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

12 January 2012

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

12 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 everyone, and welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Briefing Guest

It is my pleasure to introduce our guest today, Mark Bowden, who is the UN’s Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia.  He is here to brief you, obviously, on the situation there and to take your questions.

So I would like to hand over to you, Mark.  Welcome, again.  Nice to see you.

Mr. Bowden:  Thank you, Martin, and thank you for this opportunity.

[Press conference by Mr. Martin issued separately.]

** Haiti

So, I have a couple more items and I am happy to take a few questions.

As you know, today is the second anniversary of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.  You will have seen that we issued a statement last night in which the Secretary-General honoured the memory of the more than 200,000 people who perished in the earthquake, including 102 United Nations personnel.  He also paid tribute to the Government and people of Haiti, who made important strides in rebuilding the country.

Yesterday, the Secretary-General also spoke by telephone with President Martelly and reiterated the United Nations’ continued commitment to accompany the Government and people of Haiti on the path to a secure and prosperous future.

And a few numbers just to underscore the work that has been done in the last two years:  about two thirds of all internally displaced persons have left the camps; 50 per cent of rubble has now been removed; some 400,000 Haitians have been provided with short-term employment in labour-intensive projects; and more children go to school now than before the earthquake.

The United Nations continues to provide and coordinate humanitarian assistance in Haiti.  The World Food Programme (WFP), for example, provides food assistance to 1.5 million people.  And you can find more information on the work of the United Nations in the Report of the United Nations in Haiti 2011, which was just released and is available online.

And also, later today, Anthony Banbury, the Assistant Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support, will deliver a message on behalf of the Secretary-General during a UN ceremony in Port-au-Prince.

**Security Council

This morning the Secretary-General briefed the Security Council on the UN-African Union Partnership in Peace and Security.

The Secretary-General noted that, here at the UN, activities to enhance stability in Africa take up a significant part of the agenda of the Security Council and they are among his leading priorities.

He said that over the last few years, the UN has strengthened the partnership with the African Union at the Secretariat level in several concrete ways:  first, the African Union-United Nations Joint Task Force has proved to be an effective mechanism for consultations; second, we have revamped our Office in Addis Ababa to further strengthen cooperation; thirdly, our regional offices, peacekeeping operations and special political missions are cooperating closely with the African Union and subregional organizations; and finally, joint assessment missions have also been essential in ensuring a common understanding of emerging issues.

The Secretary-General said he looked forward to the African Union Summit later this month.

** Nigeria

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has urged Nigerian national, local, religious and opinion leaders to make a bold and concerted effort to halt the spiralling sectarian violence following a series of recent attacks by the Boko Haram group.

She said it was essential that the country’s leadership, and especially its Muslim and Christian leaders, join forces to unequivocally condemn all violence.

Ms. Pillay also said it was vital that the security forces respect human rights, and avoid excessive use of force when conducting operations so as not to stoke further tensions and resentment among local inhabitants.

She expressed concern about the recent loss of life during protests over the removal of fuel subsidies, and urged the authorities to carry out transparent, independent, impartial and thorough investigations into those events.

**Haiti/Uruguay

I also have an update about the case concerning some of Uruguay’s peacekeepers in the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations informs us that the Government of Haiti has designated a focal point to liaise with the Uruguayan authorities in order to facilitate the interviews of Haitian nationals, including the alleged victim, by Uruguayan judicial officials.

The UN Secretariat has informed the Permanent Mission of Uruguay of this development, and has asked to be kept informed about the outcome of the judicial proceedings.

**Press Conferences

And then at 1 p.m., here, there will be a press conference on the Investor Summit on Climate Risk and Energy Solutions.

**Trip Announcement

And finally, just to confirm the Secretary-General’s visit to Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

The Secretary-General will be leaving later today for a visit to Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.  The visit to Lebanon is at the invitation of both President Sleiman and Prime Minister Mikati.

In Lebanon, the Secretary-General will meet the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament, as well as the acting head of the opposition.

The Secretary-General will also visit peacekeepers from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, and open a high-level meeting on Arab reforms and democracy organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, ESCWA, which is based in Beirut.

And from Lebanon, the Secretary-General will travel to Abu Dhabi to convene his High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All and attend the World Future Energy Summit.  He will highlight the need for sustainable-energy policies to provide the world’s growing population with universal energy access, improved energy efficiency, and increasing renewable energy.

In both Beirut and Abu Dhabi, the Secretary-General will have a number of bilateral meetings with visiting leaders.

And the Secretary-General will be back in New York on Tuesday.

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

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On this Iranian letter sent to the Secretary-General on this killing of, I mean assassination, of this Iranian scientist, you said yesterday, I think, that there will be announced… there will be some statement from the Secretary-General which had come, and also…

Spokesperson:  I don’t think that’s what I said, but, it is possible we will have something a little later.

Question:  Okay.  Also, I just wanted to point out that today Russian Prime Minister Putin’s aide has been quoted as saying that US is being pushed into a war with Iran by Israel.  Do you have any… what if anything that Secretary-General can do to lower the tensions down in that area, because it is boiling at this point in time?

