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

3 September 2014

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

3 September 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.

We will do a very brief briefing, as I’m sandwiched between DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] and the US mission here.  As you know, Ambassador [Samantha] Power will be taking over the room at 12:30 p.m. to speak to you on the Programme of Work for the Council for the month of September.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General is now on his way to New York from New Zealand.  He arrives here later tonight.

Today, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Auckland and gave a lecture to students.  He asked them to be global citizens and to use their enormous powers of connectivity to speak out, take action and be fearless in standing up against injustice.

He also condemned the reported beheading of another journalist in Iraq, calling it an abominable crime.  His full lecture is available ‎online.

And before leaving Auckland, he also met with the Governor-General of New Zealand and the chief of the opposition party in the country, ahead of elections that will take place on 20 September.

** Iraq

From Iraq, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, has called on the Iraqi authorities to conduct a public and independent investigation into the attack at Camp Speicher military base, when it was seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated armed groups on 12 June 2014.

Circumstances following the seizure of the camp still remain unclear.  ISIL had claimed that it had executed some 1,700 captured soldiers and other military personnel from the camp.

Mr. Mladenov has urged the authorities to do all they can to uncover the truth, to locate and identify the remains of those killed, and to undertake efforts to secure the release of anyone still held in captivity.

** Mali

On Mali, the UN Mine Action Service, UNMAS, has deployed in the field for the investigation concerning the attack yesterday by an explosive device on a vehicle of the UN Mission in the country (MINUSMA), which has, you would recall, had killed four Chadian peacekeepers and wounded 15 others — 6 of whom were wounded seriously.  The wounded have been evacuated to Gao and some to Dakar, in Senegal.

And you saw that yesterday, the Secretary-General condemned this latest in a series of attacks against UN personnel and contractors in the Kidal Region in the past week, including repeated mortar fire against a MINUSMA camp and another explosive device attack against a MINUSMA vehicle that wounded nine Chadian peacekeepers on 29 August.

And the Security Council also condemned the attack in a press statement yesterday.

**South Sudan

From South Sudan, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the country, Toby Lanzer, today accompanied the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development to Malakal in Upper Nile State.  They reviewed the situation in the town, which is still largely deserted due to insecurity — although some market stalls are open.  They also visited the Protection of Civilians site in the UN Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, where just over 17,000 people continue to seek the UN’s protection.

Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that more than 70 per cent of people throughout Malakal County are in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity.

** Libya

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the deteriorating security situation has spread from the Tripoli International Airport and vicinity to other areas in the country.  Although the humanitarian information available is limited, an estimated 2 million people have been affected by the conflict.

The Libyan Government, the Libyan Red Crescent Society, and some local and international organizations are seeking to respond to humanitarian needs, but their efforts have been affected by the lack of resources and access.  Most international organizations are currently operating from Tunisia.

UN agencies and national partners are assessing the humanitarian needs and have identified fuel, water, power, protection, hygiene services, health care and support to migrants as key priorities for immediate response.  And OCHA says that a preliminary response plan is being developed.

**Kosovo

I have a senior appointment for today.  The Secretary-General is announcing today the appointment of Jennifer Brush of the United States as his Deputy Special Representative for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

Ms. Brush succeeds Robert Sorenson of the United States.  The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Sorenson’s contribution to UNMIK during his tenure.

And Ms. Brush has extensive knowledge and experience in international and regional conflict [resolution] and in Western Balkans affairs.

And if you are interested there’s a full bio note available in my office.  And she started her job on 1 September.

**Press Conferences

And press conferences tomorrow:  At 9:30 a.m., Yuriy Sergeyev, the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, that’s at 9:30 here.

At 10:30 a.m. — briefing to launch a new report by Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, entitled “Who Will Care for Us?  Grave Violations against Children in North-Eastern Nigeria”.

And at 11:15 a.m., UNICEF’s Executive Director, Anthony Lake, will be here to brief on the largest-ever compilation of data on violence against children.

Questions and Answers

Spokesman:  We have time for a few questions.  Ivan and then Matthew?

Question:  Thank you.  I’d like to hear the position of the Secretary-General on the peace plan proposed by President [Vladimir] Putin.  And also can you say something about the reports that the Russian photo correspondent from the agency Rossiya Segodnya, [Andrei] Stenin, was killed during the attack a month ago?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  On your last question on the journalist:  We’ve just seen the press reports.  And obviously I think as we’ve spoken out here, especially in the situation in Eastern Ukraine, we’ve spoken out against the targeting of journalists, the detention of journalists and express full support for the freedom of movement for journalists in this area.

Obviously, as you know, from the beginning the Secretary-General has been calling for direct dialogue between the Ukrainian President and the Russian President, and so we’re obviously very encouraged by the discussions between President [Petro] Poroshenko and President Putin.  And in this regard, the full details of the plan obviously are not yet known.

