|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.
Good afternoon. Welcome to the briefing.
**Osama bin Laden
The Secretary-General, in remarks to reporters this morning, said that the death of Osama bin Laden is a watershed moment in our common global fight against terrorism. He said that the crimes of Al-Qaida touched most continents, bringing tragedy and loss of life to thousands of men, women and children.
The Secretary-General said that the United Nations condemns in the strongest possible terms terrorism in all its forms, regardless of its purpose and wherever it is committed. This is a day to remember the victims and families of victims, here in the United States and everywhere in the world, he added.
He noted that the General Assembly has adopted a global counter-terrorism strategy, and on the basis of that, we will continue to work together with Member States of the United Nations to completely eradicate global terrorism.
As we announced yesterday, the 12 UN international staff in Tripoli have temporarily left the Libyan capital due to unrest in parts of the city. Humanitarian operations are continuing, with the redeployed staff from Tripoli supporting operations in western Libya from Tunisia. The UN is exploring ways to re-enter the Libyan capital as soon as possible.
As of yesterday, more than 12,000 people had been evacuated from Misrata. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) remains concerned that deaths and injuries continue to be reported from the fighting there. It also says that more than 665,000 people have now fled Libya.
Haile Menkerios, the Head of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), said yesterday that the elections in Southern Kordofan should not be a “make-or-break” process, but should lead to an inclusive government. Mr. Menkerios spoke to the press after meeting with two candidates for the Governor’s position, saying that both candidates had pledged their commitment to this. Mr. Menkerios also met with the state security committee that is responsible for ensuring security for the election. He said that the army should play no role whatsoever in securing the elections.
The Deputy Secretary-General is in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to attend the second and final meeting of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health, chaired by President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada. The Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on Wednesday.
Ambassador Gérard Araud of France has assumed the rotating presidency of the Security Council for the month of May. The Security Council expects to discuss its programme of work tomorrow, after which Ambassador Araud will talk to you in this room at 5 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, to discuss the Council’s work over the coming month.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
And then at 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference with Hania Zlotnik, the Director of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and that’s to discuss the World Population Prospects report.
That’s what I have. Questions, please? Yes, at the back?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Martin, is the killing of Osama bin Laden going to change the UN strategies in Afghanistan?
Spokesperson: The strategy in Afghanistan is something that is very clear; the United Nations position has consistently been that there must be a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, and armed conflict will not ultimately resolve the political differences in the country. So what I can say is that the Taliban and other anti-Government elements have an opportunity to move towards dialogue and this opportunity should not be lost. The cost in lives lost and suffering of the Afghan people is too high already, and, as mandated by the Security Council, the United Nations will continue to support the Afghan-led peace efforts. Yes, Matthew?
Question: I guess just some questions on Libya, but I wanted to ask a kind of procedural question on this one. You said this was remarks to reporters, can you say… I mean, how was this announced? Once it was squawked, I ran over there and was told it’d already been finished and that some reporters had been there. How did the UN choose to do it this way?
Spokesperson: It was announced this morning in the usual way, and there were reporters there. So… I beg your pardon?
Correspondent: It was on a delay on UNTV.
Spokesperson: It was not fed live on UNTV because the recording took place, the cameras were present in the conference room; it is not possible to feed live from the conference room.
Question: Can you, just… I’m sorry, maybe I… obviously I missed it, but it wasn’t e-mailed out or tweeted; how was it announced that it was taking place?
Spokesperson: Well, I would check on that if I were you. So apart from the procedural question, what is…?
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask you on Libya, on this removal of the staff. I wanted to know first, the statement that was put out said there is unrest in neighbourhoods. It is described that the UN building there was besieged after the bomb, the NATO bombing that killed one of [Muammar al-]Qadhafi’s sons and several grandchildren. Is that… one, can you… what happened at the UN headquarters there and what… is there any comment from the UN on the propriety of this bombing that killed a child, a son and his… these pretty young grandchildren of Qadhafi?
Spokesperson: Well, I think the note we sent out yesterday explained what had happened at this particular UN compound, namely that it was ransacked and that some vehicles were taken. And there was nobody there at that point amongst the international staff or other staff, so nobody from the UN was actually hurt in that. But obviously property was damaged and some vehicles were taken. And on the second part of your question, I don’t have anything for you on that. Yes, Tim?
Question: Does that mean the Special Envoy will not be going to Tripoli in the foreseeable future as well, because of the unrest?
Spokesperson: Well, Mr. [Abdul Ilah] al-Khatib is in New York at the moment, and he will be briefing the Security Council, as I think I mentioned last week. And I am sure that he will be in a position to speak to you about that. Obviously, he doesn’t have to be in Tripoli to be able to speak to officials in Tripoli. Yes, Masood?
Question: I have been asking for a response of this killing of Qadhafi’s grandchildren; is this part of protection of civilians? What is this asserting and what is it…?
Spokesperson: As I said, I don’t have anything for you on that at the moment. I would anticipate that I will have, but I don’t have anything at the moment.
