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

10 January 2012

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

10 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.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General Statement/Pakistan

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the bomb attack in Pakistan.

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the terrorist attack in the town of Jamrud in the north-west of Pakistan that left dozens of people dead and many wounded, including children.  He extends his heartfelt condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims and reiterates the continued solidarity of the United Nations with the people and Government of Pakistan in their continuing efforts to confront terrorism and extremism.

**Security Council

This morning the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, briefed the Security Council in closed consultations.

This afternoon the Security Council will hold closed consultations on Children and Armed Conflict.  Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, will brief Council members. 

**Economic and Social Council

This afternoon, the Secretary-General will address the Economic and Social Council, or ECOSOC.  He is expected to stress the instrumental role of ECOSOC in achieving the five global imperatives he set out last year, including sustainable development and supporting nations in transition.

ECOSOC will elect its President and other members of its Bureau for 2012.

**South Sudan

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the assessment of the situation in South Sudan’s Jonglei State is continuing.  A humanitarian team is in Pibor today to set up a response hub.

The Office says that the areas that need to be accessed are extremely remote and can only be reached by air.  Delivering aid by air is more expensive than by road and the Office is calling on donors to contribute to the appeal already launched for South Sudan.  As you know, it is currently financed to about eight per cent.

And the High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, who is wrapping up his visit to South Sudan today, has said that without international help the country would not be able to respond to the multiple crises it faces and could see a humanitarian disaster of enormous proportions.

** Libya

The Libyan Government and the United Nations have signed a Status of Mission Agreement in Tripoli, today. 

The agreement lays out the rights, responsibilities and procedures for both signatories, concerning the deployment, presence and safety of Mission operations and personnel.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ian Martin, welcomed the speedy manner in which the agreement was reached. He said it underscored the strong collaboration and trust between Libyan authorities and the United Nations. Mr. Martin said the Mission and the UN system would continue to assist the Libyan Interim Government and Libyans in restoring public order, extending state authority and in promoting and protecting the human rights of all Libyans.

**Press Conferences

At 12:30 tomorrow, Mourad Medelci, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Algeria, will hold a press conference here to discuss the Presidency of the G77+ China, as well as the political, economic and social situation in Algeria.

** Haiti

I was asked yesterday about the case concerning some of Uruguay’s peacekeepers in the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH.

I can tell you that the United Nations is actively engaging the Haitian government in trying to facilitate efforts by the Uruguayan authorities to conduct interviews of Haitian nationals, including the alleged victim, in support of the judicial proceeding currently under way in Uruguay.

To that effect, MINUSTAH has addressed a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to formally request the cooperation of the Haitian government and has been following up frequently to make the necessary connections between the victim and the investigators.

The United Nations urges the Haitian authorities' cooperation in that respect, to allow for the completion of the ongoing judicial process and full accountability.

Questions, please.  Yes, Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  okay, sure.  I actually, I am going to ask about what you just said about this, the alleged victim.  He was quoted yesterday I think, I believe after the briefing here by AP as saying that no one had sought to reach him. And it also, it’s also, the article also reports that he sought some type of compensation from the Uruguayan either government or military, it’s not clear.  I wanted to know, one is it the UN’s understanding that, despite the trial in Uruguay saying he couldn’t be reached, that no one sought to reach him?  And two, does the UN believe, given that these individuals served in a Blue Helmet, you know, for MINUSTAH there, that the payment of compensation would be appropriate?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you have heard what I just said, and I don’t really have anything to add to that.  I think it is clear that the UN is actively engaged with the Haitian authorities, as I just explained.  And also that the UN is urging the Haitian authorities’ cooperation in this respect so that the judicial process can be completed and to ensure that there is full accountability.

Question:  And can I ask two other, just because of, as it is Haiti time now, the two year anniversary and I wanted, is there any, is there any additional information about the incident in which the Brazilian peacekeepers were accused of beating their water delivery man; is there any, I know at the time it was said it was going to be looked into, I believe, by MINUSTAH, as well as the Brazilians.  Is there any finding?

