|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.
So, good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the briefing.
**Secretary-General on Libya
The Secretary-General has travelled to Washington, D.C., this morning. He will meet with President Barack Obama this afternoon, and they will discuss further steps to deal with the situation in Libya. And the Secretary-General will also visit the Holocaust Museum today, where he is to warn that it is once more time to live up to our commitment to the words “never again”.
On Saturday, the Secretary-General praised the Security Council’s consensus in adopting a resolution placing sanctions on Muammar Al-Qadhafi and other key Libyan officials, as well as referring the matter to the International Criminal Court. He said the resolution that the Council adopted sends a strong message that gross violations of basic human rights will not be tolerated, and that those responsible for grave crimes will be held accountable. And he added that he will continue to follow the situation closely and remain in close touch with world and regional leaders to ensure their support for swift and concrete international action.
Someone else who is following the situation in Libya extremely closely, of course, is Valerie Amos, who, as you can see, has joined me here for the briefing. Valerie Amos, as you know, is Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and the Emergency Relief Coordinator. And she is here to talk about Libya. And I think time is pressing; we have until about 12:20 p.m. with Ms. Amos, and then I will continue with the rest of the briefing. Please.
[Press conference by Ms. Amos issued separately.]
So I have a few more items, and then I am happy to take questions.
B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, wrapped up a three-day visit as part of a UN team to Egypt yesterday, and spoke to reporters in Cairo. He said that the team had come to Egypt first and foremost to listen.
Mr. Pascoe said that he appreciated the spirit of the dialogue that the team had with Government ministers, who seemed open and interested in the role that the UN could play in the country. We will continue the dialogue we have begun, he added, saying that the team was left in absolutely no doubt that Egyptians will continue the work they have started. And we have his press remarks available in my office.
**Central African Republic
And Mr. Pascoe has now begun a three-nation trip that will include the inauguration, later this week, of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), a new UN political mission based in Libreville, Gabon. Mr. Pascoe currently is in Cameroon, his first stop, and will also visit the Central African Republic for discussions on the political and peacebuilding process there.
The UN Regional Office for Central Africa is scheduled to open on 2 March in Libreville. It would be the third UN regional political office, along with those already operating in West Africa (UNOWA) and Central Asia (UNRCCA).
The Security Council this morning adopted a presidential statement welcoming the first report by the Ombudsperson dealing with the sanctions placed on Al-Qaida and the Taliban and associated individuals and entities. Today, as I am sure you know, is the last day of Brazil’s Security Council presidency. China will assume the Council’s rotating presidency tomorrow.
The UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reported yesterday that civilians continue to arrive in large numbers in North and South Darfur camps for the internally displaced. They are fleeing clashes between Government forces and rebel groups. The mission says aid agencies are now readying supplies for the new arrivals at some of the largest camps.
Meanwhile, UNAMID peacekeepers have discovered unexploded ordnance, which were dropped in the course of an aerial bombardment on 24 February outside Kushiny village, near Tawilla in North Darfur. And an explosive and ordnance disposal team from the Mission should be headed to the area shortly.
The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities met today in Nicosia and discussed a range of issues, according to the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Alexander Downer. The next meeting of the leaders will be this Friday, and they will talk about governance and power-sharing.
At 1:45 p.m., today here in this Auditorium, there will be a press conference on “Partnering with the Philanthropic Community to Promote Education for All”. This is prior to a special event in the ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council]. We have more details available in my office on this and online.
That’s what I have. Questions? Yes, Bill?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Martin, is there anything further you can tell us about the substantiation of the reports of attack helicopters from Belarus going into Côte d'Ivoire, and where is the source of information? What source of information did the Secretary-General rely upon to put out the statement that he did on his concern about that?
Spokesperson: Well, what I can tell you is that the Group of Experts established by the Security Council to monitor the arms embargo against Côte d'Ivoire reported that it had received information that three attack helicopters and related equipment were going to be delivered to the forces loyal to Mr. [Laurent] Gbagbo. That’s what I can tell you on that. Yeah?
Question: Well, just to follow up: Did he express, by the nature of the information, was this intelligence from other Governments…?
Spokesperson: I don’t think I am in a position to give you further details on that particular aspect of it. But what I can tell you is that a team made up of members of this Group of Experts and a UNOCI [United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire] officer from the UN Mission’s Embargo Cell travelled to the airport that we have been talking about, but was unable to verify the information and indeed was forced to withdraw. And despite the severe restrictions on the Mission's freedom of movement, the Mission continues to monitor activities at the airport in order to verify these reports.
Question: Just one more thing, if you will. Do we know that it’s only some of the parts put together of these helicopters have arrived, or all the components have arrived? The process — what do we know of what sort of stage it is in?
Spokesperson: Well, at the moment as I say, the Mission is continuing to monitor activities at the airport in order to verify these reports. And as I have said, the Group of Experts, which was established by the Security Council to monitor this embargo, had reported that it had received information that these three attack helicopters and related equipment were going to be delivered. So that is where we are at the moment. So, further questions. Yes, Masood? And them I’ll come to… Matthew, is this a follow-up on this topic?
Question: One quick follow-up, yeah. I just wanted to know… there are these reports of the UNOCI peacekeepers saying that they were forced to return fire… I guess I just wanted to know what is the status of that reported fighting between supporters of Gbagbo and UNOCI, what the rule… some would question, I guess, what can you say about that? It seems like a big development.
