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

9 June 2014

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

9 June 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Trip Announcement — Brazil, Bolivia, Geneva

The Secretary-General will travel to Brazil, on Wednesday 11 June, to attend the opening match of the FIFA World Cup in Sao Paulo.

Following the game, he will leave for Bolivia on 12 June, to participate in the Commemorative Summit on the fiftieth anniversary of the Group of 77, to be held in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, on 14 and 15 June.  As you know, the Plurinational State of Bolivia chairs the Group for the year 2014.  While in Bolivia, the Secretary-General will meet with the country’s President, Evo Morales, as well as other Bolivian officials, and visit local communities to engage with indigenous peoples.  And he’s also expected to have a number of bilaterals with other heads of delegations attending the Summit.

Following the Summit, he will leave Bolivia for Geneva, to attend the opening on 17 June of the Special Session of the Trade and Development Board of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, otherwise known as UNCTAD, in celebration of its fiftieth anniversary. 

While in Switzerland, the Secretary-General will also meet with the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, and visit the IOC Headquarters in Lausanne.

On 18 June, he will speak at an event in Geneva organized by the International Labour Organization on Youth Employment, before flying back to New York that same day.

**General Assembly Event on Human Rights and Rule of Law

Earlier this morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the General Assembly event on the contributions of Human Rights and the rule of law in the post-2015 development agenda.  He said human rights and the rule of law will be central to eradicate extreme poverty to close social and economic gaps — both as a means and an end.  The Secretary-General stressed that all human rights are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  That is why the new agenda must be universal and underpinned by existing human rights obligations, norms and standards.  His full remarks are available online.

**World Cup

In just a few minutes, at 12:45 in the Woodrow Wilson room of the UN Library, the Secretary-General and the Permanent Representatives of the 32 countries competing in the World Cup, as well as some local schoolchildren, will take part in a special event to mark the opening of the World Cup tournament.  Ambassadors will wear their national jerseys teams and the Secretary-General will suit up in his own jersey.  And he’ll also make remarks on the unique ability of sports to unite us, and to show us what we have in common.  You’re all invited to the event.

Meanwhile, UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) Protect the Goal campaign was officially launched at a special event in Salvador, Brazil, today.  Michel Sidibé, the Head of UNAIDS, said that his organization wants to harness the passion and solidarity of the World Cup to engage everyone involved in efforts to ensure that young people around the world protect themselves against HIV and have access to lifesaving HIV services.

**Libya

Back here in the Security Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Tarek Mitri, briefed the Security Council this morning on the work of the UN Mission in Libya.  He said that the crisis in Libya continues to pose a threat to the country’s political transition and stressed the need for all parties to resolve the political impasse through peaceful means.  He added that the resort to use of force will only have disastrous consequences.  Mr. Mitri reiterated the UN Mission’s condemnation of attacks against civilians.

And he also said that today’s ruling by Libya’s Supreme Court calling the election of Ahmed Maiteeq, who was appointed by the Congress as an interim Prime Minister, as unconstitutional, he said that the respect for the ruling should be affirmed.  Mr. Mitri is expected at the stakeout following the closed consultations.  The Security Council was also briefed by the Permanent Representative of Rwanda, who is the current chair of the Council’s Committee established to oversee sanctions on Libya.

**Somalia

From Somalia, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, issued a statement today calling for an immediate end to the hostilities in southern Somalia.  Recent clashes between clan-based militia groups in the Lower Shabelle region has led to a number of casualties.  Mr. Kay urged all parties to make efforts to immediately de-escalate the situation and to fully cooperate with the ministerial delegation sent by the Somali Government to the region to help diffuse tensions.  We have more information in my office.

**Nigeria

Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, concluded his second visit today to Nigeria as the High-Level Representative of the Secretary-General to Nigeria.  During the visit, he continued his consultations on the abduction of schoolgirls and related issues with government officials, prominent Nigerian personalities, civil society organizations, as well as regional and international partners.  He urged all national stakeholders to close ranks and work together to overcome challenges of the threat of Boko Haram and terrorism and insecurity posed by Boko Haram in the region.  We have a press release in my office on that.

**South Sudan

From South Sudan, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that a total of 1,459 cholera cases, including 31 deaths, have been reported in the country as of Saturday.  The outbreak is spreading to Yei and Kajo Keji in Central Equatorial State.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that seven cases have been confirmed in the Juba protection of civilians areas as of yesterday, with additional suspected cases being investigated. 

And on the Protection of Civilians sites themselves, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the relocation of 13,500 internally-displaced persons from Tomping is expected to start on 16 June. 

And in Malakal, in Upper Nile State, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan, Hilde F. Johnson, today inaugurated a new protection of civilians site.  The new facility can accommodate between 8,000 and 9,000.  And as we told you last week, relocations have already started in Malakal.  As of Saturday, some 3,100 had moved to the new site.

