an age limit?  And also, for the elderly, as well?  And can you give more details on how many people who are actually in Homs, because there are varying figures coming from the Opposition, the Government.  And also, when would the aid be going in?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as for the aid, I wouldn’t have any comment on when it might go in.  We’re still in discussions and trying to get the aid in.  And this is a process that will be going on, hopefully, in the next few days.


What I can say on that is that Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos welcomed the news that the three-day humanitarian pause agreed between the conflict parties allowed more than 80 people to be safely evacuated from Old Homs City today.


While today’s operation is indeed a breakthrough, and a small but important step towards compliance with international humanitarian law, she said she understood that many civilians, sick and wounded remain in the Old City of Homs.


Ms. Amos continues to call for the safe and voluntary evacuation of all civilians and for full access for humanitarian workers to help people caught in similar situations across Syria.


She remains in close contact with the humanitarian teams on the ground, who are working with the local authorities, representatives of the parties and community leaders to evacuate more civilians and deliver aid in the next few days.


Question:  And on the ages?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have precise ages.  I can see whether we have at least of those people who have been allowed to leave.  But I don’t have a range.  But yes, there were quite a few children and elderly, as well as women among those evacuated.  [He later added that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was not aware of any age range for people being evacuated.]


Question:  One last follow-up:  can you explain again why it is that civilians are leaving Homs if an aid convoy is ready to go in?  What… can you explain the rationale of the deal that was reached between the Syrian parties?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  It’s for the Syrian parties to explain the rationale of the deal that they agreed to between themselves.  It’s very clear that for some time, because of the suffering and fighting in the city of Homs, that there are people who had been trapped in there who had been wanting to get out.  And we need to provide them with all the assistance that they need.  Pam?


Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Follow-up still on this Homs evacuation.  It’s the UN convoys assisting in the evacuation, correct?  And it’s women, children and elderly.  What… has the UN gotten any information about young men that are left behind or are not allowed?  Are they told that young men are not allowed on?  And just a follow-up on the Victoria Nuland conversation:  did you just say that it was not Jeffrey Feltman, it’s Geoffrey Pyatt?  Or that it’s an implication…


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Exactly.  I think it’s the United States Ambassador.  I mean, by coincidence they have the same first name.  But, yes.


Question:  Did you listen…?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I did listen.


Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  In the region, some organizations, some news organizations are saying that the agreement that was reached was actually between the UN and the parties.  And you keep saying that it was an agreement between the parties.  Can we have any details on who actually negotiated this for the Government and the Opposition and what exactly the UN’s role was?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the UN has had a role in trying to bring the parties together to get an agreement going.  As you know, that process, some of that even took place in Geneva, among the Government and Opposition delegations who were present there.  And Lakhdar Brahimi talked to the press, in fact, about the nature of trying to secure an agreement and the importance of that.  In terms of agreements with the UN, obviously there need to be some arrangements on the ground that would allow us to have safe passage in order both to help get people out and to bring aid in; and so, some of the agreements do entail arrangements on the ground involving the UN and our humanitarian partners, including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.  But the agreement is between the parties.  Yes?


Question:  Farhan, from the media reports, we heard that the number should have been 200.  Who allowed, or not allowed to be… only just 83 are allowed to go out.  Who allowed them to go out or prevented them from going out, the rest?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  It’s not a question of being prevented from going out.  We understand that for the most part the operation there went smoothly, but there were isolated reports of gunfire heard during the day.  We continue to carry out our activities and we will try, as I said just earlier, we’ll try to evacuate more civilians and deliver aid in the next few days.  Evelyn first.


Question:  On the same subject, a follow-up here.  How about Yarmouk?  Yarmouk refugee camp?  Do you have any update on that?  And also Nubel and al-Zahraa, which are the longest siege in the Syrian conflict.  Are there any arrangements for the evacuation or aid to go into these two besieged towns?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have, on the last two towns, any updates.  On Yarmouk, what I can say is that over the course of this week, there has been aid going on.  Our colleagues in the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) have confirmed being able both to bring in food and different medical supplies and carry out vaccinations.  So that’s been going on in recent days. Yes, Evelyn?


