|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.
So, good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the briefing and a happy New Year to you all.
The United Nations human rights office said today that more than 60,000 people have been killed in Syria, with monthly casualty figures steadily increasing since the conflict began almost two years ago.
The analysis carried out by data specialists on behalf of the United Nations has led to the compilation of a list of 59,648 individuals reported killed between 15 March 2011 and 30 November 2012.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said that as there has been no let-up in the conflict since the end of November, we can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of this year, 2013. She said that the number of casualties is much higher than expected.
Ms. Pillay said that the analysis provides a very useful basis upon which future investigations can be built to enhance accountability and provide justice and reparations to victims’ families. She also called for serious preparations to restore law and order when the conflict comes to a halt.
There is a press release available online on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner and that has more details on the methodology that was used in compiling those figures.
Two police officers of the United Nations-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) were freed today after 136 days in captivity.
The Mission said that Mr. Hasan Al-Mazawdeh and Mr. Qasim Al-Sarhan, who are nationals of Jordan, were medically checked and both appear to be unharmed and in good health.
The two peacekeepers were taken hostage by unidentified assailants while on patrol in the town of Kabkabiya, which is located approximately 140 kilometres west of El Fasher, in Northern Darfur, and that was on 20 August of last year.
The Acting Joint Special Representative for the Mission, Aichatou Mindaoudou, expressed the mission’s thanks to the Government of Sudan, the Governor of North Darfur and the Government of Jordan for their valuable assistance in the safe release of the peacekeepers.
** Central African Republic
We continue to follow the situation in the Central African Republic with serious concern, and we are consulting and coordinating with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Margaret Vogt.
We reiterate the Security Council’s statement of 27 December last year, which calls on all parties to refrain from any acts of violence against civilians, respect human rights and seek a peaceful solution.
We are calling on both the Government and the rebels to focus on dialogue that can avert violence and lead to a peaceful resolution and respect for the Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement. We welcome regional efforts to seek a political solution and to reinforce security.
While as a security precaution, international staff have now all been temporarily relocated outside the country, we remain engaged in efforts to resolve the crisis. The Special Representative has remained in close dialogue with the key parties in the Central African Republic and the region, and has offered support to political negotiations.
** Côte d’Ivoire
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire, Bert Koenders, has offered condolences to the families of the victims and the nation following the death of 61 people and the injury of some 50 others in an incident while they were celebrating the New Year.
The United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) has offered medical and logistical assistance to the Government for dealing with emergency services, assistance to the victims, and for the needs of the inquiry ordered by President Alassane Ouattara.
As you may already have seen, the Secretary-General has appointed José Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste as his Special Representative in Guinea-Bissau and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).
And Mr. Ramos-Horta succeeds Joseph Mutaboba of Rwanda, who will complete his assignment on 31 January.
Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference here by Ambassador Masood Khan, the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations and the President of the Security Council for the month of January. And he will brief on the Council’s programme of work for this month.
Questions, please? Yes, Edie?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Martin, on the Central African Republic, I know you said there were contacts going on, but are there any specific efforts or meetings or activities that are going on in trying to actually bring the Government and rebels together and prevent the takeover of Bangui? And also, while I have your attention, this room is freezing and if any of the relevant people are listening, I am sure that everybody here will echo that fact.
Spokesperson: I do, as well. But Edie, on the Central African Republic, I don’t have really much more beyond what I have just mentioned. We are obviously aware of the latest reports that are coming from the region about possible negotiations, as I just said. The Special Representative is certainly staying in close dialogue with the key parties, and has offered United Nations support for any political negotiations. If I get any more information, then obviously I would let everyone know about that. And certainly, Margaret Vogt has been extremely active over these last few days in particular, and I know that she did speak with the Deputy Secretary-General just a few days ago and has remained in close touch with the Department of Political Affairs; hence this update. If we have anything further, I will let you know. Yes, Masood?
Question: On this — two things — on the situation in Pakistan, on which the Secretary-General issued a statement over the weekend also, but there is, there was a new development yesterday where several teachers were killed and, by the same people. And then another two workers, aid workers, were killed because polio in operation. Does Secretary-General have anything to say about that, about the [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: Well, he is certainly fully briefed on this most recent incident. You are, of course, absolutely right, the Secretary-General did issue a statement on the previous violence over the last weekend. He is certainly appalled at this latest incident in which workers, aid workers, have been killed. And certainly his view is that it is very difficult to understand what motivates people to carry out such terrible acts against people who are working for their own population, to help their own people and particularly to help children with an education that will help them have the right to start in life. So he is monitoring this extremely closely. As I say, he is appalled that these latest killings have taken place, and he knows that the Government of Pakistan is doing its utmost to help to try to ensure the security, to the extent possible, of those who are trying to provide help to the population. Okay.
