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

21 May 2012

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

21 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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

This morning, the Secretary-General has been taking part in a NATO meeting on Afghanistan in Chicago.  He told the meeting that he had come to the NATO Summit with one overriding message:  that the United Nations will continue to support the Afghan Government to the maximum of its ability.

He said that, although Afghanistan faces clear and difficult security and development challenges, our resources are limited.  The UN cannot fill all the gaps.  The Secretary-General said the enduring commitment of every leader gathered in Chicago would be critical.  He said Afghanistan’s international partners will not withdraw their support as they draw down their military presence.  Among other things, there needs to be a commitment to do more for women and children — including girls’ education and women’s participation in the country’s political life.  His full remarks are online.

This morning the Secretary-General had a bilateral meeting with the new French President, François Hollande, and you will have seen we issued a readout on that.  We also gave readouts on the Secretary-General’s meetings yesterday with the Presidents of Turkey and Afghanistan.  The Secretary-General will be back in New York later today.

** Syria

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, is in Damascus, where he has met with observers from the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) and is assessing the progress on the ground to date.  He noted the record time in which the observers have deployed.

During his four-day visit, Mr. Ladsous met with both Government and opposition groups to enhance facilitation and cooperation for the second phase of the Mission.  The safety and security of the observers was also discussed.  Today, Mr. Ladsous visited Homs and met with the governor and opposition groups.  During the meeting, both sides expressed their commitment to Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan and noted the diminishing of violence in the city since the arrival of the military observers.  Mr. Ladsous affirmed that the focus now needs to be on building dialogue and confidence between the parties.

The Under-Secretary-General emphasized that the end of the violence will only happen if Syrians and all parties, both internal and external, choose the path of dialogue.

** Lebanon

Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, said today that he has been very concerned at the incidents of violence in recent days, which have led to loss of life in Lebanon, and he extended his condolences to the families of those who died in those incidents.

Mr. Plumbly said that it is important that there be no further repetition of such violence and that the incidents that have occurred be fully and thoroughly investigated.  He said that he has been impressed by the efforts of the security authorities and political leaders to safeguard Lebanon’s calm and stability, at a time of upheaval and uncertainty in the region.  And he asserted that differences must be addressed through dialogue, not a resort to violence.  We have his statement available in our office.

**Security Council Trip

The Security Council is currently in Côte d’Ivoire, as part of its three-country mission to West Africa.  The Council arrived in Liberia on Saturday to assess the progress made by the country towards development and to assess the mandate of UNMIL, the UN peacekeeping Mission there.  Council members were informed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf that in a period of two to three years, Liberia hopes to have the capacity to safeguard the country without the support of UN peacekeepers.

The Council arrived in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, last night.  Today, it held a meeting with President Alassane Ouattara, in which they discussed reconciliation and security sector reform.  In a short while, the Security Council is due to meet with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), during which issues, including Guinea-Bissau and Mali, are expected to be discussed.  Council members will stay in Côte d’Ivoire until Wednesday, when they will fly to Sierra Leone, the last stop on the three-nation tour.

**Sudan-South Sudan

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Ali al-Za’tari, today welcomed the continued progress in the airlift from Khartoum to Juba of some 12,000 people of South Sudanese origin who had been stranded for many months at a way station in Kosti.  The airlift is managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and supported by the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan.  The humanitarian airlift, which began one week ago, has already transported 4,200 people to South Sudan.

The Humanitarian Coordinator also welcomed continued progress by the two Governments to regularize the status of people of South Sudanese origin who wish to remain in Sudan.  He also welcomed the decision to grant citizens of South Sudan residing in Sudan temporary identification cards.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Antonio Guterres, today deplored the killing of a UNHCR staff member in Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Rocky Makabuza died on Saturday in the North Kivu provincial capital after sustaining gunshot wounds in an attack at his home by unknown assailants on Friday night.

**Timor-Leste

And on Sunday, the Secretary-General congratulated the people of Timor-Leste on the tenth anniversary of the restoration of independence.  In his message, delivered on his behalf by his Special Adviser, Vijay Nambiar, the Secretary-General said that Timor-Leste has made impressive advances over the past decade and that the people of Timor-Leste should be proud of these many achievements.

The peaceful conduct of the presidential election is testament to the country’s progress, he added.  He called on all Timorese leaders and political parties to demonstrate the same commitment to peaceful parliamentary elections in July.  The Secretary-General said that, while the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste continues to prepare for its anticipated departure at the end of this year, the United Nations will remain steadfast in its support for many years to come.

And that’s I’ve got.  Any questions for me?  Yes, Lou?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  I wondered if you could expand on what you were saying about Lebanon and what Plumbly was saying.  Is UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] redeploying at all in order to prepare for possible increased violence; are they on heightened alert?  I mean, what is the UN doing there, given what is going on?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, as far as that goes, the main effort has to be a diplomatic effort by our Special Coordinator, Derek Plumbly, who is in touch with all the various groups on the ground and is working with them to make sure that they will resolve their differences peacefully and through dialogue.  As you are aware, the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is for southern Lebanon, specifically south of the Litani River, and any redeployments north of the Litani River would require approval of a different mandate by the Security Council.  So, we are not looking at that for the time being.  From our perspective, Mr. Plumbly is working with the parties; the Secretary-General has his own concerns about this, which I believe were also expressed in the readout that we put out of his meeting with Mr. Hollande just a few hours ago.  But we will work both with our different forces on the ground and with our office of the Special Coordinator to try to get things stabilized.

