5 June 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.


**World Environment Day


Today is World Environment Day, and this year’s theme is “Raise your voice, not the sea level.”


The Secretary-General noted that this year’s Day falls during the International Year of Small Island Developing States.


He pointed out that these States have contributed little to climate change.  Their combined annual output of greenhouse gases is less than 1 per cent of total global emissions, but their position on the frontlines has projected many to the forefront in the negotiations for a new legal agreement in 2015.


The Secretary-General urged everyone to think about the plight of Small Island States and to take their inspiration from their efforts to address climate change, strengthen resilience and work for a sustainable future.


There are also a number of messages to mark the Day from senior UN officials, including the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).


**Sustainable Energy


The Secretary-General also this morning spoke at the first annual Sustainable Energy for All forum.  In his remarks, he underscored that sustainable energy is the golden thread that links poverty eradication, equitable economic growth and a healthy environment.


The UN Decade on Sustainable Energy for All was launched this morning.  The Secretary-General said this can bring us closer to our goals of universal energy and a life of dignity and opportunity for all.  He noted how modern energy services are key to changing people’s quality of life, including how clinics can store lifesaving vaccines and how children can study after dark.


The Secretary-General said that at his Climate Change Summit, which he’s convening this September, he counts on all to deliver new and expanded commitments and partnerships that will transform the global energy landscape.  The Secretary-General’s remarks are available online and in my office.


** Nigeria


Said Djinnit, who is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa and also Special Envoy for Nigeria, last night arrived in Abuja for his second visit to the country in his capacity as the High Representative of the Secretary-General.


This morning, he attended a meeting of the UN country team devoted to finalizing the UN integrated support package to the effected communities where the girls had been kidnapped.  In the afternoon, he is expected to pursue consultations with Nigerian Government officials.


** Mali


And from Mali, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, Robert Piper, is now wrapping up a five-day visit to that country.  He met with Government officials in Bamako and also travelled to Timbuktu and Koulikoro.  There he met with vulnerable populations and visited projects supporting agriculture and the fight against malnutrition.


Mr. Piper said there were still urgent humanitarian needs throughout Mali.  He added that the chronic food insecurity and malnutrition crisis was compounded by the security situation in the north and the centre of Mali.  One and a half million Malians are affected by food insecurity.  Only 20 per cent of the humanitarian appeal launched earlier this year is now funded.  Mr. Piper called on the international community to remain mobilized to address humanitarian needs in Mali.


**South Sudan


A quick update from South Sudan.  Our humanitarian colleagues on the ground tell us that agencies have begun the relocation of displaced people to upgraded sections of the UN base in Malakal, in Upper Nile State, as part of improving living conditions there.  An estimated 2,000 people have been relocated so far.  And some 5,000 more people will be relocated in the coming days.  About 18,000 people are now sheltered at the UN base in Malakal.


** Somalia


From Somalia, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that the first case of polio in Somalia this year was confirmed on 4 June in the north-central region of Mudug.  A polio response team from Nairobi is expected to arrive to assess the case.  The confirmation comes as a setback to humanitarian partners.  The polio vaccination campaign of 2013, which targeted 4 million people, contained last year’s polio outbreak and was hailed as an example of providing health services in otherwise inaccessible areas.


** Lebanon


And from Lebanon, the UN Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, met with Lebanese Prime Minister Tamam Salam today and discussed the latest developments in Lebanon.  Afterwards, Mr. Plumbly told reporters that his main message had been the need to elect a new president as soon as possible.  He also expressed support for Prime Minister Salam and his Government in dealing with the challenges it faces.


**Security Council


The Security Council this morning heard a briefing today from senior officials of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia on the progress of their trials as they wrap up their work.


**Press Conferences


Following this briefing at 12:30 p.m., we will have a press conference on Sustainable Energy for All.  Speakers will include Mr. Yumkella, the Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All initiative.


And then at 1 p.m., a press conference on the Launch of REmap 2030: A Renewable Energy Roadmap.


Tomorrow our colleague Afaf Konja, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will be here at 12:30 p.m., to brief you on the “Contributions of Human Rights and the Rule of Law in the Post-2015 Development Agenda”.  She will also announce tomorrow’s General Assembly Concert “Setting the Stage:  2015 and beyond” that will include various artists.


That’s it for me.  Yes, Matthew?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Sure, I guess I wanted to know whether there’s any [inaudible] by Mr. Serry or the Secretary-General… any response by… to the announcement today by Israel of licensing of another 1,800 settlement units pretty much in response to the formation of the [inaudible] Government.


Spokesman:  I think the Secretary-General’s position on the Government, I think — we talked about last couple of days.  As far as settlements are concerned, the Secretary-General’s well-stated position against the increase in settlements has been often repeated and remains.  Nizar and then Abdul Hamid.


