|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.
**Secretary-General’s Statement on Joint Special Envoy for Syria
As you will have seen, the Secretary-General has announced the resignation of Kofi Annan, the UN-League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy for Syria.
The Secretary-General said, in his statement, that Mr. Annan had informed the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Mr. Nabil El Araby, and him of his intention not to renew his mandate when it expires on 31 August 2012. The Secretary-General expressed his deepest gratitude to Mr. Annan for the determined and courageous efforts he has made as the Joint Special Envoy. He said Kofi Annan deserved our profound admiration for the selfless way in which he has put his formidable skills and prestige to this most difficult and potentially thankless of assignments. He said he would continue to draw on Mr. Annan’s wisdom and counsel, and on the work of the Office of the Joint Special Envoy.
The Secretary-General has already started to consult with the League of Arab States Secretary-General about a successor to Mr. Annan who can carry on this crucial peacemaking effort. The Secretary-General remains convinced that yet more bloodshed is not the answer. He said the United Nations remains committed to pursue through diplomacy an end to the violence and a Syrian-led solution that meets the legitimate democratic aspirations of its people.
The Joint Special Envoy has been speaking to reporters in Geneva, and we’ll provide you with a transcript as soon as we get it.
The Security Council held its first consultations this morning under the Council Presidency of France and approved its programme of work for August. French Ambassador Gérard Araud will brief you at 12:30 pm here in this room on the programme of work during France’s Presidency this month.
Then, this afternoon, the Security Council will hold consultations at 3 p.m. to receive a briefing from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, on the work of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). We expect that Mr. Ladsous will speak to reporters following those consultations.
Today, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, received a delegation from the families of the 11 Lebanese kidnapped in Syria since last May. The families briefed Mr. Plumbly on their concerns, which he said he will convey to UN Headquarters.
Special Coordinator Plumbly stressed the importance of the release of the abductees and their safe return without further delay. The Secretary-General has also expressed his concerns about the matter, and we will continue to be in contact with the Lebanese authorities and others about this.
**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Torrential rains across the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have resulted in widespread flooding, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The state media have estimated that more than 100 people have died and that tens of thousands of people have lost their homes. The Government has requested that the UN release its prepositioned emergency stocks, including food and fuel. Earlier this week, the UN agencies took part in a wider mission to assess the damage in some of the most affected areas of the country.
International star Beyoncé, the United Nations and humanitarian aid organizations are launching a global campaign today to shine a spotlight on humanitarian work, in advance of World Humanitarian Day, which falls on 19 August. The World Humanitarian Day music video for Beyoncé’s song “I Was Here” will be filmed in the UN General Assembly Hall in New York in front of a live audience. We have a press release with more details.
Questions, please? Giampaolo?
**Questions and Answers
Question: [inaudible] Kofi Annan… practically the six-point plan is officially dead. What’re you going to do at the end of August?
Spokesperson: I disagree with you, Giampaolo. This is a six-point plan which has and had the full support of the Security Council in resolution 2042 (2012) and resolution 2043 (2012). This is still the best hope for the Syrian people, as the Secretary-General has said, and the UN remains committed to pursue through diplomacy an end to the violence and to move onto a political track. Obviously, that requires both parties to stop the violence, and it also requires a strongly united international community. But I… we really would like to stress here that the hand that was extended by Kofi Annan is the hand of the international community with the backing of the General Assembly and the Security Council. This six-point plan remains the best hope and we will continue to work in that direction. The Secretary-General is of course extremely grateful for the work Mr. Annan has done, really courageous efforts in extremely difficult circumstances which I think everybody would agree. Yes?
Question: I need to follow up. I agree, but the problem is that the gentleman that wrote the plan has no hope. How can you say that this plan is full of hope? [inaudible] in advance, not the last day. It says I couldn’t do it. Is it a good signal?
Spokesperson: Let’s be clear. The consultation has already started. The Secretary-General has been in touch with Mr. Elaraby. Indeed, he spoke to him this morning as he did to Mr. Annan. This is a plan that has the backing of the international community and continues to be the best hope that there is. And it is certainly the case that the Secretary-General will continue to push for that, and will be looking, as I have just said, for a successor who can carry on this work. Jonathan?
Question: It can be interpreted that, his resignation, that the United Nations simply cannot handle this. This difficult issue, this conflict, just cannot be resolved by the UN. And, as a follow-up question, who is the Secretary-General looking at for a successor to Kofi Annan?
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t think you really expect me to answer the second question. But the first one, this is a plan that has the backing of the Security Council and does have the backing of the international community. There is a mission on the ground that has done work in extremely difficult circumstances. And there is also an office of the Joint Special Envoy, which continues its work on the political track. That office, as I say, will continue to work and a successor will be found for Mr. Annan sooner rather than later.
