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

16 April 2014

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

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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good Afternoon.

** Nigeria

I will start off with a statement on the attacks in Borno State, in Nigeria.

The Secretary-General condemns the shocking mass abduction of schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, north-eastern Nigeria on 14 April.  He calls for the immediate release of all the girls abducted and their safe return to their families.

The Secretary-General is deeply alarmed about the increasing frequency and brutality of attacks against educational institutions in the north of the country. The targeting of schools and school children is a grave violation of international humanitarian law.  Schools are, and must remain, safe places where children can learn and grow in peace.

**Secretary-General/ Republic of Korea Ferry

Earlier this morning, the Secretary-General sent this morning a letter to the President of the Republic of Korea to express his deep sadness at hearing of the heartbreaking ferry disaster that occurred near Jindo Island.  He extends his sincere condolences to the families of the victims and also sends his deep sympathies to the Government and people of Korea.

**Secretary-General Travel

The Secretary-General is back in New York.  Last night he wrapped up his visit to Mexico with a bilateral meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto, following the opening session of the first High-level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation.

In his remarks at that event, the Secretary-General reiterated the need to ensure that the financing for development matches the ambition of the international community.  He added that the effectiveness of development aid is just as important as the levels of aid, and that much greater progress was needed to increase country ownership, accountability, predictability and flexibility in how aid is provided.

His full statement is available online.  Also available online are the readouts of the bilateral meetings he conducted in Mexico City with the President, and the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Slovakia, and the Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands.


This morning, the Security Council held an open official meeting to mark the twentieth commemoration of the genocide in Rwanda.

The Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, said that we remember the victims and the survivors as we continue to work to achieve justice for them and to prevent genocide and other mass atrocities everywhere in the world.

He noted that the United Nations has progressively placed the promotion and protection of human rights at the core of our prevention work, pointing to the recently launched “Rights up front” initiative.

The Council passed a resolution this morning calling for the recommitment to prevent and fight against genocide.

This evening, the Secretary-General will attend a memorial ceremony commemorating the Rwanda genocide.  He is expected to speak about his participation in the commemoration that were held in Kigali last week and to stress how we can draw real hope and inspiration from Rwanda’s remarkable progress over the last 20 years.

Back to the Security Council, this afternoon, the Council members will hear from Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, and he will be briefing on Ukraine.

** Libya

And regarding the abduction of the Jordanian ambassador to Libya, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) says it is in contact with local national authorities, as well as others, and is urging all influential sides to work for the swift release of the ambassador.  The Mission will spare no effort to assist the Libyan authorities in bringing this matter to a positive conclusion.

And you will have seen that yesterday afternoon the Security Council issued a statement to the press condemning in the strongest terms the attack on the Jordanian diplomatic convoy, which resulted in the abduction of the ambassador and injuries to his driver.

**South Sudan

From South Sudan, our Mission in that country (UNMISS) has received reports that in addition to the takeover yesterday of the state capital, Bentiu, opposition forces also now control Guit and Rubkona counties in Unity State.

The Mission conducted a number of patrols yesterday, including in Bentiu and Rubkona, and observed that the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) headquarters in Rubkona was empty with a few SPLA soldiers deployed in Bentiu town.  Looting of shops by civilians in the state capital was also observed.  The patrol also witnessed some 40 bodies on the streets in Bentiu.

The numbers of internally displaced persons currently sheltered at the UNMISS protection of civilians site in Bentiu are swelling.  More than 12,000 civilians are currently seeking refuge there, mostly women and children.

UN military patrols also identified thousands of displaced civilians gathered in the vicinity of Bentiu Hospital and the compound of the UN World Food Programme.  Some of those civilians arrived at the gates of the UNMISS site after nightfall and were granted entry. 

** Central African Republic

Regarding the Central African Republic, 14 humanitarian agencies, including the UN refugee agency, UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization, have launched today a joint appeal to fund emergency operations for refugees from the Central African Republic.  The agencies are seeking $274 million for the Central African Republic Regional Response Plan to fund this year’s operations.

Nearly 200,000 Central Africans, third country nationals and returnees who escaped violence in the Central African Republic over the past four months are now struggling to restart their lives in Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the Republic of Congo.

The money is needed to cover pressing needs for shelter, food, water and sanitation, health, education and basic needs.  In addition, humanitarian agencies appealing for funds today will be carrying out registration and building reception facilities and camps across the region.

** Somalia

In Somalia, the Special Representative of Secretary-General in that country, Nicholas Kay, has called for calm as tensions mount between forces from Somaliland and Puntland in the northern region of Sool, and in particular the town of Taleh.

