1 July 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 Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General will travel to Spain next week. Next Wednesday, he will inaugurate the new United Nations Support Base in Valencia, along with King Juan Carlos. Then, in Madrid, he will participate with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the co-Chair of the Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group, in a meeting on Millennium Development Goals, food security and sustainable growth.  The meeting will also be attended by representatives of civil society. The Secretary-General will also hold bilateral meetings with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Spain.

The Secretary-General will then go to Geneva. As you know, he will host a joint meeting with the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot leaders on 7 July. This follows his previous meetings with Dimitris Christofias and Dervis Eroglu in New York on 18 November 2010, and in Geneva on 26 January of this year. That same day, he will launch the 2011 Millennium Development Goals Report during the High-level Segment of the 2011 substantive session of the Economic and Social Council.

The Secretary-General will then go to Juba to attend the independence ceremony of South Sudan. The Secretary-General will meet with President Salva Kiir Mayardit, as well as with the troops, staff and management of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

**African Union Summit

The Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, is attending the African Union Summit in Equatorial Guinea, and she addressed that Summit yesterday. She said that, despite setbacks, South Sudan's independence is another milestone for Africa, and for Africa's partnership with the United Nations. The United Nations, she said, stands firm in supporting South Sudan's peaceful development and good neighbourly relations between North and South.

The Deputy Secretary-General added that the United Nations will also remain committed to the search for a political solution to the Libyan crisis, with the objective of protecting civilians and working for a durable peace that meets the legitimate aspirations of Libyan people. She expressed the hope that the African Union Ad Hoc High-level Committee on Libya will continue to support the UN’s political and humanitarian objectives as we work together for a peaceful solution that fulfils the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people. And her statement is online.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

A joint UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has confirmed that rape, pillaging and cruel and degrading treatment were committed in Nyakiele, in South Kivu province, between 11 and 13 June 2011, by troops led by a former Mayi Mayi commander, who reportedly deserted from an integration camp of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC).

The mission included staff from the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). According to interviews with medical personnel, local authorities and alleged victims, the troops raped 121 women. They also committed acts of looting.

A second mission is planned to Niakele in the next few days for further investigations into these events.

** Côte d’Ivoire

The UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire will establish eight new military camps in the west of the country, where security concerns remain.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Choi Young-Jin, says that mission will also rehabilitate and equip a number of municipal offices, police stations and gendarmeries which were damaged in some areas.  These measures, he adds, are parts of efforts to assist the Ivorian authorities restore law and order – a pre-condition for other tasks to be carried out successfully.

**Security Council

Today is the first day of Germany’s Presidency of the Security Council. The new Council President, Ambassador Peter Wittig, intends to brief you on the Council’s programme of work for June next Tuesday, 5 July. And that will be in this room at about 12:30 p.m.

Yesterday afternoon, in a press statement, the members of the Security Council welcomed the Government of Iraq’s assumption of full autonomy over the proceeds of the Development Fund for Iraq, as of today. The members of the Security Council welcomed the Government of Iraq’s establishment of a successor arrangement for the transition of the Development Fund for Iraq, consistent with resolution 1956 (2010).

** Kenya

Two refugees were killed and dozens injured when rioting broke out in the Dagahley section of the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The crowds were protesting an attempt to demolish illegal structures around a food distribution point.

Tensions have risen due to pressures at the overcrowded camp that has seen a high number of arrivals from Somalia. In fact, more than 61,000 Somalis have sought safety in Kenya since the start of the year. Another 55,000 have arrived in Ethiopia this year. The situation is dire there, as well, and three in five children are reportedly malnourished. UNHCR has introduced a feeding programme for children below the age of five, but urgent funding is needed to deal with this situation.

**Press Conferences

So you are probably aware that Monday will be a US holiday, so Headquarters will not be open for business and there won’t be a briefing.

The next press conferences are on Tuesday. At 9:30 a.m., there will be a background briefing by senior UN officials on the Millennium Development Goals Report 2011. [The Spokesperson later corrected the record to say that the background briefing would take place on Wednesday, 6 July, at 9:30 a.m.]

And as I mentioned, at 12.30 p.m., you will have Ambassador Peter Wittig, the Permanent Representative of Germany, who will brief the press on the programme of work of the Security Council for the month.

