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

16 January 2013

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

16 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the briefing.

** Syria

The Director-General of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), Irina Bokova, today expressed deep shock at the two attacks at the University of Aleppo, which killed more than 80 people, most of them students.  She said it was truly shocking and distressing to see so many young people dedicated to pursuing their education in the midst of strife lose their lives to senseless violence.  She called on all those involved in the fighting to respect the right to education.

** Mali

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Said Djinnit, continues his consultations in the subregion as part of efforts to speed up the implementation of Security Council resolution 2085 (2012).  In that context, he met this morning in Conakry with the President of Guinea, Alpha Condé.  He is expected to meet with President Macky Sall of Senegal this afternoon in Dakar.

** Darfur

The Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan expressed his concern about the fighting that has severely affected civilians in North Darfur over the past few weeks, including the killing of civilians and the burning of villages.  More than 100 people have been killed and some 70,000 have fled their homes in the Jebel Amir gold mining areas of North Darfur.

The United Nations and aid organizations have been working with State and federal Government authorities and with the United Nations-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to provide urgent aid to all affected civilians.

As part of its efforts to facilitate humanitarian assistance, UNAMID is transporting by road 75 tons of relief items (plastic sheets, blankets, jerry cans, mattresses and mosquito nets) to El Sereif and Garrah Azawia from today, 16 January.  The mission has also provided escort to World Food Programme’s trucks.  UNAMID says that clashes between the Beni Hussein and Aballa tribes over the control of gold mines have subsided, but security in the area remains tense and volatile.  The mission is actively supporting ongoing mediation and reconciliation efforts.

** Syria

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General on Syria.

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the appalling attack at Aleppo University yesterday, in which scores of people have been reported killed and wounded.

Deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian targets constitutes a war crime.  Such heinous attacks are unacceptable and must stop immediately.  All combating parties in Syria must abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law.  The Secretary-General sends his condolences to the families of those killed in this tragic attack.  He believes this latest atrocity should be promptly and fully investigated.  He also calls for a reflection by all Syrians about the degradation of a conflict that is tearing their nation apart, and stresses the urgent need for a peaceful political solution that ends the violence and meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.

** Iraq

Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, strongly condemns the recent wave of attacks which have targeted individuals or crowded areas in the country, killing and injuring dozens.

He said that he was particularly alarmed that attacks in disputed internal areas further aggravate the tensions there.  Mr. Kobler urged all Iraqi leaders to live up to their responsibilities and to work without delay on defusing the situation and engaging in peaceful dialogue.

That’s what I have.  A few questions, please?  Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you, I… I asked yesterday about what the UN is doing, and is able to do, to monitor the impact on civilians of this increased fighting in Mali.  And now, there is… there is a report in Le Monde saying that in the town of Mopti, that the Malian army… the official Malian army that France is… they are in support of, is rounding up people they thought to support the Islamists and executing them in the streets, and I am wondering, is the UN aware of that?  What’s the… given the roles assigned to the Secretariat under resolution 2085 (2012) and its general duty, what’s the UN been doing since the fighting began on Friday to monitor the impact to civilians of the fighting in Mali?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think Martin answered that yesterday by saying we had to take a look at it and find out some information.  As you know, we are pretty thin on the ground in northern Mali, and we don’t have a mission there yet.  We have a civilian, a political mission that is supposed to be going to Bamako some time very soon, but we don’t have… we don’t have people there; we have to investigate.

Correspondent:  But, I thought he was going to check if there is… if there was a mechanism, i.e., if the Secretariat was setting up some…

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, he is going to be checking up on… we are going to be checking up on the whole thing, yes, obviously.  As I said on Monday, events have proceeded a lot faster than had been anticipated and we are working to address all these situations.  Nizar?

Question:  [inaudible] Secretary-General believe about the allegations of Syria that 1,500 factories were dismantled in Aleppo and taken to Turkey?  Is this a kind of aid expected for the Syrians?  I mean… I mean, what does the United Nations…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, no, things are happening on both sides of the divide and I think it underscores the need for a peaceful solution to be found.