Question: I think, let [me] reframe the question a little bit then. The man who is in charge of pushing the UN agenda has resigned in regard to Syria.
Spokesperson: This is not the UN agenda. This is the United Nations and the League of Arab States with the full backing of the General Assembly and the Security Council.
Question: Might the UN in a month ahead, weeks ahead, take on a more supportive role rather than trying to work a central role in resolving this crisis in Syria, just as has happened in another conflict, like Bosnia?
Spokesperson: There are many actors involved in this, but there is clearly a central role to be played by the United Nations, and indeed that’s what you have seen. It’s for Mr. Annan, as he has been doing in Geneva, to explain why he has decided to announce his resignation. The Secretary-General is extremely grateful for the effort he has made in obviously very, very difficult circumstances. And that work, that work will continue. The Office of the Joint Special Envoy is still there and that work will continue. Yes, please? Yes, Mr. Abbadi? And then Masood.
Question: How did Mr. Annan communicate his decision to resign to the Secretary-General — orally or in writing? Did he give specific reasons for his resignation?
Spokesperson: The exact mechanics of this, I don’t think we need to go into, but I told you that the Secretary-General spoke by telephone this morning. They also met in London just a few days ago, and as for the reasons, we have encapsulated the, our understanding here of the difficulties that there are, and as you will have seen, Mr. Annan has been speaking for himself in Geneva. I would refer you to what he said, had to say there. Yes, Masood.
Question: Yeah. Recently, in the Western press, there has been criticism on this Annan’s plan that he has been too soft on Bashir Assad. When he called Mr. Ban Ki-moon to say that he is going to resign, did he share any thought to the Secretary-General to that effect, as to why he is resigning? What… basically, what is [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: I think my answer to that is the same as the answer I just gave to Mr. Abbadi. The Joint Special Envoy, Mr. Annan, has been speaking to reporters in Geneva, and I would refer you to what he has been saying there.
Question: The shortlist the Secretary-General is going to draw for a new appointment, will you share that with us?
Spokesperson: Absolutely not. Next question. Yes?
Question: Ahmad Fawzi has actually sent out the opening statement of Kofi Annan, and he says, “without serious purposeful united international pressure, it is impossible for me or anyone to compel the Syrian Government and the opposition to take the step necessary, therefore I’m resigning”. So I guess I want to ask you, he doesn’t seem to just be saying that he couldn’t do it. He is saying no one can do it under these circumstances. So does the Secretary-General share that, or he just disagrees with that? Does he think under the current balance of power of regional forces, someone could do the job?
Spokesperson: Well, I would ask you to read the statement of the Secretary-General put out. And if you like, shall I perhaps read the relevant bits to you.
Question: You disagree?
Spokesperson: No. Not at all. Listen to what I am saying, Matthew. Both the Government and the opposition forces continue to demonstrate their determination to rely on ever-increasing violence. In addition, the persistent divisions within the Security Council have themselves become an obstacle to diplomacy, making the work of any mediator vastly more difficult. And then, what the Secretary-General has also said is that the UN remains committed to pursue through diplomacy an end to the violence and a Syrian-led solution that meets the legitimate democratic aspirations of its people. This can only succeed — indeed any peacemaking effort can only prosper — when the parties to the violence make a firm commitment to dialogue, and when the international community is strongly united in support.
Question: No, I just… definitely, I read it. I just want to explain, I guess what I am saying that Kofi Annan seems to be saying it’s impossible currently under the current balance of power…
Spokesperson: Matthew. Well, Matthew, Matthew. Just listen to what I said and look what the Secretary-General said. I think it’s pretty clear.
Spokesperson: Right, right. I’ve already answered that point and I said very clearly that the work of the Office of the Joint Special Envoy continues. Right to the back, then Hank.
Question: Thank you Martin. My question is about the situation in Burma. Yesterday, Human Rights Watch published a report and stated that Burmese Government’s restrictions on human rights and humanitarian access to Rohingya community have left over 100,000 people without home, without food, without shelter and without medical care. So the question is what steps the United Nations can take to lift such restrictions and ensure humanitarian access to the victims of sectarian violence?
Spokesperson: Well, you have seen that the Special Rapporteur from the Human Rights Council is in the country at the moment, and will be speaking to reporters as I understand it, in a couple days’ time before leaving the country. That’s the first thing. Secondly, you all have seen that High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has been quite clear about her concerns about human rights violations in Rakhine state. She has been calling for a prompt and independent investigation. A nd of course, we would very much like to see there would be unhindered humanitarian access. That is not the case at the point, at this point. I think I was coming to Hank next. Yes.
Question: Thank you, good morning. Taking into… thank you… I suppose so… Taking into account the Secretary-General and the Arab League’s intention to adhere to the six-point plan, how does that change the job of the Special Envoy, regardless of who steps into that post? What leeway will they have to come up with their own six-point plan, for a lack of better term, one that may have a better chance of working?
