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

7 March 2013

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

7 March 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.

**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

The Secretary-General has welcomed this morning’s adoption of Security Council resolution 2094 (2013) on the recent nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the DPRK.

He said in a statement that the Security Council had sent an unequivocal message to the DPRK that the international community will not tolerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons and related acts.

The statement says the Secretary-General remains deeply concerned about heightened tension on the Korean peninsula.  He urges the DPRK to refrain from any further destabilizing steps or bellicose rhetoric.  At a time of new political leadership throughout the region, the Secretary-General urges Pyongyang to reverse course and build confidence with the country’s neighbours.

The Secretary-General remains convinced that the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the maintenance of peace and stability in North-east Asia can only be assured through dialogue, and he reaffirms his commitment towards that goal.  The full statement is available online.

**United Nations Disengagement Observer Force

The 21 UN Disengagement and Observer Force (UNDOF) peacekeepers who were detained yesterday in the UNDOF area of operation have not been released.  The mission has been in touch with the peacekeepers by telephone and confirmed they have not been not harmed.  The United Nations is working to secure the release of the peacekeepers.

**Libya

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is deeply concerned by several recent incidents, including attacks on media organizations, threats against journalists, and violence against a Coptic church and other houses of worship. These acts violate fundamental human rights, particularly the freedom of faith and freedom of expression.

Also today, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Tarek Mitri, expressed his strong condemnation of the attack yesterday against Mohammed Magariaf, the President of the Libyan Congress.  He called on all Libyans to refrain from settling political issues through violence.  And we have more details in two press releases from the UN Mission in Libya.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUSCO, reports that the situation in North Kivu Province remains tense.  In Kitchanga, fighting between the Congolese armed forces and the APCLS [Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo] armed group has stopped, but 5,000 remain around the MONUSCO base in that place.  The Mission has reinforced its patrols in the areas affected by the recent instability, including to protect civilians.

And Moustapha Soumaré, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, expressed his concern today that thousands of lives are in danger in the east of the country.  He reiterated that the parties to the conflict must avoid civilian casualties at all costs, respect the civilian character of internally displaced settlements and ensure that humanitarian workers can provide much-needed assistance.

Tens of thousands of people, including internally displaced persons, have been caught in clashes since late February between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and APCLS, and that’s in the town of Kitchanga and its surroundings in North Kivu.  The fighting has already caused dozens of civilian deaths, including that of a humanitarian worker.  It has wounded hundreds and pushed thousands of people to flee their homes.

**Yemen

The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen said today that while important progress has been made in the country, the humanitarian crisis continues.  As the Friends of Yemen meet today in London, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed urged them and other donors to support the 2013 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan.

The Yemen humanitarian country team — comprising UN agencies and dozens of other organizations under Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s leadership — aims to provide assistance to nearly 8 million of the country’s most vulnerable people this year.  The Resident Coordinator noted that the humanitarian plan for 2012 was only 58 per cent funded.  He said donor commitments will be critical, not only to address human suffering but also to make progress towards recovery irreversible.

**UNIS-UN Conference

This morning, the Secretary-General encouraged students from the United Nations International School (UNIS) to aim high and speak up.  At the opening session of the thirty-seventh UN International School-United Nations Conference, entitled “Modern Youthquake”, the Secretary-General said that young people have an obligation to challenge, in non-violent ways, to have their messages heard.

**Event Tomorrow

Tomorrow, at 12:30 p.m., at United Nations Headquarters, Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, the wife of the Secretary-General, will lead a UN Women for Peace march to generate greater awareness about the campaign to prevent violence against women.  This march will begin by gathering in front of the General Assembly building and will then proceed to the Dag Hammarskjold Park.  The gathering will also include international stars such as Susan Sarandon, Michael Bolton, Christy Turlington and Monique Coleman.  There are more details on the website of the UN Women for Peace.

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

**Questions and Answers

Question:  A follow-up on the UNDOF situation.  Are UNDOF troops, peacekeepers, pulling out of Syria and heading over to the Israeli side of the mandate?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any information on their movements at this point.

Question:  And a little more broadly, is there consideration of withdrawing UNDOF from its patrol area in light of these sorts of incidents and threats?

