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

24 October 2011

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

24 October 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.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Security Council

B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, opened today’s Security Council open debate on the Middle East.  He said that the exchange of prisoners between the Israelis and Palestinians was welcomed by the Secretary-General as a significant humanitarian breakthrough.  He called for the same determination to be displayed by the parties in the search for a lasting peace, noting the timeline set out in the statement issued last month by the Quartet.

Mr. Pascoe said that the parties must refrain from provocations and should stand ready to offer serious proposals on borders and security for negotiation.  He urged them to approach their meetings with the Quartet envoys later this week in this spirit.  Otherwise, he said, the impasse will only deepen, and with it, the level of confrontation and the scale of the mistrust.

Earlier, the Security Council adopted a resolution concerning piracy in Somalia, which, among other things, asks Member States to report by the end of the year on the steps they have taken to criminalize piracy in their domestic laws.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Turkey

The Secretary-General issued a statement in which he expressed his sadness at learning of the loss of life and destruction in Sunday’s earthquake in eastern Turkey.  He expressed his heartfelt sympathies to the Government and people of Turkey at this time of loss and suffering.

He commended the Turkish authorities for their rapid response to the situation.  The United Nations is in contact with the relevant authorities and stands ready to offer any assistance if requested.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Tunisia

Late yesterday, the Secretary-General issued a statement on the Constituent Assembly elections in Tunisia, in which he praised the people and interim authorities for conducting this historic vote in a peaceful and orderly manner.  He commended the Independent High Authority for the Elections for its role in ensuring a transparent electoral process.

He noted that this landmark election constitutes a key step in the democratic transition of the country and a significant development in the overall democratic transformation in North Africa and the Middle East.  He encourages all stakeholders to remain committed to the principles of inclusiveness and transparency throughout the remaining parts of the transition process.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Libya

Yesterday, the Secretary-General congratulated the people of Libya, noting that the Declaration of Liberation marked an occasion for Libyans to celebrate, to look forward to a future of liberties and opportunities, from the right to express an opinion freely to the right to elect their own Government.  He said that the Libyan people will be in full charge of their future — a future that their new leaders have declared will be based on justice and national reconciliation.  He welcomed the fact that their commitment is to building accountable democratic institutions, guided by respect for human rights and the rule of law, and to the transparent management of Libya’s resources to the benefit of all Libyans.

**United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Yuri Fedotov, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said today that the Arab Spring was “an emphatic rejection of corruption and a cry for integrity”.  The Executive Director also said that corruption was a serious impediment to reducing poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Mr. Fedotov also spoke of the importance of recognizing the connections between corruption, transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.  Mr. Fedotov was speaking at the fourth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption.  The meeting is taking place in Morocco this week to review the implementation of the Convention and assess worldwide efforts to combat corruption.  The full text of Mr. Fedotov’s speech is available on the UNODC website.

**United Nations Day

Today, as I am sure you know, is United Nations Day, and in his message to mark the occasion, the Secretary-General says that, days from now, the human family will welcome its 7 billionth member.  And he says we should unite, 7 billion strong, in the name of the global common good.  The Secretary-General said that, on this special day, let us recognize that never has the United Nations been so needed.  The full message is available online.

**Press Conferences

At 1:15 p.m., in this room, there will be a press conference today by Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

And then at 2:30 p.m., there will be a press conference on the international launch for the annual report 2011 for the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

And then tomorrow at 11:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on “Secondary Education — The Next Great Challenge”.

So, the next great challenge for me is to take your questions.  Please?  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, Martin, I wanted to ask two things about Somalia.  One is that there are quotes from the Kenyan military that there are… they have made an incursion into Somalia and they’re now receiving assistance by France, bombing from ships and possibly from the US by air.  So I wanted to know, is the UN aware of… what does Mr. [Augustine] Mahiga think, and is there some need to notify the Security Council or the UN if you go into another country?

Spokesperson:  We are aware of the reports, and also of correspondence that has been sent to the United Nations from the Kenyan authorities and the authorities in Somalia.  I don’t have any further details, for example, on anything from Mr. Mahiga.  But we are certainly aware of the varying reports that there are — some of which I think are actually conflicting, the reports that I have seen.

