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

16 March 2012

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

16 March 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 everyone.  Welcome to the briefing.

** Afghanistan

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the helicopter crash in Kabul.

The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the news of the helicopter crash on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul, which claimed the lives of over a dozen Turkish soldiers and Afghan civilians.

The Secretary-General wishes to convey his profound sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims and expresses his condolences to the Governments of Afghanistan and Turkey.

**Security Council

As you all know, this morning, the United Nations-League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan, briefed the Security Council on his mission to Syria in closed session.  You will also be aware that Mr. Annan just briefed reporters in Geneva.  You will be able to see that on the United Nations website as a webcast and also we will have a transcript as soon as possible.

**Global Sustainability

This morning, the Secretary-General presented the report of his High-level Panel on Global Sustainability entitled “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing”.  The report sets out a vision for sustainable growth and prosperity and how those can be achieved.  The aim is to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality while combating climate change.  The report makes 56 recommendations on how to implement this vision.  The Secretary-General encouraged Governments to closely examine the recommendations.

**Press Conference

Today at 12:30, there will be a press conference by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on OIC-United Nations cooperation.  And speakers will include the Secretary General of the OIC, Ambassador Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu.

**Eritrea-Ethiopia

I was asked yesterday about the United Nations reaction to events in Eritrea.  Following Ethiopia’s attack yesterday on military bases in Eritrea, the Secretary-General has urged both sides to exercise maximum restraint.  He calls on Ethiopia and Eritrea to resolve their differences through peaceful means and to avoid any action that could lead to an escalation of tensions.  The Secretary-General also urges both parties to respect each other's territorial integrity.

Questions, please?  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Ambassador Ron Prosor of Israel has written a letter to Ms. Valerie Amos regarding a picture that Ms. Kuhlood Badawi has used, in which… which is a misrepresentation of events on the ground in Gaza and Israel.  Please, your comments.

Spokesperson:  Well, a response has been sent, I understand, to the Israeli Permanent Representative from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 

It is regrettable that an OCHA staff member has posted information on her personal Twitter profile which is both false and which reflects on the issues that are related to her work.  The opinions expressed in her Twitter profile in no way reflect the views of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and nor have they been sanctioned by that Office.  The staff member is a national field coordination officer, who is not authorized to speak on behalf of the Office.

There was no association made to the Office in the staff member's private Twitter profile.  And just to say that when this issue was brought to the Office’s attention on 12 March, an internal inquiry into the matter was initiated to determine what actions should be taken in line with United Nations rules and regulations.  All staff of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs are expected to act in accordance with the obligations of United Nations staff members.  And the Office says that it strives to ensure its neutrality and impartiality in all aspects of its work, and it is important that the private actions of staff do not undermine these principles in the countries in which we work.

Okay, other questions?  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sudan and Iraq, as well.  But on Syria, just now, you know, obviously, it was announced that this technical team will be going to Damascus on Sunday.  I wanted to know, it seems like… is this now the time that you can say who is working with Kofi Annan on his team?  Is it possible to say if Mr. Guéhenno is a deputy, if Nasser Al-Kidwa will be going Sunday and what the UN… you know, UN side, DPA and others, role will be in this technical negotiation team.

Spokesperson:  If I have anything Matthew, I’ll let you know on that.  The most important thing is that they have a job to do and, as you heard Mr. Annan say just a few moments ago, which was why I delayed the start of the briefing, that team is scheduled to go in as a technical team to continue those discussions that the Joint Special Envoy mentioned.

Question:  I want to ask [inaudible], because, I mean, I have tried to get the names, so I just want to ask you, I guess, for a comment on this.  Some are saying that… that because Kofi Annan’s team, at least visually as seen on television, not as provided by your Office, consists of so many former UN officials, many retired officials like Alan Doss, Guéhenno, Nicolas Michel, that somehow it either shows a kind of a lack of a new generation of UN people, or somehow is a… reflects strangely on the current UN, that in fact all these retired UN former people have to be called in.  What would be your response to that?

Spokesperson:  None whatsoever at this point, Matthew.  Other questions?  Yes?

