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

7 February 2013

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

7 February 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, and welcome to the briefing.

** Myanmar

Last night, we issued a statement on Myanmar in which the Secretary-General welcomed the Joint Statement issued by the country’s Peacemaking Committee and the delegation of the Kachin Independence Organization in China, in which they agreed to work on an overall framework to de-escalate the violent conflict in Kachin.

The Secretary-General urged the parties to continue their efforts towards genuine and sustainable peace in Kachin and expressed hope that the latest developments would result in a silencing of the guns in Myanmar for the first time since its independence.  Meanwhile, his Special Adviser, Vijay Nambiar, was in Kachin, and we issued more information about his travels this morning.

** Iraq

The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) says that heavy rainfall throughout the country caused severe damage in Salaheddine province at the end of January.

The Mission’s disaster response section, after a request from the local government, conducted an assessment last weekend of humanitarian needs in the area and distributed kits to 600 families.  Another 600 families will receive assistance within the next few days.  The kits include mattresses, blankets, plastic sheeting, jerry cans and heaters.

The Mission continues to monitor the situation and has established contact with authorities all along the Tigris River basin to express its readiness to provide assistance if needed.  We have a press release with more details on that.

**Islamic Summit Conference

The Secretary-General has sent a message to the twelfth session of the Islamic Summit Conference, which is taking place in Cairo, telling the leaders gathered there that the violence and humanitarian crisis in Syria and Mali are of particular concern.

He said in his message that the Syrian conflict continues and gains deeply worrying sectarian undertones, and it is our collective responsibility to remind all warring parties of their obligations under human rights and international humanitarian law.

As for Mali, the Secretary-General says that the United Nations recognizes the seriousness of the situation and the threat posed by anti-government armed groups to international peace and security.  He calls again for the implementation of all aspects of Security Council resolution 2085 (2012).

The Secretary-General also stressed the importance of working together to combat the menace of terrorism, and of taking action to deal with rising intolerance and discrimination, such as Islamophobia.  His message is available in my office.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

UN agencies and humanitarian partners launched the 2013 Humanitarian Action Plan for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in Kinshasa today, appealing for $893 million to provide aid to millions of people affected by food insecurity, conflict and displacement.  Some 6.4 million people across the country are food insecure and need assistance.  An estimated 2.7 million people have been displaced, more than half of them in the North and South Kivu regions of the eastern part of the DRC.

The funding will help provide essential relief supplies including food aid, shelter, water and sanitation programmes, and it will help local authorities improve access to basic social services, including education.

Food Price Index

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that its Food Price Index, a measure of the monthly change in international food prices, held steady in January after three consecutive months of decline.  The pause in the Index’s decline comes as the organization significantly revised upward its latest forecast for 2012 world cereal production.  More details can be found on the organization’s website.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed Tamrat Samuel as his Deputy Special Representative (Rule of Law) for the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).  The new Deputy Special Representative for Rule of Law succeeds Louis M. Aucoin of the United States of America, who concluded his assignment in December last year.  We have more information on this appointment in my office.

**Noon Briefing Guest Tomorrow

As I mentioned yesterday, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, will be my guest at tomorrow’s noon briefing.  He will be here to brief on his recent trip to Africa, in which he attended the African Union Summit and international meetings on Mali.  He also visited Somalia, Kenya and Burundi.

Yes, please, Sylvia?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On the findings and accusation by Bulgaria of Hizbullah’s involvement in the killing attack on Israel:  do you have anything to say and is there any comment by the Secretary-General on this issue?  And, also, what could be the repercussions on the UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] area?

Spokesperson:  We’re obviously aware of the reports.  I don’t have anything at the moment.  I’ll check whether that’s going to change.

[The Spokesperson later informed the correspondent that the Secretary-General has previously condemned the appalling terrorist attack which took place in Bulgaria on 18 July, in which five Israelis and one Bulgarian were killed.  He stresses the importance of those who planned and carried out the attack in Burgas being brought to justice.  He notes the announcement by the Bulgarian authorities in connection with the outcome of the investigation.  He also notes Prime Minister Miqati’s statement with regard to Lebanon’s readiness to cooperate with the Bulgarian authorities.]

Okay, other questions please?  Yes, Mathew?

