|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. A very cold day, and very cold in here.
Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Security Council this morning on the situation in the region.
He said that, following yesterday’s Israeli elections, the United Nations looks forward to engaging the new Israeli Government in the pursuit of peace. He said that the Secretary-General has repeatedly highlighted that 2013 will be a decisive year for the two-State solution. At the same time, he noted the dramatic increase in Israeli settlement announcements, including in the E-1 area. Mr. Serry urged both sides to abstain from actions that will make efforts to resume meaningful negotiations even harder in the critical period ahead.
On Syria, he underscored the deep disappointment and anguish, expressed by the Secretary-General and by Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, at the appalling levels of killing and destruction carried out by both the Government and the opposition. The text is available in our office. Mr. Serry will speak to reporters at the Council stakeout once the meeting going on now breaks for lunch.
**Readout on Syria
I have a readout of the Secretary-General's telephone conversation with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil Elaraby.
The Secretary-General and the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, spoke today on the telephone with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil Elaraby, for an in-depth discussion on the deteriorating crisis in Syria. The two Secretaries-General expressed total support for the efforts of Mr. Brahimi in his exceptionally difficult task of helping to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria.
The Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, said today that ordinary people are paying a terrible price for the failure of the international community to agree steps to resolve this political crisis in Syria.
Speaking to reporters in Davos, Switzerland, she said that despite the insecurity and limited access, UN agencies and humanitarian partners have reached millions of people with essential relief supplies. But Ms. Amos also said that the aid efforts are not enough as the number of people in acute need continues to rise.
As you know, on 30 January, representatives of Member States, UN agencies and NGOs will gather in Kuwait City for the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, which is hosted by the Emir of Kuwait and chaired by the Secretary-General. This will be an opportunity for donors to pledge their financial support for the 2013 Syria Humanitarian Response Plan of $519.6 million and the Syria Refugee Response Plan of $1 billion, to help more than 4 million people affected by the conflict over the first six months of 2013.
**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels
The Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Santiago, Chile, later today. He will attend the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin America and the Caribbean States, CELAC by its initials, and the European Union. He will also hold bilateral meetings with the President of Chile as well as other Heads of State and high-level Government officials from Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe.
During his visit, the Deputy Secretary-General will also chair the Meeting of the Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM) organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). He will hold a town hall meeting with the United Nations staff in Chile, and a meeting with the United Nations country team. The Deputy Secretary-General will arrive back in New York next Monday.
And the Department of Public Information would like to invite journalists to a film screening titled The Rescuers, one of several events taking place this week to mark the 2013 International Day of Holocaust Remembrance. It will take place this evening, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the ECOSOC Chamber here at UN Headquarters.
That’s it from me. Questions, please? Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sir, I have two questions. Number one, since the Indian-Pakistani situation, the tensions and the problems [inaudible] must have heard about that. But today there are reports that Indian… Indian Government has asked the Kashmiris to get ready for a nuclear war, prepare themselves for that. That means that they… they are serious about… something is going to happen. And the Secretary-General of the United Nations cannot set aside and see this situation boil over and… and reach a point where maybe a point of no return that [inaudible]?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, Masood, we’ve seen the reports and unfortunately there are a lot of things being said. The Secretary-General is fully aware of the situation going on. I think Martin addressed your questions last week on this, and right now I have nothing else to say.
Correspondent: [inaudible] is not a nuclear issue.
Deputy Spokesperson: No, but, you know, obviously the rhetoric has to die down and the threats of violence have to die down, and a peaceful course of action taken.
Correspondent: So the… the reason why I bring this to you… I mean, yes, Martin did address this, but not in the context of a nuclear war, which since 2002 is what India and Pakistan threaten to use — nuclear weapons in a bunker. But this time, this becomes serious when you are asking the residents of Kashmir to get ready for a nuclear war. That is serious.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, all rhetoric that calls for violence on either side is serious, and we take it seriously. But we call on both sides to ratchet down the rhetoric and to look for peaceful ways to resolve their differences. Yes?
Question: Last week I asked Martin about the $1.5 billion for the conference that’s happening next week in Kuwait that [inaudible], he said there was about 3 per cent that was pledged so far. Do we have an update on… I didn’t hear from the Secretary-General yesterday that there were… there was an increase in the budget. Do we have an update on how much was… has been pledged so far or anticipated to be pledged?
Deputy Spokesperson: No, I don’t have that figure with me, but we might ask the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to see if there has been an increase. So what we are hoping for is the generosity of Member States in difficult times, that they will open up their pockets next week at the conference in Kuwait, and that that will go a long way towards helping the people of Syria, faced with obviously a very tough winter there. Matthew?
