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

8 October 2013

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

8 October 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.

Good afternoon, everyone.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General arrived in Budapest earlier today to attend the Budapest Water Summit and to meet Hungarian leaders.  A short while ago, the Secretary-General delivered a lecture at Budapesti Corvinus University, where he received an honorary doctorate on behalf of the United Nations.

At the Water Summit, the Secretary-General said that water holds the key to sustainable development.  He said we need it for health, food security and economic progress.  Yet, each year brings new pressures, and by 2030 nearly half the world’s population could be facing water scarcity.  The Secretary-General said water is wasted and poorly used by all sectors in all countries.  We must use what we have more equitably and wisely, and we cannot expect Governments to do this alone.  He said guaranteeing a water-secure world will require the full engagement of all actors, not least the world of business.

During the day, the Secretary-General met with the President and Prime Minister of Hungary and he will meet the Foreign Minister later.  We are issuing details on those meetings and on other bilateral meetings the Secretary-General has in Budapest on the margins of the Water Summit.  The Secretary-General also spoke to reporters along with the Hungarian President.  We issued a transcript of the Secretary-General’s remarks.

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will fly from Budapest to Brunei, where he will arrive on Thursday morning to attend a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United Nations.

**Security Council

The 15 Members of the Security Council were today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the last leg of their visit to the Great Lakes region of Africa.  While in Addis Ababa, the Security Council delegation held a joint meeting with the Peace and Security Council of the African Union.  They exchanged views on the situations in the Great Lakes region of Africa, in Sudan and South Sudan, in Somalia, in the Central African Republic and in the Sahel region.  They also exchanged views on the enhancement of the partnership between the African Union Peace and Security Council and the United Nations Security Council.  They adopted a joint communiqué.

The Security Council delegation also met the President of the African Union Commission, Ms. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.  The delegation met the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Dessalegn, too.  The delegation is now on its way back to New York.

** Syria

The Secretary-General sent a letter to the Security Council yesterday afternoon, proposing the establishment of a joint mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations in order to achieve the timely elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme in the safest and most secure manner possible.

The Secretary-General says that the joint mission will be headed by a civilian Special Coordinator, whom he would appoint in close consultation with the Director General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.  He writes that the joint mission will build upon the deployment of the advance team currently in Syria and will expand to a staff of approximately 100 personnel.

He notes that, given the operating environment, the joint mission will establish a “light footprint” in Syria, only deploying to Syria those personnel whose presence is necessary in the country to perform their tasks.  The letter will be available as a document.

**Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü spoke at the opening of the new session of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Executive Council and he reported on the progress of the OPCW-UN mission in Syria.  He noted that, on 4 October, Syria submitted additional information updating its initial disclosure, and on 6 October, Syrian officials commenced destroying certain Category 3 chemical weapons and destroying or disabling a range of items.  The goal of those efforts is to render unusable all production facilities and mixing and filling equipment by 1 November of this year.  Mr. Üzümcü said that these developments present a constructive beginning for what will nonetheless be a long and difficult process.

** Egypt

The Secretary-General, in a statement, strongly condemned the violence on Sunday in Egypt, where more than 50 people were killed in clashes.  The Secretary-General once again stresses the importance of peaceful protest, respect for freedom of assembly and commitment to non-violence.  The Secretary-General continues to underscore the need for political inclusion, full respect for human rights, including of those detained in prison, and the rule of law as the basis for a peaceful, democratic transition in Egypt.  These are the same principles to which the Egyptian authorities themselves have committed in the road map they have set forth.  The Secretary-General also strongly condemns the attacks on Monday against military personnel and facilities, which reportedly killed eight persons and wounded many more.

** Philippines

The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has provided $3 million to assist the people of Zamboanga, Philippines, to recover from the recent conflict there.  This funding will address immediate needs, including the management of camps, water, and child protection.  The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the country said that an additional $21 million is being requested for the overall humanitarian operation.  More than 120,000 people have been uprooted in the area.