Spokesperson:  I would simply reiterate what the Secretary-General himself said on Friday about the need to defuse tensions.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Yeah, on the visit of Secretary-General to Lebanon, can we expect any breakthrough with regard to the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from the occupied Lebanese towns and territory?

Spokesperson:  I think this is an opportunity for the Secretary-General to speak with the Lebanese authorities on a number of matters, and I wouldn’t want to prejudge the outcome.  Yes, next question and then I will come back to you.

Correspondent:  I have got another question on the same subject.

Spokesperson:  Nizar, I’ll come back to you in just one second, okay?  Yes?  Yes, please, what is your question?

Correspondent:  You just answered my question.

Spokesperson:  There you are, so it makes it even easier.  Nizar, yes?

Question:  Yeah, will he be, I mean, touching on the issue of rebuilding Nahrubare, which has been destroyed, which was destroyed some few years ago and until now it hasn’t been, that the Palestinian refugee camp in the north?

Spokesperson:  As I say, there is any number of topics on the Secretary-General’s agenda to discuss with Lebanese authorities and I don’t have the details of what they might be right now.

Question:  And is it true that Terje Roed-Larsen will not be accompanying him in his meetings with President Sleiman and the Speaker of the Parliament, also the Prime Minister?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have the details of who will be in which meeting, Nizar.  George, you had a question?  No.  Okay, Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  Some questions about South Sudan, but first I just wanted to ask something about Haiti since this is the anniversary day.  There was the Secretary-General had said I think in May of last year that he was setting up a task force to ensure prompt and appropriate follow-up on that report, the report that was done about cholera, and I have tried and some other people have tried as well to find sort of who is on the task force, and, I mean, does it exist, and what has been the prompt follow-up?  Are you, do you know if that task force does exist and where is it, who is on it and what is it doing?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think the most important point here is that the Secretary-General has, of course, taken this matter along with the other events in Haiti extremely seriously.  And that is why he set up, with regard to cholera, this independent panel of scientists which carried out its work.  The focus is on the ground to do everything possible with the Haitian authorities and others to bring the spread of cholera under control and to treat and support those affected.  With regard to your specific question, I’ll ask my colleagues.

Question:  Thanks a lot, because there are, it seems to be some, I am sure it does exist, it is just the UN Library didn’t know where it is.  Anyway, there is one I wanted to ask you about South Sudan; I learned yesterday that in this incident of Pibor County, that one of the explanations given and discussed behind closed doors in the Security Council is that Russian helicopters stationed in Juba declined to fly to Pibor.  And they say, the Russians say, that it is because they don’t have a letter of assist in place and that UNMISS and DFS were well aware of this.  I guess what I wanted to ask is this:  is it the case that the letter of assist, the contract between Russia and these helicopters expired on 1 December; that a draft wasn’t provided to them until 15 December and has not yet to be signed, and that DFS knew that these ‘copters were not going to be available, and, therefore, there were no helicopters available and, therefore, the UN arrived on a delayed basis in Pibor?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, we don’t comment on negotiations taking place between the Secretariat and Member States and the use of their military assets.  But just to correct you on one key point, factual point:  even while letters of assist — that’s the term — letters of assist are being negotiated, helicopters do fly.  Okay, other questions?

Question:  I have some follow-up because it is a pretty serious matter, and there are…

Spokesperson:  I agree, it is a very serious matter.

Question:  Yeah, sure, so I wanted to get to be on just the letters of assist; I wanted to say what the Russians say and I want to get your response to it, because otherwise I just have what they say.  They say when they agreed to provide the helicopters they’ve never, we’re going to have machine guns on them, and, therefore, that it is not just a matter of a letter of assist not being signed, that there is a substantive change in what they were being asked to do and they made it clear to DFS that until this was approved in Moscow, they would not fly.  And therefore, according to them, DFS knew for since 1 December or at least the 15th until this incident took place in January that they had no helicopters and that’s what, I just, I don’t want to put too fine a point on it, but helicopters may fly in other instances after a signature, but in this case they were told it is too big a change, we won’t fly.  And I wanted to know, what did DFS do when they knew that they had no helicopters?

Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, couple of things:  one is that, while negotiations are going on, as I have just said, we don’t comment on negotiations between Member States and the Secretariat.  I would simply say that there is more to this, and I think that you will be able to learn more about that.  I don’t have more details at the moment.  But helicopters can and do fly while letters of assist are being negotiated.  Any other questions, please?  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  On the nuclear programme of Iran, the Secretary-General has always reiterated that it should be resolved only by peaceful means.  These threats which are emanating from many capitals threatening to use military forces, does the Secretary-General have something to say about them?

Spokesperson:  You have answered your own question, Nizar:  by peaceful means.

Question:  So the message is that it still applies?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has said that it is important for any differences to be sorted out through peaceful means.  And he has also said that it

is, of course, the responsibility of the Iranian authorities to prove to the satisfaction of the international community that their nuclear programme is for exclusively peaceful purposes.

Question:  What did he say about the welcoming the assassination of scientists who are working in the programme?

Spokesperson:  Well, someone else asked me about that just now and, as I have said, it is possible we will have something to say further a little later.

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.