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

17 May 2012

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

17 May 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.

**General Assembly on World Economy

The Secretary-General spoke at the General Assembly’s high-level thematic debate on the world economy this morning.  He said that the old economic model is broken, and we need to create a new model for dynamic growth.  This, he said, would be the focus of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development next month in Rio de Janeiro.

He said that we need nothing less than a revolution in our thinking, which would be based on stable economies and decent jobs and opportunities for all.  The Secretary-General added that he is deeply concerned with the pace and ambition of the negotiations leading up to the Rio conference.  He said: “We have just over a month until Rio.  We must use every moment.”  We have his remarks in my Office.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General will travel to Chicago on Sunday to attend the twenty-fifth Summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  While at the Summit on Sunday and Monday, the Secretary-General will have bilateral meetings with a number of world leaders.

**Security Council Trip Announcement

The 15 members of the Security Council are leaving on Friday evening on a trip to West Africa.  The Ambassadors will visit Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone.

In Liberia, they will review progress in the implementation of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and will meet President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

From Liberia, they will continue to Côte d’Ivoire, where they will meet President Alassane Ouattara and representatives of the National Assembly.  They will travel to Guiglo in the west of the country, where they will be briefed on security and humanitarian issues.

And from there, the Ambassadors will fly back into Liberia, to Zwedru, where they will meet Ivorian refugees.  The delegation will return to Abidjan, in Côte d’Ivoire, by plane.  The 15 members of the Security Council are also due to hold a meeting with ECOWAS [the Economic Community of West African States] to discuss regional issues.

The delegation will travel from Côte d’Ivoire to Sierra Leone, the last country on the three-country trip.  And there the Ambassadors will meet President Ernest Bai Koroma and will hold a round table meeting with all political parties.  The delegation will return to New York on Thursday, 24 May.

**Security Council

The Security Council voted unanimously this morning to extend the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) by six months. 

Council members are receiving a briefing at the moment by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos.  And Ms. Amos will inform the Council about her recent visit to Afghanistan, and the head of the UN Mission there, Ján Kubiš, is also on hand to talk to the Council.

And this afternoon, the Council will hold consultations to discuss its forthcoming trip to Africa, which I just mentioned.

**Guyana-Venezuela Border

Officials from Guyana and Venezuela have met at a UN technical workshop in New York on the two countries’ long-standing border controversy.  Speaking after the meeting, Norman Girvan, the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General on the Border Controversy between Guyana and Venezuela, said the participants displayed what he called “a tremendously positive and constructive spirit”.  The workshop participants are exploring possible next steps.  And there are more details on this in my Office.

**Press Conference

At 1:15 p.m. today, in this room, there will be a press conference on the fifth anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Speakers will include Grand Chief Edward John of Canada.

Questions, please?  Mr. Abbadi, and then Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  As you just indicated, the Secretary-General is very concerned about the pace of negotiations towards the Rio+20.  What does he like to see to have these negotiations pick up speed?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, Member States have already decided to add some negotiating days in the run-up to the Conference.  And he has said, on more than one occasion now, that this is excellent and that time should of course be extremely well-used.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is a difficult process.  It is a major and a very important conference, the aims of which are obviously also profoundly important for the whole of mankind, and therefore, humankind.  Therefore, negotiations in the run-up could be expected to be quite complex.  But I think what he is saying clearly is that countries and leaders need to show leadership and flexibility in the process in the coming days that we have left in the run-up to the summit meeting itself.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Yeah, on this Secretary-General’s speech that old economic order is broken and a new one should be created; the Secretary-General has been saying that every year and is he going to convey the same message to the G-8 summit or to the big Powers to create a new world order?  And will anybody listen to him at all?

Spokesperson:  Well, a couple of things.  The message that you are looking for is there, right in the speech that he has given this morning to world leaders, whether it is in the G-8 forum, the G-20 forum or beyond.  The message is clear.  The message has changed, of course, and he has spoken out again about, for example, the need for sustainable growth, and that includes jobs, and particularly for young people.  Yes, world leaders are listening, and yes, world leaders will continue to engage with him and with others in this debate here in New York and beyond.

Question:  And on this second question, I don’t know whether you will have an answer or not, because obviously this Security Council mission that is going to Liberia and so forth, do you think it will be represented at the ambassador’s level or only it’s like, basically like a retreat?

