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

13 May 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.

**Lakhdar Brahimi

As a reminder, the Joint Special Representative will be at the Security Council’s stakeout a bit later on this afternoon, after his meeting with the Security Council.

**Secretary-General in Sweden

In other developments, the Secretary-General is leaving in a few hours for Sweden to attend the Global Forum for Migration and Development.  He will speak at the opening session of the Forum tomorrow and will be received in audience by the King and Queen at the Royal Palace.  He will also meet with the Crown Princess in connection with the conference, and hold discussions with the country’s Prime Minister.  The Secretary-General is expected back in New York on Thursday afternoon.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council held an open meeting on Libya and received a briefing from Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, on the status of the Court’s work in Libya.  And this afternoon, as I mentioned, the Security Council will have a meeting to discuss Syria in closed consultations.

** Nigeria

Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s high-level representative to Nigeria and Special Representative for West Africa and the person he has tasked to go to Nigeria to discuss the fate of the abducted girls, met with UN officials and members of the diplomatic community yesterday upon his arrival in Abuja.  Discussions focused on ways in which the United Nations can support the authorities' efforts to safely return the kidnapped girls to their families and facilitate their reintegration.  Over the coming days, Mr. Djinnit is scheduled to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan and senior Government officials.

As you’ll recall, the Secretary-General, in his press remarks yesterday afternoon, said that the threat posed by Boko Haram is not an isolated issue.  It requires us to strengthen counter-terrorism and our efforts against piracy, human trafficking and the illicit drug trade.  In a region with porous borders, it demands strengthened regional cooperation.  He added that, as we focus on rescuing the girls, we must help those who managed to escape.  With counselling, we can supplement the efforts and support of their families and communities.

**Refugees

Following a new shipwreck in the Mediterranean, off the Italian island of Lampedusa, the UN refugee agency urged Governments around the world to provide legal alternatives to dangerous sea crossings.

These alternatives could include resettlement, humanitarian admission, and facilitated access to family reunification.  Governments have also been asked to resist punitive or deterrent measures, such as detention for people seeking safety.  UNHCR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) estimates that more than 170 people died at sea trying to reach Europe so far in 2014, including in waters off Greece, Libya, Italy and international waters.  And we have more upstairs from UNHCR and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

** Cyprus

Yesterday, I was asked about Cyprus.  We don’t have a comment on the judgment issued by the European Court of Human Rights.  But, we have long stressed the importance of finding a political solution to the Cyprus issue through comprehensive settlement negotiations.  The Secretary-General has repeatedly expressed his personal commitment to support the talks and he hopes that the new phase begun this month will bear fruit.

** Sri Lanka

I know I was also asked by Matthew yesterday about Sri Lanka.  In response to your question, what I can tell you is that, as noted in the 2009 Joint Statement by the Secretary-General and the President of Sri Lanka, addressing the aspirations and grievances of all communities is of fundamental importance for the overall development in Sri Lanka.  The UN urges a broad dialogue among all Sri Lankans to bring about lasting reconciliation, peace and development.

**Wi-Fi

Lastly, on an in-house technical issue regarding the Wi-Fi complaints — and I hope you understand this, because I’m not sure I do — apparently, an application on the guest network was inducing extraordinarily high CPU utilization on the firewalls, which, in turn, slowed down performance on the network to an unacceptably low level.  The UN’s Network Engineers investigated to determine precisely which application was the source of the problem and why.  And I hope the system is working better today.  Yes, Raghida?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Stéphane, can you explain a couple of points here?  When is Lakhdar Brahimi’s resignation effective?  Is he waiting for the Council to end the mission or is he waiting until…

Spokesman:  The relinquishing of his post, if I’m not mistaken, 31 May, the end of the month.

Question:  Which is what?  Which is why?  Is he waiting until the naming of a successor?

Spokesman:  I think he felt this was the right time to relinquish the post.

Question:  The second question for clarification:  the next person, I mean, will be a joint… I mean, we had first Kofi Annan was a Joint Envoy, Brahimi was a Joint Representative, and now, are we going to have just a UN Representative or joint, as well?

Spokesman:  I think that determination is part of the overall discussions, the overall consultations.  I think the priority now in the discussions will be to look at the UN’s approach, what the UN’s future political engagement is to be.  You know, these are all discussions that will be had.  That being said, Secretary-General has numerous contacts and regular contacts with the League of Arab States, he’s met with Nabil Elaraby last week in Abu Dhabi, I know he spoke to him this morning and they agreed that, while the form of the consultations will vary, the close collaboration between the United Nations and the League of Arab States on Syria will continue.

Correspondent:  I’m sorry…

Spokesman:  You know what, let… and then we’ll move to… yes?

