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

14 June 2013

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

14 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, and welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General Statement ‑ Sudan

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the shelling of the logistics base of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei in Kadugli.

The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the shelling of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) logistics base in Kadugli, Sudan.  One Ethiopian peacekeeper was killed and two more were injured as a result of the shelling.

The Secretary-General expresses his condolences to the family of the fallen peacekeeper and to the Government of Ethiopia.

The Secretary-General urges the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North to immediately suspend hostilities and resume ceasefire negotiations to end the conflict in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States.

**Secretary-General Statement ‑ Settlements

I also have a statement that we issued a short while ago and this one is on the continued Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank.

The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in violation of international law.  He is particularly troubled by reports that planning for hundreds of housing units in the settlement of Itamar, deep into the West Bank, has advanced to the next stage, as is also the case in the outpost of Bruchin.  These reports follow other recent announcements in Beit El, near Ramallah.

The Secretary-General also remains concerned about reports of plans for around 1,000 settlement units in East Jerusalem and steps to authorize four illegal settlement outposts deep in the West Bank.

These are unhelpful decisions that undermine progress towards the two-State solution.  They constitute a deeply worrisome trend at a moment of ongoing efforts to re-launch peace negotiations.  The Secretary-General calls on Israel to heed the calls of the international community to freeze settlement activity and abide by its commitments under international law and the Road Map.

**General Assembly

As you will have seen a little earlier this morning, the General Assembly elected Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda as the President of the next session of the General Assembly, in its meeting that took place this morning.

Speaking after Ambassador Ashe was elected by acclamation, the Secretary-General warmly congratulated the next General Assembly President.  He noted the role that Ambassador Ashe played in 2002 when he led negotiations on contentious issues at the World Summit for Sustainable Development, and, more recently, when he co-chaired Rio+20 negotiations.  The Secretary-General also thanked the current Assembly President, Vuk Jeremić, for presiding over such a dynamic and constructive session.

** Syria Refugees

Emergency relief assistance from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reached Al Raqqa, an area of northern Syria which has not been accessible for the past three months, on 9 and 12 June.

Seven trucks filled with relief goods were confirmed to have reached Raqqa, and the Agency is trying to confirm whether two other trucks also reached the area.  This assistance will help some 5,000 persons displaced in that area.

** Myanmar

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar said today that the cooperation between the country’s Government and the Kachin Independence Organization has allowed a UN-led convoy to deliver aid to Kachin State for the first time in nearly a year.

The 10-truck convoy departed Wednesday for the town of Maija Yang, carrying supplies for more than 5,000 people uprooted by violence.

The Humanitarian Coordinator, Ashok Nigam, said that this convoy represents a positive step forward by the Government to help all those in need in Kachin.

He added that it is crucial that this convoy is the first of many, and that regular and unimpeded access to all displaced people in Kachin is sustained.

Mr. Nigam said that the humanitarian community will continue to deliver assistance in accordance with the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and operational independence.

And there is more information on this online.

**Security Council

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Farid Zarif, spoke to the Security Council this morning on the recent agreement between Belgrade and Pristina.

Mr. Zarif said that the Secretary-General welcomed the agreement established on 19 April to normalize ties between the two parties.  He also added that the Secretary-General encouraged them to take concrete measures towards implementation of the agreement.

That’s what I have for you.  I am happy to take some questions.  Yes, please, Carla?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [inaudible] today’s New York Times that the US is planning to send weapons to the Syrian rebels and how will this complicate Mr. Brahimi’s efforts to reach a negotiated solution?  And, how will this impact upon the joint United States-Russia plan conference to have some sort of negotiated settlement?

