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

12 September 2013

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

12 September 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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you could please take your seats, we are ready for the noon briefing with our guest.  Please take your seats.

Good afternoon, everyone.

**Noon Guest Today

Today I am joined by Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.  And he is here to brief on a range of peacekeeping activities.  He will make a short statement first, and then will take your questions, after which we will do the second part of the briefing following his presentation.

Under-Secretary-General Ladsous, welcome.

[Press conference by Mr. Ladsous issued separately.]

All right, thanks.  I have a few more notes to read out to you and then I can take some questions, as well.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding consultations this morning on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  They expected to receive briefings by video-conference from Mary Robinson, the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and Martin Kobler, the head of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Then, at 3 this afternoon, Council members will hold a formal meeting followed by consultations on Somalia, to receive an update on the situation there from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay.

Mr. Kay will be available to speak to reporters at the Council stakeout following this afternoon’s meeting.

** Iran

UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos will visit Iran, starting tomorrow, in a visit lasting until 16 September.  The mission is Ms. Amos’ first official visit to the country in her capacity as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Ms. Amos is expected to meet senior officials in Tehran.  She will focus on expanding regional cooperation on humanitarian assistance and enhancing the partnership between Iran and the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

** Yemen

Also, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, and the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, wrapped up a four-day visit to Yemen by calling for increased support, especially from the Gulf region, for humanitarian relief efforts in the country.

Speaking at the end of their joint visit, they acknowledged the positive political developments in the country but noted that the humanitarian situation in Yemen remains critical.

Ms. Amos said that Yemen is a country wracked by chronic poverty and underdevelopment, and millions of Yemenis are struggling to cope.  People need food, water, education and health care, and we urgently need more funding to help those in need.

** Iraq

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has announced that the last group of Camp Ashraf residents has successfully relocated to Camp Hurriya, pending their resettlement outside Iraq.

The Deputy Special Representative for Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin, said that the tragic events of 1 September, when 52 residents lost their lives in a terrorist attack, with seven others still unaccounted for, was a sombre reminder of the necessity to conclude the final phase of the relocation process without further delay.

He added that resettlement outside Iraq is now the priority, and it is urgent that countries ready to host the residents come forward to accept them, providing them a safe future outside Iraq.

** Central African Republic

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the Central African Republic, Kaarina Immonen, has condemned the killing of two aid workers in Bossangoa, 300 kilometres north of the capital Bangui, over the weekend.

In a press release, Ms. Immonen expressed her deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victims, and to all humanitarian colleagues who tirelessly provide assistance and protection to people in need in the Central African Republic.  She urges the authorities and all parties to the conflict to ensure the protection of civilians and the respect for international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as of humanitarian personnel and assets.

**Noon Guest Tomorrow

And tomorrow, I will be joined by Ion Botnaru, the Director of the General Assembly and ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] Affairs Division of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management.  Mr. Botnaru will be here to brief on the upcoming General Assembly session.

That’s it from me.  If there are any questions, yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Can you, can you confirm that Dr. [Åke] Sellström’s report will be presented to the Secretary-General on Monday?

Associate Spokesperson:  No.  No, I cannot.

Question:  What, what Mr. [Gérard] Araud said, can you, I mean…

Associate Spokesperson:  The answer is no, I can’t confirm that.  We don’t know what day it is going to be presented.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I… I wanted to ask you, not just Mr. Araud, but Laurent Fabius said openly that the report should come out Monday and that it will implicate Mr. [Bashar al]-Assad.  And then Mr. Araud said that he was told this by the Sec… France, I don’t know if it was him, was told this by the Secretary-General last night.  So I am asking, what I e-mailed you is that, I mean, he said it, he is a Permanent Representative for France; what… what… what does that mean?  Is… are you saying it’s not true?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t know what precisely he has said.  What I can say is that the Secretary-General has not received the report thus far.  We will let you know once the report has been received.  But I cannot confirm what day that will be.

Question:  Did he speak to France last night, as Mr. Araud said?

Associate Spokesperson:  He has been in touch with a wide number of Member States…

Question:  Did he speak to Russia?

Associate Spokesperson:  He has been in touch with a wide number of Member States over the previous days about the crisis in Syria, a wide number of Member States, but in any case, the report has not been received.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, Farhan. Do you have the reaction of Secretary-General on Mr. [Vladimir] Putin’s op-ed published in the New York Times, in which he has made several accusations, as well as suggestions as to how to move forward on this peace, Syrian peace process? And then I have another question on Kashmir.

