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

11 June 2013

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

11 June 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 everybody.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Guest Today

Today, I am joined by Robert Piper, the recently appointed United Nations Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel.  And he is here to brief you on the food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel region and the humanitarian response to that.

[Press conference by Mr. Piper issued separately.]

** Iraq

So I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the situation in Iraq.

The Secretary-General has been following with concern the unfolding political and security situation in Iraq, including the escalating political tensions and the appalling upsurge of violence that has killed a high number of civilians over the last two months.  He expresses his deepest sympathy to the victims and their families and calls upon the Iraqi Government to do its utmost to bring to justice the perpetrators of these atrocious acts.  He underscores the pressing need for dialogue between political blocs in order to overcome the current crisis.

The Secretary-General welcomes all recent dialogue initiatives including the high-level meeting convened by Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s visit to the Kurdistan Region.  He urges all parties to redouble their efforts to ensure that the momentum of national reconciliation is not lost to those groups that strive to reignite sectarian violence in Iraq.

The Secretary-General reiterates the commitment of the United Nations, including the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), to support and assist the Government and people of Iraq in building a peaceful, democratic and prosperous country.

**Secretary-General Appointment

Following confirmation by the General Assembly yesterday, the Secretary-General has appointed Mukhisa Kituyi of Kenya as the new Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  Mr. Kituyi will replace Supachai Panitchpakdi, whose term is due to end on the 31st of August.

Since 2008, Mr. Kituyi has served as Chief Executive of the Kenya Institute of Governance and a Fellow of the Brookings Institution.  We have more information on this appointment in my Office.

**Security Council

You will have seen Jamal Benomar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Yemen, informed the Security Council this morning about the progress of the transition there, including the National Dialogue.  As part of that dialogue, he noted, men and women in Yemen are engaged in discussions and debates about the problems of their country and its possible future.

The Special Adviser said that Yemen is the only country in the region to emerge from the violence of 2011 with a peacefully negotiated agreement, including a clear road map and timetable for a broad-based democratic transition.

** Mali

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Mali, Bert Koenders, is in Ouagadougou supporting talks between the Government and the northern groups.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations says that it is important that all parties continue working in a constructive manner to reach a timely agreement that will contribute to long-term peace and stability in Mali.  The United Nations stands ready to provide all appropriate support for the implementation of such an agreement.

** Afghanistan

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, has called on anti-Government forces in the country to stop targeting civilians.

Speaking at a news conference in Kabul today, he said that 3,092 civilians have been killed or injured in the country’s conflict in the first five months of this year, and that is a 24 per cent increase from the same period last year.

And children accounted for a fifth of all the civilian casualties.  There is a transcript of that press conference in the works.

**UNDOF

Tomorrow, 67 Austrian troops will leave the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) as part of a pre-scheduled troop rotation.  In accordance with the decision of the Government of Austria, these troops will not be replaced by further Austrian troops.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations is in continuing discussions with the Government of Austria about the timetable for withdrawing the remaining 310 troops in the Observer Force to allow for a smooth transition with replacements.  The Department is also in continuing discussions with the other current troop-contributing countries for the mission, as well as with other Member States to ensure that its troop and capability levels remain adequate.

**South Sudan

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) voiced its alarm today at fighting in South Sudan’s Jonglei state between Government forces and armed troops.  Since clashes began in March, they have displaced tens of thousands of people.

The refugee agency says that security constraints have made it difficult to monitor the situation and to respond to humanitarian needs.

** Nigeria

And the refugee agency also says today that the crisis in north-eastern Nigeria has forced more than 6,000 people – mainly women, and children and elderly — to seek safety in neighbouring Niger.  And the Agency has also seen arrivals in Cameroon and Chad in the past weeks.  And there is more information available online on this.

**Press Conference Today

Immediately following this, and I realize we are running a little over time, there will be a press conference here by Justice Hasan Bubacar Jallow, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and for the Mechanism for the International Criminal Tribunal, along with Stephen Rapp, the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice.

**Press Conference/Noon Briefing Guest Tomorrow

Tomorrow at 10 a.m., there will be a press conference by the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

And then at noon, Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, will be the guest at the noon briefing.  And Ms. Zerrougui will be here to present the annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.

Time for a couple of questions.  Yes.  Joseph.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Yes. The Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) indicated this morning that in his discussions with Ban Ki-Moon he had suggested that Ban Ki-moon perhaps considered visiting the region, particularly because of increased tensions in Western Sahara in recent weeks.  Could you comment on whether the Secretary-General is considering such a visit in the near future?  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Well, we did put out a readout on that meeting.  And I don’t have anything to add at this point.  Okay.

Yes, please, Ivan?  You need to use the microphone.

Question: Do you have confirmation from the UN side that Fiji has decided to send troops to replace Austrian troops in Golan Heights?  And how many of them will leave the place tomorrow as you said?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think I did give the figure just then.  If I remember correctly.  Let me just run back through my pieces of paper.  I believe I did give the figure.  I’ll come to that in just a second.  But what I can confirm is that approximately 170 Fijian troops will be deployed later in June and they will be replacing the Croatian troops who already withdrew, as I think you will be aware.  And I’ll give you that other figure in just a second.  Okay Ivan?

Yes, please.

Question:  Last week you had said the UN is closely watching the events, I mean the protests, in Turkey.  How do you watch it?  I mean, are there observers in Turkey?  UN observers?  Or what did you see so far?

Spokesman:  No.  There are not UN observers in Turkey.  I think everybody knows that.  The Secretary-General is following developments in Turkey, and he appeals for calm and stresses the importance of addressing the differences through dialogue.  Protests should be peaceful.  And the right to assembly and the freedom of expression should be respected as these are fundamental principles of a democratic State.  That’s what I have for you.  Yes, and then I’m coming to you, Masood.

Question:  Thank you.  Can I ask you whether you have anything to share with us about the Secretary-General’s reaction on the recent last-minute cancellation of the talk between the two Koreas?

Spokesperson:  Well, simply to say, as we mentioned in a statement on the 6th of June, the Secretary-General has consistently stated any differences should be resolved peacefully by dialogue.  He is of course aware of those most recent developments.  And Masood, last question.

Question: Yes, sir.  Thank you.  Remember what I asked you yesterday about the skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani troops at the border?  Today, it was reported that the Pakistani and Indian Air Force went into each other’s airspace and there were tensions.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about that?

Spokesman:  Not at this point.  We are aware of media reports from the region.  I don’t have anything specific on that.  On the 7th of June incident that you referred to before, the military observer group in India and Pakistan [UNMOGIP] is aware of the media reports on the incident.  It has not received a formal complaint from the Indian Army or a request to examine the facts surrounding the incident.  You also asked about the January incident and the reporting on that.  The Observer Group has completed its examination into the 10th and 15th of January incidents.  The examination into the 6th of January incident is awaiting finalization, pending the receipt of further details from the Pakistan Army, and the report of these examinations are internal to the UN.  But a summary of their findings will be communicated to both India and Pakistan.  There was an incident also on the 8th of January.  This was not examined by the military observer group as no formal complaint was received from the Indian Army.  So that’s what I have for you now.  So please don’t ask me another question about the details of it.

Question:  So there is no comment on this latest incident… airspace incursion as of yet?

Spokesperson:  That’s correct.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Thank you very much.

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