|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.
The Secretary-General is just about to depart for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from Kosovo, where he visited the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). He met with international and regional organizations, as well as with Kosovo authorities.
The Secretary-General also visited the Visoki Dečani monastery, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, and the city of Prizren. Speaking to reporters upon arrival, the Secretary-General stressed the importance of dialogue and mutual respect across the region. He said that he expects strong efforts towards the normalization of relations with Belgrade. His full remarks are available on our website.
This morning, the Secretary-General wrapped up his visit to Serbia. We issued a readout of his meetings there last night. Before leaving the country, he visited a recycling centre which primarily benefits the Roma community and seeks to ensure access to health care, education, and social services, among others. While at the site, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations will do all it can to promote the rights of the Roma.
**Secretary-General Trip Announcement
The Secretary-General will visit London from 26 to 28 July to take part in events related to the opening of the London 2012 Olympics.
On Thursday, at the invitation of the London Olympic Organizing Committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), he will carry the Olympic Torch on the final leg of its journey in the United Kingdom in the presence of the President of the IOC. On Friday, he will attend the opening ceremony.
The Secretary-General will also hold bilateral meetings with leaders of the Government of the United Kingdom, including the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and the Foreign Secretary, William Hague. He will also take part in an event with the Foreign Secretary, with other dignitaries, to highlight the Olympic Truce. The Secretary-General will return to New York on Saturday.
This morning, the Security Council met in closed consultations to discuss the situation in Somalia.
This afternoon, Ibrahim Gambari, Joint Special Representative for the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, will brief the Council, followed by closed consultations on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).
** Côte d’Ivoire — Human Rights
A team from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is leaving today for Côte d’Ivoire to investigate an attack on a relocation camp for displaced people in Nahibly, near the town of Duékoué. The attack, last Friday, led to the deaths of at least seven people. Sixty-seven were injured and the camp was completely burned to the ground, causing 5,000 inhabitants to flee.
The High Commissioner has stressed the importance of fighting against impunity and has again encouraged the Government to prosecute perpetrators from all sides of the political divide, through a fair and impartial process. President Alassane Ouattara’s unequivocal condemnation of the crimes in Duékoué is welcomed.
The United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, has met the Lebanese Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, in Beirut today. In a statement, Mr. Plumbly said he told the Prime Minister that members of the Security Council were concerned by the incidents along Lebanon’s borders with Syria. He added that they had stressed the importance of respect for Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Special Coordinator also relayed to Premier Mikati the commitment of the international community to continue supporting the Lebanese Government in meeting its humanitarian obligations towards the thousands of displaced Syrians who have taken refuge in Lebanon.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Eduardo. China has announced that it will place a military element on Nansha, an island part of the disputed Spratley Islands and tension might arise. Does the Secretary-General consider any preventative measures for heading off any further tension in the context of preventative diplomacy?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we understand that there are territorial disputes that China has with a number of its neighbours, and the Secretary-General’s position has always been that these disputes should be resolved peacefully and through dialogue, and that is his hope that will happen in this case also. Nizar?
Question: [inaudible] regarding this situation in Damascus, are any UNSMIS going out from their headquarters or are they staying in the hotel all the time? On the premises?
Deputy Spokesperson: To the best of my knowledge, they have some very, very limited operations. I’m not sure what they’re doing right now. I know Mr. Ladsous arrived there today. General Gaye is arriving there tonight to assume command of the force for the next 30 days, and they will be evaluating the activities and the presence of the Mission there.
Question: On the refugee side in Turkey, there were reports yesterday and the day before that they have been subject to attack even by gas… teargas and there were… some have reported rapes in the camps and mistreatment. Are you investigating such…?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I have heard nothing about that, Nizar. You might want to contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to find out what the situation is.
Correspondent: There were broadcasts from the camp…
Deputy Spokesperson: There may have been, but I’m not privy to them, and that’s why I think you have to discuss this with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees whose job it is to monitor the situation in the camps. Yes?
Question: Is it, by any chance, unprecedented for a Secretary-General to carry the torch, the Olympic Torch, do you know?
Deputy Spokesperson: I really don’t know. I have no idea of the history of Secretary-Generals and the Olympics, but this is an honour for the Secretary-General. He is a firm believer in sports for development and sports for peace, and, in that sense, he’s also going to be discussing the whole concept of the truce, which was a tradition in ancient Greece between the warring city-states to have a truce, and it also gives him an opportunity to touch base with leaders who will be there for the opening of the Olympic Games. So, all in all, it’s a very productive time for him to be there. Sir?
Question: Yesterday, I asked about the security forces killing Muslims in Myanmar. I remember that one of the leaders, I’m not sure if Prime Minister or whatever, but there were… said that the Muslims are not people from Myanmar. They’re supposed to leave the country or they’re supposed to go to the camps. Did the United Nations have anything about that?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the United Nations hopes that this situation can be resolved peacefully. The Secretary-General raised this with Myanmar leaders. We are aware of the situation and we believe the situation of the refugees should be dealt with peacefully and through dialogue.
Correspondent: …what I said was…
Deputy Spokesperson: I’m sorry. Sir?
Question: I have a question on the arms trade treaty. The draft is due tomorrow. It seems, thus far, the Secretary-General has been involved… uninvolved in the negotiating process. Can you talk about what his expectations for the draft is, and his hopes for this draft that is coming up?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General would like to see a treaty that reflects the fact that arms are a major cause of killing around the world. The arms treaty that is being proposed has no effect on national registration and national legislation, but it has an effect on the transfer on arms from one country to another and, as you know, small arms are the cause of the great many deaths in the world. So that’s basically what he is looking at.