Question:  Can I follow up on — I wasn’t sure what you answered to Pamela’s question.  The Syrian Government originally said only women and children could leave.  Is that still the case?  Or you can… who agreed to that?  And are young men leaving or not?  Or can they leave?  Or are we going to have another Srebrenica here?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  In this case, what I’ve been saying is that the people who are able to leave were women, children and the elderly.  Yes?


Question:  Sure, thanks a lot.  I have some other questions…either now, or after the briefing.  Ms. Nuland was talking to a Geoff Pyatt, who is a United States official, but she said… you say you’ve say you’ve listened to it, but she said, “I spoke to Jeff Feltman this morning and he had a new name for the UN guy, Robert Serry.  He’s now gotten Serry and Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come on Monday.”  So, I just… are you saying that she really was referring not to a UN person named Jeffery Feltman, but there was a third Jeff?  Because she was speaking to a Jeff at the United States…


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  There were some times she was speaking to a Jeffrey who doesn’t necessarily… when she was speaking about a Jeffrey who was not necessarily Jeffrey Feltman.  Regarding that, as far as Jeffrey Feltman is concerned, as you know, he is like the rest of us, an international civil servant and he’s working at the behest of Ban Ki-moon.  And so, the work he does is for the Secretary-General.


Question:  But is there another Jeff that may have been speaking to Ban Ki-moon about sending Serry to Ukraine?  I just want to nail this one down?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I think that that may involve a different United States official, I believe, Geoffrey Pyatt.


Question:  Right.  That’s who she was speaking to.  But then she talks about a Jeff, so… are you say that this is not Feltman she’s referring to?  That’s what I’m asking.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m just saying that it’s not clear that it is Jeffrey Feltman.  And again, like I’m saying about Jeffrey Feltman, of course for his part, he’s an international civil servant.  He works for the United Nations.


Question:  Does he speak routinely to Assistant Secretaries of State for other regions?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  He speaks to a wide variety of officials throughout.  As you know, he speaks to officials who are at the ministerial level, the ambassador level, as do any range of UN officials here.  Yes?


Question:  I don’t understand why I do not allowed follow-ups like every other person here.  You interrupted me in a way that showed — let me finish please — you interrupted me in a way as if I am not welcomed here.  I asked specifically about Nubel and al-Zahraa, the longest siege in the history of the conflict of Syria.  Is there any interest in relieving or providing some kind of relief to those people?  Also, there are 200 of them abducted by the rebel groups.  Are there any arrangements done for their release?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, regarding that, as I just said, we continue to call for the safe and voluntary evacuation of all civilians and for full access for humanitarian workers to help people caught across, in the situations across Syria.  We’re very concerned, not just about this one part of the Old City of Homs or for that matter about Yarmouk, but about every place where people have been needy.  So yes, you’re absolutely right — we need to get aid everywhere where it’s needed.


Question:  Including Nubel and al-Zahraa?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Including those, yes.  What we are trying to do is get agreements on the ground.  And, as Lakhdar Brahimi made clear, one of the things that will help to get the peace process between the parties moving ahead is if there can be confidence-building measures that can allow for local pauses in the fighting and allow for people who have not been getting aid for some months and even longer to actually have access to the food, water and medicine that they so desperately need.  So we’ll continue with that effort.  And, by the way, Nizar, as for you — I completely value your presence, but Evelyn had been waiting for some time and you tried to drown her out.  Please don’t do that.  Yes?


Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Back to the evacuation from Homs — where are those 83 people supposed to stay after their evacuation and the people who are getting out in the days ahead?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have any details on that arrangement.  I believe they’re now being taken care of with officials of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.  Yes?