Question:  Just a follow-up on this point:  does that mean… did they agree or disagree to have a Joint Representative?

Spokesman:  You know, it just… no, it just means there will be discussions in-house, the Secretary-General and his good…

Correspondent:  I’ll use the microphone.

Spokesman:  Yes, that will be a good idea next time.  The Secretary-General takes his good offices roles very seriously.  There will be a lot of discussion in-house with partners and others to look at our future engagement and the form it will take.  Our engagement will continue; the Secretary-General is committed to continuing to work on the Syrian file and to bring peace and to bring about a political agreement.  The exact nature of the portfolio of that… of the next person has not yet been decided; that been said, until such a time, the Office of the Joint Special Representative will continue and the people that Mr. Brahimi has assembled and we will continue to rely on their wisdom.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, thanks… I’d been told that even before today’s announcement that Kemal Morjane of Tunisia, former [Zine Abidine] Ben Ali official for 30 years, is being considered for the post, so I wanted you to know… wanted to know… do you think that, like, in terms of considering candidates that once history before… before the Arab Spring in terms of democracy, what would you say to those who say would reflect a lack of commitment?  And I wanted to ask Mr. Brahimi, but I’ll ask you, maybe you can get an answer whether he’ll have any role in Algeria upon his resignation from the post?

Spokesman:  I think that is a question best asked for Mr. Brahimi and if you can wait… and if you can wait maybe two and a half hours, you’ll be able to ask him that directly at the stakeout.  You know, I don’t think… I think focusing on names and guessing games of who may or may not be is really not useful, at least on our end.  You know, obviously, our discussions as to who will be appointed will be based on the kind of person we want and the kind of role that person will have and all the considerations of what the UN and the international community can or should be going on Syria and we will get the best possible person for that role.  Yes, ma’am?

Question:  I do have a question on Syria.  It doesn’t relate to the current resignation we just heard, but a number of NGOs (non-governmental organizations), it seems, are talking about the lack of transparency regarding UN deliveries, particularly in the Hassakah case, and they are saying that the UN has failed to share its methodology with them.  So, I was wondering if you would be able to comment on the transparency regarding these deliveries.

Spokesman:  In fact, I can.  It’s just a matter of being better organized.  You know, I think, in general, the UN and in particular in Syria, the UN works very closely with all of it humanitarian partners including NGOs outside of Syria and inside Syria to try to bring lifesaving goods, whether it’s food or non-food items, inside Syria to find people in need wherever they’re located.  For the case you specifically related to, a detailed distribution list was shared with the partners, so I kind of refute the tone of that article.  I think there is an enormous amount of information-sharing between the UN and its NGO partners.  The UN humanitarian country team leads a very inclusive process with other UN humanitarian agencies, international NGOs and local NGOs.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Some of us have been asking here in this room about the travel budget of the Secretary-General, the figures, and we were promised to have an answer.  What happened to that question?

Spokesman:  I will look into it.

Question:  Stéphane, will the framework be the same for the Syria discussions, Geneva III, I guess, and also the Geneva Communiqué being the sort of guiding document for any discussions?  Are there any plans to keep that the same or will the successor have a different kind of plan?

Spokesman:  As far as the Secretary-General is concerned, the UN is not abandoning or discarding the principles that were outlined in the Geneva Communiqué as the basis of a political solution and to the conflict in Syria.

Question:  On some level, that may be one of the problems, no?  I think that’s what been cited as one of the problems for the discussions in the first place.

Spokesman:  I think the Communiqué of 2012 established some key important elements for the way forward.  It also brought Russia and the [ United States] together along with the participants of Geneva II, so, you know, and the Security Council endorsed it.  And as far as we are concerned, those remain the principles that we are working on in terms of finding a political solution.  Yes, sir?  Raghida, hold on two seconds, yes sir.

Question:  Why are you annoyed at me?

Spokesman:  I’m not annoyed.  First… I’m not annoyed at you, but I think you’ve had… you know, I need to spread… I’m not annoyed.  If I were annoyed at people asking questions, I won’t be here.  I love questions.  This is why I take them.  Yes, ma’am?

Question:  I’m from VNA.  There’s a report that the Secretary will travel to China.  I wonder whether the South China Sea tension could be discussed in the visit?

Spokesman:  I’m sorry, say again?

Question:  There’s a report that the Secretary-General will travel to China and I wonder whether the South China Sea tension will be discussed during the visit?

Spokesman:  I don’t have anything to announce on the visit, yet.  Yes, Raghida?

Question:  Yes, I want to understand exactly what you mean by saying he’s not abandoning Geneva II Communiqué principles when you had said repeatedly here that holding of the elections, presidential elections is torpedoing the Geneva process which is, you know, a transitional process.  Can you please explain how you not going to be abandoning that?  And the Secretary-General has mentioned Geneva III yesterday.  What is your understanding of Geneva III?

