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

25 October 2011

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

25 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.

So good afternoon, and welcome to the briefing.

**Group of 20 Summit

This afternoon at 3, the Secretary-General will participate in an informal meeting of the General Assembly, in which France will brief the Member States about the forthcoming Group of 20 (G-20) Summit.  Although this afternoon’s meeting is behind closed doors, we expect to be able to provide more information later today about the Secretary-General’s goals at the G-20 Summit.

**Security Council

This morning, the President of the International Court of Justice, Judge Hisashi Owada, briefed the Security Council in a private meeting.

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, will brief the Council later in open session on UNAMID, the AU-UN mission in Darfur, and after his briefing, members will convene in closed consultations on the same topic.

** Libya

The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Libya called on the Libyan authorities today to ensure that the new State is built on a strong foundation of human rights and the rule of law.  Judge Philippe Kirsch, the Chairperson of the Commission, said that it is extremely important that the National Transitional Council and all armed groups in Libya ensure that all detainees under their control are treated with respect for their human rights, in accordance with international standards.  He urged all armed forces to refrain from revenge killings and the arbitrary repression of Libyans and foreigners.  We have more details in a press release from that Commission.

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Georg Charpentier, was in Sirte on Monday.  His visit opens the way for joint technical assessment missions both there and to Bani Walid, and those missions will be completed in the next two days.  Mr. Charpentier said that immediate priorities for response include the restoration of electricity and water services, the rapid clean-up of explosive remnants of war and the rehabilitation of housing for returning residents.  He also expressed his concern for the safe return of civilians to Sirte and the importance of national reconciliation following the end of hostilities.

**Central American Floods

The United Nations and the Government of El Salvador launched a flash appeal today for nearly $16 million to assist 300,000 people affected by the floods for the next six months.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that key priorities include emergency shelter; the delivery of water, sanitation and hygiene services; meeting immediate food needs; and access to health care.  Access to affected areas is difficult because many roads are blocked by debris or isolated by flooding and landslides.  Reports say that elsewhere, more than half a million people have reportedly been affected in Guatemala alone by the flooding, which has also hit Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Mexico.

**Audio-visual Archives

Ahead of the World Day for Audio-visual Heritage this Thursday, journalists are invited this afternoon to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the United Nations audio-visual archives.  The archives contain nearly 40,000 hours of film and video and 800,000 photographs.  There are also 55,000 hours of audio recordings dating back to the early days of the United Nations.  And more details on the tour are available through my Office and from the Department of Public Information.

**Press Conferences

My guests at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Barbara Crossette and Richard Kollodge, authors of a report entitled The State of the World Population 2011.  That’s in conjunction with the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA.

And then at 12:45 p.m., Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will be here to brief reporters on her recent trip to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

So questions, please.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  In just a few days, I believe tomorrow, the Quartet will be meeting with the parties to the negotiations on the Middle East.  Who is going to represent the United Nations at that meeting?  Is it the Secretary-General?  And also, is there a specific agenda before the meeting?

Spokesperson:  This is a Quartet envoys meeting with the two parties.  But as you will have heard said before, this is with each of the parties individually.  And that session will take place in Jerusalem.  And obviously it’s against the backdrop of the Quartet statement that was issued last month — I believe on 23 September.  As I say, it’s at the envoys level.  So to answer your question more specifically, Robert Serry is the UN representative in those two sets of meetings.  Other questions?  Yes, Iftikhar?

Question:  Martin, with all the evidence cleaned up in Libya, where Colonel Qadhafi was killed and also his body has been secretly buried, how can any investigation be carried out into the circumstances leading to his death?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think, as I just mentioned, that you will have heard that the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Libya, which was set up by the Human Rights Council, has put out a press release that has quite a lot of detail there.  And, of course, it’s urged the NTC and future interim authorities to undertake independent, impartial and transparent investigations into all allegations of violations of the rights of detainees in their custody.  And if they deem it necessary, recommends that they seek the support of the international community.  And what it also says is — and this more directly relevant to what you just mentioned — the Commission is encouraged by recent public announcements by NTC leaders that they will undertake investigations into the deaths of some of the detainees.  And that’s quoting Judge Kirsch, as I mentioned, the presiding, the person who is presiding over this Independent Commission.  I have mentioned yesterday, more generally speaking, but it applies here that accountability rests in the first instance with national authorities, with sovereign authorities.  And it would obviously be for them, if they are to undertake an investigation, to ensure that it is carried out in an appropriate way.  Yes, Ali?