Question:  Thanks a lot.  I wanted to ask on this question on the International Criminal Court and the procedures for UN contacts with indictees.  Back in July there was a meeting between Under Secretary-General [Hervé] Ladsous and Omer al-Bashir.  And I’ve spoken to Fatou Bensouda, and she said that they were not contacted in that case.  I wanted to know, just sort of yes or no, is that… In the answer you gave on the Deputy Secretary-General, are you saying that before meeting someone indicted, like Omer al-Bashir, the UN is supposed to check with the ICC or inform them in advance?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, what I said is that any such meetings have to be on the basis of operational necessity.  And that was the case for both the meeting that was held by the Deputy Secretary-General and also with regard to the meeting by Under-Secretary-General Ladsous.


Question:  Who makes that determination?  They ask OLA?  Or each individual makes his own…


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  The Office for Legal Affairs is routinely consulted on any of these particular meetings, yes.  Evelyn and then Pam?


Question:  Back to the Ukraine for a minute — the gist of that conversation seemed to be that the United States wanted the Secretary-General, Mr. Serry or whoever from the UN to back up its position in the Ukraine.  Does the Secretary-General have the same position or how can one explain that?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  What I would say is the same as we’ve issued, in fact, in our read-out with the President of Ukraine just a few hours ago, which is that Mr. Serry was dispatched to convey the Secretary-General’s interest and concern in developments and to express the UN’s solidarity with Ukrainians.  Yes?


Question:  I wanted to know, this is something sort of totally different.  That I heard earlier today that the UN is telling the host country or host city that if it doesn’t close the FDR exit ramp on forty-second Street by the end of this year that the UN will close and empty the library and cafeteria.  The idea is that it’s so unsafe, or they believe it’s so unsafe that if it’s not closed, if cars continue to use that ramp that both buildings will become unusable.  And since that would obviously involve a loss of money, I wanted to know, this was said in a Town Hall meeting in the Department of Management, so I don’t think it’s that closely held a secret.  Is that really the case?  And is there no other solution short of closing an access ramp of the FDR Drive that could solve this problem?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I think the only thing I can really say about that is that our security personnel continue to evaluate security in the building and see what parts of the building are potentially insecure.  And they have a variety of options in how to deal with that.  I wouldn’t comment on what options we resolve on.  Of course we’ll be in discussions with the City of New York and try to find a way that we can ensure that people can be safe in the building.


Question:  But it was also said in that meeting that they are doing a procurement to either replace for a new catering contract.  Seems like if you don’t know where the cafeteria is going to be… I heard that it was said that the end of 2014, both would be closed if the ramp isn’t closed.  How do you do procurement with not only the location, but the whole scope of services not determined or clear?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We hope to resolve the situation and have that clear as soon as we can.  But the bottom line is that we have to make sure that any place that people work in or operate in the building is secure.  And so we have to make sure that our safety standards are adequate and that’s what we’ll focus on.  Yes?


Question:  Farhan, I’m sorry to beleaguer the point, but, just as a follow-up to what Evelyn had asked and to what I had asked — if there is in the evacuation a UN convoy and a young man attempts to board that convoy or that truck — is the UN under instructions not to allow young boys?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I have no knowledge of that.  I believe we’re taking whoever can be safely evacuated from the city.  The question is how people are organized from out of the city to arrive into our hands and the hands of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.  Of course, we’ve taken everyone who’s come through to get to us.


Question:  And therefore, the original agreement that excluded young boys is being done before people get to the…


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have any real comment on the arrangements that the parties that themselves have made.  This is about…


Question:  Can you maybe find out if there’s any follow-up with anyone attempting, any young men, attempting to leave?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  As far as I’m aware, everyone who has tried to leave and come into our care has been able to do so over the course of today and we hope that that continues.


