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

7 June 2012

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

7 June 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.  Welcome to the briefing.

** Syria

The Secretary-General and Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan spoke at the General Assembly’s informal meeting on Syria this morning, and they warned the Member States that the situation there continues to deteriorate.

The Secretary-General said that reports of another massacre today at Mazraat al-Qubeir and Kafr Zeta are shocking and sickening.

He added that UN monitors have been trying to get to the scene, but were shot at during that effort.

The Secretary-General said that we see too little evidence that the Syrian Government is living up to its commitments under the six-point plan endorsed by the Security Council more than two months ago.

For their part, many elements of the opposition have unfortunately turned to arms and declared that they will no longer respect the plan.

He said that Syria and the region can quickly move from tipping point to breaking point.  The dangers of full-scale civil war are imminent and real.

The Secretary-General called on President [Bashar al-] Assad to urgently and unconditionally implement the six-point plan and to allow the UN observer mission to do its work, safely and without interference or intimidation.

He also called on Syrian authorities to allow UN humanitarian teams to operate freely.  And he called on all Member States to exert their maximum influence — with both sides — to help the Joint Special Envoy succeed in his mission.

The Joint Special Envoy said that, despite the acceptance of the six-point plan and the deployment of a courageous mission of United Nations observers to Syria, the plan is not being implemented.

Clearly, he said, the time has come to determine what more can be done to secure implementation of the plan, or what other options exist to address the crisis.

We have their statements in my office.

**Security Council

The Secretary-General and the Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan, will brief the Security Council at 3 p.m. this afternoon about Syria, and that is in closed consultations.  Following that meeting, they will speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout.

The Security Council has received updates this morning from the senior officials of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia about the work being done to wrap up the two tribunals’ case loads.

**Secretary-General Appointments

The Secretary-General has appointed Ms. Amina J. Mohammed of Nigeria as Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning.  Two thousand fifteen is, of course, the target date for the Millennium Development Goals.  Ms. Mohammed brings to the position more than 30 years of experience as a development practitioner in the public and private sectors, as well as in civil society.  The Secretary-General has also appointed Mr. Parfait Onanga-Anyanga of Gabon as his Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB).  He will replace Ms. Karin Landgren of Sweden, who was recently appointed the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Liberia.  We have more information on these latest two appointments in my office.

** Middle East

Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, has reiterated the international community’s view that all settlement construction, whether on private Palestinian land or elsewhere in occupied Palestinian territory, is contrary to international law.

He said that the latest announcements about such construction are deeply troubling.  The Special Coordinator reiterated that we could be moving down the path toward a one-State reality, which would also move us further away from regional peace in the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative.  And we have his full statement in my office.

** Afghanistan

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has condemned in the strongest terms the attacks that took place in several parts of the country yesterday, which killed 40 civilians, including 10 children, and injured at least 67 others.  These attacks produced the deadliest single day for civilian deaths in 2012.

The UN Mission noted that the use of improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks by anti-Government elements have by far caused the greatest number of civilian casualties, which was once more underlined yesterday.

And the UN Mission has also repeatedly expressed concern that aerial operations have resulted in more civilian deaths and injuries than any other tactic used by pro-Government forces since the present armed conflict began.  And we have more details in a press release.

** Pakistan

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, wrapped up her visit to Pakistan today.  While in the country, she met with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and other senior officials, as well as with civil society.

Ms. Pillay told reporters that Pakistan is at a very important juncture in its efforts to consolidate democratic civilian rule.  Since the restoration of democracy in 2008, the Government has taken a number of key initiatives on human rights, she said.  And there is more information available on the website of the UN Human Rights Office.

**Jahangir

We have been asked about a former United Nations human rights special rapporteur in Pakistan.  In addition to what I told you earlier this week, I have the following:

The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the recent reports of threats to the life of Ms. Asma Jahangir, a former UN human rights special rapporteur and a prominent human rights lawyer and activist in Pakistan.

As the Secretary-General has stressed in the context of reprisals against human rights defenders, he urges the Government to investigate the nature and source of the threats and to take all possible steps to ensure her protection.