Question: Syrian thing [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: On Syria?
Question: About the [inaudible] new assessment has been made [inaudible] another 60,000 people were killed, 60,000 people in all will be killed so far. The Secretary-General, is he going to make a new fresh appeal for funds for the, to, for the refugees and the Syrians?
Spokesperson: Well, yes, on the report that’s out today from the Office of the High Commissioner there are far more details available in their press release, and I know that the spokesperson for the High Commissioner is also available to provide more detail on that, if necessary. But more specifically, on the last part of your question, about support for those in need in Syria or those who have been displaced outside Syria, I think you will have seen that just a couple of days ago, the Secretary-General did announce that there would be a donor conference in Kuwait City. That would be on 30 January, and that is an opportunity for the donor community to come together and to underscore its support. And of course, as has been said repeatedly, the supply and demand are not in balance here. There is a huge demand for donor support. And, of course, countries and philanthropic organizations have been extremely generous, but the need is so great. And that’s why this donor conference is being called by the Secretary-General. It will be a combined effort, if you like, of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in coordinating that effort. Yes, Nizar?
Question: Martin, [inaudible] assumptions because I think Ms. Pillay said assuming that the base of killing continued; how much does she assume or the, does the United Nations assume that the opposition has responsible for? What percentage?
Spokesperson: I would refer you to what it has in the press release, which is quite detailed. But just to note that the data, the numbers, came from seven different sources: the Violations Documentation Centre; the Syrian Network for Human Rights; the Syrian Revolution General Council; the Syrian Shuhada Website; the March 15 Group; the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights; and the Government of Syria. So there was obviously overlap in those figures, which is why the data analysis was done, so that you can, to the extent possible, remove duplication in those figures. And the other point that the High Commissioner made is that this is a work in progress and not a final product. And, therefore more work will need to be done. But it obviously provides a very solid amount of information and analysis as you try to look at what has happened so far, and how to ensure accountability once the violence stops.
Question: About this conference in, which is taking place in Kuwait at the end of the month, why is it so delayed, I mean, since there is urgency now, the beginning of winter and the refugees need urgent aid, why is it delayed that much?
Spokesperson: Well, this is not to say that nothing is happening in the meantime; there have been appeals already, and funds have been raised already. It is simply to try to bring the donor community together at a high level, with a high level of interest under the stewardship of the Secretary-General. But this does not mean that in the meantime nothing is happening, because, of course, it is, and particularly because of the heightened need in the winter. It is much colder, of course; the people who left their homes, left many of them in much warmer temperatures and therefore without much more than the clothing they had on their backs. So the need for winter assistance is particularly acute. As I say, this donor conference will be taking place on 30 January; that does not mean that work is not going on in the meantime; it most certainly is.
Correspondent: I have another question on Iraq.
Spokesperson: I will come back to you in just a second, Nizar; and I will come to you in just a second. Yes?
Question: Sure, I wanted to, I wanted to ask you a couple of question about helicopters. There was this incident, I think it was 26 December, where MONUSCO say that its helicopters were fired at in areas controlled by the M23 and they issued a threat to prosecute people for war crimes. I just wanted to know, the M23 has said that, that, that helicopters were flying without lights and they hadn’t been informed they were flying. So it’s, I don’t know if the UN should or not, but is it, does the UN feel that it should give notice in, in this, given the Kampala Agreement and the separation of forces of its flights? And also, I, I know that you, you, I was referred by your office to look at UNMISS’s [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] website on the other helicopter, but I just wanted to ask you for a response of, is this, does the same response apply to the actual shooting down of a helicopter in South Sudan, like is that, does the idea, how can you explain the disparity in one case where shots were fired and a, and a threat to prosecute for war crimes was issued, and the case in South Sudan where in fact four crew were killed; is there any thought of prosecuting those who shot the helicopter down?
Spokesperson: I think what you have heard already is that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations is looking into this further, and if they have something further to say, they will. Specifically on the incident in South Sudan, that remains under investigation, so I would not wish to prejudge the outcome of that investigation, Matthew.
