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

14 June 2012

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

14 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, everyone.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Security Council

The Security Council has been holding consultations on Sudan and South Sudan this morning.  They have received a briefing by Haile Menkerios, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, who spoke to the members by videoconference.  Council members also received an update on the situation on the ground from the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet.

We are deeply concerned by the reports of food shortages in Sudan.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is assessing food needs in 23 Government-held locations in South Kordofan.

The areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile that are not under Government control appear to be the most seriously affected by food shortages.  So far, some 109,000 people in need of food assistance have been identified.

More than 8,000 metric tonnes of food assistance will be moved for distribution in the coming weeks.

The United Nations continues to call on parties to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches all people in need, wherever they may be located.

** Gaza

Seven United Nations Agencies, along with a number of international charities, have signed a statement today that marks the fifth year since the start of the blockade in Gaza.  The agencies say that more than 1.6 million people have been under blockade, with more than half of them children.  The signatories called for an end to the blockade now.

As we discussed yesterday, in a separate statement, Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said that more than 80 per cent of families in Gaza are dependent on humanitarian aid, and Gaza remains subject to severe restrictions on imports, exports and the movement of people, by land, air and sea.

While some steps have been taken to ease its impact, Ms Amos said, it is vital that the blockade be lifted immediately, so that essential services and infrastructure can be maintained.  The opportunity to develop a sustainable economy would also reduce dependence on humanitarian assistance.  And the full statements are available in our office.

** Côte d’Ivoire

A ceremony was held in Abidjan today to pay tribute to the seven United Nations peacekeepers from Niger who died in an ambush in the west of Côte d’Ivoire on Friday.

The peacekeepers were on patrol with United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) when they were attacked and killed in the village of Para, near Taї.

Speaking at the ceremony, the Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, conveyed the sympathy of the Secretary-General, who had been deeply shocked by this tragedy.

Mr. Ladsous also expressed the hope that those responsible for the deaths of the peacekeepers will be caught and brought to justice.

** Myanmar

The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, has wrapped up his visit to the country.  Yesterday, he visited Rakhine State, where he flew over Sittwe City and met internally displaced people in relief camps in Maungdaw.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that, according to the Government, some 15,000 people have been displaced around Sittwe, Maungdaw and Buthidaung.  The World Food Programme (WFP) plans to start food distributions with local partners.

** Afghanistan

The Secretary-General, in a video message to the Ministerial Conference that is underway in Kabul, said that Afghanistan has made real progress on the path to security and broad-based development.  He added that combating violent extremism, drug production and trafficking will remain essential, as well as meeting humanitarian needs. Left unaddressed, these challenges will grow.

The Secretary-General said that he looks forward to attending next month’s Tokyo conference. It should deliver tangible and predictable pledges in support of Afghanistan’s sustainable development priorities based on mutual accountability.

And we have the text of his message available in my office.

** Mali

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says the political instability in Mali has displaced close to 320,000 people.  More than 170,000 Malians have found refuge in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger. The remainder are displaced inside Mali.  The Refugee Agency, along with the World Food Programme, recently launched a regional emergency operation to provide life-saving support.  The Refugee Agency has revised its funding appeal for Mali and now says it needs $153 million for its emergency response operations.

**Press Conferences Today

At 1 p.m. today, here in this auditorium, there will be a press conference to launch the Global Peace Index (GPI) for this year.  Speakers will include Robert Powell, the Senior Editor of the Economist Intelligence Unit.

And later, at around 6:15 this evening, President Cristina Fernández of Argentina or Foreign Minister Héctor Marcos Timerman will give a press conference or press encounter at the North Lawn Building Stakeout here at United Nations headquarters.

Then immediately after that, Mark Lyall Grant, the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, accompanied by two members of the Islands Legislative Assembly, will speak at the same location.

That’s what I have for you.  Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure.  Actually, I, I have some questions about Sudan, but I think I’ll ask them at the stakeout, because I want to ask you a question actually about the stakeout.  As I, as I have raised the last two days here on, on Tuesday, Nobel Prize Winner Tawakkul Karman, I’ll say it openly, I signed her into the building.  She came to speak to the media at the table by the stakeout and ultimately, she spoke on camera at the stakeout.  I have today received a letter from MALU [Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit] calling this misconduct, and I take it to be a threat to throw me out of the UN for signing in a Nobel Peace Prize winner.  And I want to know how the UN, what the, what, eh, eh, views, Nobel Peace Prize’s winner as misconduct, when an alleged war criminal gave a press conference in this room, sitting right where you are, Shavendra Silva, sponsored by UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association], and that was considered fine.  So I want to know, what is taking place that every move… in October I signed her in and I received no such letter.  So, I want to know you, as a part of the Secretary-General’s office, and I also would like you to respond to a, to a, the Sri Lanka campaign, Edward Mortimer, former Communications Director here, has written that the UN is taking the side of a bully in its refusing to renew my accreditation in order to take the side of the Sri Lanka Government. So my question to you is, what are, why are these things taking place and what’s your response to them?