Question:  Yeah, yesterday, Ms. Amos said… said that the Turkish authorities denied that they have cut off the Euphrates river, but there’s ample evidence from Aleppo showing that the people are really thirsty, there’s no water there and the al-Assad lake is totally dried up, went down to a level unprecedented before.  The city more than two and half million are suffering.  Also the armed groups are blowing up tunnels that bring the water to the city so what’s the United Nations doing about that and how do the relief workers there, I mean, view the situation of the humanitarian disaster of the people?


Spokesman:  Couple of things to unpack your question.  I received your e‑mail about the new reports on what’s happening with the river and I’ve sent those to our humanitarian colleagues to see if they can get anything.  On the issue of the attack on water infrastructure within Syria by armed groups, I think we’ve spoken about this before and we’ve condemned it as people have a right to access basic services and a need to access basic services such as water.  Abdul Hamid?


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I have two questions, in fact today is the forty-seventh anniversary of the 5 June war.  Does this occasion deserve a statement or not and if not, why?  That’s one question.


Spokesman:  Which… which 5 June?


Question:  The anniversary… 5 June war in which Israel illegally occupied land from the three Arab countries.  Which this occupation has been going on and the UN was busy with this occupation for all those years so doesn’t this occasion worth a statement from the Secretary-General?  That is one.  And the second question today, Australia, the Government of Australia will no longer refer to East Jerusalem as an Occupied Territory.  This is a very dangerous development and it’s in direct violation of Security Council resolution 476 and 478 and I can quote 478:  When Israel…


Spokesman:  No, that’s okay, that’s okay.  You don’t need to quote the resolutions to me.  Obviously, on the issue of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, on the issue of peace between Israel and Palestine, I think the Secretary-General has repeated his key messages to find a political solution, to urge both parties to return to the negotiating table, to negotiate in a positive atmosphere.  And that has been his consistent message and the United Nations’ consistent message for some time.  On the Australian decision, I think we will… that is the Australian’s decision.  We remain, as far as Secretary-General is concerned, we remain guided by the relevant resolutions.  Yes?  You’ve got to be ready.


Question:  About the call… the Secretary-General called Salva Kiir and he asked him to stop violence.  I just want to ask what he get from Salva Kiir.  What was his reply for what the Secretary-General said?


Spokesman:  We try not to speak for the other parties.  I think the Secretary-General’s message to both was very clear on the need for them to sit down together.  And we very much hope that the IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] sponsored talks that are coming up will be productive.  I think in the meantime, we are seeing the impact of the lack of progress on negotiations.  We’re continuing to see the impact on the humanitarian situation of civilians in South Sudan and it remains critical for both Salva Kiir and Riek Machar to sit down productively and to also have their forces and to have themselves live up to the agreements already signed, the two agreements already signed.


Question:  Did the Secretary-General talk to Riek Machar yesterday also or no?


Spokesman:  Yes, we issued a readout on both the conversation with Riek Machar and Salva Kiir.  Thank you.  Matthew?


Question:  I wanted to ask you about in… in… incident in Libya in which UN Mission staff were stopped in an airport and roughed up.  Is there… did you have anything more on that?


Spokesman:  No, I’ve seen the reports.  I’ve seen the quotes from the Special Representative.  We’re obviously looking into the matter.  I think it’s important that wherever the UN is present that our staff be given full support and freedom of movement.


Question:  And also, I just wanted to ask an update on this… or a clarification on the Burundi situation.  I think you were… you were reaching for the word ammunition and I said bullet, you said bullet.  I’ve received stuff from over there where the Government says it was actually cartridges full of bullets, like it wasn’t two bullets.  It was two…


Spokesman:  Yes, that was the word that I was… my English failed me.  But what is clear was that there was no weapon in the bag.


Question:  And is he still in the country?  I’ve seen something they’ve put on their Facebook page where they’re asking them to reverse the decision…


Spokesman:  My understanding is that he remains in the country.  Yes, Evelyn?


Question:  Yes, could you clarify the increasingly acrimonious relationship between Burundi and the United Nations?  Is it partly because of the criticism of civil liberties or is it these peacekeepers are stepping over the mark?


Spokesman:  I’m not sure I would describe that relationship in those terms.  The Secretary-General has made a number of statements, has had [inaudible] his Special Representative and others on expressing their concern for the political climate in Burundi and asking for investigations into the issue of the armed militias, the armed youth groups.  We obviously are very keen to have the best possible relationship with the Government, with the President and the Government of Burundi.  Nizar?


Question:  I have a question regarding Saudi Arabia.  Today they announced that 284 people so far died from this virus which hit the country in the respiratory system.  Are there any restrictions or any about travel to Saudi Arabia?  Did the WHO [World Health Organization] for example issue any opinion about that…


Spokesman:  We can check.  I’m not aware, we can check.  Evelyn?  Okay, sorry, Matthew?