**Noon Briefing Guest

And tomorrow, I will be joined by Yukio Takasu, the Under-Secretary-General for Management, who will brief on the financial situation of the Organization.  He will be the guest of the Noon Briefing.

That’s it from me.  Yes, please?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you.  With regard to the Secretary-General’s meetings in Hungary, was the issue of prolonged incarceration by the [inaudible] authorities for people pending trial, have been raised during his discussions with the President of Hungary?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll try to have the readouts of his meetings as we can get them later in the day.  We do have his remarks that he made to the press after his meeting with the President of Hungary, so I would refer you to those remarks.  Yes, Erol?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Secretary-General, in his remarks for the financing for development, sounded concerned regarding the commitment long time goal given of 0.7 of the deve… uh, to be given to the developing nation.  Although he and the President of the General Assembly mentioned that private sector should be involved more, does he have, uh, does he has any new sort of innovative approach to that since this commitment of 0.7, it is not, uh, sort of obeyed or so?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, the Secretary-General is trying to find some innovative ways.  You mentioned reaching out to the business community, and he has been doing that to see whether there are other ways of getting financing to the developing world.  But we do continue to insist on the importance of the 0.7 per cent target.  The Secretary-General is well-aware at a time of financial hardship around the world that it is difficult for the developed countries to provide greater levels of financial assistance to the developing world.  But, at the same time, this is a commitment that has been important for some time, and we do continue to implore all States to try to meet the 0.7 per cent target.

Question:  Does he, excuse me, can I follow up?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Does he, did he actually talk to some of the leaders of the developing, of the developed industrial nations, since he was very much preoccupied with this current political situation and the hotspot areas in the world, but did he indeed talk to the leaders of the highly industrial nation, what approach should be taken in that direction?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General, as you know, has met with more than 100 world leaders over the past few weeks, just because of the meetings on the margins of the General Assembly plenary session.  So, he has been able to raise a number of topics.  As you know, there have been a range of political topics, but he has also talked about the Millennium Development Goals and the various ways of obtaining the results that we want to achieve for the those goals, including the reduction of poverty.  And therefore, he has been talking about some development issues.  You will have seen the many, many dozens of readouts that we have issued over the past several weeks, and some of them do touch on this very issue.  Yes?

Question:  Oh, great, sure.  I wanted to ask you about the Secretary-General’s letter to the Security Council about the… the chemical weapons in Syria.  First, one, I wanted a little more det… he said that he is considering establishing a… a trust fund, so I wanted to know if you could say a little bit how that works, is that just op… is it anyone that wants to contribute to it, and the other one is, it says, he has this idea that in phase three, Member States are gonna be invited to pu… pru… provide additional assistance, not only equipment but he seems to say security, so I just wanted to know what does this mean, does this mean, is this gonna be a mission under DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], is the… is the re… reference to Member States in phase three an idea that there would military security provided by countries not under DPKO or what, or just if you can say a little bit more what’s int… the intention of this paragraph.

Associate Spokesperson: Well, first of all, these are recommendations, proposals, that have gone to the Security Council.  So, the important thing is to see how the members of the Security Council will react.  And, of course, we await a response from the Security Council to this.  This is his recommendations in terms of how we are to abide by the various timelines that the Security Council have given for us to do this work.  But, I would just refer you to the letter itself, which says, “given the complex nature of phase three,” which is — for those of you who have been following this, the phase stretching from 1 November of this year until the end of June 2014 — “given the complex nature of phase three, additional analysis and consultation is required, involving the OPCW, the United Nations and Member States which may be in a position to contribute to the associated activities in order to develop a viable operational concept and conduct the necessary planning”.  So, that would need to be the first step, is essentially dialogue amongst those parties.

