|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.
I have a statement by the Middle East Quartet.
The following statement by the Middle East Quartet ( United Nations, Russian Federation, United States, European Union) was issued on 11 April 2012:
The Quartet — United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton — met in Washington, D.C., on 11 April 2012. They were joined by Quartet Representative Tony Blair and by Foreign Minister of Jordan Nasser Judeh, who briefed the Quartet on Jordan’s engagement. The Quartet underscored its support for the positive efforts by King Abdullah of Jordan and Foreign Minister Judeh.
Following its consultation in New York on 12 March 2012, the Quartet reaffirmed its commitment to all elements of its statement of 23 September 2011 and renewed its call on the parties to meet those objectives. The Quartet welcomed plans for dialogue between the parties, and discussed ways to support these efforts.
The Quartet took particular note of the 21 March 2012 Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in Brussels, and underscored the need for continued international support for the Palestinian Authority’s important institution-building efforts. The Quartet encouraged the Palestinian Authority to continue working towards this end. In this regard, the Quartet called on the international community to ensure the contribution of $1.1 billion in assistance to meet the Palestinian Authority’s 2012 recurrent financing requirements. The Quartet welcomed the efforts by the parties to resolve outstanding issues related to tax and customs revenue collection and urged their conclusion as soon as possible.
The Quartet noted with concern the increasing fragility of developments on the ground and called on the parties to work constructively together to take concrete steps to address the Palestinian Authority’s fiscal challenges, preserve and build on the Palestinian Authority’s institutional gains, and expand economic opportunities for the Palestinian people.
In this respect, the Quartet reaffirmed its commitment, as expressed in its 23 September 2011 statement, to examine possible mechanisms it can actively support going forward, individually and together, to advance peace efforts and strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s ability to meet the full range of civil and security needs of the Palestinian people both now and in a future State. The Quartet encouraged the parties, in this context, to cooperate to facilitate the social and economic development of Area C, which is of critical importance for the viability of a future Palestinian State, as well as for its Palestinian inhabitants to be enabled to lead a normal life. The Quartet asked Quartet Representative Blair to continue his intensive work with the parties toward this end.
Noting the significant progress on security achieved by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, the Quartet calls on the Palestinian Authority to continue to make every effort to improve law and order, to fight violent extremism and to end incitement. The Quartet emphasized the need to continue assisting the Palestinian Authority in building its law enforcement capacity. The Quartet also expressed its concern over ongoing settler violence and incitement in the West Bank and calls on Israel to take effective measures, including bringing the perpetrators of such acts to justice.
The Quartet condemned rocket attacks from Gaza and stressed the need for calm and security for both peoples. The Quartet underscored the importance of continued steps to address the needs of Gaza’s residents, and welcomed the Israeli Government’s approval at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting of United Nations priority infrastructure projects in Gaza. Reaffirming its previous positions, the Quartet considers that the situation in and around Gaza remains fragile and unsustainable as long as the West Bank and Gaza are not reunited under the legitimate Palestinian Authority adhering to the Palestine Liberation Organization commitments.
Reminding both parties of their obligations under the road map, the Quartet reiterated its call for them to avoid actions that undermine trust and to focus on positive efforts that can strengthen and improve the climate for a resumption of direct negotiations on the basis of the Quartet’s September 23 statement.
The Quartet expressed concern about unilateral and provocative actions by either party, including continued settlement activity, which cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations, the only way to a just and durable solution to the conflict.
The Quartet underscored its commitment to remain actively engaged in the coming period.
Now that statement is being distributed right now, electronically to a journalist distribution list and will be posted online. And I understand the State Department in Washington is also distributing that statement.
This morning, the President of the Security Council issued a presidential statement noting the steady progress made in Sierra Leone on national reconciliation and gender equality.
The Council called on all parties to engage in a process of national cohesion, and foster an environment conducive to the holding of free and fair elections. The Council underscored the need for authorities in Sierra Leone to ensure security forces uphold international law. Also, the statement commended the contribution of the United Nations country team to the peacebuilding and development priorities of Sierra Leone, and the important role played by regional organizations in supporting Sierra Leone to achieve its peacebuilding, security and long-term development goals.
As you know, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet, briefed the Council in consultations on Abyei and tensions between Sudan and South Sudan.
I can also tell you the Secretary-General had a call this morning with Mr. Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, and they discussed the recent escalation of conflict between Sudan and South Sudan. The Secretary-General advised that before undertaking a discussion on the causes of the escalation, the immediate priority is to de-escalate the situation to avoid any further bloodshed. The Secretary-General urged to consider holding a presidential summit immediately to build confidence and assure the peoples of South Sudan and Sudan that peace and dialogue is the only option before both sides.
The Secretary-General also spoke to the Sudanese Permanent Representative in New York yesterday evening and strongly urged Khartoum to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further military action.
And while in Washington, the Secretary-General also discussed the tensions between Sudan and South Sudan with Secretary of State Clinton.
And I can tell you the Secretary-General has just spoken to the Ethiopian Prime Minister, and he is likely to speak to other regional leaders on his return to New York.
