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

19 July 2011

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

19 July 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.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General in Geneva

The Secretary-General addressed the third Global Review of Aid for Trade at the World Trade Organization in Geneva today.  He applauded the international community’s efforts to mobilize resources categorized as Aid for Trade, which today account for as much as one third of official development assistance.

But he said that, at a time of tight budgets, the annual rate of increase for Aid for Trade has slowed sharply.  The Secretary-General urged the donor community not to fall short of the present level of Aid for Trade, at the very least.  And he encouraged States to pay special attention to the unique needs of the least developed countries and to fully utilize the potential of Aid for Trade to advance food and nutrition security.

The Secretary-General also met with the President of the Swiss Confederation, Micheline Calmy-Rey, before departing Geneva.  They discussed the work of the Global Sustainability Panel, of which the President is a member, as well as assistance to South Sudan, Swiss support for peacebuilding initiatives in Africa and Haiti, and the Swiss role in various mediation efforts.  The Secretary-General is now on his way back to New York.

** Somalia

Ninety-thousand people in Mogadishu and in the area of south-west Somalia have been given assistance packages, as the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) steps up aid distribution across central and southern parts of the country.  Non-food aid for more than 125,000 people is also being handed out from today in other areas, including the Gedo and lower Juba regions.

UNHCR says it’s also strengthening protection monitoring and the tracking of population movements towards camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, to help plan the right response.  The situation in Ethiopia’s Dolo Ado camp is very dire, according to the refugee agency, and there are extremely high mortality rates in the Kobe refugee camp.  And meanwhile, the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, has left for Ethiopia today and she will also visit Kenya and Somalia.

**Security Council

The Security Council, as we speak, is being briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ad Melkert, on the situation in the country.  Mr. Melkert says he is cautiously optimistic about the future, provided that determined leadership within the country and a stronger spirit of cooperation in the region with Iraq will prevail.  He has also urged all regional countries to step up engagement with Iraq to quickly resolve outstanding differences and identify areas of cooperation.

**Southern Kordofan

In Sudan, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that since the expiry of the UN Mission mandate on 9 July, it has become increasingly difficult for humanitarian actors present in South Kordofan State to get timely and accurate information on the security situation outside of Kadugli.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also says that authorities in South Kordofan continue to demand that relief supplies be channelled through national non-governmental organizations or line ministries although they are now allowing some increased movement in Kadugli and some surrounding villages.

To date, the World Food Programme (WFP), working through local partners, has assisted more than 100,000 people affected by the conflict in South Kordofan with emergency food rations.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs adds that there are unconfirmed reports of a number of civilians leaving Kadugli town in recent days by truck.  According to the Sudanese Red Crescent Society, more than 37,000 displaced people from South Kordofan State have arrived in Khartoum since fighting began on 5 June.

And the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also stresses the urgent need for more mine clearance and removal of unexploded ordnance on roads and in towns, and for mine-risk education activities throughout South Kordofan State.  It says that a preliminary report of an assessment inside Kadugli town indicates that either landmines or unexploded ordnance contaminate more than one third of the town.

**B. Lynn Pascoe

The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, is in Tunis today, concluding a four-day visit to both Tunisia and Egypt to discuss the state of the democratic transitions and UN assistance.

While in Tunisia, Pascoe said that the Secretary-General and the world are watching the democratic transition in Tunisia with great interest.  He said that Tunisia was the vanguard of democratic transition in North Africa and the Middle East, and thus it is in the interest of all to help it succeed.  Pascoe also said the transition in Tunisia would take time and patience, but he expressed confidence that Tunisians will be able to conduct a credible election in October.  He noted that the United Nations was making available its best electoral expertise.

And while in Cairo over the weekend, Pascoe also expressed confidence that the transition process will move forward.  He confirmed that the United Nations is offering Egypt technical and logistical help in carrying out its forthcoming elections.  In discussions on a range of possible UN support to Egypt, Pascoe emphasized that Egypt’s democratic transition is a fully nationally owned process.