Spokesperson:  Well, I would refer you to the remarks made by the Secretary-General on this very topic just in the last hour or so.  And, I am happy to provide you with the transcript of that afterwards.  But, simply to reiterate what the Secretary-General said about the peace process:  he said only a political solution can address this issue sustainably.  Therefore, he believes that he is working very hard with the concerned parties to facilitate the US-Russia initiative to have a peace conference.  And he mentioned that another trilateral meeting ‑ in other words, the US-Russia and the United Nations in the form of Mr. Brahimi, is scheduled to take place on 25 June.  And so, obviously there is still a push going on to make that happen.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  In Geneva, I believe. Other questions, please?  Yes, Matthew?  Please, use the microphone.

Correspondent:  Sure.  Thanks for reminding me.

Spokesperson:  I needed to remind Carla as well, but…

Correspondent:  We’ll get it together.

Spokesperson:  I think you will, I think you will.  And so will I!

Question:  Okay.  So, I wanted to… to… to… to… the attack on Kadugli, I guess I want, I… I wanted to ask you, there have been shelling in the past by the SPLM-North [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army] of the city of Kadugli.  So, is it possible to say either who did it or at least what type of shells were used?  And… and… and by the same token there is also some dispute about an oil pipeline that was attacked in… in… in Abyei that… that… that caught fire.  But, the main one I wanted to know is on Kadugli since it is an attack that killed a peacekeeper.  Is the UN going to make, it seems like there is only two parties could do it, either the Government or SPLM-North, or may be another rebel group, but what type of shell was used?

Spokesperson:  Well, I do know that there is already an investigation under way to look into this incident in which, as we have said, one peacekeeper was killed and two more were wounded.  This was obviously a serious incident which the Secretary-General has condemned and which he also referred to at the stakeout in his remarks just a little while ago as well.  The most important thing is that the Government of Sudan and the SPLM-North suspend their hostilities immediately and resume ceasefire negotiations.  As I have said, needless to say, after an incident of this kind, there is an investigation to try to understand and establish precisely what happened.  And that is something that is under way.  Therefore, we cannot really go into it any further about who may or may not have been responsible for it, okay.

Question:  Okay.  Can I ask you about Somaliland?  Will that be okay?

Spokesperson:  Yes, and then I am coming to Pam, yes?

Question:  Sure.  Yes… uh… uh… uh… Nicholas Kay, you know, went… went to… to Hargeisa, as you’d said yesterday.  It’s… I’ve seen there is a letter from the… the… the… you know, whatever, foreign ministry of Somaliland saying pretty clearly that they, because of its mandate, they don’t want UNSOM [United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia] to have operations on the ground in Somaliland; that they don’t mind humanitarian activity, but that their political office, that, you know, recently set up with him Mr. Kay cannot be there.  And so, I was wondering, I asked the United Kingdom for a comment, they said ask DPA [Department of Political Affairs], so I… I guess I will ask you, is… what’s the secreta… is that… is that an accurate description of, I mean, I’ve seen the letter, but, of what, of Mr… of the UN’s understanding of the visit and what’s the next step in terms of trying to… to… to… to have UNSOM operate in Somaliland?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think I would need to check with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and with his team in Mogadishu before I comment further on that.  But, I am happy to try to find out some more.

Question:  Okay.

[The Spokesperson later said that, following meetings with officials in Somaliland, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, Mr. Nicholas Kay, said the following yesterday:  “I take very seriously the Somaliland Government’s concerns as expressed today.  This is a complex and sensitive issue and I believe the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, UNSOM, can bring considerable benefits to Somaliland across a range of issues, while fully respecting its particular circumstances.  I look forward to continuing the dialogue.”  Today, Mr. Kay met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Somaliland to further discuss UNSOM’s mandate and operations in Somaliland.  There is a common will to continue the dialogue.  We are following the situation closely and are in close contact with UNSOM.  The United Nations is pleased that dialogue is continuing with Somaliland authorities.]

Spokesperson:  Pam?

Correspondent:  Hi, thank you.

Spokesperson:  And then Joseph, yes?

Correspondent:  Ah, the…

Spokesperson:  Switch the microphone on first.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Yeah.