Spokesman:  I think what I will say is that… what’s I’ve just said is that the Secretary-General has expressed his opinion on the elections.  As far as he’s concerned, he is not abandoning the principles that were outlined in the Geneva Communiqué.  He continues to believe that those principles should serve as the basis for a political solution to the conflict.

Correspondent:  Obviously, you have made clear that this principles in the Communiqué…

Spokesman:  I mean, others may have abandoned those principles; they’ve not been abandoned by the Secretary-General.

Question:  Right, but how do… how do these principles continue, for example, the transition?  Is there a possibility to continue for the discussion of a transitional body after the elections, after the Syrian elections are held, the Presidential elections?

Spokesman:  You know, I think… I don’t have anything to add to what I’ve said.  I think that we’ve talked about the elections and the Secretary-General’s opinion of them and they are not in concordance with the principles of Geneva.  He continues to believe in the principles outlined in the Communiqué.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I know you touched on my question before.  Thirty-six migrants died and 46 unaccounted for off the shores of Libya, and Libya is saying that the Governments of Europe are not honouring the agreements they have had with Libya.  In addition to the United Nations calling on Governments to do something about the situation, what can the UN itself do to alleviate the situation?

Spokesman:  I think the UN can work with all Governments concerned to try to put in place the right policies and help them guide in the right policies and I think that’s exactly what UNHCR is saying today.  The issue of the death of migrants is one that is a real tragedy and the Secretary-General, in his recent visit to Italy, has raised it.  He thanked the Italians for what they are doing, but I think reminded all parties concerned that migrants need to be treated with respect for human dignity.  This is also an issue he raised at the European level in a meeting with European commissioners.  I think all countries around the Mediterranean basin have a responsibility to do what they can to halt this tragic… these tragic deaths at sea.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I’ll ask one question on Syria and two on DRC ( Democratic Republic of the Congo).  Can you confirm that Martin Griffiths, as the… as the replacement… to the Damascus office of Mr. Brahimi, has been rejected by Syria?  Has he been approved?  Is he going?

Spokesman:  The last I said from here is that I think he’s already there, but if that’s changed, I’ll let you know.

Question:  On DRC, there are these reports that… the World Wildlife Fund and others have received threats for opposing the developments of this… oil exploration of Virunga National Park.  Since this… is the UN’s… given its presence there, does it have any knowledge of… sort of a strong-arming of opponents of oil development there and what’s its knowledge of this?

Spokesman:  No, if I have an update, I will let you know.

Question:  And Minova, I wanted to know now that sometime has gone by since there were two convictions for 130 rapes, what’s the process at… I wanted to ask you directly, what is the process within the UN to access under the human rights due diligence policy whether to suspend assistance to the 41st?

Spokesman:  I’ll check on that.  Yes, Joe?

Correspondent:  Yes, this is just a clarification on timing.  You had said that in about two and a half hours… you implied at least, in two and a half hours, we’ll have the opportunity to get more answers directly…

Spokesman:  UN time, I mean.  I think…

Question:  Is that after the consultations?

Spokesman:  Yes, it’s after the consultations.  Thank you for checking.  Yes, Raghida?

Question:  So, if after 31 May the [Secretary-General] has not found a successor, which you have not even answered me yet, whether it’s going to be an envoy or a representative, because there’s been a distinction for some reason, and I’m just curious if it’s going to be a UN envoy; so after, if by [31 May] the [Secretary-General] has not found a UN successor, who handles that dossier of Syria internally?  At the level of, you know, the high… the higher-level here internally… who would handle… in whose hands will it fall?

Spokesman:  We will rely the Office of the Joint Special Representative, but the Secretary-General and his senior advisers will spend time on this issue and they are starting today to look closely at the kind of role we want to have.  All the different formulas we need to look at, but I think no one will abandon the Syria file.  It will not go on the back burner.  On the contrary, I think it will be the subject of a lot internal soul-searching, a lot of internal consultations and it would be a time also for those Member States who are involved either directly or who have an influence on the situation to also do some soul-searching.

Question:  So, that the file of Syria right now… in the high level under the [Secretary-General], it would be then at the Deputy-Secretary-General and [Jeffrey] Feltman?  Who will be in charge of that?

Spokesman:  It would be dealt with at the highest levels of this organization.

I will leave you.  There is a press conference now by Souleymane Diabaté, the UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) Representative in the Central African Republic, and he will brief you on the humanitarian situation of that country and the impact on children.  And tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., a press conference by the contact group on piracy off the coast of Somalia, chaired by the European Union.  Have a good afternoon.

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