Question: Does he have any comments on the difficulties in the negotiating process thus far?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, he’s not going to comment on that. I mean, we’ll see what happens and he’ll make his comments at the appropriate time. Matthew?
Question: [inaudible] noon yesterday, I have just one follow-up on that. If he’s in favour of this treaty, is he in favour of the inclusion of ammunition in the treaty? The actual bullets that kill people?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t know. I’ll have to check on that.
Question: I wanted to ask you on Sudan, a couple of things that have happened. One that, basically, the talks have broken down between Sudan and South Sudan. South Sudan claims that Sudan dropped at least six bombs on its side of the border and Sudan is claiming that South Sudan is helping JEM by providing medical assistance. What does… does the United Nations Mission in the Sudan… in South Sudan…? I’ve seen… there’s reports of a leaked report, but can they confirm that bombs have fallen in South Sudan, and what’s the United Nations position on South Sudan providing medical assistance to Justice and Equality Movement fighters?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I have no information on Justice and Equality Movement fighters. What I can tell you on UNMISS is that the Mission has verified that six bombs were dropped 2 kilometres south of what they estimate to be 1-1-56. The Mission has no confirmation or signs of JEM presence south of the border, as explained. The United Nations has no presence north of the border, so it cannot comment on reports of any presence there. That’s basically what I have.
Question: No, okay. That’s great. Thanks a lot. There’s just one follow-up on that, which is that it seems like there’s a 2 August deadline for the parties to reach an agreement, and I know that Mr. Menkerios has some involvement in it. It’s said that… anyway, forget what is said, does the Secretary-General believe that that deadline should be extended if the parties are still talking, or should South Sudan take its case to The Hague and all bets are off?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General hopes that they will be able to resolve their differences by 2 August. That’s the date. Anything else is speculation, and I’m not going to get involved with speculation. Sir?
Question: I am wondering about the [inaudible] captured by the Myanmar authorities, and also is this sectarian situation or something else or [inaudible]?
Deputy Spokesperson: I’m sorry?
Question: Sectarian issue or something else? What’s happening, exactly? What is the real cause of what’s happening in Myanmar?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, there are groups of Muslims in Myanmar who are not recognized as Myanmar citizens, number one, and that’s where the problem lies, what the gentleman was referring to before, the conflict between the non-Muslim people and the Muslim people of that area in Myanmar. With respect to the people who have been detained, we are working on it, but we’re not making any further comments on that.
Question: I have a question about the safety of the monitors in Syria. My impression is that a lot of them are housed in hotels in Damascus, which is becoming increasingly unsafe. Does UNSMIS have a response plan to Damascus becoming increasingly beset of violence?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, one of the reasons why Mr. Ladsous and General Gaye are there is precisely to evaluate the situation on the ground and to ascertain what the safety threats are to the peace… the monitoring mission.
Question: Are there any indications that Arab leaders might ask the Syrian opposition to form a Government? Seems the Secretary-General was prone to discussions… for discussions between the two opposing parties. Would he be in favour of that?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General is in favour of anything that leads to a discussion, a peaceful discussion, of the differences that separate this area, into a peaceful resolution of the situation. If the Syrian opposition coming together enables them to engage in dialogue, enables them to have a type of control structure that permits them to stop the violence, in that case, I think it’d probably be good. We’re not going to call it a Government, it’s not something that we would do. But for the opposition to come together and be able to exercise control over its forces, and be able to put an end to the violence in the same way as the Syrian Government putting an end to the violence on its part, would be very helpful to the situation and is something the Secretary-General has been calling for.
Question: [inaudible] how does the United Nations view that Al-Qaida has raised their flag on the Turkish-Syrian border in [inaudible] and they are in total control of the area in that region?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General has said he is against any militarization of the situation in Syria and that’s his position, whether it is militarization by the Syrian Government, by the opposition, by what we have been calling “third forces”, it all comes into play. Violence must end and the killing must end.
Question: But here we are talking about Al-Qaida, which is categorized by the United Nations as a terrorist organization, and which is sought to be prevented from taking any part. How come these people are brought in through Turkey or through other countries into Syria, and they are in control there and nobody is condemning their presence [inaudible]?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the presence of Al-Qaida, as far as I know, is condemned everywhere by everyone, so I don’t think the situation in Syria is unique. The presence of Al-Qaida; Al-Qaida is a terrorist organization and its presence anywhere should be condemned. Matthew?
Question: Question about Western Sahara and also Serbia, I guess. Western Sahara, there’s a lot of… I think because Mr. Ross didn’t undertake a trip – the Special Envoy or good offices, a trip that he was anticipated to take to the region — people are wondering… what’s the… what’s his status… has the Secretary-General… what’s his response to Morocco? There’s also separately a report that Mr. Weisbrod-Weber, since going to the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), has said that some national… Morocco… Moroccan nationals working for MINURSO in El Aioun were somehow engaged in surveillance and are no longer employed by MINURSO. So I wanted to ask on both of these things, what’s the… what are the facts?
Deputy Spokesperson: On the first, the Secretary-General, as Martin has repeatedly said from this podium, has full confidence in Ambassador Ross and his mission continues. On the second, we’d have to check on that. I have no information about it. Okay, ladies and gentlemen…
Question: Just one question…
Deputy Spokesperson: One question.
Question: Yes, since he’s still in the region, it appears that when he was in Serbia, the authorities there asked for an increased United Nations presence in their talks with Kosovo. They wanted the United Nations to at least be present or play some role, and I just wonder, what is the response of the Secretary-General to that request by Serbia?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’re going to have to see what happens. As you know, the new Serbian Government is not being sworn in until next week, so we’ll see what the Serbian Government says. We’ll see what their request is. We’ll see how they channel it, and then we’ll see what the response of the system is.
Thank you. Have a good afternoon.
* *** *