Associate Spokesperson:  No, there is no specific reaction.  As you have heard us say before, the Secretary-General has been welcoming all the various efforts regarding the peace process in Syria.  He, in particular, welcomes the efforts by the Russian Federation to advance a possible agreement.  He hopes that the US and Russian meetings taking place starting today will be productive in moving towards a process for addressing the Syrian chemical weapons threat which all parties will be committed to.  To add to that:  I can confirm that Lakhdar Brahimi, in Geneva, has met there with US Secretary of State John Kerry.  I believe he is also expected to hold a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.  Yes, Tim?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Just to follow up on that:  do you, the Secretary-General and you have indicated efforts were being made to expedite the report; have these efforts been successful?  I mean, has the process been speeded up and in what way?  And… and… is there any preliminary assessment of the evidence?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, as far as that goes, what I can say is that we have made some efforts; Dr. Sellström has been trying to expedite the analysis of the samples that they have had.  To that end, there are now four laboratories in Europe, rather than two, that are analysing the samples, and we hope that that will expedite the process while maintaining the scientific standards that are important for the work of the investigation team.  Yes, Jonathan?

Question:  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad apparently said on Russian television just a short time ago that documents are being sent to the United Nations that would set out the agreement for handing over the chemical weapons arsenal.  Have you heard anything about this?  And what would be the procedure in carrying out this type of thing?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, the first thing I can confirm is that in the past few hours, we have received a document from the Government of Syria, which is being translated, which is to be an accession document concerning the Chemical Weapons Convention.  So, we will study that document and I believe that is meant eventually to be circulated as a document.  Yes?

Question:  Well, just as a follow-up; where does that get circulated?  What’s the procedural system that the UN has for handling a case like this?

Associate Spokesperson:  I believe we will circulate this document in accordance with normal procedures.  But first, like I said, it will also be studied; it will need to be translated and studied.  Edie?

Question:  Farhan, first to follow up on that; when you say an accession document, does that, does the accession document mean signing or ratification?

Associate Spokesperson:  It’s a document of accession.  There are a number of different ways of joining UN documents:  signing, ratification and then there is accession.  This would be accession.

Question:  So… so… just to make clear, that this document would make Syria a full-fledged party to the Chemical Weapons Convention?

Associate Spokesperson:  I think there [are] a number of relevant procedures that need to be followed, but that would be the first step of that.  Yes?

Question:  Wait, but that wasn’t my question; I was just…

Associate Spokesperson:  Okay.

Question:  Okay.  My question is… was… was… uh… following up on Dr. Sellström’s report, we… we know that under the mandate, he is supposed to determine first whether chemical weapons agents were used and then to tell us which… which specific agents were used.  Does… do you believe that this report could shed light on the provenance of these chemical agents?

Associate Spokesperson:  Since I don’t actually know what is inside the report, I really don’t know what it could say.  It is supposed to have a range of relevant facts.  What those facts determine or what they show about the use of chemical weapons will be clear once the document is out.  But that is some days away.  Let us see what they have to say and it will become clear once it has been handed over.

Question:  Well, I was asking because there has been a tremendous amount of speculation in the media, including from some rather prominent people, indicating that the findings will actually point to responsibility.

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, I am aware of the speculation, but it will become clear once we have the document in hand and then you can hopefully see for yourselves what the evidence shows.  Yes, Pam, first?

Question:  Just a follow-up on the accession document:  Do you expect that to be translated today?  I mean, it can’t take that long?  And can we say…

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t know.  I don’t know how long it takes.

Question:  …will it be made public and does… and put into effect immediately, is that…? And I have a question about Edie, Edie, to follow up, does that, does both signing… But just, what does it mean?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, why don’t we go around the room and then have new people take questions?  But the first thing about the document:  yes, it will be translated.  I believe it is intended to be circulated as a document.  Sangwon?

Question:  Can I… I don’t understand this concept of accession; what does that exactly mean, can you elaborate further?  I mean, to join the treaty, is it that they agreed to join the treaty?  And then, again, what Edie said about ratification, I mean, or can you clarify that a little bit more?

Associate Spokesperson:  Accession is one of the ways of joining a treaty.  You deposit an instrument of accession and then you can accede; in other words, join the treaty.  You then observe what the treaty entails.  There is a process to be followed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty, and this is a step towards that.

Question:  A follow-up, I mean, just a follow-up…?

Associate Spokesperson: Um, yeah, sure, but let’s let people that haven’t asked a question have a turn.