Question:  Just a quick follow-up; so, is Plumbly or are some of his people reaching out to the different factions that have been engaged in fighting since yesterday?

Associate Spokesperson:  He is reaching out to the various different parties that form the Government and political system of Lebanon.  Yes?

Question:  Eye witnesses north of Lebanon speak about Syrian rebels roaming freely with their weapons in that region; especially in the border area.  Is that matter… do you view it as a matter of concern for the peace and security of Lebanon?

Associate Spokesperson:  As you are well aware, we consider the fighting in Syria to be a cause of concern in its own right, and we are worried about how it affects the region as a whole.  The Secretary-General has made clear that Syria is at a pivotal moment.  You will have seen the remarks that he made in the readout after his meeting with the President of France.  But we are working to see what can be done on the ground to tamp down the violence in Syria, both through the efforts of Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan, and through the efforts being made by the UN Supervision Mission.

Question:  Are there any contacts with the Gulf States which are providing equipment and money to these rebels?

Associate Spokesperson:  We would hope that all of the various parties that are, that have influence to bear on the fighting in Syria would exercise their influence to allow for greater calm and for a cessation of the fighting.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask, also on, I guess first on Syria, the, the, this trip that was made by, I believe, Ladsous, Mr. [Jean-Marie] Guéhenno and Babacar Gaye — what’s the, what’s the breakdown?  It was described prior to the trip that Mr. Guéhenno was going there on a, quote, “on the political track”.  Is, what’s, is Mr. Ladsous, what’s, how does, how, what’s, sort of, I guess, the division of labour between them?  Is Mr. Ladsous only concerning the observers or is he also something of a mediator on the political track, and was there any request for Mr. [Nasser] al-Kidwa, who is the other deputy of Kofi Annan, to in fact enter Syria?

Associate Spokesperson: I think Mr. [Ahmad] Fawzi made clear that Mr. Guéhenno’s work is to assess what the situation is on the ground, and he had suggested that there would be a deputy of Mr. Annan going there, and that Mr. Annan might make a visit later down the line.  As for Mr. Ladsous, I just read out a note about his work and what he was doing.  Again, if you didn’t hear it, he was there to meet with observers from the UN Supervision Mission and to assess the progress on the ground to date.

Question:  What about Mr. al-Kidwa?  Is he, I mean, what’s, what’s his function as the Joint Special Envoy’s second deputy?  Has he ever entered Syria?  Has he been denied ability to enter Syria?

Associate Spokesperson:  He is one of the deputies; you can talk to the Joint Special Envoy’s spokesperson, Mr. Fawzi, about what he is doing.  Yes?

Question:  My question is about food security in Africa.  What is the Secretariat’s reaction to President [Barack] Obama’s announcement at the weekend on the new alliance of food security, $3 billion, in light of the unfulfilled pledges made in L’Aquila, Italy, three, four years ago?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, as far as that goes, the Secretary-General wants to make sure that countries will do as much as they can to ensure food security in Africa.  To that end, we were involved in these discussions that were held at the [Group of Eight] talks on food security.  In fact, the head of the World Food Programme was there for that, as well as the head of IFAD, the [International Fund] for Agricultural Development.  So they are part of that dialogue, and we will continue to be part of that dialogue.  We certainly want countries to live up to their past commitment on this; but anything that helps take this forward, as with the discussions over the weekend, is a positive step and we want to encourage the countries of the Group of Eight and others to continue to do what they can even in this… even in these times of financial constraints, to help ensure food security for Africa.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Just one question; did the Secretary-General meet in Chicago with the President of Pakistan as yet or no?

Associate Spokesperson:  No.

Question:  Is there a scheduled meeting?

Associate Spokesperson:  It is not on the last schedule that I have seen.

Question:  I see.

Associate Spokesperson:  We put out readouts of his meetings.  Last night, he met with President of Turkey and with the President of Afghanistan.  He earlier has met with the President of France this morning.  I believe he is scheduled to meet with the Defence Secretary of the United Kingdom.  If there are any other meetings, we will let you know.

Question:  So, so far, because United States is also not meeting with the, I mean, the President of the United States is not meeting with Mr. [Asif Ali] Zardari, is there any relation to that?

Associate Spokesperson:  No, no, the Secretary-General is trying to schedule as many meetings as he can.  There are quite a lot of people to meet, and he is there for a small amount of time.  He will be coming back, flying back this afternoon.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  Can you have any comment or, or, or assessment of the casualties of this bombing in Yemen?  Some people say 90 killed; some people say 120.  What’s, what’s the, the Special Adviser doing and what do you, what does the UN make of this major attack?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, the Special Adviser is travelling in the region; I don’t believe he is in Yemen right now.  I do expect — we don’t have it ready right now, but I do expect to have a statement on Yemen fairly shortly.  If it is ready by the time this is done, we will read it out now.  Otherwise, we will put it out hopefully within the hour.