Spokesperson:  I think as we mentioned, since the allegations were made the case and the allegations were referred to the Brazilian authorities.  And I think it would be good for you to check whether the Brazilian authorities have any follow up on that.  If we hear anything separately, then of course I will let you know.

Question:  Does that mean, does the UN peacekeeping mission sends people out but then even I understand that prosecution would be done by the troop-contributing country.  But, as even the investigation is outsourced to the TCC [troop contributing country] itself, there is no, what is, what does it mean for the UN to say there is a zero tolerance, if it has no role in investigating, much less prosecuting alleged wrong doing?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, just as I have mentioned with regard to the case that involves the Uruguayan peacekeepers, MINUSTAH is actively engaged in liaising with the Haitian government to try to help the efforts of the Uruguayan authorities.  Zero tolerance policy means what it says.  Despite what you may think, Matthew, it means what it says.  The troop-contributing countries do have the sovereign responsibility for their service personnel serving in UN peacekeeping missions.  And the Secretary-General and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations believes very strongly that zero tolerance means precisely that and there must be accountability.  When allegations are made and people are found guilty, then there must be accountability for that.

Question:  And the last one, thanks a lot,  I really, I’m just trying to understand this, there were some, Haiti, there was a repatriation of some 90 or some Sri Lankan peacekeepers not too long, you know, may be two years ago.  And it has never been said whether in fact anyone was ever prosecuted.  So, I wanted, this is why I guess I am asking, and I mean I understand that you are not responsible for the policy.  I just wanted to know, does the UN know whether, in fact, there was ever any prosecution brought in those cases, and is it possible to say publicly, so that zero tolerance would be assessed?

Spokesperson:  Let me check. As you also know, there are rather extensive records kept on allegation cases, and then the follow up, it is as I have said on a number of occasions, including today, it is a matter for the troop-contributing countries; it’s a matter for them; it’s their sovereign responsibility.  And it is under their national legislation.  That doesn’t mean that the United Nations is not interested; and doesn’t follow up, but it does fall within the jurisdiction of national authorities.  The zero tolerance policy really is a crucial facet of the peacekeeping role that the United Nations has and the Secretary-General and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations will continue to underscore that.  Yes, Ozlem?

Question:  Does the Secretary-General have specific comments on the IAEA’s [International Atomic Energy Agency] report, the recent report on nuclear, Iran’s nuclear programme?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I think you will have heard the Secretary-General say on Friday, and as I think I mentioned here yesterday, it is for the Iranian authorities to prove to the satisfaction of the international community that its nuclear programme is for exclusively peaceful purposes.  And as the Secretary-General said on Friday, if I just remember here; he said “the international community seems not to have been convinced by this.  And therefore I urge that the Iranian government try to prove the nature of their nuclear programme.”  And this all needs to be done through negotiations; the 3+3 and Iran.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, thank you, Martin.  Yesterday you commented about the meeting between the Secretary-General and the Nigerian Foreign Minister.  You were asked about the situation in Nigeria; so I wanted to know what other purpose is, do you know of, this meeting apart, from what you alluded to.  Is there any other issues that you know that they will be discussing; especially because Jeffrey Sachs went to Nigeria last week and he said that, you know, as UN Special Adviser that the UN supported the removal of this, of the fuel subsidy,

Spokesperson:  Let me stop you right there; that’s not correct.  The…

Question:  Well, that was what was reported, so, and if…

Spokesperson:  But that’s not correct, sir. 

Question:  if you let me finish, sir.

Spokesperson:  And stop. Stop,

Question:  No, let me finish, the question.

Spokesperson:  Okay, finish the question.

Question:  I think it is only fair, Martin. So, that was what was reported.  And I also noted, I saw that the Nigerian office tried to make their clarification, which is why I was asking you that.  Will the Secretary-General use the opportunity of the meeting that he is having today with the Nigerian Foreign Minister to clarify exactly what is the position of the United Nations on that issue and then, if you know, what are the other issues that you will they will discuss at the meeting?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know precisely what issues are going to be discussed at the meeting.  The Nigerian Foreign Minister is in town, and requested a meeting with the Secretary-General.  That’s as much as I know at this point.  Initially, as I said, yesterday I thought the meeting — and we understood the meeting would be yesterday, it is now taking place shortly.  And as I also mentioned yesterday, we have requested a readout, and that remains the case.  And in that readout, hopefully, we will be able to give you some indication of what has been discussed.