Question: Yeah, but the thing is I’m wondering what, now, want to know in the mandate that has been given to the army allied forces over there, in that it is basically for protection of civilians.
Spokesperson: As I said, Masood, I don’t have anything at the moment. I would anticipate that I will have something, at which point I’ll be very glad to share that with you. I don’t have it at the moment. Yes, Tim, did you have a follow-up? Okay.
Question: Do you know the day of the briefing, too?
Spokesperson: I think it’s tomorrow, but let me check. Yes, Iftikhar?
Question: Martin, let me put it in other words. Since the Secretary-General has not commented on the killing of the son of President Qadhafi and his grandchildren, does it mean that he approves it, this action?
Spokesperson: Well, you can ask it in many different ways, Iftikhar. I don’t have anything for you. When I have something, I’ll let you have it, okay? Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I wanted just know if whether in the course of his 1 May protests in Colombo, Sri Lanka, the President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was… is described as being quite critical of the report and as saying basically it’s the product of money or bribery on the part of the writers. And I just wondered, what’s the UN’s response both to the demonstrations, and is it the UN’s understanding it’s going to get a written response from the Foreign Ministry, or is that the response?
Spokesperson: Well, first of all, it’s everybody’s right to demonstrate and to do so peacefully. That appears to have been the case on 1 May, yesterday. We’ve said repeatedly that we have heard what’s being said publicly, that we have offered on more than one occasion for the Government’s response — formal response — to be published alongside the report. And that offer still stands. Should we receive an official response, we’ll distribute it in the same way that we did the report of the Panel of Experts. All right? Okay, yes, Masood?
Question: This statement was issued later on this Palestine and the reconciliation effort, which I had asked you on Friday following a statement [inaudible]. Now, and the Secretary-General since then has talked with the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel. What I am asking you is that is this process… why hasn’t… in this process of reconciliation, why is the Secretary-General being so careful of either welcoming it or saying no, it’s not part of the process? Why is he so careful about this?
Spokesperson: The wording speaks for itself, I think, Masood. He is keen, as are other people, to see more of the details. And I think that’s why first of all, the language that is being used — it’s quite clear, but it’s circumspect because the Secretary-General, like others, would like to see some more of the details before commenting further.
Question: Does he welcome Egypt’s decision to open the crossings which were shut down during [Hosni] Mubarak’s regime?
Spokesperson: He is aware of the reports and as you know, we have been concerned at the United Nations about the lack of free access into and out of Gaza for people and for goods. And I think that that remains the case. Okay?
Question: Sudan questions?
Spokesperson: Yes, I am coming to you in a second. Yes?
Question: Martin, do you, or does the UN, believe that the killing of Osama bin Laden should somehow bring some kind of amnesty to Al-Qaida members and try to bring them into their societies again?
Spokesperson: This is a fight against global terrorism, and as you well know, the Secretary-General has just spoken, and he has condemned terrorism in all its forms, regardless of its purpose and wherever it is committed. He also said, as you know, that he would like to commend the work and the determined and principled commitment of many people in the world who have been struggling to eradicate international terrorism. And in addition, as you know, the General Assembly has adopted a global counter-terrorism strategy, and I think that we would work within that framework. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I want to ask on Sudan, the… President [Omer al-]Bashir has said that he will not recognize South Sudan if the new Constitution asserts a claim to Abyei. And I wanted to know, given the UN’s role in the whole CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement], what it thinks of that. And also… I appreciate, I got this answer on Friday from your Office about something that I had asked some time ago about South Kordofan, this violence in mid-April; this message from your Office confirms 19 dead, three children, four females, but it didn’t in any way say who was responsible for this attack. And the allegation was it was Ahmed Haroun, Governor of South Kordofan, who the UN has flown twice on helicopter. So I wanted to know, did the UN try to find it out? Does this mean Haroun was not behind this attack on the Deputy Governor’s village or was that just being not answered, that part of the question?
Spokesperson: I wouldn’t read too much into that. If I can provide more details on that incident, then I’d certainly do so. I can tell you that there was a clash yesterday, and we were informed yesterday by the Abyei authorities that a clash between unidentified armed men and the Abyei police took place in the vicinity of Todach in the Abyei area, and that was between 1600 and 1700 hours. And UNMIS, the Mission in Sudan, sent a patrol in the same evening to try to verify that information from the Abyei authorities; however, they were stopped by a hostile crowd at Diffra market. And so the Mission sent a second patrol today to the scene of the fighting and they found 14 dead bodies — 11 in Joint Integrated Unit (JIU) uniform, and 3 in civilian clothes. And I understand that another joint military team has been dispatched for further investigation. That’s what I have for you, and if I have anything on the South Kordofan question, then I’ll come back to you.
Question: And what about this idea, Bashir’s open statement that he may not recognize South Sudan if they make this claim to Abyei, is this…?
Spokesperson: We’re obviously aware of that reported language. As you know, as everybody knows, the status of Abyei is subject to negotiation and agreement between the parties. And certainly that’s something that we would like to see happen, that this should happen through a negotiated procedure.
Okay, thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.
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