And that’s it for me.  Any questions?  Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

QuestionFarhan, on this Libya thing, about these charges that the French have been dropping arms for a long time to the rebels and so forth, can the Secretary-General order an inquiry or is he going to wait for the Security Council to do that, if it has to be done? Russia has been vocal in saying that along…

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, certainly, different members of the Security Council have discussed this, but as you know, the Security Council does have a Sanctions Committee set up to monitor the sanctions under resolution 1970 (2011), and that would be the first place for action on this.

Question:  The Secretary-General, which has been following reports, can he also order an inquiry and seek an inquiry into all this, on his own? 

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first let’s see what the Sanctions Committee has to say about this.  It’s up to them initially to review how the sanctions are being applied.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I just want on that same topic, and I have something else on Libya.  Yesterday, you’d said that, in response to a question about how the resolution seems to require notice to and informing of the Secretary-General before the protection of civilians, in this case dropping in of weapons.  Is it your idea that prior consent is not required? And it uses the word “immediate”; what is the Secretary-General’s view and — he has had a while with this resolution — how quickly should countries notify him when they take action under the terms of the resolution?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Countries do have notification responsibilities and the Secretary-General trusts that they will abide by those.  We do trust that Member States will abide by all of the resolutions of the Security Council, and that’s part of that.

Question:  But in this case you have a country saying, “Yes, we dropped in weapons”.  Whether or not it was to protect civilians, the question to you is, did they notify the Secretary-General?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, like I said, you could check with the French about whom they notified.  I believe they have said that they have made notifications.  But check with them on that.

Question:  And also on Libya, is it, Dartmouth has put out a press release that Professor [Dirk] Vandewalle, an author on the topic of Libya, has been hired by the UN as a Special Adviser to Ian Martin.  Is that true? And what type of recruitment took place, and what’s his compensation? Can you confirm that?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I don’t have a confirmation for that. You know that Mr. Martin is working on the post-transition work.  If there is anything further to say about his team, I’ll let you know.  But at this point, we don’t have any particular appointments to announce on that. Yes, Ali?

Question:  I have in fact two questions on Lebanon. The first is whether the 1701 report is out; I guess it is the 16th.  And the other question on Lebanon – I asked you yesterday that there were two phone calls between the Secretary-General and Lebanon Prime Minister yesterday and the day before.  Could you please disclose anything about that? And what is the United Nations and the Secretary-General’s position regarding the ministerial statement of the new Government of Lebanon?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, I can confirm that the Secretary-General spoke by phone yesterday with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati. The Secretary-General once more expressed his expectation that Lebanon will abide by the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, including resolutions 1701 (2006) and 1757 (2007), and will continue to cooperate with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

As we made clear in a statement yesterday, the Secretary-General reiterates his strong support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and for its efforts to uncover the truth and send a message that impunity will not be tolerated.   He calls on all States to support the independent judicial process, in particular by cooperating with the Special Tribunal in the execution of the indictment and arrest warrants.  The Secretary-General expects the new Government of Lebanon to uphold all of Lebanon's international obligations and to cooperate with the Special Tribunal.

Question:  Is the Secretary-General satisfied with the ministerial statement, that already it is official?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We are evaluating the ministerial statement, but as I pointed out, our expectation continues to be that the Government of Lebanon will uphold all of Lebanon’s interntional obligations, and that includes, of course, cooperation with the Special Tribunal.

Question:  One more question on Syria, please. The span of the demonstrations today in Syria has widened, and do you have anything to say about the situation in Syria?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  There is nothing new to say about this.  You have seen the statements that the Secretary-General has sent out; you’ve seen the descriptions of the messages he has shared with President [Bashar] al-Assad, and those still apply.  We don’t have anything new for today, though. Yes, Masood?