Question:  And let me just try one other way of approaching the Nuland/Serry conversation — was there a conversation between the United States and the UN on the objectives of Serry in Ukraine?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  As I’ve told you, the objective of Robert Serry in the Ukraine is to convey the Secretary-General’s interest and concern in the developments in Ukraine and to express our solidarity with Ukrainians.  Those were his objectives.  Robert Serry, as you know, is someone who had actually served in Ukraine as a Dutch diplomat prior to his posting with the United Nations, so he’s fairly knowledgeable about that.


Question:  And can you give us any read-out of any conversation that the UN had with the United States on those goals?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I think we provided read-outs and statements about what our goals in the Ukraine are.  I’ve read some of them just now in the last few minutes.  And of course there was the read-out just today with the meeting that the Secretary-General had with the President of the Ukraine.  And so it’s very clear what we want to see achieved.


Question:  Farhan, but you didn’t really answer Pamela’s question, which was — did the United Nations, did Feltman or anybody else, have a conversation with a United States official about Ukraine?  About this visit to Ukraine?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m fairly sure that, as with other diplomatic efforts, when we have a dispatch of any envoy, we do consult widely with a number of nations.  So clearly, officials from our side will touch base with officials from a number of interested countries.  I don’t think that anything about the process in terms of dealing with the Ukraine is any different from how we deal with any of the other trouble spots in the world, in that regard.  Yes?


Question:  Also, on another convoy elsewhere — in Bangui, it’s said that in the last 24 hours there’s been a pretty much, a mass exodus of Muslim residents on trucks and that some of the trucks have been attacked.  I wanted to know — can you confirm… what does the UN Mission there say about this exodus?  And also, if… what’s the thinking in terms of people’s right or ability to return?  Is that one of the goals of the UN’s presence in the Central African Republic — that all of these people can return, whether they are officially citizens or not?  Or only those who might vote in the subsequent election?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Our basic concern is that people need to be able to live in safety and without fear throughout the Central African Republic.  Regardless of what community they belong to or where they live.  And so ultimately the parties themselves need to lay down their arms and cease fighting, but beyond that, of course, we’ve been trying to make sure that the transitional government can take up its own responsibilities along with the various international forces that are present in the country.  And that is what our peacebuilding office, BINUCA, is trying to encourage, and you heard what we just had to say about the meeting that Mr. Gaye had with Catherine Samba-Panza.  You had a question?  Okay?  One more there and then you.


Question:  Farhan, do you have an update on how many African troops have arrived in the Central African Republic?  And we know about the French and the Europeans won’t be there for a while.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  As you know, the African force, MISCA [International Support Mission to the Central African Republic], is not a UN force, so I don’t have an update on the numbers.


Question:  But I thought your Office might have one.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We can check, but ultimately, it’s a separate force.  So those aren’t our numbers.  Yes?


Question:  Yeah, I just… Salva Kiir had released 7 of those 11 high-profile SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement], former SPLM, detainees.  But now he seems to have announced that the seven he did release, and there’s four still in detention, the seven that were released will still be tried for treason.  And I wanted to know, given the UN’s role in trying to put an end to the rift there, does the UN think… I think the UN sort of congratulated the release, does them going on trial for treason seem like a productive step in bringing about reconciliation in the country?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll have to monitor exactly what’s happening with the trial process and make sure that any legal processes are taken carefully and follow due process.  Yes?


Question:  Farhan, about the demolition of houses in East Jerusalem again yesterday.  Do you have comment about that?  Or who’s following this?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have any specific comment.  You’re aware of our previous concerns about the situation in East Jerusalem and the idea that no action should be taken to dramatically alter the situation on the ground.  Yes?


Question:  Following the Secretary-General’s very strong comment in favour of… against discrimination at the Olympics, there were some comments by President Putin saying that this shouldn’t be a political issue of gay rights at the Olympics.  Does the Secretary-General have any comment about the back-and-forth?  Or about the Russian President’s comments?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, not really.  I would just refer you to what the Secretary-General himself said and specifically to the remarks he made to the International Olympic Committee and to the press after that, which expressed what he thinks in terms of the basic concept of rights for all.  Have a good weekend, everyone.


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