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

30 July 2013

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

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

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the noon briefing.

**Security Council

The Security Council wrapped up its scheduled work for July by voting this morning to extend the mandates of three UN peacekeeping missions:  in Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus and Darfur.

The Security Council unanimously extended the mandate of the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) for a further 13 months, until 31 August 2014.  It also requested that the Secretary-General present options and recommendations on improving UNAMID’s effectiveness to the Security Council by the end of next February.

The Council unanimously decided to extend the mandate of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) until 30 June 2014.  It also decided that the Mission shall be reconfigured to consist of up to 7,137 military personnel.

And, by a 13-0-2 vote, the Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) until 31 January 2014.   Azerbaijan and Pakistan abstained.

** Syria

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that an estimated 6.8 million people continue to need assistance inside Syria and another 1.8 million people have fled the country since the beginning of the conflict.  So far this year, UN agencies and humanitarian partners have organized 21 cross-line convoys and reached nearly 1.8 million people with food, water and health supplies in hard-to-reach areas.

The World Food Programme (WFP), working with 22 local NGOs [non-governmental organizations], has reached 2.4 million people with food assistance so far this month.  The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have provided primary health care and medical supplies throughout the country.  More than 153,000 children have received medical check-ups through 51 UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund]-supported mobile medical teams in all 14 governorates.

The UN refugee agency has provided more than 1.4 million people with essential aid, including cash assistance, across Syria this year.  With the Ministry of Health, they have airlifted essential medical equipment and supplies to Qamishly airport for people in hard-to-reach cities in the northeast of Syria.

** Libya

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) condemns in the strongest terms the acts of violence that took place lately in a number of areas in Libya, including Tripoli and Benghazi.  The Mission expresses its grave concern over the deteriorating security conditions and the growing acts of violence that have targeted political activists, judicial institutions, diplomatic missions, army and police personnel, State facilities and others.  The Mission calls upon the State authorities to intensify their efforts to address the security challenges that Libya is facing.  We have a press release with more details.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

In light of the high risk to the civilian population in the Goma—Sake area in North Kivu, the UN [Organization Stabilization] Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, will support the Congolese army in establishing a security zone in Goma and its northern suburbs.

The UN Mission says that since mid-May, the area has seen repeated attacks by the M23 [23 March Movement] against Congolese army positions in an apparent attempt to advance on Goma and Sake.  It adds that in these attacks, the latest of which started on 14 July, the M23 has used indiscriminate and indirect fire, including by heavy weapons, resulting in civilian casualties.  The M23 has also targeted UN installations with its fire.  The Mission says that the security zone will push these threats out of range of Goma.  It also says that the security zone may be expanded and repeated elsewhere, where it is needed.  There is a press release in our office.

That is it.  Questions, please?  Mr. Abbadi?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  The Secretary-General has called and spoken to a number of leaders in Egypt and has asked the military authorities to release Mr. [Mohamed] Morsy and other leaders of the Brotherhood movement.  Catherine Ashton, the Foreign Affairs chief of the European Union, has visited Mr. Morsy.  Does the Secretary-General intend to do the same, visiting Morsy at some time?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, the Secretary-General has been… as you said, has been phoning leaders from the region.  He has spoken at all levels of the Egyptian Government, the Administration, since Sunday.  We have readouts on that and he continues to do so.  Pam?

Question:  Since the Middle East talks have begun in Washington, [D.C.], is there any role the UN will play?  Is the Quartet possibly going to restart?  Is there any role the Secretary-General will play in these peace talks?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’re going to have to see what the Quartet decides to do.  As you know, there are four members of the Quartet, so they are, I believe, consulting and we’ll see what they decide.

Question:  You’ve said that before and I understand there are four members.  Is there discussion… are there discussions that have begun to restart it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Quartet is in… they’re in communication with each other.  They are on a normal basis and I believe this will probably accelerate that type of communication.  Matthew?

[The Spokesperson later issued the following statement by the Quartet:

The Quartet welcomes the announcement by United States Secretary of State John Kerry that direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians have resumed on 29 July, with senior negotiators from both sides meeting in Washington, D.C., to begin final status negotiations.

The Quartet commends both President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu for taking this courageous decision in the interest of their peoples, and is determined to lend its effective support to the efforts of the parties and their shared commitment to achieve a negotiated two-State solution within the agreed timeframe of nine months.

The Quartet, recalling its previous statements, calls on all parties to take every possible step to promote conditions conducive to the success of the negotiating process and to refrain from actions that undermine trust.

The Quartet expresses its appreciation for the efforts of President [Barack] Obama and Secretary [of State] Kerry in helping the parties reach agreement to resume negotiations.

The Quartet commends the Arab League for its constructive role in support of renewed negotiations, including its reaffirmation of the Arab Peace Initiative, recognizes many others in the international community for their important contributions, and expresses hope that such efforts will continue.

While noting that much hard work lies ahead, the Quartet expresses its hope that renewed negotiations will be substantive and continuous and set a clear path towards a two-State solution, the end of conflict, and lasting peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.  The Quartet intends to meet soon at the envoys level to discuss next steps.]

