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

29 February 2012

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

29 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.

Good afternoon everybody.  Welcome to the Briefing.


The African Union-UN Mission in Darfur, UNAMID, has just informed us that that a patrol moving from Nyala to Shaeria in South Darfur was ambushed at Baraka village.  Initial reports indicate three peacekeepers were wounded and one was killed.  We will provide more details as soon as they are available.

**Syria Envoy

This evening, the Secretary-General will meet with the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan.  And they will speak to reporters at the 2nd floor stakeout position in the North Lawn Building here at United Nations Headquarters at approximately 7:15 p.m.

**Syria — Humanitarian

This morning, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, issued a statement expressing her deep disappointment that she has not been able to visit Syria, despite her repeated requests to meet Syrian officials at the highest level to discuss the humanitarian situation and the need for unhindered access to the people affected by the violence.

She noted that every day that we are not able to reach people, especially in the towns where there is heavy fighting, prolongs their suffering.  She reiterated that the United Nations and its partners stand ready to help humanitarian aid reach people in desperate need in Syria.

**Security Council

This morning, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Ian Martin, briefed the Security Council by video conference.  Mr. Martin noted that the new Government faces tremendous challenges and a heavy legacy from the former regime, but that the Libyan people are eager to move forward with the transition to democracy, and their most central expectation of the United Nations is that we will continue to support them in doing so.

He said that, after consultations with the Mission, the Government had issued a directive that torture and mistreatment of detainees was forbidden and allegations would be investigated.

This morning the Security Council also adopted a resolution calling on international partners to provide support to regional States and organizations to enhance their capacity to counter piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

**Secretary-General’s Appointments

The Secretary-General has decided to appoint Judge Theodor Meron of the United States as President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (the Mechanism), for a period of four years, effective from 1 March of this year.  The Secretary-General also welcomes the decision of the Security Council this morning to appoint Hassan Bubacar Jallow of the Gambia as Prosecutor of the Mechanism.  The Mechanism was established by Security Council resolution 1966 (2010) to carry out a number of essential functions after closure of both the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.  And we have more information on these appointments in my office.

Separately, the Secretary-General has appointed Norman Farrell of Canada as the Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.  Mr. Farrell is currently the Deputy Prosecutor of the ICTY, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  He replaces Daniel Bellemare, who has completed his term of office.  The Secretary-General takes this opportunity to thank Mr. Bellemare for his leadership in advancing the work of the Special Tribunal.

And similarly, the Secretary-General has appointed Judge Daniel David Ntanda Nsereko of Uganda as an international judge of the Appeals Chamber of the Special Tribunal.  Judge Nsereko is currently a judge in the Appeals Division of the International Criminal Court.  He replaces the late Judge Antonio Cassese, who was also the former President of the Special Tribunal.  The Secretary-General again pays tribute to Judge Cassese's service to international law and the United Nations at large.

In announcing these appointments, the Secretary-General once again reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to the efforts of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to uncover the truth regarding the terrorist attack that took the lives of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others, as well as other connected attacks, so as to bring those responsible to justice and send a message that impunity will not be tolerated.  The full statement is available in my office.


In response to a question my office was asked regarding fighting in Darfur, the African Union-UN mission there informs us that it conducted a patrol yesterday to verify alleged attacks on the Aluwana and Um sidera villages in North Darfur.  The local population in the area indicated that on 22 February there were clashes between Sudanese Liberation Army/Minni Minnawi and the Popular Defence Forces (PDF) which resulted in six of the combatants being killed and two others wounded.

The mission and humanitarian agencies on the ground reported the arrival of approximately 200 individuals from the affected area to ZamZam IDP camp, but the precise number is yet to be verified.

That’s what I have for you.  Questions, please.  Yes, Masood, then Tim.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yeah, Martin, yesterday, I had asked Eduardo about this report that Saudi Arabia is directly aiding some… I mean dissident groups within Syria.  Has there been any reaction and what is the Secretary-General’s reaction to that?

Spokesperson:  I saw that you asked yesterday, and I don’t have anything further on that at this point.  Right.

Question:  Nothing as yet?  And what about Iran?  Anything on Iran and that Israel has again renewed its pledge to… I mean, renewed its threat to attack [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think our position on this is extremely well known at this point, Masood.  It is for the Iranian authorities to prove to the satisfaction of the international community that their nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.  And, of course, as the Secretary-General has repeatedly said, it is for the international community to engage with Iran to seek a peaceful outcome to this.  Of course, as you know, there are reports that the P5+1 — the permanent five members of the Security Council plus Germany — may be about to resume some kind of talks with the Iranian authorities.  We obviously are waiting to hear more details on that.  But this would of course be something that would help to reduce tensions and to move in the direction that I was just mentioning.  Tim?

Question:  Do you have any details on Mr. Annan’s movements after New York?  Is he going to go the region?  And also, will Ms. Amos be making a new application to the Syrian Government?

