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

15 July 2013

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

15 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.


Good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Secretary-General’s Travel


The Secretary-General is on his way back to New York, having just wrapped up his visit to Paris.  Today he met with the President, François Hollande, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and the President of the French National Assembly, Claude Bartolone.  We have just issued a readout on those meetings.


And speaking to reporters after his meeting with the President Hollande, the Secretary-General said he was encouraged by Malian leaders’ commitment to holding the presidential elections, and that these had to be credible and peaceful, with a result accepted by all parties.  He also said he had asked President Hollande for France's support concerning the lack of capacity of the newly established UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, such as helicopters.


Earlier this morning, the Secretary-General also met with the Head of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.  And we have issued a readout on that encounter, as well.


And yesterday, the Secretary-General attended the 14 July parade, which featured troops from MINUSMA.  He also met with the President of Mali, the President of Croatia and the Defence Minister of France on Sunday.  And we issued readouts of all of those meetings, too.


**Security Council


This morning, the Security Council was briefed by Lisa Buttenheim, the Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).  The briefing concerned the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN operation in Cyprus, ahead of its mandate renewal.


And following the closed consultations on Cyprus, the Security Council is expected to be briefed by Miroslav Jenča, the Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA).  I understand the President of the Council will read out a press statement on the Centre once this morning’s deliberations are finished.


And then at 3 p.m. today, the Security Council is expected to meet on non-proliferation, followed by consultations on the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).


** Darfur


And on that mission, this morning, the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission held a memorial service to pay tribute to the seven Tanzanian peacekeepers killed on Saturday morning in an ambush by unidentified armed assailants in South Darfur.  Yesterday, Joint Special Representative Mohamed Ibn Chambas visited the wounded peacekeepers at the mission’s hospital in Nyala, and the troops in Khor Abeche to provide encouragement and support.  I can also tell you the Secretary-General spoke to President [Jakaya] Kikwete of [the United Republic of] Tanzania by telephone yesterday.


**South Sudan


The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, said that, over the weekend, aid agencies reached areas of Pibor County in Jonglei State for the first time this year.  Thousands of civilians in the area have been hiding in the bush following clashes.  UN agencies and non-governmental organizations met with communities to assess their needs and to mount a humanitarian response.


Mr. Lanzer also noted that the armed mobilization of youth has led to clashes, with 200 of the injured being attended to by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).  He called for an urgent halt to the cycle of violence that is leading to loss of life and suffering among civilians.  He also said that all parties taking part in the violence must ensure that aid organizations continue to have impartial, unconditional and unhindered access to civilians in need throughout the State.  And there is more information available online on this.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) said that, yesterday afternoon, heavy fighting broke out in Mutaho, which is eight kilometres from Goma, when a Congolese army position was attacked by the M23 [23 March Movement] rebel group.  The Mission is deeply concerned over this development and calls for restraint to avoid a further escalation of the situation.


The Secretary-General’s Acting Special Representative in the country, Moustapha Soumaré, called on all to abide by the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement and to allow the political process towards peace to move forward.  The Mission has put its troops on high alert and stands ready to take any necessary measures, including the use of lethal force, to protect civilians.  The Mission says that any attempt by the M23 to advance towards Goma will be considered a direct threat to civilians.


** Yemen


The humanitarian country team in Yemen has launched a revised humanitarian appeal for $702 million for this year.  The revised appeal seeks to provide food, clean water, health care and other vital services to the 7.7 million of the most vulnerable Yemenis.  The humanitarian challenges in Yemen are enormous, with over half the population in need of humanitarian assistance.  The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said that instability and political transition in the country have overshadowed the humanitarian crisis.  There is a press release on this in my office.


**Migration


This morning, the Deputy Secretary-General spoke to a large group of representatives from non-governmental organizations and the private sector on international migration and development.  He emphasized the need to establish sustained and strong partnerships between different actors to harness the benefits of migration and improve the situation of migrants.  He also commended the role played by civil society in building such partnerships.


He said that the General Assembly was meeting on international migration and development in October, and that this was an opportunity for Member States to lay the foundation for improved local, regional and international migration policies.  His full remarks are available online and also in my office.


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


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Martin, you mentioned the UNAMID Tanzania peacekeepers who were killed; is there any information on who conducted the attack?  The Sudan Government accused the SLA [Sudan Liberation Army] this morning.  And Tanzania is reportedly asking for a review of peacekeeping.  In other words, can the peacekeepers keep… have deadly force in the in conflict zones?  Any sense of that and if there will be an investigation conducted by DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations]?  Thank you.