He said the situation will not be resolved by military means.  And he asked all parties to refrain from violent actions and to make immediate efforts to de-escalate the situation and resolve their differences through peaceful dialogue and compromise.

There’s a press release available on the UN’s office in Somalia’s website.

** Afghanistan

Lastly from Afghanistan, the Secretary-General’s Representative in Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, underlined the need to support the country’s two national electoral institutions and to safeguard the impartiality and transparency of their work.

Mr. Kubiš and the head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission today discussed the enthusiastic participation of Afghans who voted in the presidential elections earlier this month.

They agreed that Afghan voters expect no less than due process to be followed, meaning that their votes will be counted; complaints will be resolved; and that the valid final results will be respected by all candidates.

And that is actually it for me, but I’m happy to answer your questions.

Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers:

Question:  [Inaudible] … in the press conference called one of her colleagues an agent.  Is this forum, allows a French ambassador, is this part of diplomacy to be calling a journalist who is a colleague and we know, an agent because he simply disagreed with this point of view?

Spokesman:  I think, you know, accredited journalists need to be respected.  I also think that Permanent Representatives who are here are free to say what they want to say, and I’ll leave it at that. 

Question:  I guess I just want to, it seemed like of the questions that the French Mission took, the only question that was critical, i.e. asking about Qatar funding of the underline study and about Algeria, was the one asked by our colleague Nizar, and the immediate response was, you’re not a journalist, you’re an agent, which is the same thing that Laurent Fabius did at the stakeout in September.  So I guess I’m wondering, I would actually like to ask you if it’s true that accredited journalists should be treated with respect, and if, in these two examples, both of which are on film, there’s a pattern.  What’s your office… what will your office … will your office convey that general principle to the Mission?

Spokesman:  I think that general principle stands, and obviously the Member States that are here are free to take questions or not take questions from whomever they want, and it is their microphone.  They’ll say whatever they want to say, and I’ll leave it that.

Question:  Ok, just one last, ok, what does it mean then to say accredited journalists should be treated with respect?  By UN official?  Does it, can we say that that’s…

Spokesman:  I’ll leave it at that.  Thank you.

Yes, Benny?

Question:  [inaudible]… in the past.  Yakovlev, remember him?  He just tried to get some of his dues back, some of his funds back, in UN arbitration court.  Could you look it up for me to see if there’s any…

Spokesman:  You’ll have to… I barely have a chance to remember what happened yesterday, so…

Question:  Yakovlev was a procurement officer implicated, pled guilty…

Spokesman:  I don’t have my if-asked from 2005.  Benny, I don’t mean to be dismissive.  Let me see…

Question:  Okay, so something more current, Rima Khalaf?   Yesterday you said that the Secretary-General stands behind her, but her… the gist of her argument was that she objects to Israel’s definition as a Jewish State since this is a General Assembly resolution since 1947, does the Secretary-General stand behind that?

Spokesman:  I have nothing to add to what I said yesterday.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I just want to, I wonder whether you have any comment on the killing of journalists in, Lebanese journalists, in Syria in the last couple of days, and also that there are journalists in Egypt under attack.  Also, there are journalists in detention for a long time now in Egypt.  I wonder whether the United Nations officials are contacting the Egyptian authorities in this regard.  This is one.  I have another question on the Western Sahara report by the Secretary-General.  I heard that this report was out more than once at the request of Morocco, especially after their call between the Secretary-General and the King of Morocco.  Thank you. 

Spokesman:  All right, let me try to unpack your questions.  On the targeted attacks of journalists in Syria, I think Nizar asked that question yesterday, and I condemned the targeting of journalists and reiterated the fact that the Secretary-General had called for the protection of journalists and underscore the importance of freedom of movement for journalists, especially in war zones, because the do provide extremely valuable service to the global community at large.  On the issue on journalists in Egypt, that, particularly those cases were raised by the Secretary-General in his meeting with the Egyptian Foreign Minister in Brussels about two weeks ago, and it was so noted in the readout that we put out.  And your last question?

Question:  [Inaudible]

Spokesman:  Western Sahara, you know the report, there is only one official report — that’s the one that comes out in six languages and that is the official report.  And that’s what I’ll say. 

Question:  My question was that the advanced copy…

Spokesman:  I know what your question was, but I’m just telling you, you know, as far as we’re concerned, there is an official report.  That’s the one that should be looked at and considered.  That’s the one that comes out in six languages.

Yes, Masood, and I’ll come back to you.