Question:  Sure, I, and thanks, I… I just want… just a follow-up because it does… it says… it has this phrase about it being highly probable that Member States would be asked to provide security, so I… I understand the Security Council has to approve it, but I wanted to know, is he proposing… is this a proposal that this security would be through a… a… a… a mission under DPKO or that they would authorize other forces to go into Syria, that’s the question.

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t think we can get ahead of ourselves here.  First, of course, like we said, the Security Council needs to consider this letter, and respond as appropriate.  Beyond that, as I just said, there would need to be a dialogue involving the United Nations, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and key Member States.  And we will have to see what the results of those… that dialogue would be.  Edie?

Question:  Farhan, a couple of follow-up questions on this.  Do you expect the advance team to not only continue working, but possibly to be beefed up with both UN and OPCW personnel even as the Security Council considers these recommendations, because obviously the timeline is quite short?

Associate Spokesperson:  You are quite right, the timeline is quite short.  And we are already trying to see how quickly we can get additional personnel in there.  As you know, the next phase, phase three, begins on 1 November, which is just a few weeks from now.  So, we are already trying to figure out how to get personnel there as appropriate.  There is an advance team on the ground of more than 30 people from both the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations.  And some of those people may be rotated out, but some of them, yes, they will be beefed up into what we hope, if the Council agrees to these recommendations, will be a joint mission comprising roughly 100 personnel.

Question:  The Council is scheduled to discuss this on Thursday.  Are you expecting speedy action from the Council, possibly as early as next week?  Would you like to see that?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, it is always difficult to tell what timetable the various bodies of the UN has.  Certainly the Security Council has been acting in a very united fashion on Syria.  You have seen the passage of resolution 2118, you have seen the adoption of a presidential statement on the humanitarian situation in the country, and these are very welcome developments.  And we will see whether we can build on that sort of momentum.  For our part, we have been moving as speedily as we can.  In fact, four days after the adoption of resolution 2118, we already had a joint team from the OPCW and the United Nations deployed on the ground.  And you will have seen that some of their key work, including receiving documents from the Syrian Government and being able to witness the destruction of some key facilities as recently as this past Sunday, these have happened just in the span of the ten days since the adoption of the resolution.  So, we are moving as fast as we can.  Yes, Pam?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  On the chemical weapons team, the… from this moment, or the moment they arrived in Damascus until the Security Council considers the SG’s letter, what is, what… without divulging sensitive information, is security totally reliant on the Syrian Government at this point, particularly since there was a mortar attack that came very close to some of the teams?

Associate Spokesperson:  We are making security arrangements on the ground as needed, with whatever parties we would need to make the appropriate arrangements with.  Some of the UN component of this joint advance team includes security personnel and they are evaluating the situation as appropriate and adjusting what we need to do in light of that.  But, so far, the team has reported that it has had very good cooperation and has been able to do the work that it is setting out to do.

Question:  All right, just a follow-up on that then.  So, there… part… some of the per… UN personnel are security.  Are some OPCW security and are they armed?  At the… between now and then?

Associate Spokesperson:  The 19 current members of the team who are from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are technical experts.  The other personnel for various other aspects including security, logistics, interpretation and communications come from the United Nations.  Yes, Tim?  No, Tim first and then back to you, yes.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  The Secretary-General’s letter didn’t say how the chemicals will be destroyed between now and the, between 1 November and June ’14; is that going to be left to the discretion of the inspectors or is that for the OPCW to decide?

Associate Spokesperson:  I believe the OPCW is going to give some thought to this.  It is quite a challenge because, as the letter makes clear, it is going to be an operation the likes of which quite simply have never been tried before.  And given the wartime circumstances on the ground, as well as the dangerous nature of the chemical weapons that are to be destroyed, this is a challenging task, and we will see what the experts can come up with.  Yes, Erol?

Question:  Just a follow-up on Ahmad’s question, so, regarding the team actually that it was mentioned in the letter there are going to be 100 people inside.  Do you know already the all profiles of the experts or technical personality and so from which nation they are coming and the sort of performance capacity of the duties that they are going to perform?

