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

19 June 2012

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

19 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.

So, good afternoon, everyone.  Welcome to the noon briefing.

**Guest at Noon

Tomorrow is World Refugee Day.  And there are nearly 44 million refugees and internally displaced people around the world.  And the Office of the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, provides assistance to many of them.  Now, today my guest is Khaled Hosseini.  Mr. Hosseini obviously needs little introduction, as an author and as an advocate. 

It’s very good to have you with us today; thank you very much for coming.  He has been a Goodwill Envoy for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees since 2006.  And he is here to brief you on his work with the Refugee Agency in Afghanistan, in particular.

And just a couple of points about Mr. Hosseini; he was born in Kabul in 1965 into a diplomatic family.  His family then made the move to the United States, receiving political asylum there, and they moved there in 1980 – to California, where Mr. Hosseini studied medicine and then practiced medicine between 1996 and 2004.  And during that period, he began to write his first novel, “The Kite Runner”, which as you obviously know became an international bestseller.  And it was after that that Mr. Hosseini became Goodwill Envoy for the Refugee Agency, and then subsequently, of course, he has also published his second novel, “A Thousand Splendid Suns”.  And not content with that, he also set up a foundation which works very closely with the UN Refugee Agency and obviously particularly in Afghanistan.

So, just before I hand the floor to Mr. Hosseini, just to say that the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has come out with a statement today strongly supporting the critical role that women’s protection shelters play in providing support and safety for vulnerable Afghan women and girls, and especially victims of domestic abuse and other violence.  And there is more available in a press release from the Mission.

And so, after Mr. Hosseini has briefed you, I will have a few more items for you, and will be happy to take some questions.

Mr. Hosseini is joined by Udo Janz, who is head of the UNHCR Office here in New York.

So, Mr. Hosseini, welcome again, and the floor is yours.

[Press conference by Mr. Hosseini issued separately]

So, I have a couple of other items, and then I am happy to take questions if there are any.

**Secretary-General Travels

The Secretary-General has been participating in the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, today.

And yesterday, on the margins of the summit, he met with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.  And the Secretary-General shared with the President his concerns about the situation in Syria, and they exchanged views on the next steps regarding the work of the High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

This morning at the G-20 summit, the Secretary-General attended a session on Strengthening the International Financial Architecture and Promoting Financial Inclusion, and one on Development, Green Growth, Infrastructure and Food Security.

The Secretary-General leaves this afternoon for Rio de Janeiro, to attend the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, and he is expected to arrive there tomorrow morning.

**Security Council

Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, discussed the situation in the Middle East in an open briefing of the Security Council this morning.  He said that there are intensive efforts to avoid a renewed deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Regarding Syria, he said that the Secretary-General remains gravely concerned about the intensification of violence and the rising death toll, as well as continued human rights abuses and unmet humanitarian needs.  The cessation of armed violence in all its forms is an obligation for all sides.

On Egypt, Mr. Fernandez-Taranco said that the Secretary-General looks forward to the early handover of full authority to a civilian government there.  The Secretary-General underscores his concern that the country’s transition should meet the legitimate expectations of the Egyptian people and of the international community for the establishment of strong, representative, democratic institutions and for the popular will to be respected, both in the elections and in the drafting of the new Constitution.

** Syria

This afternoon, the Security Council will hold consultations on Syria.

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, and Major-General Robert Mood, the head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), will provide an update on the latest developments and the UN Mission’s work.

And after that, Mr. Ladsous and General Mood will speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has expressed deep concern about the safety of the civilian population in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Fighting in North Kivu province between the Congolese Army and the M23 movement has driven some 218,000 people to flee their homes since April of this year.

And Ms. Pillay said that the leaders of the M23 movement figure among the worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and across the world.  She added that many of them have what she called “appalling track records”, including allegations of mass rape, massacres and the recruitment of child soldiers.

The senior leadership of M23 includes Bosco Ntaganda, an army general already wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes.  And there are more details available online.

** Myanmar

Just to come back to Myanmar again, the World Food Programme (WFP) has expanded its distributions of emergency supplies to people displaced by violence in Rakhine State.  In the past week, the Programme has reached more than 66,000 people with rice, beans and cooking oil, and it estimates that there are some 90,000 displaced people in need of assistance as a result of the recent clashes we were referring to just now.

** Sahel

The United Nations and its humanitarian partners launched a revised humanitarian appeal for the Sahel region of West Africa today.  They are requesting $1.6 billion for food, nutrition, health services, sanitation and other urgent assistance for 18.7 million people.

