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

28 February 2013

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

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

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

**Secretary-General’s Travel

A short while ago, the Secretary-General arrived in Geneva from Vienna.  Before leaving Austria, the Secretary-General held talks with the Foreign Minister that covered Syria, Mali and the Middle East peace process, among other topics.  He also met the heads of UN agencies based in Vienna.

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will visit the Human Rights Council and attend a high-level panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming.  He will also deliver the annual Sergio Vieira de Mello lecture.  He will speak to reporters and, as in Vienna, he will hold a town hall meeting with UN staff.  The Secretary-General will return to New York over the weekend.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding a session this morning to wrap up its work for February, in its last consultations under the presidency of the Republic of Korea.  Tomorrow, Russia will take over the rotating presidency of the Security Council.  Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the Council President for March, will brief you on the programme of work for the month next Monday at 12:30 p.m.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) reports that the situation in Kitchanga, North Kivu, remains tense following yesterday's clashes between the Forces armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) and the Alliance des patriotes pour un Congo libre et souverain, an armed group operating in the region.  This morning, MONUSCO reported gunshots in the area.  The Mission says that between 3,000 and 4,000 Congolese have now taken refuge around its base in Kitchanga.  The Mission also adds that at least 36 people have been killed including 10 civilians.  MONUSCO is closely monitoring the area, including with its combat helicopter.

**South Sudan

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan today expressed his deep concern over the increasing threats to civilians in Jonglei due to inter-communal violence and hostilities between the army and others.

In his recent visit to Akobo and Pibor Counties, Toby Lanzer said that he met communities living in fear of what may happen over the coming weeks.  He urged the Government of South Sudan to reinforce its ongoing efforts to strengthen law and order and to hold to account those who are responsible for committing crimes and putting civilian populations at risk.

Mr. Lanzer also called on all armed actors to ensure that civilians are spared from the consequences of military engagement.  Armed actors must distinguish between civilians and those directly involved in fighting, he added.  His full statement is available online.

**Human Rights Council

The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, said today that we are witnessing a dangerous increase in ethnic tensions in various regions.

Addressing the Human Rights Council, he said that we have seen extreme violence in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Sudan and Syria.  Mr. Dieng said that while we cannot correct the failures of the past, we can at least learn from them and strive to create mechanisms that can help us prevent these atrocities from happening again.

Also speaking at the Human Rights Council today was Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.  He said that the AIDS response has shown that when people stand up and demand their rights, denial and inaction are shattered.

**Sir Brian Urquhart

Today the UN is marking the ninety-fourth birthday of Sir Brian Urquhart, who served the United Nations from its founding for four decades, and, according to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “had enormous influence on every Secretary-General”.   The story is available on the News Centre site.

Questions, please?  Nizar?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  There are reports that thousands of fighters [inaudible] are leaving Syria through Turkey, going back to North Africa.  How does… how does Turkey allow thousands of fighters… cross… affiliated with Al-Qaida to cross there?  What are the laws that prevent countries from allowing access for passage to Al-Qaida back to Syria?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Nizar, we haven’t seen those reports, so I can’t comment on them.  Matthew?

Correspondent:  Well, the media is littered with such reports.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, which media?  We monitor the media over there…

Correspondent:  [inaudible] The Washington Post, The New York Times and other [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesperson:  …I haven’t seen that.  If we have something, we will get it to you, but right now we don’t have anything on that.

Question:  Al-Nusra is not associated to Al-Qaida [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m sorry?

Question:  Al-Nusra in Syria is it not associated to Al-Qaida?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I can’t comment on that, sorry.

Question:  Sure, Eduardo, I want to ask you, maybe the… you may have seen this, across the street today from the UN is a major protest by Bangladesh… by Bangladeshis in the United States, and they are talking about a crackdown by the Government that has its… you know, it was reported and confirmed by various wire services that’s killed 30 people so far, based on a death sentence imposed on one of their political leaders, and I am wondering, usually, Bangladesh, we don’t hear much about in this room, but now, given… with… with 30 people kill… protesters killed, I am wondering, what’s the UN… does it have a desk that’s dealing with this?  What… what’s their response to… to… to at least what people directly across the street are saying is a very serious crackdown against them?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the Secretary-General’s position on democratic protest is that people should be allowed to demonstrate their political views peacefully without fear of retribution on the part of the Governments involved, and that stands.

Question:  But, is there like a country team?  I guess I am just wondering, I’m… I’m not going to put…

Deputy Spokesperson:  There is no mission in Bangladesh, there is a country team, I believe, in Dhaka, and they are keeping an eye on it, but right now I have nothing else to add to what I said.  Hank?

Question:  Hi, thank you.  Good morning.  I just wondered if you had any comments on the United States’ confirmation of yesterday that it will provide additional battlefield aid to Syrian opposition forces?  I am just… I just wanted to clarify what the Secretary-General’s position is on outside involvement in the troubles in Syria.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you know what the Secretary-General’s position is Hank; we’ve been saying it for two years.  The Secretary-General finds any attempts to arm the protagonists in the Syrian conflict to be unhelpful, and that a military solution is not going to win the day and that negotiation has to take place.  That’s been his position for two years and it continues to be his position.  Nizar?