Question:  Sure, Eduardo.  I wanted to ask you about what you’d announced of MONUSCO, this announcement they’ve made.  Essentially, it seems to say that if groups don’t disarm in 48 hours, they’re fair game to be attacked, so I wanted to ask you some questions that have kind of built up, that haven’t been answered.  One is:  which of the units of the Congolese army that… that MONUSCO will be supporting, since they have this human rights due diligence policy and a number of units are named in the Group of Experts report?  Like, I think it’s 24 days ago, I asked DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] which units, now I want to ask before… in this 48-hour period, which are the units they’d support, whether it includes the 391st battalion, which did the Minova rapes and desecration, and also whether MONUSCO itself is covered by the Geneva Convention, as it now, basically, declares war in… you know, it says in advance that they will undertake offensive actions.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to check on those two questions for you, Matthew.

Question:  Do you think… I mean, given that it was 24 days ago that it was asked, is it possible to get an answer before… in the next 48 hours?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, all we can do is try.  We’ll try. 

Question:  Right.  Do you think… does the Secretary-General think, given this unprecedented change in approach by UN peacekeeping, that to have the policy of due diligence mean anything, they have to say which units they support?  That’s the question.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we have, I believe, not said anything about that yet and when we have something, we will.

Correspondent:  Right, but I mean, not said which units you support.  That’s what I’m asking.  It’s like you’re just saying…

Deputy Spokesperson:  When we have something, we’ll let you know, Matthew.

Question:  Do you think it will be before they start shooting guns?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I can’t predict what’s going to happen.  My crystal ball is covered in smoke.  Evelyn?  With the microphone, please.

Question:  Okay, Eduardo.  On the same topic, is Rwanda still supporting M23 or has that stopped or what evidence… how is Rwanda involved in this latest announcement?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have any information on who’s involved in it.  All I know is that M23 are there.  What I can tell you is that any individuals in this area who are not members of the national security forces will be given 48 hours as of 4 p.m. (Goma time) on 30 July, to hand in their weapons to a MONUSCO base.  After 4 p.m. on Thursday, 1 August, they will be considered an imminent threat of physical violence to civilians and MONUSCO will take all necessary measures to disarm them, including by force in accordance with its mandate and the rules of engagement.

Question:  [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, in accordance with its mandate and its rules of engagement.  Yes, Pam?

Question:  On the Angela Kane and Dr. [Åke] Sellström trip… trip to Damascus, they’ve agreed to some kind of visit, can you… can you give any… shed any light on if there are three cities, which is what’s been talked about, and where they’ll be going, and if they’ll be briefing the General Assembly on Friday?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I can’t say anything about it.  I don’t have the information.  If and when we have something to say, we’ll say it.

Question:  Alright.  And will the Secretary-General shed any light on the mission on chemical weapons in Syria?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I’ve said, when we have… if we have anything to shed, we’ll shed.

Correspondent:  Alright. Thank you.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Evelyn?

Question:  [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, diplomats… diplomats have a way of… do you want to repeat your question for the microphone?

Question:  Sure, I said do you have any date or time when you will be revealing this, since most people know what…vaguely what the results are?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Most diplomats talk, but I don’t talk without official sanction, and right now, we have nothing further to add to what we’ve said on Monday and what we issued over the weekend.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you, just, there are reports of… that Turkey will be… has… is pulling its peacekeepers out of UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon].  Have you seen this and can you… has DPKO or UNIFIL received notice of this?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I haven’t seen anything about it.  I have not seen anything about it.  [He later added that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations has not received any official notification from Turkey on this issue.]

Question:  Also, I wanted to ask you, in Darfur, the Misseriya have said there’s been an up… they’ve claimed to kill 100 fighters on the other side and have lost 17, so it seems like despite the… the way the resolution sailed through this morning, that there seems to be an increase in fighting and I’m wondering what UNAMID is doing about it to actually protect civilians there.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, UNAMID has received reports of the fighting between the Salamat and Misseriya near Um Dukhun and Garsila in Central Darfur on 27 and 29 July, respectively.  The mission is working to contribute to the protection of civilians in the area from its base in Mukhjar, located 100 kilometres north of Um Dukhun.  At this stage, the mission cannot confirm media reports of casualty numbers.  In addition, UNAMID is calling on the parties to cease hostilities and recommit to the terms of the ceasefire agreement reached on 3 July.  One more question?

Question:  On… okay… well, alright.  I’ve already asked about Alexander Downer, so consider that re-asked.  I wanted to… this is just a scheduling one… I want to… Yonhap newspaper has reported that the Secretary-General will be travelling to South Korea in late August and they’ve been pretty detailed about it, so since they reported and they seemed to have a leg up on this story, can you confirm it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, what counts is what we report and when we have something to announce, we announce it.  Last question, Evelyn?

Question:  In Cyprus… the two abstentions… is that… are they countries favouring Turkey?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, you have to check and you have to ask them.  I don’t speak on their behalf. I don’t speak on behalf of the Security Council.

Question:  Who were the abstentions?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Azerbaijan and Pakistan.  Okay?

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.