Question:  Thanks.  What’s the Secretary-General’s response to the repeated Syrian incursions into the Lebanese territories?  And my other question is whether anybody is representing the Secretary-General in the funeral of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia?  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  I have to check on the second point for you, and I think we might have something further for you on the first point.  But generally speaking, the Secretary-General has expressed his concern about what is happening in Syria.  You’ve heard repeated statements on that score, and anything that leads to potentially increased tensions in an already tense region is obviously something tht we would not wish to see.  If I have anything further, then I’ll let you know.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  A follow-up on that.  Has there been any investigations regarding the weapons seized by the Syrian authorities coming from Lebanon, and if any actions have been taken by the border security forces to prevent smuggling of weapons into Syria?

Spokesperson:  If I have anything, I’ll let you know.  Yeah?

Question:  What about the issue regarding Bahrain?  Do we have any update about the contacts with the Bahraini authorities, especially with the crackdown continuing, and would… unabated, and there is… there are no releases… real releases of prisoners or amnesty?

Spokesperson:  Well, if I have any further update on what we have said repeatedly, then I’ll let you know.  But certainly on one point, as you know, there were repeated calls in the international community for, notably, the medics who had been put on trial to be allowed a retrial under a civilian code rather than through these special courts that have been set up.  That is now happening.  And so we are obviously keeping a very close eye on that.  If we have any more details on the other parts of your question, then obviously we’d let you know.

Question:  Another issue is the provision of weapons to the Bahrain State, the Government, from the United States and Britain in particular, and training to their forces.  What is… what does the Secretary-General think about that?  Does he support… given the circumstances in Bahrain, does he support the provision of weapons to them and training to their…?

Spokesperson:  As I say, if I have… Nizar, if I have anything further, I’ll let you know.  I don’t have anything further at the moment.  Matthew?

Question:  Yeah, sure.  Martin, I wanted to ask you again about Somalia.  Yesterday, you’d said that there are some correspondence from Kenya and Somalia.  So I somehow took this to mean that Somalia is in favour of Kenya’s action.  The President now, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, has been quoted saying it’s inappropriate for Kenyan troops to cross into Somalia.  So again I… I guess I am wondering, where… at what point does the Secretary-General, as the guardian of the Charter, Article 51, like it seems like one country has gone into another, and the President of that country has said it’s wrong, and the country incurding has said that they have outside assistance by France, and maybe the US.  What does the… what does Ban Ki-moon say?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I said to you yesterday, there are conflicting voices, and in some cases contradictory reports out there about the nature or otherwise of support for what is happening there.  What I was referring to is a letter that was written by the Permanent Representative of Kenya to the President of the Security Council — that is a document that is available online, S/2011/646.  I looked at it just before I came here; it’s online and it is a letter from the Kenyan authorities to the Council, outlining what is taking place and stating that it is in coordination with the authorities in Somalia.  In addition, attached to that is a joint communiqué which both countries put out after they met on 18 October.  I’d refer you to that.  And obviously, any further comment on support or otherwise, is, of course, for those countries to state.  But I am just telling you that there has been a conduit to the Council from the Member State concerned.

Question:  Sure.  Given the… I mean, given this quote by the President of Somalia in the New York Times, has Mahi… Mr. Mahiga sought to speak with the President of Somalia about his views of…?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know the answer, but I can check.  As I say, there is a document that is online, in fact two documents — a letter and a communiqué.

