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

6 December 2012

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

6 December 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.  Welcome to the briefing.

** Philippines

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the Philippines.

The Secretary-General is saddened by the loss of life and the serious damage to homes and infrastructure in the Philippines as a result of Typhoon Bopha, which is known locally as Typhoon Pablo, the second devastating storm to hit Mindanao in a year.

The Secretary-General extends his sincere condolences to the Government and people of the Philippines, particularly those who have lost family members and who have been otherwise affected by this disaster.

The United Nations stands ready to provide humanitarian assistance and to mobilize international support for the response.

**Death of United Nations Architect

I also have a statement by the Secretary-General on the death of Oscar Niemeyer.

The Secretary-General was saddened to learn of the death of Oscar Niemeyer, a towering figure and one of the original architects of United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Mr. Niemeyer’s career was exceptionally long and illustrious, but what made him an outstanding architect was not just his stamina and talent.  He imbued his work with a powerful sense of humanism and global engagement.

His work in designing United Nations Headquarters stands as his legacy to the world.  As United Nations staff in New York move back to our newly renovated complex from temporary quarters, we marvel anew at his vision in creating a beautiful and inspiring home from which to carry out our work of service for all humankind.

The Secretary-General offers sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Niemeyer and to the Government and people of Brazil.

The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, has also paid tribute to Mr. Niemeyer and her statement is available online.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council met in consultations to discuss the situation in Sudan and South Sudan.  This afternoon, the Security Council will discuss sanctions on Liberia and Sudan in closed consultations.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General has just arrived in Jordan after a one-day trip to Iraq, where he met the Iraqi President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and leaders of parliamentary political blocs.  In his meetings in Baghdad, he discussed the need for inclusive dialogue as Iraqis move ahead with their political transition.  And he said that Iraq and Kuwait, which he visited yesterday, have a historic opportunity to improve their relationship.  The Secretary-General will meet the Jordanian Prime Minister this evening.

** Syria

And just to add that while he was in Baghdad, the Secretary-General spoke by telephone with the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons with regard to concerns about Syria’s chemical weapons and recent reports of plans for their possible use.

The Secretary-General informed the Director-General that he has written again to President Al-Assad urging him to refrain from the use of any such weapons under any circumstances, and underscoring the fundamental responsibility of the Syrian Government to ensure the safety and security of any such stockpiles.  The Secretary-General reiterated to the Director-General that any use of such weapons would be an outrageous crime with dire consequences.  The full readout of the telephone conversation is online.

And also on Syria, Ms. Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, has voiced her deep concern today about the continued killing of both professional and citizen journalists in Syria.  Her comment came following news of the violent death of eight journalists since late November.  Ms. Bokova said the killing of journalists and bloggers is not only a crime against individuals and a breach of their inalienable human right of freedom of expression, it is also a crime against society’s right to access information and engage in democratic debate.  Again, the full text of that statement is available online.

**Yellow Fever in Darfur

The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Ali Al Za’tari, has emphasized the serious nature of the yellow fever outbreak in Darfur, and has called for urgent funding to get additional vaccines to control the outbreak.  He said that the outbreak was very significant and the spread of the disease showed no signs of stopping.

More than 670 people are reported to have contracted yellow fever in Darfur, with more than 160 people dying from the disease since the World Health Organization (WHO) was notified of the outbreak on 29 October.  It is likely that many cases have not been reported.  International humanitarian agencies are supporting the Sudanese authorities both financially and logistically to address the outbreak.  WHO estimates that it requires a further $1.9 million to buy more vaccines.  So far, 1.3 million people have received yellow fever vaccinations.

** Myanmar

Today, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, travelled to Kachin State in Myanmar, where she met displaced people in a camp outside Myitkyina.  Later, Ms. Amos met President Thein Sein in the capital, Naypyidaw.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

Yesterday I was asked about the support of the UN Mission, MONUSCO, to the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the Congolese National Police, including to the units participating in operations against the M23 rebel group in North Kivu.  I can tell you that this support is provided in line with the Mission’s conditionality policy.  The Mission is investigating reports of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that were alleged to have been committed by FARDC units during the operations against the M23 rebel group and has raised concerns with the senior leadership of the FARDC.

Speaking generally, if allegations are substantiated, they are brought to the attention of the DRC Government, with a request to take corrective measures to prevent the recurrence of such violations and to hold perpetrators accountable.  Support is suspended or withdrawn if corrective action is not taken in due time.

