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

5 January 2012

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

5 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 everybody.

Iraq

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq has strongly condemned the recent bombings in different parts of the country, which have reportedly resulted in many deaths and injuries, both yesterday and today.

Martin Kobler urges all Iraqis to remain steadfast in the face of those who are using violence in its worst forms to prevent the country and its people from succeeding as a democratic, stable, secure and prosperous nation.  His full statement is available online.

Libya

The Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative to Libya has wrapped up a two-day visit to Bani Walid, Sirte and Misrata.

Georg Charpentier met with local and military councils, as well as representatives of the local population on Tuesday and Wednesday.  He also viewed houses and public facilities destroyed during the recent conflict.

He noted the impressive rate of return to these cities and reiterated his admiration for the strong resilience among the population and councils to face the humanitarian challenges.

Security Council

And, this morning the Security Council has been holding closed consultations on South Sudan.  They were briefed by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, and I think you have probably seen that Mr. Ladsous is speaking or has been speaking at the Security Council stakeout.

Taliban

I was asked yesterday about reports of the establishment of a Taliban office in Qatar.

The UN Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, has noted with interest reports of statements attributable to the Taliban of the possible setting up of an office in Qatar.  The Mission has also noted the statements by the Afghan Government on this development.

The end to the current conflict in the country cannot be but through political means, and UNAMA would support any initiative that is agreeable with its Afghan counterparts that can help move towards an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Interpreters

And I was also asked yesterday about the recruitment of interpreters.

We checked and I can tell you the language examinations are overseen by the Board of Examiners, which consists of highly respected professionals, including staff members in the respective languages in the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management.

Board members are required to sign a Confidentiality Agreement and take their responsibilities and professional integrity with utmost seriousness.  Let me just say there is no examination for Russian interpreters planned until later in the year, and no exam material has been gathered or compiled yet.

Although the examinations for Arabic interpreters are scheduled for early February, no final agreement has yet been reached on the contents of the examination.  I think it’s pretty obvious that questions that do not yet exist cannot be leaked.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  There has been some contact between the Arab League mission and the Secretary-General speaking about the – looking for advice from the United Nations on how to conduct the mission.  Do you have anything further on that?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you will have seen, yesterday the Secretary-General met with the Prime Minister of Qatar and they did discuss, during their meeting, practical measures on how the United Nations could assist this observer mission.  The form that that could take is that, under the auspices of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, there would be training of the League of Arab States observers.  So, this would be a small-scale undertaking to train observers from the League of Arab States.  This is something that is under discussion with the League of Arab States at the moment.  Okay, yes?

Question:  I understand the statement on violence in Iraq yesterday and today, but do you have the number of casualties throughout Baghdad or thereabouts?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have the casualty figures, I’ve seen media reports.  As you will have heard, there have been a number of casualties.  It was not just in Baghdad.  There was something in Baghdad yesterday, then in Nassariya and in one other location.  And I can tell you afterwards, I don’t have it right now.  But not simply in Baghdad and not simply today, but yesterday — and needless to say there have been other attacks.  We’re watching that very closely.  The Secretary-General is also aware of these attacks and shares the Special Representative’s concerns.  Okay.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  Sure.  A couple of new things today, but I just wanted to know about that — maybe you said this at the top — but was the memorandum of understanding between the Secretary-General and NATO — were you able to determine if it’s a public document and if we can see it?

Spokesperson:  I’m still looking into it.  Colleagues have been looking into it, so just bear with us, okay?

Question:  I also wanted to know, there have been reports in Cyprus, that the Greek-Cypriot leader, [Demetris] Christofias, is not, has indicated that he does not want to come in 22 to 24 January because of a deadlock on issues, that that might not take place.  Given the United Nations role in those talks, has the United Nations been informed of that?  Or is it “all systems go” for the talks?

Spokesperson:  I have to check.  I haven’t heard anything myself on that. You will have heard what I said yesterday, I think, if my memory serves me correctly, that the two sides have been meeting and plan to meet again.  And that’s in preparation for the meeting, I think, the 23rd and 24th of January.  Okay, other questions?

[The Spokesperson later added that the preparations continue with both leaders for the forthcoming Greentree, Long Island, meeting.  He also noted the remarks by Special Adviser Alexander Downer after the most recent meeting:  http://www.uncyprustalks.org/nqcontent.cfm?a_id=5133&tt=graphic&lang=l1.]

Question:  [inaudible] said that the President of Indonesia has written to the Secretary-General about the Strait of Hormuz.  It’s unclear if the letter was asking the United Nations to somehow defuse tensions and saying that this could affect the global economy if the verbal back and forth between Iran and the United States continues.  Have you received such a letter, and do you see any role for the Secretary-General in that?

Spokesperson:  Well, I’d have to check on whether a letter had been received.  But, the Secretary-General himself has said, just in the last 24 hours, and indeed I said it here yesterday, that it’s important that the tensions be defused.  That any differences that there may be between the parties — they need to be dealt with through political means.  And it’s also important that the question about Iran’s nuclear programme needs to be dealt with through political means, through dialogue, through negotiations.  That’s the only way that that can be done.  And the onus is clearly on Iran to prove to the world that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.  But, we’ve obviously seen rhetoric, and heard rhetoric in recent days.  It’s important that that kind of tension should be defused.

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.