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

11 February 2013

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

11 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.  Welcome to the briefing.

** Iraq

The Secretary-General strongly condemned the mortar attack that took place on Saturday on Camp Liberty, which killed a number of residents and injured other residents and Iraqi police officers.   Camp Liberty is the temporary transit facility near Baghdad for former residents of Camp Ashraf.  The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) is in close contact with the Government of Iraq on the response to the incident.

The Secretary-General called on the Government of Iraq to promptly and fully investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.  He has repeatedly stated that violence and provocation are unacceptable.

The High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, also strongly condemned the attack.  He noted that the residents of Camp Liberty are asylum seekers undergoing the refugee status determination process and thus entitled to international protection.  Their statements are available online.

** Syria

The Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, met in Cairo yesterday with the Head of the Syrian National Coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, Coalition Vice-President Riad Seif, and the accompanying delegation.

During the meeting, they discussed the latest initiative launched by Mr. al-Khatib, as well as the Syrian National Coalition’s plans.  Mr. Brahimi reiterated his support for this initiative and encouraged the Coalition to continue in this direction in the coming meetings.  The talks also touched on the overall situation in Syria.

** Darfur

The Acting Joint Special Representative and Joint Chief Mediator ad interim for Darfur, Aichatou Mindaoudou, congratulated the Government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement for signing a ceasefire agreement in Doha on Sunday.

Ms. Mindaoudou said that this is a major breakthrough in the road towards a comprehensive and lasting peace accord in Darfur.  She said she hoped that the agreement would attract the non-signatory movements to join in the peace process.  We have more details in the press release from the United Nations-African Union mission, UNAMID.

**South Sudan

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has received information from local officials from Walgak in west Akobo that an attack took place on Friday, 8 February, in the Manitor area.

According to the local officials, more than 100 people were killed and many others wounded as a result of the attack.  However, at this stage, the UN Mission is not in a position to confirm this information or any other details relating to the incident.

The UN Mission has dispatched a team of UN personnel, along with a team from the Government of the Republic of South Sudan, to the area where the attack took place.  The team intends to investigate, obtain accurate information, assess the needs of the affected population and determine what is required by the South Sudanese authorities to address the situation.

** Liberia

The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) offered its condolences and sympathy today to Government of the Republic of Guinea and the family and friends of those who died this morning when their aircraft crashed close to the Liberian capital, Monrovia.  The UN Mission has helped the Liberian authorities with their response and recovery efforts, and is now supporting a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding today’s incident.

**Children’s Tour

This morning, the Secretary-General launched the UN Children’s Tour here at the United Nations Headquarters.  In his remarks to a group of children, he said that the UN is working hard to give great hope and better and equal opportunities for young children, who are the future leaders of the world.

**Press Conference

Today at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference here, on the launch of the International Year of Water Cooperation.

That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Yes, Sylviane?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  On the resignation, official resignation of the Pope, do you have any reaction of the SG on this matter?  The Pope’s resignation?

Spokesperson:  I would expect to have something a little later today to say on that in more detail.  But, certainly, the Secretary-General has always had great respect for the Pope and his work on interfaith dialogue and other global challenges.  Okay, other questions?  Yes, Nizar?

[The Spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General has learned of the decision of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to resign on 28 February 2013.   Recalling the Pope’s visit to the United Nations Headquarters in April 2008, the Secretary-General expresses his appreciation for the profound commitment of Pope Benedict to interfaith dialogue and to addressing such global challenges as the alleviation of poverty and hunger, as well as the promotion of human rights and peace.  He hopes that the wisdom demonstrated during his Pontificate may stand as a legacy on which to build further dialogue and tolerance.]

Question:  Martin, regarding the donors’ conference in Kuwait towards the civilians in Syria, how much has been paid up so far out of the $1.5 billion?

Spokesperson:  That’s an important question.  As we have repeatedly said, this was a very important pledging conference.  The amount that was pledged, committed, was quite large, and was the amount that was requested, and indeed more was pledged.  The key, of course, is how much then actually turns into real cash.  And I know that my colleagues from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs are tracking that.  And so I am hoping that they will be able to help you with the details on that.  I don’t have that to hand.

Question:  There are some reports that Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have… are revoking their pledge.  How correct is that?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know the answer to that, Nizar.  And again, I am hoping my colleagues from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs will be able to help with that.  Yes, please?