Question:  It’s on this issue of the Iranian ambassador designate.  I know that the Host Committee at the United Nations General Assembly is going to be meeting with the ambassador and the other parties.  And that is just going to be a meeting, will that meeting eventually come to any formal conclusion, or will it recommend something, and if it does recommend something, will it be available for us to review?

Spokesman:  It is a committee made up of Member States chaired by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus.  They will meet and they will take whatever action they feel necessary.  I can’t prejudge or predict what will happen.  The only thing I do know is that this issue is on the agenda, on the provisional agenda, for the meeting. 

Yes, sir? 

Question:  Yeah, I just wanted to ask about Western Sahara, and I understand, I mean, I see that you are reticent to ask, but I want to, because there was a major change.  I want to ask you this, paragraph 100 in the advanced version said ‘human rights monitoring mechanism’ and what was released yesterday, the word mechanism is gone.  So many people have found this significant and since both versions by whomever done, are by the Secretariat, what’s the difference from your point of view?  Can you articulate, some people say this is a major change and that the Secretary-General is no longer or has never proposed an actual mechanism within MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara] to monitor human rights, including in the camps.  So?

Spokesman:  I think you know, there are advanced versions, draft versions.  The only version that matters is the official version that comes out with a document number in six languages.  That’s the Secretary-General’s report.  All other versions are provisional, advanced or draft. 

Question:  How about this: between the date of the first one advanced version and the last one, did the Secretary-General speak with anyone other than the King of Morocco on this topic?

Spokesman:  The only version to care about is the final one, and I’ll leave it at that.

Yes, sir?

Question:  Yesterday we were shown compelling images of torture in Syria and statements of their credibility, as well as informed of the imperative that they not be ignored.  Does the Secretary-General have an additional comment on this and France’s ambitions for accountability?

Spokesman:  I think the issue of accountability is not just France’s.  I think it’s Secretary-General’s and the international community’s that those who commit crimes, horrendous crimes, against humanity, who violate international humanitarian law, should be brought to account.  The Secretary-General has spoken out repeatedly against abuse and torture in Syria. 

Yes, sir?

Question:  On the same vein, Stéphane,  where, what’s the status of resumption of Geneva II? 

Spokesman:  The Special Envoy, Mr. Brahimi, is continuing his discussions.  When there is a meeting to be announced or next step to be announced, we will announce it.

Yes, sir?

Question:  [Inaudible] Yesterday, a prominent United Nations [inaudible] Israeli settlers from occupying a building in Hebron.  Does the Secretary-General support this call? 

Spokesman:  You know, I haven’t seen the report.  The Secretary-General’s position on settlements has been expressed numerous times, and I have nothing to add.


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  On the afternoon’s meeting of the Security Council, they will be discussing obviously the situation on eastern Ukraine.  My question is, what capabilities does the UN monitors have right now over there?  What cities do they have offices in and do they actually work in these conditions that are taking place where they are?  Thank you. 

Spokesman:  The UN monitors, I think we are aiming to have about 35.  I had the, I think I’d mentioned the list yesterday, exactly where they are.  I’ll get that to you. 

[The Spokesman later noted that the UN human rights mission in Ukraine now has all international staff members deployed (9), with sub-offices established in Lviv, Odesa, Donetsk and Kharkiv, in addition to the main office in Kyiv.  They have already hired national staff members and are currently operating with 33 staff on board.  For the meantime, they are monitoring Crimea from Odessa.]

Question:  [Inaudible].

Spokesman:  No, in the country as a whole, but I have more details somewhere, but I have to find them.  I mentioned it yesterday, and I haven’t since.

Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask about Libya.  There are… the US has said it intends to start providing training to create a Libyan force from 6-8,000 people of the general purpose force.  They are going to train them in Bulgaria, and the reason I’m asking you is that they are quoted, the State Department is quoted, an unnamed State Department official saying, “We are coordinating this training mission closely with our European partners and the UN Support Mission in Libya who have also altered substantial security sector assistance to the Government of Libya.”  So I wanted to know from you, is the UN mission in Libya working with the US Government to train these soldiers?  And also, can they confirm that something like, that US training personnel are already within Libya as part of this mission?

Spokesman:  I don’t know.  You can send an email to the mission and ask them, but I don’t have anything here. 

Question:  But I guess the reason I want to ask here, the facts I will ask them, but I wanted to know, like, is that… does that strike you as a… working with the Pentagon to train a Libyan army.  Is that…?

Spokesman:  It is the first that I’ve heard of it, so I’m not going to speculate. 