Question: Sure, Eduardo. I notice that the Secretary-General… you know, there was… put out a statement after the resolution that was passed yesterday, 2087 (2013) on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and obviously you have seen the response by the Government in Pyongyang, that… that this may… means that the talks are off, tests are on, so I just wondered, does the Secretary-General, who spoke so quickly after the resolution, what’s his comment or view of… of the Government in Pyongyang’s response to the resolution?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General made his views quite clear in the statement. He calls for there to be no provocative actions, he calls for there to be dialogue, to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. That remains his position.
Correspondent: Right, but I guess he was… I mean, it… it looks like North Korea is saying that the resolution from their point of view was provocative. So I am just wondering, since he still sees the resolution as having… had a… a… a… being… being a… a productive act of the Security Council…
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the resolution was passed, reflecting international concern about what is happening in North Korea. Obviously, the response by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is something that is not conducive towards a favourable resolution of the differences on the Korean peninsula. However, it would be up to the Member States in the Security Council to see how they respond to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s response. Masood?
Question: Yeah, about… at the top of the briefing, you just talked about Mr. Serry, saying that there should be new contact with the new Government of Israel. But since it’s the same Government, it is just re-elected, it’s the same Government. And what difference will it make, because to… what do you call… so is Secretary-General going to ask this Government again to stop resettlement activity?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I am not sure I agree with your premise that it is the same Government. The results have come in, the results are different from what the previous make-up was, and the hope is, obviously, that there will be a more conducive opportunity to lead to negotiations towards a two-State solution.
Question: That’s your hope at the…?
Deputy Spokesperson: Matthew?
Correspondent: Go ahead.
Deputy Spokesperson: Sorry?
Correspondent: But the thing is that this is… the Government is being headed by Mr. Netanyahu, who is an architect of this relationship with [inaudible].
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I am not going to get into internal Israeli politics, Masood. All I can say is that the results have produced a shift in alignments in the Israeli Parliament, and we have to see what kind of a Government emerges from the negotiations that will obviously take place in the next few weeks. Matthew?
Question: Sure, I want to ask about Dar… another question about Darfur and then one about… here as a… in… inside the UN, but the… there’s ano… there are a couple of outstanding questions, I guess, maybe UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] hasn’t… The… the… the most recent report from Darfur is that there was fighting between the… the so-called Bedouin militia and the army and Fata Burno in North Darfur. The allegations are that the army has killed civilians there, and I am wondering, has UNAMID visited…? Can they confirm this fighting and if civilians were killed, who were they killed by?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, in terms of North Darfur, no, I don’t have anything on that. The latest thing, I believe Martin probably read to you last week. We’ll try and get the information from the mission.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that, on 21 January, UNAMID received information about an attack that took place at the Sudanese Armed Forces post at the Fata Burno internally displaced persons camp, approximately 13 kilometres south-west of Kutum, North Darfur. As a result of the attack, two people were killed (one soldier and one civilian), and four were severely injured (three soldiers and one civilian). The information was confirmed by the acting Governor of North Darfur. UNAMID has stepped up its daily patrols at the Fata Burno and Kassab internally displaced persons camps.]
Question: Okay. And… and I wanted to ask, yesterday, I… I… I really… I appreciate the Secretary-General gave a long answer on mobility and… and… and the budget cuts coming from this… from the General Assembly, but I did want to ask you this, just because the… the one of his statements, the use of the word that this… this… this UN Staff Union might be selfish for not supporting the plan has given rise to a… to an e-mail, I believe it went to all staff — you may have got it yourself — in which the President of the Union said, “it is very sad that the Secretary-General never cared to ask us why we didn’t… we did not join the consensus; instead, he decided to rely solely on whoever, whatever his close collaborators chose to tell him.” And I am just wondering, without, you know, the… the… they are going to have a meeting, there is going to be… I think this is going to resonate for some time, but is there any… it was a very long answer and that was only one word in it, but is there… that the word… is that… is… is it… is it… is it… how is… Are they misunderstanding the use of the word selfish? That’s my question.
Deputy Spokesperson: I think the Secretary-General was quite clear in his response yesterday. He said that all other staff associations have agreed with the concept of mobility. Those staff associations represent some of the UN staff members who serve in the hardest parts and the hardest locations for UN people to serve. As he said himself in his briefing, some of them are living in Quonset huts, cannot leave the compounds where they are, some of them have been there for many years, and they are looking for the opportunity not only to serve in the hardship posts, but also to serve in some of the more favourable posts, like New York, like Geneva, like Vienna, like Nairobi. So in that sense, the Secretary-General stands firmly by what he said yesterday.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Go and warm up.
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