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

5 May 2014

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

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

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

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

Well, first of all, though actually, what I want to do, is I want to welcome the kids from the Masters School at Dobbs Ferry, the ninth grade class.  Welcome.  Thanks for coming here, I hope this is not too dull for you.  Actually, you’re lucky we have an interesting guest.  So it will be less dull than the average Noon Briefing.  But, in any case, thanks for coming.  I hope you enjoy it here.  Nice seeing you all.

**Free & Equal Campaign

Very soon, in the next few minutes, I will be joined by our noon briefing guest.  Namely, the UN Free and Equal Equality Champion and actress Celina Jaitly, along with Charles Radcliffe, the Chief of Global Issues of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in New York.  And they’ll be here to discuss the UN Free & Equal campaign for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) rights.  And that will be after we finish my part of the briefing.

**Secretary-General in United Arab Emirates

First off, the Secretary-General is in Abu Dhabi today, where he addressed the closing plenary of the “Abu Dhabi Ascent” meeting that the United Nations is co-hosting with the United Arab Emirates.  He said that the business opportunities of the low-carbon economy are great.  The social and environmental benefits for countries in all regions are yet to be realized.  He said that now is the time for visionaries and those who are prepared to act to step forward.

Also today, the Secretary-General flew to Dubai to meet with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai.  In that meeting, the Secretary-General thanked the United Arab Emirates for its support of UN humanitarian efforts in Syria.  He also commended the country for its investments in renewable energies.

Yesterday, the Secretary-General spoke at the opening of the “Abu Dhabi Ascent” and underscored that climate change was the defining issue of our time, with no time to lose.  He encouraged leaders from around the world to lead boldly on climate solutions.  The Secretary-General asserted that climate action is feasible, affordable and beneficial.

In a press conference held right after the opening ceremony, the Secretary-General promised that the September Climate Summit would not be a “talk shop”, but rather, a meeting focused on action.  In response to questions, he encouraged leaders to look beyond national boundaries when fighting climate change.  All of those statements and press remarks are online.

**South Sudan

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says that there was fighting in various parts of the country over the weekend.

In the Unity State’s capital, Bentiu, the Mission reports heavy fighting between Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and opposition soldiers, including in the vicinity of the UN base there, where some 23,000 displaced civilians are being protected.

After the Mission engaged with both warring sides, forces left the area last evening.  UNMISS military have also enforced the perimeter security in the camp.  However, fighting resumed again earlier today close to the base with heavy and small arms fire.  The Mission reports that a four-year-old girl seeking refuge has died after sustaining a wound from a stray bullet.  Fighting has also been reported in Tor and close to Mayom Junction in Unity State.

Heavy clashes between Sudan People’s Liberation Army and opposition forces were also reported in Nassir, in Upper Nile State, yesterday.  The Mission reports the use of tank and mortar fire, with some of the shells landing close to the UNMISS base there.  Fighting was also reported in Renk yesterday.

And in the capital, Juba, the Mission reports that a skirmish broke out yesterday between Nuer internally displaced persons and some Dinkas living outside the UN House protection site.  Peacekeepers fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Also on Friday, five construction workers employed as UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) contractors to build a temporary learning space for displaced children in UN House were attacked by a group of stone-pelting displaced persons.  UN military and police peacekeepers were able to control the situation; however, the contractors, as well as one UN police officer, sustained minor injuries.

**Ladsous Travel

We also have an update on Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous' travels.  On Sunday, he left Bangui and arrived in Juba, South Sudan, for a three-day visit. This is his second visit to the country in three months.  Mr. Ladsous is there to underscore the full support of UN Peacekeeping, as it helps the people of South Sudan in an impartial manner.  During his trip, the Under-Secretary-General is expected to meet with South Sudanese Government officials and stress the need to end the violence immediately and engage in a meaningful peace process.  Mr. Ladsous will also meet with UN staff who have shown resilience throughout this crisis, withstanding threats and harassment from the parties to the conflict, and thank them for sharing the Mission's facilities with civilians at risk, saving thousands of lives.  During his trip, Mr. Ladsous is also expected to visit the Tomping UN site in Juba, where the UN is protecting approximately 20,000 civilians.

