22 December 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.

Good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Security Council

This morning the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Libya, Ian Martin, briefed the Security Council on the situation in that country.  Mr. Martin noted that Libya’s Interim Government faces a dual challenge.  First, it has to address the most immediate needs of the Libyan people, amid high expectations, and secondly, it also has to begin to reform and build accountable institutions that will meet the aspirations for change and modernity.

He reported the Mission’s electoral team has been working intensively with the National Transitional Council’s Elections Committee, and that the Mission has made progress in supporting the Libyan authorities in coordinating bilateral and multilateral assistance to rehabilitate the Libyan police force and a strengthened border security and management service.  The Mission has continued to monitor the situation of detainees, Mr. Martin said, and it’s pressing upon the authorities the need to bring all places of detention within a framework of law.

And then this afternoon at 4 p.m., the Council will meet to discuss the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Abyei.

** Iraq

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Martin Kobler, has strongly condemned today’s deadly explosions in Baghdad.  He said that these horrendous crimes being committed against the Iraqi people need to stop and violence must end if the country is ever to achieve the prosperous and secure future its people deserve.

Mr. Kobler said that it is the duty of all leaders in Iraq to act swiftly, responsibly and in unity to shoulder their responsibilities to end the violence.  He also reaffirmed the United Nations commitment to assist in building a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Iraq.

** Egypt

Michelle Bachelet, the head of UN Women, has expressed great concern about reports of direct attacks on women for exercising their political and civil rights to public assembly and expression in Egypt.  She called on the Egyptian authorities to guarantee women’s political and civil rights, and to protect them from violence from any side.  Ms. Bachelet also urged authorities to ensure women’s full freedom to play their essential role in building the new political institutions of Egypt.

For its part, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, appealed to Egyptian authorities to protect children involved in demonstrations.  The Fund’s Representative in the country said that in the last six days, the numbers of killed, injured and detained children have reached alarming levels.

** Philippines

The United Nations and its humanitarian partners appealed today for nearly $30 million to help flash flood victims in the south of the Philippines.  The funds are intended to provide clean water, food, shelter and other items to more than 470,000 people.  The acting UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator just wrapped up a two-day visit to the area and said he was shocked by the scale of destruction.  More than 1,000 people have died or are missing, while some 28,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed.

That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Yeah?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [inaudible], first I want to ask you about something that came up during the press conference of the President of the General Assembly.  On this question of who pays for travel, he seemed to indicate that Qatar paid at least for part of the flight to Nairobi on the recent trip to Somalia.  And I just wanted to know, is it possible to get just a kind of a disclosure when Member States pay, particularly the trip to Libya, if there is any payment by States that are accused by other States of interfering in their internal affairs?  Can we get, just as a matter of transparency, a description of [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, as a matter of transparency, Matthew, the trip to Libya did not involve Qatari aircraft, and you have been told that already.  It was a charter aircraft chartered by the United Nations.  And it was a commercial flight that we took — I was on the trip, so I know — we took a commercial flight from here to Frankfurt, and then we took a chartered aircraft from there to Tripoli, and from there out to Nice so that the Secretary-General could continue on to the G-20.  With regard to the trip to Mogadishu, the Secretary-General flew commercially to Nairobi, from there into Mogadishu and to Dadaab on a UN peacekeeping aircraft, and then back to Nairobi, where he picked up, along with the President of the General Assembly, a Qatari aircraft that took them to Doha for this meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations.  The Secretary-General returned from there commercially to New York.  Okay.

Question:  What percentage do you think, I am really asking it more going forward, I wasn’t specifically asking about, there were trips so much as to say going forward I guess this would be a 2012 thing, is it just poss-… how frequent is it excepting, you know, either aircraft or other support from a particular Member State, is there some way to know that because it seems like it would be a good thing to disclose?

Spokesperson:  I will look into it, Matthew.  Other questions?  Yes, Masood?

Question:  On this situation in Syria, I mean, while the Arab League is there, Ms. Navi Pillay had very hard things to say about the Syrian Government and why human rights violations were there.  Syrian authorities have today come up with a figure of 2,000 being killed over there of their own army and security forces by other forces.  Is that going to be taken into consideration when again this United Nations or any other agencies issue another report?  Because that never comes in the picture as to…

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t think that is correct, Masood.  Ms. Pillay gave a press conference here, and she gave figures for the number of civilians who are thought — through the estimates that they have been able to gather — to have been killed in the course of the events in recent months.  But she also said that members of the security forces have been killed.  And the Secretary-General has said that the killing needs to stop, from whichever quarter it is coming, and that needs to happen immediately.  I think that the key point here is that the Syrian authorities need to cooperate fully with this League of Arab States mission.  It is an advance team that has gone in today; the rest of the mission follows, and the Syrian authorities will need to cooperate fully with that mission.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you.  Does the Secretary-General have any plans to take leave during the holidays, and where will he spend the holidays?

