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

16 October 2013

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

16 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.  Welcome to the noon briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

The Secretary-General, as you will have seen, has appointed Sigrid Kaag of the Netherlands as Special Coordinator of the Organisation of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-United Nations joint mission to eliminate the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic.  The appointment has been made in close consultation with OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü.

Ms. Kaag has been serving as Assistant Secretary-General of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 2010, and she brings with her a wealth of experience in international organizations and diplomatic service, combined with country experience, notably in the Middle East region.  And we have more information on this appointment in my office.

**OPCW-UN Joint Mission

And the appointment announcement has been circulated, in addition to a joint press release from the OPCW and the United Nations.  And that press release says that the OPCW-UN Joint Mission in Syria has been established today, and this follows close consultations between the Director-General of the OPCW and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.  It also conforms with the provisions of the decision taken by the OPCW Executive Council on 27 September, which was followed by the adoption by the UN Security Council of its resolution 2118 (2013).

The joint mission has been established in order to achieve the timely elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme in the safest and most secure manner possible.  It will continue the work undertaken by the OPCW and the UN in Syria since the beginning of this month.  And, as I just mentioned, Ms. Sigrid Kaag has been appointed as the Special Coordinator for the OPCW-UN Joint Mission to eliminate the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic.

The OPCW and the UN have established separate but complementary Trust Funds which have been launched today at the Headquarters of the respective organizations.

The establishment of the Joint Mission, the appointment of the Special Coordinator and the arrangements related to the trust funds are based on the recommendations made by the UN Secretary-General, with the advice and support of the OPCW Director-General, in accordance with the letter by the Secretary-General to the Presidency of the Security Council, dated 7 October of this year.

[The press remarks by the Secretary-General on the appointment of Sigrid Kaag are issued separately.]

So, simply to say, as Ms. Kaag was mentioning, there will be the chance to hear from her in more detail.  Obviously, she has just been appointed.  She does need to go to The Hague to meet with the Director-General and other senior officials at the OPCW.  I will be working with my counterpart at the OPCW to see if we can arrange a joint video press conference in the coming days.

And, just again, staying with the team that is already in Syria, the joint team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations has now conducted verification activities at a total of 11 sites that are identified in Syria’s disclosure.  Activities have also included overseeing the destruction of critical equipment at six sites, as well as some destruction of so-called category 3 weapons — that is, in other words, unloaded chemical weapons munitions.

** Greece-Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will meet with the representatives of the two countries later this month.  Matthew Nimetz will meet with the two representatives separately and then jointly, with the purpose of continuing the UN-brokered talks aimed at finding a mutually acceptable solution to the “name” issue.

**Security Council

The Security Council heard a briefing this morning by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Mali, Bert Koenders.  He said that, despite security challenges, there was an overall improvement of the situation in Mali, which has opened new prospects for the recovery and long-term perspectives of the country.

Mr. Koenders, however, added that Mali had faced recurrent crises in the last decades and that the root causes of these challenges needed to be addressed.  He said he remains concerned about the fragile security situation, notably in the north.  Mr. Koenders urged all actors and parties to formulate a transparent and agreed road map for inclusive talks as a matter of priority.

He also said that the UN Mission in the country, MINUSMA, was facing severe challenges and lacks the means — such as helicopters — to facilitate rapid deployment and access to remote areas.  Mr. Koenders is expected to speak to reporters at the stakeout once the consultations with the Security Council are over.

** Central African Republic

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said today that the Emergency Directors for several United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations will visit the Central African Republic from tomorrow up to Saturday.  The delegation is expected to discuss ways of enhancing support for the humanitarian response in the country.  On Friday, the delegation will travel to the northern towns of Bossangoa and Kaga Bandoro to see the humanitarian impact of the crisis and the relief efforts.

** Philippines

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the central Philippine island of Bohol yesterday.  The Government says that 99 people are confirmed dead and 276 injured.  More than 2 million people are affected as the earthquake triggered landslides.

A joint Government and [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] team has completed a preliminary assessment at the epicentre, where it is reported that there is an urgent need for medical supplies and clean drinking water.  Half of the homes in the epicentre have been destroyed or damaged.  The Government and the Philippine Red Cross have mobilized emergency response teams and ambulances, while humanitarian agencies — including UN agencies — are arriving in Bohol to support needs assessments, camp coordination and management, basic relief supplies and logistics.

