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

21 March 2014

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

21 March 2014
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

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

 

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Let’s get started with Stéphane Dujarric, then.

**Ukraine

All right, good afternoon.  Well, I’ll have to say that the nice thing is that it’s a beautiful, beautiful spring day in Kyiv, and for those of us who have been in New York all winter, it’s nice. 

Getting down to the Secretary-General, we arrived this morning from Moscow.  The Secretary-General was briefed on arrival by officials from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  He was briefed on the status of the mission.  There are currently seven internationals in-country and four nationals.  That team will go up in numbers and there is a presence in Donetsk and in Kharkiv. 

And as you know, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, is in Crimea today.  The Secretary-General was very pleased that he was able to make it into Crimea to assess the human rights situation on the ground.  I won’t go into Šimonović’s details because it’s exactly the same ones that you have through the press release that was released a bit earlier today.

We then met with the Acting President of Ukraine, and that was followed by a meeting with a group of parliamentarians from most of the leading parties that are represented in the Rada.  And we then went to the Defence Ministry and met with the Defence Minister.

The Secretary-General’s message to all these different meetings was very similar, and very similar to the one that he delivered to Russian authorities.  He expressed his very serious concern at the tense situation and what’s going on in some parts of the country, and as well, obviously, the tensions between Ukraine and Russia.  He reiterated his own feelings that this crisis can only be solved through peaceful, diplomatic solutions based on the principles of the Charter.  And that there has to be a real dialogue between Kyiv and Moscow, and that was a message he delivered in all three of those meetings.

And also, as he had said in Moscow, it is vital that there be some restraint from any provocative actions that can lead to further escalations and miscalculations, as well as there should be no intimidation by radical elements of minority groups or others.

He really appealed for a calming of the situation and the rhetoric.  And finally, he also, in his meeting with the President and the parliamentarians, reiterated that the UN stands ready to assist in any way with the upcoming elections and the need for those elections to be transparent, free and fair so that all Ukrainians can accept the results.

That’s about it.  He is currently meeting… with civil society representatives, about 10 of them.  And tomorrow morning, we expect to meet with the Prime Minister before leaving Kyiv.

Over to you.

Deputy Spokesman:  OK, thanks very much.  If you can all raise your hands and identify yourselves, since Stéphane, of course, cannot see you, and speak clearly into the microphones.  Pam?

Question:  Thank you, safe trip, Stéphane.  My question is — it’s Pamela Falk from CBS News — it that in the Kremlin press conference, the Secretary-General was asked after his initial statement what he felt about the referendum, vis-à-vis the UN Charter?  Was it legal?  Was it not legal?  What did he think?  And he didn’t really address it directly, but earlier, he had talked more about sovereignty of Ukraine and its territorial integrity.  Does the Secretary-General, in these meetings, does he continue to talk about the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and therefore, what does he feel about the Crimea annexation?

Spokesman:  You know, what the Secretary-General said yesterday stands.  Yes, and he has talked about sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, as based on the principles in the Charter.  But I think his focus right now is on trying to calm the situation and push both Kyiv and Moscow, encourage Kyiv and Moscow, to have a direct dialogue to solve the crisis.  So I have really nothing to add from what he said yesterday.

Deputy Spokesman:  Edie?

Question:  Thanks, Stéph.  Edie Lederer from AP.  Did the Secretary-General bring any message to Ukraine’s leaders from President Putin, and is he, do you see any possibilities after his visit in Moscow of dialogue between Moscow and Kyiv?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General did brief the Acting President on the conversations that he had with President Putin the day before, and I will leave it at that.  He continues to encourage them to have a dialogue.  You know, obviously, we have to take things one day at a time.  The tensions are high and the rhetoric remains higher than it should be.  I would add that the Secretary-General has also asked Mr. Feltman to stay behind for a few days to continue with the contacts he’s been having here in Kyiv.  Over to you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Masood?

Question:  Can I do a quick follow-up? 

Spokesman: Sure.

Question: Is it possible that Mr. Feltman might go back to Moscow as part of his…?

Spokesman:  No, it’s not planned at this time.

Deputy Spokesman:  Masood?

Question:  Masood Haider of Pakistan.  There’s a story going around by AP, IPS, which is has been published, that there are more than two entities to this situation, including the United States and the European Union.  Does the Secretary-General also intend to visit with these entities, meaning the President of the United States and the European Union?

