|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.
Yesterday, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan issued a statement saying it was shocked and saddened by the tragic incident in Kandahar that reportedly resulted in the loss of civilian lives, including of women and children.
The statement said the Mission expected that an investigation will rapidly establish the facts, that those responsible will be held accountable and that the public will be fully informed. The Mission expressed its deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives, and wishes a speedy recovery to those wounded.
Separately, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Michael Keating, issued a statement on Friday expressing sympathy to the families of 50 Afghans who died and four who were injured as a result of an avalanche that occurred on 4 March in Dispay village in Badakhshan province, on the Tajikistan border.
The humanitarian community, including the Afghan National Disaster Management Authority, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, are focusing on the search for 145 villagers who remain missing and are presumed dead.
This morning at the Security Council meeting on changes in the Middle East, the Secretary-General noted that people across the region — women and youth in the vanguard — continue to call for freedom, human rights, dignity, opportunity, accountable Government and an end to corruption.
He added his voice to that of the Joint UN-League of Arab States Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, in urging President Assad to act swiftly, within the next few days, in response to proposals put forward by the Joint Special Envoy.
On the Middle East peace process, the Secretary-General said we must create the conditions for meaningful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians that will resolve the core permanent status issues and end the occupation that started in 1967. The Council also adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) for 12 months.
** Syria - Human Rights Council
This morning, Paulo Pinheiro, the Chairperson of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, delivered his second report to the Human Rights Council. In his statement, he noted that civilians continue to bear the brunt of the violence. More than 500 children have been killed since March of last year and the toll is mounting.
The Chairperson said the reliable body of evidence from the Commission’s investigations indicates that particular individuals may reasonably be suspected of bearing responsibility for international crimes.
The Commission is not a judicial body and cannot make final determination as to criminal guilt. However, the findings may assist future independent and credible investigations by competent authorities. And the full report can be found online.
As you know, the Middle East Quartet held informal consultations this morning to assess developments since its statement of 23 September of last year.
The Quartet principals remain committed to the overall objectives of the statement. In this regard, they welcome the important effort led by Jordan, which began in early January, as part of the shared commitment to reach a negotiated agreement by the end of this year.
The Quartet also discussed the grave situation in Gaza and southern Israel, expressed serious concern about the recent escalation and called for calm. The Quartet reiterated its call on the parties to remain engaged and to refrain from provocative actions. Finally, the Quartet decided to meet in Washington, D.C., in April.
The Government of the Republic of South Sudan is launching the process of civilian disarmament in Jonglei State today. The UN Mission in the country, UNMISS, says that it supports the principle of collecting weapons held illegally within communities. It adds that, without addressing this issue, the cycle of violence in Jonglei will never end.
But the Mission also stresses that the process will only be successful if it is carried out as part of a comprehensive approach to peace, justice and reconciliation, including protection of the communities by security forces. The Mission will have both its peacekeepers and civilian teams present in Jonglei State to monitor developments during the disarmament process.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative to South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, has urged the communities to work with the Peace Committee for Jonglei to bring an end to the violence.
**South Sudan — Children
And also on South Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, witnessed the signing of an action plan in Juba today which commits the Government to ensure there are no children within the ranks of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The plan also ensures the orderly release of children still associated with SPLA. A press release from her office is available on this.
**Economic and Social Council
This afternoon, the Secretary-General is scheduled to speak at a high-level meeting of the Economic and Social Council with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The Secretary-General is expected to say that declining prospects for economic growth, particularly in developed countries, are threatening the fragile recovery from the world financial and economic crisis. At the same time, there is little improvement in global labour markets. At this time of global uncertainty, by investing in people and clean technologies, we can create jobs and finance sustainable development.
**Press Conference Today
And at 1:20 this afternoon, Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator will be here, in this auditorium, to brief you on her recent trip to Syria.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sure, I want to ask a couple of things about the debate today, and then, Sudan, Afghanistan and Myanmar, if it’s possible. In this debate, Sergey Lavrov said that he would like to see the Secretary-General working on that issue of the… of NATO casualties in Libya under some UN-NATO memorandum of understanding of 2008. I wanted to know, one, if the Secretary-General yet, or your office yet, has a comment on the Independent Commission of Inquiry’s report on Libya and those casualties, and two, what the response is to Minister Lavrov’s request that the Secretary-General somehow work with NATO to review those?
Spokesperson: I don’t have anything on that just at the moment, but I would point out that the Secretary-General is meeting Minister Lavrov right now.
Spokesperson: And so it may be that this is addressed when we get to a readout a little bit later.
