|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.
I’m very pleased to welcome today as my guest, Ambassador Miloš Koterec, the President of the United NationsEconomic and Social Council. He’s joining us here at the briefing to be able to brief you on the forthcoming high-level segment of the deliberations of the Economic and Social Council. I know that the President has some introductory remarks and is then happy to take questions. Please, you’re very welcome here and the floor is yours.
[Press conference by Mr. Koterec is issued separately.]
So, a couple more items, and then questions.
This morning the Security Council met to discuss the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and adopted a resolution calling for all States, especially States where fugitives are suspected to be at large, to intensify their cooperation with the International Tribunal.
The Council also discussed the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
In addition, Abou Moussa, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and head of UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), reported to the Council on the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army. In his presentation, Mr Moussa said that the Lord’s Resistance Army remains extremely dangerous and appealed to the wider international community to actively support the implementation of the UN regional strategy and the African Union Cooperation Initiative.
There will also be consultations in the Council on Liberia.
You may be aware that the Council meeting was suspended for a time due to a fire alarm. The meeting has now resumed. Apparently, a steam pipe burst and that is what triggered the fire alarm.
As the Secretary-General mentioned yesterday, he is leaving today to attend tomorrow’s Action Group for Syria meeting in Geneva. We anticipate there will be a press conference by the Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan, possibly at around 1 p.m. Geneva time, that is 7 a.m. New York time. And it will be streamed live on UNTV and webcast. The timing could change and media will be alerted, if necessary, to any changes.
As we mentioned yesterday also, the revised Syria regional response plan estimates that the Syrian refugee total will increase to as many as 185,000 people by the end of the year. Some 90,000 of those refugees will be children with specific needs whom UNICEF needs to reach by December with vaccines, education, protection services, clean water and sanitation. This is more than triple the initial number of targeted refugee children. UNICEF says it urgently requires $14.4 million to meet the emergency needs of a growing number of Syrian refugee children and young people. And there is more available online on that topic.
** India and Bangladesh
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that, according to official figures, nearly 30 people have died and 1 million people have been displaced due to monsoon rains in north-eastern India. In eastern Bangladesh, some 110 people have been killed in Chittagong and at least 40,000 people uprooted following three days of rain and flash floods. The Office is monitoring the situation in both countries and stands ready to support if the authorities request international assistance.
**Refugees — Liberia and Angola
Two of the most protracted refugee situations in Africa — affecting Liberia and Angola — will officially come to an end this weekend. On 30 June, so-called cessation clauses will enter into force because these countries have both enjoyed many years of peace and stability after experiencing civil war. People who fled the two countries and remain abroad will no longer be regarded as refugees by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, and host Governments. The refugee agency has been supporting projects in both countries aimed at easing the reintegration of returnees.
The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, has expressed her deep concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Sudan, especially in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. She said that hundreds of thousands of people remain trapped in the conflict zone with little access to food, water, shelter and medical services.
Ms. Amos added that thousands more are crossing into neighbouring countries each day, fleeing the fighting and in search of food and other basic supplies. She said that humanitarian agencies need unimpeded and complete access to all areas to respond to these growing needs. Ms. Amos’ full statement is available on online.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says its staff have returned to Myanmar’s Rakhine state to help address humanitarian needs there. Agency staff who visited camps for the displaced have found that there is a need for floor mats, heavy tarpaulins, blankets and mosquito nets. Along with their aid partners, they are concerned about the possibility of disease outbreaks because of poor water supplies and sanitation at a time when it is raining heavily.
Together with other partners, the agency said that it continues to assist and distribute humanitarian aid impartially, based on need, to all the communities and victims of the recent disturbances there. More information can be found on the agency’s website.
** Nepal Peacebuilding Fund
The United Nations Peacebuilding Fund has released $8 million in funding for Nepal. The money will support a number of different initiatives aimed at consolidating peace in the country. These initiatives include improving policing, support to the courts, promoting dialogue and leadership, and reinforcing national efforts to address the needs of women and conflict-affected children.
**Noon Guest Monday
On Monday, Juan Somavia, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), and Sharan Burrow, the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), will be the guests at the noon briefing.
I was asked yesterday about reported aerial bombings of Jebel Mara. The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) is aware of the reports and is verifying the facts.
I was also asked yesterday about the audio level during remarks in the General Assembly by the Syrian Ambassador. Colleagues in the Department of Public Information tell me they went back and checked both the audio and video records and did not find any loss of audio.
That’s what I have for you. Questions please? Yes, Matthew, then Masood.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sure, I just wanted to start on Syria. I don’t know if you’ll comment on this, but this morning, by the Security Council, a number of Security Council diplomats told me that at least some Council members have been informed by the Secretariat that General Robert Mood will not stay on after the end of the 90‑day mandate of UNSMIS. Whether that’s 20 or 23 July is a little unclear, and that they’ve been informed of that and that the Secretary-General has an intention to downgrade it to a political mission of smaller size. So I wanted to know, is this your understanding? Can you confirm that that has been conveyed to some members of the Security Council by the Secretariat?
Spokesperson: No I cannot confirm that, Matthew. The Mission is there with a mandate from the Security Council. It is for the Security Council to decide what the shape of that mandate will be in the future.
Question: What about Mr. Mood? That would be his decision, obviously. They can’t force him to stay on. Is it your understanding that he’s leaving on 20 July?
Spokesperson: As I say, I don’t have anything for you on that, Matthew. Any other questions? Yes, Masood?