Question:  Martin, there are lots of developments going on in Afghanistan following this killing of 16 Afghans, civilians by a US soldier.  The Taliban have now called off the talks that were going to take place in Qatar.  Now, is the UN going to step in to sort of facilitate these talks again, to sort of bring the parties together?

Spokesperson:  I think the United Nations Assistance Mission (UNAMA) has a well-defined role in its work in Afghanistan, and that’s…

Question:  Yes, that’s true, but here I am talking…

Spokesperson:  I beg your pardon?

Question:  That’s true, but I am talking about the Secretary-General…

Spokesperson:  Well, I am just telling you that the Mission has a well-defined mandate, and I would also note that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ján Kubiš, will be in town over the next few days and it may be possible that we can get some more information on this topic for you.  Okay, other questions, please?  Yes?

Question:  I want to ask about Sudan and Iraq.  On Sudan, there is, actually this is a former UN official as well, Mukesh Kapila, who used to be the for… the head aid official for Sudan, has gone public and said that the UN system is choosing to not serve refugees that are in the Yida camp in Unity State in South Sudan.  These are people that fled Southern Kordofan, that they choose to remain as close to their homes as they can, but that the UN system is… has chosen not to fund NGOs, schools and other services in that camp.  But, I wonder, is that in fact the case, and if so, why would the UN not be serving the refugees where they want to… wish to remain?

Spokesperson:  I think we’ll start with the first part of the question and see what we can find out, Matthew.  In other words, is it the case or not?

Question:  He said he seems… it seems like [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  That may well be the case, Matthew, but let’s check.

Question:  Okay.  And on Iraq, I just wanted to make sure that you got this, there is a letter from a number of US Congress people about Camp Ashraf, or now Camp Liberty, in Baghdad, and they have made a series of complaints, including about how the UN seems to have this role of transferring the MEK people from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, and they are saying it is in bad condition.  They are saying that it is being overly patrolled by Iraqis that… you know, these are their complaints, but I just wanted to make sure it has also been sent to the Secretary-General and to Mr. Kobler.  What’s the response of the UN to this, to these Congress people raising this issue?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think that there was an extremely eloquent op-ed piece quite recently by Martin Kobler that spells out quite clearly what the role of the United Nations has been, and is, in this.  There are two aspects; one is the desire of the Iraqi authorities to be able to exercise sovereignty over their own territory, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the rights of those people who have been in that camp for a long time.  And so, the UN has been playing a role to facilitate, to help with that process.  Security is a matter for the Iraqi authorities — it’s their country.  I think, as I say, if you take a look at Martin Kobler’s op-ed piece, it’s really quite explicit in spelling out, one, what the UN’s role has been, and two, what needs to happen.

Question:  I just want to ask one follow-up, and thanks a lot, I will definitely look at that.  But their letter — and it’s a 14 March letter from these Congress people — says specifically that the people in the camp can’t see their family members, which they say is a right, even in prisons all over the world.  And also I have heard that they are… their family members have sought to meet with the Secretariat or the Secretary-General himself and they have not been able to.  I… maybe you don’t, maybe the… is that… is that the case?  I mean, I don’t know, that’s their complaint.

Spokesperson:  I think it is true to say that the United Nations has worked extremely hard, including the Secretary-General, behind the scenes and publicly if you like, in trying to deal with what obviously has been an extremely long-running situation in Iraq involving this camp and the people in it.  The most important thing is that, in this process, that the rights of the individuals are certainly taken care of, and that there should be no violence in that process — that’s the whole point.  And obviously it is also incumbent on Member States beyond Iraq to help with the resettlement of people who wish to be resettled.

Question:  One, just, is… this obviously will be the last one on this.  Does the UN consider the right of… to… to have visits by family members to be among the rights of people, either, you know, imprisoned or, in this case, detained?

Spokesperson:  I think it is important that you take a look at what Mr. Kobler has said first of all — I think it really does spell things out.  And secondly, this is a process, and people are working extremely hard both within the camp and the Iraqi authorities and with the help of UNHCR and others to make this happen in a smooth way.  It is not easy; it is a long-running saga.  But, the most important thing is that the people should be taken care of and that there should be no violence in the process.

All right, thank you very much.  Have a good weekend.  Thank you.

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