**Darfur

From Sudan, the African Union-United Nations joint mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is verifying reports of attacks on at least 19 villages in North Darfur by Arab militia groups last week.  According to the information received, the attacks led to an unconfirmed number of civilian casualties and destruction of property and to hundreds of newly displaced persons arriving at the Korma IDP [internally displaced persons] camp.  The Mission is providing protection to the internally displaced persons in Korma.  And UNAMID has increased confidence-building patrols in the area and is working with humanitarian agencies to address the needs of those displaced.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

From the DRC, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, you will have heard over the weekend about inter-ethnic clashes in South Kivu, related to stolen cattle, which killed reportedly 30 people.  UN peacekeepers have been sent to the area of Mutarule to evacuate the wounded and help the local authorities and the Congolese army restore calm to the area.

**Myanmar

A note from Myanmar:  the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Kyung-wha Kang, will visit Myanmar this week, from 10 to 14 June.  That visit coincides with the second anniversary of the inter-communal violence in Rakhine State, which displaced more than 140,000 people, and three years of the conflict in Kachin, in which more than 100,000 people have been displaced.

Ms. Kang is expected to meet senior Government officials in Nay Pyi Taw, including the First Vice President, and to travel to Sittwe and Pauktaw in Rakhine State, to visit camps for internally displaced people and communities who have been affected by inter-communal violence and to evaluate progress in the humanitarian response there.  She is expected to come and brief you once she gets back to New York.

**Middle East

Over the weekend, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, visited Gaza; in fact that visit took place yesterday.  And that was the first time, first visit by Mr. Serry since the formation of a Palestinian government of national consensus.  While in Gaza, Mr. Serry held a joint meeting with the new Ministers for Women’s Affairs, Labour, Public Works and Housing and for Justice.  He assured them all of the full support of the United Nations.  And he added that the United Nations is ready to increase its considerable programme of works in Gaza, including in the priority areas of water and energy.

Mr. Serry also expressed hope that the obstacles on the new Ministers’ travel would soon be removed so that the new Government could carry out its duties unimpeded both in Gaza and in the West Bank.  The UN has long underscored the need for progress towards Palestinian unity in line with existing resolutions and within the framework of the Palestinian Authority and the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

**Human Rights

Just to flag, obviously as you recall, late Friday, the Secretary-General, following consultations with the Chairs of the regional groups of Member States, informed the General Assembly of his intention to appoint Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan as the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  If the General Assembly agrees to that step, Prince Zeid would replace Navi Pillay, whose term as High Commissioner for Human Rights lasts until the end of August. 

And that’s it.  Maggie?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Hey Steph, this controversy over the Ugandan Foreign Minister being PGA [President of the General Assembly] seems to still be simmering and now there are some accusations that he was the chairman and still is a part owner in a company called Entebbe Handling Services that does business with the UN, with MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo] and UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] and UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur], I believe.  Are there rules about that?  I mean is that sort of a conflict of interest if that’s correct?  That if… Would he have to divest himself of those shares?  Would you have to stop doing business with that company?  Would this be a reason for him to withdraw his name as a candidate?  Like, what’s the procedure?

Spokesman:  First of all, the President of the General Assembly is chosen by the Member States.  It is entirely the decision of the General Assembly.  It is not the Secretary-General’s decision; he has no input into that process, so I think a lot of these questions need to be asked of the Member States, but it is their prerogative.  As to whether or not this company has contracts with the UN is something we’re looking into.  I do not think they have any contracts with MONUSCO, but obviously, we’re looking at that.  And again, the decision of the appointment is to be voted on by the Member States and it is their decision.

Question:  I realize it’s the Member States that do it, but is there no vetting process whatever?  I mean if the Secretary-General owned shares in a company that was doing business with the UN, I don’t imagine he’d be allowed to so… do the same rules apply?

Spokesman:  The President of the General Assembly is not a staff member of the UN.  And again, we’re checking on the veracity of the reports that have been floating around.  Matthew?

Question:  I mean… I… The Secretary-General is not a staff member of the UN either, right?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General?  I’ll have to check.

Question:  This came up on the pension of Kofi Annan.

Spokesman:  I understand.

Question:  I wanted to ask you about the… the Lakhdar Brahimi interview with Der Spiegel.  I’m sure you’ve seen it and… and among other things, he says Saudi Arabia refused to meet with him, not wanting a peaceful settlement.  He said that the chemical weapons attack in Khan al-Assal was in all probability caused by the opposition, and I just wanted to know… you’ve seen… I mean I can keep going down this litany but I guess, I wonder… I understand that he’s now a private individual, but factually speaking, since he, at the time, let’s say on the Saudi issue, since he represented the Secretary-General as well as the League of Arab States at the time, is it true?  Can you confirm that Saudi Arabia declined to meet with him and… and what does this say about Brahimi replacement also representing the Arab League?

Spokesman:  I think, obviously, Mr. Brahimi’s interview was done as a private citizen.  He no longer is the Joint Representative.  However, the Secretary-General’s own position on a number of these issues has been expressed fairly directly either by me or by the Secretary-General himself.  I think Mr. Brahimi over the past, over the time of his work as the Joint Special Representative, has been fairly candid about his opinion.  On the issue of the use of chlorine, that is something that the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons]has been looking into.  And as the Secretary-General himself said here in this room, this time of sort of interim between, without an official Joint Representative, is being used as a time for stock-taking to see how that role can be best used to keep the political process moving to work for a peaceful end to the conflict in Syria. 