Question:  Let’s keep this going then.  I wanted to ask you about Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari, the Joint, whatever, the, the, the UNAMID’s [United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur] chief.  Previously there was some controversy about a house that was built apparently only for him within the El-Fashar compound, and I have now learned the cost of it:  $620,000 and I wondered, what, what people there are asking is, where did the money come from?  Was this part of UNAMID’s budget?  Was this in fact meant for the housing of other staff members and devoted to that?  So, I wanted to know, one, I don’t assume that you’d have a note with you, but is there some way to know where that funds come from and also whether Mr. Gambari’s status as the head of UNAMID is in the process of changing in any way around the SRSG [Special Representatives of the Secretary-General] retreat that was held in Greentree; I have heard that there was notification of a change of status and I’d like to get you to confirm or deny that.

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, we don’t have any appointments to make regarding UNAMID; so, he is the Head of that mission at this point.  Regarding a budget, we will check with our colleagues.  As you know, all of the Special Representatives and indeed all staff have accommodations in their duty stations.  So he will have his accommodation provided.  But if there is any detail on the budgetary information, sure, I will try and get those for you.

Question:  Is there, just, if you could, what, is there an end to his, to his mandate; is there a need to either be renewed or not renewed?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, mandate renewals come up regularly before the Security Council, you…

Question:  No, not of the mission; I am saying of him, is he, as an individual, my understanding is that it is the Secretary-General’s choice, not the Security Council, in terms of keeping an SRSG on.

Associate Spokesperson:  You know, I think you’ve actually managed to stall this long enough that we actually can say it’s what we are going to say on Yemen.

Question:  All right.  Okay, that’s our questions, too.  If it’s not Yemen, we can…

Associate Spokesperson:  Oh, I am sure it is.  [As Associate Spokesperson is handed a piece of paper].  I can tell from your walk, you know.  Before we do that, let me read out the following:

I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General concerning Yemen:

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the terrorist attack that took place in Sana’a today during a rehearsal for a military parade, reportedly killing at least 96 soldiers and wounding more than 300.  This criminal act cannot be justified by any cause.  Its perpetrators must be held accountable.  The Secretary-General expresses his deep sympathy and condolences to the victims of this heinous act and their families, as well as to the people and Government of Yemen.

The Secretary-General calls on all in Yemen to reject the use of violence in all its forms and manifestations, and expects them to play a full and constructive role in implementing Yemen’s political Transition Agreement, in accordance with  Security Council resolution 2014 (2011).

And we will have that available for you at the Spokesperson’s office.

Question:  I guess I wanted to ask about Madagascar.  I know that the Secretary-General met Mr. [Andry] Rajoelina.  Before the meeting, Martin [Nesirky] said he wouldn’t give a readout obviously before it.  Afterwards, Mr. Rajoelina said, you know, that he is pushing for, for fast elections, he claimed that the road map has been fully complied with, and, and then said some things about what the Secretary-General had said.  I am wondering, is there any readout from the Secretary-General’s side in terms of the UN role in either having elections that some say are being held under conditions that don’t allow free and fair election, or, or encouraging compliance with the pre-existing road map?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, regarding the road map, we of course continue to push for progress on that, and indeed we continue to work with the parties trying to get a restoration of constitutional order to Madagascar.  As for a readout, there won’t be a readout of that particular discussion, a portion of which was held tête-à-tête between the President of Madagascar and the Secretary-General.  Yes?

Question:  You mentioned earlier, do you know of a time, timeline as to when all 300 UN monitors will be in place in Syria?

Associate Spokesperson:  We are moving far ahead on the deployment.  As at last count, I believe we have some 266 military observers deployed, and roughly 70 civilian staff as well.  So, we have quite a few people on the ground; we are not quite at 300, but we will get there hopefully fairly soon.

Question:  Within the week?

Associate Spokesperson:  Let’s see.  Whenever we have it, we’ll say it.  Yes?

Question:  One thing about the announcement you made; did I hear you correctly that Vijay Nambiar was speaking for the Secretary-General in Timor-Leste?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  In…, and I guess not to, not that he… in what capacity?  My understanding is he is just good offices for Myanmar.

Associate Spokesperson:  In his capacity as a Special Adviser.  You are right, that basically what he does, is the good offices for Myanmar; but he is a Special Adviser to the Secretary-General and it was in that capacity that he spoke in Timor-Leste.

Question:  In one either related or not related question, this post of Deputy Chef de Cabinet that used to be held by, by Mr. Kim Won-soo, does it remain a post; is it going to be filled, or is it a post that is now essentially was a po…, was a Mr. Kim post and is, is no more as a post?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t have any more to announce on that particular post right now.  If and when we have an announcement, we will let you know.

Have a good day.

* *** *

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