29 March 2011
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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

So, good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the briefing.

**Security Council — Noon Guest

The Security Council held consultations on Lebanon this morning, to receive an update on the situation there from the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams.  Those consultations have now ended, and as you can see, Mr. Williams is here with us to be able to tell you about those discussions, and to take some questions.  And then after that part of the briefing, I will have a few other notes for you and be happy to take some questions.

So, the floor is yours, Mr. Williams; welcome.

[Press conference by Mr. Williams is issued separately.]

Okay, so I just have a couple of other comments for you, a couple of other notes, and then I’d be happy to take any other questions you may have.


The Secretary-General addressed the international conference on Libya taking place today in London.  He told the leaders and foreign ministers gathered at the conference that, although decisive and swift action by the international community saved thousands of lives, air operations, alone, will not resolve the crisis.  Nor will it bring about a political solution that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people.

He said that his Special Envoy will return to Libya shortly, to meet both with leaders of the Government and the opposition.  The Secretary-General said that fast-moving developments on the ground require us to look ahead.  Soon, he said, Libya’s people will have to re-engage with each other.  Our long-term interest is to help them do so, focusing on the establishment of transitional arrangements that would meet the democratic aspirations of the Libyan people.

And his full remarks have been circulated, and are available online.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

And after his participation at today’s conference on Libya in London, the Secretary-General will travel on to Nairobi, where, at the end of this week, he will chair the twice-yearly meeting of the Chief Executives Board, which brings together the heads of the agencies, funds and programmes of the UN system.

And while in Kenya, the Secretary-General will also meet with the country’s President, Prime Minister and other officials.  He will also visit a geothermal plant.  He will return to New York over the weekend.

**Deputy Secretary-General

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro will also be attending the Chief Executives Board meeting in Nairobi.  And following that, she and UNAIDS [Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS] Executive Director Michel Sidibé will travel to Tanzania for a two-day visit.

They will seek to generate political goodwill and support for the General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, which is scheduled to take place 8‑10 June.  Ms. Migiro and Mr. Sidibé will visit UN-backed public health projects, and meet with Government officials and HIV-affected communities.

**Côte d’Ivoire

A helicopter belonging to the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) was shot at on Monday afternoon while on a reconnaissance flight over Duékoué.  The mission says that elements of the Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) fired at the helicopter, but failed to hit it.

In a statement, the UN mission strongly condemned the attack against its peacekeepers and appealed to the relevant authorities to do everything to identify those responsible, so that they can be held accountable for their action.

The mission adds that forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo shot at innocent civilians on Monday afternoon in Williamsville, Abidjan, killing about a dozen people.  Another group attacked two staff members of the UN mission.  The UN mission condemns this wave of attacks against civilians and warns that these acts will not go unpunished.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

And finally, on a press conference tomorrow, at 2 p.m. here, there will be a press conference on the launch of a new report, “CER”, produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The report is entitled “Creative Economy Report 2010”.

So, questions, please?  Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  The Secretary-General, in the statement that he gave in London, he talks about that there must be a ceasefire, and the ceasefire should be verifiable and monitored by the international community.  The question over here is how does… what mechanism does the Secretary-General see, envision, or see that the same ceasefire is adhered to by the rebel forces?  Because there is no control over the rebel forces; there is no monitoring of the rebel forces.  How does that happen?

Spokesperson:  Well, as we have said already on more than one occasion, Masood, ceasefire means what it says.  And it means also that there should be an end to the violence, because the main goal is to protect civilians.  And everyone is working towards that end.  The Secretary-General made clear, importantly, that there needs to be close coordination on these matters.  As you will have heard also, British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested establishing a contact group and the Secretary-General sees that as an important proposal, because this would enable all the different actors involved, international organizations in particular, to coordinate closely.  I think that that’s probably the key point to stress here.

Question:  The reason why I ask this question is because, the reason is… is… all that I am asking, is there some sort of mechanism that the Secretary-General has envisioned to make sure that it is adhered to by these splinter groups so far?  I mean rebel groups, which are all over the place.

Spokesperson:  Well, part of this of course is the coordination that I have just mentioned with other regional organizations — in this case, the League of Arab States, for example, the African Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference — these are all important regional players.  And in addition, of course, the Special Envoy, as we have just mentioned and the Secretary-General mentioned in his speech in London, the Special Envoy will be returning to the region.  He is with the Secretary-General in London at the moment.  And he will then be going on quite shortly to speak to the Libyan authorities — meaning the Government and the opposition.  I think that’s another part of the answer to your question, Masood.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, yeah, I want to ask about Libya and also Côte d'Ivoire.  First on Libya, I guess I am wondering, I was… I have learned today that the Netherlands wrote to the Security Council, and I am assuming to the Secretary-General or the Secretariat as well, to provide notice under resolution 1973 (2011), and I am wondering if you can confirm that?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I have said to you, when everything has gone through the various parts of the process and the notification has been given to the Security Council, at that point we are able to update the list that we have been providing so far.  So, once I am in a position to do that, I am happy to do it.  What’s your next question on Côte d'Ivoire?

