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

17 February 2012

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

17 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the noon briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General wrapped up his visit to Vienna today.  Before leaving the Austrian capital, he attended a ceremony commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

In his remarks, the Secretary-General stressed that nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are not utopian ideals, but are critical to global peace and security.  He added that we have a legal and moral obligation to rid our world of nuclear tests and nuclear weapons.

Regarding the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, he noted that it is irresponsible to see this Treaty still waiting to come into effect 15 years after it was opened for signature.  The Secretary-General is now on his way back to New York.

**Trip Announcement

The Secretary-General will depart New York next week for a trip that will take him to the United Kingdom, Zambia and Angola.  In the United Kingdom, he will attend the London Conference on Somalia and will also hold a number of bilateral meetings.

The Secretary-General will then travel to Zambia, where he will meet with President Michael Sata and other senior officials.  He will address the National Assembly in a special session and hold an interactive dialogue with its leadership and representatives from selected parliamentary bodies.

He will visit a UN-supported initiative that uses life skills and sports to reach and inspire vulnerable children, including children who live on the street.  Together with Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Secretary-General will visit the Olympic Youth Development Centre, a pilot project of IOC within its “Sports for Hope” Programme.

While in Zambia, the Secretary-General will dialogue with human rights clubs hosted by schools in the city of Livingstone, before participating in a “tourism for development” event at Victoria Falls Park.

The last stop on his trip will be Angola, where he will meet with President José Eduardo dos Santos; the President of the National Assembly, Antonio Paulo Kassoma; Foreign Minister Georges Rebelo Chikoti; and other top officials.

The Secretary-General will also attend the launch of a polio vaccination campaign, and meet with young people at a project on water and sanitation.  He will return to New York on Tuesday, 28 February.

**Statement on Libya

We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the one year anniversary of the revolution in Libya:

Today, Libyans are within reach of a democratic future which one year ago seemed only a distant dream.  In the year ahead, the United Nations stands ready to lend its utmost support to Libyan efforts in the transitional period, particularly to the election of a National Congress and the subsequent process of constitution-making.  The Secretary-General urges all Libyans to stand together in a spirit of reconciliation; to insist that a revolution in the name of human rights must not be tarnished by abuses, but must bring about justice through rule of law; and to ensure that women, youth and civil society as a whole are encouraged to play their full part in the development of transparent, inclusive and accountable institutions.  The transition to democracy is a period of great challenges, but it is also a time of opportunities to build a new Libya that honours the sacrifices of its people in their struggle for freedom.

**Statement on Syria

A statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Syria:

As Syria's crisis has deepened, bringing escalating violence and suffering to the Syrian people, it is critical for the world to speak with one voice to put an end to the bloodshed and to exert maximum efforts to resolve this crisis peacefully.  Yesterday, the General Assembly did so by indicating a way through the resolution towards a political solution and a peaceful future in Syria, with democracy, human rights and dignity for all of the Syrian people.  The Secretary-General welcomes this much awaited message, and calls on the Syrian authorities to heed the call of the international community and the voice of the Syrian people.

The Secretary-General joins the General Assembly in calling on the Syrian Government to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against its citizens, and to fully comply with its obligations under international law.  The Syrian authorities must allow immediate, full and unhindered humanitarian access to those in need.  The Secretary-General calls on all sides in Syria, including armed groups, to immediately stop all acts of violence. 

Yesterday, the General Assembly expressed its support for the plan of the League of Arab States to facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system.  This process must respect the will and the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.

The Secretary-General is prepared to carry out his responsibilities, as mandated by the resolution, and will work closely with the Arab League and others in the international community to find a peaceful and durable solution which will bring the crisis to an end.

**Bombings of Israeli Missions

Following questions by members of the media, we have the following to say on the bombing of Israeli diplomatic missions in India and Georgia:

On 13 February, the Spokesperson issued a note to correspondents, and read it at the noon briefing on 14 February.  This, of course, underscores the Secretary-General’s strong and outright condemnation of the attacks, and was sent out to correspondents on the very day of the attacks.

**Myanmar

The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, concluded his five-day visit today.  While in the country, he met with President Thein Sein and other senior officials.  He also met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as with civil society, ethnic and business representatives.

One year after the formation of the new Government and the launch of political and economic reforms under the leadership of President Thein Sein, the changes currently under way in Myanmar have attained an unprecedented level of initiative.  The Special Adviser strongly commends the President and the Myanmar authorities for their determination and commitment to move the country forward in a way that meets the needs and aspirations of the peoples of Myanmar.

