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

20 June 2011

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

20 June 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the briefing.


**Security Council


The Security Council received briefings this morning on the situation in Sudan, from the Head of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), Haile Menkerios, as well as from the African Union envoy and former South African President Thabo Mbeki.  Both men spoke to the Security Council by videoconference.  And earlier, Council members held brief consultations on Sudan sanctions.


**Secretary-General’s Statement on Sudan


And I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the agreement on Abyei, Sudan.


The Secretary-General welcomes the agreement on Abyei entered into by the Government of Sudan and the Government of Southern Sudan on 20 June 2011.  The Secretary-General calls on the parties to abide in full by its provisions to demilitarize the area and establish an administration and police service, and to provide their full cooperation to the United Nations and Government of Ethiopia in deploying peacekeeping troops and police to the area.


The Secretary-General thanks the African Union High Level Panel under former President Thabo Mbeki and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia for their efforts in facilitating the agreement with the support of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS).  The Secretary-General pledges the full support of the United Nations to the parties in facilitating its implementation.


The Secretary-General calls on the parties concerned to continue to provide their full cooperation to the African Union in reaching agreement on all outstanding issues related to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and post-secession arrangements, to reach an immediate cessation of hostilities in Southern Kordofan State and provide their full cooperation to humanitarian agencies in meeting the needs of the affected population.


**Sudan


The UN Mission in Sudan is reporting that the security and humanitarian situations in Southern Kordofan do indeed remain of great concern, as the military build-up continues in various strategic locations.


In Kauda, the Mission says that the Sudanese Armed Forces yesterday dropped at least seven bombs approximately 500 metres from the airstrip.  No casualties were reported.  The Mission reiterates its call on the parties to the conflict to cease hostilities and military operations, which are endangering the lives of tens of thousands of civilians.


And meanwhile, the United Nations and its partners have distributed food to 31,500 people in Southern Kordofan State.  However, access to all the affected areas remains critical to ensure urgent delivery of vital humanitarian aid to the displaced population.  And as you just heard, this is something the Secretary-General has referred to in his statement.


**Libya


The Secretary-General participated by videoconference on Saturday in the third high-level meeting with regional organizations on Libya.  He expressed strong concerns about the continuing violence and the humanitarian impact of the fighting in Libya and emphasized the importance of a coordinated international effort.


While cautioning that a political agreement remains a long way from being concluded, the Secretary-General said the beginnings of a negotiation process are now under way under the auspices of his Special Envoy to Libya, Abdul Ilah al‑Khatib.


On the humanitarian situation, the Secretary-General noted shortages of food stocks and fuel and growing concerns over access to water and medical care.  He also noted an outbreak of measles reported recently in the south-western city of Sabha and a lack of vaccines and other drugs in the country.  On Friday, the Secretary-General spoke by telephone with Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi al‑Mahmoudi and expressed his deep concern regarding the humanitarian situation.


**Nuclear Safety


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is holding a ministerial conference on nuclear safety in Vienna today, and the Secretary-General, in a message to that conference, says that nuclear safety is not a fixed condition, but an evolving process.


In the message, the Secretary-General says that the lessons of Fukushima will help to move the process of examining nuclear safety forward, so that countries will reflect on their current system on nuclear safety and a renewed nuclear safety culture will be introduced.  The future of nuclear energy, he says, is critically dependent upon the maintenance of the highest safety standards.


As you’ll recall, the Secretary-General launched a UN system-wide study on the full implications of the Fukushima accident last month.  This report is now in preparation and will be submitted to the High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Safety and Security to be held on 22 September during the sixty-sixth session of the UN General Assembly.


**Refugees


A new report says that there is a deep imbalance in international support for the world’s forcibly displaced — with four fifths of the world’s refugees being hosted by developing countries.


The report was released today by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, on World Refugee Day, which also marks the sixtieth anniversary of the establishment of the agency.  The 2010 Global Trends report shows that 43.7 million people are now displaced worldwide — roughly equalling the entire populations of Colombia or South Korea.  It adds that more refugees are stuck in exile for five years or longer than at any time since 2001.


And in a message to mark World Refugee Day, the Secretary-General asks people everywhere to spare a thought for the millions of children, women and men who have been forced from their homes.  That message and the UNHCR report are available online.


**Press Conference Tomorrow


Tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), on the protection of marine species.