Spokesman:  He will obviously…the fact that he’s going to The Hague for the nuclear summit tomorrow will give him an opportunity to have a number of bilateral meetings in which this issue will be raised.  And his message will be the same to everyone.  His message is consistent.  Over to you.

Question:  My question, Stéphane, is specific to European Union and United States, which are imposing sanction on each other and so forth.  So, is he going to take this diplomatic initiative to the United States and to European Union to discuss with them as to how to mitigate the whole process?

Spokesman:  I think his message, as I said will be that we need to de-escalate and find a way to solve this through peaceful, diplomatic solutions.  But, obviously the dialogue that really needs to happen is between Kyiv and Moscow.

Farhan, I can take one more question and then I have to go.

Deputy Spokesman: Okay, Matthew?

Question:  I wanted to ask you about sanctions.  I know that in his opening remarks, the Secretary-General talked about provocative actions and counter-reactions and obviously there have been, the US announced sanctions on a slew of individuals and one bank, and other bank has been cut off from the Visa and Mastercard system.  Russia has its own sanctions.  Was this discussed, was this discussed while he was in Moscow?  Does the Secretary-General think that sanctions should be done through the UN?  And will he meet with representatives of the Svoboda party while he’s there, if they were to request it?

Spokesman:  There was a — I will share with you as soon as I get it — the list of party leaders that attended the meeting with the Secretary-General.  So we will see who exactly was there and, you know, I’m not going to get into detailed reactions to sanctions and counter-sanctions and so forth.  But what I will say is that, you know, everybody needs to kind of focus on finding a peaceful, diplomatic solution and lowering the tensions.

Question:  Has he or you seen the video of the Svoboda party MPs beating up the television executive?

Spokesman:  I have not and I doubt that he has.

Deputy Spokesman:  Any chance for any more questions, or are you on the move?

Spokesman:  Just one quick one and I really have to go.

Deputy Spokesman: Okay, Oleg.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  This is Oleg from Itar-Tass.  I wanted to ask, the President of Ukraine, the temporary President, he said that there’s going to be formed a commission within the UN that will take the issue of Crimea to a new level.  Can you confirm the fact of such a commission?

Spokesman:  You know, I was there, and I think he talked about a possibility.  There is nothing concrete on that end.

Deputy Spokesman:  Okay, thanks very much, Steph.  Good luck with your travels.  Bye.

Spokesman: Enjoy your weekend.

Deputy Spokesman: And if you guys can stay here for a sec, I have a few notes and I can take any further questions on other matters.

**Afghanistan

First off, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan strongly condemned the deadly attack last night on a hotel in the capital, Kabul, with officials reporting nine civilian fatalities and several wounded.  The attack took place on a clear civilian location on the eve of Nowruz, customarily the start of the new year and a time for celebrating values such as peace and solidarity among different communities.  Among those killed were Afghan women and children.

The UN Mission reiterates that the indiscriminate attacks on civilian locations are breaches of international humanitarian law.  It extends its condolences to all those affected by the violence.  We may have a statement from the Secretary-General later today.

**Syria

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that eight trucks (out of a total of 79) crossed the border from Turkey into Syria yesterday and are in the process of being off-loaded at humanitarian agencies' warehouses in Qamishli.  Yesterday's movement included four trucks for the UN Refugee Agency carrying blankets for 12,000 people, and four trucks for the World Food Programme with wheat flour for 20,000 people.

Other components of the “food parcels”, like oil and rice, are expected to cross in the coming days, as well as items like water kits, medicines, children's clothes, hygiene kits and sleeping mats.

Nigel Fisher, the regional Humanitarian Coordinator, said earlier today that no convoy movements are expected today, but agencies are hoping that operations can continue tomorrow, Saturday.

**Lebanon

Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, met with Lebanese Prime Minister Tamam Salam today and congratulated him on the strong vote of confidence the Government secured yesterday in Parliament. 

He told reporters afterwards that he welcomed the priority being given by the Prime Minister and his colleagues to the security challenges facing Lebanon. Mr. Plumbly said he was deeply disturbed by the ongoing violence in Tripoli, by the repeated and totally unacceptable violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty along Lebanon’s northern and eastern borders with Syria, and by the consequent loss of life.  He said that a mission is in Arsal today to assess the needs there as a result of recent events.

**South Sudan

On South Sudan, the Operations Director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, John Ging, has called for international support to the country at a press conference today in Juba.

