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

4 January 2012

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

4 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.

Good afternoon, welcome to the briefing.

**Press Conference

Following this briefing, the Ambassador of South Africa, Baso Sangqu, who is the President of the Security Council for January, will outline the Council’s programme of work for the month.


The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, is in Khartoum today.  She met with the Sudanese Minister for Social Welfare, Mrs. Amira Al Fadil, and they discussed the situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

In a statement to the press, Ms. Amos said that the Government and her Office had agreed to share information and data on the humanitarian situation in the two States.  She said a mechanism would be established to ensure continuous dialogue between the Government and the United Nations to resolve any misunderstanding or differences with respect to the data and information on the situation.

Ms. Amos also said that the Government of Sudan recognized the need to ensure that the UN's capacity is made up of a mix of national and international staff to ensure the appropriate skill sets.

She noted that she would continue to discuss ways to reach people in areas held by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, the SPLM-N.  And she also said that the Government and the UN shared the view that a long-term political solution which delivers peace to the people of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States was needed.

And the full press statement from Ms. Amos is available online.

** Iraq

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Martin Kobler, met with President Jalal Talabani in the Iraqi Kurdistan region today.

In his meetings with the President and other senior officials, Mr. Kobler discussed the latest political developments in Iraq, including the recent political tensions.  He also urged Iraqi political parties and leaders to work together in the spirit of partnership towards finding a common ground to resolve their differences.  And the press release from the Mission is available online and in my office.

** Cyprus

The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities discussed their forthcoming meeting with the Secretary-General from the 22nd to the 24th of this month at the Greentree Estate in Long Island.  And that was at a meeting today.  The leaders will meet again on Monday, 9 January.

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

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Hi, Martin.  I saw reports that the Secretary-General was going to Lebanon next week.  I don’t know if you have any travel announcements, but if he is going to Lebanon, will he be trying to make a trip to Syria while he is in the neighbourhood?

Spokesperson:  If and when we have something to announce, I’ll let you know.  We haven't got any announcement at the moment.  Okay, yes?

Question:  Yeah, just sort of a follow-up on that.  Is there an ESCWA-sponsored [Economic Commission on Western Asia] conference on democracy taking place there?  Can we know about that conference just as a UN event, whether or not Ban goes to travel there?

Spokesperson:  There is a conference, as I understand it.  I have seen something along those lines, yeah. 

Question:  And is there a speakers list yet, [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know; you’d have to check.  Take a look, yeah.  But, as I say, if and when we have an announcement, then we will make an announcement.  But I don’t have any announcement at the moment.  Further questions, please?  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Martin, regarding the recruitment of the new interpreters at the United Nations, is there a panel that really oversees how these examinations are carried out?  Is there any independent body that monitors the examinations?

Spokesperson:  Are you putting your name forward?

Correspondent:  No.

Spokesperson:  I’ll check for you.

Correspondent:  It’s a sad thing because there are rumours that the questions had already been leaked, especially in some departments like Arab interpretation, Russian interpretation…

Spokesperson:  Let me check; I don’t know the answer to that, Nizar.  I’ll check.  Yes, other questions, please.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure I remember some time ago the Secretary-General signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with NATO and it arose today in the Security Council, where there is a move to assess casualties caused by NATO in Libya, and Ambassador Churkin has specifically mentioned this MoU as something that will allow or facilitate an assessment — or investigation, some are calling it — of that.  Is that MoU a public document, and does it speak in any way to this idea of investigating or assessing the impacts of NATO actions?

Spokesperson:  I am not familiar with the full extent of the memorandum of understanding that you are referring to, so we’d have to check on the details.  And it is obviously for the Security Council to decide what steps it takes in this direction and not for the Secretary-General.

Question:  No, sure, I’m just saying like, I guess I wonder, are there agreements like this between the UN and a body such as NATO?  Are they public agreements or not public agreements?

Spokesperson:  Well, I would think that at least some of the details are; I do not know in this specific case, I’d have to check, and be very happy to get back with you when we find that out, okay?  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Martin, how concerned is the Secretary-General on the escalation of rhetoric between Iran and the United States on the Hormuz issue?

Spokesperson:  Well, I can tell you the Secretary-General is closely following the developments and he hopes that the parties concerned will do their best to defuse the tension in the region.  He strongly believes that the issues surrounding the Iranian nuclear programme need to be addressed by peaceful, diplomatic means.

Question:  Is there anything regarding the use of lethal gas by the Bahraini authorities against people in their houses?  Also cars overrunning children, police cars overrunning children?  Is there anything you want to say about it?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything beyond what we have said repeatedly on events in Bahrain, Nizar.  I don’t have anything.

Question:  But this crisis has been going on since February last year…

Spokesperson:  Indeed.

Question:  …and until now, there is no serious action except for the investigation which was assigned by the Government itself.  What is the result of the visit of the human rights senior officials?

Spokesperson:  I know, as you all know, there was indeed a visit by officials from the Office of the High Commissioner, and I am sure that in due course there will be details on that.  I don’t have any at the moment.  But obviously that was an important step; there was an obvious requirement in addition to the independent international inquiry that did take place, that there was a need for this mission from the Office of the High Commissioner to go in.  That did happen, and if we have some more details, then I will let you know. 

Question:  Does the Secretary-General believe that the King of Bahrain did not live up to the promises he made to him?

