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

14 August 2013

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

14 August 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.

** Egypt

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Egypt.

The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the violence today in Cairo that occurred when Egyptian security services used force to clear Cairo of sit-ins and demonstrations.  While the UN is still gathering precise information about today's events, it appears that hundreds of people were killed or wounded in clashes between security forces and demonstrators.

Just days ago, the Secretary-General renewed his call for all sides in Egypt to reconsider their actions in light of new political realities and the imperative to prevent further loss of life.  The Secretary-General regrets that Egyptian authorities chose instead to use force to respond to the ongoing demonstrations.  He conveys his condolences to the families of those killed and his wishes for a full and speedy recovery to those injured.

The Secretary-General is well aware that the vast majority of the Egyptian people, weary of disruptions to normal life caused by demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, want their country to go forward peacefully in an Egyptian-led process towards prosperity and democracy.  In the aftermath of today's violence, the Secretary-General urges all Egyptians to concentrate their efforts on promoting genuinely inclusive reconciliation.  While recognizing that political clocks do not run backwards, the Secretary-General also believes firmly that violence and incitement from any side are not the answers to the challenges Egypt faces.

With Egypt's rich history and diversity of views and experiences, it is not unusual for Egyptians to disagree on the best approach forward.  What is important, in the Secretary-General’s view, is that differing views be expressed respectfully and peacefully.  To the Secretary-General's regret, that is not what happened today.

**Security Council

The Security Council was briefed this morning by three senior United Nations officials on the situation in the Central African Republic.

In his remarks, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the country, Babacar Gaye, said that the overall situation has remained highly volatile and unpredictable, although there has been some progress on the political front.  He said that the United Nations welcomes the establishment of the African Union mission and he encourages the Security Council to lend its full support to the force.

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, said that over the past months, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated dramatically and has shifted from being a long-term crisis of poverty and chronic vulnerability to a complex emergency characterized by violence, acute needs and grave protection issues.  She also said that this crisis threatens to spread beyond the Central African Republic.

And the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, said that a key priority is to swiftly provide security and protect the population from further human rights violations.

Ms. Amos is expected to speak to the press at the stakeout position following consultations.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General is wrapping up his visit to Pakistan soon, after talks and a dinner with President [Asif Ali] Zardari.

Earlier today, the Secretary-General attended part of Pakistan’s Independence Day celebrations and then met with Pakistani women parliamentarians.

The Secretary-General also met with the Prime Minister, as well as the head of the National Disaster Management Authority.  We have been providing separate details on most of those encounters and also of the Secretary-General's media encounter alongside the Prime Minister.

As we already announced, the Secretary-General will be visiting Jordan, Palestine and Israel over the next two days.

** Gaza

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has urged the Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip not to carry out planned executions.

She is deeply concerned at the possibility that executions might be carried out over the course of the next weeks in Gaza.  She added that she is concerned about the process by which death sentences are imposed by military and civilian courts in the Gaza Strip.

The High Commissioner noted that international human rights law requires compliance with rigorous fair trial standards in cases where death sentences are applied.  She repeated her appeal to the de facto authorities in Gaza to implement a moratorium on executions and to fully uphold and promote the right to life.

**South Sudan

The UN Central Emergency Response Fund has approved the allocation of $6 million to aid agencies to provide food, nutrition, water and sanitation supplies to affected communities in Jonglei’s Pibor County.  This is in addition to the $5.5 million that the UN Central Emergency Response Fund had allocated in June.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, said that the new funding would boost the humanitarian response.

He also called on all parties to ensure that civilians can move freely and in safety to access basic services and humanitarian aid.

**Sanitation

The Deputy Secretary-General today warmly welcomed the encouraging steps that have been reported by a partnership examining the progress of Sanitation and Water for All.

The Deputy Secretary-General said that political will and concrete action have led to significant gains on a majority of the commitments to achieve the goal of Sanitation and Water for All.  The challenge now is to maintain momentum and eliminate barriers to delivering the remaining commitments.  Strengthening financing systems, carrying out institutional reforms and addressing gaps in human resources will be critical.

His statement is available online.

And a few questions, please. Mr. Abbadi?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  As you have indicated, the Secretary-General has condemned the violence in Egypt.  Several Governments have done so also this morning.  In Turkey, Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has called on the Security Council to take measures to end the violence.  Does the Secretary-General support this call?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, a Security Council decision would be up to the Security Council members themselves.  The Secretary-General is not going to opine on that.  The Secretary-General himself has made a very strong statement this morning.  The Secretary-General is also alarmed by reports that demonstrators attacked police stations and at least one church.  And he has called for restraint and an immediate cessation of violence by all sides.  Joe?

