|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 morning, ladies and gentlemen. Or good afternoon now. Welcome to the briefing.
The Secretary-General arrived in Kuwait City very early this morning.
There he met with the Emir, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kuwait. In these meetings, he expressed gratitude for the important role that Kuwait is playing in convening tomorrow's Donor's Conference on Syria. This meeting comes at a critical time for Syria, where the humanitarian situation continues to worsen. We have issued a readout of these meetings.
In the afternoon, the Secretary-General met with Nabil Elaraby, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States. They discussed the crisis in Syria and reiterated their strong support for the Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi. We've also issued a readout of that meeting.
The Security Council will hold consultations at 3 p.m. this afternoon to hear an update on Syria from the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. Mr. Brahimi has informed us that he will talk to reporters at the Security Council stakeout once those consultations have finished.
Tarek Mitri, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, briefed the Security Council this morning on the work of the UN mission in that country (UNSMIL).
He told Council members that the Libyan constitution-making process has gained increased political significance in recent months, with mounting public pressure on the General National Congress to move expeditiously on forming the constitution drafting body.
He said that, while the security situation in Libya remains precarious, efforts to reform the security sector have begun to assume greater coherence. But, he also added that security along Libya’s borders remains a key concern, given the current capacity limitations and the possible impact of recent developments in Mali.
Mr. Mitri said that the continued detention without due process and mistreatment of several thousand people stemming from the conflict remains a source of deep concern. He said that there has been some progress in the screening and processing of conflict-related detainees, but this has remained limited in scope.
The Special Representative will talk to reporters once consultations on Libya have ended, and that should be very soon.
The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, represented the United Nations at the Donor Conference for Mali, held today at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.
In his remarks, Mr. Feltman stressed the urgency of the situation and the strong commitment of the United Nations to support Mali. We will have his full remarks available later.
And on the humanitarian side, the UN refugee agency said today that it is readying itself to assist in the possible spontaneous return of thousands of conflict-displaced people in the north of Mali. It said that it aims to open new presences in Gao and other cities in the north as soon as it becomes feasible.
The refugee agency said that despite the indications of growing interest in returns, conditions in the north of the country are difficult. People recently displaced from the north have reported serious shortages of food, clean water and fuel.
In all, some 380,000 people have fled northern Mali since the start of the conflict a year ago. This includes 230,000 people who are internally displaced, and more than 150,000 who are living as refugees in Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has expressed alarm at the spreading violence and increasing number of deaths in Egypt. She urges all parties to conduct a serious dialogue in order to halt the dangerous polarization underlying the current protests.
Ms. Pillay also called on the Government to rethink its responses to the unrest, which she said have ranged from excessive use of force on the one hand, to complete failure to protect people, especially women, on the other.
The High Commissioner called on all sides to refrain from resorting to violence and to resolve their differences peacefully, without compromising the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Referring to the state of emergency and curfew declared in the Ismailia, Suez and Port Said districts, the High Commissioner said that this state of emergency should be governed by the rule of law and in line with international standards.
** Western Sahara
The Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, held meetings with senior officials of the United States Department of State yesterday in Washington, D.C. He departs today for Moscow as the first step in further consultations with the Group of Friends of Western Sahara. In addition to the United States and Russia, the Group of Friends includes France, Spain and the United Kingdom.
During his trip, which will extend until 15 February, the Personal Envoy will also visit Germany and Switzerland.
These consultations aim at building additional international support for the Western Sahara negotiations in preparation for the next phase of engagement with the parties and neighbouring States, foreseen for March.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today that the world risks a repeat of the disastrous 2006 bird flu outbreaks unless surveillance and control of this and other dangerous animal diseases is strengthened globally.
The UN agency said that large reservoirs of the H5N1 virus still exist in some countries in Asia and the Middle East, in which the disease has become endemic. Without adequate controls, bird flu could easily spread globally, as it did at its peak in 2006, when 63 countries were affected.
**Noon Briefing Guest Tomorrow
And tomorrow, I will be joined by UN Police Adviser Ann-Marie Orler. She will be here to give an update on the UN Police Division’s work and accomplishments.
That’s it from me. Questions? Mr. Abbadi?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Eduardo. The Secretary-General has lauded the intervention of the French troops together with some African and Malian troops in restoring the territorial integrity of the country. But, what does he say about certain violations, grave violations of human rights, and certain atrocities reportedly committed by Malian troops against their opponents?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, any violations of human rights have to be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators brought to justice. That is the Secretary-General’s position; that is the position of the United Nations always. Stefano?