That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Nizar?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [inaudible] in Tripoli in northern Lebanon, 11 people died in 24 hours in clashes between different factions.  Also, reports about dozens of people were killed…  Lebanese were killed in Syria and admission by an MP in an interview that he took part, or he admitted participating in involve… or is involved in the crisis in Syria.  Did Mr. Plumbly make any contacts with the Lebanese Government about that?  Is he active in any way to try to defuse the tension there?

Spokesperson:  I will check with Mr. Plumbly’s office to see if there has been any specific contact related to this.  I know that he did meet the Interior Minister I think within the last day or two, but let me just check further on that.  Certainly, with regard to tensions in Lebanon, again this underscores our concerns about the spill over effects of the crisis in Syria itself.  And of course, as I mentioned to you the other day, Nizar, any further militarization from any side to any side is extremely unhelpful at this time.  Okay, other questions?  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you.  What is the reason for Mr. General Secretary’s visit to Iraq?  Is it possible to give us more details about this visit?  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  To Iraq?

Correspondent:  Yeah, to Iraq.

Spokesperson:  Well, as I mentioned just a little earlier, the Secretary-General went there for a number of reasons, one of which was to underscore the importance of the political transition that is taking place, the political process that is taking place in Iraq itself, and the need to come together in dialogue to help to push that transition on.  He was also there having been in Kuwait to help further the rapprochement that there has been in relations between the two countries and to encourage them to take further steps, and to encourage Iraq to live up to its obligations fully with regard to the relationship with Kuwait.

And also, finally but not least, to underscore his support for the work that is done by our colleagues in the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).  They do an extremely important job under the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Martin Kobler, in many facets of the developments in Iraq, and he was there to offer his support to them.  So I think that probably gives you an overview.  Yes?

Question:  Good afternoon.  Thank you, Martin.  Your… the SG’s alarm at reports of the possibility of chemical weapons use in Syria is noted, but there are other reports as well, such as one that came out in The New York Times last night that stated that the United States was complicit with Qatari arming of not only Libyan rebels, but Syrian rebels as well.  What’s the SG’s reaction to this report?  Has he made any phone calls to Qatari or American officials as a result, because this is illegal behaviour by any international law and it is just fuel on the Syrian fire?  Any reaction?

Spokesperson:  Well, there are many media reports, and I am not going to comment on each individual media report that there might be.  I have already spoken generally about the militarization, or the further militarization, of what is happening in Syria, but I am not going to comment on individual media reports.  Yes, Stefano?  Then Matthew.

Question:  Yes.  Again, the same… practically the same question of yesterday with the fact that the present situation in [inaudible] grows worse, and this is specific on the…this referendum issue happening in a few days on this constitution.  So what is the Secretary-General…what he thinks about the…that this date for this referendum apparently is what is creating this tension and this…and this…the situation in Egypt that it is getting worse, and there is the problem with [inaudible] ElBaradei who just said a few hours ago that he…you know, that…that the referendum should be actually postponed, it shouldn’t happen.  So what is the reaction to this?

Spokesperson:  Well, with regard to the internal domestic political developments related to the referendum, that’s really for the Egyptian people to decide, so we are not going to inject ourselves into that particular process.  But we are obviously concerned about the violence that took place last night, and we are saddened by the loss of life.  And as I said to you yesterday, Egypt is in a political transition, and during the course of that transition any differences that emerge should be handled through dialogue between the Egyptian people themselves.  And we are obviously monitoring developments very closely, and certainly we hope that there is no further bloodshed.  And any protests that there are should be peaceful.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask some questions on… about the DRC.  One is that the…the…the M23, I guess, spokesman, Mr. Runiga, has said that there is a difficulty of them getting to Kampala to do this negotiation with the Foreign Minister of the Congo.  He said that the border is closed at Bunagana and there “is no plane to take them to Kampala”.  So one, I wanted to know, is the UN aware of that in terms of the…this agreement that was reached to have talks and try to resolve the…the situation?  And also, does the UN have any role at all in the Kampala talks that are set up to begin this weekend?  And also, is…what is the status of the airport?  I am just…it…which may or may not be related to this, are there M23 as well as this neutral force patrolling there, or is it still in MONUSCO’s hands?

Spokesperson:  Well, the airport has reopened, and several humanitarian aid flights have taken off.  It is obviously crucial for the humanitarian community, for movement of aid staff and supplies, and also it will help to reach the people outside Goma who need assistance.  The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) has confirmed that a delegation of Congolese officials led by their Foreign Minister has arrived in Kampala already yesterday for those talks with the M23.  Other reports indicate, in fact, that the political leader of M23 has already arrived in the Ugandan capital.  I don’t have any further details on other members of the delegation.  And we anticipate that representatives of the two sides will begin talking to each other shortly.  If I have anything further on that, including on the UN part of the question you asked, I will let you know.  I don’t have anything more.