Question: Okay, great. And the other one is, if it’s possible, I mean I understand maybe in the run up it was more difficult, but is it possible to just, either from this podium or in some written fashion, get a list of the people that accompanied Kofi Annan on his mission to Syria? And also, there was a reference to him meeting businessmen and businesswomen, is there some, unless there is some reason that this be confidential, is there a… just a way to get through sort of the information of who went and who they met with?
Spokesperson: I can certainly try, Matthew.
Question: Okay. And then if you… I’ll try to… thanks a lot. You’d mentioned South Sudan, there was also this incident over the weekend where there is widely differing numbers on the number of casualties, some people say 200 dead, some people say 500 missing, what’s UNMISS’ readout on this most recent round of violence?
Spokesperson: Well, the UN Mission in South Sudan has confirmed the reports of attacks on 9 March on a number of Lou Nuer camps on the border area of South Sudan and Ethiopia. The Mission has sent teams to the area to investigate the circumstances of the clashes. At this stage, the Mission is not in a position to verify the facts in relation to these events or the number of casualties. So teams have been sent to look into this further.
Question: And the other, if you don’t mind, there are… when… when Vijay Nambiar was here giving his briefing on Myanmar, one of the things that he said is that he, while being in Myanmar, had negotiated some kind of agreement with the Government to get aid to the Kachin independence organization-held areas, that there, you know, with some detail, he said that they had agreed to go together to the border and if the Kachin only wanted the international aid and, I think there is some interest in knowing, have those trips actually taken place. Do you know?
Spokesperson: I don’t know the answer to that immediately, but I think I can find out.
Spokesperson: Certainly, if the Special Adviser on this has said that he is pushing for something, then I am sure that there will be follow-through, and I just need to check what that has been.
Question: Okay, that’s great. This is the last, I don’t know if you have a statement on this, but there was this pretty high-profile incident in Afghanistan in which a described rogue US serviceman killed many Afghan civilians, so I am just wondering, is there a UN statement? Maybe I missed it on my way running here, but is there a statement on that?
Spokesperson: The former rather than the latter — and possibly both in fact. As you were coming over, and I appreciate that it is a very busy day for everybody; I still have some announcements to make, so that’s why we went ahead with the briefing, and obviously always happy to take questions to the best of our abilities. To answer your question, I did indeed read out a statement that was issued by the Mission. It may be that we have something further to add this afternoon. But certainly I can already say at this point that the Secretary-General clearly echoes the sentiments expressed in the statement from the Mission that was issued yesterday. All right, Masood, a late arrival, but always welcome, what’s your question?
Question: I wanted to, I am sure you have already issued a statement, on this Pales… killing of 21 Palestinians by the Israeli planes. Did the Secretary-General already issue a statement on that?
Spokesperson: Well, two things. You will have seen what the Secretary-General said in the Council this morning.
Correspondent: Oh, yeah.
Spokesperson: And in addition, I would refer you to the Quartet remarks.
Question: Quartet, it says concerned.
Spokesperson: Well, that’s right. And the Secretary-General is part of the Quartet principals. And the Quartet discussed the grave situation in Gaza and southern Israel, expressed serious concerned about the recent escalation and called for calm. And the Quartet also reiterated its call on the parties to remain engaged and to refrain from provocative actions. So, that’s what we have at the moment. If there is anything further, I’ll let you know.
Question: Oh, I just wanted to know, because when I read that statement I just wanted to, I mean, figure out as to the 21 people were killed in Israeli strikes, one after another, and concern was shown more about the Palestinians who didn’t do anything.
Spokesperson: Well, I think you need to read the statement that has been issued here, and also I think you will probably have seen that the spokesperson for Special Coordinator for the Peace Process Robert Serry also was speaking over the weekend. I’d refer you to his comments too.
Question: One more thing, on Afghanistan?
Question: The situation that… that the… is there any… it seems that the Afghans are very upset and there is going to be another fallout from this incident that happened over the weekend, and that it may again escalate. Has the Secretary-General’s Representative said anything about what has happened there yet?
Spokesperson: Yes, he has indeed, Masood. The Mission in Afghanistan issued a statement yesterday which I read out at the start of the briefing. I fully understand that you were hot-footing it over from the Security Council, so no problem. And it may be that we have something further to add to that. But just to mention, as I said to Matthew, that I can say at this stage that the Secretary-General would clearly echo the sentiments expressed in the statement from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Question: One question on posts, just because I have heard that… wondering if… whether there is… in the past, the least developed country post was held by the same individual as the Special Adviser on Africa. So, now that it was announced that Maged Abdelaziz will be the Special Adviser on Africa, does that mean… is that… is the other post now open, or will it be open and filled by a separate individual, or is he covering both?
Spokesperson: I don’t know the answer to that. I think I can guess what it is, but let me check on it. All right, thanks. Have a good afternoon, thank you.
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