Question:  Yes.  Just following up on that, yesterday, there were reports of a rocket launch from Sinai toward Eilat in Israel, and that rocket was intercepted.  There have also been daily reports of killings of security people and civilians in Sinai and that has been alleged to have some Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas connections.  What does the Secretary-General have to say about that, other than the general statement that he calls for the cessation of violence by all sides?  I mean, this was a launching of a rocket across the border into another sovereign nation and I, I, I… does he have any comment?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has always been against those types of attacks on both sides of the line and he continues to be that way.  Nizar?

Question:  My question is just a follow-up on earlier, earlier incident in al-Labouneh in south Lebanon.  Did the United, UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] find anything with regard to the incur… the Israeli incursion, and is there any statement regarding, or position, regarding that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I have nothing further to add to what was said last week, I believe.  If we have something, we will get back to you.  Masood?

Question:  Yes, sir.  Given the situation in Egypt, which is growing ominous and serious, the Secretary-General is visiting Jordan and Jerusalem.  Why doesn’t he go, in fact, to visit Egypt in order to, eh, and, what do you call, to see the situation for himself and somehow manage to abate at the tensions that are there and create some sort of a peaceful resolution?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General is very aware of what is going on in Egypt; he doesn’t need to visit it in order to see it.  He has been speaking with Egyptian leaders; he has been speaking with leaders in the region and he is fully aware of what is going on.  The reason why he issued this statement precisely is to make sure that all sides understand his position.

Question:  But, the reason that I am saying is since he is going to be in the region, why…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, he’s going to be in the region; there are a lot of things happening in the region — because his itinerary calls for him to go to Jordan, Palestine and Israel.  Matthew?

Question:  Yeah, sure, thanks a lot. I, I want to ask you first about Bahrain.  Yesterday I had asked you about this protest that was planned for today and, and, and it is taking place today, and in fact, many villages have been surrounded by barbed wire so people can’t join the protest and there is reports of the use of tear gas; so, yesterday, you said you didn’t have information on it.  Is the UN in any way monitoring this and, and, and more than, other than a general statement, did anyone in the UN call the, the, the, the, you know, the leaders of Bahrain to, to ask them to exercise restraint or what do you say was actually happening today?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The UN is following the situation in Bahrain, and of course, the Bahraini Government knows what our position is on peaceful demonstrations.

Question:  Then, what if they don’t…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Joe?

Question:  Do you have any questions for me?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, not yet!

Question:  Okay, I’ll ask you one, then.  I want to back up my colleague Masood here, because a trip to Egypt by the Secretary-General symbolically could have a calming effect.  He could even offer mediation; he is a neutral figure.  I’m sure if President [Barack] Obama showed up there, he wouldn’t be seen as a neutral, because both sides hate the United States right now.  But, the Secretary-General could at least speak to both sides to see whether he would be welcomed.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has spoken to both sides through his statements, and the statements have been very clear and precise.

Question:  Was he on the phone with leaders of both sides?

Deputy Spokesperson:  He has been on the phone with Egyptian leaders; he has been on the phone with other leaders who have sway on both sides of the debate in Egypt, and his statements are very strong and very forthright.  His position is very well known on what should be happening in Egypt.

Question:  So, he thinks it is better to work behind the scenes now or in private conversations?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Sometimes you work behind the scenes, sometimes you work in front of the cameras.  In this case, he is working behind the scenes to get his message there and to try and bring both sides to the table.  Masood?

Question:  Has he spoken with Mr.…?

Deputy Spokesperson: Your microphone, please?

Question:  A follow-up, I am saying; has he spoke to Mr. [Mohamed el] Baradei since Mr. [el] Baradei has resigned as Vice-President over there?  Has he had a chance to speak to him?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t know if he has.  We will have to get back to you on that.  Ali?

Question:  Thank you.  Is there any update on the awaited letter from the Syrian Government regarding the chemical weapons?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No update yet.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you about Darfur, the, the violence that has been taking place.  One, there was, a, reports of this Monday attack on the UNAMID [United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur], on the UNAMID convoy, people are saying that vehicles were taken; I’d like to know if that’s true.  Also that the, the, the injured from the two tribes that are fighting have been taken to, taken, uh, to different parts of Darfur, one to el-Fasher other to Nyala, somebody has used the term “ethnic cleansing” and I wanted to know whether, what the UN thinks of that.  And, finally, there are reports of a, of, a, a person taking photographs at the hospital of the, of the people killed in this violence, himself being killed while taking these photographs, and I wanted to know, can the UN confirm that?  And what’s being, you’d said before about protecting civilians it seems like, is, is this actually taking place in Edain?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we will have to find out for you, Matthew.  I don’t have that information with me.  Of course, we don’t have every incident recorded in the Secretary-General’s Spokesperson’s Office.  We’ll get you the information.

