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

11 September 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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, everyone.

** Somalia

In a statement we issued earlier today, the Secretary-General congratulated Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on his selection as President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, following the vote of the New Federal Parliament in Mogadishu yesterday.  The selection of the new President brings an end to the eight-year political transition.

The Secretary-General congratulated the New Federal Parliament and its Speaker for the peaceful and orderly conduct of the process.  He also paid tribute to all the signatories of the Roadmap for Ending the Transition for the important role they have played to bring the process to a successful conclusion.

The Secretary-General encourages the new President to move expeditiously, to appoint an inclusive, accountable Government that can begin the work of peacebuilding in the country.  He urges Somali and international actors alike to pledge their continued support.

In a separate statement, Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, called on the winners to be magnanimous in victory, the losers to be gracious in defeat and for all to lead Somalia forward to a brighter day.

**Secretary-General in Switzerland

The Secretary-General spoke to the Swiss Parliament in Bern today, congratulating the people of Switzerland as they mark the country’s tenth anniversary as a UN Member State.  And he discussed the work that Switzerland can do with the United Nations in helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and moving forward in dealing with poverty and climate change.

The Secretary-General also met today in Berne with the President of the Swiss Confederation, Ms. Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, and members of the Swiss Government.  The Secretary-General discussed the situation in Syria, as well as remaining challenges in reaching the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and the post-2015 development agenda.  They exchanged views on ways to promote sustainable energy for all and make progress towards a legally-binding framework on climate change.  They also discussed the reform of the United Nations and the Strategic Heritage Plan for the renovation of the Palais des Nations.  The Secretary-General will be back in New York tomorrow.

** Syria

The UN refugee agency says that, according to the latest figures, more than a quarter of a million Syrian refugees have been registered in the surrounding region or are awaiting registration.

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and the agency’s special envoy, Angelina Jolie, met today with Syrian refugees during a visit to the Za'atri camp in Jordan.  Mr. Guterres said that the camp needs massive international funding and that conditions at the site are still not acceptable.  The agency said that this visit is in recognition of the commitment of the Jordanian people and Government to protecting refugees.

Refugees have told agency staff that artillery and air attacks are continuing in villages and towns close to the Jordanian border.  While the number of refugees crossing the border fluctuates daily depending on the security situation inside Syria, the average remains around 2,000 new arrivals a day.  Later today, Mr. Guterres and Ms. Jolie were due to meet the King of Jordan, as well as the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that it took part in an exploratory mission to Homs last week to assess how to strengthen its presence in the area.  It said that the urgency of scaling up delivery of humanitarian aid was exacerbated by the approaching winter.  And there is more information in the Geneva briefing notes.

** Lebanon

Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, met with Assembly Speaker Nabih Berri today, and they discussed political and security developments, and the situation in south Lebanon.  Mr. Plumbly noted media reports that a number of the Lebanese kidnapped in Syria were released this morning.  He welcomed this development and expressed the hope that we will soon see the release of all those held against their will.  He added that the UN system looks forward to working with all in Lebanon to help ensure free, fair and transparent elections next year.  We have a press release with more details in our office.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

Under-Secretary-General and head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, is currently visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Yesterday, on the first day of his trip, Mr. Ladsous met with a number of Government officials, including the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Defence.  Earlier today, he met with President Joseph Kabila.

Speaking to the press yesterday, Mr. Ladsous noted that his visit is aimed at preparing the ground for the upcoming Summit on the DRC and the Great Lakes region, which is set to take place on 27 September here in New York.  Hervé Ladsous is currently heading to Kigali, Rwanda, from Goma in the east of the DRC.  He will also travel to Kampala, in Uganda.

Under-Secretary-General Ladsous welcomed the decisions by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, which he said reflect the engagement of the international community in solving the crisis affecting the Great Lakes region and the eastern [Democratic Republic of] Congo.

** Darfur

Ibrahim Gambari, the departing Joint Special Representative for Darfur, issued his end-of-mission statement today, which is available in our office.  He said that as he departs the mission, he was pleased that concrete steps in the implementation of the Doha Document have been taken.  He urged the signatory parties to remain committed and ensure full implementation of all the document’s provisions in a timely manner.