**Chad/Central African Republic

The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, has arrived in Chad for her first visit to the country, accompanied by Robert Piper, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel.  Ms. Amos met the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Thomas Gurtner, today in N'Djamena, as well as representatives of the United Nations and of non-governmental organizations.  She is also expected to meet the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, she is scheduled to meet the President of the Republic of Chad, Idriss Deby, and to visit the transit centre at Gaoui where people who have been evacuated from the Central African Republic are receiving assistance.  Ms. Amos is also scheduled to travel to Mao in the Sahel zone.

** Afghanistan

Two senior UN humanitarian officials today visited the location of a deadly landslide which killed hundreds of people in north-eastern Afghanistan last Friday.  The Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kyung-wha Kang, and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Mark Bowden, carried out an aerial inspection of Abi-Barak village in Badakhshan Province.  Ms. Kang, who wrapped up her three-day visit to Afghanistan today, also met with the Governor of Badakhshan and the various non-governmental organizations providing assistance.  She said that the tragedy highlights the need for greater attention to the larger issue of the natural disasters that are so frequent in the northern part of the country.

In a statement we issued over the weekend, the Secretary-General extended his sincere condolences to the people and Government of Afghanistan, especially those who have lost family members, friends, homes and livelihoods in this disaster.

United Nations agencies and humanitarian partners are supporting the Government of Afghanistan in providing assistance to those who have been displaced.

As of yesterday, the World Food Programme (WFP) had distributed over 80 metric tons of food.  Humanitarian partners are providing emergency health care and UNICEF has mobilized urgent psychosocial support for children.  Aid organizations continue to liaise with the Government to find ways to support children who have lost their parents.

** Cyprus

The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, today wrapped up a visit to Cyprus, where he met with the two leaders, as well as with the Greek Cypriot negotiator and the Turkish Cypriot negotiator.  Mr. Feltman held discussions on the next steps in the negotiations.  He conveyed to the two leaders the Secretary-General’s continued personal focus on the process, recognizing the historic importance of the Joint Declaration and underlining the need to maintain momentum in the talks.  Mr. Feltman also reiterated the United Nations’ readiness to continue to support the two sides in their efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement.

** Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

And you will have seen a note to correspondents we issued on Friday, which said that Ambassador Matthew Nimetz, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, has invited the representatives of the two countries, to meet with him here at UN Headquarters tomorrow.  Both sides have accepted the invitation.

Ambassador 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.  He will speak to reporters after the meetings outside the Trusteeship Council.


In a statement issued today, the World Health Organization declared the international spread of wild poliovirus in 2014 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.  The World Health Organization said that the international spread of polio to date in 2014 constitutes an extraordinary event and a public health risk to other States for which a coordinated international response is essential.

The World Health Organization added that the current situation stands in stark contrast to the near-cessation of international spread of wild poliovirus in previous years and could result in failure to eradicate globally one of the world’s most serious vaccine preventable diseases.  Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria have been identified as States exporting wild poliovirus, according to the Emergency Committee convened last week in Geneva.  More information is available on WHO’s website.

