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

3 January 2012

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

3 January 2012
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 everybody, and welcome to the briefing.  And a Happy New Year to everybody.

**Guest at Noon

Joining us today by video link from Juba in South Sudan, we have Ms. Lise Grande, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan.  And Ms. Grande is Officer-in-Charge of the UN Mission in South Sudan at the moment.

So I believe Ms. Grande will be able to give you a really up-to-date briefing; and then take questions.

So please, with that welcome, Ms. Grande, the floor is yours.

[Briefing by Ms. Grande issued separately].

Okay, I have a few more items, and I am happy to take questions, of course.

**Secretary-General Statement/World Food Programme

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

The Secretary-General was informed today by Ms. Josette Sheeran of her decision to accept a position with the World Economic Forum as Vice-Chairman upon completion of her term, in April, as Executive Director of the World Food Programme.

The Secretary-General expressed his deep appreciation for her leadership over the last five years.  He said “Josette Sheeran has been an outstanding advocate for the United Nations and a champion of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.  She has brought enormous energy and dedication to a difficult and immensely important job.”  Last year, the World Food Programme helped feed more than 90 million people in 73 countries.

The Secretary-General wished Ms. Sheeran great success in her new assignment and looks forward to her continued engagement in the work of the United Nations family.

**Security Council

Ambassador Baso Sangqu of South Africa, the President of the Security Council for January, will speak to the press tomorrow at 12:30 after the Council adopts its programme of work for the month.

** Food and Agriculture Organization

The new Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today that the total elimination of hunger and undernourishment will be his top priority.

He said that the Organization will increase its support to low-income countries, especially those facing prolonged crises.

José Graziano da Silva told reporters in Rome that ending hunger requires the commitment of everyone, and that neither the Food and Agriculture Organization nor any other agency or Government will win this war alone.

** The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

The Secretary General’s Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Matthew Nimetz, has invited the representatives of both parties — Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis of Greece and Ambassador Zoran Jolevski of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia — to meet with him in New York on 16 and 17 January.  Both sides have accepted the invitation. 

Ambassador Nimetz will initially meet with both representatives separately and will seek to develop a mutually acceptable approach to re-invigorate the talks and to make meaningful progress towards resolving the “name” issue.

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

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Has the Secretary-General made any comment on the mission of the Arab League in Syria?  Did he say anything, because there is a lot of criticism coming from France and the United States?

Spokesperson:  Well, what we said is that this is an important mission.  The international community has been calling for a long time for access to be able to monitor, to be able to observe and obviously to be able to help ensure that Syria lives up to its promises and stops the bloodshed. So the United Nations, the Secretary-General, has said that this is an important mission.  That’s the first thing.  The second thing is that what is crucial is that the Syrian authorities do cooperate to the fullest extent with that mission.  It is also important to note that the mission should be given time to be able to complete its work and to be able to report.  It is obvious we also read media reports too, but I think it is important that the mission should be able to report, to be able to say what its findings are and then it will be possible for everyone to make an assessment.  I think that everybody is waiting for that report and for that early assessment from the mission.  Okay, further questions, please.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Yeah, sure.  I want to ask, I mean, today there seems to be this fighting in Tripoli between militias aligned with Misrata and those from Tripoli itself on these reports of, you know, automatic gunfire between these two groups, and I am just wondering, is UNSMIL [United Nations Support Mission in Libya], what does it say about it?  Is it trying to defuse it?  What’s the UN’s comment on this?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check for you.

Question:  Over the holiday, President Ali [Abdallah] Saleh said that he now intends to remain in the country and that he won’t allow the institutions to fall apart.  Some have read this as basically him saying he is going to remain at least with some role despite the agreement that he signed.  What’s the UN’s take on what has happened in the last few days with Mr. Saleh?

Spokesperson:  Well, we’ve seen the media reports the same as you have, Matthew.  We don’t have any particular comments on that, except to say that there is an agreement and it is obvious that that agreement needs to be followed through on.  Okay, other questions, please?

Question:  It was pretty much confirmed in the last few days that Ethiopia has entered Somalia, has taken over a town in central Somalia, again, fighting Al-Shabaab, and so, I have asked you this before but it was never kind of confirmed in the same way, the people, journalists, have seen columns of Ethiopian troops there; does the UN have any comment on Ethiopia entering Somalia not as part of AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] but as a neighbour that has had issues with Somalia in the past?

Spokesperson:  Not at the moment, Matthew.  Again, we’ve seen the reporting on this, and if we have anything further, then I’ll let you know.  Okay, anything else?

Question:  Can I just ask you one more thing?  I tried to ask you what happened in Egypt, where a number of NGOs was reported to be foreign-funded — although some people said it wasn’t only foreign-funded — the raiding of NGOs by the Egyptian authorities; is that something on which the UN has any response?

Spokesperson:  Well, as we have said — I think I will choose my words very carefully here, Matthew — the Secretary-General has been clear in calling for human rights, including the right to expression, to be upheld in Egypt’s transition.  They are in a transition and if we have anything further on the particular instances that you are referring to, then obviously I’d let you know.  But as a general statement of principle, we should remember that this is a country in transition, and those who are seeking to help the transition should be able to do that work.

Okay, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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