Question: About this United Nations Mission in Syria. It’s basically, as you understood from what the Secretary-General said yesterday, it is on hold, but it will revive. When do you expect that Mission to get back into action again, to start operating at a full level?
Spokesperson: I think that’s an important distinction. Activities were suspended, have been suspended, because of the reasons that have been made very clear, and as you said, the Secretary-General reiterated that yesterday. But the Mission has been carrying out activities at a lower level; in other words, not the same kind of patrols that were taking place before activities were suspended. They have, for example, been visiting hospitals. They have been able to check from the locations they’re in — from static locations, if you like — on activity that’s been going on around them. They do continue to have a monitoring role to the best of their abilities, but their patrolling activities in the way that they were being carried out initially have, indeed, been suspended at that kind of intensity, simply because it has been too dangerous to carry out those patrols.
Question: Is the United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton coming for sure to attend or she is not?
Spokesperson: I think you know where you need to ask about that. Okay. Yes?
Question: Sure. First on… I heard your announcement of Ms. Amos about the Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. I mean, yesterday at the… outside the… at the stakeout on UNTV, the Sudanese Ambassador said… announced with some fanfare that they’ve signed the tripartite agreement. I’ve looked at… Government media in Sudan is saying that as well. I don’t know what change it will make, but what’s… this OCHA statement, does it predate that announcement, or is it saying that it doesn’t really matter that they’ve signed this tripartite agreement, or… what’s the relation between the Government’s announcement and this United Nations announcement, if any?
Spokesperson: Well, as I understand it, the Government of Sudan issued a statement announcing its acceptance of this tripartite proposal of the African Union, the League of Arab States and the United Nations for the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. However, in its statement, the Government of Sudan lays out nine principles for operationalizing the proposal, stipulating that the distribution of humanitarian aid is to be carried out by the Sudanese Red Crescent and any other non-governmental organizations approved by the Government of Sudan.
This is not acceptable, apparently, to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) North. Clearly, the Government of Sudan has not accepted the core element of the tripartite proposal, which was that the United Nations would independently distribute humanitarian assistance to affected populations in the SPLM North-controlled areas, under the monitoring of United Nations and League of Arab States and African Union representatives, to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches its intended beneficiaries. I think it’s against that backdrop that Ms. Amos issued the statement that she did. Okay. Yes, Oslan?
Question: [inaudible] issue a statement or press conference at 7 o’clock New York time tomorrow. Is it just before the meeting? Do you know the time of the meeting in Geneva?
Spokesperson: No, the meeting starts in the morning. That would be around lunchtime, so 1 o’clock in the afternoon Geneva time. This is a press conference that’s being planned by the Joint Special Envoy. The timing of that press conference could change, depending on the meeting. Obviously, this is a meeting with a number of high-level participants. It’s difficult to be sure precisely when it will finish. But whenever that press conference takes place, it will be webcast and streamed live by UN Television, so that correspondents here and elsewhere around the world would be able to follow that, as well as those based in Geneva. Other questions, please? Yes, Connie?
Question: You might have answered this while I was out, but is Navi Pillay going to be speaking here on Monday?
Spokesperson: I understand that she will be… that Ms. Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, will be briefing the Council next week. I think the details are to be further announced, but that’s my understanding, at any rate.
Question: …is not set yet?
Spokesperson: Say again?
Question: The day is not set yet?
Spokesperson: Let me check. I don’t have the dates with me. Let me check. Yes, Masood?
Question: I know the Secretary-General… there was a readout, the Secretary-General had a conversation with the acting… I mean, President-elect of Egypt. Does he plan on visiting Egypt anytime soon?
Spokesperson: Not that I’m aware of, Masood, but you’re right that he did speak both to the then President-elect and also to Field Marshal [Mohamed Hussein] Tantawi. So he’s had a conversation with each of them in the past two days.
Question: But there is no set plan as yet?
Spokesperson: Not to my knowledge, no. Not to my knowledge, no.
Question: I have a question about Myanmar and then Sri Lanka. In Myanmar, there are these… you mentioned Rakhine state, but now there are reports that in Arakan state, at least supposedly, United Nations system workers were taken into custody by the Government, and six Médecins sans frontières workers. Do you have anything on that? Have they been released and what’s the United Nations been doing about that?
Spokesperson: I do have something on that if you’ll bear with me. What was your other question?
Question: Okay. The other one is… and maybe you’ll have something on this. It’s a… in Sri Lanka, there has been some outcry about the turning over to the Government by the United Nations system of information about people who are registered as refugees. They’re basically Muslims that are now going to be returned to Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the United Nations system, apparently, gave the Defence Ministry of Sri Lanka not only their names, but also their Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) numbers and a variety of information they’re not supposed to provide. The Government is now seeking to deport them, but human rights groups there are saying, why is the United Nations system providing this type of information to the Defence Ministry? And I wonder, are you aware of this? Is there some way to know whether this is legitimate or illegitimate?
Spokesperson: I would need to check on that, Matthew. I don’t have anything on that. I do have something on Myanmar. My systems failed me. I don’t have it right here. I will let you have it right after this. All right, thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.
[The Spokesperson later said that the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the country has already reported to thee Government that some United Nations staff members were detained by the authorities in Rakhine state for questioning. The United Nations is still trying to get access to these staff, and out of concern for their privacy, the United Nations has decided not to release any personal or professional information about any detained staff. The Resident Coordinator has asked the Government for information about each detained staff member, making reference to the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. The United Nations is still awaiting a formal reply.
* *** *