|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, everybody. Welcome to the briefing.
The Security Council began a meeting this morning, chaired by Colombia’s Foreign Minister, concerning the work of the Peacebuilding Commission.
The Secretary-General spoke at that meeting, and he told Council members that, two years after the mixed review of the peacebuilding “architecture”, we are seeing signs that it has begun to come of age and is making a difference. This is the case particularly in those instances when the Peacebuilding Commission, Fund and Support Office reinforce each other and work hand in hand with the UN presence on the ground. He noted in particular the work that those bodies have done to build peace and deepen democracy in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. We have his remarks in my office.
The UN-League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, spoke to the press late yesterday following his briefing to the Security Council, and he acknowledged that efforts to end the violence in Syria have not succeeded so far. He urged all Governments to work together to press the parties and to support the mediation efforts, adding that it is more powerful if the Security Council speaks with one voice.
Asked about his discussion earlier this week with President Bashar al-Assad, the Joint Special Envoy said that they had talked about implementing the six-point plan and taking action so that there can be ceasefire arrangements in localities that have seen the worst fighting. This does not free anybody from the broader obligation of the ceasefire, as indicated in the six-point plan. The transcript of his remarks is available in my office and it’s also online.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has expressed its concerns about the latest violence in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Civilians have been displaced by the fighting, and as many as 5,000 have crossed the border into Uganda. Humanitarian agencies are trying to obtain details about the displacements, and unrestricted access is urgently needed to deliver aid to people who are affected by the fighting.
Reports of minors being recruited into armed groups in a number of towns in the Rutshuru area raise key concerns. Humanitarian agencies call on armed groups to abide by humanitarian law. Despite access constraints, no United Nations or non-governmental humanitarian organization has left North Kivu. Agencies continue to provide aid, as far as security and access permits. Meanwhile, more funds are needed to address the additional needs arising from the recent violence.
The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUSCO, continues to provide support to the Congolese Armed Forces, including logistics and planning and the protection of civilians.
**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels
The Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, is travelling today to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he will lead the UN delegation participating in the African Union Summit this weekend.
He will address the opening plenary session, and he will also attend meetings of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council dealing with the situation in Mali and the situation between Sudan and South Sudan.
The Deputy Secretary-General will also hold bilateral meetings with many of the leaders and senior officials attending the Summit. And then on Monday, he will meet with the UN country team in Ethiopia and visit a youth centre in the town of Bishoftu. He will return to New York next Tuesday.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, spoke to reporters in Astana today, during her first visit to Kazakhstan. She met with the President and other senior officials, as well as with human rights defenders and civil society organizations.
Ms. Pillay recognized that achieving high human rights standards across the board in such a vast country as Kazakhstan, only 20 years after becoming independent, is a difficult task. But, she added, it is a country that has impressive human and mineral resources. She said she believes it can successfully rise to meet its human rights challenges if it chooses to do so, and in the process become a good model for other countries to follow, not just in Central Asia, but also in other regions of the world. And her full remarks are available on the website of the UN Human Rights Office.
Questions, please? Matthew?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I wanted to ask you, there’s been public reports that the Government of Myanmar is talking about the repatriating or sending out of the country many, many of the Rohingyas, making it kind of a major move, that they’ve asked the UN for some support on this. So I wanted to know, what’s the UN’s reaction to this Government floating the idea of simply expelling the Rohingyas from Myanmar?
Spokesperson: We’re aware of the reports. The High Commissioner for Refugees has been visiting Myanmar and I would refer you to the refugee agency and ask them about it.
Question: Mr. Nambiar… I’m sorry… Mr. Nambiar… I just wanted to ask, do you think Mr. Nambiar, being given his role as this good offices, does he have a continuing role in this Rohingyas issue? Do you think he’ll have something to say on this?
Spokesperson: As I said, in this particular case, I would refer you to the refugee agency. That doesn’t mean that Mr. Nambiar does not know about it, plainly, he does. But I’m asking you to speak to the refugee agency. Yes, Nizar?
Question: Regarding this situation in Bahrain, today there were… there have been many demonstrations and some of the protesters were shot; one of them was shot in the eye. This has been going on for a long time and seems that there is very little interest in what’s happening there, although the protests in Bahrain could be much larger than many in other towns and cities in the Middle East. Why is this happening? We don’t see any much interest in the situation there.