**Trip Announcement

The Secretary-General will depart New York on Monday, 21 October, for Denmark.  And on Tuesday, the Secretary-General will address the Global Green Growth Forum in Copenhagen, and he will then meet with the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament and the Chairperson of the Foreign Policy Committee.  And he will also attend a meeting hosted by the Minister of Finance, with institutional investors.

And then on Wednesday, the Secretary-General will deliver the keynote speech at the Copenhagen Climate Finance Meeting.  He will also meet with the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Climate, Energy and Building.  The Secretary-General will also participate in the launch of the Efficient Energy Hub, which aims to serve as the centre of global efforts to double energy efficiency by 2013, under the umbrella of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative.

The Secretary-General will also take part in a meeting, where he will interact with a large group of young people, and that’s before returning to New York on the same day, on Wednesday, 23October.

That’s what I have for you.  And I am happy to take questions.  Pamela?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Obviously, it’s an interesting and important appointment; does this reflect or does the Secretary-General feel that the timeline is proceeding as he wanted it to, in terms of the OPCW’s work in Syria?  And are there any obstacles that you have seen from the Syrian Government?

Spokesperson:  Well, the cooperation with the Syrian Government and from the Syrian Government has been good, so far, as we have said.  And as I just mentioned, the team that is already there in Syria has catalogued the activities that it has been able to conduct already.  And that is a clear sign of the progress that is being made.  However, it is obvious, as, again, we have said repeatedly, that these are very challenging deadlines; it is a very challenging timeline.  The Secretary-General has just expressed his satisfaction that the Security Council moved quickly, both on the proposal for the joint mission that was put together in close coordination with the OPCW, and also has clearly seen the proposal for Sigrid Kaag to be the Special Coordinator of that mission.  And as you have heard, that appointment has now been confirmed with the response from the Security Council.  So, all in all, there is clear movement with the work of the advance team and now with the joint mission.  As Ms. Kaag herself just said, she is going to The Hague so that she can speak to her colleagues from the OPCW.  That is a very important connection to make, as Ms. Kaag will be reporting both to the Director-General of the OPCW and to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.  I am sure we will be hearing more from her in due course.  But, she does need to get there and speak to her colleagues in The Hague first.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  As you just said, and as I understood the Secretary-General say, the new appointee will have two bosses.  One, she will have to report to the Director-General of the OPCW, and to the Secretary-General himself.  How could these two functions be coordinated?

Spokesperson:  It does what it says on the tin, Mr. Abbadi.  The title of the role is Special Coordinator.  I think you can see with one swift look at Ms. Kaag’s biography, I should say her [curriculum vitae], that she has a huge amount of experience in working in an international environment.  And it is obvious that she will have with her also UN colleagues and OPCW colleagues working in that joint mission, and she will coordinate very closely both with the Secretary-General and the Director-General of the respective organizations.  This is an important mission, and this is clearly a very good person for the job who has extensive experience, the languages to go with the region, too.  Other questions, please?  Yes?

Question:  Thanks, Martin.  I understand that he said that Mr. [Nasser] al-Kidwa is going to go to Turkey and speak with, I guess, the opposition.  I wanted to, in that context, to ask you about, there is… there has been a second announcement, this time by 70 of the… 70 armed groups, saying that they reject specifically by name the Syrian National Coalition and its leadership and the… it seems like the Free Syrian Army is trying to say they are not being rejected, but the Coalition should listen more to the people actually inside Syria.  So, I am wondering, can you say at all sort of what… within, those are two groups, there are other groups, who is he going to meet with and also generally what is the se… what is the… the Secretariat’s view given this new announcement of the Syrian National Coalition as… as a sort of a major interlocutor, as a representative for the Syrian opposition?