Spokesperson: There have been a number of developments as you know, in recent days, simply because there has been a turn in the nature of the fighting on the ground, as you will have seen and heard. The Secretary-General has made clear his concern about the threats that have been made again and repeatedly to Mission members who are carrying out a Security Council-mandated role in Côte d'Ivoire. And there have been incidents, including where police, UN police or peacekeepers have been forced to fire into the air. If we have more details on that, then I would be able to let you know.
Question: And are those helicopters — those Ukrainian, I guess they are Ukrainian — helicopters from UNMIL [United Nations Mission in Liberia], have they now arrived, the ones that were supposed to support UNOCI?
Spokesperson: Let me check, let me check on that. I think there was some movement, but let me check. Yes, Masood?
Question: Do you have any background on this UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] report, saying 100,000 people have fled so far? Would the Secretary-General, in his talks with [United States] President [Barack] Obama, be discussing any enforcement measures and as to how to mitigate the suffering of people who are fleeing?
Spokesperson: I am sure that the Secretary-General will be discussing many aspects of this unfolding crisis involving Libya, whether it is on the borders or inside. Obviously, you had this extremely significant development at the weekend with the Security Council adopting unanimously this resolution. And clearly it will be important for the Secretary-General and the President of the United States to be able to talk about that and the ramifications of that. Obviously there is a big focus now on the humanitarian aspect of this as well as the security dimension. And I am sure that that will be an important part of their discussions. And you will hear more from the Secretary-General on this later in the day. Yes, and then I am coming back to you, Bill. Yes?
Question: Martin, do you have any more information on the letter sent to the Secretary-General regarding Lithuania’s violation of the human rights of Algirdas Paleckis?
Spokesperson: I don’t at the moment, but when I do I will be happy to share that with you. Yes, Bill?
Question: When the team went to the airport to try and verify if these helicopter parts arrived, was there any exchange of fire?
Spokesperson: I’d need to check with my colleagues in Peacekeeping Operations on that. What I am told is that they were forced to withdraw. That’s what I can tell you. Yes, Kate?
Question: You may have said this already, I came in late. Does the Secretary-General have plans to meet with members of Congress while he is in D.C. also?
Spokesperson: Not on this trip. He does have plans to meet members of Congress, and that I am sure will be talking place in the not too distant future. But on this trip, no, that is not a part of the programme. Simply, the focus is, as I mentioned, primarily on Libya at this point. Yes?
Question: Does the Secretary-General think that the no-fly zone is, should be something that should be imposed, too, as sanctions? Because today, for example, a plane was… I mean there are reports that a plane, a Libyan plane was shot down by the rebel force somewhere. That’s border reporting; it’s not confirmed, but that’s what it was saying.
Spokesperson: Well, again, just to reiterate, the Secretary-General feels that the measures taken by the Security Council, adopted in this resolution unanimously at the weekend, represents a very tough signal, and not just signal, but they are tough measures. And I am sure that everybody will be keeping a close eye on that to see how that unfolds. Further measures would really be for the Security Council to deliberate on. Yes, Matthew?
Question: And also, I wanted to ask actually about one aspect of the resolution that was passed Saturday that you are saying the Secretary-General
praises. There is a paragraph, paragraph six, in which citizens of States that are not members of the ICC [International Criminal Court] are exempt from… even if the crime, even if their acts were in Libya, they won’t be tried by or investigated by the ICC. Brazil was critical of it; there are some others that have been critical of it. I wonder, does Ban Ki-moon have a view on whether this type of exceptions to the territorial jurisdiction of crimes committed in Libya is a good thing, and is it something that he might raise to President Obama? What is his view of this?
Spokesperson: Well, I’ll come back to you on that. As you know, there are two routes if a country is not a State party to the Rome Statute, for action to be taken for the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction to hold. One is if the country concerned agrees to that jurisdiction. And the second is, as we saw on Saturday, a referral by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court.
Question: This resolution refers, it refers to Libya, but it expressly excludes from the referral any citizens, like American citizens, let’s say, or Indian citizens or, it would also include Algeria, you know, various other… Ethiopia, countries that are non-ICC members but who are alleged to have some of their nationals fighting with [Muammar Al-]Qadhafi, and so, I just, well, that’s what I am wondering. Sort of a big international law issue.
Spokesperson: As I say, if I have anything further on that, I would let you know. I think there is little doubt that the resolution that was passed on Saturday evening was an extremely important one, and I think it sent a very clear message to people, not just in Libya, about accountability and the need to ensure that, as I say, people are held accountable for the actions. You had a question? No? Okay.
Question: Can I ask one thing? There is this report of 10 being killed in Abyei… an attack by… on a police station. The Government, the South, says the North is behind it, and AP wasn’t able to reach the UN. So I thought I would ask: what is the UNs position on that attack?
Spokesperson: Well, the Mission in Sudan, UNMIS, received reports of clashes that you refer to. And those clashes apparently took place in Todach, which is in Abyei, in the early hours of yesterday morning. And so the Mission immediately sent a joint military team to visit the so-called joint integrated unit campus in Todach to verify this report. And the joint military team was told there that unknown assailants apparently fired on a Southern Sudan police camp at 6 a.m. for about 30 minutes, and then again at 10 a.m. for about 10 minutes. And the team was told that during those clashes, seven police officers were killed, and two others were wounded. It has not been possible to ascertain whether there were any losses amongst those who carried out the attack. The team was also told that the attackers also stole some weapons from the police. And the team continues to monitor closely what is going in the area. And the UN Mission will be investigating the cause of the clashes. That’s what I have on that. Okay, thanks very much.
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