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

7 August 2012

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

7 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.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Secretary-General has conveyed a message to the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, which is meeting in Kampala today to discuss the situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In his message, the Secretary-General says that he is deeply concerned about the security conditions in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly caused by the violent activities of the M23 group of mutineers and other national and foreign armed groups.  He says that the humanitarian consequences for civilians have been grave and that the worsening situation also poses a threat to stability in the wider Great Lakes region.

The Secretary-General noted a decrease in M23 military operations since late July, and he called for the group to halt immediately and completely all destabilizing activities.  He condemned the violence and serious human rights violations committed by the M23, as well as other armed groups, against civilians, adding that all persons responsible must be held accountable.  He is also deeply concerned at the continuing reports of external support to the M23, and he called for an end to all such support without delay.

We have his message in my office.

And just to note that Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, has arrived in Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  She is expected to visit a camp for recently displaced people in Kibati, which is north of Goma.

We expect more details later and will make those details available to you when we get them.

**Security Council

The Security Council held consultations this morning on the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia.  The head of the Regional Centre, Miroslav Jenca, briefed Council members.

This afternoon, at 3, the Security Council will hold consultations to discuss a wide range of developments with the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman.

** Syria

The World Health Organization (WHO) said today that Syria is experiencing shortages in medicines and pharmaceutical products.  The country had previously produced 90 per cent of its medicines and drugs locally.  However, output has slowed considerably because of the violence and the damage to pharmaceutical plants. 

To ensure access to essential health services, WHO has been delivering medicines and trauma kits since the beginning of the crisis. However, it has called on the international community for urgent support to cover the growing critical gaps in drugs and medicines inside Syria.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has sent enough food for 28,000 people, to be distributed over the next few days in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.  Since clashes started there in July, the Programme has reached close to 46,000 people in the city with urgent food assistance.

However, following the recent escalation of fighting in Damascus, it has become extremely difficult to secure trucks for deliveries and labour for packaging.  Yet, despite these challenges, the Programme has managed to dispatch food for some 228,000 people in Aleppo, Damascus and other areas.

This month, the World Food Programme aims to reach 850,000 people inside Syria, but says that it faces a shortfall of nearly $60 million for its operations in the country.

** Somalia

The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia signed an action plan with the United Nations yesterday, committing the national army and allied groups under its control to end the killing and maiming of children in armed conflict.

The action plan came in response to the UN Security Council’s call in resolution 1882 (2009) for concrete and time-bound action plans to halt and prevent the killing and maiming of children by parties listed in the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict.

**Myanmar/Bangladesh

Further to what we said yesterday, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is appealing to the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that assistance from non-governmental organizations continues to be provided to some 40,000 unregistered people who have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Last week, Bangladeshi authorities ordered three non-governmental organizations to stop their activities in and around unofficial camps near Cox’s Bazaar in south-east Bangladesh.

The agency is urging the Government of Bangladesh to reconsider its decision, in line with its long tradition of hospitality towards people who fled Myanmar over the years.  It is also watching developments in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, following reports of renewed violence over the weekend.

The UN and its humanitarian partners have drawn up a response plan to assist some 80,000 people who have been displaced or are otherwise affected in Rakhine State since inter-communal clashes broke out in early June.

There is more information available on the refugee agency’s website.

For its part, the World Food Programme says that its food aid was distributed to nearly 103,000 people in June and 80,000 people in July in Rakhine State.

That’s it.  Questions, please.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Um, on the issue of the six-point plan, it seems like the international community is losing faith in the six-point plan, like the Qatari Foreign Minister just came out and said the issue of the six-point plan is essentially over.  I’m wondering how the UN can continue operating on the basis of this plan, when it seems that the international faith in the plan is crumbling?  And another question.  UNSMIS is pulling out of Aleppo and I’m wondering why they are doing this if, for example, the World Food Programme is able to operate?  Why did UNSMIS feel like they had to pull out completely out of Aleppo?  

Spokesperson:  To start with the second one first, UNSMIS has undertaken a temporary relocation of its team that was based in Aleppo, I think, for obvious reasons, security reasons.  The fact that the World Food Programme is operating, as you know, it operates with local partners and it’s delivering rather than necessarily staying put overnight.  I think everybody would understand that if you’re an unarmed observer, you don’t have very much room to manoeuvre particularly if your role is to observe.  It’s been extremely difficult to operate in those circumstances.  And of course, it’s a temporary relocation by definition.  As soon as it’s feasible to return, that’s what will happen.