The humanitarian situation in the Sahel region has deteriorated dramatically this year through a combination of drought, poor harvests, rising food prices, displacement and insecurity.  Cereal production, for example, has dwindled 27 per cent compared with last year.

**Noon Guests Tomorrow

And tomorrow I will have as my guests the force commanders for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH); United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS); and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

That’s it.  Questions, please? Yes, Nizar, then Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Can we have an update about the eleven Lebanese kidnapped in Syria, between Syria and Turkey?  Is there any news about where the mediation has reached regarding the release of these people?

Spokesperson:  I’ll have to check what the latest might be from the UN perspective, but as I think you are aware, there have been quite a lot of bilateral contacts and other contacts within the region, not necessarily involving the United Nations. And the Secretary-General has been very clear about his concern for the plight of those people being held, and he would certainly hope that they would be allowed to go free as soon as possible.

Question:  Does he condemn the kidnapper for doing, for taking the hostages?

Spokesperson:  I think it is obvious, Nizar, that we would not condone kidnapping in any circumstances.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I have questions on Sudan, Sri Lanka and something in-house, but one thing on Syria first.  It was reported that Secretary-General urged President [Barack] Obama to, that, that, that Iran should be involved in the discussions about Syria, and I just wanted to know if, is that, is that an accurate, is that an accurate quote, is that what he said and if you can say anything more about it.

Spokesperson:  What the Secretary-General has been saying is that he believes that broad participation in any international meeting of the kind that is under discussion, or a potential Contact Group, would be desirable.  And he was also asked whether that should include Iran, and he answered, “Yes,” it should.

Question:  Also, just, I, I don’t know if I am going to have a chance to ask Mr. Ladsous this, so I think I am going to ask you. I heard from, from Ambassador [Mark] Lyall Grant that there is some discussion of limiting the number, that this, the announcement that was made Friday to the Council and then Saturday in Damascus essentially may mean a reduction of the number of sites for the, these UNSMIS observers, that they may still go out, on an as-needed basis, but the number of sites will be limited.  Is that, is that accurate?  Is that, is that what’s under consideration in terms of keeping the Mission there, but limiting the number of outlying outposts where they are based?

Spokesperson:  I am not going to prejudge what may or may not be discussed in the Council this afternoon. Okay, any other question? Yes, and then I’ll come back to you, Nizar.  Yes?

Question:  Is there any news about the United Nations position about the Moscow talks between Iran and the [Permanent] Five+1?

Spokesperson:  Not beyond the comments we made last week, which I think you will recall.  I think the Secretary-General is keen obviously to see progress and that would encourage progress in those talks that are taking place in Moscow.  I think, once we get to the conclusion of those talks, and they are still going on at the moment, it’s possible we will have something further to say.  Yes?

Question:  How does the Secretary-General view the countries which are helping the rebels in Syria by providing surveillance and data about the whereabouts of the army, the movements of the army and then the army gets attacked because of such data or such information?

Spokesperson:  I think the most important aspect here, just very generally speaking, not speaking about individual countries – just generally speaking, the Secretary-General and the Joint Special Envoy have said that further militarization of what is happening in Syria is not desirable.  Yes?

Question:  On Sudan, there has been a, in the last few days the, the, the shutdown and seizure of a number of newspapers; thee has been, some offices have been raided, some press runs have been, have been taken, El Watan, I mean, these are all, Al-Ahram, Al-Tayar, and I just wonder, I mean I know sometimes these things are, are, are left for UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] to speak to, but given the UN’s deep involvement in this Sudan, South Sudan situation, is there some UN response to what seems to be a, a pretty dramatic crackdown on freedom of the press in Sudan?

Spokesperson:  I’d have to check further on the details with my colleagues in UNESCO and also in the Department of Political Affairs.  But I think, as a general statement of principle, newspapers should be free to carry out their work in informing the public in any given country or place; within the limits of the law, they should be allowed to carry out the work that they wish to carry out.  Okay, thank you very much.

Question:  Can I ask you a Sri Lanka question?  I, it’s, I am sorry to have to ask you this again, but the, I have asked you, and I asked Farhan [Haq] yesterday, it seems it’s a simple factual question: when was the starting day for Mr. [Charles] Petrie, in terms of knowing when this panel that was long ago promised to review the UN’s own performance in the final stages of the conflict; what was the starting date?  And if you can, that seems to be just a fact, and if it’s possible to say what the, what the deadline is, since the deadline has been extended?

Spokesperson:  Well, I know that you discussed it yesterday with Farhan; and Farhan gave you an answer to the second part of your question and said that he would endeavour to get it, an answer to the first part of your question, and that we will do.

Thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.

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