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

3 January 2013

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

3 January 2013
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.

So good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Security Council

This morning the Security Council met in consultations to discuss its programme of work for January.  And the Council will meet again at 3 this afternoon to consult on the situation in the Central African Republic.

**Press Conferences

And then, right after this briefing as you are aware, at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by Ambassador Masood Khan of Pakistan who is presiding over the Security Council in January.  And he will be briefing you on the programme of work adopted for this month.

And then at approximately 1 p.m., Ambassador Baso Sangqu of South Africa and Mr. Zaheer Laher, South Africa’s UN Security Council Political Coordinator, will brief on the conclusion of their country’s Second Term on the Security Council.

That’s what I have for you.  Questions, please.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin, and happy New Year.

Spokesperson:  And to you, too.

Question:  In view of the Secretary-General’s past criticism of Israel on a number of occasions, if you could tell us what he had to say about Israel’s very recent decision to significantly ease the flow of building materials into Gaza, even without there being any enforceable agreement guaranteeing that there would be no re-arming of Hamas?

Spokesperson:  Well, this is certainly something that the Secretary-General has called for for a long time.  And certainly any easing of the restrictions, any greater flow of materials into Gaza for construction, is to be welcomed.  Of course, it is part of a bigger picture as a result of the ceasefire arrangements that involve not just allowing more supplies in, but having in place guarantees, greater security arrangements, to ensure that illicit weapons and other materials do not enter Gaza.  So it’s part of a bigger picture.  But certainly, it is to be encouraged.  And another facet of this is that the whole time there have been some construction materials getting in for UN-related building projects, but certainly not enough.  Yes?  Yes, please?

Question:  Martin, thank you.  About this upcoming meeting in Kuwait City organized by the Secretary-General, can you give us more details about it?  What level is it organized, and what is the Secretary-General going to request from the international community?

Spokesperson:  I think some of the details are still being worked out by the two main parts of the UN system that will be organizing this — that’s the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.  So details are still being worked out.  It’s a donors’ conference.  As I was mentioning yesterday, there has already been a lot of work done on this in the past; 19 December there was an appeal for Syria.  Plainly, these appeals have been underfunded.  Everybody understands some of the background to that — the economic climate is one factor there.  So this is an additional fresh push to try to encourage donor countries to dig even deeper and to be even more generous than they have been so far, particularly given the continued flow of people out of Syria, and, of course, displacement within the country, including right now in winter when the conditions are particularly harsh for people on the move.  Okay.

Question:  Will it be presidential level or prime ministers, foreign ministers?  Is there any…?

Spokesperson:  As I have said, those kinds of details are still being worked out.  But plainly, the Secretary-General believes it important that such a donors’ conference should be held and held in the region.

Question:  And how many countries were invited?

Spokesperson:  Those details are still being worked out.  Yes, Hank?

Correspondent:  Good evening, Martin, thank you, happy New Year.

Spokesperson:  Thank you.

Question:  The US drone attack programme was clocking overtime hours last night, with kills in two separate sovereign nations, Yemen and Pakistan.  I wonder if the SG has any reaction to these attacks?

Spokesperson:  Not a specific response to those reported incidents.  I would simply draw your attention, as I have done in the past, to the report that the Secretary-General made on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.  That’s a report that was issued in May of last year, and the language in there on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones is quite clear and specific, and I would encourage you to use that as your guidance.

Question:  Thank you.  If I may, as you pointed out, that was May of last year.  I just wanted to ask:  as his Spokesman, you know the SG as well as anyone; what’s the state of his thought on this?  Is it evolving?  Does he think about it a lot or, I mean — I know he has got a full plate — is it something that he’s trying to work on any more concrete kind of philosophy on?

Spokesperson:  As it mentions in that report, as more States obtain this technology, these issues will become more acute.  I don’t believe that the meaning of those words has changed in the intervening months since May, and they still apply.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, Martin.  I want to ask you, the, um, before the holiday, Sudan had been saying that, that rebels were, were gathering in, in Raja and western Bahr al Ghazal in north, in South Sudan to, to, to try to, you know, liberate Southern Kordofan.  And now South Sudan is saying that there has been aerial attacks and, and the crossing of the border by the Sudanese army, which is, would be the first time in a while.  Did, did the, did the UNMISS — double-S — go there, you know, to check, to check on whether there were reb, whether there were Sudanese rebels there, and have they been there since to verify these, this cross-border attack by Sudan?