Question:  Thank you, thank you, just a follow-up.  So, it’s… it’s… does that mean that the Syrian Government actually accepts giving up its chemical weapons?  I mean, by joining, what does it mean for… for the Syrian Government?

Associate Spokesperson:  You’d have to ask them that.  I think it will be clear once the letter is translated.  Yes, Joe?

Question:  Just following up on the Sellström report, once… once that is received by the Secretary-General, will it be made public immediately or within some short time frame, so that we can look at it and… and assess it for ourselves?

Associate Spokesperson:  I think we are trying to determine what the public events of this will be.  We are certainly trying to make, share the information as soon as we can.  We will have some details later.  We don’t have it yet.  Yes, in the back?  [Associate Spokesperson is handed a piece of paper].  Oh, before that happens, I have one thing to say:  following this briefing, the President of the Security Council will read a press statement on the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the stakeout.  Yes, in the back?

Question:  Moments ago, you described accession procedurally as a first step.  What is the next step after that first step?

Associate Spokesperson:  I’d have to check with what the process is.  I believe there is a period of days after a treaty of accession is deposited before a country formally joins.

Question:  Is what has happened today a deposit?

Associate Spokesperson:  First let us review the letter.  Like I said, the letter is being translated and it will be studied.  Yes, George?

Question:  A quick procedural question, if I may.  I was out of the room and I came in just as you were talking about someone appearing at the stakeout.  Who is it who will appear at the stakeout?

Associate Spokesperson:  The President of the Security Council.

Question:  That’s this afternoon, or is it just now?

Associate Spokesperson:  Just after this briefing.  Evelyn?

Question:  Farhan, what exactly is Mr. Brahimi doing in Geneva, aside from saying hello to the two?  Will he have any role, is he reporting back or…?

Associate Spokesperson:  It’s more than just saying hello.  This is part of his diplomatic efforts, including his efforts towards arranging a Geneva II conference.  I do believe that he did intend at some point today to speak to reporters at a press stakeout.  And if he has some quotes to share, we will try to share that with you.  Yes, in the back, all the way?

Question:  Farhan, a procedural question:  Are there any barriers in the way towards joining the Convention?

Associate Spokesperson:  I am not aware of what the full process is by which a country joins the Chemical Weapons Convention.  We will certainly check about that.  But this starts the process under way.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, first, Farhan, just changing gears, I just want to ask you:  have Egypt, and in this situation in Egypt which, in which thousands of people have been killed, military takeover and everything else, and what is happening in Palestine, fallen off the United Nations radar?  Do you have an update on Egypt as to what is happening, why the people are being killed and nothing is being said about it?

Associate Spokesperson:  No, by no means.  Neither thing has ever fallen off.  Robert Serry, as you know, continues his work regarding the Middle East peace process as the UN Special Coordinator, and I believe he will be briefing the Security Council later this month about his work, as well as about developments in the region, including in Egypt.  The Secretary-General’s concerns about Egypt are well noted, and I would just refer you back, not just to what he has been saying, but to what the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other senior officials have been saying.  And as you know, Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, also visited Egypt just a few weeks back.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Yeah, sure, I… I… I wanna… I mean, I, because France has said that it heard from the Secretary-General on the topic of the report, I would like to make a request that you… that you at least disclose whether Ban Ki-moon talked to all five members of the permanent five.  So I just, that’s a request.

Associate Spokesperson:  He has been speaking sporadically in recent days with all of the five members, of the five permanent members.

Question:  But it seems like very; it’s pretty important.  Given what Mr. Fabius said, it’s pretty important, I’m just making that request.  I also want to ask you something I was unable to ask Mr. Ladsous, which is the following:  He mentioned the FD… the… the… the… the M23 various times, and the mandate of the Bri… of the Brigade is to attack or neutralize all armed groups.  So I wanted to get from him or I guess from you secondarily, what is the sequencing?  Why is there no mention of FDLR [Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda] or Mai Mai or any of the other groups?  And also, how many people have actually been convicted for these 135 rapes in Minova?  And is the UN still supporting the 41st and 391st battalion?

Associate Spokesperson:  First of all, regarding your second question, that is really… the question of how many people have been indicted is a question to ask the Congolese authorities.  We have been following up and, as you know, we have provided details about what we have done regarding that.  Regarding your first question, the UN mission, MONUSCO, is abiding by its responsibilities under the relevant Security Council resolutions, and I’d just refer you to those.

Have a good afternoon, everyone.

* *** *

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