**Noon Briefing Guests

And shortly, we will have our guests Celina Jaitly and Charles Radcliffe.  And then, tomorrow, the guest at the Noon Briefing will be Yukio Takasu, the Under-Secretary-General for Management.  That’s it for me.  Any questions, yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, thanks Farhan.  Farhan, I wanted to ask you this…the trial of the… those accused of rape in Minova has just concluded or has concluded.  And essentially two… only two were found guilty of rape and since the UN had counted that there were more than 130 rapes committed by its partners in the Congolese army, I wonder what’s the response to… to… or is this… does this constitute accountabilities in order to continue assistance to the 41 and 391 battalions or is… does the UN think it’s an outrage as many do?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, first of all, we are going to evaluate the verdicts right now.  The Mission was prepared to look into the verdicts once they were issued today and I believe that they will be preparing their own response.  So we’ll await to what the response is from the UN [Organization Stabilization] Mission [in the Democratic Republic of the Congo], MONUSCO.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  The Secretary-General will be meeting with [the] Pope in the Vatican and today and tomorrow; the UN Torture Committee is probing the Vatican on sex abuse scandal and human rights in Geneva.  Will that be a subject that they will be talking about, or what can we expect of that meeting with the Secretary-General and his position of the meetings in Geneva?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the work that’s being done in Geneva today is by independent experts.  We will try to provide some details of the meeting after it’s taken place.  Hopefully, the Secretary-General can make some press remarks or we can provide a readout, but we’ll do that once that’s happened.  Oleg?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Can you confirm that Jeffrey Feltman is going to be in Moscow on Tuesday, and Wednesday and Thursday in Kyiv?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I don’t have the dates to give.  As I just mentioned a few minutes ago, he’s been doing his work in Cyprus.  After Cyprus, yes, we do expect him to leave for Moscow and then after that, as we previously announced, he will also visit Ukraine.  So, we’ll try to provide details of that travel as it happens, but for now I don’t have any precise dates to give you on his entries into the various capitals.  Asma?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Can you give us details… [inaudible] meeting between… Secretary-General and… Lakhdar Brahimi today?

Deputy Spokesman:  They didn’t meet today.  They met on Friday.

Correspondent:  Yeah… can you give me… sorry…

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, it’s an internal meeting.  As you know, they’ve discussed, as you would expect, the situation on the ground in Syria and all the various latest developments.  I don’t have any other details to share with you right now, but Mr. Brahimi does expect to brief the Security Council.  I believe that’s scheduled right now for 13 May and we’ll see whether he can talk to reporters at some point along the line once he’s briefed the Security Council.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  On UNMISS, could you give us a few more details of how the UN forces are responding to this fighting particularly, near Bentiu and Bor?  I know you said they were responding and once used tear-gas, but is there… how else are they responding?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as you know, in Bentiu and in Bor, there are people who are being protected at the UN sites.  So, part of what we’ve been doing is closing off the gates, securing the perimeters of those compounds to make sure that civilians who have sought shelter in UN bases will be protected.  So, that’s part of what our response has been.  Of course, that’s complicated by the fact that in places like Bentiu, there’s been heavy fighting raging in recent days.  So, a lot of what we’ve had to try to do is make sure that the compound itself is protected and the people who are sheltering in it are protected.  So, that’s what their focus has been.  Yes, Pam?

Question:  Farhan, given what had happened to the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] monitors and what happened to Robert Serry in the past, can you say what you see as the future of the OSCE and the UN monitors in Ukraine?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, it’s not my place to pronounce on the future of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitors; their own Organization will determine that.  You’ll have seen the statement that we issued following the release of those monitors, and one of the key points on that is, as we said, the Secretary-General underscored that those responsible for the capture and detention of the unarmed monitors should be held accountable for their actions, as well as those who continue such unlawful acts in the country.  And the Secretary-General reiterates that international missions and their counterparts working in Ukraine must be allowed to perform their duties unimpeded and he called on all actors to respect the freedom of movement, safety and security of the personnel of various missions working in Ukraine.  So, that’s where he stands on that.

Question:  And just a quick follow-up:  what is the number of UN monitors at this point?

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe the idea was to have roughly 34 or 35 monitors deployed throughout the country.  Yes Nizar

Question:  Farhan, regarding this reported deal between the Syrian Government and the rebel co-sponsored by… with the United Nations.  Can you update us?  How are they going to work out this deal which could be implemented tonight… in north Homs, Old Homs, and in [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don’t have any comment on that while the arrangements are being worked out.  I believe arrangements do involve the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and so that’s really an issue for them but we would react accordingly once we have further information about the deal.  Like I said, it’s been negotiated between the factions and hopefully, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent can play a role.

Question: Was… was Mr. Brahimi involved in any way… in negotiating or facilitating such a deal?

Deputy Spokesman:  The UN has tried to play a role in terms of getting the parties to negotiate, but this is really an achievement by the parties, not by the United Nations.  You’ll have seen what the Secretary-General has said in the statement we issued about a week ago on this where he talked about his own hopes for an agreement in Homs.  Yes, Oleg?