Spokesperson:  It’s far from a retreat.  This is an important mission by senior members of the Security Council.  I think the bulk of the delegation members will be Permanent Representatives.  And as you well know, in all three locations, there are peacekeeping operations.  In all three locations, the United Nations has played an important role, not just in peacekeeping, but peacebuilding.  And I think it is in that context that the Security Council members are visiting.  But I am sure that they can also speak for themselves.  Yes, Ali, and then I am coming to Tim.  I haven’t forgotten you, Erol.

Question:  Thank you.  Is there any ongoing investigation regarding those attacks in Syria, whether the monitors, the UN monitors were targeted or not?  This is one question.  My other question is, I asked yesterday about the Israeli intelli… military intelligence chief who was here two weeks ago, and there were some reports that he met with some senior UN officials secret… in… in… without public announcement.  I want to confirm this kind of information, whether it is true or not.

Spokesperson:  On the second one, I heard you the first time; I don’t have an answer, or at least I don’t have an answer yet.  On the first question on investigations into the incidents you refer to involving two UN convoys, they continue their work in patrolling, as I have mentioned here before, across the country several times a day in different locations.  It is tricky work in difficult circumstances, and if there is any word on the specific investigation, then I would let you know.  I think, as I have said before, we have no evidence at this point to suggest there was deliberate targeting.  We do not have evidence at this point, but it is obvious that these were two narrow misses.  It underscores the difficult circumstance that the observers are working in.  And also it underscores and highlights once again the ordeal that the Syrian people themselves have been through for months now.  Tim?

Question:  This morning, the Moroccan Government said they have no confidence in Mr. [Christopher] Ross, the Western Sahara envoy, and I am wondering whether the UN has any response to that, whether it still has confidence in Mr. Ross and whether he is still going to go there.  He is due to go there quite soon, to the region, I understand.

Spokesperson:  Tim, we have seen the reports.  The Secretary-General has complete confidence in Christopher Ross.  If I have anything further on the other part of your question, I will let you know.  Erol, and then Matthew?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  First of all, did I hear you that you mentioned Mr. Ján Kubiš?  Is that the same gentleman, the former Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe?

Spokesperson:  That’s right, and already…

Question:  And what is… what is… sorry for my ignorance, what is his current capacity?

Spokesperson:  You didn’t get the memo, Erol?

Question:  I did not, I am sorry.

Spokesperson:  He is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for UNAMA [United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan], so Afghanistan.

Question:  All right.  So only that.  So number two, Secretary-General met with the High Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Valentin Inzko, and during my interview with Mr. Inzko, he told me that he told Secretary-General that this current situation is the best regional situation for the last… past 20 years in the terms of security, et cetera.  Does the Secretary-General share this view?

Spokesperson:  Let me check on that meeting that took place to see if I have anything for you on that. I shall come back to you, Erol, okay?  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask about Myanmar and then Syria.  On… on Myanmar, I’m sure, I don’t know if you have received, but you’ve probably seen word of this letter from the Kachin Independence Organization to the Secretary-General asking him… saying that there has been a build-up of… of Myanmar military forces in Kachin area and asking the UN to either send observers or to react in some way.  Have you gotten the letter and what is your response to it?

Spokesperson:  Seen the letter.  What I would simply say is the UN is following closely the situation on the ground.  And what I can also note is that you will remember the Secretary-General, on his recent visit to Myanmar, made a number of statements relating to the Government’s handling of conflicts with ethnic minorities, and during his meetings with the leaders of Myanmar, he was informed that the Government had ceased offensive operations in Kachin.  And while we have no confirmed information of the situation in the conflict areas, the Secretary-General calls on all parties to cease offensives and to find a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict there.  Any escalation of the violence at this stage could result in aggravation of the situation of internal displacement and in a rise of human rights violations, all of which must be avoided.  And finally, the UN has been making continuous efforts to resume humanitarian supplies to the affected people in Kachin, and he is hopeful of some progress in this regard.

Question:  Okay, that is why I was going to ask you about this, because I thought it had been said that the… that these convoys were now… were… were being able to enter… has that now been reversed in some way?

Spokesperson:  Matthew, I think I have given you quite a lot there and that’s what I have.

Correspondent:  Sure.  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Okay.  Yes, Erol?

