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

9 July 2013

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

9 July 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.

So, good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Guest

I am joined today by Muhannad Hadi, who is the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Emergency Coordinator for Syria, and he is here to brief you on WFP operations inside Syria and in the region.  And Mr. Hadi is extremely experienced in Syria itself and in the region and recently returned from there.

And you will understand that we started the briefing a little bit late, as you will have seen that the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation was at the Security Council stakeout.  So, rather than clash with that, we thought we’d wait until he had finished.  So, please, Mr. Hadi, welcome.  The floor is yours.

[Press conference by Mr. Hadi is issued separately.]

So let me continue with a few more items, and I can then take some questions, should there be any.

**Secretary-General’s Remarks

The Secretary-General participated this morning in a General Assembly meeting in memory of former President of the General Assembly Stoyan Ganev.  In his remarks, the Secretary-General said that Mr. Ganev, who passed away earlier this month, was one of the youngest to ever hold the post of President of the General Assembly.

And this afternoon, in the Economic and Social Council Chamber, the Secretary-General will participate in an event about a solar energy-powered plane called “Solarimpulse”.  In his remarks, he is expected to say that solar energy can play an important part in realizing the goals of his Sustainable Energy for All initiative.

** Egypt

As you will have seen yesterday evening, we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General expressed his grave concern over the mounting violence in Egypt as the country’s political crisis continues.

He is deeply disturbed by the reported killings yesterday of more than 50 people at protests outside the Republican Guard headquarters, and called for the killings to be thoroughly investigated by independent and competent national bodies, and those responsible need to be brought to justice.

The Secretary-General urges all Egyptians and political parties to work constructively to forge a consensus on the way forward through peaceful means.  He notes that, for such a process to succeed, all parties and communities must be included.  The United Nations stands ready to assist as necessary.  And the full statement is available online.

And also on Egypt, the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it is alarmed at the sharp escalation of the political crisis in Egypt and deplores the fact that dozens of people have reportedly been killed or wounded since the events of 3 July.

The Office calls on all sides to refrain from resorting to violence and on protesters to maintain the peaceful nature of their demonstrations.  It also calls on the military and law enforcement officials to show utmost restraint and make sure that they comply at all times with international human rights obligations and international standards on policing.  And there is more information available on this on the website of the Office for the High Commissioner.

** Beirut

The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, strongly condemned today’s bomb blast in Beirut, which occurred on the eve of Ramadan and injured dozens of people.  Mr. Plumbly said that such cowardly acts of violence aim at destabilizing the country and spreading fear among the population and are completely unacceptable.

He added that Lebanon’s leaders and political parties should rally together against such threats to their country’s security and stability and work to reinforce the role of Lebanon’s State institutions.  The Special Coordinator hopes today’s incident will be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice as soon as possible.

This afternoon, the Security Council will hold closed consultations on the 1701 report, and Mr. Plumbly plans to speak with reporters at the stakeout after that meeting.

**Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, is scheduled to visit the Central African Republic from Thursday to Friday with Kristalina Georgieva, European Union Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that Ms. Amos is expected to discuss ways of enhancing support for the humanitarian response in the Central African Republic with the authorities and other humanitarian partners.  On Friday, Ms. Amos and Ms. Georgieva are scheduled to travel to Kaga Bandoro in the Nana Gribizi Province to see for themselves the humanitarian impact of the crisis and the relief efforts that are going on there.

That’s what I have.  And questions, please?  Yes, Masood?  And then [inaudible].

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes, sir.  I just wanted to ask you, in view of what Secretary-General has said and… and what is obtaining in Egypt at this time, there is such division, like half the population is one side, another population on another side, will Secretary-General or the international community be amenable to international investigation into what is happening now over there, and in particular, killings that are going on?  I mean, who is to apportion this side is to be blamed or that side is to blame?  That’s one.

Spokesperson:  Well, as the statement said yesterday evening, the Secretary-General has condemned these most recent killings and indeed all killings that have taken place there since this particular part of the crisis began.  And as I just said, he has called for these latest killings to be thoroughly investigated by independent and competent national bodies, and those responsible need to be brought to justice.