Question:  How about, how about on Mali?  Can I ask you about the, the… it’s said that Mauritania has said, has placed a condition on participating in MINUSMA [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali], that their troops can only be used along their border and it is said that Mali would prefer that they go elsewhere, but I wonder, what is DPKO’s [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] view?  Can countries… can troop-contributing countries dictate what part of a mission, what… geographically they serve in?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I have seen the reports.  I’ll have to check with DPKO to find out what they know and what are, or how they are, you know, what they are analysing the situation to be.

[He later said that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations is aware of the media reports and welcomes pledges by all Member States, including Mauritania, to support its efforts to help stabilise Mali.  The Department is in contact with Mauritania and other troop-contributing countries to find ways to best support MINUSMA as the Mission carries its mandated tasks to support the people of Mali.]

Question:  And can we find out what their policy is on this type of conditions on troop contributing?

Deputy Spokesperson: Sure, we can.  Thank you.  I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the Kaesong Industrial Complex:

The Secretary-General welcomes the agreement between the two Koreas on the re-opening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.  He is encouraged by this positive development.

The Secretary-General has stated that the Complex is a successful example of the cooperation which has served as a bridge between the two Koreas.  He hopes that its operation will be normalized as quickly as possible and that it faces no further interruptions to its work in the future.  The Secretary-General also hopes that the continuous operation of the complex will serve as a catalyst for other constructive steps, thus, building mutual trust and promoting inter-Korean relations.

The Secretary-General reiterates the paramount importance of inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.  As Secretary-General, he will do his best towards this end.

Last question, Matthew?

Question:  Okay, I’m going to, well, I’m going to try to slip two in there.  One, it has to do with, there, there has been an, a mass expulsion by Tanzania of reported, of, of a, described as Rwandan aliens, some of whom have lived in Tanzania for up to 40 years, and I’m wondering, I mean, it’s in the thousands of people, and I’m wondering whether the UN system or UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], if any, if, if there is any knowledge of that, or comment on that.

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’d have to check with UNHCR.  I don’t have anything on that.

Correspondent:  Given that it’s a Great Lakes issue, do you think Mary Robinson, do you think there is any… it seems to be related to comments that President [Jakaya] Kikwete made about Rwandan activity in the Congo, so it…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll check with DPA [Department of Political Affairs].

Question:  That would be good.  And the other one is just, is just a factual one about… Médecins Sans Frontières has said that it is closing and pulling out of Somalia; I’m figuring you may have some statement on that.  They are saying that the Government didn’t sufficiently prosecute or punish people that have killed aid workers in the past, including a two-year sentence for killing two aid workers.  What is UNSOM [United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia] or the UN system… is there anything that can be done to keep medical services coming?  And is it true that the Government, that the UN works with, uh, punishes so lightly those who kill aid workers?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’m not going to comment on what happens in Somali courts.  What I can tell is that the withdrawal of Médecins Sans Frontières is a reminder that Somalia remains one of the most difficult and dangerous environments in the world for aid workers.

UN agencies and humanitarian organizations working in Somalia remain unwavering in their commitment to alleviate the suffering of Somalis and help them build a better future.

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Philippe Lazzarini, says that humanitarians will continue to mitigate risks and provide assistance to those most in need, including by supporting Somalia’s health authorities.

He also says that it is premature to talk about the impact of Médecins Sans Frontières’s withdrawal and that his team is analysing the question.

That’s it. Okay, Masood, last question?

Question:  Okay, sir. I just wanted to ask about Egypt again.  Mr. el Baradei has been quoted as saying that there were many peaceful ways of resolving this situation, and that this violent action by the military should not have been taken and he was part of the Government.  So, don’t you think the Secretary-General should be in touch with people like Mr. el Baradei to, in order to ensure that this…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Masood, as I said, the Secretary-General in his statement says that he regrets that Egyptian authorities chosen instead to use force to respond to the ongoing demonstrations.  That’s a very strong condemnation of what took place.  And the Secretary-General is in contact with the people he believes he has to be in contact with.  Not all contacts are made public.  I will leave it at that.  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.