Spokesperson:  A couple of things.  Both the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy, Kofi Annan, will be speaking to reporters after they meet this evening.  So I think let’s wait and see.  But you will have seen that Mr. Annan did issue a statement before he left for Geneva in which he said that he would be coming to New York, going to Cairo, and then to other countries in the region.  So let’s just wait and see what comes out this evening.  But just to come back to Ms. Amos, I think we need to be very clear that the Syrians have delayed making a decision several times.  They have not so far refused entry, but they have not agreed on a date.  Ms. Amos has been extremely flexible, she has been in the region for the past few days and she is still ready to go at a moment’s notice.  Ms. Amos believes that this was an opportunity for the Syrian Government to prove that it really cares for its people.  So just to reiterate, the Syrians have delayed making a decision several times, but they have not actually refused so far to allow entry.  It is just that we do not have an agreed date at this point.

Question:  So is it [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, they have said that they are going to make a decision, and they have not yet said no.  But, so far, there is no green light. 

Question:  Just a follow-up please?

Spokesperson:  Yes, of course, Matthew.

Question:  Just now in front of the Security Council, a Syrian diplomat said that in fact what they asked… I mean, I don’t know if it is true or not, so I am asking you to respond, that they asked for specifics, i.e., where she would go, you know, her goals.  And they claimed that she didn’t get back to them, but issued a statement.  So I don’t, again, I don’t know, but that is what they are saying, and relatedly, the spokesperson for the Syrian Foreign Ministry has said that they have asked the Secretary-General for details of Mr. Annan’s mandate and goals and they expect, quote, “from their point of view, a letter to that effect”.  Is that… can you respond to it?  One, is it the case that Amos was asked for information that she didn’t provide to Syria…?

Spokesperson:  Ms. Amos.

Question:  Ms. Amos, I’m sorry.  That Ms. Amos was asked for information that she didn’t provide, as they say, and does Ban Ki-moon intend to write a letter to Syria explaining the precise, or you know, explaining something about the goals of Mr. Annan?

Spokesperson:  Well, on the first, on Ms. Amos’s attempts, repeated attempts to visit Syria, there has been a lot of discussion — I am not going to go into the details of the discussions that have been held — but it is obvious, it is obvious that this is a mission that was given to Ms. Amos by the Secretary-General, getting on for a week ago now.  And it is obvious what the key purpose is — and it says it again in the statement — to meet Syrian officials at the highest level to discuss the humanitarian situation and the need for unhindered access to the people affected by the violence.  And this is something that is self-evident, but has also been discussed at length with the authorities.

Question:  But if you… I guess I am just asking for a direct response.  They say that they asked for information from Ms. Amos, and that she did not provide it before issuing a statement.  Is that the case or not?

Spokesperson:  I will need to check categorically.  But, I cannot imagine that Ms. Amos has not been in touch with the authorities to provide the information that they require.  And let’s be clear, this is… the Secretary-General instructed Ms. Amos, and Ms. Amos was extremely willing and ready to go, and went immediately, and has been in the region ready to go at a moment’s notice.  And that remains the case.

Question:  Well, what about this quote from the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry?

Spokesperson:  I have seen what the Foreign Ministry spokesman said, Matthew, and as I have also just said, the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy — the Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States — will be meeting this afternoon.  That’s their first meeting.  They have obviously spoken on the telephone, but this is their first meeting since that appointment.  I think they will be discussing various aspects, and I am sure that they will have taken note of what the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.  Yes, and then Anne?

Question:  [inaudible] ago there was a meeting at the Economic and Social Council and the meeting was opened by a young woman from Senegal who was talking about entrepreneurship and the meeting dealt with the crisis, inadequate jobs and the number of unemployed.  The young woman very aggressively said, well, as an entrepreneur, if I can’t fire, I will not hire.  Now, Ms. Barrows,who was the head of, I believe, an international trade union organization was pretty horrified —she was one of the speakers — she was pretty horrified by the implications of what this young woman was saying, and actually the young woman was attacking ILO [International Labour Organization] and the United Nations for getting into worker protections.  A number of diplomats were actually frightened…

Spokesperson:  What’s your question?

Question:  The question is, is the UN changing its position on worker protections and abandoning a lot of its basically core values to this public-private… onslaught, for want of a milder word?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think it is fairly obvious that the United Nations has long-standing commitments and long-standing values that attach a high priority to the importance of protecting the rights of workers.  That is the first thing.  The second thing is that, in protecting the rights of workers, it is not mutually incompatible, it is not necessarily a contradiction to have partnerships with business.  You will see in many parts of the world there are highly successful examples of workers working with business for the betterment of their own future, and also of the business that they are working for.  So these two notions are not mutually exclusive by any means.  Yes?