That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Yes, Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Martin there was a press conference by these activists groups who are going to go to Greece and from there about 10 ships carrying aid supplies, only aid supplies for the Gazans are going to go.  And they are scheduled to leave around 26 or 27 of this month.  They have said in the briefing that they have appealed to the United Nations to ask the Israeli authorities not to… I mean to be restrained.  And similarly they asked the same thing of the United States.  But I am just concerned about the United Nations.  What is it that the Secretary-General can do to persuade the Israelis not to attack the flotilla, as it has done in the past?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think you will recall that the statement that we issued referred to both parts of this equation.  Firstly, saying that the Secretary-General has written to the littoral States, urging them to persuade those who might want to set sail on such an endeavour to think again because of the reasons that we have stated before, namely that we don’t want to see tensions increased in the region and that there are established routes to provide aid which is obviously vitally important and needed.  And the second part of the equation was that the Secretary-General referred explicitly to the need for the Government of Israel to ease the closure of the Gaza Strip to make it easier for supplies and people to enter and leave Gaza.  And also that it is incumbent on the Government of Israel to exercise restraint.  And that’s something that we’ve said before.  Yes, Ali?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  I wonder just if you have any comment on President [Bashar] al-Assad of Syria, today’s speech, this one and the other thing, how much the United Nations is getting involved in helping the refugees in Turkey, the Syrians.  And they are reports that the Syrian army is trying to block the flooding of refugees from Syria to Turkey.  What do you have on this, please?


Spokesperson:  Well, on the first, obviously we are aware of the speech made by President al-Assad earlier today.  I don’t have anything specific for you at the moment, but I think possibly we will do later.  Maybe not today, but certainly we are aware of the speech.  As for refugees or those who have crossed into Turkey, and indeed elsewhere — Lebanon — the respective authorities for the time being at least are handling the refugees on their territory.  And obviously the UN system, whether it is the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) or the UN refugee agency, if requested to assist, they stand ready to do so, of course.  But in the first instance, at least for now, it seems that the authorities are — the national authorities — are handling this.  And as for the third part of your question, I don’t have anything on that.  Should my colleagues who monitor this kind of thing have anything further, then we’ll let you know.  Yes, Iftikhar?


Question:  Now that NATO has admitted its mistake in bombing civilians in Libya, will the Secretary-General speak up now on this?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, that is really a matter for NATO to comment on, the nature of what may or may not have happened.  What I would simply reiterate is the general principle, which we have stated repeatedly, and that is that the whole purpose of the resolution that is in place is to protect civilians and that everything possible should be done to try to avoid civilian casualties.  After all, this is the reason for the resolution in the first place.  If I have anything further, I’d let you know.  Yes?


Question:  Thanks, Martin.  I’d like to ask you about Libya, specifically on the readout over the weekend that you had just referred to.  According to the readout, beginnings of the negotiation process are now under way.  What does this mean?  Is this kind of indirect negotiation going on or is it a stage in which direct negotiations are going on, or have you…?


Spokesperson:  I don’t really have anything further to add to the wording that is there in the readout at this point, namely that the Secretary-General has said that the beginnings of a negotiation process are under way under the auspices of Special Envoy al-Khatib.  I think necessarily, and by definition because this is an extremely delicate process, the details at this point may not be available.  But the fact that the Secretary-General is cautioning that it is still a long way from reaching an agreement shows you that it is a process, but it is not an easy one.  And again, should we have more, we will be able to provide that.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Yeah, sure, I wanted to ask a couple of questions about Sudan.  One is, there are these reports that — and I understand, I have just come from the Security Council, that this is an UNMIS-type question — there are reports that an UNMIS base in Southern Kordofan State gave up and lost, and were taken away its weapons, its heavy artillery anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns, in The Guardian and Observer, a pretty detailed article.  And so, I am wondering is this something that UNMIS has announced?  Is this true?  Is it false?  Because they seem like pretty heavy weapons to lose control of.


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all I’d have to check whether the Mission would even have such weaponry.  And secondly, if I have anything further, we will let you know.


Question:  Also I wanted to ask about in Darfur, there is a report again by Radio Dabanga that food has stopped being delivered to the IDP camps in El Geneina.  I tried over the weekend to write to both WFP [World Food Programme] and UNMIS - I mean UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] — to ask whether it is true and why this would happen.  Is there some way you can… it seems like a pretty serious… given that that’s one of the UN’s roles there.  Is that something you can confirm?


Spokesperson:  I’ll see what the World Food Programme or our colleagues at the UN Mission have on that.  Okay, thank you very much.


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