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

9 January 2013

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

9 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.

Good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.

** Syria

As we announced a little earlier, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will meet at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva on Friday with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and United States Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.  That meeting is aimed at furthering their discussions to arrive at a political solution to the crisis in Syria.  Further details on media arrangements will be provided in Geneva closer to the time.

** Japan

The Secretary-General spoke by telephone last night with the new Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe.  The Secretary-General expressed his support for the Prime Minister’s intention to strengthen Japan’s economy and reconstruction after the Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

He also stressed the importance of Japan’s role in North-East Asia, and commended Japan’s efforts regarding nuclear disarmament.  The full readout of the telephone call is available in my office and should also be available online a little later.

** Darfur

The Acting Joint Special Representative of the African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Aichatou Mindaoudou, visited Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur State yesterday.  She held talks with the Governor of Central Darfur, who informed her that armed groups had taken control of the towns of Golo and Rockero in west Jebel Marra and that approximately 850 families had been displaced.

The acting chief of the mission expressed serious concerns over the ongoing fighting in west Jebel Marra which endangers the safety of the civilian population in the area.  She assured the Governor of the mission’s continued assistance in facilitating humanitarian assistance to all those in need.  She also stressed that all parties involved in the conflict should respect their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.

**International Labour Organization

The International Labour Organization (ILO) says that at least 52 million  people around the world — mainly women — are employed as domestic workers.  And this is the first research of its kind and it was released today.

Between the mid-1990s and 2010, there was an increase of more than 19 million domestic workers worldwide.  Many migrate to other countries to find work.  The International Labour Organization says that it is likely that the figures contained in the report underestimate the true numbers of domestic workers worldwide, which may in reality be tens of millions more.  The research is available on the ILO’s website.

Questions, please? Yes, Nizar?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, regarding the release of the Iranian hostages in Syria, was the United Nations involved in any way?

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge, but certainly this is something that we have been monitoring for some time.  Other questions, please?  Yes, please?

Question:  Martin, there is media outlet reporting that the Secretary-General is meeting at 4 p.m. today with a North Korean sanctions expert.  Can you verify that the meeting is taking place, and who the Secretary-General is meeting with?

Spokesperson:  There is a meeting on the Secretary-General’s programme with Martin Uden, who is coordinator of the sanctions committee that deals with the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], and this is very much a courtesy call, given that Mr. Uden knows the Secretary-General from the past.  Mr. Uden, as I think you may be aware, is a former British Ambassador to Seoul and long-time expert on Korea; he knows the subject quite well.  So, it’s really… it’s in that light that they are meeting.  Yes, Mercedes?

Question:  On Syria, I would like to know more on how the United Nations has been monitoring those chemical weapons that happen to be so close to the launch.  Shouldn’t the United Nations be involved in those talks?

Spokesperson:  I’m not quite sure what you are referring to here…

Question:  Yes, sorry, yesterday, The New York Times said that a number of countries have been monitoring the use of chemical weapons in Syria and that they are within two hours of being launched, if they want… the Government wants to launch them.  So, I wonder how the United Nations is involved in those talks between a number of countries and…

Spokesperson:  Well, Mercedes, I think you will have seen we issued at least two fairly strongly worded statements on this matter and made clear that the Secretary-General was in close touch with the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which obviously has an important role in this matter.  So, the Secretary-General has been in frequent touch with the Director-General of OPCW, and has, in that way, remained quite well briefed on what has been happening.  And, as I say, has publicly called, repeatedly, and most recently with regard to those concerns that there were, including in the media, for… to make it absolutely clear that it is incumbent on the Syrian Government, should it have such stockpiles, to keep them safe and secure, and under no circumstances to use such munitions.  Yes?

Question:  Keeping on the topic of Syria, as Friday’s meeting approaches, is the Secretary-General at all getting involved in speaking with Russians and Americans to kind of help push for an end to the deadlock that has kept the Security Council incapable of really taking any effective action, or is he leaving that to Mr. Brahimi?

Spokesperson:  I think it’s in capable hands with Mr. Brahimi.  That is one reason why there is this meeting taking place in Geneva on Friday.  It is one month since the last meeting between the three of them face to face.  Since then, of course, Mr. Brahimi has travelled to Moscow and has also spoken to United States officials.  The Secretary-General has remained briefed on those and the Deputy Secretary-General also, and both have plainly had contacts with individuals here in New York.  But, let’s be clear about this, Mr. Brahimi is the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on Syria, and he has the full backing of the Secretary-General here to carry out the job that he has.  And that’s what he will be doing on Friday.  It’s a useful exchange that we would expect, it’s within the context of all the other efforts that are going on and it’s also a follow-up to the earlier meetings that there have been both between the Special Representative and Mr. Bogdanov and Mr. Burns, and then earlier in Dublin, with the Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister.

Question:  Quick follow-up.  Is the Secretary-General hoping for a breakthrough on Friday?

Spokesperson:  Look, this is an important series of discussions that have been going on, and it’s also important to see it in the broader context that there are other discussions that go on that Mr. Brahimi has been having, including, as I mentioned I think a couple of days ago, in Cairo with different foreign ministers and officials from a number of countries.  So, there is a broader context.  Mr. Brahimi will be meeting with those two Russian and United States officials I mentioned, and will doubtless then speak to reporters afterwards.  And I am sure will enlighten you at that point or your colleagues.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Martin, Saudi Arabia today sent a letter to the General Assembly and today the Secretary-General is having [inaudible] with the United Arab Emirates [inaudible] maritime zones.  [inaudible] secret letter sent by United Arab Emirates in [inaudible].  How can the United Nations help, if some of the documents here are kept secret?