Question:  On the Arms Trade Treaty talks, I learned that, for vice-chairing these upcoming talks, Palestine is one of the three Asian Group candidates for the three spots the Asia Group has.  So, earlier today, I asked Ambassador [Susan] Rice of the US.  She says, not gonna happen; they’re not a Member State.  So I wanted to know, I believe the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) has some role in this, played it in the last talks of ATT in July — is it the UN’s position that these ATT talks are under the all-States or Member States-only format, and what is OLA’s role in determining this pretty important question of whether Palestine can be a Vice-Chair or ends up sitting in the corner, as took place last time?

Spokesperson:  I’ll have to check on that, Mathew.  Generally speaking, the arrangements for such intergovernmental talks and negotiations, generally speaking, are in the hands of those taking part in those discussions and talks.  But let me check further.  Other questions please?  Yes, Tim?

Question:  There was the conference recently on Syria, which raised the $1.5 billion, and before that, UN agencies had cut their food rations in Syria.  So, since they’ve got new cash injections, will they be increasing rations, food rations, in Syria, again?

Spokesperson:  The intention is to try to do so, but as I think we’ve made clear, these were generous pledges and commitments, but those pledges and commitments need to be turned into hard cash.  So, I’d need to check with my colleagues from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs how much of those pledges has actually turned into real money that can then be used to boost the amount of aid that’s being distributed.  I think the World Food Programme has had something to say on this.  Let me check, and if that is indeed the case, if my recollection is not failing me, then we can send that around to you for sure.

[The Spokesperson later said that the World Food Programme is increasing food assistance inside Syria to reach 2.5 million people in the coming months.]

Okay, other questions, please?  Yes?

Question:   I wanted to ask something about Darfur.  There’s one report of renewed Government bombing in east Jebel Marra, including the killing of civilians.  I wanted to know if UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] is aware of that.  And, then, something I asked about a couple of days ago, but now one of the Sudanese revolution front rebel groups in Darfur has said that… it’s Ansar Al-Dine, that there are a number, they say, of rebels who left Mali, chased out by the French and Malian Army incursion, that have now, or have, arrived in Darfur.  And they name the unit, and they believe the Government is going to shelter them in this mountain redoubt where they’re based, and I wonder, since there is a UNAMID there and the UN is involved in Mali and is involved in Darfur, has there been any ability by the UN system to confirm the arrival of these fighters from Mali, and what would the UN do about it if they did take place, which I know is speculative?

Spokesperson:  I think the last bit is the answer.

Question:  I guess what I’m saying is, since now this group has said it’s Ansar Al-Dine, either does UNAMID know anything or have they taken steps and [inaudible] not taken place?

Spokesperson:  What we also know, Mathew, in addition to the reports about the possible arrival, are reports of denial of the possible arrival.  So there are varying reports out there, and we are not in a position, at least at this point, to be able to confirm or otherwise the reports that are out there in the media.  If that changes, I’ll let you know, but I have not heard anything on that from UNAMID, the mission in Darfur at this point.  On the first part of your question, about possible bombing, I will check with the mission.  Okay, other questions?

Question:  Yesterday, I saw and published, this Sandy report review.  It may be a draft, but I know there was a process under which there was going to be this review of the UN’s response to super-storm Sandy.  And the reason I’m asking — it’s not just about the document — yesterday, in the cafeteria, one of our colleagues slipped and fell and there was a good response by UN security, who said, “We’re going to get you an X-ray.”  And, as it turned out, the medical service has no X-ray capability since the storm.  And that’s in the written, at least the draft, report on Sandy.  So, I wanted to know two things:  one, as just a matter of kind of safety and security and of the continuing impact of Sandy:  is it true that the UN Medical Service since the storm has no capability to do X-rays?  And, also, what is the status, if this report is a draft, when is the review of the Sandy response going to be finished and is it going to be made public when it happens?

Spokesperson:  There is a process under way which we’ve said to review the consequences of that storm.  That process is not concluded, yet.  With regard to the specific question about X-ray machines, I’ll check with the medical service what the position is there.  But, it’s pleasing to hear that the security services and our colleagues responded quickly to help.

[The Spokesperson later said the United Nations’ X-ray machine was seriously damaged in Hurricane Sandy.  It will not be replaced.  Like all medical services around the world, the United Nations Medical Services Division has been progressively seeking to reduce the use of X-rays in situations where the medical literature indicates there is no requirement for them.  This will also minimize the exposure of staff to ionizing radiation associated with X-ray imaging.  X-ray use has now reduced so much that there is no longer a need for a full-time X-ray service in the United Nations building.  The small number of X-rays that are still needed are now sourced from external providers.]

All right, thank you very much, thank you.

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