Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

3 August 2012

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

3 August 2012
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
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.


** Syria


The Secretary-General spoke at the General Assembly’s meeting on Syria this morning, saying that the conflict in Syria is a test of everything that the United Nations stands for.  He said that, despite repeated verbal acceptances of the six-point plan endorsed by the UN Security Council, both the Government and the opposition continue to rely on weapons, not diplomacy, in the belief that they will win through violence.


He said that all of us have a responsibility to the people of Syria.  We must use all of the peaceful means in the UN Charter to help them unite around a Syrian-led transition process that is based on dialogue and compromise, not bullets and arrests.


The Secretary-General once more expressed his regret over the divisions that have paralyzed action in the Security Council, adding that the immediate interests of the Syrian people must be paramount over any larger rivalries of influence.


He said that a successor is being sought to replace Kofi Annan as Joint Special Envoy for Syria, but he said that mediation can only succeed where there is a commitment to solving conflict through dialogue and real leverage to back it up. 


We have his full remarks in my Office.


** Syria —Humanitarian


The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, said today that more and more people in Syria are being forced to abandon their homes to seek safety.  As many as many as 1.5 million people in Syria have been uprooted and taken refuge with host families or in makeshift shelters. 


UNHCR has delivered basic materials with the help of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to enable families to set up makeshift homes. 


The majority of displaced people approaching the Refugee Agency report fear, physical harm, the need to relocate due to lack of safety, robbery and direct threats.  Many are hiding in schools, which are not equipped to host a large number of people.


Hundreds of people continue to cross international borders to find safety, security and aid.  In Turkey, the numbers crossing range from 400 to 600 a day, most from Aleppo and the surrounding villages. 


In Jordan, the increase in numbers crossing in recent weeks has led to 9,500 new people registered in July alone. 


In Lebanon, there is no refugee camp, and people are living with host communities, and the majority there are women and children. 


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, is scheduled to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Rwanda from 6 to 9 August.


During her visit, she intends to draw attention to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the effect on the region.  She is expected to discuss ways of strengthening relief efforts and mobilizing additional assistance, including financial support, with the Congolese and Rwandan authorities and other humanitarian partners.


Fighting in North Kivu has led to the displacement of more than a quarter of a million people in recent weeks, including tens of thousands across the borders into Rwanda and Uganda.  Since 2009, armed conflict in the eastern Congo has internally displaced some 2.2 million people.


Ms. Amos is scheduled to travel to North Kivu to see first-hand the humanitarian impact of the conflict and the relief efforts, and on 9 August, she is expected to travel to Rwanda, where she plans to visit a camp hosting Congolese refugees.


Questions, please.  Yes, Masood.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I’m going to ask my question again.  And you, I hope you don’t say, “I have already answered it”.  This is about this new threat that is looming.  I mean, it’s not a new threat.  It’s an old threat.  But it’s about the, a promised or rather postponed attacks by Israel into Iran to forestall its nuclear programme.  Although Iran has said that it is not producing nuclear bombs, Israel insists that it will continue to, I mean, make the bombs and [inaudible].  What does the Secretary-General… has he done anything beyond asking Tehran to abide by the resolutions?     


Spokesperson:  I think that’s the rather good place to start, don’t you?  Because it’s obvious that the international community is not yet satisfied with the assurances that have been given by the Iranian authorities, and it’s incumbent upon the Iranian authorities to prove to the satisfaction of the international community in line with the Security Council resolutions and the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency that their programme is for purely peaceful purposes.  The other important aspect here is the Secretary-General has repeatedly said that this problem can only be solved through diplomatic means through dialogue.  And that’s precisely what’s required and that’s what has been happening.  And that’s what needs to continue.   


Question:  I just want to point out that the attack that is being promised into Iran is basically a pre-emptive attack, not necessarily on any site that is making nuclear weapons.  But we are anticipating that they will make… it’s purely a pre-emptive attack that has been promised. 


Spokesperson:  Well.  With respect, Masood, I think I just answered your question by saying that the only route here is through dialogue and diplomacy.  And the track we need to pursue.  Okay?  Next question please.


Question:  But… [inaudible]


Spokesperson:  Is this a debating society now?  What’s the question?


Question:  All my colleagues also say that this diplomacy and dialogue that you are proposing is stuck up.  So, there is something called good offices of the Secretary-General.  Is, the Secretary-General has never even visited Iran, you see.  Does he plan to do, I mean, conduct diplomacy and bring about a resolution of this problem?   


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has been involved in diplomacy both publicly and behind the scenes in this area for a long time.  And I would anticipate that that will continue.  Yes, Matthew.


Question:  I wanted to ask something just about the debate, I guess it’s… the voting that is about to take place in the General Assembly.  So is this… you know, I posed this by e-mail as well that the Journal at least from 11 p.m. last night till this morning linked to the previous version of the resolution that calls for sanctions and for Assad to step down, and this was e-mailed out as well.  I just wanted to get, I didn’t get from, Nihal said that the Secretary made a mistake.  But I wanted to ask you, how did it happen?  And uh, and uh, what is learned from it?   


