|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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the briefing.
**Secretary-General in China
The Secretary-General met with President Hu Jintao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Beijing today. In those meetings, the Secretary-General expressed his appreciation for China’s leadership and active participation in the United Nations. They discussed ways of addressing global challenges through collective action and multilateralism. We have more details available in our office.
Following the meeting, the Secretary-General spoke to reporters about the discussions he had with the President and Foreign Minister on the situation in Syria. He said he hoped that the members of the Security Council will be able to take collective action with a sense of unity. The Secretary-General said we cannot go on this way. So many people have already lost their lives over the past 16 months.
He also met other Chinese leaders and spoke at an event to pay tribute to China's “Future We Want Champions”, saying that, if we continue on our present path for the next 20 years, we risk global catastrophe. He said we need a new course that truly balances economic growth, social development and environmental stewardship.
The Security Council heard from Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, about the work of the UN Mission in that country, in a formal meeting this morning. He said that, during Libya’s 7 July election, the spirit of democracy was displayed in a manner which deeply impressed all observers. Where violence threatened the poll, it was the determination and the courage of the voters themselves which successfully resisted it.
Mr. Martin added that this will be the first peaceful and democratic transfer of power in Libya. Its new political leaders must then reach agreement on the formation of a new government, and on the process for drawing up a new constitution. We have his briefing remarks in our office.
At 3 p.m. this afternoon, the Security Council is scheduled to hold a formal meeting on Syria. And it has also scheduled a meeting and consultations on Côte d’Ivoire after that. We’ll let you know if that schedule changes.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later confirmed that the meeting on Syria had been postponed.]
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
On 16 July, armed elements of the rebel group Mayi-Mayi Raiya Mutomboki clashed with the national army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Walikale town, in North Kivu Province. The clashes caused a number of people to flee the area and seek refuge at the MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] base in Walikale.
MONUSCO has sent immediate reinforcements from Goma to Walikale, and is evacuating some UN and non-governmental organization staff who have sought refuge at the MONUSCO base in the town. The Mission is also conducting extensive patrolling, and attack helicopter sorties have been launched to deter further attacks. The situation in Walikale town is tense.
**Nelson Mandela International Day
The Secretary-General has marked Nelson Mandela International Day by wishing the former South African President a happy ninety-fourth birthday. In a message, the Secretary-General describes Mr. Mandela as a healer of nations and a mentor to generations of leaders and people from all walks of life throughout the world. He says the former President gave 67 years of his life to bring change to the people of South Africa.
The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, also celebrated the day by announcing a series of events, some of which have been arranged in collaboration with the United Nations Academic Impact.
Tomorrow at noon, the Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, will give his first press conference of his term, in this room. There will not be a noon briefing tomorrow.
That’s it for me. Questions? Hank?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Eduardo. The Secretary-General has issued many condemnations of killings in Syria in the past. Did he issue one on this recent bombing that killed Interior Ministry officials?
Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General is aware of the killings of the individuals in Syria. He is in contact with the Mission. He has condemned violence from all sides, and we expect something later on today. Yes, madam?
Question: Thank you. The Security Council is scheduled to vote on the Western draft resolution, hopefully soon. The key stumbling block is the Western demand to put more sanctions and to apply Chapter VII, which may mean somehow the use of force to end the conflict in Syria. Russia made it clear on several occasions that sanctions and Chapter VII, or as a step down, is a red line. Therefore, there is big expectation that Russia will veto the resolution. If it does use its veto power, is there any “plan B” or “C” to overcome this political gridlock?
Deputy Spokesperson: The Security Council is in consultations as we speak. I believe they’ve been negotiating on a number of resolutions over the past few days. It’s up to the Security Council to decide what course it’s going to take. The Secretary-General hopes and wishes that it will be done with one united voice, so that the violence in Syria can come to an end and a peaceful resolution can be found.
Question: In case there is a veto, in this case, is there any “plan B” to discuss anything else, like away from Security Council?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, you’re asking me to speculate. I’m not going to speculate on what the Security Council may say. When the Security Council takes a decision, we’ll have an adequate response.
Question: Is the Secretary-General still convinced that the UN observer mission in Syria can continue their work or not?
Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has been very clear in his report to the Security Council. It is up to the Security Council now to decide which option it’s going to take and how it’s going to work.
Question: But there has been an evolution of the situation, so 10 days ago it’s not the same like today.
Deputy Spokesperson: No, 10 days [ago] is not the same as today, but the dynamics are there. The violence has to end. The mission is in place to help monitor a cessation of the violence. It is there to try and formalize a cessation of the violence in small locations rather than the whole country… the country as a whole, as the Secretary-General has said, and when the time is ripe they will be able to see some progress in their work. However, it is up to the Security Council to decide how it’s going to proceed. Matthew?