** Cyprus

The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders held talks today for the first time since their meeting with the Secretary-General earlier this month in Geneva.  They will hold nearly 20 all-day meetings as part of intensive negotiations which will last until late October.  At today’s meeting, the United Nations expressed its condolences to the people of Cyprus for the loss of lives in last week’s explosion and said that it is pleased that arrangements have been made to provide electricity from the north to the south of the country.

Questions, please.  Mr. Abbadi?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  At a meeting held in Mexico yesterday on the reforms of the Security Council, the General Assembly President, Mr. Deiss, said that he called on States to take the responsibilities and embark on renegotiations and display constructive, realistic and flexible attitude.  This is a language we have heard now for 10, 15 years.  Has the time come for the Secretary-General to display a more determined leadership in the reforms of the Security Council, which has so far not been conclusive as far as the negotiations are concerned, by joining, for example, the President of the General Assembly, the Security Council President and coming forward with some new and creative ideas?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General as spoken consistently about the need for Security Council reform, and also for that process to be accelerated.  He has noted that there has in fact been some movement in the past 18 months or so, where now Member States are actively negotiating on a text.  This is a movement some way forward from the previous rather slow pace that we have seen.  Is it fast enough?  No, it’s not.  But it’s ultimately in the hands of the Member States.  The Secretary-General can provide support by speaking out in the way that he has done, but ultimately it’s for Member States to take the decisions and to discuss them on the way to those decisions.  I think that that’s what is happening.  I think also that the Secretary-General has a similar view to the President of the General Assembly on the need for Council reform.  It’s widely recognized what is required; namely, some form of change.  But it is for the Member States to decide what shape that ultimately takes.  Any other questions?  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  Just on this idea, this willingness by the Secretary-General to sort of to speak out on issues around the Council, but leave it up to them.  There is a big debate right now about tomorrow’s session on climate change.  Whether the issue of climate change and security should be on the Council’s agenda, whether the issue of States being, you know, inundated by water and what their rights would be.  There is an op-ed in the Times today by Nauru, and I just wonder, since climate change is one of Ban Ki-moon’s big issues, does he believe it should be on… understanding that of course it is up to the Council to actually cast the vote, does he have a position on this important issue, whether climate change should be on the agenda of the Security Council?

Spokesperson:  It is self-evident that this is an important matter, otherwise the Security Council would not have taken it up.  That’s the first point.  The second is that the Secretary-General will be speaking there, and I think that the remarks he makes there at that time will make it perfectly clear what his position is.

Question:  And I wanted to ask also on Southern Kordofan.  There is a statement by JEM, the Justice and Equality Movement, the Darfur rebel movement.  They have now joined forces with SPLM (North), and they killed… they claim to have killed 100 Sudanese soldiers and this would obviously represent a mixing of these two major problems in Sudan.  Is it something that either whoever is watching Southern Kordofan for the UN or any alternative UNAMID in Darfur can confirm, have they seen that report, what do they think about it?

Spokesperson:  Seen the reports, but we are not in a position to confirm it or otherwise, either from South Kordofan or from the Darfur end of things.  That is something, if we can find the information that would corroborate or otherwise enable us to comment on it, then we would.  But at the moment we can’t.  I mean, let’s be very clear about South Kordofan.  As Mr. Šimonović said on Friday, the allegations about what has been taking place in South Kordofan are clearly very disturbing.  And Ms. Amos has also said that she is increasingly alarmed by the mounting allegations that there are.  And the Secretary-General, as I have mentioned to you repeatedly, has called for unfettered humanitarian access, and he is extremely concerned about the violence that is taking place in South Kordofan and its impact on civilians.