Question:  The 23 February edition of The New York Times reported that there was an assassination attempt against the president of Abkhazia, which was described as a Russian-backed rebel enclave of Georgia, and reference was made to another Georgia enclave, South Ossetia.  Did the Secretary-General receive any report on this incident?  And are there any progress reports from the Special Representative on Georgia, Antti Turunen, who is working with the European Union, the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] and others?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, on the latter part of your question, there are the Geneva international discussions.  When those discussions take place there is usually a statement issued at the end.  And I would refer you to those statements.  On the first, I will check whether there has been any reporting on that that has reached the Secretary-General’s desk.  I am not aware of that.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I am going to ask about [inaudible].  On Sudan, there is a briefing that… I mean, this afternoon, of the Council.  I am told it is about this Jao, the incident on the…incidents on the border of Sudan and South Sudan.  Remember I had asked about this fighting, and your deputy, Mr. Del Buey, said:  “We don’t have access to Jao, so we can’t verify that.”  So I wonder, who is going to be doing the briefing of the Council about Jao, and if you don’t have access, what is going to be the basis of the information?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Security Council has asked for a briefing on this topic, and obviously a briefing will be given.  I believe it will be given by Mr. Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.  It is also true that we do not have direct access.  But that does not mean that you cannot provide a report to the best of your ability, given that the Security Council has asked for one.

Question:  Do you think Mr. Ladsous will speak to the press after his, after he briefs the Council on this [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  I think you’d have to ask Kieran, yeah.

Question:  And could I, also, on Ms. Fréchette, I’d wanted to ask you this, in this controversy around the senior advisory group on peacekeeping operations and her decision that Mr… that General Silva, you know, would not participate or that it would be inappropriate.  About five days ago, I tried to, I wanted to know this:  What is her status with the UN?  Is she… one, was she appointed by the Secretary-General, and if so, does he support her decision?  Is she paid by the UN?  Does she have… where is her staff?  Does she have… how does one ask her a question?  Are we, Kieran sent something out saying that she doesn’t have a spokesperson, but how… what… what is… it seems like a strange status within the UN system.  Does she… is she… where is she, and does the Secretary-General support her as he supported other people that he has appointed, like Mr. Gambari and others?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, Matthew, I don’t have the faintest idea where Ms. Fréchette is, I don’t keep tabs on every individual who works for or with the United Nations.  The second point is that Eduardo has said here that he has taken note, the Secretary-General has taken note of the statement that was made, but that the bottom line remains the same, that this was a Member States decision.  And I don’t have anything further to add at the moment.  If that changes, I will let you know.

Question:  [inaudible] he is… she was his appointee to chair, to the senior advisory group?  I just want to make…

Spokesperson:  I believe so. 

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  But that doesn’t take away from what I have just said that the nomination of Mr. Silva to this group was a decision by the Asian group.  I don’t have anything further on this matter.

Question:  Can you just on this… on… because it is almost routine…

Spokesperson:  I said I don’t have anything further on it at the moment.  If I do, then I will let you know.  Yeah.  Yes, Stefano?

Question:  Yes, yesterday, here was a press conference and then a big concert in the General Assembly on female genital mutilation to try to make the world aware and especially on pushing a resolution to arrive at the General Assembly.  And my question is the reaction of this [inaudible], to this new pushing through, trying to arrive to a resolution, and if he is trying to do something about it, if he is helping, somehow, in this effort.

Spokesperson:  Well, plainly resolutions are for the Member States of the General Assembly to take and to put on the table.  The Secretary-General has spoken out before on a number of occasions about this practice, and the need to end it.  And he is of course supportive of efforts to end this practice which has maimed and mutilated so many girls and women in different parts of the world.  So just to reiterate that a resolution of course is in the hands of the Member States.  Yeah.

Question:  On this, the President of Israel, Mr. Peres, is in town.  Is the Secretary-General, is he going to be meeting the Secretary-General?  Do you have any…?

Spokesperson:  I am not aware of that at the moment.  But, if such a meeting is arranged, then of course, we will let you know.  But I am not aware of one at the moment.  Any others?  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Although I mean, I understand that the Secretary-General would be meeting with Mr. Annan this afternoon or this evening, but on the questions… is he going to be… it is… is it a jointly UN-Arab League funded mission?  Is it… I had asked the same thing about five days ago.  Is he going to be… is it funded by the UN… questions like that, is that… has that been decided yet or is that to be decided today?

Spokesperson:  I think the precise mechanics of how this is going to work are being worked out with the League of Arab States and obviously with the United Nations working together on this.  I think there is a really important point here; the mechanics are of course something that need to be nailed down.  And some of the details, of course, will be made known.  But, the key point is to get on with this as quickly as possible, and for Mr. Annan to be able to get out there, to get on the road and to try to make a difference; a difference which we believe that he can make given his long experience and the gravitas that he brings to this position.

Question:  No, sure, absolutely, I just… the… the… this… the question of sort of who pays who if… when it is known if it can be announced…

Spokesperson:  [inaudible] and I think I did answer you.

Question:  Say again?

Spokesperson:  I heard what you said, and I did answer you.  Okay.

Question:  [inaudible] who is been paying?

Spokesperson:  I said… Sometimes I think you don’t actually listen to what I say, Matthew. 

Question:  No, you said I answered it.  I know, my question is who is going to pay and I…

Spokesperson:  And I answered you, to say some of the details are being worked out.

Correspondent:  Fine, okay.

Spokesperson:  Thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.

* *** *

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