Question:  [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has always said that there has to be trials carried out by legal and constitutional means.  We are keeping an eye on the situation and we’ll let you know if we have anything additional to say.  Evelyn?

Question:  Hank, was that not non-lethal American aid that is being supplied to Syria, as lethal… maybe I misread it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t know.  We’ve seen the reports, it says non-lethal aid, but, you know, the… the… any attempt to further militarize the situation is unhelpful according to the Secretary-General’s views.  Yes?

Question:  On the situation in Kitchanga, you said that, yesterday, there are 400 people inside the MONUSCO base?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  And today, 3,000-4,000 around the base itself?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Does the UN view, being in just proximity to the base, to be adequately… you know, adequate protection to those civilians, or if not, what is the plan to protect them any further?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the people there are seeking the help of the UN to protect them from the fighting, and MONUSCO is there to protect civilians from danger.

Question:  Can they not take any more people into the base?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have that information, I’m sorry.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, Eduardo, I… I’d asked you before about the… the… the… whether in the proposed new peace enforcement or… or… or intervention battalion of MONUSCO, the Secretary-General proposed to have his human rights due diligence policy applied to it, you’d said it was hypothetical.  Now that there… there is an advance copy of his report out, searched it, and it had… it only refers to this policy once in the context that it doesn’t seem to be referring to… to the brigade.  It says that the… the… the… the MONUSCO’s overall mi… overall mandate should do six things, including this.  So, I wanted to ask you again, maybe I am missing something here, is this battalion, which will be a part of a UN peacekeeping mission exempt from this policy, could it work with units of FARDC which are…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, you, yourself, have just said it was part of MONUSCO.  It is governed by the terms of reference that MONUSCO works under.

Correpsondent:  Yeah, as I came through the door, I was hit by a bunch of people saying the 40… that guy killed the 40… that guy killed… it seems the 40 people were killed in Bangladesh and nobody seems to know why they were killed or who they were.  I… Bangladesh, I thought had been kind of quiet, at least to my point of view, we haven’t heard too much in the news recently.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, that question was raised as you were walking in.  We’ll take a look and see what information we can get you on that.

Correspondent:  Yeah, but 40 people [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, I agree, but we’ll have to see.  We’ve seen the reports, but we have to see that these reports are confirmed and we have to see what we are doing.

Correspondent:  Right, thank you very much.  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Evelyn?

Question:  Yeah, just a bit of housekeeping, since your Office is no longer sitting in the Security Council consultations, and the UNTV can’t put its camera on the door by an empty space with an empty mike, the announcements at the end of consultations for the many people who are not going to sit down and [inaudible] are getting later and later and don’t give the press enough time to get to the stakeout.  So, perhaps you could just remind people of that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, our Office, as soon as we get the call, our Office…

Correspondent:  I am not blaming your Office…

Deputy Spokesperson:  So we…

Correspondent:  I am just… I’m… I’m saying it so…

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll let the Security Council people know that if they can be a little bit more timely, it would help the journalists.

Correspondent:  Exactly, thank you.

Deputy Spokesperson: Okay.

Question:  Actually, I had something else that I would… it’s… it’s related to that for… for… for those of us who actually stay at the Security Council, we don’t get the statements by… for example, Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman and other UN officials that speak in the Council.  It seems like you put… you put a written copy of their remarks by your Office, which is all the way through the garage, but…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yeah.

Question:  …it’s neither e-mailed out nor brought there, whereas it seems like that’s where we would want it, so that we could ask them questions as they come out.  What’s the…

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we… we…

Question:  What’s the reason for that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We put them out there…

Correspondent:  Sure.

Deputy Spokesperson:  …because the… for the Security Council, we put them out there for the journalists and that’s where we keep them.  We don’t e-mail them out.

Question:  And why not?  I guess that’s my question.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to check and find out, I don’t know.

Question:  Okay.  I wanted to ask, this is… this is… this is… I guess it’s a… I don’t know if it’s housekeeping, it’s in-house, it has to do with the no-confidence vote that was taken by the Staff Union regarding the Secretary-General.  Since then, the Publishing Unit has written to Chief of Staff [Susana] Malcorra and the… the elected representative said that they declined to meet with her because of this no-confidence vote.  My question is, since then, I have heard that, actually, she convened a meeting of Publishing Section staff, not through the Union or not through the elected staff representative, but sort of in a different way, and held a meeting with them.  And they are saying, the Staff Union people, and its Publishing Section, that this violates rules; that this is akin to union busting.  If a company did it, it would be illegal.  Is there some… can you get some answer why… maybe there is some other understanding of the rules that she has…

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll check and find out, Matthew.

Correspondent:  Okay, thanks a lot.

Deputy Spokesperson:  So are we going to…

Question:  Yes, you have already answered the question, but let me add a follow-up.  The UN experts have already, you know, expressed concern on the trial of political leaders in Bangladesh, you see.  And, as a result, the… they have criticized the sentencing of death to a number of politicians, you see.  So I… I would like you to ask the Secretary-General whether he has any views on the trials that have been going on in Bangladesh.

Deputy Spokesperson:  As I said, we’ll check on it and get back to you on it.  Okay, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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