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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.  Welcome to all of you; welcome to all of you who are watching us on the webcast.


**Security Council


Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, is briefing the Security Council in its consultations this morning on the diplomatic efforts involving the Syrian parties.  He intends to speak to reporters at the Council stakeout after that session ends, and I will inform you as soon as that starts, so those of you who would rather listen to him than to me have the option of going.


Also, tomorrow morning, the Secretary-General and Mr. Brahimi will both speak to Member States, again on Syria.  That will be in an informal plenary of the General Assembly that is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.  The Secretary-General, then, we expect to arrange a brief stakeout for you with him, that will be outside the Trusteeship Council Chamber, at some point in the morning, where he will take a few questions, and we will let you know.


** Central African Republic


Also today, at 4 p.m., the Secretary-General will meet with religious leaders from the Central African Republic.  Those leaders are the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bangui, the President of the Islamic Council in the Central African Republic and the President of the country’s Evangelical Alliance.


At the start of the meeting, the Secretary-General will say a few words in French, but he will not take any questions.  And that photo op will be at 4 p.m. this afternoon on the 38th floor.


**Commission on Narcotic Drugs


The Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, spoke today at the high-level review of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, in Vienna.


Mr. Eliasson noted that there are genuine differences between countries on how to address the drug problem, but he urged them to have a comprehensive and open-minded exchange of ideas on what has worked and what has not worked in dealing with the drug scourge.


He said that the international community must not shy away from discussing innovative ideas and perspectives.  He added that an integrated and balanced response to the drug problem should consider alternatives to the incarceration of drug users.  He said that the serious criminals are the traffickers and the syndicates that control them.


** Ukraine


Moving on to Ukraine, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović continued his mission to that country today.


As we told you yesterday, he was in Lviv today, a city in western Ukraine, where he met with the head of the regional council and where they discussed the hosting of displaced people from Crimea now living in the Lviv region.  He also held talks with the regional Ombudsperson.


Mr. Šimonović then met with representatives of local non-governmental organizations, including Crimean Tatars, and they discussed the human rights situation in Ukraine.


He also had a meeting with the originator of a grass-roots campaign to speak Russian in Lviv for one day, in solidarity with Russian speakers in Ukraine alarmed by the decision of the country’s Parliament to repeal the language law.


Mr. Šimonović returned to Kyiv today, where he will meet with ministers and other officials.


He is scheduled to hold a press conference in Kyiv tomorrow, and we hope to get the transcript of those remarks made available to you as soon as we possibly can.


**South Sudan


Moving on to South Sudan, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that continued fighting in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile States is forcing more people from their homes and making it difficult to reach people in need of humanitarian aid.


Our humanitarian colleagues continue to negotiate with all sides to facilitate humanitarian operations, to recover looted assets and to ensure the safety of national and international aid workers.


The UN Mission in the country (UNMISS) and our humanitarian colleagues in the country and our humanitarian colleagues say that heavy rain in Juba continues to cause problems at the UNMISS Tomping compound.  And transfers of displaced people from that base began slowly yesterday.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


From the Congo, our Humanitarian Office also reports that there is an increased return of residents to several villages in North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, following recent operations against rebel groups.


As previously announced, the UN [Organization Stabilization] Mission in the [Democratic Republic of the] Congo (MONUSCO) supports and is directly engaged alongside the Congolese army in operations against armed groups in the country.


Targeted groups include the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).  The Mission stresses that all steps will be taken in order to protect civilians and restore State authority all across [the Democratic Republic of the Congo], especially in its eastern part.


In a press conference yesterday, the Head of the UN Mission in Goma, Ray Torres, said that armed groups should not be given any legitimacy or considered as representatives of any ethnic group or tribe.  The Mission reiterated its calls to all groups to disarm and surrender without delay.


**Senior Appointment


We have a senior appointment today.  The Secretary-General has appointed Lieutenant General Jose Luiz Jaborandy, Jr., of Brazil, as Force Commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, otherwise known as MINUSTAH.


Lieutenant General Jaborandy, Jr., will replace the outgoing Force Commander, Lieutenant General Edson Leal Pujol, also from Brazil, on 15 March.  We have more information on that appointment in my office.


** Israel


In a statement we issued yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the multiple rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza, for which Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility.  The Secretary-General deplored the severe escalation of violence and urged all actors to exercise maximum restraint to prevent further incidents that could bring greater escalation and destabilisation in the region.


**Press Conference Tomorrow


And lastly, tomorrow, there will be a press conference here at 10  a.m., when the Permanent Representative of Ukraine, Yuriy Sergeyev, together with leaders of minority groups in Ukraine, will be here to discuss current events in Crimea.


And that is it, actually, from me.  If you have any questions, I am happy to answer them.  Yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  On Ukraine, did Šimonović personally meet with refugees from Crimea in Lviv, or he just discussed the situation with them?


Spokesman:  That’s a very legitimate question; let me find out and get more details on the programme.  But, I know the issue of refugees is one he has been very concerned with.  Yes, sir?


Question:  Hi, Stéphane.  The [non-governmental organization] Human Rights Watch is criticizing the possibility that Burma, or Myanmar, might contribute peacekeepers to UN operations on the grounds that they have not met their action plan goals for getting child soldiers out of their own forces by 2013, and also on the grounds that the Burmese military committed abusive acts during the junta years in the country.  What standards do countries have to meet to participate in UN peacekeeping forces?  And do you have any comment on this particular Human Rights Watch critique?


Spokesman:  Sure.  I mean, two things: one, on the general concept and requirements for participating in peacekeeping operations, UN [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] enters into technical discussions with any Member State that expresses interest in contributing personnel to its operations.  UN forces are accountable to the highest standards in training and conduct, and thorough assessments are carried out prior to the acceptance of any uniformed personnel.  And Member States are also responsible for ensuring human rights vetting prior to any deployment.


Now, I just want also to put in context, I think, the discussions that were had, these were had by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, when he met with the Commander-in-Chief of the defence forces in Myanmar.  And there was really, they were not discussions focused on peacekeeping operations; it was part of a broader discussion and discussions that the Special Adviser’s been having with the authorities in Myanmar and other parties about the reintegration [of] Myanmar into the international community.  And that was just one of many issues that was raised, and really raised at the general level.  And the Special Adviser explained that, like any other Member State, Myanmar was invited to discuss interest in specific terms with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which would then consider the request along the lines that I’ve just mentioned.  Yes, Evelyn?


Question:  Sorry.  Just to follow up: so, there is no peacekeeping operation now with Myanmar in it; Myanmar troops in it?


Spokesman:  Not to my knowledge.


Question:  Right.  And they haven’t been invited to join any particular contingent?


Spokesman:  No, as I said, it’s really kind of a broad discussion, and Mr. Nambiar’s message was that, if you are interested, you need to enter into detailed talks with [the Department of Peacekeeping Operations], and obviously, from the [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] side, there are very specific criteria that need to be followed.  Yes, Ma’am?


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  May I ask you to venture in a completely different field today?  I was wondering, today, The Washington Post has a very strong complaint about the way the Malaysian Government has been managing the crisis of the Boeing plane — lack of transparency for a crisis that is an international crisis that involves several countries, people from several countries and several borders and so forth and so on.  And I was wondering if there is any possibility that the Secretary-General may comment on this accusation of lack of transparency in managing an international crisis.


Spokesman:  No.  I mean, I think the focus now is on finding the plane.  Obviously, the Secretary-General and all of us here, our thoughts go out to the families of the missing, but we have no particular comment on how the operation is being run.


Thank you very much.  And I think you will be in time for Mr. Brahimi.


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For information media • not an official record