|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, and welcome to the briefing.
**Noon Briefing Guest
I’m pleased to welcome my guest today, Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. And Ms. Amos is here to brief you on her recent trip to Afghanistan and to take your questions.
So, please, welcome back.
[Press conference by Ms. Amos is issued separately.]
The Joint Special Envoy remains extremely concerned about the plight of 1 million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance. He strongly urges the Government to accept the conditions for a scaling up of the humanitarian assistance without further delay. He underlines the need for a speedy agreement consistent with the Government’s commitment to allowing unimpeded access to and provision of assistance to Syrians in need.
So I have a couple of other items, and I am happy to take a couple of questions too.
Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, told the Security Council this morning that we have made considerable advances in preparing for the end-state of Somalia’s transition, including significant steps in the constitution-making process.
Mr. Mahiga welcomed the Government of Turkey’s initiative to join the United Nations in convening the Istanbul conference next month, which he said would add momentum and focus attention on the road map to end Somalia’s transition. And we have his remarks in my office.
And then in the afternoon, the Security Council will discuss Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Robert Serry, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, has welcomed the agreement reached to end the hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody. He thanks the Egyptian authorities for the important role they have played and urges all involved to implement the agreement in good faith and promptly.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has launched the Africa Human Development Report, which is titled “Towards a Food Secure Future”. It is the first Human Development Report focusing specifically on Africa.
Speaking at the launch in Nairobi, Kenya, the UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark, said that food security is basic to human development, and that food insecurity can trap generations of people in underdevelopment. She added that access to food in Africa, in both rural and urban settings, is threatened by increasingly extreme weather, ecosystem degradation and volatile global food prices. The report recommends a series of measures, including boosting agricultural productivity, prioritizing nutrition, building resilience for people and their communities and empowering women and other marginalized groups.
Today at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference by William Pace, the Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy. And he will be here to brief on the “Small-5” resolution.
And then finally, tonight at 7 o’clock, the United Nations will present a special gala concert, featuring reggae, jazz, hip-hop, percussion and other musical styles. And this is taking place in the General Assembly here at United Nations Headquarters. And the concert is being held in support of a permanent memorial to honour the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Does the Secretary-General, Martin, have any response to the IED [improvised explosive device] attack on the monitors’ convoy, since he had mentioned in an earlier statement that the bombings, continued bombings, could put into question, I think he said, the future of the Mission?
Spokesperson: Well, we are certainly aware of the reports. As we understand it, the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) is telling us that, shortly after 2 p.m. local time today, a convoy of four vehicles was struck by an explosion from an improvised explosive device in Khan Cheikhoun, near Hama. Three UN vehicles were damaged, but no UN personnel were hurt in this explosion. The Mission has sent a patrol team to the area to help to extract those UN military observers. I expect we will probably get some more details, but I don’t have anything more at this point. It is obvious that the Mission is there to help the people of Syria, to help ensure that the sides implement the six-point agreement in all its points. And obviously anything that interrupts their work and endangers the lives of UN personnel is something that we would condemn.
Question: Do you expect the Secretary-General to issue any further statement this afternoon?
Spokesperson: I think we are still establishing some of the details on this. Yes, then I am coming to you, yes?
Question: A follow-up on that. There are now reports from activists in the region that the Syrian forces opened fire and killed, some reports are saying 20 people, some are saying 50 people. This is in the same area where the observers were struck. Do you have any clarity on the sequence of events there?
Spokesperson: Not at this point, no. I think we are still trying to establish more details there. As I say, what the Mission is reporting is that there was an explosion and it involved an improvised explosive device; three vehicles, UN vehicles, damaged; no UN personnel were hurt in that incident. Obviously, there is a lot of violence going on, including where the observers have been or where they head to see what is going on. And the important point, of course, is that this Mission is there to monitor a cessation of violence, and it is plain for everybody that that cessation of violence has not taken place in the way that it is supposed to have taken place. And it is incumbent on the Syrian authorities and on opposition forces to adhere to the plan they signed up to. And that clearly means ceasing violence in all its forms right away. Enough people have been killed and wounded and otherwise hurt in the 15 months that this has been going on.
Question: Just to clarify, with the IED, do you know if there were any civilian casualties?
Spokesperson: At this point, I don’t have any further details. Yes, Ali, and then I am coming to you.
Question: Thank you, Martin. Whose responsibility is it to protect the monitors? This is one; second, there has been increasing firing across the border from Syria inside Lebanon, and there have been also some casualties in this regard. Also there was some fighting in northern Lebanon in relation to this crisis in Syria. Does the Secretary-General have any comment on this? Thank you.
Spokesperson: Well, I think it underscores what the Secretary-General said last week about the potential regional repercussions for what is happening in Syria, but we don’t have anything specific on this most recent set of reported incidents in Tripoli and in Lebanon.
Question: And the violence across the border?
Spokesperson: Likewise. Yes, and then Masood? You had a follow-up question? No? Okay, that’s fine. Masood, then Mattthew.
Question: Just to follow up. I just want to clarify; the report was that there were 20 mourners, mourners killed over there, right? Were there any soldiers also killed, no? Only mourners?
Spokesperson: I don’t have any details on the specific reports at this point. If I do get anything further, then, obviously, we would let you know. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask you about this, another, I guess another part of Syria, Rastan, there is all this fighting, it’s reported that there was a shelling of the town, the town was either held… held on to by rebels, but now… but it sounds like a pretty, you know, like straight-up conflict, and I just wonder, is the… are the observers trying to go there, do they have any… any sense of how many people were killed or taken, you know, prisoner in that fighting in Rastan yesterday?
Spokesperson: As you know, there are patrols taking place in various parts of the country. I don’t have immediate insight into precisely where they have been and what is being reported back. If I have anything further on that I will let you know.
[The Spokesperson later said that the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) reports that heavy fighting took place yesterday in Tal Biseh and Rastan and United Nations military observers witnessed that a highway in the area had been blocked by Government forces. A United Nations military observer patrol helped to de-escalate the situation and get the highway opened after interaction with Government forces.]
Question: And also, on the political track, there is this… there was a statement by the SNC that they would not go to this Arab League meeting in Cairo because they weren’t invited as a group, but as individuals, and I just wanted to know, does… does either the Secretary-General or his Joint Special Envoy, or is Mr. [Nasser al-]Kidwa involved… what’s the… what’s the UN or the… the office of… of Kofi Annan and Mr. al-Kidwa, what’s their role in deci… in… in… in this Arab League process in Cairo that now seems to be postponed?
Spokesperson: Well, let me simply say that the Joint Special Envoy himself regrets that the League of Arab States forum on the Syrian opposition had to be postponed, and he looks forward to seeing further efforts in helping the opposition become more united and efficient. Other questions, please? Okay, last question.
Question: Okay, well, I wanted to ask about Sudan and Mongolia, if I could.
Spokesperson: Well, choose.
Correspondent: It seems… seems… 12:48 p.m.
Spokesperson: Matthew, choose, thank you, and I’ll answer the question.
Question: Okay, on Mongolia, the Government of Mongolia has put out a verbatim transcript of the call made by the Secretary-General to the President of Mongolia about the imprisonment of the former President. And so I searched through to see whether some readout had been made and I wonder, could you explain, one, is that… is… was a call made by the Secretary-General to the President of Mongolia, and if so, why wasn’t this among the many readouts that your office puts out?
Spokesperson: One, yes, a call was made on Sunday evening, so that was Monday, Mongolia time. Two, sometimes diplomacy takes place behind the scenes, sometimes it is public.
Thanks very much, have a good afternoon. Thank you.
* *** *