Question:  Sir, I also wanted, in the same effect… I mean, the same arena that the Palestinians in the occupied Gaza are affected by this Egyptian crisis — there is no food, no water, no… I mean, no food coming in and they’ve co… and… and some of the crossings are totally blocked by Israel and that no food coming in from…  What is it that the Secretary-General can do to ask the Israelis to somehow loosen the border controls to allow the humanitarian aid to come in, inside Palestine?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has consistently called for there to be greater access into Gaza and indeed out of Gaza, including for humanitarian supplies.  So I don’t think that that position has changed.  Simply, that we would reiterate that there does need to be access.  And we are of course mindful that the developments in Egypt can have an impact on Gaza.  We are fully mindful of that.  Yes, Sherwin, and then Pam?  Yes?

Question:  Thanks, Martin.  The UN’s characterization of what has happened in Egypt appears to be out of step with the African Union.  Why does the term “coup” not best characterize, for UN purposes, what has happened in Egypt?

Spokesperson:  I think we’ve stated very clearly the Secretary-General has been very, very clear on this; that military interference in State affairs is not desirable, and that there should be a return to civilian administration as soon as possible.  And that’s where we are with that.  Pam, and…

Question:  If I may follow up; it sounds like he’s describing a coup without saying it.  Is there…?

Spokesperson:  That’s, that’s, don’t put words into my mouth.  Pam, and then at the back of the room?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  I just wondered if you were able to respond or find out if there was a response of the Secretary-General to the letter from 100 former Yugoslavia regional journalists and organizations on questions about the decision to acquit two Serbian former intelligence officers and some of the [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Yeah, I know you asked me about this yesterday; I don’t have any update for you.  I do know that we did provide some information on this last week when I wasn’t here, more generally, about recent comments emanating from there.

Question:  I had asked Eduardo, but I didn’t get an…, maybe we can find it?

Spokesperson:  I think that that would be something we could certainly look at afterwards.

Question:  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Yes, at the back of the room?  And then I am coming to Matthew.  Yes, please.

Question:  [inaudible]  So, can you hear me?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  In Egypt, the statement explains that the UN will be open to help during this transition.  In which capacity the UN will provide help to Egypt, and how we can see that in the next coming months?

Spokesperson:  Well, I mean, the expression, sentence reads the United Nations stands ready to assist as necessary.  So, of course, most of the statement is talking about the responsibility of the Egyptians themselves.  The Secretary-General urges all Egyptians and political parties to work constructively to forge a consensus on the way forward through peaceful means.  And he notes that for such a process to succeed, all parties and communities must be included.  So, the emphasis is very much on what the Egyptian people need to do.

But also saying that the United Nations stands ready to assist as necessary, and implicit in that is that there would, that the Egyptians themselves would ask for assistance in some shape or form.  And so, that’s why we say that we stand ready to assist as necessary.  Matthew?  Okay, and then I am coming to Joe.

Question:  Sure, sure, thanks a lot.  I wanna ask you about CAR and Haiti, but, I’m sorry if I missed in your, in your opening for Mr. Hadi.  You know, the… the… the… I wanted to know about this, this 80-page… uh… uh… presentation that Russia says it made to, to the Secretary-General.  Do you have any comment on it, do you think it changes…  I, I, again, I’m acknowledging you may have said at the beginning something on this, but does it… how does it affect the… the… the invitation from Syria, has… is it the biggest submission that he has received to date and when will it be given to Mr. Sellström?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t think that Ambassador [Vitaly] Churkin made an 80-page presentation.  What he did was to hand over a document of that length.

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  And needless to say, given that it is a weighty and quite technical document, that is being studied.  And of course, it is then for my colleagues in the Office for Disarmament Affairs to analyse and to then provide guidance and advice to the Secretary-General.  That document, that information was only handed over just very, very recently.  Ambassador Churkin came to the stakeout directly from the meeting with the Secretary-General; therefore, I think you would not expect us to have an immediate detailed comment.  The Secretary-General has stated repeatedly that he takes seriously all credible allegations.  And of course, there is a technical mission headed by Dr. Aka Sellström.  And that mission has the job to look into all credible allegations.  And so therefore, when material is provided by Member States, then it is looked at extremely carefully.

