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

20 June 2013

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

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

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

**Secretary-General in China

The Secretary-General has had more discussions with members of the new Chinese leadership in Beijing today and a series of meetings that focused on climate change.

We distributed details of the Secretary-General’s meetings with Premier Li Keqiang and State Councillor Yang Jiechi.  His meeting with the Premier concentrated on sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals.  In talks with the State Councillor, there was an emphasis on developments on the Korean peninsula and in Syria.

In remarks to the press, the Secretary-General also spoke about the terrorist attack against the United Nations in Mogadishu and about developments relating to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  A transcript of those remarks is available online and in our office.

The Secretary-General met the Mayor of Beijing and also a number of other officials for talks on climate change, sustainable energy and urbanization.

He will leave Beijing on Friday and will be back in New York on the same day.

**Security Council

Ján Kubiš, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, briefed the Security Council this morning and said that there is a clear need to provide sustained and predictable international support in ways that reinforce Afghanistan’s leadership.

He told the Council that this summer unfortunately promises to be a “hot” one for Afghanistan, as we have seen increasingly brutal complex assaults on high-profile targets that have resulted in high civilian casualties.  From the beginning of the year until 6 June, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed and more than 2,000 injured, which is a 24 per cent increase in civilian casualties compared to the same period in 2012.

Mr. Kubiš expressed the hope that the current controversies and concerns around the Taliban office in Doha will soon be solved.  He added that the UN Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, stands ready to support all peace and reconciliation efforts based on and in full conformity with its mandate.

We have his remarks available in our office.

This afternoon, the Council will hold consultations on Sudan and South Sudan.  Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos plans to speak to reporters at the stakeout after her briefing to the Council.

**Refugees

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, is in Jordan today as part of a visit to the region to mark World Refugee Day.  Earlier in the week he visited Lebanon, where he met with Syrian refugees.

In a statement, Mr. Guterres said that he has come to Jordan to stand by the people of Syria in their time of acute need.  He said that he wanted to salute Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and all the countries in the region for being generous havens that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

The High Commissioner said that only massive international solidarity can allow the neighbouring countries to be able to go on responding to the needs of the Syrian refugees.

The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, also said in a statement that the needs of conflict-affected Syrians are huge, almost too big to comprehend.  Ms. Cousin said that Syrians are not alone in feeling the devastation of displacement, and that the international community must continue to advocate on behalf of displaced people everywhere.

In a message on World Refugee Day, the Secretary-General also called on the international community to intensify efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts so that families can be reunited and refugees can return home.

The statements and message are available online.

** Somalia

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, and other top UN officials in the country this morning visited the UN Common Compound, the site of yesterday’s deadly attack in Mogadishu.  The compound is partially damaged, but repairs and reconstruction are already under way.

Mr. Kay read a message on behalf of the Secretary-General at a memorial service at Mogadishu International Airport for those killed during yesterday’s attack.  The President of Somalia also attended the service, expressing his solidarity with the UN family and his commitment to continue working together.

** India

The UN Disaster Management Team in India reports that torrential rains have triggered floods and landslides in northern India, leaving at least 73 people reported dead and thousands stranded.  In Uttrakhand, some 45 people were reported killed and 50 people are missing.  Rising river levels have resulted in the collapse of buildings and bridges.

Flooding has also affected other parts of India, including Haryana, Mumbai, New Delhi and Pune.  The UN Disaster Management Team is closely monitoring the situation through its field offices.  No request for international assistance has been made.

**Syria/UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said today that the World Heritage Committee has decided to place the six World Heritage sites of the Syrian Arab Republic on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The UN agency said that this decision is intended to mobilize all possible support for the safeguarding of these properties, which are recognized by the international community as being of outstanding universal value for humanity as a whole.

The six sites are:  the Ancient City of Damascus; the Site of Palmyra; the Ancient City of Bosra; the Ancient City of Aleppo; the Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din; and the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria.

The World Heritage Committee is currently holding its thirty-seventh session in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and the session will close in Angkor on 27 June.