Question: Can you see what I mean? Like it seems like, the, the Democratic Republic of the Congo one must still be also, also under investigation, given that it is more recent, and knowing, there are no casualties or, or anything, but, and there a threat was made to prosecute, that’s why I am, I am just trying to, I understand you weren’t the one that issued the threat, but can you explain the sort of the, the seeming difference in leaping to, either leaping to conclusions or making public statements in one case and not the other?
Spokesperson: As I say, if my colleagues have something further to say on that, they will, okay? Please, and then I’ll come to Nizar. Yes, please?
Question: Fine, it’s a quick question about the donor conference. Why Kuwait? Why Kuwait City, actually? Was it an Arab League choice, was it the Secretary-General’s choice, or…?
Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General was in the region not so long ago, and did discuss this with the authorities there. And they were kind enough to offer to host it in the sense of it being held in Kuwait City. They also made a generous contribution already, as I think you will have seen from the announcement we made. So I think it was — an offer was there, and the Secretary-General wished to hold such a conference — a donor conference in the region itself, and that’s how it came about. Yes, Nizar?
Question: The situation in Iraq, it seems there is…
Question: Yeah. There is a lot of tension there and many, many areas are already in a state of [inaudible]. Do you have any statement regarding that?
Spokesperson: We did have not so long ago, and I would refer you to that. If I have anything further, I’ll let you know. I don’t have anything right now.
Question: Another question on Bahrain; I mean, the attention that the Syrian crisis has drawn in two years was that due to the violence which took place? The Bahrainis are thinking, demonstrating longer than the Syrians and because there is no violence on their part but it seems the United Nations is oblivious to their crisis or half, they, they pay very little attention to that. The prisoners remain there and the statements are very sporadic, very intermittent, and what should the Bahrainis do to draw more attention from the United Nations?
Spokesperson: I would disagree, Nizar, that the United Nations is not paying attention to Bahrain; it most certainly is, and we have been extremely vocal. The Secretary-General himself has been extremely vocal about what has been happening in Bahrain and what needs to happen. And so I would simply refer you to what has been said, and that is that there is a clear set of guidelines that came out of that commission of inquiry. And that’s really where the authorities in Bahrain need to look and to continue the work that they have already started. And, of course, we have all seen what has happened; whether it is violence on the street — and there has been violence on the streets — or whether it is cases in the courts where there has been disquiet expressed, we follow this very closely indeed. And certainly you should make no mistake that the Secretary-General, and the United Nations more generally is monitoring this very closely and continues to call for there to be dialogue, where it is appropriate, and for the recommendations to be implemented in full.
Question: How about accountability? Does the United Nations call for similar accountability [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: Accountability applies everywhere, Nizar. Yes?
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask you about, there has been reports over the, this period of, of intense fighting in Darfur around a town called Golo, the, the rebels, the SLM-Abdul Wahid said that they took it over and it seized some Government officials and 15 vehicles, and now the Government says they have claimed it back. I am just wondering, with UNAMID there, is, is, any of the, you know, what, what, what’s, what is the status of Golo and have, have civilians been impacted, and what’s UNAMID doing about this pretty severe fighting?
Spokesperson: To my knowledge the mission is seeking to find out more, and is in the process of doing so. And if I have more on that, then I’ll let you know.
Question: And I wanted, I’ve been wanting, to ask you about the, the, the budget just to see if some, if, maybe not as a formal statement, but in, in what was passed on… on… on… on Christmas Eve in, in the last sort of shuffle of it, the, the mobility proposal of the Secretary-General, which I now understand to be very important to him, was, was rolled into the larger human resources package which in fact wasn’t acted on, was deferred, and I wondered, did the Secretary-General view this, this budget session as a, you know, as a success? Did he have any comment on that, on reports that spending in fact started going back up? What, just kind of, in the past there is usually been a statement; what’s, what’s his view of, of what took place with the budget session?
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General will be speaking to staff in the next few days and will speak to Member States later in the month, and to the press corps. And I would simply urge you to have a little patience to wait for that. You are certainly correct that mobility is important to him, but it is a part of a package that is also important to him, okay? And he is certainly well aware of the constraints that national Governments face in funding international organizations, including the United Nations.
Any other questions? Okay, thank you very much. Have a good afternoon. Thank you.
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