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

2 December 2013

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

2 December 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.

So, good afternoon, everyone.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Guest

I’d like to welcome my guest today, Haoliang Xu, who is Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific at the UN Development Programme (UNDP).  And he will be speaking about the relief efforts and importantly, the recovery planning process in the Philippines, following Typhoon Haiyan, which was known locally as Typhoon Yolanda.

Mr. Xu has some introductory remarks, I know, and will then take questions.  And I will have some further information for you after this part of the briefing.

But first of all, welcome.  Good to have you here; and the floor is yours.

[Press conference by Mr. Xu issued separately.]

** Ukraine

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Ukraine:

The Secretary-General has been closely following events in Ukraine.  He appeals to all parties to act with restraint, avoid any further violence and to uphold the democratic principles of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

The Secretary-General encourages meaningful dialogue between all concerned, in the pursuit of a prosperous future for Ukraine and mutual agreement among Ukrainians on the path forward for the country.

**Secretary-General in Peru

The Secretary-General arrived early this morning in Lima.  He spoke at the opening session of the General Conference of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, UNIDO.

In his remarks, the Secretary-General noted that Member States will adopt the second Lima Declaration, following the adoption of the first one nearly 40 years ago.  This new framework document will create the foundation for the coming decades of the UN Industrial Development Organization’s important work as the central agency in the United Nations for all matters related to industrialization.  And he underlined the importance of industry and the private sector in steering the human family on a safer, more prosperous and sustainable path.

The Secretary-General also met with the President of Peru and, right about now, he is speaking at a joint press conference with the President and the Director General of UNIDO.  And we hope to issue the transcript of that press conference soon.

**Trip Announcement

On Thursday afternoon, the Secretary-General will depart New York for Paris, where he will attend the Elysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa.  He will participate in meetings focused on peace and security, as well as climate change.

On the margins of the Summit hosted by the French Government, the Secretary-General will hold bilateral meetings with a number of African leaders.  And he will also participate in a meeting on the Central African Republic.

The Secretary-General will return to New York on Saturday.

**Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, is visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Mr. Ladsous’ trip aims to support the UN Mission in the country, MONUSCO, in its efforts to assist the Government in consolidating peace and security.

Mr. Ladsous is in Goma, in the eastern DRC ( Democratic Republic of the Congo), today.  He is meeting with senior Government officials to discuss the UN Mission’s support in key areas.  And he will also emphasize the importance of political dialogue for regional stability.

On Tuesday, Mr. Ladsous will preside over the launch of unarmed unmanned aerial vehicles from Goma, an important tool to assist the UN Mission in fulfilling its mandate to protect civilians.

Mr. Ladsous will hold a press conference with Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Martin Kobler, in Goma following the launch, and we will provide updates accordingly.

** Somalia

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, paid tribute today to Somalia’s outgoing Prime Minister, Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid, and noted the responsible role played by the Federal Parliament and the Speaker in handling the "no confidence" motion.

He said that this was managed in accordance with the provisional constitution and the rules of procedure of the Parliament.  He also added that Somalia’s institutions were coming of age and that the United Nations was there to support their development.

Mr. Kay also noted the urgency of nominating and appointing a new Prime Minister as quickly as possible to maintain political and State-building progress in Somalia.

He said he hoped that the President would consult widely before choosing.  He added that it was in everyone’s best interest that the next Prime Minister and government be broadly inclusive, able to unite the country and capable of delivering what Somalia needs.

** Bangladesh

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said yesterday that she was deeply worried by the rising levels of political violence in Bangladesh.

In recent weeks, supporters of major parties have clashed with each other and with the security forces.  Scores of people have been killed and hundreds injured.

Ms. Pillay said such levels of violence are deeply shocking for the Bangladeshi people who want and deserve a peaceful and inclusive election.  She has also expressed concern about the arrest and detention of key opposition leaders by the law enforcement agencies.