**South Sudan

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the aid agencies in South Sudan will need $485 million until the end of this year to help 3 million people to survive and to rebuild their lives.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan said that an improved harvest and lower-than-expected numbers of refugee and returnee arrivals have resulted in the stabilization of the needs of many vulnerable communities.

But he warned that hostilities have uprooted tens of thousands of people in Jonglei, the lean season has begun, and 2.2 million people need food and livelihood assistance.

**Sexual Violence

In a new report released today, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that physical or sexual violence is a public health problem that affects more than one third of all women globally.

The report finds that intimate partner violence is the most common type of violence against women.  The study highlights the need for all sectors to engage in eliminating tolerance for violence against women and to better support women who experience it.

The World Health Organization launched new guidelines to help countries improve their health sectors’ capacity to respond to violence against women.  And there is more information available on WHO’s website.

**Secretary-General’s Appointments

I have a number of appointments.

The Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, have appointed Joseph Mutaboba of Rwanda as African Union and United Nations Deputy Joint Special Representative in Darfur and Deputy Head of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation (UNAMID).

Mr. Mutaboba will replace Aïchatou Mindaoudou of Niger.

Following the Security Council’s concurrence, the Secretary-General has also confirmed the appointment of Jean-Paul Laborde of France to serve as Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) at the Assistant Secretary-General level.  Mr. Laborde will succeed Mike Smith of Australia.  Mr. Laborde is currently serving as a Judge of the Criminal Court of the French Judicial Supreme Court, the Cour de Cassation.

We have more information on both appointments in our office.

**Stakeouts Today

At approximately 1:30 p.m. today, there will be a press stakeout by Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations, along with other speakers.  This stakeout will take place outside the Trusteeship Council.

Then, at approximately 2:30 p.m., Hector Timerman, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Argentina, will address the press at the stakeout outside the Trusteeship Council.

And as I mentioned before, at approximately 5 p.m., Valerie Amos will address the press at the Security Council stakeout after briefing the Security Council.

**Press Conferences/Stakeouts Tomorrow

And tomorrow at 10:15, there will be an NGO press conference on the comprehensive solution on the Sudan.  This press conference is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations.

And then at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference by Ambassador Sin Son Ho, the Permanent Representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the United Nations.

And at 1 p.m., Paulo Pinheiro, the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, and Karen Abuzayd, member of the Commission, will address press at the Security Council stakeout.

Questions, please?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Could you repeat that last one again?  The Ambassador will talk to us when?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Tomorrow at 11 a.m. there will be a press conference.

Question:  And what’s the topic?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I imagine it is North Korea, I guess.

Question:  And on Sudan, you said it’s at the Security Council stakeout?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, the Security Council, Security Council stakeout is Paulo Pinheiro; tomorrow there will be a press conference — I imagine the press conference is here; this is normally where press conferences are given, and the NGO press conference will probably be here also.  The NGO is at 10:15; the Ambassador of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is at 11, and Paulo Pinheiro and Karen Abuzayd is at 1.  Should I re-read it again or are we all on the same page now?  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  It has now been mentioned publicly that China has a four-point plan for the Middle East process, peace process.  Yesterday I asked if the Secretary-General had received such a plan, and you said you’d look into it.  Have you been able to do so?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I will look into it; I haven’t received any information whether we’ve received it, but again the Middle East was probably, was a topic of conversation between the Secretary-General and his interlocutors, and I imagine if the Chinese have a plan, they probably raised it with the Secretary-General.  But we’ll see.  Masood?

Question:  Yeah, two questions about this, one is this issue of the, eh, the Israeli forces firing in Gaza on the Palestinian farmers.  And that is one report; the other one is that also relating to the same area, Israel has informed the Palestinians now they will inform them by mail when they confiscate land.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we have nothing particularly about these two cases to say…

Question:  Have you heard about this?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, obviously we hear all of the reports, but we don’t have anything to say on these two particular cases.  If we have anything, we will let you know.  Pamela?

Question:  Yes, the eh, just a little in advance, but can you find out about what the Secretary-General plans for Malala’s [Yousafzai] trip in July?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll find out what is happening with that, and when we have an announcement to make, we will make it.  Joe?