Spokesperson:  There have been steps in the right direction.  It is important to follow through on the agreements and the promises that have been made.  And I think that is not the first time I have said it, and it is not the first time you have heard me say it either.  Yes, Margaret?

Question:  I saw on the Secretary-General’s schedule he had a meeting with the Prime Minister of Qatar today.  If it’s gone through, if they have had it yet or not, could we get a readout?

Spokesperson:  It’s on right now.

Question:  Could we get a readout when it is over?

Spokesperson:  I have already asked; I read your minds.  Yes, please?

Question:  Yeah, good afternoon.  Regarding the negotiation between America and the Taliban to open a Taliban office in Qatar, does the UN consider it a step towards the peace negotiations?  Do you have any comment on this?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any comment at the moment, but I have already asked our colleagues at the Mission in Kabul for some guidance on how they view it.  After all, they are on the ground and are best placed to assess that for us.  So as soon as I have something, I’d certainly let you know.  Iftikhar?

Correspondent:  Actually I was going to ask the same question, but I have another one.

Spokesperson:  You can phrase it a different way, or have another question.

Question:  [Laughter]  Yes.  No, but I am sure you have seen Colum Lynch’s article in Foreign Policy magazine about lack of policy on behalf, by the Secretary-General, on drone attacks, cross-border drone attacks.  Are there any comments on that?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am not going to respond to individual news articles.  I think you will remember that a little while ago, Farhan Haq, sitting here, did provide a little bit of information on that topic.  And he said:  “The use of drones has been debated and countries that use this kind of technology should fully assess the implications of their use under applicable international law, including human rights and humanitarian law.”  And that’s where we are with this.  Yes?

Correspondent:  He is saying that this is violation of international law, and even UN independent experts have also said it that this is a violation of international law.

Spokesperson:  Well, the legality or otherwise of the use of drones is a question that lends itself to many different answers depending on the circumstances of its use in any given case and on the nature of the conflict or the situation that prevails, and also on the status of the parties to the conflict or the situation.  So there are many aspects to this.  And as I say, and as Farhan mentioned, the use of drones has been debated and the countries that use this kind of technology should fully assess the implications of their use under applicable international law.  Yes, please?

Question:  Yes.  Is there any reaction of the Secretary-General on the, or what French President Sarkozy said yesterday about the Security Council should start to give authorization for an investigation?  He implied the Security Council should give authorization for an investigation for crimes against humanity in Syria.  Is there any reaction on this?

Spokesperson:  No, not specifically to this.  We are obviously aware of these remarks, but not specifically to this.  The Secretary-General has repeatedly made a number of points:  one is that it would be good for the international community to be able to speak in one united voice on this topic, namely, events in Syria.  It is obviously for the Council to decide what action it takes on any given matter, and not just this one.  And of course, as you all know, the High Commissioner for Human Rights did speak to the Council not long ago, and had her own views on what could or should happen in the case of Syria and events that have unfolded there in the last few months.  Other questions, please?  Yes?

Question:  What is your assessment of the Arab League mission in Syria?  Do you think they have got off to a good start?

Spokesperson:   Well, as we have said on a number of occasions, this is an important mission; it is an important mission.  We need to see this mission be able to carry out its work in an impartial and in a credible fashion.  And we await to see their assessment.  They are on the ground at the moment, and they should be able to do their work in an unhindered fashion and with the full cooperation of the Syrian authorities.

Question:  Do you believe the choice of the person who is heading the mission to be in a position to offer that kind of objectivity on the ground?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think we are certain that the League of Arab States will do everything within its power to ensure that any mission on the ground carries out its work in accordance with established norms for such kinds of missions, and that it will fulfil the mandate that it has been given to carry out there in Syria.

Question:  So no concerns?  You are confident that the Arab League know exactly what they are doing?

Spokesperson:  As I say, we await the report and the assessment of the mission.  The mission is on the ground; it is important that they be able to carry out that mission in an unhindered way, and not only that, but in an impartial and credible fashion.

Okay, thank you very much.  Anything else?  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask, reports of a letter from the UDPS, the opposition party in the Congo, to the UN asking that MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] provide protection to Mr. Tshisekedi and expressing, I guess, some regret that there has been a lack of response by MONUSCO.  Can you confirm such a letter and is MONUSCO going to protect him?

Spokesperson:  There is certainly a letter that has been received, and it is being looked into.  That’s what I can tell you at the moment.  MONUSCO has certainly received a letter, and they are looking into it.  And the same goes here with DPKO; with our colleagues in the Peacekeeping Department here.

Question:  Okay, but if they have a protection of civilians mandate it would extend to opposition figures?

Spokesperson:  As I say, Matthew, the letter has been received and they are looking into it.  Yes?  Last question.

Question:  Passages or parts of the memorandum of understanding between the UN and NATO are public.  Where can we get copies of that and how come not the entire thing has been made public?

Spokesperson:  Well, hang on a minute.  Let’s roll back a little bit here.  I said it may be.  I didn’t say that they were; I said it may be and that I would check.  So let me check.  Don’t jump to any conclusions until I have done the checking, okay?  All right.

Correspondent:  But the entire thing is in public.  That’s a major, major development.

Spokesperson:  I actually said I would check and find out, okay?  Thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.

* *** *

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