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

14 February 2012

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

14 February 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.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Guest

I am joined today by Catharine Bragg, who is the Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.  Welcome back, Ms. Bragg.  Ms. Bragg is here to brief you on the Sahel region.  And after Ms. Bragg’s briefing, I will have a few further items, and of course will be happy to take a few questions.  Please, Ms. Bragg, the floor is yours.

[Press conference by Ms. Bragg is issued separately.]

So, I have a couple of other items, and then I can take some questions.

**Secretary-General at KPMG Summit

This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the KPMG Summit on the Business Perspective for Sustainable Growth.  In his speech to business leaders, the Secretary-General said that we need corporate sustainability to be in the DNA of business culture and operations.  At Rio+20 later this year in Brazil, business and investors have a true opportunity to show leadership.  And the full text of his speech is available online.

**Security Council — Haiti

The Security Council met with Haitian Parliamentarians this morning in Port-au-Prince.  The members of the Council then received a briefing on military activities at Fort National from the Force Commander of the UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

They are now travelling to Miragoane, where they will meet with UN Police and see their work with the Haitian National Police.  Council members will then travel to Leogane, where they will visit a project by the UN’s Mission engineering peacekeepers and meet with officials.  The Security Council delegation is scheduled to meet with President Martelly later today in Port-au-Prince.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General leaves tonight for a visit to Vienna.  As we announced last week, the Secretary-General will address the opening session of the Third Ministerial Conference of the Paris Pact Partners on Combating the Afghan Illicit Opiate Trade.  He will also hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines of that event.

The Secretary-General will attend a ceremony to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.  He will also give an address at the Hofburg Palace on the theme “Empowering People in a Changing World”.  And while he’s in the Austrian capital, the Secretary-General will meet with President Heinz Fischer and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger.  And the Secretary-General is due back in New York on Friday.

** Israel Bombs

I was asked yesterday about attacks on Israeli diplomatic workers in India and Georgia.  You may have seen that we issued a note to correspondents on this yesterday evening.  In that note, I said that the Secretary-General recalled his condemnation of attacks against diplomatic personnel and premises wherever they take place.  He called on the host authorities to investigate these incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., here in this auditorium, there will be a press conference by the NGO Paz y Cooperación on the launch of their annual Peace and Cooperation School Award for 2012.  And this event is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Spain to the United Nations.

And then at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference on the African Diaspora Parliamentarians Preparatory Meeting, which is to be held in June of this year in South Africa.  Speakers will include Moussa Idriss Ndélé, President of the Pan-African Parliament, and Jean Victor Nkolo of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa.

That’s it.  Questions? 

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure.  Martin, I want to ask you, yesterday when High Commissioner Navi Pillay did a stakeout about Syria, I asked her about this case of Shavendra Silva, the Sri Lankan general, senior adviser on peacekeeping, as in Ban Ki-moon’s report on Sri Lanka and his division committing war crimes according to the report.  She said it’s, this is what her quote and I wanted to ask you about it, she said, you know, that’s a matter of concern; the United States, the United Nations has very clear policies on vetting.  We keep a list of individuals suspect… who are suspected of committing human rights violations and I have addressed a letter of concern to the Secretary-General about this individual.  So, I wanted to know, one, can you confirm getting this letter?  Two, what is the… what’s the response to the idea she is saying that they have a list of, for example, people that can’t serve in peacekeeping due… or shouldn’t serve in peacekeeping due to their past record and apparently this individual was on that list.  What’s the difference between the Asia group… the… him emerging from the Asian group as an adviser on peacekeeping or him being submitted by a country to be a peacekeeper in terms of actually blocking him from service?

Spokesperson:  First of all, yes a letter was received, that is correct.  And secondly, I have said many times, Matthew, that this is a matter for Member States.

Question:  That’s why I asked the question.  I am sorry to keep going on that way, but it seems to be the policy of the UN that if a Member State submits an individual who has a track record or allegations of war crimes in his own country — this happened once with Nepal, I remember this — the individual was rejected by DPKO, and DPKO uses its powers to say to the country we can’t accept this individual.  What’s the difference here?  Isn’t it worse to have actually somebody advising on the entire peacekeeping endeavour and not just serving in one mission?  What’s the difference?

Spokesperson:  There is a General Assembly resolution that sets out what needs to be done in setting up this advisory group, and that’s what happened.  I think you need to speak to the Asia group.  Other questions, please?  Other questions?

Question:  Sure, yeah, absolutely.

Spokesperson:  I am sure you have them, so why don’t you ask a couple?

Question:  Sure, sure.  One is about this bombing, reported bombing in Jao by Sudan, you know, I know there was a UN statement about this non-aggression or this agreement between Sudan and South Sudan.  South Sudan now says the agreement has already been violated by bombing from Antonov aircrafts, and I wondered whether either UNMISS or Mr. Menkerios are aware of this, can confirm it and what they say about it.

Spokesperson:  We are aware of the reports, and we are looking into them.  Yes?

Question:  On the bombings of Israeli embassies, has Israel given the SG any proof that it was… that Iran was behind it, as it alleges?

Spokesperson:  I am not aware of any contact between the Israeli authorities and the UN on this matter.  The Secretary-General has simply expressed his condemnation about what happened.  Yes?

Question:  The question that I asked Ms. Bragg about, this call that the Turkish Foreign Minister said he had with Ban Ki-moon, with the Secretary-General, on Sunday concerning humanitarian issues in Syria, is that… did it take place and what’s the UN’s sort of… it seemed to some to be, since Turkey has been back and forth about, you know, creating a humanitarian corridor or somehow having a kind of a, even a physical presence or some… what was discussed and what is [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Take a look at the readout we put out on this, Matthew.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  It mentions it.

Correspondent:  I know it mentions it, yeah.

Spokesperson:  No, you obviously don’t, because you just asked me if I could confirm whether the call took place.

Correspondent:  There isn’t much more detail, there isn’t much more detail.

Spokesperson:  It did take place.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  And it is in the statement.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Any other questions?

Question:  Were there any discussion of Turkey sending soldiers into Syria in this call?

Spokesperson:  I think that’s a little unlikely, Matthew.  The discussion was talking about humanitarian matters and what is unfolding in Syria in general.  That’s what the discussion was about.  Next question?

Question:  Sure.  And should the letter that’s now been leaked —Mr. Schulenburg’s letter to Lynn Pascoe asking the UN not to give in to what he called pressure by the Government of Sierra Leone to have him removed as SRSG — I know that you have said before it seems like… what’s the response to his letter?  Because it makes it look to some and he said in his own letter that it will look like the UN is simply giving in to host country’s displeasure with either criticism or even-handed treatment by an SRSG.  Is it in fact a letter that Schulenburg sent to Pascoe and what is the Secretary-General’s response to the idea of some that he sold out an SRSG?

Spokesperson:  First of all, we put out a statement, as you will have seen, I don’t have anything to add to that, except to say that we don’t comment on leaked internal communications.

Other questions, please?  Okay, have a good afternoon.  Thanks very much.  Thank you.

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