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

21 March 2012

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

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

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

**Noon Guest

Today my guest is United Nations Police Adviser Ann-Marie Orler.  She is here to give an update on the Police Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

Madame Orler, the floor is yours.

[Briefing by Ms. Orler issued separately]

Once again, good afternoon.

**Security Council

This morning the Security Council expressed its gravest concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria, which has resulted in a serious human rights crisis and deplorable humanitarian situation.

The Council welcomes the appointment of the United Nations-League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy, and expresses its full support for the efforts of the Envoy to bring an immediate end to all violence and human rights violations, secure humanitarian access, and facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system.

The Security Council calls upon the Syrian Government and opposition to work in good faith with the Envoy towards a peaceful settlement and to implement fully and immediately his six-point proposal.

In addition, the President of the Security Council issued a press statement in which the members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks that occurred in Damascus, Syria, on 17 and 19 March and in Aleppo, Syria, on 18 March, causing scores of deaths and injuries.  They expressed their deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the victims of these heinous acts and to their families.

This morning, as well, the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1737 (2006), Ambassador Nestor Osorio of Colombia, presented the Committee’s ninety-day report to the Council.

And this afternoon at 3 p.m., Council members will discuss the 1701 report in close consultations.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Syria

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

The Secretary-General strongly welcomes the adoption today by the Security Council of a presidential statement in full support of the Joint Special Envoy for the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan.

The Secretary-General is encouraged by the clear and unified message of the Council, backing Mr. Annan’s efforts to bring an immediate end to all violence and human rights violations, secure humanitarian access, and facilitate a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian Government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition. 

He adds his voice to the Council’s in calling upon the Syrian Government and opposition to work in good faith with the Joint Special Envoy towards a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis, and to implement fully and immediately his initial six-point proposal submitted to the Syrian authorities.

As the situation continues to deteriorate on the ground, it is more urgent than ever to find a solution that will end the tragic suffering of the Syrian people.  The Secretary-General hopes that this united action by the Council on Syria can mark a turning point in the international community’s response to this crisis.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Indonesia a few hours ago, and met the Malaysian Foreign Minister.

Earlier in the day, before leaving Indonesia, the Secretary-General gave the keynote address at the opening of the Jakarta International Defence Dialogue event.  He said the past year had been remarkable for the international community, with peaceful transformations in some Arab countries and terrible violence in others, above all in Syria.  He said the year had also been remarkable for the sheer scope and dimension of the demands placed on the international community and the United Nations.

The Secretary-General met Australia's Secretary of Defence, Duncan Lewis, earlier in the day in Jakarta to discuss global developments, including Myanmar and Timor-Leste, as well as Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria.

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will meet tuberculosis patients, give a lecture at Malaysia's Institute for Diplomacy and Foreign Relations and visit the country's Peacekeeping Training Centre.  He is also expected to meet the Malaysian Prime Minister.  Later in the day, the Secretary-General will fly on to Singapore.

**Lord’s Resistance Army

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Central Africa, Mr. Abou Moussa, and the Special Envoy of the African Union for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Francisco Madeira, will take part tomorrow and Friday in the technical meeting of United Nations and African Union experts responsible for finalizing the regional strategy to fight the LRA.  This meeting will take place in Entebbe, Uganda.

The two officials will also attend the launching ceremony of the Regional Cooperation Initiative against the LRA in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, on 24 March.  And then on 25 March, they will undertake a joint visit to some of the areas affected by the LRA.  They are scheduled to travel to Yambio and Nzara, in South Sudan.

**World Down Syndrome Day

In his message on the first-ever commemoration of World Down Syndrome Day, the Secretary-General says that for too long, people with Down Syndrome, including children, have been left on the margins of society.  They continue to face stigma and discrimination as well as legal, attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their participation in their communities.  At a conference this morning, the Deputy Secretary-General pointed out that the United Nations has worked for decades to ensure the well-being and human rights of all people.  She urged the world to reaffirm that persons with Down Syndrome are entitled to the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

**Press Conferences

And tomorrow there will be a press conference at 11 a.m., to mark the occasion of World Water Day.

That’s all from me.  Questions, please.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Do you have any update on progress for UN efforts to access Southern Kordofan, the Nile region of Sudan?  I know OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] has been trying to get in there; there was an agreement that the UN, the Arab League and the African Union have worked out in order to get access.  Any updates from Khartoum, or any progress being made, and what’s the UN doing at this point?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I haven't seen any reports of updates from Khartoum yet, but we can check out and see and get back to you on that.  Madame?

[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the United Nations was waiting for a response from the Government of Sudan regarding the joint proposal tabled by the African Union, the League of Arab States and the United Nations to facilitate humanitarian access into Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (North) areas.]

