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

23 May 2012

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

23 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, and welcome to the briefing.


The Secretary-General spoke at this morning’s high-level General Assembly meeting on mediation.  He said that the Secretariat was preparing guidance for effective mediation, which would draw on the experience of regional organizations, non-governmental organizations and civil society, including women’s groups.

The Secretary-General discussed the key fundamentals of mediation, saying that consent is always important, as are impartiality, preparedness and inclusivity.  All mediation efforts must respect international laws and norms.  He added that we must do much more to include more women in peace processes.  The Secretary-General has personally been appointing women mediators, and he counts on countries to support this effort.  We have his remarks in my office.

**Security Council Trip

The 15 Members of the Security Council have arrived in Sierra Leone on the last leg of a three-nation trip to West Africa which has also included Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire.  The delegation met President Ernest Bai Koroma and discussed a range of issues, including November’s forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.  The positive steps taken by the Government of Sierra Leone in consolidating peace and promoting a comprehensive development agenda was also on the agenda.

Yesterday afternoon, the delegation visited a refugee camp in Liberia where more than 7,000 Ivorians are living.  Those refugees fled post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire.  Many have been at the camp for up to 14 months.  The Security Council trip finishes tonight in the capital, Freetown.

** Libya

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Ian Martin, has welcomed the successful conclusion earlier this week of the voter registration process for the forthcoming elections to the National Congress.  He noted that 2.7 million people of voting age have registered to cast their ballots and said the figures were a testimony to the commitment of Libyans to their country’s democratic transition.

Mr. Martin expressed confidence that the Libyan people will continue to exhibit the same spirit and commitment over the coming weeks in the lead-up to Election Day.  He said that the United Nations will continue to assist the Libyan people in their efforts to build a new Libya.

** Somalia

Mark Bowden, the humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, today issued a statement following the recent armed movements there.  He called for all parties to make every effort to minimize the impact of conflict on civilians and allow full humanitarian access to all people in need.

He remains concerned that an escalation of hostilities or a prolonged operation could lead to displacement, further straining the capacity of settlements and host communities in Mogadishu or driving people away from the lifesaving help they require.  Mr. Bowden added that humanitarian actors are coordinating preparations to ensure immediate assistance is available to civilians most affected by military activities in the Afgooye corridor.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travel

The Deputy Secretary-General will travel today to Washington, D.C., to attend a gala dinner in commemoration of Africa Day, hosted by the African Ambassadors’ Group in Washington.  The event is part of the theme set by the African Union of “Boosting Intra-African Trade”.  The Deputy Secretary-General will be guest of honour and will deliver the keynote address, entitled “Building on Africa’s Recent Progress”.  And she will return to New York tomorrow.

**Press Conferences

At 12:30 p.m. today, Gonzalo de Benito, the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of [ Spain], will brief press at the stakeout on the 2nd Floor, North Lawn Building.

And at 1:30 p.m. today here in this Auditorium, there will be a press conference by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to launch a new online initiative to support South-South cooperation.  The speakers are Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda, President of UN High-Level Committee on South-South Cooperation; Amina Mohamed, who is the UNEP Deputy Executive Director; Tomoko Nishimoto, Director of UNEP Division on Regional Cooperation; and finally, Yiping Zhou, Director of the UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] Special Unit for South-South Cooperation.

Questions, please?  Yes, Mr. Lee, yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, that will be great.  I wanted to ask first, just… just now in front of the GA [General Assembly] on this mediation meeting, the Italian Foreign Minister referred to, and was asked about, this incident that they have with… with India, where two of their Marines are, you know, in captivity for shooting two fishermen, and… and he seemed to be saying that they… they… it should be mediated, so I wanted to know whether there has been any request by Italy to the UN system for… for assistance on this high-profile dispute between the two countries.

Spokesperson:  I’d have to check on that, Matthew.  Typically as you know, mediation requires the consent of, or the request of both parties, yes.  Let me check.  Yeah.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi, then Sylviane?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  You did indicate how the Secretary-General emphasized the role of mediation in resolution of conflict.  He did not make any distinction between the relationship between mediation and preventive diplomacy or Article 99, the so-called Good Offices, nor did he indicate any relationship between these three.  In that context, what mediation efforts or preventive diplomacy efforts have been undertaken to head off the conflict over Gibraltar on one hand and the Malvinas conflict in… between Argentina and Great Britain?