Question: I hope… I’m sorry to just get here now from the Security Council, but when did the Secretary-General last speak with his Joint Envoy, Kofi Annan? Does he join in this request for delay?
Deputy Spokesperson: I haven’t… I have no information on that. I don’t know… I have seen newspapers… I have seen media reports, but I have no comment on what… on the possibilities of the delay.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that they last spoke on Monday.]
Question: In terms of his position, Kofi Annan has said there should be consequences for failure to stop the violence, but he hasn’t explicitly said there should be either sanctions or Chapter VII. Does the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, does he believe Chapter VII should be in a resolution?
Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General is not going to prejudge what the Security Council may or may not decide. That is up to the Security Council to decide. The Secretary-General is waiting to see what their decision is. Giampaolo?
Question: If I understand correctly, you say that the Secretary-General didn’t get any contact today with Kofi Annan?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General is in China. I don’t have any information as to whether he’s been in contact with Mr. Annan or not. I imagine that they are in regular contact, but I don’t exactly know when was the last time they spoke. Masood?
Question: I want to ask you… in the aftermath of the events that are unfolding now in Damascus, the Secretary-General was all along blaming the Syrian Government for the increased violence and the killing and so forth. Is he going to, at any point in time, revise his estimation of what is happening now?
Deputy Spokesperson: Let me correct your perception. The Secretary-General has consistently been calling for an end to violence from all sides. He has said that, as a stronger party, the Syrian Government should show some initiative in ending the violence first, and that is something that Mr. Annan has said also. But the message the Secretary-General has given consistently is that the violence from both sides must stop, and this is another example as to why the violence on both sides must stop.
Question: And another question, on to a different region. Does he have anything to say, the Secretary-General’s office, about the situation in Afghanistan after 22 trucks exploded over there, about the Taliban and so forth? Does the [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] have anything to say, anything about it at all?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, you’d have to ask the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on that. I don’t have any information on that…
Question: Does he have any messages…?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have anything on that, no. Madam? No? Matthew?
Question: I wanted to ask… I’ve been wanting to ask you about this. There was a helicopter that crashed or was shot down in Darfur, killing seven members of the Sudanese military. The Minni Minawi faction said that they shot it down. The Government says that it crashed. Since there’s a UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur], what’s UNAMID’s understanding and is it… what’s it going to do in terms of verifying whether this is a… act of… act of the rebellion or just an accident?
Deputy Spokesperson: I’m sorry. My system isn’t working. I thought I had something. We’ll get back to you on that, Matthew.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that on 16 July, UNAMID’s team site in Tawilla reported heavy shooting and impacts at Kushina village (approximately 29 kilometres south-east of Tawilla, North Darfur). Reportedly, a Government of Sudan military helicopter was shot down by an unidentified faction, which led to a firefight between the Government and the faction.]
Question: Yesterday, I had asked you these two questions Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous had declined to take at the stakeout, one having to do just factually, what UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force] in Lebanon, what plans it has now that Spain has announced it’s going to cut it’s troop contribution in half relatively quickly… what steps… and the other one has to do with MONUSCO, whether it admits or denies that in fact it killed civilians with its attack helicopters.
Deputy Spokesperson: On the MONUSCO question, our line stands, as Martin said earlier in the week. With respect to UNIFIL, we have a constant changing of the make-up of peacekeeping forces. Countries cuts sometimes; other countries contribute. This is part of a process and, of course, DPKO is looking very seriously with donor countries to make sure that the UNIFIL remains at strength.
Question: And I understand, because I heard what Martin said earlier, that he confirmed that there was the use of gunship helicopters to try and stop M23 from moving in on Goma. I’m just saying, since then, there’s been reports that the firing of 30 millimetre rounds by the MONUSCO killed a woman named Buchiet Agathe, and that’s what I want to know…
Deputy Spokesperson: As I said yesterday, they’re investigating. When we have something to report, we’ll report. Okay, one more last question?
Question: A follow-up on what Masood just mentioned, this question about sanction on Syria, there is a lot of pressure about putting sanctions, applying probably Chapter VII on Syria, but is there any other action also discussed to stop the violence done by the opposition, as well? They are a group; how are you going to stop the violence?
Deputy Spokesperson: The violence has to stop by an act of political will on both sides to stop the violence. The Secretary-General and Kofi Annan have produced the six-point peace plan. The six-point peace plan is seen as a road map for achieving a dialogue and for achieving a cessation of violence. It has been approved by the Security Council and by the General Assembly. The international community, at that point, has spoken with one voice that the six-point peace plan is the road map to follow, and of course you need to have the political will on both sides to follow that road map and achieve, first of all, a cessation of violence that the mission can, in fact, monitor and then some kind of dialogue and talks so that the situation can be resolved peacefully by Syrians for Syrians.
As I said before, there is no briefing tomorrow. The Deputy Secretary-General will be giving his press conference tomorrow at 12 noon, so we’ll see you then. Thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.
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