On the first question, the six-point plan, as we’ve said before, is endorsed by the Security Council and has wide backing in the international community, and that remains the case.  It’s also obvious that events on the ground are extremely fluid and unpredictable, but this plan has an overarching set of principles that still stand.  And in addition, you have the Action Group communiqué from the meeting that took place at the end of June in Geneva.  So those two building blocks remain and have the, the six-point plan has the clear endorsement of the Security Council at this point.  Yes, Nizar?    

Question:  Regarding the same issue, I mean, is it...?

Spokesperson:  Regarding, sorry?

Question:  The same question, follow-up on that.  Is Aleppo considered more peaceful now than Damascus, you mean?  Because I understand that the World Food Programme has curtailed its activities in Damascus and moved to Aleppo.  Does it mean that…?

Spokesperson:  No, no, that’s not what I said.

Correspondent: I just misunderstood that…

Spokesperson:  That’s not what I said.  I said that it’s, because of the violence in Damascus, there has been, it’s been more difficult for the World Food Programme to secure trucks and people to pack the food packages to then have them distributed by truck.  So, that’s, that’s we’re talking about. Yeah? 

Question:  So they are, you mean, they are getting it through Turkey directly into Aleppo?  Is it…?

Spokesperson:  As, as I’ve said before, we don’t go into the details of the exact sourcing of food supplies.  But a lot of it is being supplied locally. 

Correspondent:  I have another, another question. 

Spokesperson:  Yes, Ali?  Let me come back to you.  I will come to you.  Yes, Ali?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  As we understand that the Security Council is not going to renew the UNSMIS mission in Syria, is there any contingency plan to keep UN, a kind of mission, maybe political mission, in Syria after the nineteenth of this month?  And does it need a Security Council resolution to keep that mission thereafter?  And my second question is whether the United Nations considers that Syria has entered officially a full-fledged civil war since there is obvious, obviously there is no solution for the problems on the ground.  

Spokesperson:  Well, on the last point, Ali, we would be guided by the definition provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross.  And on the first point, everything you said was as if it is a statement of fact.  Let’s not prejudge what the Council may or may not do.  When we get to that point, the Secretary-General, uh, has been asked to provide a report to the Council with his recommendations.  The Council will then deliberate and will take a decision.  And it’s for the Council to do that.  In, uh, on the existing Mission on, on any, any other configuration, that’s for the Council to decide. 

Question: Is there contingency plan for, I mean, this is… situation.

Spokesperson:  I think it’s obvious that the United Nations Secretariat, whether it’s peacekeeping operations, political affairs or other parts of the Organization, needs to look at a range of scenarios.  It would be foolhardy not to plan ahead for different scenarios.

Yes, Masood, then I will come back to you, Nizar.  Yes, Masood. 

Question:  Yeah.  Just a follow-up on that.  As I asked earlier, the Secretary-General, does he have, I mean, in the report, does the Secretary-General has an alternate plan for UNSMIS, if in fact, the mission is not renewed?  Is that, is that a fact, or the Secretary-General…? 

Spokesperson:  He hasn’t submitted the report yet. So, I don’t, I think it’s premature to say what’s going to be in the report.

Question:  So this might, and my other question I wanted to ask you about this, in the wake of killing of the Egyptians soldiers, 15 or 20 Egyptians soldiers, Egypt is closing down the crossings into West Bank and Gaza.  And Israel has not opened any crossings into Gaza.  That will create a problem for Palestinians again.  Does the Secretary-General, has the Secretary-General spoken to the Israelis recently about the crossings and so forth?   

Spokesperson: No, he hasn’t, Masood.  No, he hasn’t.  But you all have seen the statement we issued on the, what was obviously a very serious incident in the Sinai over the weekend.  Yes, Nizar.

Question:  On the meeting in Iran on Thursday regarding the Syrian crisis, is the United Nations in any way participating in that meeting?

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge.  Uh, I have to check.  Yes? 

[The Spokesperson later said that neither Kofi Annan nor anyone in the Joint Special Envoy's office would be going to Tehran.]