Question:  At the weekend, assailants in the northern part of Nigeria killed some health workers, including some doctors who were on anti-polio campaign.  This crime is seen as a clear evidence of violence against health workers.  I do not know if the UN or you is aware of this or not, but I want your reaction to this.

Spokesperson:  We certainly are aware of this incident.  The Secretary-General feels that this is truly a ghastly attack, and I would anticipate that we will have something more to say on this shortly, but not right at the moment.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, Martin, thanks.  I wanted to ask, there is a report of a Canadian police officer serving with MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission] in Haiti who has been accused, to the Haitian National Police, of sexual abuse, and it is said that he fled the country without the permission of either the UN or Canadian authorities.  I wanted to know what you can say about the case, and also, is that… is… is that repatriation or what… what’s the next step on this case?

Spokesperson:  Well, no Canadian UN Police officer has been expelled from Haiti recently.  The UN Mission in Haiti did receive a report though the Haitian National Police (PNH) channels concerning an alleged altercation between a UN police officer and a female Haitian citizen, and the Mission is looking into the matter.  An investigation is being conducted to ascertain details and circumstances of this alleged incident.  The final report, which is being drawn up by the Mission’s investigative unit, will be sent to the appropriate office in the UN Headquarters.

Question:  And where… can we get an update here or should I ask about it again?

Spokesperson:  If and when we have something more to say, I’ll let you know, but at the moment, what I have said is what I have.

Question:  Okay.  And… and I wanted to ask you something about Umoja, and there… there is a wider controversy about how much it is costing, there is a big story today out, but I have a smaller question about a smaller document and the document is a memo that was sent… you know, on its face, at least, appears to have been sent to the Secretary-General in November, alleging that… that an… that an… that an investigation, an OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] case that had a case number was terminated by Carman Lapointe and the Investigative Director of OIOS, the investigation being into Angela Kane and to the previous Director of Umoja.  And the complainant, you know, says that they called it a witch hunt, they didn’t really provide enough basis for stopping it, and combined with the cost overruns.  I guess I am wondering, can we get an answer on why, fro… I guess from OIOS, one if they did stop an investigation of Umoja and the then Director of Management, and why they stopped it?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check for you, Matthew.  Yes?

Question:  On Friday, the Secretary-General met with the Prime Minister of Serbia, [Ivica] Dačić, and if you can brief us, how did the meeting go, what was discussed, having in mind that there are tensions in southern Serbia, in Preševo Valley, as well as in northern part in Vojvodina, that the republic movement, ongoing dialogue between Belgrade and Kosovo, and all those affairs there?

Spokesperson:  You’d make an excellent political officer.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Yes, the Secretary-General did meet on Friday.  They discussed developments in the region, as you would expect, but I don’t have any details on the precise nature of those discussions, okay?  Any other questions, please?  Yes?

Question:  There was a car bomb today in Turkish-Syrian border, and is there any comment about it?

Spokesperson:  Not at the moment.  We are obviously aware of the reports that are coming in, the same reports that you have seen, but we don’t have any comment at the moment.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Martin, I wanted to… to… on Wednesday last week, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping… I… I was at least grateful that he answered this question on… on… on… on… on Minova and said… he appeared to say that the UN is aware of the identity of most of those who committed the rapes in November in Minova, but I… and I’d sent this to you, too, I just want sort of keep… he seemed to indicate that they did know, but they are counting on the… the Co… Congolese authorities to bring about prosecutions.  But, I am really wondering, very… if we can get some statements specifically, what steps have been taken under the human rights due diligence policy not to work with either these individuals and do the individuals, including the commanders of the UN… the units or only the line soldiers?  Is there some way to know?  I mean it was… it was great that he answered that, but now it is sort of like what… either what’s the next step or what’s been done, given that they know who did it?

Spokesperson:  I am sure my colleagues from Peacekeeping Operations are listening to you attentively and let’s see what we can come up with.  Yes, Hank?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  On Friday, Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman answered a question, and I quote him, he was talking about Mr. al-Khatib, who he said does hold a certain amount of weight with parts of the Syrian opposition, but also with some of the people from outside of Syria who have been involved in this struggle.  One, do you know who he was referring to, as far as people from outside of Syria involved in this struggle?  And does the Secretary-General believe that a political solution could still come from Syrians themselves or… has it just been two years and anything that would put a stop to the killings would be an acceptable solution?