Question:  On this flotilla, they’re, the activists are blaming that two of the boats have been sabotaged by the Israelis.  Maybe they’re wrong, but they have been saying that.  Are you aware of this situation that is happening, and that some of the activists or the lives of other people going on the flotilla would be jeopardized?  Has the Secretary-General, has he had any conversations with the Israeli authorities about this since his last conversation?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, the last ones we told you about were the last ones he’s had.  He is aware of the latest reports.  We don’t have any first hand information about the particular incidents that you’ve mentioned.  And as you know, our position on the flotilla remains unchanged.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask about Sudan and Sri Lanka.  On Sudan, you’d mentioned obviously that the Secretary-General is going to be attending the 9 July. The Sudanese, Sudan’s Permanent Representative says that Omar al-Bashir will be attending as he is indicted by the ICC [International Criminal Court].  What does the Secretary-General think about that?  Is he going to meet with Bashir? Is he opposed to meeting with Bashir if he is there at this, as stated by the Perm Rep in Juba for this ceremony? 

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  First of all, I don’t believe that there is any plan to meet with President Bashir.  But second, beyond that, regarding the invitation, what I can say is that the International Criminal Court is an independent judicial institution.  It has a mandate distinct and separate from that of the United Nations.  The Secretary-General fully respects and supports the International Criminal Court and its work.

How States conduct themselves in the light of the arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court is a matter for States to determine in the light of the legal instruments applicable to them.

Question:  Okay. And also on Sudan, there is this New York Times report about the fighting in Kadugli, and they, in one instance they, they quote a person saying that his friend Philip drove to the UN compound and was shot to the chest in front of it. And the Times says UN officials confirmed the killing.  So I just wanted to, I guess, I mean there it is, it’s in writing, but how did the UN confirm it and what has it learned from an instance of civilians seeking protection being killed directly in front of the UN peacekeeping base in Kadugli?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ve made our concerns known about the situation in Kadugli, and we have repeatedly called on the parties to halt the fighting.  You are aware, and we’ve mentioned several times in recent days the consequences of the fighting in Kadugli. For details on that specific shooting incident, I’d refer you over to UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan].  Yes?

Question:  I think I missed the first announcement that you made; I guess it was regarding the visit of Ban Ki-moon to Spain?  Can you just give me some information about that, and about…?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Oh, sure, sure, sure. Not to read the whole thing over again, but in terms of the Spain part, next Wednesday, the Secretary-General does intend to travel to Spain to inaugurate the new UN Support Base in Valencia.  And when he is there, he will be accompanied by King Juan Carlos. And then after that, he will go to Madrid, where he will participate with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in a meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, food security and sustainable growth.  And he will also hold bilateral meetings with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Spain. Yes?

Question:  Sorry, I missed the one on Congo?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay, I know it’s just before the holiday weekend, so I anticipated that people would start drifting in a bit, but just  -- and you can also come in afterwards and I’ll give you the notes –- but the basic point is that mission — a joint UN mission to the DRC that included UN peacekeepers, people from the human rights office and people from our humanitarian office — did confirm that rape, pillaging and cruel and degrading treatment were committed in Niakele, in the province of South Kivu. And they found that troops there raped 121 women and committed acts of looting. And I can give you the full note after.  Yes?

Question:  I want to ask about Sri Lanka and also the peacekeeping budget.  On Sri Lanka, is it possible to know whether work has begun on the UN’s review of its own activities in the final stage of the conflict, as was said in April would begin?  And also, can you confirm that the Secretary-General or his team, but as apparently him will be meeting with this Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday?

Acting Deputy SpokespersonRanil Wickremesinghe, yeah. On Tuesday, yes, that will happen. For the first part, yes, we have been working, the Secretariat has been working, to try to determine how to go about this review of our own actions.  So officials in the Secretariat are reaching out to the various agencies to find the modalities for that kind of review.  So that work has started.  But the review has not yet begun.  And yes, he will meet with Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday.

Question:  And on the peacekeeping, I was, there were last night or this morning quite early, the GA [General Assembly] passed the budget for the peacekeeping operations that is described as having a 7 per cent increase in peacekeeper compensation.  And I just wondered, one, maybe there is some kind of a statement by the Secretary-General on this; and two, I was told that because of the late, the delay in passing it, that for some time now, the UN is going to have to process payments manually.  That’s caused some additional expenses within DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations].  Can you, have you, can you confirm that or find out if that’s true, and is there a statement on this peacekeeping, $7 billion, passed last night?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, there is no statement.  I’ll check whether there is any particular logistical problems; I am not aware of any, but I’ll check with our peacekeeping colleagues.

And with that, have a good extended weekend.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record