Mr. Ging — who is visiting South Sudan with the Emergency Directors of the UN refugee agency, the UN Children’s Fund, the World Food Programme, the UN Development Programme, the World Health Organization, the International Organization for Migration, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Danish Refugee Council — called on the international community to support the political process to resolve the crisis, and to fund the humanitarian appeal so that vital aid can be delivered before the rains come.  So far, some $300 million has been received, leaving a shortfall of $970 million.

Mr. Ging also called on South Sudan's people to respect humanitarian workers and operations.  He added that humanitarian agencies appreciated expressions of support from the authorities, but said these needed to be translated into action at all levels.

We hope John Ging will be able to brief you on his trip next Tuesday here in New York, with Yasmin Haque of UNICEF.

And also on South Sudan, the UN refugee agency says it is gravely concerned about new tensions arising from lack of food in Maban County, in South Sudan’s volatile Upper Nile State.  Maban County hosts 125,000 Sudanese refugees from Blue Nile State.

The agency says that local residents demanded that some 60,000 refugees in Yusuf Batil and Gendrassa camps leave within two months.  Hostilities have spread to Doro and Kaya camps.  It adds that it is working with authorities and other humanitarian agencies to defuse the tensions.

The UN refugee agency says that competition for natural resources – including wood, grass and grazing land – has recently boiled over into “tit-for-tat” attacks, forcing up to 8,000 refugees to flee Yusuf Batil camp.  Although refugees have since returned to the camp, tensions persist.

The Governments of South Sudan and of Ethiopia have agreed to allow humanitarian supplies through Gambella, Ethiopia, which will enable the World Food Programme to dispatch much needed food for internally displaced people and refugees in Maban in the coming days.

**Investigation Team in South Sudan

We have an update from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations on the work of the High-Level Investigation Team that had been immediately sent to South Sudan to establish the facts concerning the incident on 5 March 2014.  That was when South Sudanese Government officials impounded a convoy from the UN Mission in South Sudan that was transporting cargo, including some weapons and ammunition, in Rumbek, Lakes State, South Sudan.

The team has been on the ground for a week, and has met Government officials, including at Rumbek.  It has also had extensive meetings with UNMISS staff and staff of other UN Missions from whence the cargo was shipped.  Throughout its mission, the team received constant cooperation from the Government of South Sudan.

The team has now completed its work and is in the process of compiling its report, which will address why cargo containing weapons and ammunition belonging to and for the use of the Ghanaian Battalion was inadequately labelled and transported from Juba to Bentiu by road, contrary to agreed protocol with the Government of South Sudan.

Its preliminary analysis and conclusions have been discussed with the Government of South Sudan and will be submitted to UN senior officials in New York.  A series of measures, which will be communicated to the Government of South Sudan, will be put in place to avoid any repetition of this error.

**Central African Republic

The Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin, said today that the exodus of almost 300,000 people from the Central African Republic is creating a regional crisis in neighbouring countries that were already short of food.

She said that while the international community urgently needs to step up and address the disaster in the Central African Republic, international support is also required for the regional refugee crisis.

The World Food Programme says that Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo, which are hosting refugees, are themselves confronted with food insecurity and pockets of malnutrition.  The influx of refugees significantly increases pressure on the host communities and Governments, as well as on WFP operations which are severely underfunded.

There is more in a press release from the World Food Programme.

**Population

An Italian Catholic priest and a non-profit organization in the United States are the winners of this year’s United Nations Population Award.  Father Aldo Marchesini is also a medical doctor and has worked on population issues for more than four decades.  For many years, he was the only doctor to treat obstetric fistula in Mozambique, where he was also kidnapped and imprisoned several times during the country’s civil war.

The Johns Hopkins Programme for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics was founded in 1973 to prevent maternal deaths.  It has provided assistance to some 160 countries, and has trained more than half a million health professionals in family planning and reproductive health.

The General Assembly set up the UN Population Award in 1981 to recognize outstanding achievement in the fields of population and health.  This year’s awards will be presented on 12 June.

**Press Conference

Last, on Monday, at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference here by Ambassador Mr. Ri Tong Il, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

And that’s it for me.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Correspondent:  Thank you.  It’s a question that I wanted to do for Stéphane and another question for you, all at the same time. 

Deputy Spokesman: Okay.