Spokesperson: The Joint Special Envoy, Mr. Annan, has said that a successor may wish to try different approaches, but there is already as a bedrock of the foundation, a six-point plan, which, as I have said, has the backing of the Security Council and the General Assembly. And in addition, you also have another building block, the Action Group Communiqué that came out the meeting in Geneva, where it was spelled out quite clearly what those gathered wanted to see happen with regard to Syria and a transition. There are blocks there. Building blocks there. It would be for a successor to determine how to take that forward, working with the international community. Yes, and then Evelyn.
Question: Thank you. It seems that both the Secretary-General and Mr. Kofi Annan agree that the division within the international community and the Security Council is creating difficulties and obstacles in front of diplomacy. If there were to be unity inside the Security Council, what kind of outcome should we see that could actually move diplomacy forward, and put it more forward?
Spokesperson: Well, that would be for the Council to determine, but it’s obvious that where we have found ourselves at the moment is not a good place. So, it’s for the Council to determine. Evelyn?
Question: … since … said the world is full of crazy people like me so don’t be surprised if someone else decides to take it on, when the 30 days runs out on the monitors, do you have any idea if this will be the end of their stay there?
Spokesperson: I think that’s the question for the person who is going to be sitting in this seat in about 15 minutes, not for me. Okay. Jonathan.
Question: About his resignation itself. How did it play out? Did Kofi ask Ban and then Ban said, “No, don’t go, don’t go” or anything, I mean, how did it all sort of happen? Can you…?
Spokesperson: You have very good questions, Jonathan. But my answer is not going to be very good for you. So look, I’ve said to you that the Secretary-General has been in frequent, constant contact with Mr. Annan over the preceding weeks and months by telephone and in person. I’ve told you that they met in person in London just last week, on Friday, if I’m not mistaken last week, and they spoke by telephone this morning. I’m obviously not going to go into the details of those conversations. What I can tell you is that the Secretary-General has the deepest admiration for Mr. Annan as a predecessor and as an outstanding international civil servant and public servant. He also is extremely grateful for the work Mr. Annan has done in exceptionally difficult circumstances, a job which very, very few people would have take on at that point. Yes, Matthew?
Question: I want to ask you, follow-up on Bangladesh and something on Sudan. I understand the Special Rapporteur is in Myanmar. But there is this report that Bangladesh as a country told three major NGOs not to serve Rohingya even when they cross the border into Bangladesh. I’m wondering even waiting for the press conference of Mr. Ojea, is there some UN response to a Government ordering NGOs not to serve these people. And I’m sorry if I missed a statement on Sudan and South Sudan, but the deadline arrived, apparently, seems no deals reached. What’s the next step from the UN point of view?
Spokesperson: On that second one, I will check with relevant folks, Mr. Menkerios and with peacekeeping operations. On the first, I prefer to wait to see what the Special Rapporteur has to say and if Mr. Nambiar has anything to say, then I will let you know. Yes, please?
Question: Completely different subject. You probably heard that there has been controversy about the cause of death for Yasser Arafat. Has the UN received any request to set up a Hariri-style inquiry or commission into the cause of his death… Arab League or perhaps Palestinian Authority?
Spokesperson: We are obviously aware of media reports about the circumstances of Mr. Arafat’s death. But I don’t have anything specific for you. But thanks for the question. We’ll check into it.
Question: So, I can check later in the day, perhaps?
Spokesperson: Absolutely, yeah.
Question: Martin, of recently, just out there, I mean, huge amount of media reports that Israel is again threatening to attack Iran and that they will attack. Has the Secretary-General spoken with anybody in the international community, the Americans or Brits? That this… that is ominous and should now somehow be dissipated? Should have some talks in this?
Spokesperson: I think the Secretary-General has spoken publicly about his concerns about tensions in the region. I don’t have anything to add to that.
Question: [inaudible] I mean the threats are there…
Spokesperson: As I said, as I said, the Secretary-General has spoken about this topic before. I don’t have anything to add to that, about the potential tensions in the region. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Martin. This is the last question. There seems to be more and more evidence beyond rhetorical now that there is a serious effort in partitioning, I mean, Syria, as has been done in the Sudan. And a quite a few very good top experts on this are saying the UN is complacent. Would the Secretary-General respond to the fact that UN is very much involved, not only in now Balkanizing African States, but now in the Arab world?
Spokesperson: Well, I disagree with your characterization that it is the fact, first of all. Secondly, this whole effort seeking peaceful resolution of this violence in Syria is about the territorial integrity and the will of the people for a peaceful transition, which they will lead, but the territorial integrity is a key part of that. So I really disagree with your characterization of that. Okay. Thanks very much. Have a good afternoon. Thank you.
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