Spokesperson:  Look, you have the entire international community heavily focused on the bloodshed and violence in Syria.  And that focus has been there for the last two years, almost.  As I said earlier in the briefing when I was reading out material at the start, Mr. Brahimi met with Mr. al-Khatib in Cairo over the weekend, and that was to follow up on Mr. al-Khatib’s proposed dialogue, his proposal for meeting with the Syrian authorities inside Syria, I mean, the Syrian Government authorities.  The dialogue that needs to take place, of course, must be Syrian-led; that’s self-evident.  But, the assistance and the interest, the intensive concern of the international community, is obviously there.  I think that is obvious, too.  The final thought is simply that Mr. Brahimi remains in close contact with the Syrian National Council precisely to encourage those efforts.  And in the same way, he is also in close contact — Mr. Brahimi — with, here at United Nations Headquarters, key players, key countries, because there is the need to continue to encourage such efforts at all levels.  Okay, thank you very much.  Yes?

Question:  Can I ask a follow-up?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Just yesterday, President [Bashar al-]Assad refused any… to recognize Mr. Moaz al-Khatib, and he refused to dialogue.  What do you do… what do you do about this refusal?  What can you do?  How can we fix this issue?

Spokesperson:  “Continue to encourage”, I think, is what is called for, to continue to encourage the efforts of Mr. al-Khatib, and to make it clear to everyone that the only way to end this is to stop the violence and to start talking, to have that dialogue.  No one is suggesting that it is easy to do that, and no one is suggesting that it would be even easy to get to that point, but the Secretary-General and Mr. Brahimi certainly believe that this has been an encouraging development that needs to be further advanced, if at all possible.

Question:  Is… Mr. al-Khatib is the only interlocutor or there is another plan B?

Spokesperson:  For whom?

Question:  For Mr… for the international community and for Mr. Brahimi to discuss with?

Spokesperson:  There are many interlocutors, as I was just saying just now.  The concerns of the international community are there, the talks that there have been, discussions that there have been, have been wide-ranging.  For example, at Munich just recently, at that security conference, there were discussions involving many players.  So, it’s taking place in different formats, but the fact remains that Mr. al-Khatib is the head of the Syrian National Council, and it was a coalition, I beg your pardon, Syrian National Coalition, and it was in that context that Mr. Brahimi was meeting with him in Cairo over the weekend.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Mr. Feltman last week referred to the struggle, conflict in Syria that has been going on for three years.  What is his date of reference to you?

Spokesperson:  I think he misspoke.  I think he meant to say that it is approaching the third year; I think that’s what he was intending to say.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I have two really quick questions.  One is about the court in Cambodia, the… the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.  There… there are reports that actually it may… that the… that the Cambodian staff haven’t been paid since November, there is concern that they will walk out and that basically the war crimes of the Khmer Rouge may not be brought to justice.  What’s the sec… what’s the UN, I guess, doing to see if the Court can… can continue to function?

Spokesperson:  Well, certainly there are concerns, and there have been concerns for a long time about the funding, and particularly the sustained funding that is required so that you can see through the different cases that there are.  I know that my colleagues in the right department here at Headquarters have been working on this, and I will try to get an update on where we are with that.

[The Spokesperson later added that we urge the Royal Government of Cambodia to take urgent steps to ensure that the salaries of national staff at the Extraordinary Chambers are paid, to avoid any disruption to the important work of the Court.  The Special Expert of the Secretary-General, Ambassador David Scheffer, is in contact with the donors to encourage them to explore ways to assist the Government in meeting its obligation to pay the salaries.]

Question:  Okay, great.  And this is real small… it’s kind of a small one.  On Friday, if you don’t mind… well I… I… I…

Spokesperson:  I was just checking, Matthew.  Please go ahead.

Question:  Okay.  No… no… on… and I don’t… I don’t… I don’t want to read anything into this, but I… on Friday, when I was asking you about the… the… the… the somewhat exclusive presentation by the Secretary-General to a group of 13 journalists, and I don’t mean to reopen that, except when I tried to transcribe it, I found that the UNTV segment of it stopped abruptly in… in… in… before your final answer.  So I wanted to know, are you aware of that and is there some reason that that took place?

Spokesperson:  Well, not for the first time, Matthew, you had the last word.  Thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thanks.

[The Spokesperson added later that, because of a technical difficulty, the recording of last Friday’s noon briefing was incomplete.  It has now been replaced online with a full recording.  It can be accessed at the following link:  http://webtv.un.org/watch/daily-press-briefing:-storm-food-security-tunisia-philippines-childrens-tour-briefings/2151945961001/.]

* *** *

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