Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

19 April 2011

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

19 April 2011
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.


Good afternoon.


**Secretary-General in Ukraine


The Secretary-General addressed a summit on nuclear safety in Kyiv today and said that the explosion at Chernobyl 25 years ago has cast a radioactive cloud over Europe and a shadow around the world.  At this moment, he said, the tragedy at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continues to unfold, leading to a moment for deep reflection:  how do we ensure both the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and maximum safety?


The Secretary-General said that we need a global rethink on this fundamental question.  Because the consequences are catastrophic, safety must be paramount.  He said that it is time for a top-to-bottom review of current nuclear safety standards, both at the national and international levels.


Also, he said, we must strengthen support for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the challenge of nuclear safety; we must put a sharper focus on the new nexus between natural disasters and nuclear safety; we must undertake a renewed cost-benefit analysis of nuclear energy; and we need to build a stronger connection between nuclear safety and nuclear security.   And we have his remarks in our office.


**Security Council


The Security Council is holding consultations this morning on Western Sahara.  Council members have received briefings from the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, and from the head of the UN Mission for Western Sahara (MINURSO), Hany Abdel-Aziz.


They discussed the Secretary-General’s recent report, in which he expressed his concern at the deterioration of the security situation in Western Sahara, resulting from the absence of a peace agreement between Morocco and the Frente Polisario, and the continuing 20-year-old status quo in the Territory.  The Secretary-General wrote that neither party has accepted the proposal of the other as the sole basis of negotiation and neither party has taken steps to date that would suggest a readiness to move to an acceptable compromise.


This afternoon, starting at 3, the Security Council has scheduled consultations, first on the sanctions on Côte d’Ivoire.  Afterwards, Council members expect to receive a briefing from the Department of Political Affairs on Yemen.


** Libya


The World Food Programme (WFP) says that it has managed to open a humanitarian corridor into western Libya.  A convoy of eight trucks travelled yesterday with enough food for 50,000 people for 30 days.


Tomorrow, a UNICEF ship carrying supplies for 15,000 to 25,000 people is expected to dock in Misrata.  The supplies include first aid kits, drinking water, water purification tablets, hygiene material and recreational material for children.


The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reports seeing a growing number of Libyan refugees arriving in Tunisia from Libya’s western mountains regions.  This past weekend, some 6,000 Libyan nationals arrived in the Dehiba area of southern Tunisia.


The World Health Organization (WHO) is in contact with Misrata hospital and received information this morning that the hospital was overwhelmed.  The hospital faces difficulties in conducting surgeries, as its capacities are overstretched and 120 patients need evacuation.  There are more details in the Geneva briefing notes.


Meanwhile, we have a statement out from Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, who says that the situation of girls and boys in Misrata is of particular concern at a time when heavy shelling, bombardment and landmines claim children as victims.


**Noon Guest Tomorrow


As for tomorrow, at 12:45 p.m., there will be a press conference here in this room with Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, to brief the press on her recent trip to Libya.


That’s it from me.  Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Farhan, about the question I asked you last about Sri Lanka, I just want to ask you one thing:  now that the Sri Lankan, it seems the Sri Lankan Government is releasing the UN report by itself slowly and slowly, it is all out in the press basically what they have done is they have pre-empted the United Nations report or Secretary-General’s report before it even is released to them officially.  What do you have to say to that?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ve certainly regretted the leaking of this report.  We are nevertheless pressing ahead with our own review of the Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka.  So once the Secretary-General and his senior advisers finish that review, we will make the report public.  And that will happen later this week.  It is not expected for today, and yes, we are aware of the consequences of this leak, and we have already made clear our dismay at that.


Question:  The case of Libya, where the agreement was announced, has been reached between the UN officials and the authorities, which are obviously the [Muammar el-]Qadhafi Government.  Don’t you see that… it seems that if this Qadhafi Government is now well entrenched, is not going to move and that the accusations that the rebels are being armed… given arms so there is no ceasefire, no ceasefire that is going to hold for some time.  So hasn’t the Secretary-General decided, in this particular case, what the Governments of France and Britain and so forth, that that has not been…?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I would disagree with that.  We are dealing with the Qadhafi Government, including Valerie Amos’s trip and the trip by Abdul Ilah al-Khatib on Sunday.  And we have been dealing with them for the purposes of trying to make sure that we can find ways, among other things, to take care of civilians, including in places like Misrata.  So we have done that, and I believe Ms. Amos will be able to talk to you here about this tomorrow.  Beyond that, however, in terms of taking sides, it is very clear that the resolutions involved, resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011), are there in place for the protection of civilians.  And that’s something that the Secretary-General cares very much about.  As for whether rebels are being supported one way or another, I’d just refer you to the text of the actual resolutions and the fact that it is, of course, up to the Security Council to determine whether the sanctions are being violated.  Yes?


Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  As you said, the Secretary-General on Western Sahara expressed his concerns regarding the deteriorating situation in the Territory.  Is he also concerned about the impact of this conflict on regional security, because of its prolongation?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Certainly it does have an effect on the region as a whole.  I’d just refer you to the text of the report itself.  And like I said, Mr. Abdel-Aziz and Mr. Ross have been briefing the Security Council on the contents of that report this morning.  Yes?


Question:  Sure, I want to ask about Sri Lanka, Côte d’Ivoire and Darfur.  On the Sri Lanka report, one, can you confirm, I think you probably can, but that Mr. [B. Lynn] Pascoe raised this in his horizon briefing yesterday, and we’re told that Russia raised various precautionary reasons.  I am just wondering if this is something that Mr. Ban will be speaking about when he visits Russia in the coming days.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We will put out readouts of what the Secretary-General mentions in his talks with the Russian leaders once he has held those discussions.


Question:  Yesterday you said that the delay in releasing the report despite all the leaks and how public it has gone was so that Mr. Ban and his senior advisers could consider the response.  I wanted to either… is Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar one of those senior advisers, given the things we have previously discussed, such as he was the envoy, the controversy that existed about his role in the white flag killings?  Is he one of the senior advisers that is considering the response?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  You know exactly who all the senior advisers are, so I am talking about the senior advisers as a whole.


Question:  Well, I’ve been… I asked… I think, I am not just saying because the last time this came up I asked, and I think you’d said Mr. Ban is the one making the decision.  Does that remain the case?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, the Secretary-General is the one who decides when the report will be released; exactly.  Yes?


Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  On the Yemen Security Council meeting this afternoon, can you tell us who from DPA [Department of Political Affairs] is going to be doing the briefing; update us on the SG’s position relating to the latest attacks on protesters; and can you also tell us if the UN supports GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] efforts to negotiate a political settlement that would involve Mr. [Ali Abdullah] Saleh standing down?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, I believe the briefing will be by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe.  As for the other questions, ultimately, he is going to be briefing the Security Council on these very topics, so I’ll wait until that briefing has happened and further details are provided.  I believe Mr. Pascoe can provide those at that time.


Question:  Well, will this briefing be open?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  It is in closed consultations, so I’ll see whether someone can come to the stakeout afterwards.  Yes?


Question:  Farhan, any new contacts with the GCC countries on Bahrain, about the situation in Bahrain, from the Secretary-General?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We’re in touch with a range of countries on the situation in Bahrain.  I don’t have anything fresh to report to you regarding the GCC countries as a whole.


Question:  Is the Human Rights Council going to send anyone to Bahrain to investigate what’s happening there?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  That’s a decision for the Human Rights Council to take.  They haven’t taken any particular decision on that just yet.


Question:  I thank you, Farhan.  May I ask you about the high-level meeting that the Secretary-General suggested in Kyiv on international nuclear safety?  First of all, is this a ministerial meeting?  Secondly, have you notified any Member States of his plan yet, and what kind of response did you get so far?  And thirdly, what kind of Member States, what kind of countries or Governments, do you see as the countries that will participate in that meeting?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General believes it is important for the countries that have or are considering having nuclear energy installations to be dealing with the issue of nuclear safety and what adequate nuclear standards are.  So it is in that context that he has made this proposal.  It is an early stage yet, so we don’t have details on who will be going and what level.  But certainly, he has called for a high-level meeting, so that would mean at least at the ministerial level.  Yes?


Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Is there any planned meeting for the Quartet, and we need to know whether the last meeting was put off or cancelled?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  On the Quartet, I think I may have said this one time earlier, but if you haven’t heard it, let me say it to you now:  that the Quartet remains committed to helping the parties move forward towards peace.  That effort is more urgent than ever.  With that objective in mind, the Quartet envoys met on 5 April with representatives of the Israelis and the Palestinians.  It was determined after these meetings that more time is needed for consultations at the envoys’ level before scheduling the next Principals’ meeting, which the Quartet wishes to convene as soon as possible.  Yes?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask, in Darfur, Sudanese State media is reporting that the Governor of South Darfur has blocked Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari from going to a region called Al Diein, and I wanted to know whether that’s… whether UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] has pushed back against that in any way, and also whether the fighting that I asked you about yesterday, which JEM [Justice and Equality Movement] reports the shelling of a clinic, whether that’s something that UNAMID has checked into, is it true or not true?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  UNAMID has not confirmed that.  They have been aware of the report received by the Justice and Equality Movement on this, but they are looking into it.  So, we don’t have any confirmation at this stage.