Spokesperson:  Well, they’re certainly aware of the reports, and the Mission, to my understanding, is seeking to verify these reports.  But at the moment I don’t have anything more specific than that.

Question:  Okay.  And I wanted to ask you, the, the, the, this morning the, the M23 leader Mr. Ranuga, the, Raniga, the political leader, said, said that, that, he said that his team is going to back, to the Kampala talks but that the first order of business should be a, a ceasefire between the FARDC and the M23. I wanted to know, I mean, I, those talks are going on, first of all, does the Secretariat have any view of whether a ceasefire would be a productive thing to keep those talks going?  And I wanted to ask just for a clarification of something that you said yesterday, which I appreciated, of, of MONUSCO not informing M23 before they fly over their areas.  The M23 said that because there is no ceasefire, and they have no way to know whose helicopter it is, they fire at helicopters.  First, in that context, would either a ceasefire be helpful or can MON, can you explain why MONUSCO wouldn’t inform an armed group that’s a party to a process and it’s holding territory, when it was going to fly over its territory?

Spokesperson:  I think by definition, a ceasefire, in other words, the absence of violence, would always be quite helpful.  But looking at the bigger picture, there are talks that have been under way; I don’t want to prejudge what the outcome of those talks might be.  With reference to the helicopters, you’ve given a part of the reply that we sent to your question.  The other part is that there is a very clear status-of-forces agreement that deals with how the Mission informs the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on their air movements.  But there is no similar arrangement or communication with the M23.  And I think that’s probably quite understandable.

Question:  But do you think the — just one last thing on this — is it, the, is it, is it, is it MONUSCO’s understanding that the, the Congolese authorities would in turn tell M23?  I am just thinking in terms of just safety, not a matter of precedent of, of giving M23 some status, but how are they supposed to know?

Spokesperson:  Well.  I think that is, as I say, the Mission has a mandate to operate in a country where there is a sovereign Government, and the arrangement is between the Mission and the Government authorities there.  Yes, Masood, and then Iftikhar.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Martin, in reference to the question by a colleague on the drone strikes, Navi Pillay, when she went to Pakistan, issued a very strong statement [inaudible], that there should be some investigation into this.  Does the Secretary-General endorse the, the, what you call, the sentiments of Ms. Pillay that she gave [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  I would simply refer you, Masood, to what I just said, and indeed what the Secretary-General said in his reports, report to the Council on the use of drones as part of an overall report on the protection of civilians.  There is a lot of useful language in there that I think at least in part answers the question that you have put.  Yes, Iftikhar?

Question:  Happy New Year, Martin.  The UN did a good job in compiling figures of people killed in the Syrian conflict.  But is there any part of the UN also compiling figures of people killed by, in drone attacks, especially because the bulk of the casualties are civilians?

Spokesperson:  Well, again, there are many reports that indicate that substantial numbers of civilians have been killed through the use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles.  And of course, it does remain a concern for the Secretary-General, as outlined in his report, that the use of armed drones for targeted attacks can lead to civilian casualties.  So I think what he has said — and this is answering the questions that have been put here by a number of people — he’s simply urged Member States, the relevant Member States, to be transparent about the circumstances in which drones are used, and the means by which they ensure that attacks involving drones comply with international law.  And on the figures, I have mentioned, it is obvious that there have been civilian casualties, and this is something that obviously the Secretary-General has raised in his report.

Question:  But [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have exact figures; I don’t have exact figures.  Yes, and then Carla, then I am coming to Edie.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  John Kerry, who everybody expects to be Secretary of State, has called for the military to protect the US diplomatic missions in vulnerable areas around the world, and this is as a result of the Benghazi attack and the report that security was so deplorably lacking there.  Does the UN have any position on, for example, the US having military protecting their diplomatic missions throughout the world?  And this actually in Libya amounts to boots on the ground, which was prohibited by resolution 1973 (2011).