Question: Sunday, there has been reporting in Iran several numbers of journalists has been arrested, we don’t know exactly the number, they, it’s a number around 10, 12 journalists. What is the reaction to, to these arrests by the Secretary-General, also because, apparently, they have been accused of reporting to other medias [sic] around the world? And you know, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 19 says that you can report anything without…
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General’s position on the rights of journalists is absolutely clear: journalists have the right to pursue their work free of intimidation and free of fear of persecution. This is the Secretary-General’s position…
Correspondent: Okay, any a formal reaction, because…?
Deputy Spokesperson: There has not been a formal reaction, but you might want to check with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to see if they have reacted. Erol?
Question: Thank you, Eduardo. For those who follow, it is understanding among the media who follow the issue between dispute on the name dispute of between Greece and Macedonia that Mr. Nimitz is going to go — going to countries today or tomorrow — with some kind of very concrete proposal that may be take-it-or-leave-it proposal. So can you update us on that and…?
Deputy Spokesperson: No, we will have to wait to see what Mr. Nimitz, what is the outcome of Mr. Nimitz’s trip, and then I am sure he will have a statement to make afterwards.
Question: And just regarding that, I asked the, almost the same question to the Secretary-General, and it seems to me that he just repeated his statement, but he did say in Skopje, in [former Yugoslav Republic of] Macedonia, during his visit to Balkans last summer. So does the Secretary-General, is the Secretary-General really sorry for asking this because I am also repeating myself, well informed of the proposals and what is his…?
Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General is very well informed, but we do not discuss proposals until after they have been made and we have a reaction. We are not going to start second-guessing what the Special Envoy may say and what the Governments may respond.
Question: Yes, I noted that in the readout of the Secretary-General’s discussions with the President of South Sudan, the, the, I didn’t see any reference to the shooting down by South Sudan of the, uh, UN peacekeeping helicopter a number of weeks ago. I was wondering whether that topic did come up, and secondly, what the status of the investigation of the shooting down of that helicopter is?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the investigation continues, but right now I don’t have any further information than the readout of the, that we put out on the discussions between the Secretary-General and the President of South Sudan. Matthew?
Question: Yeah, sure Eduardo, first I want to ask you something of… in Darfur, there are reports of the Government’s renewed bombing campaign in East Jebel Mara, and also there are reports of pro-Government militia committing rapes in Tabet, in a camp of [internally displaced persons]. So I wanted to know, does UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) have any information? What is it? It seems like the… this is a hot conflict with bombs falling from the sky and people being raped on the ground. What’s UNAMID’s inquiry into this? What are they doing?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll check with the mission and get back to you on that.
Question: Do they also — and yesterday I had asked you about this procurement of drones this year and I still haven’t heard anything back — it seems like it is a pretty — I am not blaming you, maybe it is DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) — but it seems like it is a straight forward question: Why did they begin the procurement before they had any approval?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we have, we’ll have to speak with DPKO on that, but have you spoken with DPKO yourself?
Correspondent: I have, as you know, I have asked Mr. Ladsous questions a number of times that he refused to answer.
Deputy Spokesperson: But, have you spoken with DPKO, the media people of DPKO?
Correspondent: Last time, my last interface with them was them taking the microphones, so questions couldn’t be asked at the Security Council stakeout, so I am asking you.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the media are there, but we’ll try and get the answer for you.
Question: Thank you. I also have another DPKO question, I’m sorry to say. Yesterday I obtained and published an e-mail from within MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) which shows awareness by the UN that FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) Congolese army units are in support of actively helping the movements of the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), i.e. the, the, the militia in eastern Congo that is linked with the genocide in Rwanda, and I wanted to know what is the UN’s response to the fact that its partner of the FARDC are known by it to be working with the FDLR?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’ll have to find out; I don’t have anything on that right now. Okay, ladies and gentlemen…
Question: One more question, can I ask you, if you don’t mind? Okay. And this one may be, this is a media question, so, I think you can do it. The, the UN’s media accreditation rules say the following: that, a, a person to be accredited has to be with the media registered as a media organization in a country recognized by the General Assembly. So — and I have asked, actually, DPI (Department of Public Information) this, so I’m, it’s not — and what I am asking you is, does this apply for, did it apply to Palestine before 29 November, does it apply to Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Abkhazia? How can it be that the UN does not allow for under its rules of accreditation by, by journalists simply based on where they come from?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’ll have to find out; I don’t have that at my finger tips right now. But, we’ll try and find out for you. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Have a good afternoon.
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