Question:  I just want to ask just one… I just… maybe it’s to… to know what the UN’s position is.  There is a… there is a New York Times story quoting a military… Kenyan military spokesman saying the French navy has also shelled rebel group positions from the sea.  So I wanted to know, is that something that triggers a filing with the Security Council in the same way or is it only a land incursion that would give rise to a filing?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I say, I’ve seen conflicting reports on that particular aspect that you’ve just mentioned, and I don’t have anything for you on that at the moment.  Yes, Barbara?

Question:  Martin, Mr. Pascoe also mentioned the request to… the Palestinian request for membership in UNESCO, and he said the Secretary-General is increasingly concerned about the ramifications of such a step for the UN.  So my first question is, can you just clarify…? I mean it’s implied in the way the report is structured, but can you just clarify that he is concerned that this will mean the US will withdraw funding for UNESCO?  And secondly, he says he is asking all to act wisely in determining a course of action.  Is he actually in touch with either the Palestinians and/or the Americans to, in the one case as to the Palestinians, to reconsider an application, and then the other to see whether the United States can do something about funding?

Spokesperson:  I think it’s correct that the Secretary-General is indeed concerned on two levels, if you like — the aspect that you just mentioned on funding, and the other aspect of procedural approach to this, the diplomatic approach to this.  Already, Mr. Pascoe has spelled out, I think, in the Council, what the position is, and I don’t really have anything further to add on that.  It is certainly the case that the Secretary-General has been in touch with officials in both Washington and the Palestinian leadership on this.

Question:  Just to follow up, when you say he has concerns about the procedural approach, does he think this is the wrong way to go about it?

Spokesperson:  Well, it’s not a question of wrong or right, it is simply looking at what also is happening and perhaps looking at the bigger picture.  Yes?

Question:  Hi.  I don’t know if you have already had time to reflect upon this, but, about the withdrawal of the American Ambassador from Syria, do you see this as a sign of possible growing risks for diplomats in Syria, or is it just… do you just perceive it as an internal problem of the United States, or do you fear a possible domino effect?

Spokesperson:  We’ve obviously seen those reports, but that would really be something for the US authorities to comment and not for me.  Yes, Joe?

Question:  Yes, in his statement to the Security Council this morning, Mr. Mansour, I believe, alluded to, and actually thanked the Secretary-General for, in his words, verifying the application and submitting it, of course, to the Security Council.  Number one, did the Secretary-General undertake any substantive or procedural review of the application before it was formally submitted to the Security Council, and if so, could you give us a little bit of a sense of what that process entailed?

Spokesperson:  As you know, and as we said at the time, the Secretary-General’s role institutionally is to undertake a technical review of the application, and that’s what took place prior to the application being forwarded to the Security Council, as we have already reported.

Question:  Well, yeah, but, number one, I think when you made that statement that was before the actual day that this occurred, and the submission to the Security Council occurred very, very quickly.  So, the question is, you know, what level of detail that process took in.  And again, the Palestinian representative used the word “verification” and also he alludes to the legal, I guess, advisers as doing the same.  So… so I’d like to… I don’t think you ever described what technical issues were looked at, the criteria of membership…

Spokesperson:  No, that’s… no…

Question:  …the UN Charter…

Spokesperson:  As you know, in the rules of procedure, it sets out a number of points.  And one of those is, for example, that there should be, in addition to an application letter, there should be a declaration that outlines a would-be Member’s obligations under, for example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  So, in other words, to state it separately from the application letter, adherence to those various conventions and declarations and…

Question:  Before a matter of [inaudible] that everything was done in proper, beforehand…

Spokesperson:  Correct, that’s right.  That’s why I said…

Question:  Now I am looking at [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Correct, that’s why I said it was a technical review.  Yeah?

Correspondent:  Okay, thank you.

Spokesperson:  Yeah?

Question:  Yes, sure.  Two things I’d wanted to ask you Friday that I’ll ask now.  One has to do with a peacekeeper in UNMIL in Liberia, a Nepalese peacekeeper called Besante Kunwar, who I think it’s confirmed by the UN he’s been repatriated.  Human rights activists say it’s because he is charged with torture in Nepal, but they said that the UN has been unwilling to say why, and he says it was just a personal matter he returned.  Is there some way to know why DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations]… why this individual was repatriated, you know, whether it was due to these charges or for some other reason?