Spokesperson:  I think the short answer there is that the security for embassies is a matter for national Governments and not the United Nations.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  Martin, does the Secretary-General have any comment on these new bombings in Iraq today? And secondly, it’s still very cold in this chamber, and I am sure everybody will agree with me, and any [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  You didn’t say chamber of horrors, I noticed.  [laughter]

Question:  [inaudible], I may do something. [laughter]

Spokesperson:  I am sure that the folks who are listening will be running to turn up the dial right now.  But on the first question, the first question is obviously an extremely serious matter.  The Secretary-General is certainly aware of these reports, and it may be that we have something further to say a little bit later today.  But obviously, we have seen a large number of sadly similar instances in recent weeks and months.  And that’s obviously a matter of considerable concern to the Secretary-General and our Mission on the ground. If we have anything further, I’ll let you know.  Yes, I am coming here, and then I am going to Kara.  Yes?

Question:  On Brahimi, is he coming any time soon to New York, or is he planning to brief the Council and, and [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, my understanding is that Mr. Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative is still keen, as he has said in press conferences both in Cairo and Damascus, to have another meeting with Russian and US officials.  He would hope that would be some time this month, but still to be arranged.  And I do understand that he does also intend to visit New York, but I don’t have any dates on that yet.

Question:  Do you know about this meeting with the Russians and Americans, [inaudible], where?

Spokesperson:  No, no.  No, those details are still being worked out, but as I understand it, it’s some time this month.  But I don’t have any details on where that might be, and who exactly; though I believe it is likely to be the three ‘B’ format of Mr. Brahimi, Mr. Bogdanov, and Mr. Burns.  Yes, then Miki?

Question:  Martin, thank you.  Martin, there are reports that the Chairman of Hurriyat Conference of Kashmir, Mr. Geelani, has sent a letter to the Secretary-General to see if he can actually divert some of his energy to the solution of Kashmir problem.  Can you confirm that the Secretary-General has received the report and the letter?  And also, what can the Secretary-General do to contribute, you know, for the solution of Kashmir problem?  As you know, this is one of very dangerously frozen conflicts in the region and it requires a lot of attention, international attention, especially.

Spokesperson:  I’ll check whether a letter has been received.  I don’t have anything further on that at the moment.  Yes, Miki?

Question:  I would like to know if there is any updated information about Myanmar’s, you know, [inaudible] mounting offensive in Kachin State or in a, you know, if there is SG’s statement yesterday, and has there been any communication between the Secretary-General and the Government of Myanmar?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Myanmar is obviously in close contact with the authorities frequently.  The statement we issued yesterday made clear that the Secretary-General calls upon the Myanmar authorities to desist from any action that could endanger the lives of civilians living in the area or further intensify the conflict in the region.  And he has also urged all concerned parties to work towards political reconciliation in order to build a basis for a fair and durable outcome for all.  And that still applies today just as much as it did yesterday, even though there are still reports out there in the media of strikes against targets in Kachin State.  That’s what I have for you on that.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  What does the Secretary-General think about the offer by the Israelis [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything for you on that, Nizar.  If that changes, I will let you know.  But I don’t have anything right now, okay?  Yes?

Question:  I wanted to ask you about CAR and also, I guess, Argentina.  Central African Republic:  there are these, and I, there are these reports of, of, of “arbitrary arrests”, including of former parliamentarians, or maybe they are current parliamentarians, and also people that are either ethnically or religiously viewed as being allied with the Seleka rebels, and I know, I wondered do you, do you have something that you can say on it, or if not, will, is it Mr. Feltman that is going to be doing the briefing and will he be speaking to the, to reporters afterwards?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything specific; we have obviously seen those reports.  I will check with my colleagues who is briefing this afternoon, and whether that person will be available to speak afterwards. I’ll check for you.  Okay, Argentina?

Question:  Yeah, and I am sure you’ve, there is a pretty widely publicized letter by the President of Argentina directed to the UK but copied to, to the Secretary-General, calling for the return of what they call the Malvinas Islands — the UK call the Falkland Islands — and I just wonder now that Argentina is in the Security Council and it’s, this, you know, threatens to become a more active issue, is there, has there been any, any, any developments on, on the idea of either the offer of good offices or does the Secretary-General have any thoughts of how the decolonization resolutions apply to this, or just have any kind of productive way forward as we enter the new year?

Spokesperson:  Well, two points:  as I understand it, right about now, the Permanent Representative of Argentina is meeting with the Deputy Secretary-General.  And it is my understanding that a copy of the letter you mentioned is being handed over.  The Secretary-General’s offer of good offices, of course, remains to resolve this dispute if both parties are willing to engage.  And I am sure that’s a message that the Deputy Secretary-General will be imparting as well.

Thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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