Question:  The Secretary-General indicated that he got the letter, a letter from the United States on the evidence on chemical weapons.  Will he respond when he evaluates it, or does he give it to [Ake] Sellström; and will this be before or after the China trip?  Thanks.

Spokesperson:  Well, he just didn’t indicate; he said that he’d received the letter, or that his Office had received the letter.  But, that happened while he was in the General Assembly; therefore, he has not seen it yet.  Or, maybe he is just about to see it.  Therefore, I don’t think we are going to comment further at this stage on what the next steps would be.  The letter was, as you well know, sent by the United States authorities, and it would be for them to disclose the contents of the letter if they wish to do so, and to provide more information on it.  At this point, what I can say is that the Secretary-General has made clear repeatedly that Dr. Sellström and his team gladly receive any information that is provided to them, and they will take that into account in the compiling of the findings that they are putting together, and that they are analyzing.  But as the Secretary-General repeated again this morning:  there is no substitute for that team ‑ the UN team being on the ground in Syria to collect its own evidence in the form of samples and interviews and so on.  Yes, Joseph?

Correspondent:  Yes, I know the other day there was a press briefing and a presentation of the report of Children and Armed Conflict.  And I reviewed the report and I also inquired of the… of their Office and didn’t get an answer to this question, which is; uh, there is a very high percentage of the countries that were mentioned, were in Africa; there was a small section on Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory, most of which focused on alleged Israeli, uh, caused injuries and deaths to children and so forth.  There was nothing said at all about Hamas, even though Hamas is on record with videos and… and… and… and… and… and… and speeches and statements extolling the use of children, uh, and training of children, uh, setting up summer camps…

Spokesperson:  So, what’s the question?

Question:  The question is, why the, why the, uh, the big omission of… of Hamas, I mean, since there was a section on… the… on the Middle East, uh, there was specifically Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and Hamas is blatantly out there bragging about using children and training children for armed combat, why the omission?  And I did inquire of the Office and didn’t get an answer.  So, could you… could you help me in this regard?

Spokesperson:  Well, you’ve asked me here; and I’ll certainly pursue it, yes.

Question:  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Other questions, please?  Okay?

Correspondent:  Sure, I wanted to ask…

Spokesperson:  Switch the microphone on.

Question:  Here we go.  That… that… um… in, you know, I… I… I heard your readout on… on… on the Kachin, but there is a… there is a… and… and… we’ll see if the… maybe there is some UN comment on this, a group of… of 200 senior and… and pretty high profile Buddhist monks are meeting in… in Yangon and they are proposing a ban on interreligious marriage between Muslims and Buddhists.  And I am wondering if this is the type, whether it is Mr Nambiar or… or… or… or someone… look, it seems like the climate is… is beyond the actual, the physical violent attacks, but this, this seems to go to kind of a core of freedom and so, does the UN either have any comment on that or they are aware of it, and I saw Mr. Nambiar in the hall actually, I was ready for the stakeout, with which looked like a pretty large delegation, I don’t wanna, is it possible to know where they were… they were… these… were they from Myanmar… what… who was he touring around?  It’s a separate question, sort of.

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is meeting with a group of parliamentarians from Myanmar, and we will provide a readout after that meeting.  And with regard to the earlier part of your question, I will check with Mr. Nambiar’s office to see if we have anything on that.  Yes, this is the last questions.  Please use the microphone.

Question:  At one of his more recent briefings, the Secretary-General’s Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, had said because of the expansion of the settlements, the practical viability of a two-State solution is in jeopardy.  Has there been any response to that?

Spokesperson:  Not specifically to that.  The Secretary-General has long said that the two-State solution is precisely what the international community is working towards.  And he has also expressed his concern about the window of opportunity that there is to work towards that end.  And certainly, you will have heard that the statement that I read out at the beginning about settlement activity that is obviously not helpful in that context.

Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon and a good weekend.

* *** *

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