Question: It’s about the freedom of expression, media.  I wanted to ask Stéphane if there was any chance that the Secretary-General could see the situation before the election, especially in Ukraine in preparation of election, how is it going on with how the population is being fooled by the local media?  You know, freedom, if there is some censoring of sort?  Or something like this.  I think it’s very important. 

And the question for you, for the Secretary-General, but I know he is busy with something else at the moment.  But, in Turkey, just last night, was announced that Twitter is being shut off by the President Erdogan.  I would like to know if there is any reaction by the UN and because there is going to be election in Turkey in a few days.  What is the reaction for UN when something like this happens, when you know, when Twitter and maybe not Twitter, but later on they’re talking about other sources of information on the Internet could be shut off?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, on that, of course, our clear position is that the United Nations supports freedom of expression and freedom of the media and we’ll continue to do so, and, we do so in this case.  Of course, your first question was also about the media, and I’ll check whether Stéphane has any first-hand information.  Of course, he had to be on the move, but we’ll see. Masood?

Question:  Yes, Farhan, on the situation in Afghanistan, where the attack took place in a hotel, similar attacks have taken place earlier also.  And the situation is now become worse day by day.  I mean, not that Afghanistan hasn’t always been that way.  Does the Secretary-General’s Representative over there believe that this situation can be handled by the Afghan authorities?  Or does he believe there is a sustained, international community’s interest should be there to rectify the situation?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, well, first off, like I said a few minutes ago, we do expect a statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General concerning Afghanistan, and we’ll expect to put that out sometime later today.  Of course, the Secretary-General is concerned about not just this latest attack, but the range of attacks that have been occurring in Afghanistan in recent days.  We have been concerned about what seems to be an increase in efforts by different groups to use violence in the pre-election period, and we’ll continue to monitor the situation and to express our concerns on this. 

Regarding security forces, of course the responsibility for security in Afghanistan should be in the hands of the Afghan Government and the Afghan people.  At the same time, of course, we have been pushing for continued international support for the Afghan people in this and we’ll see how the situation develops.  Over time, of course, what we’re hoping for is that the level of violence can go down and that there can be greater security in Afghanistan, but for the time being, yes, of course, as you’re aware, there are international forces there, and we hope that they will continue to support the Afghan Government and people.  Yes, Kahraman?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Just to…with all due respect, for the last few days we have constantly asked you and Stéphane this question, but we have not got any answer.  What is the Secretary-General’s position on the legality of referendum in Crimea?  Does he recognize the results of the referendum?  The annexation?  Does he accept it or not?  And also, when there are human rights violations, especially against the ethnic Tatar population in Crimea, who does the Secretary-General find as a responsible party?  Thank you very much.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, first of all, on your first question, this was a question one of your colleagues asked Stéphane mere minutes ago, and you’ll have seen what he had to say about that.  I have nothing to add to what Stéphane had to tell you at that point.  We’ll continue to deal with the questions regarding Crimea, regarding Ukraine and Russia, but our standpoint, as he made very clear, was the need for direct dialogue between Moscow and Kyiv, and our efforts in recent days have been focused on bringing that about.  And, regarding the question on human rights of all people, yes… that’s why we have a UN human rights monitoring mission, which we hope and trust will be able to visit all the various parts of Ukraine.  You know, we hope that in the next few days they will be able to go about their work in Crimea.  As you’re aware, as Stéphane pointed out, Mr. Šimonović is in Crimea, and he’s there for a two-day mission and you’ll see our colleagues in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have some additional details available online about that. Yes, please?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  I saw yesterday you were asked about the Qamishli crossing into Turkey.  You didn’t have details about who would be receiving that aid.  Anything further now that the aid trucks have crossed over?  Who is in current possession of the contents of those trucks, if it is not the UN?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I mean, regarding that, the basic point is that the aid will go to be distributed by our local partners on the ground.  At this stage, what the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has told us is there are 500,000 people who urgently need aid in the Hassakeh area — local families and those displaced from other parts of Syria — who cannot be reached from inside the country due to insecurity and live fighting.  So what we’re hoping for is that the convoys will be able to get the aid over to the people in the Hassakeh area.

Question:  Can you detail whether the local partners are civil society partners or if they also include Government actors?

Deputy Spokesman:  By local partners, we don’t mean the Government, no.  We mean local groups.  You know, in different areas, for example, we have relied on the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, in other areas we deal with NGOs on the ground who help to distribute food, and it varies according to the location and the circumstances.  But, basically, these are people who we have been able to trust over the years in terms of distribution of food to those who most need it.