Spokesperson:  Well, whenever peacekeepers fall victim, as they did in this outrageous attack at the weekend, of course it is investigated.  It is too early to say yet what the outcome of that will be.  And as we have said, this attack was not only outrageous, but was carried out by an as yet unidentified group of armed assailants that ambushed this group of peacekeepers.  And not only were seven Tanzanian peacekeepers killed, another 17 were wounded.  And amongst those are four UNAMID police officers, and two of them were women.  So, I think it is too early to be able to say precisely who was responsible, but as we have also said, it is incumbent on the Government of Sudan to take swift action to bring the perpetrators to justice.  And that is certainly what we would expect.


With regard to the mandate, any change in the mandate of a peacekeeping operation, a peacekeeping mission, is, of course, for the Security Council to discuss and decide upon.  I think it is also obvious that when you look at a peacekeeping mission of this magnitude, a key part of their ability to do the job is having the equipment that they need to do the job.  And I think that is an area that will be looked at also by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.


Question:  May I just follow up on this quick…  Do you have… to put anything into the fact that the attackers were very, very heavily armed?


Spokesperson:  I don’t think that there is any shortage of arms amongst militia rebels and other groups in that part of the world.  It is having the correct equipment to be able to defend against such attacks and to be able to respond to such attacks.  That’s the point I am trying to make here.


Question:  Follow-up that?


Spokesperson:  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, thanks a lot.  The… the… the spokesman for the Tanzanian People’s Defence Forces, the army, has said, “we are only allowed to use armoured personnel carriers under Chapter VI.  This puts our troops in danger in volatile areas like Darfur.”  So I wanted to… maybe I am missing, it seems like it is a Chapter VII mission.  But, is there some… he… his… the… the quote goes on to say that he’d like to use tanks, and I am wondering what… first of all, if you could clarify if the Mission is under Chapter VII, what the… that the UN thinks of using tanks and what the… and also what… you know, what the purpose of the… of the… of that convoy was and whether any vehicles were stolen?


Spokesperson:  Well, as I have said, there are still details emerging on this.  With regard to the first part of your question, I’ll check with Peacekeeping Operations, okay?  Other questions, please?  Yes, please?


Correspondent:  Still follow-up on the issue of the killing.


Spokesperson:  On the issue of…?


Question:  The Darfur killing.  Yeah, I want to know if the UN is also looking at the training capability of the peacekeepers.  Are they well trained to handle the equipment, because you have just said it assumed they have all the necessary equipments that is needed.  Are they well trained to handle those equipments?


Spokesperson:  Well, if peacekeepers have certain pieces of equipment, they are obviously trained to use it before they actually take possession of it.  I think that is one part.  The second part is that, what I have said is, I am echoing what the Force Commander has said — that the troops under his command need to have the equipment necessary to do the job.  And that is, obviously, something that needs to be looked at.  It is no secret that, for a long time, there has been a call for certain pieces of equipment and attack helicopters, for example, is one part of that, but also utility helicopters for airlifting troops is another area.  So, it is not that the peacekeepers are not trained.  It is, sometimes, that they do not have the equipment that would be necessary.


Question:  Please, I still have other questions.  Please, there had been this attack against the peacekeepers.  This is not the first time and investigations have been ongoing in several attacks.  Do you have the statistics to show if a certain attack has been concluded?  And how many persons have been prosecuted so far?


Spokesperson:  We can, obviously, check on prosecutions or people or arrests, but that is clearly a matter for the Government of Sudan.  That’s the first part.  The second part is, yes, there have been previous attacks.  It just so happens that this was the deadliest, but it is, by far, not the only attack that our colleagues from the peacekeeping mission there in Darfur have had to endure.  It is outrageous that peacekeepers continue to come under attack, given the role that they have there.  And I think that you will see that the Security Council in its statement shares that view, too.  Other questions, please?  Yes, Lou?


Question:  Thanks, Martin.  I have two questions.  One has to with [inaudible], which is providing financial resources to Al-Shabaab, and I am wondering if this is something [inaudible]?  Second question…


Spokesperson:  Well, just a second.  I don’t think it is correct to suggest that the United Nations has only just moved back to Mogadishu.  The United Nations has been present in Mogadishu and Somalia throughout.  It is simply that the scale and the nature of the presence has changed.


Correspondent:  Right, yeah.


Spokesperson:  Okay, next question, yeah?


Correspondent:  No, but that’s not the question that I asked.


Spokesperson:  No, I am… no, no, I was interrupting you just to correct you on that point.  So, please ask the second question, I will come back to the first one.