Correspondent:  [inaudible] the country by people go and taking them across the border before the Turkish authority and there are observe report that… I mean, [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you know I am not going to comment on that.  We have a situation in Syria that is disastrous; thousands of people are being killed, the Secretary-General has called for an end to the violence; he has called for there to be a political solution and meet the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people; he has called on States to refrain from providing military assistance he said is not helpful in this situation; and he is concerned about the spillover of the violence in Syria on neighbouring States.  And I think that is basically where the Secretary-General stands.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, also on Syria, I was wondering if the Secretary-General has any comment on the allegations published in Foreign Policy yesterday, about the use of chemical weapons, possibly being revealed by the [United States] State Department, and if there is any way to further investigate whether that is true or not?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we don’t comment on all published reports, especially when they are based on leaked documents.  The Secretary-General has said that it is up to the Syrian Government to safeguard the stockpiles of chemical weapons wherever they may be, and that the use of those weapons would be considered an outrageous crime.

Question:  [inaudible] investigation of those allegations, if the UN deems them to be, in fact, true?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the investigations, we have to find out if, in fact, they are true, and right now, we have not seen anything that indicates that they are true.  What you are talking about is a leaked document, and we are not going to comment on it.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, Eduardo, I wanted to ask you, the… there are… I mean, there are… there is… the questions are kind of piling up about in… in… about fighting and looting in Darfur, but there is a more re… there is now a new report that in a town called Kabkabiya, that pro-Government militiamen looted the town, burned houses and raped four women.  And I am again… since this is one of the few places on earth where there is a UN peacekeeping mission specifically charged with protecting civilians, are they aware of this account and what is happening with the town of Rokero and the other… the other questions that have remained unanswered by UNAMID?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we are aware of all of these reports, Matthew, and we are in the process of looking into them.  I’ll ask my colleagues in [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] to speak with the mission and see what there is.  We have, as I said, UNAMID has informed us about the clashes between the Beni Hussein and Aballa tribes, which erupted on 5 January in Jebel Amer, North Darfur, over control of the gold mines, and this violence has apparently subsided.  Clashes between the two communities spilled over into surrounding areas, resulting in the burning and looting of a number of villages and the displacement of thousands of civilians, many of whom were in Jebel Amer to work in the gold mines.

Immediately following initial reports of the tribal fighting, UNAMID dispatched a verification patrol from its team site in Sarf Umra to Jebel Amer.  The patrol, however, was obstructed by armed groups blocking access roads to the affected area.  UNAMID engaged State Government officials in North Darfur to urge swift intervention to defuse tensions and to request access to protect the civilian population in the affected areas.  The mission offered support to facilitate humanitarian assistance and mobilized three medical evacuation flights to evacuate 26 casualties from El Sereif and Kabkabiya to El Fasher.  As a result of Government intervention, the tribes had reportedly agreed to cease hostilities and engage in a reconciliation conference planned for 17 January.  That’s what I have.  Okay, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.

Question:  [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesperson:  One more last question.

Question:  Okay, I… it’s actually… because I just wanted to try to get an answer to this.  Monday, when I asked you about this announcement that the press corps wouldn’t be able to… was being delayed by two months in moving back, as… I… I… I wanted to know, you said you’d check with them.  I’ve spoken… [the Department of Public Information] seems to be saying that there are sufficient construction workers, but they are down in 3B working on Hurricane Sandy.  Then I have checked with [the Capital Master Plan] and seems that that is not the case, that there are… it’s exact… it’s what I had asked you about that there are unable to pay the… the now going rate in New York, because people are working elsewhere, is that… were you able to kind of get to the…?  I can’t square, it’s two different parts of the UN saying two different things.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I am going to try and find out from [the Capital Master Plan].  We’ll try and get something for you, okay?

Correspondent:  Okay.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay, thank you very much, have a good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

* *** *

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