Question:  Thank for question, Martin, whether the Secretary-General is going to meet or already met with Mr. [Vuk] Jeremić, Foreign Minister of Serbia, and number two, Mr. Nebojsa Radmanovic, member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Spokesperson:  It doesn’t mean that it is not going to happen, but I am not aware of a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Serbia at this point.  On the other, I will also need to check and confirm to you.

[The Spokesperson later added that no meetings were scheduled at present.]

Question:  And just one more, sorry if I missed that also, whether the Secretary-General is going to go for, to Chicago for the NATO Summit.

Spokesperson:  You missed that memo, as well?  Yeah, I mentioned that at the start.  Yes, he is indeed.

Question:  Okay, and now I have a real question.  What is it that makes the Secretary-General of the United Nations to go to the NATO Summit, and for example, does not go to the previous meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh of the NAM, of the Non-Aligned Movement, just this month?

Spokesperson:  On NATO, the Secretary-General has been to previous summit meetings, for example in Lisbon.  It is obvious that, given the United Nations important role, with the help of Ján Kubiš, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan, on the civilian side, it is obvious, therefore, that the United Nations needs to be a part of that overall discussion on the transition that is taking place in Afghanistan.  It is also clear that at such a gathering, the Secretary-General has the opportunity to meet with a wide range of world leaders on that topic and others.

Question:  What about NAM — Non-Aligned Movement?

Spokesperson:  I think the answer I gave you is the answer I am giving you.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask on… on Syria, yesterday, a Security Council Permanent Representative said that DPKO [Department for Peacekeeping Operations] and an individual who he named would be travelling to Damascus.  And he said this was on the political track of the… the Kofi Annan plan.  Other diplomats have said that this visit is… is… is limited to the issue of the observers.  So I wanted to know, you know, given the Secretary-General’s, you know, obviously, role in… in… in his Joint Envoy’s work, which is this… this… the visit that was described by a Permanent Representative on the Security Council?  Is it about the political track or is it about the observers?

Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, you and I both know the background to your question here, and quite clearly the Department of Peacekeeping Operations does not release travel plans of its officials in such instances and this is a matter of security, and I think you understand that.

Question:  But I guess my question is, as reporters here, if… if Permanent Representatives describe a trip to us, are we not supposed to report that or do

you tell… do you tell diplomats, for example, even the Syrian Government is informed about this trip, including the individuals who are going.  So I just wanted to understand what the protocol is, since I was requested, to me, to remove the individual’s name from the story I wrote; what is the protocol on reporting what is said on the record at the UN?  I mean, I understand the security thing, but if you are giving the names to Syria…

Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, Matthew, not for the first time, you are mixing up lots of points here and twisting your… the words, and it is, frankly, unacceptable.  In this particular instance, this is plainly a matter of security.  I just mentioned earlier in the briefing about two incidents that have taken place this week alone — narrow misses for the military observers who are in the country to help the Syrian civilian population.  It is obvious that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations does not release information about travel plans of its officials in such instances.  And I am not saying any more on the matter, okay?

Question:  No, if you release it to the Permanent Representatives who in turn say it to reporters, my question is…

Spokesperson:  Matthew, I have said what I have to say on the matter.

Question:  So we shouldn’t report on this, this UN mission in Syria?

Spokesperson:  Matthew, you know very well that this is the way that you are trying to distort this to make into a matter of freedom of information…

Question:  I received an e-mail to change a story, and I… I don’t disagree with it entirely, I… I… I… absolutely, 100 per cent.

Spokesperson:  Well, you know very well precisely why it is important that the security, the lives of…

Question:  I… I… I…

Spokesperson:  Do you wish me to continue my answer or not?

Correspondent:  Yes, I do, please. 

Spokesperson:  This is a matter of security.  It involves the lives of individuals, and I think that it is something that everyone needs to reflect on.

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

Question:  I have a question about the [status-of-forces agreement] in Abyei in terms of safety.  Why is there no status-of-forces agreement in Abyei mission?

Spokesperson:  If I have anything, further on that matter I will let you know.

[The Spokesperson later added that the status-of-forces agreement for the Abyei mission is still being negotiated and, in the meantime, the status-of-forces agreement from the earlier United Nations Mission in Sudan still applies.]

* *** *

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