** Indonesia Earthquake
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh Province early this morning. OCHA has been in contact with several partners on the ground, who have reported no major damage and casualties so far. People are reported to be moving to higher ground. No tsunami has occurred at present. The Office has not received any report of significant increases in sea levels.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and International Labour Organization (ILO), along with other humanitarian partners, have staff on the ground now in Banda Aceh and they are closely monitoring the situation. The Office has also communicated to the Government of Indonesia that the United Nations stands ready to assist if needed.
In Geneva earlier today, the World Health Organization (WHO), together with Alzheimer Disease International, launched a joint report on dementia, the first time this largely-ignored mental disease was researched as a single issue.
The report says that nearly 36 million people worldwide live with dementia. This number is expected to more than triple by 2050. It also points out that dementia affects people in all countries, with more than half living in low- and middle-income countries. And by 2050, this is likely to rise to more than 70 per cent. The World Health Organization says lack of diagnosis, information and understanding about dementia is a major problem worldwide. And the full report is available online.
Questions, please? Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Martin. Will the Quartet statement be posted on the web also in the French language?
Spokesperson: Initially I would assume that it will be in English. I don’t know what happens next; presumably at some point in other languages, I do not know the answer to that. But, certainly, the language I just read it out in, in English, it will be posted on the UN website quite quickly, I think. And, as I mentioned, it is being e-mailed to journalists and others as we speak. Yes, and then I am coming to you behind you. Yes, please?
Question: You said 50 per cent of dementia cases are in the low- and middle-income countries; would that also be true within the upper-middle-income countries that 50 per cent of the cases or a large percentage would be in the lower- and middle-income sectors of the country, and…?
Spokesperson: I think I would refer you to the report on that because I don’t have all the details at hand with me, but I think that the report is available online, and I would also be confident that the World Health Organization would be able to help you with more details on that. Yes, please?
Question: Thank you. With regard to the Secretary-General’s meeting today in Washington, D.C., with the Quartet, what is the agenda of the meeting?
Spokesperson: What do you mean?
Question: What’s the… is it a regular meeting or there is items on the agenda that the Quartet is…?
Spokesperson: This was a meeting of the Middle East Quartet, and I think it is self-explanatory what the meeting was about.
Question: So, there is nothing new, just a routine meeting?
Spokesperson: Well, you were extremely patient as you listened to me reading out the entire statement, which contained quite a lot of detail. I wouldn’t classify that as routine. Yes, Matthew? And then I am coming to you.
Question: Yes, sure, I would like to… on… on this tension between Sudan and South Sudan, I understand you are… that… that… that the Secretary-General has made these contacts, but I wanted to know, I mean, given that… that… that UNMISS, the Mission in South Sudan and… and… what… what insights does it have? Does it play any role? The AU, for example, has said that this… that… that it is the South Sudanese forces that went into [inaudible], that, you know, went across the border. I… I mean, I… given that UNMISS is there, does it have, beyond sort of, you know, making calls and calling on both sides, does it have any sense of… of who is doing what and… and… and who breached the border or anything like that, does it, or does it not look at that?
Spokesperson: I am trying to unpack the many layers of your question.
Question: Sure. But he has a peacekeeping mission there, and there is a war, and there is now a war, so I am wondering, the peacekeeping mission, is it… does it have anything to say on, did South Sudan go across the border into [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: Well, first of all, as I mentioned, Matthew, Mr. Mulet briefed the Council to provide an update on what we understand the position to be at the moment. The Mission, as you point out, is in South Sudan and its remit is South Sudan, therefore, it does not have a presence on the other side of the border. The other point is that, what is really important here is that there should be a de-escalation by both parties, and that is what the Secretary-General has been emphasizing in his phone calls and in his discussions, as I mentioned, in Washington, and that’s, I think, understandable. And those contacts will continue when the Secretary-General returns to New York. He is on his way back right now.
Correspondent: The reason I… the reason I asked this is because I asked over at the Security Council if Mr. Mulet would do a stakeout and sort of provide some factual stuff from DPKO, and I was told no, that the… the place for that was here, so that’s why I am asking you.
Spokesperson: Well, Matthew, I have given you an update based on the information we have at this point. You should also understand that it goes well beyond the remit of the UN Mission in South Sudan, clearly because it involves two countries and the Mission does not have a presence or a mandate in Sudan proper. So therefore, the Secretary-General has been reaching out to both parties; others, of course, are involved in this, including regional leaders, including Prime Minister Meles, as I have just said, the Secretary-General just spoke to him. This is, obviously, a very serious matter, and it is something that the Secretary-General is actively involved in trying to de-escalate. That’s the focus. Yes, Ali?
Question: Has the Secretary-General taken the opportunity to discuss Syria in meetings, in his meetings in Washington? And what is your understanding today that the Syrian Government announced that they are going to cease fire tomorrow at 6 a.m. Damascus time? Should they also withdraw their troops from the cities and the population centres?