[The Spokesman later shared the following information with the correspondents:  “WHO recommends increasing efforts to raise awareness of MERS-CoV (Coronavirus) among travellers but otherwise does not advise special screening at points of entry nor recommend the application of travel or trade restrictions.”]


Question:  Something on Darfur, but I wanted to know… maybe you can give some idea of the… what the Secretary-General’s role in this status of choosing a replacement of Navi Pillay is?  Various diplomats are saying its coming close to the process.  I mean, is he interviewing people?  I know that I’ve heard… there are names floating around but where… without getting into a shortlist which would obviously be ideal to release, what’s his role in the process and where does the process stand?


Spokesman:  I think the advertisement for the post was placed on the Secretary-General’s website some weeks ago and obviously, we have an end, there is an end to the mandate of the current High Commissioner and when we’re ready to announce, we’ll announce it.


Question:  Here’s the… has he interviewed a current Security Council…


Spokesman:  You know it’s interesting.  I’ve read that somewhere but I’m not going to talk about it.


Question:  It seems like the cholera outbreaks in South Sudan, possible Somalia, famine in both.  How can the same agencies cope with all of that?


Spokesman:  I think the, you know, the agencies are doing their best to cope with as you mentioned the very, very difficult humanitarian situations in Somalia and South Sudan.  What we are seeing unfortunately, is a chronic underfunding of the humanitarian appeals not only for South Sudan and Somalia but also for Central African Republic and we appeal to Member States to support those appeals.  I think we’ve seen that there’s risk of cutback in food rations in number of those countries if by the end of the year, if the funding is not found.  Abdul Hamid?


Question:  Sorry, Stéphane.  I want to go back to the same issue.  Recently, the… the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement to mark the Tiananmen Square occasion which is, if we compare that to the 5 June war which occupied three countries and doesn’t generate a statement from the Secretary-General.  There is something that we have to be concerned about.  This is a war and there was occupation of three countries; the land of Egypt, the land of West Bank and Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which is still occupied and doesn’t this occasion deserve a statement?  I know that you emphasized the normal… the restated position of the Secretary-General on the peace process but this is an occasion I think it worth the… a statement.


Spokesman:  Listen, I appreciate your statement.  I appreciate your opinion.  The fact is that the Secretary-General’s position on the issues relating to Occupied Palestine Territory I think is very clear, was very clear yesterday, it’s clear today and will be clear tomorrow.  Yes sir?


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  You… you told us two days ago that the selection of the successor of Lakhdar Brahimi is still on the way.  Does it mean that there is not any high ranked UN official in touch with the Syrian Government now?  I mean besides Sigrid Kaag…


Spokesman:  No, not at all.  Martin Griffiths is the Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the high… of the Joint Representative and I think as the Secretary-General and Mr. Brahimi made it clear that the office remains so it’s staffed.  Obviously, the Syria file is being dealt with at some of the highest levels here.  You had Ms. Amos who was here, there are a number of people in touch with Syrian authorities so the fact that there is no one has replaced in person does not mean… should not be interpreted as any downgrading or any change in how we deal with Syria.  Yes?


Question:  Excuse me, so… but anyway even after this election in Syria, there’s no any possibility that SG himself will take any contact with the Syrian authority?


Spokesman:  I think you know as I said, everybody is paying a lot of attention to what is going on in Syria.  I think the election is also an opportunity for the Secretary-General to renew his call for a political solution in Syria, to this conflict and to reiterate the UN’s and his readiness to help the Syrian parties reach that goal through peaceful means.  Seana, go ahead.  Did you have a question?


Question:  (I’m used to it on this side.)  Just a quick question on the polio, the one case you said in Somalia.  Could you elaborate a little bit more about the response?  What is entailed in the response and how they would further investigate that?


Spokesman:  Obviously, I think they would send a team to look at, to look closely at the community if there’s risk of spreading with the vaccinations statuses of children in that… in that community.  But I will talk to our colleagues and get you even more details.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, two questions on Syria.  One is just on… on replacing or not replacing Mr. Brahimi.  In this room, Ambassador Churkin said that Russia didn’t think that the Arab League’s role in the past was helpful given that they changed the seat.  And another Perm Rep yesterday said, he agrees with that and that’s the UN’s position so I wanted to know is the UN Secretariat’s thinking that a replacement to Mr. Brahimi might better just represent the UN than be joined?

a

Spokesman:  I think you know, we’ll have to — I will ask you to be slightly patient.  We’ll have to see what, not only who the person will be but in what capacity and what mandate they will have.  The Secretary-General I think was very clear in that he said that he would use this time to reflect and see how that office and that function can be best served.


Question:  And have you seen there are these reports of ISIS kidnapping dozens or in some [inaudible] a 150 Kurdish students on their way back from Aleppo to their region…?


Spokesman:  I have not seen that.  We can look into it.  Great.  Thank you very much.  We’ll be back with Mr. Yumkella to brief shortly.


* *** *



For information media • not an official record