The Special Adviser also welcomes the Government’s recognition of the value of partnership with the United Nations to help Myanmar meet the challenges and opportunities before it.  The good offices of the United Nations are ready to work with all stakeholders in this important task.  The Special Adviser also feels that the international community must respond more robustly to the needs of the Myanmar people by lifting current restrictions on UN programmes.  Now is the time to step up support and to adjust existing policies in order to help build conditions for sustaining the reform and for the betterment of Myanmar’s peoples.  There is more information online and in our office.

**Economic Community of West African States

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, has congratulated President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire on his election as the new President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Authority.  Mr. Djinnit pledged the United Nations continued support to the newly elected ECOWAS Authority and paid tribute to the dedication and achievements of the outgoing team.  He also expressed hope that the cooperation and partnership between the United Nations and ECOWAS will intensify in the months and years ahead.  There is more information available in our office.

**Security Council

The Security Council returned from Haiti last night and met this morning.  The Council adopted a resolution on Sudan this morning extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts to 17 February 2013, and noting that the situation in Darfur continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region.

It requests the Panel to assess progress towards reducing violence by all parties. The resolution expresses the Council’s intention to impose targeted sanctions against individuals and entities that commit violence against civilians and impede the peace process.  It also expressed its concerns that the travel ban and asset freeze imposed on designated individuals is not being implemented by all Member States. 

That’s all I have.  Over to you.  Mr. Abbadi?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  This morning, I have a question of a different sort.  I forgot my pass so I went to the Security Office and obtained a day pass to come in.  But when I tried to enter the building at 42nd Street, a young officer by the name of Shadvac did not let me in.  He said I had to go through the visitors’ area and go through the machines.  I explained that I had a strong pain in my shoulder as a result of recent fall, that it was hard for me to take off and on my coat.  He did not want to hear that.  I also explained that I was a resident correspondent with a resident correspondent pass.  He did not know what that meant.  I asked him if he could call the Security Office and/or the media office, he refused to do that.  As a result, I had to go through a very painful experience.  Now, I would like you to take this case with security services.  And I have these questions.  Couldn’t this painful experience have been avoided?  Two, shouldn’t Security Officers know what a resident correspondent pass is?  And third, is it absolutely necessary for a correspondent, for a resident correspondent, to go through this experience that I just relayed?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I am sorry that you had to go through this, Mr. Abbadi.  We will check with the Security Office to find out what the policy is and hopefully get back to you with a reply.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I’ve got… I want to ask you about the Congo and then Sri Lanka, or the… this peacekeeping.  In the Congo, there was… there have been a number of arrests of religious leaders who are protesting what they consider fraudulent election in… where the UN has this peacekeeping operation.  So I am wondering, what’s the response of MONUSCO?  Mr. Meece, what’s the response to the arrest of religious leaders saying that the election was fraudulent and being arrested for that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, MONUSCO was informed by sources in the Catholic Church that three priests, two nuns and one civil society activist were arrested by the Congolese National Police.  MONUSCO has intervened for their release, and three of them, two priests and a civil society activist, were released yesterday evening by the authorities.  MONUSCO is seeking confirmation of the arrest and location of the three individuals.  The Mission will also verify the real reports of violence allegedly committed by the police.

Question:  Okay.  I am hoping you will have a similar answer to this question.  The question concerns the selection of Shavendra Silva, the Sri Lankan General in Ban Ki-moon’s report whose division was accused of war crimes, as a senior adviser on peacekeeping.  I understand that a number of ambassadors met this morning with UN peacekeeping; Ladsous and Malcorra.  This is what they say, Ambassador Rice of the US has said that she is concerned about this individual and has expressed that to the Secretariat.  So now I am wondering, what do you say?  What do you say?  You said it is up to Member States.  The Member States, at least four of them, are now on the record as saying he is inappropriate, and so where does it stand with the Secretariat?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I said, it is a question for Member States.  I have no information on the meetings.  You may want to speak with DPKO and see if they have anything to add.

Question:  [inaudible] Malcorra and Ladsous on it, but I am…, I guess I am wondering, what… it’s… they say they spoke to the Secretariat, so I’d like from your office, since you represent the Secretary-General, to have an answer on where… was Ban Ki-moon’s office informed of this opposition to Mr. Silva from the Member States that I have named?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, as I said…

Correspondent:  [inaudible], India, Pakistan, US.

Deputy Spokesperson:  As I said, I have no information on any meeting having taken place, but you may want to check with Kieran Dwyer in DPKO and see if he has anything for you.