Spokesperson:  Again, this comes back to what I was just saying:  that good-office mediation efforts, in particular, do require the request or consent of the parties concerned, whether it is two parties or more.  And it is at that point that a mediation effort by the United Nations could be undertaken.  I think I may have misspoken when I was talking about today’s press conferences.  I think it is the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Spain who will be doing… providing a stakeout and briefing the press at 12:30 p.m.  Yes, Sylviane, and then Ali?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  The Italian Minister just spoke about the concern of… EU concern and Italian concern on the situation of Lebanon… situation in Syria spilling over Lebanon, especially on the situation on UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon].  Do you have any concern and do you think that the Secretary-General is concerned about this particular matter of the situation on UNIFIL and the situation on Syria spilling over Lebanon?  And also, if the Secretary-General spoke directly with President [Michel] Sleiman on the situation in Lebanon?

Spokesperson:  On the last part of your question, not to my knowledge, certainly not in recent days.  With regard to the danger or the risk of a spillover, the Secretary-General has said that he remains concerned about the possibility of there being an all-out civil war in Syria itself, and the consequences that that could have for the region.  He also said, as you will have noted when he met the French President in Chicago, that he is concerned about the violence that has taken place just in the last few days in Lebanon.  As for the peacekeeping mission that we have in the south of the country, I would need to check with my colleagues in Peacekeeping Operations; I don’t have anything specific about the concerns there may be about ramifications for the mission.  Let me check on that.  Yes, Ali?

Question:  Yeah, thank you, Martin.  To what extent is the Secretary-General satisfied by the progress that has been made so far with the UNSMIS [United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria] mission?  And my second question is that I think the first report of UNSMIS is due tomorrow.  My question whether it is going to be a public report or confidential…

Spokesperson:  I believe, Ali, that the next submission to the Security Council is due this week, and I believe that it is a written submission this time.  I would need to check on what form it will take; in other words, whether it is officially a public document or not.  I would need to check on that.  With regard to your question about deployment, as the Secretary-General said earlier last week, and he has been saying certainly in his meetings with the leaders in Chicago that we are approaching full deployment of the mandated number of observers and civilian staff.  Of course, full deployment or not, there is a key mission to be undertaken and there is the need for them to be able to do their job regardless of the numbers; to be able to do their job.  And that means that all sides need to comply with the six-point plan that they have signed up to, and specifically to stop the violence.  And this is the first and primary role of the observers:  to be able to monitor that ceasefire, which, as we all know at the moment, is not there in its entirety.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Yes, Martin.  Can you tell us whether this 90-day window of opportunity that has been, it was said that was there for Syria to come to some sort of agreement on how to move forward?  Is it after the UN monitors are in place, or has it already begun… the clock is ticking?

Spokesperson:  There is a Security Council resolution on this, and that resolution and the mandate will need to be reviewed in due course, I think, at the end of that period.

Question:  Would he have a comment…

Spokesperson:  And that’s for the Security Council, of course, that’s for the Security Council to deliberate on.  Yes?

Question:  Do you have a comment on the Afghanistan Government’s decision to detain people indefinitely without any recourse to law?  Do you have any… it is being said that… it has been said by various groups that it is being done at the behest of the American Government.  Do you have any comment?  Does the Secretary-General have any comment on this?

Spokesperson:  I am not aware of those reports, Masood.  I’d need to check into that.  Yes, Stefano, then I am coming to you, Matthew, yeah.

Question:  Yes.  Yesterday, the Secretary-General had a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Italy, [Giulio] Terzi, and we know that they also talked about India, the situation, the crisis that there is between the two countries at the moment for the two marines that India arrested after crisis on the sea; well, we know what we are talking about at the moment, or do you want me to elaborate?

Spokesperson:  I do.  I am having a strange sense of déjà vu here, or whatever that is in Italian.

Question:  Yeah, exactly, but my question is that, the question, strange question is, what was the reaction of the Secretary-General?  Did the Secretary-General say something to the Foreign Minister about what is his opinion, what is going to be… what the UN can do for trying to resolve this crisis?