Ms. Pillay called on the political leaders to fulfil their responsibility to bring this violence to an immediate end and seek a solution to this crisis through dialogue.  And her full statement is available online and also in my office.

Also, as we announced last week, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernández-Taranco, will be in Bangladesh from 7 to 10 December.  The purpose of his visit is to encourage dialogue and conditions conducive for parliamentary elections scheduled for 5 January next year.  He will meet with representatives from the Government, opposition, parliament, civil society and the international community.

** Afghanistan

Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, expressed deep regret over the weekend at the death of nine Afghan aid workers in two separate attacks in recent days.

So far this year in Afghanistan, the United Nations has recorded 237 incidents against humanitarian personnel, sites and assets.

Mr. Bowden said that he is extremely concerned about this trend at a time when the country is in the midst of a difficult transition that may lead to increased humanitarian needs.  He called upon all actors to respect and uphold the neutrality, impartiality and independence of humanitarian workers and to abide by international humanitarian laws.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

Tomorrow, at 12:45 p.m., there will be a press conference here by Ambassador Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations and the President of the Security Council for the month of December.  He will brief you on the Council’s programme of work for the month.

Questions, please?  Yes, Masood?  Microphone.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sorry about that.  Yes, sir, about this situation in Thailand, where the Prime Minister has been asked to resign again and again, and she has refused; and the situation seems to be growing worse.  That’s one.  The other question that I wanted to ask you is about this ongoing crisis in India, in Kashmir, which is, I mean, needless to say, there are several UN resolutions and so forth, but the thing is recently there has been an uptick in violence and the human rights abuses of the Kashmiris by the Indian army.  Does the Secretary-General has to say anything about this?

Spokesperson:  Well, on the last one first: Masood, I don’t really have anything to add to what the Secretary-General is on record as saying, including relatively recently on this topic.  I am happy to help you with that afterwards, but I don’t have anything further to add at this point.

With regard to Thailand, the Secretary-General is concerned certainly about the escalation of violence in Bangkok in recent days and expresses regret over the loss of lives and injuries.  He also notes with concern the repeated attempts by protestors to forcefully seize Government buildings and media outlets.  The Secretary-General reiterates his call for all sides to exercise utmost restraint and to resolve political differences through dialogue.  He underlines the need for all parties to observe full respect for democratic principles, the rule of law, and human rights, including freedom of expression.

Other questions, please?  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I wanted to ask you about the… the… the… the incidents that took place in Kidal.  There, there, there seem to have been two different incidents, but in… but in… in one account, UN peacekeepers told protestors at the airport in Kidal to… to… to disperse and the protesters ended up being fired on.  That’s at least… there is a public report of that.  Then, there may have been some actual armed groups that also attacked the army, but is it… can you… have you been able to find out what the… what the… the… the MINUSMA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali] peacekeepers, did they tell protesters to… to… to disperse?  If so, were the protesters armed or was there some suspension of the normal right to… to engage in protest?

Spokesperson:  Well, I do understand that the Mission, MINUSMA, issued a statement on this. A nd I don’t have anything further on that at this point.  And if that changes, I’ll certainly update you.  But, at this point, I don’t have anything further on that, Matthew.

Question:  Sure, I’m… I’m only asking because I think, I mean, because I have seen the statement, and I appreciated you sending it, but it doest really explain this, it doesn’t address this…

Spokesperson:  Well, as I said, that’s what we have at the moment.  I am going here, and then back to Masood and Pamela.  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Li [inaudible] from China Central TV, CCTV.  This week actually marks the seventieth anniversary of the Cairo Declaration, the 1943 Cairo Declaration, which set the tone of the post–war international order and in which the United Nations has always been… played an important role in.  So, what is the UN’s position on the Cairo Declaration, and any comments from the Secretary-General on its seventieth anniversary?  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll look into that and see if we are going to have something more formal.  But obviously, in the latter stages of World War II, there were a number of key meetings that led indeed to the shaping of the post-war international political structure.  But, if I have anything further in a more formal sense, I will let you know.  Thanks for your question on that.  Masood, and then, Pamela?