Question:  I just want to ask one… on this… because the Khan al-Assal was the attack that preceded the larger one so he was basically saying that the first reported, you know, use of chemical weapons, the one that Mr. Sellström was sent initially to investigate, was, he believes, done by the opposition.  And since this… this seems to be a pretty major statement and it doesn’t seem to Khan al-Assal was ever fully investigated.  That’s what many people said…

Spokesman:  No, I understand.  You know, I’m not going to go on a play by play of his comments.  I think the Secretary-General’s own position has been very clear and very strong and what Mr. Brahimi expressed was his own private, private view.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Yes, thank you, Stéphane.  Yesterday, that was this joint prayer at the Vatican between the Pope and President Abbas and President Peres.  Is been look a little bit sceptic… I mean there’s been sceptics who says on this… on this meeting and there’s not going to really help.  I would like to know what the Secretary-General thought about this initiative of the Vatican, of the Pope Francis?

Spokesman:  You know, I think any initiative that brings the parties together is to be welcomed.  I think it’s the Secretary-General… I mean, its bringing these two leaders together is an important step.  Obviously, we want to see some real political progress on the ground, but I think any initiative that brings the parties together for a round of discussion and reflection is to be welcomed.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  Stéphane, the Secretary-General’s trip to Brazil to go the World Cup opening, is he going to be doing anything other than going to the World Cup opening there?  Is he going to be doing any… any events [inaudible] to promote…?

Spokesman:  No.  He will likely have a bilateral with the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, and maybe some other bilaterals with other Heads of States that may be there.  But otherwise, he will be in Sao Paulo really just for the opening.  Yes, Carla?

Question:  Stéphane, I believe it was several months ago, I had asked Farhan… I believe you were away at the time, whether there was any progress in the investigation into the identity of the snipers at the Maidan, and it was following a posed concern expressed by Catherine Ashton.  That they said there would some sort of investigation.  Farhan said that he’d get back to me or back to the press on this, but that was several months ago.  Is there any… any more information?

Spokesman:  Not that I’m aware of.  As you know, the UN has a human rights monitoring team in Ukraine and their next report is due 17 June, if I’m not mistaken.  Matthew, and then Stefano.

Question:  It’s been a long weekend so I have a few… however you want to do it.  I wanted to… to ask you, now that you say Ms. Kang is going to… to Myanmar, there’s… this local media there reports that UNICEF having used the word Rohingya, then apologized for it and committed not to use it any further.  This is reported there with local authorities saying the UN will no longer use this word.  And I wanted to know, is this… given the controversy…

Spokesman:  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  You should ask UNICEF, but I’ll check on my end, but I don’t know.

Question:  Yes, is there a UN policy…

Spokesman:  I don’t know.

Question:  That’s what I wanted to know.  And I also wanted to know, Mr… over the weekend, Mr. Kobler from MONUSCO said that… that the policy on the Minova rapes is clear and since I’ve been trying… maybe… maybe you agree with that, but to me, at least, it’s not clear in the sense of just what the steps are after two convictions…

Spokesman:  We’ll try to make it clear.  Stefano?

Question:  Yes, over the weekend, about 5,000 people have been rescued by the Italian navy in the Mediterranean trying to reach Sicily.  Now, this has happened all the time, but is the… the situation here is that the Italians at the moment think that they cannot do this operation alone.  And they are asking for help to European Union… The European Union saying that it’s doing… helping, but it’s… the situation is a little awkward, because Italy is asking for help and the European Union and also the UN are saying that they are helping.  What… what… who do you think they… I mean, what is the situation?  Who should do more at the moment?

Spokesman:  You know, as I mentioned, the Secretary-General has raised this issue both at the national level in meetings with the Italian officials and at the European level, in meetings in Brussels with European Commissioners.  And the High Commissioner for [Refugees] himself, I think has said clearly that this is not an issue that Italy alone can deal with.  This is really, it’s a regional issue, it’s a very broader regional issue both looking at where this people come from, not only where this migrants come from, not only from Africa but from the Middle East and further, further away.  And Italy is just the one point of entry.  I think Italy has shouldered a very, very heavy burden and Mr. Guterres was very clear in saying that this… there needs to be an international — not just a national, but an international response.  I’m going to let you go ahead and then we’ll go, because Mr. Mitri is expected in just a few minutes at the stakeout, so I’m told.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Regarding Palestine, you mentioned to the visit of Mr. Serry to Gaza and you said that he was there with the newly appointed Minister.  Do you have any information that he met someone from Hamas or…?

Spokesman:  He met members of the Government, the Ministers of the Government.

Question: [inaudible]

Spokesman:  Yes, we have.  I will give you the exact names.

Thank you, we have to go.  Mr. Mitri is expected just outside.

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