Spokesperson: I disagree with you, Nizar. There is certainly an interest and there’s also concern, and the Secretary-General has, on numerous occasions, expressed quite clearly what he believes should happen in Bahrain, and one of the key points that he’s made repeatedly is that people should be allowed the right to demonstrate peacefully so that they can express their concerns and their wishes and their aspirations, and that remains the case.
Question: Does he condemn the shooting of protesters as was the case today, for example?
Spokesperson: Look, we’re aware of reports and we will need to check into those reports. I don’t have the full details of those reports, but what I’ve just told you before, this is… still stands, that people have the right to demonstrate peacefully, but I don’t, Nizar, I don’t have any further details. Okay?
Question: Regarding the disappearance of Sheikh Nimr in Saudi Arabia, is [inaudible] in Saudi Arabia, under detention, also that… as a result of that, do you have anything about that?
Spokesperson: No, this is day four. I know that you’ve asked repeatedly, as has your colleague. If I have something, I’ll let you know. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure. I want to ask you about this… there’s a report that the Government of Iraq and Martin Kobler of UNAMI have reached an agreement to expel all remaining MEK individuals from what’s now called Camp Liberty in Baghdad. Is that true? It’s mostly reported in Iranian press, but I’m wondering if it’s factual or not.
Spokesperson: I’ll need to check on what the progress is with what is obviously an extremely important undertaking in Iraq. This is a long-standing question. The Special Representative, Martin Kobler, is widely recognized, along with his team, for having achieved a great deal. There’s still quite a bit to be done. It is not an easy task. I will seek to get an update on that. I believe that Mr. Kobler will be coming to New York quite soon, and we’ll see whether we can get some more information on that for you. Okay, other questions? Yes, Tim?
Question: Good morning. You mentioned that the Mission in the DR Congo is carrying out operations to support… to protect civilians. Does this mean they’ve been carrying out military operations to protect civilians [inaudible] or are they firing shots in anger or…?
Spokesperson: Never in anger. There is a very clear part of the mandate, which is to protect civilians, and the Mission, as I understand it, is effectively carrying out its mandate, which includes the protection of civilians. I don’t have any specific details. I know it sounds elliptical. I don’t have any specific details on what they are doing on the ground or, indeed, from the air at this point, but we have been asking and as soon as we have some more details, we’ll let you know. Okay, alright. Yes?
Question: I wanted to ask you, I don’t know if… if it was you or Eduardo, in any event, I want to ask you again, it’s sort of become a higher-profile issue. I believe it was last weekend, the Defence Minister of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was recorded saying to the editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper that “people will kill you”, a string of profanities, but basically he’s threatening the journalist, the editor of the paper, with death. CPJ, Article 19 and a variety of press freedom groups have come out and said it’s totally unacceptable, and I wonder, given the Secretary-General’s involvement in the Sri Lanka issue, meeting certainly with Mahinda Rajapaksa and talking about reconciliation, whether he has… whether he’s aware of this death threat to a newspaper editor and whether he has any comment on it.
Spokesperson: We’ve seen those reports, Matthew. I don’t have any specific comment on that particular report that you referred to, except to say that it’s a general principle that journalists should be able conduct their work free of threats and intimidation of all kinds and that applies in any country. Okay? I’m going to take one more question.
Question: It’s a thought question. Some people… I know that you’ve announced that… your office announced that the Secretary-General, in dealing with the destruction of Muslim heritage in Timbuktu, had called the Kings of… the royal families of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. And some have raised… I just want to ask you, what sort of… I know he can’t call everybody in the world, but for example, some people said why not call Morocco, which is also… it has a king, but it’s also closer to the region. Was there some… was it that these are viewed as the two most prominent sort of… of… of Muslim world families, or is there some… some have said that there may be some Wahabi or other involvement in the destruction of the… or in the movements in northern Mali, so I wanted to know… just ask you, before going down this path, how did he choose those two? Why didn’t he call Morocco, and what was his thinking in choosing those two countries to call? They’re far away from Mali, further away from Morocco…
Spokesperson: I think, with respect, Matthew, it has less to do with geography than influence. And, plainly, even if phone calls are not made by the Secretary-General, there are contacts made by other UN officials with different Member States the whole time. So, the two are not mutually exclusive. The Secretary-General was recently in Saudi Arabia and had a very good meeting with the King and so he was able to follow up on that… that phone call in this particular context, for example. So again, don’t read too much into it. This is the Secretary-General reaching out to regional leaders of influence, and it does not preclude that other officials have been in touch with other… with Member States in different capacities. Okay? Alright?
Thank you. Have a good afternoon.
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