Question:  Yes, sir.  I wanted to ask you about this Syrian peace process and the meeting called for… I mean… Geneva II, called for the end of January.  Has the United Nations or the parties that be decided from the opposition side who is coming and who will be representing the opposition, because there are fears also being stressed again and again in the American press, also that Al-Qaida have somehow encroached into these groups and have extremists and they may somehow be able to manoeuvre certain thinking, extremist thinking.

Spokesperson: The composition of the opposition delegation is not yet known, and indeed, more generally, the list of participants, list of countries, and groups, meaning organizations like the League of Arab States and others that will be invited, that is also not yet complete.  There will be a further meeting of the trilateral group meeting the United States, the Russian Federation and the United Nations.  That will be in Geneva on the twentieth of this month, and at that meeting, there will clearly be a full discussion and an outcome relating to the participants and to such things as the agenda.  And it will flow from that then that the Secretary-General will be able to send out invitations.  That has not happened yet.  That’s still a work in progress.

Correspondent:  So, what you’re saying is that there will be a comprehensive list which will be issued before and…

Spokesperson:  What we have said is that there will this meeting on the twentieth of December.  It starts as a trilateral meeting, and following the format of some of the previous meetings, there will also be a broader meeting that takes in the other members, the permanent members of the Security Council and then a broader meeting beyond that that includes neighbouring countries and regional players.  So, at that meeting, there will discussion about the participants, the opposition delegation and so on, and then what we’ve said is that it’s going to be really important that the opposition will say and the Syrian Government authorities will say precisely who is coming; so that, therefore, Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi and others will be able to meet in advance with some of those players to map out how things will then look when we get to the actual international conference on Syria the following month.  Okay?  Pamela?

Question: Thank you, Martin.  Now, on the destruction of the chemical weapons and the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons]-UN mandate.  There were reports this weekend that the United States has offered to destroy chemical weapons on board a vessel.  Have you gotten any updates on whether that offer has been accepted?  And there were some comments by Ms. [Sigrid] Kaag, the Special Coordinator, if I’m pronouncing her name right, is that there were 35 different companies bidding for the commercial contracts.  Is there any ability for us to see what… which those companies are… a list of those companies… will it be vetted publicly?  Thanks.

Spokesperson: Well, on the last question, Pamela I would refer you to the OPCW because that particular process is being run through the OPCW.  Ms. Kaag, the Special Coordinator, did, indeed, address that and other topics in Damascus, where she was until Saturday.  She’s now gone to The Hague, where she has been speaking to the Member States of the OPCW today and she will be briefing the Security Council later this week.  I would anticipate that she will also speak to reporters after having briefed the Council, and I think that then she will be able to say more about both this [United States] proposal and some of the other questions that there are out there relating to this very important undertaking.

Question:  Just to follow up on that, does that… in other words, your answer is that the UN is not vetting those 35 companies?  It’s only at the OPCW?

Spokesperson: There is a procurement process.  If I have more details on that, I will let you know but that’s what I understand at the moment.

Question: Procurement process… procurement would be out of OPCW?

Spokesperson: That’s my understanding.  If I get more information on that, I will certainly update you.  Yes, Masood and then Matthew?

Question: On this Egypt, where again the stranglehold of the army and the military regime seems to be growing further, where they have now banned any rallies of more than 10 people and so forth, and they are basically trying to stifle any freedom of speech and so forth.  Does the Secretary-General… I know he… in the past he has talked about it… the recent actions by the military and the military Government has really become very ominous, that they really want to somehow break down the so-called, I mean, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General has been following for a long time the political developments in Egypt, including the developments on the streets, and that would also include what’s happened over this past weekend.  So, he does follow this very closely.  He’s also spoken, and I have spoken on his behalf, about the heightened debate about the draft law regulating protests, and he’s stressed that international human rights standards should form the basis of any new legislation and that this would, of course, include the right to assemble, as enshrined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  So, that’s where I would leave it at the moment.  We’re obviously watching that rather closely, Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I wanted to ask about security and also about Madagascar. On security, it’s kind of interrelated.  One is… on Wednesday, the previous President of the Security Council, the Chinese Ambassador, confirmed that… that… that this exchange of letters to set up some kind of a security force in Libya to protect the UN mission there.  And I wanted to know if we could just get some more information.  Is that a peacekeeping, is it a peacekeeping mission?  Is it DSS (Department of Safety and Security) people?