Question:  Yes, I, I noted in the readouts of the Secretary-General’s various meetings in China that there wasn’t anything mentioned, at least that I saw, about Tibet or about issues relating to China’s human rights record.  Could you, could you indicate whether that came up?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I draw your attention to the readout of yesterday, where it said that human rights had been discussed with the Chinese leaders.  Matthew?

Question:  Yeah, sure, I wanted to ask you, the President of the Philippines has, has said publicly that he would pull his troops out of UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force], uh, unless they are, they are given new equipment, and one of the things he wanted is protection against chemical weapons; he wanted anti-tank and anti-aircraft, this is the President that said it, so I am wondering what your response?  What’s the UN’s response to, to those three public requests by the President of the Philippines?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] is obviously in the loop on that, and we’ll have to see what is decided by the Security Council.

Correspondent:  Okay.  I also wanted to ask you the, it was said today that, that, that 50 Liberian soldiers were gonna fly to Mali to be part of, I guess initially AFISMA [African-led Support Mission to Mali] and then MINUS, MINUSMA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali], uh, and then it was, it was postponed; and I wanted to know, first there some people that it seems, I mean it’s a country obviously that’s been in conflict, but is there some reason that this, this flying, was something that UNMIL [United Nations Mission in Liberia], the Mission, was, was eh, almost sort of promoting and then it was postponed and I wanted to know if you know why that is.

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll have to find out for you.  You may want to check with DPKO.  They should know.

Question:  I have a follow-up.  Again going back to the readouts of the meetings in China, there may have been a very general reference to human rights, but what I was getting at was, was there anything specific, for example, about Tibet that came up in those discussions?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not going to go beyond what the readout said; the readouts are there to describe what they discussed and that’s what we have to say on it, Joe.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  It has been reported that Ethiopia is building a huge dam which would divert some 20 per cent of the water of the Nile River, and the Egyptian Government is looking at this with extreme concern and tension is building between the two Governments.  Is the Secretary-General doing anything to defuse this tension?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is aware of the situation, and he has called on all parties to exercise restraint and to negotiate an agreement to come out of this.  The differences should be discussed and they should be negotiated peacefully.  Last question, Matthew?

Question:  How about two?  I mean, it seems like it is pretty early here.  Let me give it a go.  We’ll see how it goes.

Deputy Spokesperson:  What’s early for you is late for others.  Let me know; go ahead.

Question:  All right, whatever.  I want, I guess I’m, I’m sorry then, I, I, wanted to ask this one, the, the, the, in the attack on the UN compound in, in Mogadishu yesterday afterwards and you know, obviously it is a terrible attack and rest in peace, the, a company in South Africa that is described as an arms manufacturer, Denel, has released the names of three of its, uh, employees who they, he, they say were employed by the UN in the UN and, and were killed in the attack and I wanted, it, obviously it gives rise to the question, which is, does the UN employ arms manufacturers in the compound?  What was their function in the compound and, and, and, and I guess that, I mean, that’s and I had also asked previously about this solicitation of private security services in Somaliland, whether it is to protect UN, UN, UNSOM [United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia] or not, I want, I don’t know if you have an answer yet on that one.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, with respect to the South Africans, I believe they were demining people, experts in demining.

Question:  It is described as camp maintenance, is that what demining is?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the information I have is that they were deminers.  But there were two South Africans, a number of Somalis who worked in the compound, and then there were a number of civilians outside the compound who were also unfortunately killed.

Question:  So, I mean, just, so it is an arms manufacturer that also does demining?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check on that, I haven’t heard anything about an arms manufacturer being involved.

Question:  Just look up Denel.

Deputy Spokesperson:  So we will have to see.  But as you know, many companies have different subsidiaries and this may be…, we’ll have to check and see.  [He later specified that the contractors worked for a demining company, MECHEM.]

Question:  Okay.  And did you get anything back on Guinea?  I am sorry, I was, this will be the last one, I had asked you before…

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I haven’t gotten anything back on Guinea yet; when we do we will let you know.  Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon.

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