Question:  Okay, and I also…and thanks for the…for the statement about this conditionality policy, I just wanted to…to…I have…I am going to reiterate and there is something new.  One is just… is just to know, since there is eyewitness accounts and photographs of particular units that were in Minova during November, you know, 22 through 26, is it possible to know, I mean…or is DPK…is it…can DPKO state whether they work with soldiers or the entire regiments, the two regiments I asked you yesterday, 802 and…and 1001, or do they have some policy against stating who they work with?

Spokesperson:  On the latter part of the question, I’d need to check with DPKO what their precise policy is.  I think I spelled out about the conditionality policy, that if there are allegations they are flagged to the authorities with a need for them to be investigated.  Obviously, if such allegations surface and they are registered and are being investigated, it wouldn’t be proper to start to finger particular units when that investigation is not yet completed.

Question:  But does…does DPKO, when, for example in the last year, how many…how…how…how many times have they suspended assistance to any units of the FARDC?  Is that…is it possible to get…just to understand the policy and…and how…how it is implemented?

Spokesperson:  No, I understand what you are saying, Matthew, and I am sure my colleagues in DPKO understood it too, and I hope they will help me.  Okay, other questions, please?  Yes?

Question:  [inaudible] even more interesting, in… in…?

Spokesperson:  Pardon?

Question:  not just in DPKO, but there…I am sure you have seen there are some reports of a… of a press conference, I think, that Mr. Ladsous did in… in Paris yesterday, and there were two things I wanted to ask you about.  One was about Mali; he was quoted at least in some… some… in the Malian press, and I am assuming in the French press as well, saying that… that a military re-conquest or intervention in northern Mali is almost certain, but could not take place before September 2013, and that was put in quotes, etcetera.  So I was wondering, did he really say that and, if so, did he say that as the head of DPKO?  Did he say it in some other role?  Is there a transcript of the remarks, because it seemed… you know, given yesterday’s discussion at the Security Council, it seemed like a pretty important statement for a senior UN official to make.  Are you… did he make it or did he not make it?

Spokesperson:  Any remarks made by Mr. Ladsous are important, he is Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping.  And remarks made in the Security Council by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs are also rather important.  And I would refer you to what he said there.  There, he spoke about precisely what the Secretary-General’s report said, and I think that’s where I would steer you.  If DPKO have a transcript of his remarks, then we will make it available, and I don’t know that they have.

Okay, any other questions, please?  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  On the situation in Kuwait after the elections, it seems there are tensions still growing in Kuwait, especially at demonstrators…protesters, and crackdown on… against protesters.  Is there any statement by the United Nations regarding the situation there?

Spokesperson:  Take a look at what the Secretary-General said while he was in Kuwait; I think you will find there is enough material there for you to be getting on with.  Yes?

Question:  I…I…I know that…that usually the Secretariat doesn’t comment on…on decisions by parliaments of countries, so I…I take…you almost always.  But I wanted to know…I thought maybe you will have something to say on this.  One, there was a resolution in the…in…in Congress and the House of Representatives against, “UN takeover of the Internet”, referring to the… the conference in Dubai, ITU, and it was 197 to zero saying that the UN should stay out of the Internet, and I just wanted to know, are we misunderstanding something?  And the other one was this vote in which the Senate…endorsed the…the…the convention on the rights of people with disabilities.  Does the…does the Secretary-General have any views of those two votes?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General delivered a video message to the World Conference on International Telecommunications that is taking place in Dubai and where these discussions are under way.  The Secretary-General believes that the overall objective must be to ensure universal access to information and communication technology, including for the two thirds of the world’s population that are not online.  And he believes that a digital divide has no place in the information age and in the twenty-first-century knowledge economy.  He also believes that the management of information and communications technology should be transparent, democratic and inclusive, and the United Nations system stands behind the goal of an open Internet.

And on the other topic — persons with disabilities — the Secretary-General also issued a message on this particular topic on Monday.  And simply to say – I am not going to read out that statement, you can go back to it — I would urge you to do so; there is important language there, but just as a general principle, when a convention is agreed in the General Assembly, it is usual that the Secretary-General would encourage all Member States to ratify such a convention.

Okay, right.  Thanks very much, indeed.  Have a good afternoon.

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