Question:  Do you have news of motion to that area, and what do they say to the Sudanese State media saying that Mr. Gambari is barred from going to this Al Diein area?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not aware of Mr. Gambari being barred.  We’ll look into what that media account is.  Yes?


Question:  It seems that Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu has said that he will come to Washington and announce policy on Middle East, and also how far they will go with this rapprochement with the Palestinian side, and especially they are opposing the United Nations… moves at the United Nations to give statehood to Palestine.  Do you have any comment on that?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  At this stage you are talking about something that seems to be planned for the future.  I wouldn’t have any particular comment at this stage on it, no.


Question:  So in any case, if there is a unilateral announcement by the Israeli Prime Minister that this is a solution that he wants and is going to do it at United States Congress, which has the most clout in the international community, where does the United Nations stand over that?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  You are aware that where we stand is that we want the parties to end the current impasse and to negotiate with each other so that we can have talks on obtaining a two-State solution.  Yes?


Question:  How do you view the decision taken by the Syrian Government to lift the emergency law and some other measures in response to the last incidents in Syria?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We are monitoring the events which are, as you know, fairly fast-moving.  It seems that some of the reports indicate that it has not been lifted just yet, but it’s a procedure under way.  You will have noticed our own concerns that the Secretary-General has expressed, including in his phone calls with President Bashar al-Assad, including for the observance of basic freedoms, the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and we’ll see how this fits into that.  But right now, we’re studying what the latest developments are.  Yes?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask two questions about the building.  One concerns air tests.  Previously, the Staff Union was allowed to conduct air tests for asbestos and other toxins, and I am told that now either the Department of Management or the CMP [Capital Master Plan] has blocked any type of air tests.  Can you either confirm or deny that, and explain why those tests are not allowed to be performed by those who work here?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No.  I will check with the Capital Master Plan.


Question:  And the other one is about a painting that’s upstairs on the third floor of this building, in front of the USG [Under-Secretary-General] for Management’s office.  It’s a gift, it says under, it’s a gift from Laurent Gbagbo to Ban Ki-moon in April 2008.  And I just wonder, what’s sort of the protocol now that the UN basically has said he should be held accountable, he is being held in detention under, with some UN protection.  Is there some treatment of artwork given by him to Ban Ki-moon that will be different?  Is that remaining there forever?  What’s up?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Artwork is not given, is not received personally, in other words, from an individual.  It’s received from Governments.  This would have been a gift from the Government of Côte d’Ivoire.


Question:  It has a plaque on it that says “Offered by S.E.M. Laurent Gbagbo”, and is that, it seems like it was a personal, unless that plaque is not the case?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  That would be from his period as President of Côte d’Ivoire.  There is a distinction, in other words, between gifts from Governments and gifts from individuals.  Yes?


Question:  Farhan, does the Secretary-General of the United Nations have any reaction to the violence erupting all over Nigeria, that is happening now in Nigeria following the election?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We are aware of the violence in Nigeria.  You will have seen that the Secretary-General, prior to the latest round of elections, came out with a statement calling for calm.  And we are currently studying what the latest developments are and we’ll see whether there is any need for further reaction from the Secretary-General’s side.  Yes?


Question:  Thank you.  On Western Sahara still, the Secretary-General observes in his report on Western Sahara that the conflict has come to an impasse, but he does not make any concrete recommendation on how to get out of the impasse.  Does he or his Personal Envoy intend to do so at some point?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you are aware of the fact that Mr. Ross has been trying a series of different types of informal talks with the various parties in order to reach a solution.  In the report, [the Secretary-General] does say that he does suggest that the Security Council may wish to recommend three initiatives to the parties.  First, that the parties find a means to include respected representatives of a wide cross-section of the population of Western Sahara inside and outside the Territory, formally or informally, in the consideration and discussion of issues related to final status and the exercise of self-determination.  Second, that the parties further deepen their examination of each other’s proposals and, in particular, seek common ground on the one major point of convergence in their two proposals — the need to obtain the approval of the population for any agreement.  And third, that the parties devote additional energy to identifying and discussing a wide range of governance issues, with a view to meeting the needs of the people of Western Sahara, and with the understanding that many aspects of these issues can be discussed without reference to the nature of the final status of the Territory.


Thanks very much.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.