Spokesperson: Well, two things. I do not know for a fact what else was discussed on the margins of the Quartet meeting. The main purpose of the gathering in [ Washington] of the Quartet’s ministers and representatives was precisely that topic. On the margins, however — and I think you understand that there were other foreign ministers in town for a different meeting, on the margins — there may well have been other discussions. I do not know the details of them at this point. I have referred to one aspect, and that was dealing with Sudan and South Sudan, it is entirely possible, indeed quite likely, that Syria was also raised, but I do not have those details at the moment. To the second part of your question, Ali, as you will have seen, Kofi Annan’s spokesperson has issued a statement on his behalf making clear that a letter had been received by the Joint Special Envoy from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic, and it provides the details as spelled out in that letter. As you also know, it is for the Syrian Government and the opposition forces to ensure that there is a comprehensive implementation of the six-point plan, including full compliance with item two of the plan — you know precisely what those three points are within item two, you just referred to one of them. That commitment has not gone away, and the deadline remains the same, 6 a.m. tomorrow morning, Damascus time. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Martin. I would like to go back, if I may, to the statement of the Quartet in Washington. As you said, it covered a lot of ground, including settlements, security, financing and the efforts of Jordan. Have they also discussed the core issues, such as borders and Jerusalem, or are they leaving those exclusively for the parties to negotiate? And, in that case, what are the implications of that stand since at the last meeting under the Jordanian sponsorship, the two parties failed to reach any agreement on those issues?
Spokesperson: Well, Mr. Abbadi, as I said and you mentioned yourself, this was quite a lengthy statement that gave quite a lot of details. I don’t have anything beyond that. It says what it says, okay? I don’t have anything further on that at the moment. Yes?
Question: Martin, thank you. Good morning. What’s the latest from your office on the attack on Ian Martin in Benghazi and the investigation that was kicked off around that attack on his convoy?
Spokesperson: Well, I think you will have seen what my colleague said in Libya on this topic, namely that there was a convoy, a UN convoy, that did include the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ian Martin, that was on its way to Benghazi. The Special Representative was giving an address at Benghazi University — that was the reason he was going there — amongst others, and some kind of explosive device was thrown at the convoy. No one was hurt in that incident, and you will also have seen the spokesperson there for the Mission saying that there is the need for an investigation, that investigation by the Libyan authorities is under way, and we would certainly want it to be carried out quickly so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
Question: Just to follow up, what’s the SG’s understanding of the situation on the ground there? Is he shocked that something like that would happen, or is it volatile enough in Benghazi that something like that wouldn’t be completely out of the ordinary, and has he spoken to Mr. Martin?
Spokesperson: He has not spoken to Mr. Martin, to my knowledge, after this event, which of course — or incident, I should say — which, of course, is something that we would strongly condemn given that the Mission is there to help the Libyan people as they make their transition. And obviously, thankfully, nobody was hurt in that incident. There needs to be an investigation; I understand that that investigation is being carried out by the Libyan authorities. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask, there is a hunger striker that has been arrested in… in Saudi Arabia since March of 2011, Mohamed Al-Bajadi, and there is some controversy where the Government there at the level of the Foreign Minister has said no, he is not on hunger strike, and he has written and said that he is on hunger strike and he has been force fed, and so I wondered, you… you’ve obviously mentioned this… this… this Bahrain situation and… and I don’t know if you had… if there are any… been any response by the Government to what the Secretary-General said, but are you… is the UN system aware of this case in Saudi Arabia, and… and the person is… basically was arrested for speaking up for people protesting in Riyadh against the imprisonment of their relatives?
Spokesperson: We’re aware of the reports and the varying reports, and I don’t have anything further on that at the moment. Should I get more information that enables us to say something, then I would let you know, okay? I don’t have anything.
Question: Can I ask also, this… this meeting with the, the Australian…
Spokesperson: Let me just check if there are other questions, Matthew, okay? All right. That isn’t the case, you’re lucky, okay?
Question: Okay, my luck. I wanted to know about this meeting with the Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr. I saw the readout and then I also saw what Mr. Carr said and… and he seemed to say that… that… that Australia’s bid for a Security Council seat was discussed and he said that the Secretary-General has acknowledged that Australia has a good case, so I just wonder, was it discussed in that meeting or was… or, I mean, it is a long readout, but it doesn’t… this is obviously a key issue to Australia. Was there some reason that… is… is Mr. Carr wrong or is there some diplomatic reason not to include the full agenda of the discussion?
Spokesperson: Matthew, readouts are not transcripts of meetings, they are readouts of meetings and we do not put in readouts the interlocutors comments. We are referring to what the Secretary-General has raised or topics that have been raised that are of a general interest. For example, the DPRK. Everybody knows that a number of countries are bidding for Security Council seats, non-permanent seats. And everybody knows that that’s a decision that is in the hands of Member States and not the Secretary-General. And, therefore, it is not proper for him to take a position on any Member State’s bid. It is also obvious that the Secretary-General would recognize the work of any Member State at the United Nations. So, I think that is pretty clear, Matthew.
Okay, thanks very much. Have a good afternoon.
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