Spokesperson:  I’d have to check, because I am not familiar with this matter.

Question:  I have another question regarding the relief work in Jordan, in Syrian refugees.  Today, there were a lot allegations from the [inaudible], the camps there, that there is widespread corruption among the relief workers.  They ask for, you know, to get relief aid, the refugees, and they were complaining that this goes on for many, many refugees now and people are suffering in severe weather conditions at the moment.

Spokesperson:  Well, the UN refugee agency has an absolutely impeccable record in providing impartial assistance to all those who require it in those circumstances.  And they have been working extremely hard to help people who are obviously desperate, at the end of their tether, and now in the last couple of days sitting in mud and water.  Everybody can understand how frustrated those people are.  But, I can assure you that those people who are working for the UN humanitarian community do so with the utmost integrity.  Yes?

Question:  Sorry, sorry, to follow up on that, the people who were interviewed in the camp, they were on camera saying that they have to pay to the relief workers to give them blankets, and in many cases they don’t give that…

Spokesperson:  Nizar, I have answered your question.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, thank you.  There are very interesting figures on housekeepers worldwide, but I was wondering who initiated this research, and if they came to any global conclusions about labour or general differences or whatever.

Spokesperson:  Well, this was commissioned by the International Labour Organization, and I think I’d refer you to them for more details.  There is more available on their website, and I am sure that they’d be very happy to brief you further on that.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Yes, Tim?

Question:  The latest clashes in Kashmir between the Indian and Pakistani military, and India says two of its soldiers were killed and one was beheaded.  And Pakistan said it is happy for the UN to carry out an investigation into… into the deaths of these soldiers.  Will the UN be involved, into the [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Three points, three points.  Regarding the alleged incident on 6 January, the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, which is known as UNMOGIP, has received an official complaint from the Pakistan Army and will conduct an investigation as soon as possible in accordance with its mandate.

Second point:  On the 8 January alleged incident, no official complaint has been received either from the Pakistan Army or Indian Army.

UNMOGIP is aware that the Pakistan Army and Indian Army are in contact via the hotline and urges both sides to respect the ceasefire and de-escalate tensions through dialogue.  That’s what I have.  Other questions, please?  Yes, Tim?

Question:  The Secretary-General’s [inaudible] to the Security Council about the use of… possible use of drones in Democratic Republic of the Congo, but when does he hope that this equipment could start being used?

Spokesperson:  Well, look Tim, there was a letter to the President of the Security Council on 27 December, but let’s be clear, this letter was on the broader question of additional resources to strengthen the mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in its capacities to carry out its mandate.  And in the letter, there is also a mention of unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, but only as part of other requested resources.

And then, just to answer the bigger question, if you like, the UN is considering a range of ways to strengthen the capabilities of [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] to protect civilians from the threat of armed groups in the vast area of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Unmanned aerial vehicles, unarmed of course, are one tool we are considering in order to protect civilians better and to monitor the movements of armed groups.  If and when we were to use UAVs on a trial basis in [ Democratic Republic of the Congo], the usual procedures and consultations with legislative bodies would be respected.  And, as a matter of policy, UN peacekeeping assets and resources are used in line with Security Council mandates, force requirements and guidelines.

And finally, ultimately, of course, the use of UAVs would be done only in full cooperation with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  And also to introduce them, we would need the support of Member States to equip the mission.  Okay?  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Martin, you are aware conditions in the eastern Mediterranean as they are now and the refugees from all sides are suffering a lot more than [inaudible].  Are there any contingency plans to advance at least the aid to be sent to these refugees, it could be Palestinian, Lebanese or Syrians?

Spokesperson:  As I mentioned earlier that conditions are clearly ghastly at the moment for refugees, and indeed for many other people in the eastern Mediterranean, as you mentioned just the other day.  This has been a really quite severe winter storm.  People obviously have suffered and not just in refugee camps where conditions are already difficult.  I know that my colleagues who work in the humanitarian sphere in the field and here at Headquarters are fully aware and doing their best to help, particularly with the refugees.  And then, should there be requests from national authorities for other kinds of assistance, of course, the humanitarian system within the United Nations would be ready to activate.  And plainly, they are aware of the difficulties with regard to refugees, they are already working hard to try to improve the assistance that is provided in very difficult conditions, and they stand ready should there be requests from national authorities for assistance elsewhere.

Question:  But, there is no emergency action being… I mean, the Syrian refugees in particular is… is worse than others because they didn’t inform the [inaudible] that tents and money circumstances.  Are you… about… it should be the case that there should be something [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  I can assure you, as I already mentioned yesterday, that the UN refugee agency and other humanitarian workers are doing their very best to help in those circumstances to provide as much assistance as is possible.  And I am sure that they will continue to work extremely hard.  It is one reason why, as you look at the bigger picture, there needs to be a concerted push within the international community, and that’s why there will be this donor conference at the end of the month to look, looking at the bigger picture; not just at this immediate emergency, which is difficult, but at the bigger picture.

Question:  But, by the end of the month is too late for the [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Nizar, I don’t think you were listening to what I said, but okay.  Yes, there was another question?

Okay, 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.