Question:  I have a follow up.  So, you don’t know whether the Secretary-General is going to try to clarify what is the position of the UN based on the confusion that Jeffrey Sachs feels in Nigeria?

Spokesperson:  No, I don’t.  Yes?

Question:  Cyprus summit at the Greentree Estate in New York, will the press be allowed to cover it on the ground?  The Greentree area, it’s like a very well, how could I put it, it is like a Fort Knox.  Very difficult to be getting in, unless they inform to the door, the gate that you are coming and everything.  Will they, the press be allowed this time to cover the meeting?

Spokesperson:  Well, a couple of things: Whether it is like Fort Knox or not, as you will have noticed during the previous meetings that were held at Greentree, access was possible, and journalists were able to cover the meeting. And we are working to ensure that you will have access to cover the meeting to the best of our ability.  And once I have the details, I will let you know.  We are aware of your interest and the keen interest of many journalists to cover that event.  So, let me come back to you with the details when I have them.  And I know that it is an important topic for the Secretary-General too.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Martin. During the Cuban missile crisis early in the sixties, Secretary-General U Thant and the United Nations played a decisive role in defusing the international, the crisis that threatened international peace and security at that time.  Now we seem to have a looming crisis in the Hormuz Strait that could conceivably threaten the entire Gulf area.  Is Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon prepared to play a more active role in defusing this crisis?

Spokesperson:  Well, as the Secretary-General said on Friday when he met journalists, that he is obviously concerned about events in the region and the tensions in the region.  And he said, first of all, it is important to defuse the tensions in the region and try to resolve all issues and differences of opinions through dialogue and peaceful means.  And that’s precisely what the Secretary-General was saying on Friday.  And if we have anything further beyond that, then obviously I will let you know.  Other questions?  Yes, we’ll make this the last question, Matthew?

Question:  I was going to ask about South Sudan and Yemen; it seems like they are both, I’ll just try to do it briefly.  On South Sudan, I wanted, the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines has announced voluntary repatriation of, they say their nationals in South Sudan, including UN staff, and it has been said that no further Filipino should travel there.  I wanted to, is, did they confer with the UN, does UNMISS think that that’s a reasonable statement by them, or is in fact the violence only confined to one part of the country?

Spokesperson:  Well, that’s kind of multi-layered and I think I will need to check with the mission to find out on that.  I don’t have the answer right now.  What was question on Yemen?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask, on Yemen it is now said, and I saw definitely the statement by Navi Pillay, but it’s now, this immunity or amnesty law has been moving forward.  The cabinet has passed it, it is said to be pretty much all systems go in terms of the parliament.  And since the Secretary-General spoke to Ali Salleh and has, you know, views on accountability; one, does he think that the immunity now seeking to be enacted, which I think that Mr. Benomar said is not required, is no longer required under the GCC deal?  Is the GCC deal superseded by the UN’s mediation?  Does the Secretary-General have any view on amnesty for Mr. Salleh?  And also it would apparently give amnesty to ministers who served or under Ali Salleh for his entire time, one of whom is UN Assistant Secretary-General, Ahmad al Salim al Saswa of an Arab State and UNDP [United Nations Development Programme].  Are you, does the UN system know if this law would in fact cover her and grant her amnesty?

Spokesperson:  First of all, I don’t know the details of precisely what is covered or not covered.  But the UN position on this, as expressed by Navi Pillay, is quite clear that there cannot be an amnesty in cases — in the view of the United Nations — in cases where you are talking about serious crimes under international humanitarian and human rights law.  That is what Navi Pillay has said; that is a very clear view of the United Nations.

Question:  Would the UN, would the Secretary-General accept that an Assistant Secretary-General serving, you know, in the UN system would eschew immunity or amnesty offered by such a law?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am not quite sure what you are alluding to, but I think, as I have just said, the position of the United Nations is quite clear on this, on the question of accountability and amnesties.

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.