Correspondent:  The second question has to do with a letter that the Rwandan Foreign Minister sent to the SG on 8 July, which was followed up by a letter from the Rwandan Ambassador to the Security Council the following day, saying that the MONUSCO intervention brigade has been involved in discussions with the [inaudible] tactical discussions [inaudible] letter saying that MONUSCO intervention force [inaudible].


Spokesperson:  Let me check with my colleagues in Peacekeeping Operations to see if they have an update on that.  I think we did refer to this last week.  Let me see if there is anything further on that.  With regard to the first question, I don’t have anything for you, specifically.  There are two points here.  One, of course, you could check with the African Union and with AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] about the specific reported…


Correspondent:  I have.


Spokesperson:  …I am sure you have, about the specific reported allegations.  The second part is I will check with the stabilization support mission that is there and see if they have any particular comment on that, okay.  Yes, Alieck?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Going back to this Russian report on chemical weapons, last week, Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov said that Russia doesn’t mind making it public if there is consent from the Secretariat.  So, is there any such consent?


Spokesperson:  Well, the report was provided by the Russian authorities.  And so it is their report, their analysis.  What I think we have been saying so far is that the material provided to the Office for Disarmament Affairs, and through that office to Dr. Sellström’s team, is being closely analysed, and we are not going into the details of what, into each piece of information that is provided.  But, as I say, this particular analysis was put together by the Russian authorities and Russian experts.  I’d need to check with the Office for Disarmament Affairs to see if they have any other thoughts on the matter.  All right, okay.  Yes, please?


Question:  Thank you.  Has the Secretary-General reached out to Anab… the head… to the President of Honduras in regards to the apparent murder of Anabel Habarro, the journalist?


Spokesperson:  No, not directly, but, of course, the Secretary-General is always concerned to hear of deaths of journalists, particularly those who are carrying out their duties and their profession in difficult circumstances.  But, I will check also with our colleagues from UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] to see if they have anything further on that.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Thanks a lot. I have a couple of questions about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  One is… is… and thanks, on… on Friday, you sent and read out here this answer about the… the… the use of armed escorts for humanitarian groups in DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo].  Since then, MSF [Médecins Sans Frontières] has put out a second statement reiterating that armed escorts are required.  So, what I wanted to know… are being imposed, that’s the word that they used?  What I wanted to know is…


Spokesperson:  On whom?


Correspondent:  On them, on them as a non-UN group.


Spokesperson:  Well…


Question:  And they oppose it and they said that the intervention brigade is putting humanitarian independence at risk.  So the main thing I wanted to ask you is whether OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] has observ… not DPKO [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  Well, actually, Matthew, actually, Matthew, the key point here is that, while you may consider it obfuscation, in fact, strange as it may seem, we do actually speak to different parts of the Secretariat when putting together responses to questions raised, and not just questions by you.  And of course, the response that we gave to you was very carefully coordinated between Peacekeeping Operations and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  That’s the first thing.  The second thing is that, while the UN Mission is often called upon by members of the humanitarian community to assist with security measures in insecure areas, the United Nations has no say over use of escorts or other security measures employed by non-governmental organizations, and what we sent to you, and I read out on Friday, remains the case.


Question:  So, is it fair to say then that… that OCHA disagrees with MSF and some other groups, MSF in particular, quoting online in its own name and the name of its DRC Director, that the UN Mission in the Congo creates a confusion and a blurring between humanitarian and military roles ever since the intervention brigade was created?  That’s what they have said.


Spokesperson:  I would simply refer you to what we have said already — that the UN… UN humanitarian agencies use armed escorts in insecure areas in eastern DRC only as a last resort.  The decision to use escorts in specific areas is taken by the UN-wide security management team.  And this is talking about UN humanitarian agencies, and not about non-governmental organizations.


Correspondent:  I had another DRC question.


Spokesperson:  Say again?


Correspondent:  I had another DRC question, if it’s possible.


Spokesperson:  Right, that’s the last one.


Question:  Okay, well, I gue… the… the… the… the question is… is as follows.  The… in this recent fighting that you gave the readout on, between the FARDC [Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo] and M23, the spokesman for… for… for the FARDC or the Congolese Government has said that they are going to… to display captured M23 rebels in a press conference in Goma.  I guess I wanted to know… it is particularly, now since it seems that the intervention brigade is… is subject to Geneva Convention rules and since MONUSCO works closely with the Government, is it… does it comply with existing humanita… international humanitarian law to… to parade and display captured combatants in an armed conflict?


Spokesperson:  I haven’t seen those reports, Matthew.  I’d need to check into them first.  Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon, thank you.


* *** *

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