The Secretary-General welcomes the news of today’s contact between Presidents Putin and Poroshenko regarding a step-by-step plan towards peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine.  The Secretary-General stresses that such a plan can only succeed if all sides display goodwill and take concrete steps toward implementation, including during the upcoming consultations between the Trilateral Contact Group and armed groups, which we understand will take place in Minsk on 5 September.

And the Secretary-General also trusts that the Russian Federation will bring its influence to bear on armed groups for a lasting and peaceful resolution of this crisis.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask about UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force], I wanted to ask what the response of DPKO to the Minister of Defence of Ireland saying that they will not next month, when their 1,200 troops are supposed to leave, be replacing them absent a review.  Does that mean UNDOF is going to have a hole of 1,200 troops?  What is also the response to the critiques that he’s made publicly?  And what will be done about the vehicles, the UN vehicles, including mine-resistant APCs [armoured personnel carriers] driving around with Jabhat al-Nusra flags on them?  Does DPKO acknowledge this creates the danger of UN vehicles, other UN vehicles, in fact, being targets?

Spokesman:  Well, you know, obviously, I don’t think we received any official notification from the Government of Ireland on their plans.  We are in touch with troop-contributing countries regularly.  DPKO briefed them.  I know Under-Secretary-General [Hervé] Ladsous briefed troop contributing countries yesterday, so obviously we will keep up to date on that and make the adjustments we need to make.

I think we’ve seen the pictures of the vehicles.  Obviously, it is something that’s extremely worrying and, you know, the focus right now is on the return of our colleagues, our Fijian colleagues, but obviously the return of equipment is something that needs to be dealt with as well.  Sanghwon?

Question:  Can you confirm that President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi will not be attending the SG’s Climate Summit later this month?

Spokesman:  You know, we’ve seen those reports.  I think the important issue for us is really on the commitments that countries will bring.  And the Secretary-General expects every Member State to come with strong and bold commitments on climate change.

Question:  Are they attending or no?

Spokesman:  We’ve seen the press reports.  I have nothing else to add.  Evelyn and then Stefano?

Question:  Yes, on UNDOF again.  Is there any word on the state of the kidnapped peacekeepers?  Is there word whether they’re in good health, whether they’re being taken cared of?

Spokesman:  The indirect word we received is they are in good health, but obviously we would like to see them released as quickly as possible.

Question:  And you mentioned other groups besides Al-Nusra; do you know what they are?

Spokesman:  I think that there are other armed groups present in the area.  Some of them self-identified; others just armed groups.  I think it’s a very fluid situation with not very clear lines of command and control.  Stefano?

Question:  Yes, the situation in Golan and this recent event.  Did they change the rules of engagement in other operations, let’s say in Lebanon?  Did the peacekeepers there receive some new orders about how to act in a situation like this?

Spokesman:  I think the mandate is in change.  Obviously, operationally on the ground, changes are made as needed, I think as Mr. Ladsous explained, whether it is closing an observation post or not closing it.  They also have different parts of the mission they can play with, whether it is an intervention force, for people to come in and support.  So these are really tactical decisions made on the ground by the commanders on a daily basis.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  When will the Secretary-General give his general press conference?

Spokesman:  Ah, I believe it will be, what week are we now?  The next week is what?  I think the week right before the GA [General Assembly].  I should know this because I just looked at the calendar.  Seventeenth or eighteenth but it is scheduled, it is set.  It is here; I will bring him here and deliver him to you.

Question:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  You’re very welcome.  Nizar?

Question:  I have three questions about human rights.

Spokesman:  Whew.

Question:  George Galloway was attacked a few days ago, he is a member of the parliament, and he was badly injured and almost killed.  Do you have a statement?  The attacker was an Israeli or an Israeli supporter there.  He almost killed him.

Spokesman:  I have not seen those reports.  I don’t have any comment.

Question:  Another one is a Danish activist of Bahraini origin, who went back to Bahrain, [Mariam] al-Khawaja, and she was arrested immediately there.  Her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, has been in jail for many years.

Spokesman:  I will see what I can get on that.

Question:  The third one.  Mr. Nimr, Sheikh Nimr, in Saudi Arabia who is facing the death penalty.  He’s really at jeopardy, at risk of being killed.

Spokesman:  We have already spoken of that.  I will see if we have an update.  Mr. Ali?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Does the United Nations mission in Kabul have confirmation that Afghans were joining the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria?

Spokesman:  No, not that I’m aware of.  I think that’s a question to ask the Afghan Government.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  I wanted to ask about Yemen, since you have Jemal Benomar and the good offices there.  It seems that yesterday, President [Abd Rabbuh Mansur] Hadi announced that he would form a new government, and reversed partial fuel subsidies.  And that the Houthis haven’t accepted it and they are blocking the streets.  So, what’s the plan?  What’s the UN’s response both to Mr. Hadi’s announcement and the Houthis’ response?

Spokesman:  We’ll speak and see if we can get something with you.  Thank you all.  I will leave you with the Permanent Representative of the United States.

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