Spokesperson:  I wasn’t in the room, so I don’t know the answer to that, Stefano, specifically.  But just to come back to the point that was raised earlier — generally speaking, mediation efforts are undertaken when there is a request from the parties concerned.  I don’t have any further details on that at this point, Stefano.  If I do, and I am able to give them to you, then I would certainly do so.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I want to ask about Sudan and South Sudan.  The Government of South Sudan is saying that… that Sudan has recommenced aerial bombardment in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State, and I wanted to know whether UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] can confirm or not that, and also whether UNMISS… was it involved in any way or said anything about this, there was an arrest of a journalist in Lake State that was hope… high profile there for havi… she ran a programme that criticized the police and she was then arrested immediately after the programme, and I wonder, since UNMISS has a kind of a human rights and a kind of UN… principles mandate there, did… did… did… did Hilde Johnson or the Mission say anything about that arrest of a journalist?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check on the last bit.  On the first part of the question, about the reports of aerial bombardment or bombing, the Mission, as I understand it, is in the process of verifying these allegations, but I don’t have anything further at this point.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  There seems to be some positive news regarding the relationship between the Government of Iran and the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  The head of the Agency said yesterday that the… he will soon sign an agreement letting inspectors go back and visit the nuclear sites.  And the Foreign Minister of Iran, I think, is seeing the Secretary-General this afternoon.  Is the Secretary-General encouraging this effort?

Spokesperson:  Just to correct you, I believe the Secretary-General is seeing the Permanent Representative of Iran this afternoon, not the Foreign Minister, who, of course, is in Baghdad at the moment taking part in those talks with the P5+1.  On the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Secretary-General is fully briefed, of course, on the mission that was undertaken by the Director General, Mr. [Yukiya] Amano.  I would leave it to him — meaning the Director General — and the Agency to speak on that.  And indeed I think you can find on their website a video clip of the remarks that he has made in this context.  With regard to the meeting taking place in Baghdad today, of course the Secretary-General has consistently said that dialogue is the way to go and, therefore, it is obviously something that the Secretary-General is following very closely.  He believes that dialogue is the key to resolving the outstanding questions that there are on the table with regard to Iran’s nuclear programme.  Yes, Sylviane?

Question:  Another… I don’t know if you… it’s relevant, but do you know if the Security Council will be discussing the UNMIS, the latest UNMIS report next Monday during the Middle East debate?

Spokesperson:  You mean the UNSMIS, the Syrian Supervisory Mission, you mean, in Syria?

Correspondent:  UNSMIS, yeah, yes.

Spokesperson:  I don’t know the answer to that; I’d have to check with my colleagues who deal with Security Council affairs.  But, as I just mentioned, in the next few days, it is envisaged that there would be a written submission to the Council in line with the Security Council mandate on that Mission.  Yes, this is the last question, Matthew, yeah?

[The Spokesperson later added that the Security Council, in its provisional programme, was scheduled to discuss UNSMIS on Wednesday, 30 May.]

Question:  Okay, I want to… Western Sahara and Sri Lanka, because I… you will see, maybe it will be an answer to one of the two, on Western Sahara…

Spokesperson:  I will be encouraged… certainly, intrigued to see how you make the link between the two.

Question:  Sure.  Oh, good, okay, let’s… I mean, okay, on Western Sahara, I wanted to… I wanted to just square two co… two com… two… two things that had been said in this room.  One was, Morocco has said openly that they… they no longer have confidence in Christopher Ross as the, I’ll call… I’ll call him a mediator today since it is mediation day.  So it’s… it was said that the Secretary-General has full confidence in Mr. Ross, but it was also said that a seemingly previously announced travel to the region that he was going to engage in, he is not going to engage in.  So is there some… is there… is… why isn’t he travelling?  That’s my first, that’s the Western Sahara question.

Spokesperson:  Well, I think that is something that is clearly for Mr. Ross to decide when it is appropriate for him to travel.  I don’t have any further comment on that.

Question:  And then, and thanks a lot.  The other one I wanted to ask you, is I tried to ask it yesterday, it’s… I now understand that… that Shavendra Silva, one of the members of the Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations, didn’t attend the meeting yesterday, but I wanted to know… did not… but I wanted to know since… since the… the chairperson named by the Secretary-General, Ms. [Louise] Fréchette, has said that even if he attends physically, he shall not participate.  Has this been conveyed to him, and does the sec… I mean, did he not come because the UN told him, “Don’t come”, or was it, as Sri Lanka says, simply because he wasn’t in town?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think it sounds like you’ve done the right thing, which is to speak to the Sri Lankans.  I don’t have any comment or any details on that.

Question:  The only reason I… and thanks, I will do this as briefly as I can, I mean, I can talk to the Sri Lankans, I want something on this sort of the UN side and it’s been said that Ms. Fréchette doesn’t have a spokesperson, I have been unable to get any word from her out or… that’s why I am asking, since… since Ban Ki-moon appointed her, what’s the UN position on the continued participation…?

Spokesperson:  As I say, I don’t have anything on that, Matthew.  If I do, I’d gladly share it.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  All right.  Thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.

* *** *

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