Question:  [inaudible] Down Syndrome, did they give you any breakdown as to certain countries or region that might have more instances of this, or did they give you any suggestions as to how to celebrate this day?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, what I have here is what I have.  You might want to see online if the Secretary-General’s statement on it.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, yeah, I have some questions, one is that Alexander Downer, the [inaudible] Special Adviser on Cyprus, has been quoted saying that the process will stop in July when Cyprus assumes the presidency of the European Union, and I wanted to know since, I mean, it seems like he was speaking in his Union, UN capacity about his UN work.  Is that the UN position or not?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check on what the UN position is on that.  I know what Mr. Downer has said.  In July Cyprus takes over the European Union presidency.  We’ll have to see how the talks progress after that.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the Special Adviser's comments were taken out of context; rather, he was pointing out the views of the two sides.  He also recalled that the Secretary-General said following the last Greentree talks that he is urging the leaders to make decisive steps to move to a final agreement.]

Question:  Okay.  He said they are going to stop, I guess yeah, if you could just see what he meant by stop.  The other one is, one of the judges of the UN appeals tribunal, Mark Painter, has quit, and he’s called the whole process a fraud, he made some public statements saying that the UN’s internal justice system is laughable, that, that — it’s a pretty sharp critique and I am just wondering since, given this was supposed to be a reform done under the, under the Secretary-General, what is the response to a judge, you know, saying the whole thing is a, is a laughing stock?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ve seen reports of what the judge has said and we’ll be commenting on it when we have a comment to make.

Question:  Okay. I mean, do you think that there is a comment in the works, or there, you’re just going to let it [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson: I’ll have to check and see. 

Question:  Okay.  And then, I just, and also, I just, maybe this is in the nature of an update.  There was a statement by the Secretary-General on the elections in Guinea-Bissau, and since then there has been a lot, widespread allegations of irregularity, and the apparent assassination of the former intelligence chief of Guinea-Bissau, and I am just wondering, I was sort of waiting to see whether there was gong to be a second statement, is that, does the first statement still stand, despite what has come out afterwards, or what’s going on?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The first statement still stands and the Secretary-General expressed his concern about the assassination of the ex-intelligence chief — that was part of the statement.  I think you will find in many elections people take umbrage at the fact that they didn’t win or they didn’t do as well as they could.  I am not making any value judgements here, but the Secretary-General on these cases always calls on people to pursue their complaints on elections through legal and democratic means.  And that is exactly what he would say if in fact this was brought to our attention.  Yes?

Question:  More on Sudan and South Sudan.  Could you maybe express the Secretary-General’s level of concern about the situation there?  And the reason I ask is that our network has been in Southern Kordofan.  We’ve documented people who have been hit by bombs, the carpet bombing that has been taking place there, the lack of access to medical treatment for most of the people, people hiding in caves because they are afraid of these bombs; so we’ve seen all that; it’s becoming pretty clear that this is happening, you know, is there more that the UN could be doing and what is the level of concern in your view here?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, our peacekeeping forces can only act in areas where they are mandated to act, and these mandates have to come from the Security Council.  So, they are not mandated at this time to work in those areas.  However, the Secretary-General has ceaselessly called for a cessation of violence.  He and his representatives there have tried consistently to bring the sides together to discuss their differences, to find ways to work together so that the people of those regions can go back to living normal lives, free of violence and killing.  However, it is up to them to decide how they are going to do it and when they are going to do it.  And we don’t have a presence in those areas in which to maintain a peacekeeping operation — we don’t have the mandate for it.  So, we are limited in what we can do physically.  But, in terms of what the Secretary-General has been calling for, he has been very adamant in his calls.  One more?

Question:  Yeah, sure, thanks a lot.  I’m just, I wanted first the, some of these questions about the team, the Kofi Annan Joint Special Envoy team, were answered, at least.  I was happy to hear from Mr. Fawzi, so, but there are some, I left him with two questions, but I don’t, since it is not clear to me who is supposed to answer these questions, I want to ask you as well.  One is he referred to something called a kind of a box of consultants; he said that Nicolas Michel is a consultant.  And so, I, since he used to be the chief legal officer of the UN, I wanted to know, is there a way to get to know, to know, who is on that part of the team, who are the consultants to the team?  And the second question has to do, since you did, apparently, use the Kofi Annan Foundation as staffing, or is in some way related to this UN mission, to know whether it has raised funds from neighbouring States that have openly stated that they would like to see a change of government in Syria and, and even discussed arming the opposition.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, I have said what I am prepared to say on this.  Mr. Fawzi is welcome to say what he considers he has to say on this.  But that is all we have to say at the moment.

Question:  [inaudible] I mean because they referred to the Foundation; the Foundation won’t answer; you won’t answer, but it seems objectively to, to present the probability of a conflict of interest, I don’t want to…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, we don’t get into details of these missions, and simply because it deals with a former Secretary-General, we are not going to change our policy on that.  So, we are not going to get into the details any more than we have, for the time being.  If Mr. Fawzi has anything he wants to add, I welcome it.

Question:  Just a final, because if they are being, you are saying it’s not, it hasn’t anything to do with him being a former Secretary-General; it’s that they are being paid with $900,000 in UN funds, so it seems highly irregular that you wouldn’t say who is getting paid.  It doesn’t, it seems to be getting [inaudible]…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we don’t identify as a matter of course the members of every envoy’s staff.  What we have said is that they are being paid from the money that the Secretary-General has for these contingencies.  And that’s as far as I am prepared to go.

Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.

* *** *

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