Spokesperson:  Look, this is a mission that works under a Security Council mandate and has done for many years, as you know, since 1974.  The security conditions on the ground are not easy, and we have said so in recent days, not least just over this past weekend.  It is for the commander of the UN Disengagement and Observer Force on the ground to be able to assess the security situation with regard to the missions that they need to carry out, the patrols that they carry out and the observing that they do.  But I have no further information at this point.  Obviously, we are monitoring this extremely closely.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Martin, on the same subject, has UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) reconsidered or reassessed its situation given that so many militants from Syria and their supporters are already active in Lebanon — in Beirut and the south, and even in the north?

Spokesperson:  I’d need to check with UNIFIL; I don’t have anything specific on their particular area of operation at this point, Nizar.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, sir.  On the same topic, the… has… has the Israeli Government offered… I mean, has it expressed interest to the Secretary-General that it can help in release of these 21 UN peacekeepers?  And that the… did the Israeli Defence Minister talk with the Secretary-General about this?

Spokesperson:  I was not in that meeting; I am not privy to what was discussed.  I would simply say that the United Nations is working to secure the release of the peacekeepers.  Other questions?

Question:  So, basically…

Spokesperson:  Say again?

Question:  Basically, what I am saying is there are reports that Israelis have suddenly decided to offer to help.  What I am asking is did… at… at no point… and what can the Secretary-General office confirm that they had such a conversation at all, in support…?

Spokesperson:  I heard very well what you said, Masood, yeah.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Yeah?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you, in… in… in… in…

Spokesperson:  And then Hank.  Yes?

Question:  On… on… on the… the readout you gave about Kitchanga, there is a report [inaudible] hospital that was shelled there — I think you may have even read it out here — and Médecins Sans Frontières has confirmed… has said it was shelled.  I am wondering, does… does MONUSCO… does it know or… and if it doesn’t know, is it going to try to find out who shelled the hospital, since that would be a crime of war?

Spokesperson:  Well, you’re right that this has been referred to here already, and if I have any more information, I would certainly share that with you.  I don’t have anything further at the moment.

Question:  But I guess, maybe my question would be… sorry to go back to this human rights due diligence policy, but given that shelling a hospital would be a war crime, would the UN endeavour to find out whether FARDC in fact was the sheller or whether it was the APCLS?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, you don’t need to be sorry about asking the question, it is an important question.  It’s just that I don’t have anything specific on it at the moment.  Yes?

Question:  Good morning, Martin, thank you.  My question is about language.  Yesterday, the Security Council issued its statement, and the SG issued one about an hour-and-a-half later about UNDOF.  In the Security Council statement, they mention the words “armed elements of the Syrian opposition”, and the SG’s statement came out 90 minutes later and just called the perpetrators of this kidnapping armed elements.  I wondered if the Security Council is willing to go ahead and call them elements of the Syrian opposition, why wouldn’t the SG’s office do the same?

Spokesperson:  I think you are reading too much into it, Hank.  This is… I really don’t think that there is any particular reason here for trying to parse the language.  You could do the same thing with the statement on the DPRK and the statement that the Secretary-General has issued on that, and looking at the language of the resolution.  It doesn’t really serve much purpose, particularly when the main point here is that the United Nations is working for the release of these peacekeepers, regardless of who specifically it is… is holding them.  Other questions, please?  Yes, Masood, then Nizar.

Question:  On the same subject…

Spokesperson:  Yes, Masood, and then Nizar, yes?

Question:  Okay.  No, I wanted to ask you about… this is… I was just saying, this is something about… on Monday the Secretary General of OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) issued a statement calling upon the authorities to… Israeli authorities to, what he called desist from… what he called what… the… the… he… what he was [inaudible], that in their Mosque in Al-Aqsa, Israeli forces went in and harassed women who were praying there, and then desecrated Holy Quran.  Did the Secretary-General at any point in time talk with the Israelis on this issue at all?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check, I’ll check for you, Masood.  I am not aware of this, but I will certainly check.

Correspondent:  And there is a statement from OIC also.

Spokesperson:  I heard what you said, and I will check for you.  I don’t have anything specific on that but of course, if we do, then we will come back to you.  Yes?

Question:  How does the United Nations view that Israelis have been helping these armed groups at the… in the UNDOF area?  They have hospitalized them in suffered [inaudible] hospitals in the past and they returned them to resume their activities in that region.  Will there be any contacts in order for the Israelis to help the release of the UNDOF, especially that they have some clout on these armed groups?