Question:  And I wanted to ask you something that’s arisen.  I was… it seems like people that work for WFP — and before you say “ask WFP”, I guarantee you, I have — have complained that the… this Ramiro Lopes da Silva, who was a UN official in charge in Iraq at the time of the Canal Hotel bombing, has been put in charge of security at WFP.  And the reason I am asking you is that I went back and found a statement by Fred Eckhard, one of your predecessors, in 29 March 2004, in which it was said that Kofi Annan said that Mr. da Silva could return to WFP, but would not in future work in any security-related function.  So, I wanted to know, what’s the statement of the current Secretary-General on this, and has some waiver been given or was there just no follow-through?

Spokesperson:  I’d have to check, I don’t know the answer to that, Matthew.  Thank you. Yes, please?

Question:  CNN has been reporting that Mr. Panetta has said that there is a possibility that the NATO mission in Libya will be extended.  And now, my question is, does this… is 1973 still valid?  Should they go back?  Should NATO go back to the Security Council to ask for a different resolution, and does the Secretary-General have any opinion on prolonging NATO mission in Libya?

Spokesperson:  That’s really a matter for the Libyan authorities, the alliance, meaning NATO, and the Security Council.  I think you will be aware that there have been discussions on this being taken up in some form or another in the Council.  So it’s really in their hands, obviously, listening to what is coming from NATO and equally what’s coming from the Libyan authorities.  That’s what I have for you at the moment.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi, then Nizar?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  As a follow-up to my earlier question on the meeting of the Quartet, its representative, its envoys with the parties individually, where are they meeting in Jerusalem exactly?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know the answer to that, Mr. Abbadi, precisely the street coordinates, but they’re meeting there.  And as I say, the UN representative is Mr. Serry.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, regarding the protection of the UN Mission in Iraq after the withdrawal of the American forces, do you envisage that the Americans remaining — 16,000 or so American personnel, military personnel in Iraq — will take a role in the protection of the Mission?

Spokesperson:  I’d have to check, but typically we wouldn’t comment on security matters.  But if I have anything, I will let you know, Nizar, okay?

Question:  But the [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Nizar, I said if I have anything further I’d let you know, okay?

Question:  Yeah, but a follow-up on that.  I mean, do you recommend that any person, military personnel, are granted immunity from any criminal acts?

Spokesperson:  Well, I have… it falls on me to talk about many things, but I do not… I do not claim to be a security adviser.  So, right, yes?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask about the Fifth Committee and also about Myanmar.  There is this request by the US Mission, the new Ambassador Torsella, that the Fifth Committee proceedings be tele… you know, put on UNTV or webcast in some way for the transparency of the UN budget.  And I… I… I think it’s a request to Mr. Akasaka, but I note that some UN audio personnel have been given lay-off notices in the last week.  I don’t know if there is any relation.  Is it going to be taken up?  Will it be televised or is there… what’s the response to this request of… for increased broadcasting and transparency?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think we have some background on this, and I’ll come back to you.  I don’t have it right now, but I know there has been some discussion.  I know that there are costs involved in additional webcasting, so I’d need to check a little bit more on that.  Yeah?  And what was the other question?

[The Spokesperson later said that the formal meetings of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this Thursday and Friday will be webcast, including the Secretary-General’s appearance.  Meanwhile, the Department of Public Information says it is working to find the resources for more sustained video coverage of the Committee's formal meetings.]

Question:  Yeah, on Myanmar, I wanted to ask you that in his test… in his… while he was here in New York, [Tomás] Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur [on the situation of human rights in Myanmar] had noted that… that an offer would be… had… was made by the UN system to… of aid to Myanmar to assist those being displaced by this fighting between the Government and the Kachin rebels, and says that the Government turned it down flat.  So what I wonder is, is there any response by… by the Secretariat, either Ms. Amos or… or… or Ban Ki-moon or Vijay Nambiar, of the good… the… the envoy or good offices, to this rejection of help for people that — at least according to Ojea Quintana — are… are in need?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything for you, and I will obviously be able to check to see if there is anything, and indeed it may be something that Ms. Amos will be able to address tomorrow when she briefs you.

Okay, have a good afternoon.  Thank you very much.

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