Spokesperson:  Well, we’ve said all along and the Secretary-General himself has said, including when he met the head of the Syrian National Coalition, Mr. [Ahmed] al-Jarba, that it is absolutely vital that there should be a single delegation representing the opposition.  And that there should be as much outreach to the various parts of the opposition — and we all know the difficulties that there are — that there should be that outreach with the intention of coming to Geneva in the middle of November with one team representing the opposition.  And it is Mr. al-Kidwa’s role as part of what the Secretary-General described as working at all levels to reach out to the opposition there.  And of course, there will be other contacts; Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi is also going to be in the region, and therefore, able to interact with various players, too.  And as we have repeatedly said, no one is suggesting this will be easy.  It is extremely difficult.  Those countries with influence on the different parties are also playing their role, too.

Question:  Thanks a lot, and just… just one follow-up, because it seems like that was said when… while Mr. al-Jarba was here, there had been… just been an announcement by some groups and now there seems to be a larger… a larger group of… of… of armed groups and… and opposition saying that he doesn’t represent them.  So, I… is it going in the right direction?  Is… does the UN view the Syrian National Coalition as kind of the… a central thing to build a unified Geneva II presence around or is there… or… or… or are they looking for something else?

Spokesperson:  Look, ultimately, it is for the Syrian people to decide the format, under which umbrella and so on.  What the Secretary-General has made clear, and Mr. Brahimi, is that, from their perspective, it is crucial that there should be a unified single delegation representing the opposition, in the same way that there will be a single delegation representing the Syrian Government.  So, other questions, please?  Yes, Sherwin?

Question:  Martin, any developments on the UN’s reaction to the AU (African Union) resolution regarding its relationship with the International Criminal Court?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I mentioned to you before, the Secretary-General has been following the extraordinary summit of the African Union on “ Africa’s relationship with the International Criminal Court” very closely.  And he trusts that the African Union and its member States will continue to engage with the International Criminal Court in a constructive manner.  And he urges States parties to the Rome Statute to continue to honour their obligations, in particular when implementing the decisions of the summit.

Question:  Part of that resolution specifically looks at amending various articles:  article 27, which talks about the relevance of official capacity when appearing; article 63, that the accused needs to appear in person.  Does the Secretary-General have a view on calls to amend certain articles in the Statute?

Spokesperson:  Well, it’s not for the Secretary-General to interpret the provisions of the Rome Statute.  And with regard to such matters as, for example, the question of deferral, the question of the Security Council using its Chapter VII powers to decide on a deferral as contemplated by article 16 of the Rome Statute is a matter which is for the Security Council and its members.  Alright.  Yes, Joseph?

Question:  Yes, thank you.  Will the issue of Iran’s participation at Geneva II come up, or is expected to come up, in these various meetings that Mr. Brahimi, Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman and the representative going to meet with the opposition, because I believe that the opposition or at least spokesperson for the opposition have said that Iran’s participation would be unacceptable to them, among other problems in getting the opposition to the table…?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, first of all, as has been made clear repeatedly, these negotiations, this conference that is to take place in Geneva should take place without preconditions.  And that means preconditions from anyone.  So, that’s the first thing.  The second thing is that the Secretary-General and Mr. Brahimi have said that they believe that Iran’s presence would be useful.  However, that has yet to be decided amongst all interested parties.  I think you can take it as read that that is indeed part of the discussions that Mr. Feltman is having, Mr. Brahimi is having and Mr. al-Kidwa will be having, too.  Okay, other questions, please?  Pamela, then Matthew?

Question:  Martin, on the Iran talks in Geneva, can you say if there is any reaction by the Secretary-General on the progress on the proposal for… basically the PowerPoint proposal for a one-year timeframe by the Iranians?  And other than hosting it at the Geneva headquarters of the United Nations, does the United Nations have any role other than the Security Council and… yeah?

Spokesperson:  I answered that question from you on Monday, I think.

Correspondent:  Right, but the UN hosting it… the meetings…

Spokesperson:  Well, I mean, I think that’s… it is… Geneva has a major UN headquarters with the kind of set-up to be able to host such a meeting.  That doesn’t imply that it has any mediation role whatsoever.

Question:  No, that’s fine, is there anybody at the UN in Geneva who is coordinating this or dealing with it other than in just procedural matters?

Spokesperson:  No, no, no.  This is, as I mentioned to you before, the E3+3, the P5+1, however one wishes to describe that group, is negotiating with Iran, and clearly, the Secretary-General is following those discussions with interest, not least because part of this is related to UN Security Council sanctions and resolutions.  Therefore, he is following it very closely.  And of course, he has seen the media reports that certainly have the right mood music.  It remains to be seen what will come out in concrete terms, but he is closely following this, for obvious reasons.

