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

16 August 2012

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

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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon and welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General is on his way back to New York from his visits to the Republic of Korea and Timor-Leste.  He wrapped up his second day in Timor-Leste by focusing on education and a new global initiative he plans to launch formally next month in New York during the general debate.

The Secretary-General visited a rural primary school along the coast from the capital, Dili, and delivered a lecture at the University of Timor-Leste.  He said he had chosen to highlight his Education First initiative in Timor-Leste because it had made tremendous progress in the short years since regaining independence.  He said the world needs a bold new push for education.  We must widen access for all boys and girls, improve the quality of learning and strengthen values-based education to make young people global citizens.

The Secretary-General also visited the headquarters of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) to thank staff for their hard work over the years.  That Mission is scheduled to wind down at the end of the year.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding consultations this morning on the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS).  Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet briefed Council members on recent developments.

In a letter to the Council, which is available as a document, the Secretary-General writes that the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and a reduction in violence by all sides, sufficient to allow the UN Mission to implement its mandate, have not been achieved.  He writes that the United Nations cannot discontinue its support and assistance to the Syrian people in helping to find an end to this crisis.  Rather, we must adapt to the situation while pursuing our efforts.

The Secretary-General intends therefore to work in the immediate future towards establishing an effective and flexible United Nations presence in Syria.  That presence will support our efforts with the parties to end hostilities and, where possible and agreed, support the Syrians in taking the steps they identify towards a negotiated and inclusive political settlement.

**Lebanon/Syria

Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, is in Beirut today, where she met with Lebanon’s Minister for Social Affairs and spoke to the press afterwards.  She thanked the Government of Lebanon for keeping its borders open and for being so generous to the Syrian refugees who have continued to cross the borders.

Ms. Amos has completed a two-day visit to Syria, and expressed her concern about the intense and often indiscriminate violence there.  As many as 2.5 million people are in need of assistance, and the need among displaced Syrians for health care, shelter, food, water and sanitation are growing.

We have a press release with more details.

** Mali

More than 435,000 people have been displaced by the complex humanitarian emergency in Mali, according to the latest report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) yesterday.

Nearly 262,000 of these people live as refugees in neighbouring countries, including Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria.  Over 60 per cent of the internally displaced population lives in the northern towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal.  Many of these people urgently need food, shelter and water.

Questions, please? Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, I’m sorry, I just came in as you were describing this follow-on presence in Syria.  Is it decided yet by the Secretariat whether…it was just said at the stakeout that it’ll be under the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) and not under DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations].  Is it a special political mission? Is it something just out of the budget of DPA?  What…how much can you say about it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I can’t say too much about it right now; we’re in the process of developing it, and once we have something to say we will say it.

Question:  I also wanted to ask you about this Rohingya.  There’s been this announcement by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, saying that it’s essentially a crime, what’s been taking place in Myanmar with the Rohingya.  Meanwhile, the UN has somehow said that things are getting better, and congratulated Myanmar for allowing in visitors. Does the UN system – Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar or whoever – does it agree with the OIC that this is essentially a crime, an ICC [International Criminal Court]-relevant crime?

Deputy Spokesperson:  It’s not for us to debate whether it’s an ICC crime.  The situation in Myanmar is one of evolution; it is one of a few steps forward, a few steps backward. The situation is in flux, and we accept that.  We are discussing with the Myanmar authorities how best they should go about resolving the situation of Rohingya, and we will continue to do so.  That situation is of concern to the Secretary-General and to Mr. Nambiar, but we cannot divorce that solely from the progress that is taking place in other parts of the country.  Hence, the more comprehensive approach that we have taken with Myanmar.  One more question?

Question:  OK, they’re both DPKO, so I’ll do them really fast.  One is:   Uganda has said it wants to be reimbursed by the UN and the African Union for helicopters that crashed on the way either to or from AMISOM in Somalia.  I was wondering, what is the UN’s thinking on that?  If a country is deploying equipment to a UN-funded mission and it crashes on the way, does the UN pay for that, or does Uganda pay for it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to check on that.  The crash is unfortunate, and the loss of lives is something that affects us; these people were on their way to do some good work.  But as to the financial responsibility, that’s something we’ll have to check into.

Question:  And you may either know this or… There was an interview with Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari just before he left.  It was put up on the UN News Centre website, where he says:  “We have some contingents, sadly from the Nigerian contingent, which has really not performed up to par, and basically they were repatriated.”  I’ve never heard of that, and I wonder, is there some…what does DPKO say about that?  Is there some…why was this battalion sent home?  What did they do wrong?

Deputy Spokesperson : Well, have you discussed it with DPKO?

Correspondent:  I really haven’t. As you know, Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous is on record that he will not answer these questions.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Mr. [Kieran] Dwyer and his staff are there; they could probably answer the question for you, OK?  Masood, last question.

Question:  Yeah, on this imminent expiration of UNSMIS in Syria, the Secretary-General has apparently proposed that he will be setting up another group or so.  Do you have any details on that?  Have you discussed that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have no details on that for the moment; we’re in the process of working these things out.  I’m sure that DPA and DPKO have advanced quite well in their work of doing the transition, but we have nothing to announce yet in public.  We’re still organizing it, getting it ready.  As you know, the Mission mandate ends on 19 August, and we will be ready as of that date to be able to put, to have people on the ground.

Question:  Since it just seems that that imminent expiration of the Mission is there, and the Secretary-General should have, by now, prepared some kind of contingency plan…

Deputy Spokesperson:  As I’ve said, DPA and DPKO and the Secretary-General’s office have worked long and hard to get something going.  What we are not doing right now is announcing in public what the composition is going to be.  We have just heard from the Security Council that the UNSMIS mission is not going to be extended; therefore we are going to react in due time.  But we’re not going to start discussing right now what we’re going to do. 

Question:  When is the time, now? It’s urgent.  Why is the Secretary-General delaying that?  That’s all I’m saying.

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’re not delaying it.  The Mission ends on 19 August, and I’m sure that by 19 August we should have something to say to the media, or early next week, something about the deployment of people for a political mission.  [He later provided a transcript of press remarks made by Edmond Mulet following the Security Council mission, which provided details of the future UN presence in Syria.]

Question:  Nothing on this appointment of a special envoy as yet?

Deputy Spokesperson:  [Shakes his head] Thank you so much; have a good afternoon.

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