Associate Spokesperson: Well, we wouldn’t speculate on nationalities or on individuals.  We are…

Question:  Why?

Associate Spokesperson:  …working to identify what the professional capacities are that we need on the ground, and we will try to fill those capacities as quickly as we can, once we get the approval that is needed to do so.

Question:  But why not on, you not discuss on nationalities or so why you don’t disclose nationalities?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, this is, these are merit-based organizations.  We are trying to find people with precise skills.  It is not really about the nationalities.

Question:  No, no, I didn’t ask that. I ask actually do you… I didn’t even put whether this is important to have certain nationalities or so, absolutely not.  The capacities that they are going to perfor… the duties that they are going to perform is most important, but do you know which nationalities from which countries and etcetera they are coming from?  Did you already put together whole team, that is basically what I am asking.

Associate Spokesperson:  No, the team is going to be developed in the coming days and weeks once we have, particularly once we have a reply from the Security Council about this particular concept of operations.  We will proceed as expeditiously as we can to getting a team formed.  Yes, Mr. Vargas?

Question:  Thanks.  I would like to change the subject to Abyei and the final status vote which was supposed go ahead this month.  The last readout we had was from the 27th of September when the Deputy SG was at the consultative forum here.  Since then, the Security Council report says over 30,000 people are returning to the province for a vote.  We had no word about when that is gonna go ahead in there.  A very high likelihood of inter-communal incidents escalating into open confrontation — that’s the words of the Security Council report.  Anything since the 27th about the SG’s efforts or the Deputy’s efforts to resolve the issue of the referendum?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, the UN has a peacekeeping force, UNISFA [United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei], deployed in Abyei, which is continuing to do what it can to maintain the calm on the ground.  But yes, we are continuing with our work, and Haile Menkerios, the envoy dealing with the situation between Sudan and South Sudan, is continuing his diplomatic efforts with the various parties and will continue to do that as we await an actual date for the elections. 

Question:  But it’s just waiting at this point?  There is, are there efforts by the Secretary-General to get Khartoum and the South to speak directly on this and push for a date or is he just leaving it up to the missions?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, Mr. Menkerios continues with his own diplomatic work.  And the Secretary-General, by the way, had done quite a bit of work on this issue as well, with the various officials he met with on the margins of the General Assembly in recent weeks.  But yes, Mr. Menkerios is continuing his efforts on the ground.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, one… one follow up and then I… I… I want to ask something more about the Syria letter, but there seems to be a lot of these people going back to Abyei.  There are reports that there are, you know, thousands of people camped in Agok, and… and that there is not really enough sheet plastics and mosquito netting and other things needed to actually get back to Abyei.  So I am wondering, what is the UN’s role in this new… new… ma… movement of people?  Is there any UN sort of response to people that are basically camping out with very little in the middle of nowhere?

Associate Spokesperson: I think we need to check with our colleagues in the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, what is being done about the returnees.  But I believe that there is some work being done on that regard.  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you.  So I am just wondering if you have any plan to have an opportunity to share the informa… share the letter of the Secretary-General or the Secretary-General’s proposal, what Secretary-General is considering about Syrian chemical weapons inspection with Member States beyond the Security Council.

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, this letter will be a public document.  So, all the Member States will have access to it.  That should happen shortly.  I believe it was already being translated into all the working languages of the UN.  So, it will be a document.  Yeah?

Question:  So, can I follow up?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, yes.

Question:  So, there won’t be any specific occasion, opportunity?

Associate Spokesperson:  At this stage, I am not aware of any briefing to the membership as a whole.  This letter has gone to the Security Council, but, as you know, we have been periodically briefing the membership as a whole about various aspects of the situation in Syria, so that dialogue is expected to continue.  But at this stage, this discussion now goes back to the Security Council.  Yes?