Spokesperson:  I am not going to answer those questions here, Matthew.  I am happy to…

Question:  You’ve said that before and you didn’t answer anything offline, and I have received this calling it misconduct, for a Nobel Peace Prize winner to come into the UN…

Spokesperson:  I think everybody has heard what you had to say, Matthew, and I don’t really have anything…

Question:  You’re trying to throw me out, and I find it outrageous.  I find it…

Spokesperson:  All right, well thank you very much.  Any other questions?  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  As far as the Earth Summit in Rio and [Barack] Obama’s attendance to it, I understand that the Secretary-General has tried [inaudible] Rio, so that Obama would participate.  Is this true, is it the case that the Secretary-General has asked the President of the United States to do that?

Spokesperson:  I think the Secretary-General has said openly that he would like the highest possible representation from all the countries. I think he is pleased that Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, is going to be heading the US delegation to the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development.  Other questions?  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Yes, regarding the humanitarian aid to Syria, can you describe how much has been sent so far, I mean in value?  And the call for aid, how, what’s the total amount that has been reached?

Spokesperson:  I’d have to check with my colleagues from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; they may be able to help.  As I think you are aware, they have been working with the Syrian Red Crescent to seek to provide assistance where they can.  Obviously, much more is needed.  We’ve heard the figures and the requirements.  We are also aware and you are aware that there have been discussions about being able to operate at a greater level of intensity within the country. I don’t have any further details on how that is progressing.  It may be that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs can help you further.

Question:  Do you have anything to say about this suicide bombing in Damascus today — that took place this morning?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything specific for you on that, Nizar.  No, I don’t.  Yeah.  Other questions?  Yes, Tim?

Question:  Has the UN had any input into the preparations for the P5+1 talks with Iran that are coming up soon?

Spokesperson:  Well, what I can tell you is that the Secretary-General took note of the recent discussion that took place between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and that was in Vienna on 8 June.  And he re-emphasized the necessity for Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency to reach agreement on the structured approach document as a matter of urgent priority, with a view to resolving the outstanding issues that relate to Iran’s nuclear programme.

And furthermore, — more directly answering your question - the Secretary-General hopes that the next round of talks between the E3+3 or the P5+1 and Iran, to take place in Moscow on 18 June, results in concrete and reciprocal steps towards a comprehensive negotiated solution that restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.  Yeah, other questions?

Question:  Can I ask a question on Côte d'Ivoire?

Spokesperson:  Of course, yes.

Question:  Okay.  The, the, um, various diplomats including the, the, from the Ivorian mission have said that beyond the seven Nigeroise peacekeepers that were killed, there were somewhere between one and three Ivorian security forces killed in the same attack.  I wanted to know if that, if the UN is aware of that. I tried to ask Mr. Ladsous, but he said, “I don’t speak to you”, so I’d like to know from your side, from DPKO’s [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] side, are they aware of Ivorian security forces being killed and are they part of this ceremony and of the deep concern being expressed by the United Nations?

Spokesperson:  As I understand it, we are aware of one member of the security forces of Côte d'Ivoire also losing his life in that attack.  And it’s not something that would go without notice, of course; I am sure that that has been mentioned in Côte d'Ivoire today. The focus, I speak here for the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, and what has been going on the ground today in Abidjan was a memorial ceremony for those fallen peacekeepers.  And I would simply place it in that context, Matthew.

Question:  And can I also ask, there is, there is an article out saying that Andry Rajoelina, who I know came and met with the, the Secretary-General, of Madagascar, that he’s, that he’s, that he’s complained that he has not yet received the report of the UN experts on elections in Madagascar, which is apparently one of the things discussed when they were here.  Is it, is he correct that there has been some delay and if so, when is he going to receive that report or assistance from the UN Elections Office?

Spokesperson:  I don’t now the answer to that, Matthew, I will check on it.

Question:  And one other thing…

Spokesperson:  Well, wait, wait, just wait one second.

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Yes, other questions, please? Yes?