**Security Council

Jens Anders Toyberÿ-Frandzen, the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative in Sierra Leone, briefed the Security Council this morning, and said that Sierra Leone continues to make steady progress in consolidating its achievements of the past decade.  He noted the preparations for the November 2012 presidential, parliamentary and local council elections, and said that, with technical assistance from the United Nations, major electoral arrangements have been successfully concluded.  We have his briefing notes available in our office, and the Council has followed up the open meeting with consultations on Sierra Leone.

This afternoon, the Security Council will discuss Liberia.

**UNICEF Stakeout

This afternoon at 1 p.m., Anthony Lake, the UNICEF Executive Director, and Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, will address the press at the stakeout on the second floor of the North Lawn Building.  The two organizations are celebrating their 20‑year partnership with the launch of a new portal highlighting their shared common goals in countries in the developing world.  You can visit www.unicef.org/eu for more information.

**Press Conference

And then tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., here in this auditorium, there will be a press briefing on the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

That’s it from me.  Any questions?  Okay, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I just want to be clear about this… this… these attacks in Iraq.  Has the United Nations determined whether they were related to the death sentence levelled against the Iraqi Vice-President?  Was there any such analysis going on?

Associate Spokesperson:  We are not aware of what the cause of these clashes, of these killings, has been.  Certainly, we have condemned these killings.  You will have seen what Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, said about that, and the Secretary-General shares his views.  We do not know whether there is any connection with the death sentence.  On that, with regard to that topic, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) has been following up closely the trial of Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi.  Human rights experts observed the trial proceedings, and any concern on the fairness of the trial, including the defendant’s access to legal counsel and defence, will be shared with the Government of Iraq.  Yes?

Question:  The Secretary-General has given a statement on Libya, in which he talked about rights, human rights, and also asked them to release their prisoners.  Has the Libyan Government responded in any way?  Or are you still waiting…?

Associate Spokesperson:  Of course, we will still need a response from the Libyan Government.  The remarks that the Secretary-General made were made, by the way, in his report to the Security Council on Libya, and of course it will be up to the Security Council members to take up that report.  Yes, Sylviane?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Any plans for Mr. Guterres and Angelina Jolie to travel to Turkey and Syria and Lebanon, to visit the refugee camps?

Associate Spokesperson:  I am not aware of where they are travelling from Jordan.  As you know, today they are in Jordan.  They went to the Za'atri camp and they will be expected to be meeting with the King.  After that, they may have some further travels, and we will try to share with you those details as they progress.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  The Special Joint [Representative,  Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi, said something to the effect that he would speak only to the people of Syria or those who represent Syria, the Syrian people.  Who represents the Syrian people at this stage?

Associate Spokesperson:  At this stage, as you know, there are many different sides purporting to represent the Syrian people.  What we want to do, and what Mr. Brahimi and his predecessor, Mr. [Kofi] Annan, have tried to do, is bring together conditions for a dialogue among the Syrian parties.  We will have to see whether we can get a workable dialogue going among the Government and the various opposition elements.  But certainly that is what we are trying to do.  Yes?

Question:  Are you aware that in Pakistan, 13 Shi’ites were killed in [inaudible]?  It is again an attack on a religious minority by the Taliban, I guess.  Are you aware of that?

Associate Spokesperson:  We are aware of that, but at present we don’t have any comment.  If that changes, I will certainly let you know.  Yes?

Question:  When will the Secretary-General give his press conference prior to the opening of the General Assembly?

Associate Spokesperson:  At this stage, it is not anticipated that he will give a press conference prior to the General Assembly.  He may give one afterwards.  We will have a number of guests coming to talk to you over the various noon briefings next week, and we will give you the schedule of those briefings sometime later this week.

Question:  After, you mean, the end of the General Assembly session?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, possibly.  We don’t have anything to announce on that just yet.  At this stage, there is no press conference by the Secretary-General to announce in the coming weeks.  But we will let you know whenever there is a press conference by him.  But we will have a range of senior officials talk to you next week, in advance of the General Assembly session.

Thanks very much.

Question:  Have you said whether Mr. Brahimi will be in Beirut over the weekend?  Oh no, not in Beirut, rather in Damascus over the weekend?

Associate Spokesperson:  We expect him to be in Syria within the next few days.

Question:  [inaudible]

Associate Spokesperson:  That’s not scheduled yet.

* *** *

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