Spokesperson:  We’ll certainly ask.

Question:  And I wanted to ask, here in this room on… on Thursday, Richard Falk [Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in occupied Palestinian territories], in the midst of this conf… you know, briefing about what he told the General Assembly… spoke about the letter that [Chef de Cabinet] Vijay Nambiar had written on behalf of the Secretary-General critical of his blog about 9/11.  Without getting into all of that, he said that he… he wasn’t very happy with the letter.  And he says that Mr. Nambiar told him afterwards that… that… the… neither he nor Mr. Ban had in fact read the blog, that they’d responded to a letter they had received and condemned the blog.  He thought that was unfair and, he said, curtailed his freedom of expression.  So I wanted to know, did either of the two of them read the blog before they condemned it, and what do they say to the critique that… that this was of some curtailment of free expression?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think I really would want to get into a public exchange through you with Mr. Falk as Special Rapporteur.  If he has concerns, I am sure he would relay those directly to the Chef de Cabinet.

Question:  But I mean, he raised… I mean, he said it here.  So I’m… I’m re-asking it because he said it on UNTV and [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Well, that may be the case…

Correspondent:  Sure.

Spokesperson:  That may be the case, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for me then to respond in that fashion.  Okay, yes, Stefan?

Question:  Yes, about the killing of Muammar Qadhafi and his son, we understand that there has been the Human Rights High Commissioner… that they… is calling for an investigation.  My question is who is really going to do this investigation.  I mean, we know that there is… there was an international warrant from the International [Criminal Court], and [International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis] Moreno-Ocampo was invest… I mean, was investigating on the matter… he was… is there any chance that Moreno-Ocampo and his Office will be involved in this, and what is the position of the Secretary-General on whom should do the investigation?

Spokesperson:  Well, on the International Criminal Court and the Prosecutor, that’s for you to check with them, as they are an independent judicial body.  So you would need to check with them on what they may or may not wish to undertake.  With regard to Ms. Pillay’s call for an investigation, the Secretary-General is certainly supportive of that.  There is already an independent commission of inquiry for Libya that was set up by the Human Rights Council in February.  And its work continues.  And Rupert Colville, the Spokesperson for Ms. Pillay, said last week that that independent commission of inquiry was very likely to look into this matter.  So I think that that’s where one should probably focus at the moment.  And as I say, the Secretary-General is supportive of the call that Ms. Pillay has made.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  First, happy UN Day.  With regard to the prosecution of those indicted with war crimes and violations of human rights in Libya and Yemen, would UN consider forming a tribunal as a way for an unbiased judge to look into these cases, or it will be left to the sovereign bodies existing in those countries?

Spokesperson:  Obviously, accountability is, in the first instance, a matter for sovereign States, national authorities.  That is an obvious baseline.  It is also the case that there is the International Criminal Court, which I have just mentioned is an international and independent judicial body.  It would be for them to decide in consultation with national authorities anywhere what action if any would be taken.  And it’s not for me to speak on their behalf.  As I say, it’s… a baseline is sovereign responsibility for accountability rests with the national authorities.  As you have also seen, and as I just mentioned, where the Human Rights Council or other bodies provide a mandate for a commission of inquiry of some kind, which is obviously not a judicial inquiry, but is a commission of inquiry, a kind of an investigation — where such a mandate exists, then work can be undertaken.  But it’s very carefully mandated and set out.  That’s an important distinction to make, I think.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask a question on Sudan.  The SPLM-North is saying that Janjaweed fighters are being flown by the Government of Sudan from Darfur, specifically from Nyala and Aljenina, into Blue Nile State to actually fight there.  And so I wondered, I understand that United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) is no longer on the ground or has some logistical [inaudible], but since these will be flights from Darfur, where the UN does have a big peacekeeping mission, is it something… can the UN verify this… does this… it is true, is it not true?  If it were happening, would it be problematic and what would the UN say or do about it?

Spokesperson:  Let me ask my peacekeeping colleagues, okay?  All right, thank you, have a good afternoon.  Thank you.

* *** *

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