Question:  Are…

Spokesperson:  Yes, yes, Mr., Mr. Abbadi.  I will come back to you.  Yes, Mr.?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  I understand that Kofi Annan may be attending that.  Do you have any news about this?

Spokesperson: Well, I’ve, I’d, as I say, I don’t have anything, Nizar, I have to check on that.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.

[The Spokesperson later said that neither Kofi Annan nor anyone in the Joint Special Envoy's office would be going to Tehran.]

Correspondent:  Thank you, Martin.  The six-point plan is still on the table.  As you said, the Secretary-General is trying to appoint a replacement for Kofi Annan.  But the situation is deteriorating markedly, especially in the humanitarian side.  Civilians are running out of medicine right now.  Among the candidates, the Secretary-General is considering the candidacy of Lakhdar Brahimi, who was Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on many fronts, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti, and who was also…

Spokesperson:  Well, listen, listen Mr. Abbadi.  I’ve had many questions from many quarters on this topic.  We are simply not going to, to get into guessing games.  If and when we have an announcement, we will make it.  Okay?  Thanks very much.  Yes, yes.  

Question:  Can I ask you this question of the heads of the Group of Experts of DRC panel?  I got your, this answer that these people are vetted.  I just wanted to ask you a very specific question that the Foreign Minister of Rwanda has been quoted at the meeting in Uganda about M23 as saying that we are requesting that the UN actually look into this, that we’re shocked that someone holds such views of the Government of Rwanda and the history of the region in favour of genocidal group would be assigned to such a such job, that is the least of the UN can do to look into this.  So I wanted to know:  is that sort of the, is this description of the process, does that mean it’s been looked into, or is the UN aware of this call by the Foreign Minister of Rwanda? … did it look at these articles before naming Mr. Hedge?  And will it now look at them?  

Spokesperson:  I think that everything that we have to say at the moment is what we have already sent you, Matthew.  Okay. Yeah.  Any other questions. 

Question:  Yes, sure. I wanted to ask you, also, there is a, this is sort, it’s kind of a strange one.  UNHCR in Beirut has asked the, the police, according to Daily Star, to remove Sudanese protestors who have been protesting their, their lack of repatriation, lack of relocation.  And there is a strange quote that UNHCR has decided that protestors are no longer legitimate.  So I guess my question, it seems strange because I always hear you saying that the rights of peaceful protesters should be listened and there is a right to protest.  Are you aware of this and how does it comport with UN standards on, on, on respecting the rights for a peaceful protest?

Spokesperson:  Check with UNHCR.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  [inaudible] personnel.

Spokesperson:  Say again?

Question:  Kidnapping of 40 persons in Syria.  Does the Secretary-General have any comment on that?  Does he condemn any kidnappings, a kind of kidnapping? 

Spokesperson:  It’s obvious that that’s a very serious situation, and it’s also obvious that anybody being held against their will should be freed as soon as possible.  And that doesn’t just apply to that group; there are others too.  And we’ve spoken about that before, for example, Lebanese citizens.  Yes?  

Question: Last three months, the Lebanese authorities handed over 14 Syrian activities to Damascus.  Is that any comment from the United Nations, from the Secretary-General, on this incident? 

Spokesperson:  No.  There isn’t, no.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  Sure.  There is a study produced by a professor at the UN-associated University for Peace in Costa Rica, which seems to make new findings of misdeeds by the MONUSCO peacekeepers.  She talks about a case that she says documented it, of rape by MONUSCO peacekeepers in February 2011, and something called Hotel Uvira in South Kivu, where she says is rife with prostitution and used by peacekeepers.  Since it’s a UN-affiliated institution, I guess I’m wondering, is the UN and DPKO aware of the study and do they deny it?  Is it true?  What’s going to be done about it? 

Spokesperson: I think you can take it for granted that they are certainly aware of the report, the study, and if DPKO or MONUSCO have anything to say, then we will let you know.  Okay, Masood.  Last question.

Question:  Yes.  This is a follow-up on an earlier question.  This, I mean, the non-aligned foreign ministers delegations going to West Bank, which was stopped, do you have any update as to whether they stand now?  Is…Has Israel relented in giving them permissions to go to West Bank? 

Spokesperson:  No, I don’t.  I think you would have to ask Israeli authorities.  Mr. [Robert] Serry has made his views clear on the matter.

All right, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.

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