Question:  Actually, this is also on Libya as well.  There is a big, because you were just saying that the resolution means what it says about a ceasefire, so I wanted… maybe you will have an answer from the podium or maybe you can get an answer, but there is a big controversy right now about whether the arms embargo of resolution 1970 is in any way modified or trumped by 1973, and whether in fact, whether the US or any other country could arm the rebels; and I wanted to know, it seems like most, Russia says no, India says no, the US seems to say that it does allow it, and I wonder, since the Secretary-General given his role in coordinating, et cetera, what is his understanding of the legality of arming the rebels under these resolutions?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think this is something for the Security Council to determine, because, as you know, the Security Council agreed on resolution 1970 unanimously, and 1973 was also passed.  So, I think it would be for them to comment on that.  And if I have anything further, then I’d be happy to give you that.

Question:  Just one more question, even if it is a disputed question that the Council should resolve, does the Secretary-General believe that a country believing that it can arm the rebels should in fact go to the Security Council or its Sanctions Committee to seek such guidance?  You see what I mean?  Even if it is a closed question and up to them, should a responsible Member State seek a ruling by the Security Council because they just… is it so obvious that they can just do it?  So it’s a related question.

Spokesperson:  I don’t quite follow your question.

Question:  If it is up to the Council, then the question is, should a country believing that it can arm the rebels go to the Council, in the Secretary-General’s view?

Spokesperson:  Well, that would be… it wouldn’t be for the Secretary-General to have a view on that.  It would be for any country that so wished — and we’re wandering into the realms of the hypothetical at this point – it would be for a country to address that if they so wished.  What is your question on Côte d'Ivoire?

Question:  I still want to say why…

Spokesperson:  What is your question on Côte d'Ivoire?

Question:  …because the previous Secretary-General did make statements about the legality of some countries’ actions, so I don’t think it’s that far off base to ask…

Spokesperson:  Well, as I say, at the moment there is a resolution in place; two resolutions that deal precisely with this matter.  And I am sure that the Council would deliberate, if they so wished, and provide some guidance, if they so wished.

Question:  Yeah, on Côte d'Ivoire, I wanted to ask this, that in terms of this fighting, where a UN helicopter was shot at by the [Alassane] Ouattara forces, Amnesty International has come out saying that there is a UNOCI base, three kilometres, I guess, from the town and saying that the peacekeepers should do more to protect civilians.  It’s obviously, it’s a fight that the Ouattara forces are winning, some people are fleeing and I am wonder… when you say it was a reconnaissance helicopter, what exactly is UNOCI’s role as these… the two… the supporters of the two camps clash in these towns, how are civilians being protected?  And is UNOCI calling for the Ouattara forces to… what is UNOCI’s call on the Ouattara forces, as regards protection of civilians?

Spokesperson:  The call is the same, regardless, and that is that innocent civilians need to be protected.  And what we are alarmed about is that, with each successive move from whichever side, I mean armed move, we are seeing displacement of people, either inside the country or into another, particularly into Liberia.  And, as you know, inside the country, people are also seeking shelter.  They are desperate, they are frightened, and it’s the mission’s job within the mandate it has, as much as possible, to protect those civilians.  And I know that they are actively engaged in that.  In some cases, it is easier said than actually done.  If I have an update on precisely the location you are referring to, I’d be very happy to give you that.

Question:  I want to follow up on this, because, in variants of the announcements made from this podium, there is sort of running count of civilians killed by, generally associated with the pro-Ouattara forces, and how it is described.  And I just wondered, the number may be lower, but does the UN have any estimate of the number of civilians killed by the pro-Ouattara sides, and also of the number of people displaced, the relative causation factor of the people that have been chased into Liberia or into other places?

Spokesperson:  Well, on the casualties, those people who have lost their lives, there is a very strict way of handling this within the mission.  They need to be able to verify the location, the name, the identity of the person and the age of the person.  And that is a very important part of the process.  It isn’t always feasible to ascertain who was to blame.  The fact remains that you, very sadly, have civilians who have lost their lives.  It isn’t always possible to ascertain.  And where it is, I am sure that the mission will be seeking to log that, not least because, if you are trying subsequently to hold people accountable, you do need to have that kind of material at hand.  On the broader question, if I have anything further from the mission, then I’d be happy to share that with you.

Okay, thank you very much.  Thank you. 

* *** *

For information media • not an official record