Question:  Thank you, [the] Secretary-General was quoted today in one of the interviews that he’s ready to play a role as a mediator in the Ukraine crisis.  Feltman is obviously heading into the region these days… is it possible that in… at some point, Ban Ki-moon is personally going to pay a visit to Moscow or to Kyiv to play a role?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, there’s certainly nothing to announce at this stage.  As you know, the Secretary-General had, in fact, visited both places.  Whether there will be any mediation role, ultimately is up to the interest of the parties.  Of course, the service of the United Nations are always ready if both parties to a conflict or a dispute want those, but at this stage we’re doing the work that we’ve just mentioned, including the work by Mr. Feltman.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, [I wanted to] ask something on Central African Republic, but on this thing on Ukraine… with the events of Odessa where 38 some people were killed in a fire seems… seems to be set by… by nationalists and those killed were pro-separatists.  I’m wondering… is the UN human rights mechanism, are they going to look into this and try to determine who is responsible and …where… I saw the statement seems to just refer to some kind of violence on both sides, but this… is that… do you dispute that characterization of the event?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, certainly, we need to get to the bottom of all of these events.  You saw that the Secretary-General did discuss his deep sadness about the loss of life in places like Odessa.  We certainly hope that human rights monitors will be able to provide some details, but it’s also imperative for the authorities on the ground to determine what’s happened and have accountability for this as they would have to do in any case where people have been killed in these sorts of demonstrations and riots and other sorts of activity on the ground.  Yes?

Question:  [Inaudible]… there was a… there was a report over the weekend saying that he’s actually told Secretary-General that he was going to resign.  Do you have any comments on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, nothing new to say.  I believe Mr. Brahimi has frequently told you that he’s about to resign and he said so, right there at that table.  When we have something to announce about a resignation, we’ll certainly let you know, but we certainly don’t have that right now.  As of now, he continues to go about his work and beyond that we wouldn’t speculate on any further personnel matters.  Yes Nizar.

Question:  Yesterday, there were some protests in… occupied territories of Palestine that the Christians are to be recruited in the Israeli Army.  What the United Nations think about that forcibly they force the Christians to be recruited in the army?

Deputy Spokesman:  We don’t have any comment on that.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask… while Under-Secretary-General Ladsous was in Bangui, he gave a press conference and he discussed the use of unmanned/unarmed aerial vehicles or drones in the CAR ( Central African Republic).  So, I wanted to know, is it… is it the UN’s position that the current MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic) resolution would permit use of drones or is this something that they would have to come back to the Security Council or some other organ of the United Nations to get approval for?

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe that the current resolution does not mention unmanned aerial vehicle, so any further deployment of that would require the Security Council consideration as far as I’m aware.  Yes?

Question:  And I also wanted to… John Kerry, Russ Feingold and others were in the Democratic Republic of the Congo over the weekend, and Russ Feingold said, basically, when asked, repeatedly when the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) would be targeted for neutralization as the M23 (23 March Movement) was, he said basically only waiting for the green light from Joseph Kabila, so I know I’ve asked here before, does the UN… is it… can you… can you confirm what’s now been said publically that the UN’s…that the timing is entirely up to the [Democratic Republic of the Congo) Government… and that… and that the Force Intervention Brigade will not take action absent then and if so, when can it be expected?

Deputy Spokesman: No, in fact, I just refer you to the past statements made, in particular by Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General'sSpecial Representative on the ground, where he talked about how the Mission does, in fact, stand ready and will act against other armed militia groups, including the FDLR.  So, he’s said that in the past and I believe there’s been some actions taken against different militias even in recent weeks.

Question:  Right, but I mean… I guess… is there… I’m just asking about the sort of… this… he… Mr. Feingold seemed to say very clearly because he was asked when is it going to happen and he said it requires the green light from the Kabila Government and so that’s what… is that not the case?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I don’t speak for Mr. Feingold, but Mr. Kobler has been clear about the readiness and the willingness of the UN Mission, MONUSCO, to take further actions against armed groups, including the FDLR.  And with that, let me bring our guest.  Hold on one second.

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