Question:  And is it… is it… I mean, i… is it fair… is this among the most detailed presentations so far that had been turned in to either the Secretariat or the team or… can you characterize that?

Spokesperson:  No, I can’t, really, no.  I said I’d come to Joe.  Yes?

Question:  Martin, I’ve been here a very long time, and so have many of my colleagues.  And I conferred with them, and none of us can recall any Secretary-General issuing a statement on a plane crash.  And there was one on the one in San Francisco from the SG.  I was wondering why.  What’s different about this plane crash?

Spokesperson:  Well, there was a plane crash and the Secretary-General wished to issue a statement, and a statement was issued.

Question:  No, he doesn’t…  I can’t ask you if that was in his national capacity because he doesn’t have a national capacity.  But the fact that it was a Korean plane, did that have anything to do with it?

Spokesperson:  You will also note that the two fatalities were Chinese.

Question:  Right?

Spokesperson:  And the Secretary-General in the statement specifically referred to that.

Question:  So, can we expect in all future plane crashes a statement from you, on behalf of the Secretary-General?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think that you should be standing by for that.

Question:  [laughter]

Spokesperson:  Stefano, and then [inaudible]  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Same kind of question.  Yesterday, actually also about a year ago, I asked the same question.  It is about Nigeria and the attacks and in this case, because there are so many news going on in the world, like 27 children are burned alive and it looks it is not much in the news.  But my question is this, the, the Secretary-General has a Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, and I know when he published on his website that the, the Special Adviser is being concerned for some time about what is going on in Nigeria.  And I would like to know if what the Secretary-General is intend to do; what are his, you know, with the Nigerian Government, what are the next steps to try to prevent what is going on now for, for more than a year, I mean for, for some time?

Spokesperson:  Well, you will have seen that yesterday there was a statement issued by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Children and Armed Conflict, and he fully subscribed to the views that she expressed about the ghastly and deplorable nature of this attack.  If I have anything further on this particular topic — which is something that the Secretary-General does follow very closely and as you, yourself, pointed out, he is advised on this by a number of people within his team — should I have anything further on that, I would certainly come back to you, Stefano.  He takes this extremely seriously.  I said I would come to you; and then I am going to Masood.  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you.  With a regard to Egypt, yesterday the Interim President of Egypt, former Chief Justice Adly Mansour, issued a constitutional declaration, which stipulates the time frame for holding both parliamentary and presidential elections.  My question:  Would the UN, represented by the Secretary-General, be willing to take part in overseeing the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections as a safeguard against any fraudulent accusations that have plagued Egyptian elections in the past or not?  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Well, typically, the United Nations, as an organization, does not monitor or observe elections in Member States.  It does provide technical support in the organization of elections, and has done so.  So, electoral assistance, rather than monitoring or observing.  But, and as I have just said, and a number of times, the United Nations stands ready to assist as necessary as Egypt and the people of Egypt work constructively to forge a consensus on the way forward through a peaceful means.  And I think that’s where I would leave it at this point.  Masood, last question?

Question:  Yes, sir.  I had asked Eduardo two things.  One was about this [inaudible] fires in Indonesia, which were affecting Singapore, Malaysia and all the countries [inaudible] and what is the environmental impact of all this.  Will this, will this United Nations, being that climate change is its, it’s one of its main focus, will Secretary-General order some sort of investigation as how much effect this has had on the countries around?  That’s number one.

Spokesperson:  Well, as I understand it, the countries in the region are closely coordinating and cooperating on this particular matter.  And I think I would leave it at that.  Should I have further information, particularly from my colleagues from the Economic and Social Commission for the Asia-Pacific region, then I’d let you know.  But at this point I think it is being handled between those countries in the region.

Question:  On another question which I had, he’d said that he will get back to me, was on India and Pakistan and this Kashmir issue that where, again, the violence is flaring up and what is it that the Secretary-General intends to do about this to abate it.

Spokesperson:  I know you asked the question…

Question:  Yeah.

Spokesperson:  …I do read the transcripts.  And I don’t have anything further at this point.  Should that change, I will let you know.  Thanks everybody, have a good afternoon.  Thank you.

* *** *

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