Question:  Thanks a lot.  I… I am sorry to be still on this letter, but where it says that there will be a special coordinator that the Secretary-General would appoint in consultation with the Director-General of OPCW, does that, is this gonna be, is this the name that would then be put through the Security Council kind of like an SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] is, advise and consent, or is it entirely up to the two, you know, heads of the Organization?  And I just, because I am trying to understand this idea that everything is, that everything is up to the Security Council. On the trust fund, he says “I also intend to establish a trust fund”.  So, does that mean also, you know, with the approval of the Security Council, or is that something he can do himself?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, the first foremost point is we are awaiting what the Security Council’s response to this letter will be.  It is the Security Council, mind you, who requested this letter within a ten-day deadline.  We have met that deadline, we have presented these proposals, and we will have to see what the reaction will be.

Question:  No, it’s just to understand what… what part of what he is proposing is something that he is saying, this is what I want to do, please approve it.  And which part of it is he just saying this is what I intend to do and I am going to do, which is different.

Associate Spokesperson:  The letter as whole is a response to their request for a concept of operations for a series of proposals.  He has now presented them the proposals and it is for them to review.  Yes, Pam?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  On the E3+3 Iran talks that are scheduled for this month, I assume, um, or, I don’t know what I assume, does the Secretary-General have any role, or will there be any UN representative at the Iran talks in Geneva?

Associate Spokesperson:  We don’t play a role in the talks of the E3+3.  You’d have to check with the membership, those States themselves.  Erol?

Question:  Just a short follow-up.  Is there any estimates for these next eight months until the end of June, how much the operation would cost in Syria regarding the destroying of chemicals?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t have a cost estimate at this point.  They will have to be calculating what that is on the ground.  But we will inform the Member States of the expenses as they progress.  Right now, the priority was to get them there on the ground and get them to start doing their work.  And we will have to see what the costs are and run them by our respective organizations — by the Executive Council of the OPCW and by our bodies here at the UN.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, great.  Thanks a lot.  So, I have a couple of questions, I’ll try to do them quickly.  One is that the, uh, the director of public health of the Kuwaiti Health Ministry has said, has expressed, a plan to begin checking — I don’t know how they would do it — checking people whether they are homosexual before they enter the Gulf GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries beginning in November, and I wonder if the Secretariat is aware of that and if they have any comment on it.

Associate Spokesperson:  We don’t have a comment.  You might want to check with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, what they would have to say.

Question:  Can I ask you also about the trip?  You, you gave a readout of the Security Council’s meeting with the PSC [President of the Security Council], but then you just mentioned that the… the meeting with Dr. Dlamini Zuma.  I wanted to know, first I wanted to know whether you could confirm that the… the issue of the International Criminal Court came up with Ms. Dlamini Zuma.  And also, if you don’t mind, how does it deci… how is it decided which of these meetings you will give a readout on, meaning you, you mentioned the two meetings with the Foreign Minister of Ethiopia and with… and with Dlamini Zuma, did… is that decided by the Secretariat, does the Sec… does the Security Council tell you, this meeting we want a readout, this one we don’t, or could you read out the one with Dlamini Zuma?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, the Security Council informed our colleague who is travelling with their delegation about their various meetings and he has passed that message onto you.  But these are… the Security Council, as you know, is a body of Member States.  You’d need to contact the Member States about what their discussions were like.

Question:  Right, but you… but I’m… but I guess I am just wondering if it’s difference of some meetings get a readout and some don’t, so…

Associate Spokesperson:  None of these meetings get a readout…

Question:  You listed the… you listed the topics of the one of the meetings [inaudible].

Associate Spokesperson:  I mentioned that because that information was passed along to my colleague.  But, we provide readouts for the Secretary-General, the Deputy Secretary-General, as the case may be.  It is ultimately up to the Member States who are on the Security Council to speak for themselves about their own discussions.  Have a great afternoon.

Question:  Can I ask one more question?  Could I ask one more question?

Associate Spokesperson:  No, I think we are done here.  See you. Have a great afternoon.

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