The Secretary-General also calls upon the authorities to ensure the security of all human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers in Pakistan, who are an important pillar of efforts to strengthen democracy and the rule of law.

While on an official visit to Pakistan this week, as I just mentioned, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, visited Ms. Jahangir to discuss this deplorable development and to offer her support.

The High Commissioner also raised the case with the Prime Minister, who assured her that he and the President have called Ms. Jahangir to inform her of their efforts to ensure her safety.

**DESA

An escalation of the debt crisis in the euro area could trigger severe turmoil in the financial markets, according to a report released today by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).  It says the debt crisis, especially in Greece, remains the biggest threat to the world economy.

The report, on the “World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP)”, says that, despite some scattered signs of improvement in recent months, the global economic situation is still challenging.  It describes the outlook for global economic growth in 2012 as “tepid”.  It adds that a further sharp rise in energy prices may also stifle global development.  There are more details online.

**FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has released its Food Price Index for the month of May.  Global food prices have dropped sharply, due to generally favourable supplies, growing global economic uncertainties and a strengthening of the US dollar.

The Food Price Index, measuring the monthly change in an international basket of food commodity prices, fell by 4 per cent in May.  This was the lowest since September last year and about 14 per cent below its peak in February of the same year.

**UN Bike Ride

Tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. in front of UN Headquarters, there will be a UN Bike Ride organized by the Netherlands Mission to promote cycling as a means of sustainable urban transport, ahead of the forthcoming Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development later this month.

The Secretary-General, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, Ms. Janette Sadik-Khan, and other dignitaries will attend.  The bike ride will start in front of the United Nations with a photo opportunity for the media and continue up to 51st Street.

That’s it.  Questions, please?  Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Since I have your rapt attention, I have two questions.  Quickly, on this last thing that you read about the Secretary-General being at the Bike Ride, will he be riding, because he has an arm which is not functioning fully?  Will he just…?

Spokesperson:  I think that remains to be seen.  I am sure that he will take a keen interest in it.  Whether he pushes pedals remains to be seen.  [The Spokesperson later said that the Secretary-General will not be riding a bicycle.  He will be present at the start of the event and ring a large bicycle bell to send the riders off.]

Question:  I see, okay.  About this visit of Ms. Navi Pillay to Pakistan which just concluded; I just… she, in that press conference she distinctly, she clearly said that there is a human rights violation in US drone attacks inside Pakistan; well, the killing, the Al-Qaida who were leaders and so forth.  She has in that press briefing, press conference, she even said that she will ask the United Nations to conduct the investigation.  Now, my question is this:  while she is saying that there should be an investigation by the United Nations, can she do her own investigation also or not?  Or she is making it independent…

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you need to ask her Office or Ms. Pillay about that particular point, about her thoughts on an investigation of some kind.  That would be for her to speak about.  I think we more generally have expressed our views on the use of drones, and I don’t really have anything to add on that at this point.

Question:  I mean in that, in the use of drones, I mean, has the United Nations directly said that this should not be done or it’s a violation or not?  But she has now said directly:  it is a violation of human rights.  I mean, I am not talking about other violations, just violations of human rights.  Where does the United Nations Secretary-General stand on this?

Spokesperson:  As I say, we have spoken about this, and I don’t really have anything beyond what we have said before.  I am happy to come back to you if you can’t recall precisely what it was; I am happy to help you with that after the briefing.

[The Spokesperson later added that the UN position was that the legality or otherwise of the use of drones is a question that lends itself to many different answers depending on the circumstances of its use in any given case, on the nature of the conflict or situation then prevailing, on the status of the parties to the conflict or the situation, and the applicable law.  When used in armed conflict, whether international or non-international in character, the rules of international humanitarian law and human rights law would apply.  In situations falling short of an armed conflict, a number of rules and principles of general international law would become relevant, and each situation would have to be assessed on the basis of its own facts.]

Question:  Okay.  Thank you very much.

Spokesperson:  Thank you.  Any other questions?  Okay, thank you very much.  Thank you.

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