Spokesperson:  I have already answered that question, maybe not to your satisfaction, but I have answered it.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, no… I wanted to ask, yesterday, there was a statement by the Secretary-General about this violence in… in… in Malaysia, and in… you know, calling for an end to the violence and dialogue.  Since then, at least, it is reported that the… that the Prime Minister of Malaysia has rejected a call by… for a ceasefire by the… by the… the group of… Philippine-based clan group sometimes called gunmen, sometimes called rebels, so I just… I… I wonder, it said he is watching it closely, is there some… is… is… does he think that… that… that… that a ceasefire offer by… by one side should be taken by the other?  How… does… how is the violence going to end other than a wipe-out of the group?

Spokesperson:  The statement says the same thing.  He urges an end to the violence and encourages dialogue among all the parties for a peaceful resolution of the situation.  That’s what he said [inaudible].

Question:  No, that’s what I was trying to say, [inaudible], since he said that now… Now the Government of Malaysia has rejected the ceasefire, does he see that as… as… as… as inconsistent with his call?  Is he… what does he think of it?  That’s what I meant.

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General stands by what he said yesterday.  That hasn’t changed.  Anything else?  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Yes, sir, on this talk between the Secretary-General and the Israeli Defence Minister, you have no readout at all?  Because what about Iran?  Did he come and discuss Iran’s nuclear…?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have a readout of that.  If that changes, I will let you know, but I don’t have a readout.

Question:  So why the secrecy over this meeting [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Again, again, on some meetings there are readouts, on some meetings there are not. And in fact, some time ago, you would never have seen any readouts of meetings.  We’ve certainly tried to provide information where we can.  That is not always possible.  Yes?

Question:  Let me ask about Haiti and Sri Lanka.  One, there is… there is… it’s actually… there is a call from Amnesty International, sort of raising the profile of it, but I am assuming that MINUSTAH would be aware of it.  There is a camp of displaced people — displaced by the hurricane — near Port-au-Prince called Grace Village and it is facing not only eviction, but the… it’s… according to Amnesty International, at least, the Government has said that they are going to arrest a number of people inside without giving any reasons — it’s called arbitrary arrest — and I am wondering, given that MINUSTAH is there and I know that they have said in the past that they shouldn’t be these… these forced displacements, are they… are they trying to get involved in this one in any way?  Are they… are they aware of it, and what do they think of the… the arrest threats?

Spokesperson:  I’ll ask our colleagues; I don’t have anything on that, but I am sure they will let us know.  Yes?

Question:  Okay.  And the Sri Lanka question is, there is… there is some… some countries in… you know, I guess, embassies there, or foreign services, that have spoken on this and I wanted to know if the Secretariat is aware of.  There was a group of… of… of families of disappeared people seeking to go to Colombo, it said to actually go to meet the UN country team with information, see about their relatives, and they were stopped by the Government in Vavuniya, not allowed to… to reach Colombo or to speak to the UN, and I am wondering if the U… if countries are saying that they shouldn’t have been blocked.  Is the UN aware of this?  Do they believe people should be able to pass this whatever information they have to the UN and… and what’s going to happen with them?

Spokesperson:  Well, there would be other conduits to be able to provide information if people feel they have information that they wish to hand over to the United Nations.  There are other ways to do it if they cannot reach Colombo.  So I am sure that that would be possible, to be able to receive information and not just via the country team in the country.

Question:  One more?  It’s… it’s a Ma… Mali, a journalist there has been… has been detained by the security agents for… for… his name is… is Boukary Daou, and he… he… he’s publish… his paper published a… a… an open letter about the financial package given to Captain Sanogo, the coup… the coup leader, and he was… now… now he has been essentially arrested and… and taken in for questioning.  So I am wondering, particularly given the… the… the… the UN… I am not sure of the status of the UN presence, maybe you can… I mean, I know that they are there.  Are they aware of this arrest of a journalist for what seems to be a pretty much free-speech activity and do they have any, I guess, comment on it?  Have they spoken to the Government about it?  What do they think of it?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you are aware that we do have a UN office in Mali.  It is a multidisciplinary team that also includes a human rights component.  So I will check to see what they have to say about that, okay?

It is obvious that journalists should be allowed to carry out their work, and particularly of an investigative nature.  They should be allowed to carry out that work.  Let me see what the mission has to say on that.

Okay, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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