Spokesperson:  I think two things are learned from this, Matthew.  One is that Nihal did reply to your question and made it very clear that there was a mistake and made it clear where the mistake was and she also pointed out it is being rectified, and the correct document would be in the General Assembly.  That’s the most important place for it to be, and that’s where it was.  The second point is that I think it underscores that all of us, perhaps with the exception of you, Matthew, are human and make mistakes and then admit to them. 


Question:  No, no.  


Spokesperson: What’s your next question?


Question:  Okay.  My next question is that…the, in his speech in the General Assembly, the Secretary-General thanked Kofi Annan and his team for their work.  So, that was what I was trying to ask you yesterday, not whether the Office goes on, but whether individuals, the team hired by, by Kofi Annan, whether they are extending contracts, whether the new person would bring in a brand new team.  From the speech, it seems to be, it seems to be the latter.  But can you, can you say what the, what the, when he thanked the team, is that a sort of final thanking, is the expectations that the whole endeavour will go forward.    


Spokesperson:  I… well, we had this conversation yesterday, Matthew, and I think… I beg your pardon?


Question:  No, I didn’t understand your answer.  That’s I’m asking you again.  No, I’m not trying to be mean.  It’s a follow-up, just like anyone makes.  So are they…


Spokesperson:  It’s a follow-up asked before I actually answered your question, Matthew.  So, I’m not sure there is a lot to be gained from adding to what I said yesterday.  Next question?


Question:  You began by saying…  


Spokesperson:  Next question, Masood.  Next question, Masood.  Okay.  Thank you.


Question:  I want to ask about this, the Secretary-General’s protocol.  There is a report, I mean, that I’m, the Secretary-General, in view that UNSMIS has not renewed that, Mr. Ban Ki-moon intends to have a stronger mission in Syria.  Is that right? The Secretary-General… any proposal to have a stronger…  


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General will report to the Security Council as he is duty-bound to do, and it would be for the Security Council to decide what happens next.    


Question:  So, but, but will he propose… this is what the question is.  


Spokesperson:  He will report, he will report as he is bound to do.  And he will outline his position, and then it will be for the Council to decide.  Yes?


Question:  Do you know if Kofi Annan will have to come to New York to report on the end of his mission or how it will work?  Will he stay in Geneva or does he have to come back and talk before the Security Council?


Spokesperson:  I don’t think there is any specific requirement for him to appear in New York.  As you know, he has been able to brief successfully by video-link from Geneva and colleagues indeed from elsewhere.  So, I don’t think there is a physical requirement.  If indeed he intends to come, then we will let you know.  But I’m not aware of any travel plans of that kind at this point.  Yes, Masood.   


Question:  Yeah, on this, on this UN mission in Syria, does the Secretary-General, that is, does the Secretary-General think that this mission should continue?  That, do you have…


Spokesperson:  I would urge you to read or listen to the speech that he has made.  He’s made clear that good work has been done and that the work remains to be done.  As you said, as I said, take a look at the speech.  He says, “I shudder to think how much worse the situation would be if the UN was absent, and I urge Member States to continue to provide support and the mandate for our work”.  Okay?  Yes, Matthew.


Question:  So, I’m just going to ask the question.  I’m not going to say anything.  I will just, I e-mailed you this question.  Now I’m going to ask it to you.  Can you confirm that with people moving back to the Secretariat Building that they were told that water was not drinkable and bottled water is being brought in?  Can you confirm that elevators broke, and people got stuck within them?  I guess that we go with those two.


Spokesperson:  Alright. Starting with the lifts, or elevators as you call them here, there were a few minor programming problems with some of them.  Those problems now have been fixed.  With regard to the water, on Tuesday of this week, staff in the building, the main building that we’re talking about, we were advised to temporarily stop drinking the water from the taps.  Uh, the, floors occupied by staff were then supplied with water coolers, rather than bottled water, but water coolers.  That the point is that apparently the water coming from the pipe feeding the Secretariat Building was rather stagnant and cloudy and so, that water is being flushed out through the pipes, and that’s why the water was provided from coolers.  The test results that have now been taken on the water after the process I just mentioned to you show that the water in the building does meet the standards for drinking water.  However, there will be additional tests next week, and at that point, the Capital Master Plan Team will confirm to staff that they can drink the water from the taps.  Test results will be available to staff on the internal website.  Okay? Alright.  Other questions?  Last one.    


Question:  Okay.  It has to do with this acting chief of the DGACM [Department of General Assembly Conference Management], Mr. Jean-Jacques Graisse.  I’m not sure that I hope I’m pronouncing right.  Some people said, pointed out that he was the senior deputy executive director of WFP [World Food Programme] and brought Ms. Malcorra into work in WFP in 2004.  So some, I’m just asking, I don’t know how the recruitment was done, but so some people say this may be some, have some relation with him being brought into the post.  I wanted to know how competitive was this process to appoint an acting chief and did Ms. Malcorra play any role in it?   


Spokesperson:  I will check, but I’m sure that, particularly with an acting position, there is a process to be gone through.  And I’m sure that was adhered to.  Okay.  Thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon and a good weekend.


* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.