Spokesperson:  No, it is not a peacekeeping mission.  No, it is not a peacekeeping mission.  It’s a guard force and the Mission itself has put out a fairly detailed description of what the role and mandate of such a force would be.  It’s a guard force of 235 people, so there was a fairly detailed note from the Mission which we would be happy to let you have if you have not seen it, which appears to be the case.

[The Spokesperson later shared the relevant press release, which said in part:  “This team should not exceed 235 elements, including a number of administrative and services staff.  The functions of aforementioned team shall be limited to the protection of the office and accommodation premises occupied by UNSMIL (United Nations Support Mission in Libya) staff members.  The scope of its work shall not exceed the perimeters of UNSMIL headquarters.”]

Question:  No, I hadn’t seen it and actually it’s the staff thing and this… this is the second… related question… I heard that, today, a number of UN security staff here… here at Headquarters received letters that, as of 1 January, they’re essentially laid off and that their posts were tied to the Capital Master Plan and no longer exist.  So, I’ve… that’s why I say it may or may not be related… I see it as related.  Is this mission going to Libya… is it essentially a DSS?  Is it staffed within existing UN personnel?  Are they hiring people… you know local staff in Libya?  Maybe…

Spokesperson:  This is not local staff. This is an external contingent that will be used expressly to defend and protect the Mission and the confines of the Mission, meaning the perimeter of the mission headquarters.  So that’s that part of it.  I heard what you said about security personnel here and we are already checking into it.  I don’t have anything at this point, Matthew.  Okay, thank you very much.

[The Spokesperson later added:  The security posts in question are posts that were temporarily created to support the Capital Master Plan (CMP).  The “associated costs” for the CMP, which is the funding source for these temporary posts, ends on 31 December 2013.  However, over the last 18 months, the Organization has put a great deal of effort into saving as many jobs as possible for these affected staff members.  This has included finding posts within the Security and Safety Service at the UN Headquarters, as well as other UN security services globally, general service posts and field assignments.  Of the 68 officers considered in the temporary hiring associated with the Capital Master Plan, there are 10 officers remaining on the list for placement.]

Question: Can I ask you about Madagascar?

Spokesperson: Yes, you did mention…

Correspondent:  Okay, I’ll do it… it basically has to do with… with Andry Rajoelina, who… who… I know that it seems that the UN is providing some kind of electrical… electoral assistance running up to the election.

Spokesperson: Maybe electrical, as well.  I don’t know.

Question:  Yeah, it could be.  But, it may get blacked out by this, because Mr. Rajoelina, under the SADC (Southern African Development Community) road map, was not supposed to either run or endorse candidates.  And on 1 December, he appeared at a rally for a series of legislative candidates and they… they’re actually running under… under a ticket known as With President Andry Rajoelina, so I guess… and I don’t know… either you have it or DPA (Department of Political Affairs) maybe could answer this.  Does the UN believe that Mr. Rajoelina appearing at these rallies and running a… a ticket of his supporters is complying with the road map?  And if not, is the UN electoral assistance, which was supposedly tied to complying with the road map, still in place for the 20 December election?

Spokesperson: Well, the road map is certainly the guiding principle here and I’ll check with the DPA to see whether they have any updates on both the UN’s involvement in helping with the election process and its views on these latest developments.  But, I don’t have anything right now.  Thanks very much.

Have a good afternoon. Thank you.

* *** *

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