Spokesperson:  I think the Secretary-General is going to be in New York for the duration of the holiday period.  And I think he will rest and work during that period.  And I think that will apply to some other people, too.  Yes?

Question:  It has been reported that Kazakhstan’s Prosecutor-General has invited the UN to take part in an investigation into last week’s riots, where 15 people were killed.  Can you confirm this, and is there any response from the UN on this?

Spokesperson:  I can’t confirm it at this point.  I have seen the reports and we are trying to understand a little bit more precisely what the nature of that request is, if indeed there is such a request.  But obviously, we are aware of the recent developments there, and incidents in the west of the country.  And I do know that Mr. Jenča, who is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that part of the world, is closely monitoring what is happening.  And if I have anything further, then I would let you know.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Yeah, Martin, how do you describe the security of the United Nations in Baghdad, of these explosions which took place today?  How is it protected?  Who is protecting [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  What do you mean?

Question:  [inaudible] the Iraqi Government or other security forces, who is protecting the UN Mission?

Spokesperson:  Well, we don’t generally comment on security matters relating to our Mission.  But if I have anything further, then I will let you know.  Yes, Pam?

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  I’ll come back to you, I’ll come back to you.  Yes?

Question:  The GA President mentioned a retreat in February.  Will that… can you flesh that out?  Is that Security Council… he talked about it being something that would discuss UN reform, Security Council reform.  Would that be something where everyone would go away?  Is there some plan on that?

Spokesperson:  Well, that’s typically what a retreat is, but I don’t know anything further on that.  Should I hear anything further, I’ll let you know.

Question:  All right.  And he also mentioned mediation of Syria.  How would that work?  Could the GA President become the UN mediator?

Spokesperson:  Well, with respect, the President of the General Assembly has just been sitting here for a long time, and I guess you could have asked him how that works.  I don’t have any further information on what he said there.  But if I do, then I obviously would be very happy to let you know.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Any position on these abducted five engineers who were running the Homs power station in Syria?

Spokesperson:  No, Nizar, but as I said yesterday, we are concerned about an escalation in this crisis from whichever quarter.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  Congo and the DPRK.  On the Congo, Human Rights Watch has come out with a very specific report saying that 24 civilians were kept and killed by the Government since 9 December, and I just wanted to know, is that something that — I know that with MONUSCO there is a human rights component — can the UN confirm that number, and what comment do they have on it?

Spokesperson:  I can’t confirm that number.  And I think that we will probably have something a little bit more from the Mission.  But what I understand is that the Mission and the Police Commissioner in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have jointly agreed to investigate allegations of human rights violations by some members of the national police service there.  But if I get more details and have anything further, then I will let you know.  What was your other question?

Question:  Sure, the South Korean publication, I hope I am pronouncing it right, is Arirang, it was a story headlined that Ban Ki-moon will not visit the memorials set up for Kim Jong Il, and I am asking because it quotes a UN official who said that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has no plans to visit the Mission to offer his condolences.  So it seems like they have a source.  Was that decision made, and also does he have any comment or thought on this moment of silence for Kim Jong Il taking place this afternoon at 3 p.m.?

Spokesperson:  On the first, as we have already said publicly here, so you don’t need an unnamed UN official — you have a name, the Spokesperson sitting right in front of you — and what I said was that the Deputy Secretary-General had signed the Book of Condolences at the Permanent Mission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on behalf of the UN system, on behalf of the UN system.  There are no other plans in that regard.  No comment on what may or may not happen in the General Assembly, except to say that normal protocol is being observed, as I understand it, in this period of mourning for the DPRK.

Correspondent:  Sure, just one follow-up on that because I agree, I mean, I definitely heard you say the thing about the Deputy went there, so I wasn’t ignoring that.  It just seems from this…

Spokesperson:  It’s on behalf of the UN system.

Question:  Sure.  But I guess…

Spokesperson:  And the UN system…

Correspondent:  Sure.

Spokesperson:  …I think would include the Secretary-General.

Question:  This quote seems, at least it is part, one reading of it is that the Executive Office of the Secretary-General wants it to be known, particularly in South Korea, that he is not going.

Spokesperson:  Well…

Question:  Is that an, I mean, what do you say to that reading of this quote?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t think we need to parse one media report.  All we need to do is to note that the Deputy Secretary-General signed the Book of Condolences on behalf of the United Nations system, okay?  Right.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?  Last question, okay.

Question:  Tomorrow in the DRC, the opposition leader, candidate Tshisekedi, still plans to be inaugurated as President, and there are reports that there is some violence in the country.  Do you have any information on that?

Spokesperson:  Well, I just answered a related question, and if I have anything further on this, then obviously I will let you know.  But I would simply reiterate that it is really important that everybody — whether it is the security forces or political forces — exercise restraint in the coming days.  And that includes tomorrow.

Okay, thank you.  Have a good afternoon.

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For information media • not an official record