The fact remains that, as you just heard, humanitarian agencies, UN humanitarian agencies, are despite the request for unhindered access not able to carry out their work in the way that they would like.  The access restrictions placed on them are really seriously impeding their ability to assist people in need.  I think this is something that needs to be taken into account.  There is a dangerous monitoring gap in South Kordofan for the reasons that we have explained and that is something that is of concern to those within the United Nations — whether it is dealing with human rights, humanitarian side of things or indeed the Secretary-General’s overview of this.  He is extremely concerned about it.  Any other questions?  Yes?

Question:  Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon said on 14 July following a meeting with Hizbullah in Beirut that the seven Estonian cyclists kidnapped in Lebanon four months ago had been freed.  Since these hostages, it has been reported, were held in both Lebanon and Syria, and their release involved international cooperation with Lebanon, France, Germany, Turkey and many others with Estonia, do you think that Mr. Williams’ statement is enough or will the Secretary-General make a statement also?  I realize Mr. Williams represents the Secretary-General…

Spokesperson:  Yes, he does.

Question:  …but will he make his own statement, you know, because of this positive development?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is obviously aware that the seven Estonian citizens were released, and he was, like Mr. Williams, extremely pleased to hear that that was the case.  Mr. Williams did speak out, as you mentioned, to thank all those agencies of the Lebanese Government and others who worked for the release of those seven Estonian citizens, and I think you can take it as read that the Secretary-General would associate himself with those comments.  Other questions?  Yes?

Question:  Yes, for two days now we have been hearing about what some of us already knew, some from personal experience, about the sins of Rupert Murdoch and it leads me to wonder if there is anything behind the scenes at the UN or at the Secretariat that might be of concern for fear that something may come back and bite someone here in some odd way?

Spokesperson:  No, not really.  This is not something that we would want to comment on.  Right, other questions?

Question:  Sure, I meant to ask you this, you read out I guess what Mr. Pascoe said in Tunisia.  You know, separately, there is a call by Amnesty International and others that Tunisia investigate the death of this 13-year-old boy, Thabet al-Hajlaoui, who was killed Sunday by police firing into non-violent protesters.  So I just wonder, I mean, obviously you said that Mr. Pascoe said they’re at the vanguard of democratic change, but does the UN, is it aware…?

Spokesperson: I also said, Matthew, that…

Correspondent:  Sure…

Spokesperson:  …it’s a transition that would take time and would require patience and that the world is watching this transition with great interest.  And precisely because it is in the vanguard it’s in the interest of all to help it succeed.

Question:  No, no, definitely, I wasn’t going… I mean, I understand what you said, it was a more nuanced statement.  I just wanted to know, do you anticipate the UN system, you know, having… I mean, this is… it’s a 13-year old boy, so presumably it wasn’t an armed, you know, insurrection…

Spokesperson:  Well, I would also point out that just very recently the Office for the High Commission on Human Rights did open an office in Tunisia.  And I am sure that our colleagues there would be trying to understand the details of what happened.  And clearly, it’s for the Tunisian authorities to investigate such matters.  It’s not for me to speak on their behalf, but as a general principle, that would clearly be required.

Question:  And this just… I just want to know, there seems to be either an attempt to assassinate or a coup attempt in Guinea on the house of Alpha Condé, is that… does the UN… is Mr. Djinnit… does he think it’s a one off… what is the UN’s response to this…?

Spokesperson:  Well, we expect a statement shortly on that.  But I do understand that Mr. Djinnit, who is the Special Representative for West Africa of the Secretary-General, did speak to President Condé a little earlier today about that.  I don’t have any details of the conversation, but as I say, we would expect a statement a little later.  Okay?  Yes?

[The following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Guinea was later issued:

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the attack today on the residence in Conakry of President Alpha Condé of Guinea.  He stresses that no disagreements or differences justify recourse to violence in a democracy.  He calls on all Guineans to refrain from all acts likely to undermine the ongoing peaceful and democratic process in the country.]

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  When was the last Secretary-General’s monthly press conference, and when will he be giving the next one?

Spokesperson:  The last one was on 6 June, as I think you all recall, and in due course I am sure there will be another.  Let’s wait and see.

Okay, have a good afternoon, thank you.

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