Question:  Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was able to get to the United Nations today. I saw her being greeted by UN officials yesterday in Geneva, and I wanted to know, any statement from the Secretary-General in this regard, and also what he would still like to see happening in Myanmar?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, no specific comment from the Secretary-General on this visit to Europe by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  The Secretary-General has previously said that he welcomes Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s public engagements now, both inside the country and outside the country.  And as you are also aware, as I mentioned just a little while ago, the Special Advisor on Myanmar, Mr. Vijay Nambiar, has just finished a visit to Myanmar and is now on his way back from there.  And he has had a series of meetings while in Myanmar with the authorities, with other representatives there, and I am sure he will be reporting back in more detail.  I don’t have more details at the moment.  But, we have expressed our concern about what has been happening in Rakhine State, and that’s why Mr. Nambiar did go to the area with others to assess the situation.  And obviously, as we get more details we will be able to say more on that.

I think with regard to the visit to Geneva and to other points, of course it’s encouraging to be able to see that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi can travel and return.  And she is carrying a message which is important for people to hear about engagement in Myanmar and also underscoring the need for that engagement to continue, because this is a transition that is under way and not firmly cemented.  We need to continue to support that transition. 

Question:  Thanks a lot, I wanted to ask you about, it’s sort, it’s something of a follow-up to a, to a question I’d asked you about an incident at 380 Madison Avenue, which initially I was asking about because of the Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping and General Silva, but that while I was there I witnessed what I believed to be UN, U, NYPD [New York Police Department] trying to make an arrest inside the building. I know we had some back and forth; you said that wasn’t what it was.  I believe that yesterday, and now it’s been confirmed to me by the New York Police Department, a UN official, who will remain unnamed, the head of the Emergency Preparedness Unit submitted himself to the 17th Precinct and was, in fact, arrested for sexual abuse.  And I wanted to, I am told it’s the same incident, that they tried to arrest him 1 March in 380 Madison Avenue. So, I wanted to know, one, are these two, I know that you’ve confirmed that there has been some disciplinary action, undefined, as to this individual.  Is it the same incident that took place in, on Mar… 22 February at 380 Madison Avenue?  And can you confirm what UN Justice is reporting, which is that this individual has been downgraded from P5 to P4 at the same salary and with the same job, which some people see as not consistent with the zero tolerance policy?

Spokesperson:  I can’t comment on what may or may not have transpired at the New York Police Department; that’s for them to comment on.  I cannot comment on that.  On the second part, there was an internal procedure, which is confidential in nature, and therefore I cannot comment further on that, okay?

Question:  Is immunity going to be sought, though? Can you, can you just comment, that’s the word, the thing where the two things kind of intercept.

Spokesperson:  I think my answer in two parts will suffice there.  And I am just checking on other questions; yes, George?

Question:  Just as long as you are on the subject of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, are there any plans afoot for her to be invited to come and visit the UN in New York and if there are not, should there not be?

Spokesperson:  I think the Secretary-General has made it clear that she would be welcome to visit.  I think there is no firm timing yet for such a visit.  But, she would certainly be welcome to visit.

Question:  Thank you.

Question:  A Congo question? There was stakeout by Roger Meese and I understand he speaks for himself, but since then, uh, there, there was, yesterday there was a meeting of the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] sanctions committee in the North Lawn Building and, and various participants told me that inside, the sanctions panel members described Rwandan bullets and a variety of evidence that Rwanda played some role in the mutiny, and this is something that Mr. Meese not only basically denied at the stakeout, but even in, I am told in consultations with the Council said it wasn’t the case.  So it seems to be that, it seems to be that two different parts of the UN system i.e., MONUSCO [United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] and the sa… the experts on sanctions and even MONUSCO’s expert in Goma says that Rwanda played a role.  What is the ca… what is the case here?  I know that there has been a changing story, I mean, not just a changing story, changing facts and awareness on the UN’s role.  But, I mean, what is the current understanding of MONUSCO and DPKO of Rwanda’s role in the mutiny in the Congo?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you answered the question right at the beginning when you said that Mr. Meese speaks for himself.  Where he has spoken publicly about that, I would refer you to what he said.  If there is anything further from the Mission on this to add to what has already been said, then I will let you know.  But I don’t have anything at the moment.

Question:  And do you have, also, also in the North Lawn yesterday the ACABQ, you know, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, um, rejected a request by the Secretariat to upgrade the Office of Mr. Robert Orr, Public-Private Partnerships from, or upgrade him maybe from ASG [Assistant Secretary-General] to USG [Under-Secretary-General], they considered it, they spoke to the previous holder of the post, Amir Dossal, who was a D-2, and I am told that they, they, they found the request you know, highly irregular and rejected it.  Can you confirm if this request was rejected and can you state why the Secretariat thought that a D-2 post should be upgraded to USG?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything for you on that, Matthew.  I simply don’t.  Okay, have a good afternoon.  Thank you very much.

* *** *

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