Correspondent:  Right, thank you.

Spokesperson:  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Thanks, Martin.  I want to ask you about the DRC ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) and then something about the UN human rights architecture.  The… the… in the DRC, there seems to have been this fighting by, between the Congolese army and M23 (23 March Movement) and Kanyamahoro and it has resulted in M23 both saying it was going to break off the talks in Kampala and setting a 20… 48-hour ulti… you know, ultimatum for… for the army to leave.  I wanted to know, what does MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) or the UN think of that advance by the Government while the talks were going on, and what do they say to M23 now saying that helicop… they… they acknowledge that they fired at the helicopter?  They… they complain that MONUSCO has been flying what they describe as Joseph Kabila’s intelligence chiefs over their area.  Is that the case and what would be… what would be the purpose of that and can you understand that they would see this as an attempt to gain intelligence to attack their positions?

Spokesperson:  I will first of all check with the Mission on the first part of your question.  On the second part, we have said that the UN helicopters have the right to fly over the territory of the DRC, and it is not for one individual opposition or rebel group to define what the airspace of the DRC is.

Question:  But, who flies in the helicopters; is it just UN staff or can they be FARDC (Congolese Armed Forces) individuals?

Spokesperson:  They are obviously piloted by UN personnel, and…

Question:  But… but who is the… who is the passenger?  That’s what… I guess I am just wondering…

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t in front of me have precise manifest of who is on board every helicopter; and I am sure, Matthew, that I will check, as you would expect, with our Mission and I will come back to you.  I do have some material already that the Mission did send me, and I think in scrambling to come here to deal with Syria, I left it on my table.  So, as soon as this is over, I will be able to share it with you.  Has anybody else got a question here?  Yes, please?

[The Spokesperson later added that the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUSCO, has expressed its concern over the brief exchange of fire that took place between Congolese Government forces and the M23 in the area of Kanyamahoro, in North Kivu.  The two patrols involved in the exchange of fire have now returned to their positions.  MONUSCO continues to be on high alert to ensure the protection of civilians.  It is also pursuing its activities to neutralize all armed groups, in accordance with the mandate it has received from the Security Council.  The Mission hopes that the Kampala talks will bear quick results.]

Question:  Thank you.  About Ms. Kaag, you said that she will be in The Hague on Friday?  Do we have already…

Spokesperson:  That’s what she said.  She said she will be there on Friday.

Question:  Yes, she said so, yeah.  So do we already have the date when she will be in Damascus?

Spokesperson:  I think you can understand that we will not be saying in advance what Ms. Kaag’s movements will be to the region.  But clearly, she will first need to speak to our colleagues at the OPCW in The Hague, and then, beyond that, we will see how we can interact with the press, so with the media, so that she can speak to you some more, having then had briefings both here and in The Hague.  But, at the moment, we are not going to be talking about movements to the region.  And I think you can understand why.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?  This will be the last question.

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Still on DRC, the situation there is explosive and alarming from various points of view, from the political, as well as humanitarian.  Humanitarian also already refers to possible mission going there soon, but from the political point of view, and I know the Security Council had adopted a resolution on that, what can be done to accelerate the UN work there to prevent an explosive disaster, situation in the country?

Spokesperson:  Well, that’s precisely what the Framework Agreement is all about, and the work of Mary Robinson as the Special Envoy on that particular topic.  She is working very hard with the countries in the region and with the other relevant players.  She obviously coordinates very closely with the Mission we have there and with the humanitarian workers there.  As I have said here before, of course, everyone recognizes that this is an extremely long-standing deep and complex crisis in the east of the country.  And this is an enormous country, this is not an easy topic to deal with, but the Mission has been there for some time, and is working extremely hard.  It has been enhanced and boosted in the east, as has the humanitarian work, but it remains extremely precarious.  And as we have also said, there is a need still for full deployment of some components of the Mission, including the Force Intervention Brigade and the equipment that they need.  So, if I have anything further on that, then I will let you know, but that’s it for now.

Thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon, thank you.  Thank you.

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