Question:  Yes, Farhan, thank you.  I have a misunderstanding about something.  I’m asking about the movements of Secretary-General to Ukraine and Russia.  Does this movement for confirming that Crimea is still part of Ukraine, or just to calm down, not for more further steps?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as we’ve made clear, the basic objectives of this trip are to de-escalate the situation on the ground, to make sure that there is a lessening of the rhetoric, and to try, as much as possible, and specifically to bring the authorities in Moscow and Kyiv into direct dialogue with each other.  That is what he’s trying to.

Question:  So it’s done for current Crimea?  It’s become part of Russia?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, no, no.  We haven’t said anything like that.  Ultimately, the United Nations does not determine the borders of States.  States determine the borders of States.  What we want is to see a direct dialogue between Moscow and Kyiv so they can resolve this situation peacefully and through diplomacy, as much as possible.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, thanks a lot.  I’d like to ask about Darfur, Sri Lanka and something labour-related.  On Darfur, can you or UNAMID confirm that a staffer of the International Committee of the Red Cross was killed in El-Fasher, which is, obviously, where UNAMID is headquartered.  And also that Musa Hilal, who is one of the ICC indictees in Sudan, has now broken with the Government and leads a rebel force fighting them?  Do you have anything on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  The last information I have on El-Fasher is that the Joint African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, UNAMID, received reports that on 18 March, a shooting incident took place in El-Fasher between Sudanese police and a group of armed men.  One policeman was reportedly killed and two injured.  The motive has not yet been established.  I don’t know whether that addresses your question on the person who died.  That’s the information we have on that incident.  I don’t have any information about the status of Musa Hilal.  I’m not aware that UNAMID has made any comment on that.  If they do, we’ll share it.  And before we go around, you had…

[The Deputy Spokesman later confirmed the ICRC death.]

Question:  On Sri Lanka and something about labour. On Sri Lanka, there’s been a report issued by Yasmine Sooka, who was on Ban Ki-moon’s panel of experts.  And the report focuses on since 2009, instances of torture and sexual abuse of Tamils by the Government.  And it’s been widely circulated in Geneva.  At the same time, the former President Kumaratunga, has said that she lives in fear of the Sri Lankan security forces.  So I’m wondering, again, particularly since Yasmine Sooka was one of the three people named by the Secretary-General to study this issue, is the Secretary aware of this report?  Do they have any comment on it?  Do they have any… think that this pending resolution on accountability should be enacted by Member States or not?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, on the pending resolution, of course, that’s for the Member States to consider.  You’ve seen the Secretary-General in the past, when he received his own internal report, by Ms. Sooka and the rest of the panel, that he had encouraged the idea of follow-up activity and further accountability.  Of course it’s up to the Member States to determine what format that will take, and we’ll leave it in their hands, but he’s made clear his own views on that, and we don’t have any direct comment on Ms. Sooka’s current report. Yes, Oleg?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Back to Ukraine, I missed the beginning of the call with Stéphane.  On this mission on the human rights, where is it based?  In Kyiv with presence in Donetsk and Kharkiv, is that correct? 

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the mission has been in Kyiv and we had mentioned that some days back.  Right now, Mr. Šimonović is on a two-day visit to lay the groundwork for the UN human rights mission to set up a presence in Crimea.  As you’ll recall, during his last mission, he had wanted to visit Crimea but was unable to do so.

Question:  But the presence is going to be in Kharkiv, Donetsk…?

Deputy Spokesman:  Ultimately, we want to make sure that we have a presence in all the places where it’s needed.  In other words, a presence throughout Ukraine, and that is what the objective is. Yes?

Question:  Sorry, Farhan.  Thank you.  If you have a chance to talk to Stéphane, could you ask him if the Secretary-General had a chance, while he was in Russia, to discuss about the 20,000 Russian troops that are exercising about 70 miles along the eastern and southern Ukraine borders?  Certainly, the United States Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, is concerned enough, and last night, he was for an hour on the phone with his colleague in Russia.  So I was wondering if he got any information how long the troops will be there?  Why are they going to be increased, decreased, or anything?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Of course, you will have seen what the Secretary-General said while he was in Russia, and I’d refer you also to his comments.  Again, he has been very clear about the need for de-escalation and has repeatedly called for the situation to be resolved through dialogue and through peaceful means.  And that remains his standpoint on this.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  Farhan, do you have any update on the Commission on the Status of Women’s meeting, which wraps up today?