Question:  [inaudible] and a follow-up question.  It says the US chief of intelligence, James Clapper, has acknowledged that there are Al-Qaida terrorists with the opposition in Syria.  And funding support being given to the opposition is actually also funding terrorists.  And in the resolution adopted yesterday, there was absolutely no concern voiced about this, and this is extremely serious.  And the reason why I am mentioning this is because Amnesty International just described these so-called freedom fighters in Libya last year are now torturing people on a system-wide scale.  And they say that the Government shows no political will or interest in stopping this.  So what actually was accomplished by the intervention in Libya, because if you have got militias who are basically criminals, torturing people willy-nilly, this is very serious?  And is this situation going to repeat in Syria?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, a number of things you have raised.  Number one, I have no information about who is funding or who is doing what with the Syrian opposition.  Number two, the resolution that was introduced yesterday was done in the General Assembly, and that’s a question for Member States.  The Secretary-General has welcomed the resolution in the sense that it calls for an end to violence and killing, which is exactly what the Secretary-General has been calling for all these months, an end to all the violence and all the killing regardless of what quarter it comes from.  The ongoing situation obviously has a destabilizing effect on Syria, and I have no information to agree with what you have said, but obviously in a destabilized situation, different people can try and take advantage of it.

With respect to Libya, you have to recall that Libya is a country that had no history of democratic institutions and no democratic institutions to begin with.  So the people of Libya, the Government of Libya, is struggling and working hard to try and create democratic institutions, try to take the groups of militias and organize them, try and disarm them.  The United Nations is working very closely with the Government in any way they can, and in any way the Government feels appropriate to help them through this process.  But as Martin Nesirky, the Spokesperson, has said here, these processes can take a long time and they are not completely linear.  You can go forward, backwards, you can have problems, you have challenges and these things have to be met on a case-by-case basis.

Question:  But why wasn’t that outcome considered before the 1973 resolution was passed, the fact that people who had no experience with democracy could end up being a bunch of criminal thugs taking over the country?  And the country doesn’t seem to be in any better shape now than it was under Qadhafi.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the 1973 resolution was aimed at protecting civilian populations from the oppression from the Government.  That was a Member State decision, United Nations Security Council; that was implemented through a mandate from the Security Council.

Question:  Thank you.  It’s a… I am talking about the mandate of Daniel Bellemare, the Prosecutor for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.  His mandate is taking… it will be ending on 29 February.  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was in the process of replacing him.  Do you have any update on that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, the Secretary-General’s process of decision-making continues, and when we have something to announce, we will announce it.

Question:  And what is it about the extension of the mandate?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Exactly the same answer.

Question:  Same?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Same answer, yes.  Sir?

Question:  Thank you, sir.  Getting back to peacekeeping, the Nigerian Government issued a statement, a public statement, yesterday about the… what they called the harsh disposition and treatment of the Sudanese Government regarding its troops.  The Nigerian Defence Minister specifically said that the Sudanese Government prevented its Chief of Army Staff, General Ihejirika, from meeting with the troops.  In addition, the Defence Minister also said that the Sudanese Government had been preventing the Nigerian Government from maintaining supply lines to its troops.  The Nigerian Government is expressing bitterness and saying that this could escalate the situation not only in Sudan, but can also affect the impartial nature of the UN peacekeeping mission.  I’d like to know whether this is something that the Secretary-General is aware of, and what would be his comments if he were to be aware of them?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is aware of the complex situation in Sudan and of the challenges facing peacekeeping troops.  I’ll have to check on the specifics of what you have said, though.  Matthew?

Question:  Yeah, I wanted to… yesterday, after the General Assembly vote, the Egyptian Deputy Permanent Representative was asked about this idea of a joint envoy or an envoy to Syria, and he said that there will, you know, soon be an Arab League envoy, and very probably would be a joint envoy with the UN, so I take it to mean further communications between the Arab League and the Secretary-General.  Where do things stand in terms of him… does he feel, based on the GA resolution which calls for a… a… a… such an envoy, that he can go forward, and what steps is he taking to name a joint envoy?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, he would have to, first of all, receive a message from the League of Arab States proposing, and then that would have to be considered.  Obviously, he would have to consult with Member States as to the exact course of action he would take.

Correspondent:  At a stakeout here, he said that he’d already spoken with Mr. Elaraby about an envoy…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, he has spoken with Mr. Elaraby…

Correspondent:  Sure.

Deputy Spokesperson:  …on many occasions.  But the question is processes that have to take place, and we have to receive a formal request and then the Secretary-General has to consult the Member States on it.

Correspondent:  Okay, thanks.  And I… just, this is something of a formal request.  On this issue of Silva, simple, of General Silva, and being an adviser to Ban Ki-moon, since I have been asking three weeks about it here, I would appreciate it if you as your office and since Ban Ki-moon was… was advised by his own Human Rights Commissioner that this was a matter of concern that made the UN look bad to get some answer, not from DPKO, but from your office, on the communications by those three count… by those four countries and the response is.

Deputy Spokesperson:  We will take a look and see, Matthew, okay?  Thank you so much.  Have a good and safe long weekend.

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