Yes, sir?

Question:  Sorry, just a follow-up.  Does the Secretary-General consider the evidence presented credible?  Is there a support for that from the UN?  On the Syrian torture, the photos….

Spokesman:  Oh, I think the issue of accountability and human rights violations is being looked at.  I don’t have any particular comment on that report. 

Yes, Masood?

Question:  Middle East Peace process — the Secretary-General has again called upon to begin the talks, and it doesn’t seem that either side is responding.  Now, does the Secretary-General agree with US Secretary of State John Kerry’s position that this process is now doomed?

Spokesman:  You know, I don’t know, know if Secretary Kerry said that it’s doomed.  I’m not going to comment on what he said or might not have said.  I think in the readout we don’t believe that there’s no solution.  We do not believe that there is no solution, just so I’m clear.  You know in the readout that we issued yesterday or the day before and the phone call that the Secretary-General made to both President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, he expressed his hope that both leaders will seize the current opening and find a way forward to achieve a two-State solution.  So that was the last statement I have on that. 

Thank you.  Yes, Matthew, and then we’ll go to Carla.

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask something on Haiti and also something on Gordon Brown.  I think the first one you may have something on.  There’s reports in Haiti of death threats received by human rights defender Pierre Esperance of something called the National Human Rights Defence Network has received a letter saying you are going to be killed for raising issues about the Government.  Is it something that the UN is aware of? 

Spokesman:  I haven’t seen those reports.  We are happy to look into them.

Question: And the Gordon Brown one, really quickly is… is… I know that he has this Education for All post.  I didn’t realize until recently that he is still an MP in the United Kingdom.  So I wanted to ask because I’ve seen these drafts, there’s an article saying he is going to remain an MP.  So I wanted to know, because I know there’s a draft rule, maybe you can find out if it was finalized, saying that it’s… it’s… the UN discourages even Goodwill Ambassadors being… running for office or certainly holding office.  So how is it the Gordon Brown status consistent with this new rule?

Spokesman:  I’ll look into his status. 

Carla, and then we’ll come back to you.

Question:  [inaudible] Kyiv forces entered Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine.  I only have the Wall Street Journal, but the Russians say there were 11 people killed.  The Wall Street Journal said…

Spokesman:  No, I don’t have a numbers update for you.

Yes, ma’am. 

Question:  It’s a follow-up on the question of Masood about the Middle East.  I think that there was a meeting today about negotiators, negotiation, between Israeli and Palestinian sides today.  Do you have any information about what happened and …?

Spokesman:  No, I do not. 

Yes, Masood? Yes?

Question:  I’ve been asking… I’m sorry…I’ve been asking this question again and again about Egyptian… about death sentences [inaudible] members of Muslim Brotherhood.  The Egyptian court passed an en masse sentencing them to death.  Now the Secretary-General and the other human rights organizations have asked the Egyptian authorities to reconsider this.  Meanwhile, Mr. Sisi, the de facto president, is going to stand in election.  So where does he stand?  Is he now going to be a legitimate leader now with all this happening?

Spokesman:  That’s not up to me to say what is going to happen in the elections.  The Secretary-General’s viewpoint on the Muslim Brotherhood on the mass sentencing, I think, has been expressed and it stands. 


Question:  Sure, again two things.  Do you have anything on this Jordan saying that it bombed and stopped armoured vehicles from entering its territory from Syria?  Have you been informed by…? 

Spokesman:  No, I have not seen that. 

Question:  And the other one I wanted to know, I saw an article in France saying the Palais Des Nations in Geneva is going be, there are going to be soliciting corporate, i.e. private donations, to renovate it.  It says “… va faire appel au secteur privé pour…˝

Spokesman:  Matthew, I’m learning something today.  I knew you spoke Spanish and English… 

Question:  There you go.  I thought that maybe we’ll get an answer this way. 

Spokesman:  That’s the headline. 

Question:  Is it true?

Spokesman:  Je ne sais pas. On verra. On verra.

Question:  I made this question a couple of weeks ago regarding a doctor, a Syrian doctor, who was working with the, with those victims in the north of Syria in the occupied areas by the rebels.  He said that 18,000 children have been witnessed, he witnessed them that they have had their organs removed, harvested, and sold some of them through in Turkish hospitals and some of them from the Turkish camps, refugee camps.  Do you have anything new about this?  Any follow-up from the previous statement?

Spokesman:  No, I’ll check if we have something. 

Thank you very much.  Merci, Matthieu. 

* *** *

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