Deputy Spokesman:  Not so far.  As you know, as tends to happen with some of these meetings, there’s still a lot of topics that are up in the air.  I’m hoping that there can be some experts who can give you some details as this proceeds later in the day.  But it could be one where it takes some time more to resolve any differences between Member States.  And, of course, we hope that they will come to a successful conclusion.  Yes, Pam?

Question:  Farhan, one quick follow-up on the last question about the human rights monitors.  You said they will be going to Crimea and that they were posted in Ukraine?  So, you’re saying they’re posted in Ukraine and now Russia, whatever Crimea…?

Deputy Spokesman:  We had mentioned when the team was in Kyiv.  Right now, Mr. Šimonović and some people are there in Crimea.  That has been announced, including by the Secretary-General a few hours ago.

Question:  But to have a human rights monitor presence in Crimea?

Deputy Spokesman:  They want to set up a presence there, yes.

Question:  And that’s being petitioned to the Russian Government, I assume, at this point?  Who are they asking?

Deputy Spokesman:  He’s in touch with the local authorities.  Mr. Šimonović and his team met in Simferopol today with Sergei Aksenov, Vladimir Konstantinov, and with representatives of the Ombudsperson, civil society, journalists and regional organizations.

Question:  Okay, and then a bigger question on a follow-up, which is the CTBTO, Lassina Zerbo comments that Stéphane followed-up with, he said that they followed up and there was no explosion detected so far.  Can you clarify that or see if you can get a clarification from them?  Is that global?  They’ve looked at all of their monitoring equipment?

Deputy Spokesman: Yes, they looked through all their monitoring equipment. 

Question: And so no…

Deputy Spokesman: They say, as Stéphane reported earlier this week, they saw no signs of explosion, either on land or at sea.

Question:  So far?  And are they still looking?  Or that was the end of it?

Deputy Spokesman:  They were looking at the times when the incident could have occurred.  If they have any further information, they will be sharing it.  The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization has been trying to provide the relevant information, but as far as I’m aware at this stage, they have not received any sign of an explosion.

Question: They looked and they saw no explosion?  Okay.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  A follow-up to Pamela’s question; now the UN mission members, human rights mission members and also Mr. Šimonović, when they go to Crimea, do they have a Russian visa or do they go through Ukraine?  How does that work?  Can you brief on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, I don’t have any details on that.  Yes?

Question:  Maybe this information is already out, but I was wondering, you said the number of the human rights monitors, the team, the numbers will be going up.  What exactly is in plan for the numbers?

Deputy Spokesman:  I didn’t say the numbers would be going up.

Question:  You said there’s seven internationals and four... Excuse me?  Oh, Stéphane, oh. 

Deputy Spokesman:  He said that.  He said what he said.  I don’t have any further details…the details that he’s got.

Question:  Let me ask for clarification then, Šimonović said there would be 34 by Friday, and now, Stéph has said seven and four.  Is that, are those different?

Deputy Spokesman:  I’d have to get back from Steph with any of the details of the numbers.  He’s closer to the ground and would know better about what the arrangements are.  It could just be a question of different travel arrangements and different times, but we’ll have to check with Steph on that.  Yes, Matthew?

[The Deputy Spokesman later noted that Mr. Armen Harutyunyan leads the team on the ground.  The entire team will comprise 34 staff. Monitors will be deployed in cities including Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Lviv and Simferopol.]

Question:  Labour and then one other thing.  Yesterday, you’d said, I had asked you, does the Secretariat recognize the Staff Union and any kind of leadership, and you said it’s up to them.  So since then — this is a new question — since then, the slate that actually came out with the most votes in December has written to the Secretary-General and to Under-Secretary-General Takasu with a copy of an Arbitration Committee decision which says that the recalling of the polling officers, which was the basis of the dispute, has been found invalid and basically they’ve asked to be recognized.  And I wanted to know, if you can, one, has the letter been received, and two, at what point will the Secretariat recognize, as the Arbitration Committee does, that there’s actually not a dispute and there’s a union that they have to deal with?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, just on principle, since as Spokesman I tend to convey messages from management, I think, on principle, I wouldn’t be able to have any comment on this.  Have a good weekend, everyone.

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