13 December 2012
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, and welcome to the briefing.

**Security Council

The Security Council received a briefing this morning from the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, on her Office’s investigations concerning Darfur.

This afternoon, the Security Council will receive a briefing from the chair of the Sanctions Committee dealing with resolution 1737 (2006), which concerns non-proliferation and Iran.

** Syria

The UN Mine Action Service said today that Syrians will be at risk of being killed and maimed as a result of explosive remnants of war left behind in the wake of the conflict in Syria.  The intensity and length of the conflict has involved the use of a broad range of weapons which will result in a devastating level of deadly explosives littering residential areas in cities and towns throughout Syria long after the conflict ceases.

The Mine Action Service is urgently seeking funding to deliver risk awareness on these dangers to Syrian refugees and internally displaced people, as well as funding to preposition clearance teams and equipment to enable rapid deployment when the situation allows.

** Sri Lanka

The Deputy Secretary-General sent a letter to relevant heads of UN departments, offices, funds and programmes this week, asking them to nominate representatives to participate in a working group to give careful consideration to the recommendations set out in the Internal Review Panel report on United Nations actions in Sri Lanka.

You will recall the Secretary-General asked the Deputy Secretary-General to convene this working group and report to him.  The working group is expected to complete its deliberations some time in the second quarter of next year, with options for action and implementation.  These will be reviewed by the Deputy Secretary-General after discussion with relevant heads of the UN system before the findings are presented to the Secretary-General.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow at 10 a.m., there will be a press conference here by Ambassador Peter Wittig, the Permanent Representative of Germany, to brief you on the ending of Germany’s tenure in the Security Council.

And then at 4 p.m., there will be a press conference by the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.  And that will be to discuss the Commission’s work.

Questions, please?  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  First of all, I’d like to know whether the Secretary-General has any comment on the findings of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that was issued on 11 December, and that specifically had identified Turkey as the world’s number-one jailer of journalists, at least as of August 2012.  And this second part is just a follow-up on a question I had asked you last… maybe it is last week, on Mali.  I didn’t see any response to it, whether there… you couldn’t disclose to us any estimates of, or the cost of, UN logistical support, or generally any estimates that might have been submitted to the Secretary-General as to the cost of an operation, a combat operation, in northern Mali.

Spokesperson:  As I think you are aware, that is, on the last point, that is something that is clearly under discussion in the Security Council at the moment.  The report itself did not give figures.  It is obvious that when you look at logistical support there is going to be a price tag attached.  But first of all, we need to see what the Security Council decides, and then at that point we would be in a better position to move forward with any planning that is required.  But just to stress, as we have said repeatedly that there needs to be a big picture look at this that involves the diplomatic and political track as well as looking at the military options.  So this has to be a very broad view.  Clearly, planning does go on in the background; it is prudent to do that.  But at this point, any figures have not been put into the public domain.

And on the first point, we very much respect the work of the CPJ, the work that it does to help protect working journalists around the world.  I don’t have any particular comment on this particular report that you are referring to.  I would also encourage you perhaps to contact UNESCO as well to see if they have anything further on that for you.  Other questions, please?  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  In the South China Sea tension is again mounting between Japan and China regarding the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.  And I know that the Secretary-General has called for the resolution of the dispute through peaceful means, through dialogue.  But is he prepared at this stage to initiate any concrete effort to defuse the worsening situation in the area?

Spokesperson:  I think we’d simply repeat the line that you just made clear yourself - the need for dialogue between the parties concerned.  I don’t have anything further on that.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, Martin, several other questions, but given your… your announcement you made on… on Sri Lanka, I want to ask you a couple of questions about that.  One is, this has to… one, I… I guess this… this is may be the mo… the most pressing one, your… your office has previously answered that General Shavendra Silva, whose unit showed up in the Secretary-General’s report on Sri Lanka, has apparently depicted, engaged in war crimes, visited UNIFIL as part of some… I don’t totally understand it… but it’s the MPA… MPAC – Military and Police Advisory Committee – that DPKO allows to visit peacekeeping units, and I am just wondering, given the… the… the… his… his… how he appears in the Secretary-General’s own report, does DPKO do anything to check who is on these MPAC units?  I mean, is it… is there any part of this sort of due diligence, not the due diligence human rights policy, but just due diligence of commanders visiting peacekeeping units?  What… what… what diligence was made of that and what… and what… what would you say that it looks inconsistent?

Spokesperson:  Nothing, Matthew.  I will check with DPKO.

[The Spokesperson later said that Major General Shavendra Silva was part of the Military-Police Advisers Community (MPAC) delegation visiting the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon from 28 November to 4 December 2012.  The official MPAC programme included briefings and visits to United Nations positions.  The MPAC is a group comprising permanent missions’ military attachés and police advisers, and the United Nations had no authority over the group of visitors that included Gen. Silva.]

Question:  Okay.  And thanks a lot.  And then, and this is just because it is a DSG question, I… I… I… I am sorry I didn’t know you were going to announce this, so I sort of… I may have missed part of it, but you said he’s asked specialized agencies; is there a list that if I can… I mean, does it go as far as the IMF [International Monetary Fund], is it just World Food Programme?  Who… which agencies… is that a specialized agency of the UN system as well?

Spokesperson:  I will read it again, Matthew.  “To relevant heads of UN departments, offices, funds and programmes,” okay?  I am not going to give you a laundry list…

Correspondent:  No, no, sure…

Spokesperson:  …but that it is the relevant heads of UN departments, offices, funds and programmes.

Question:  And just one factual thing and… would… you may either have this or you could look, I am wondering, in order to figure out whether the UN is still covering this issue.  There is… the… the Sri Lanka Campaign, which is a well-known group based in the UK headed by Kofi Annan’s former spokesman, has put out an alert saying about 20 women that were taken into a hospital in Kilinochi, brought there by the army, haven’t been able to be visited by any human rights groups and are… and there… there is much concern about what the origin of being… putting these women in the military hospital outside of… of public reach, and so I wondered if… if… if… one, if the UN system is aware of this and has tried to look into it, and if it is not, what does it think of this?  Is this… is this still the kind of thing that would be on the radar of the UN system, including given the reason that… that the DSG is doing this review?

Spokesperson:  Well, I would put that review to one side, because it is something that is being looked at.  There are recommendations in that report that the Secretary-General and the UN system take very seriously, and that is why this working group will be looking at them, as I just mentioned.  Of course, there is a UN presence in the country, and of course there is UN interest from parts of the system in various developments in Sri Lanka, as elsewhere.  If I have anything specific on the point that you mentioned, coming from this campaign, I’ll let you know.  I don’t have anything specific here right now.  Yes, Carla?

Question:  Has the Secretary-General or Mr. Brahimi commented to the point of fact that President Obama now is extending recognition to the opposition group in Syria?  Will this preclude the… the action group… the Geneva… the work in Geneva which they were based… which Mr. Brahimi is basing his work on, and will this preclude negotiations?  The Russian reports from… from the Russian Foreign Ministry are that… that this is going to escalate into a very bitter, bloody war, I mean, worse than it already is?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am glad you added that word “worse” because it is already an extremely bloody conflict, and I would simply mention two points here.  One is that, as I think we mentioned yesterday, the Secretary-General did have a message for the Group of Friends meeting in Marrakech.  Mr. Al-Kidwa, the Deputy Joint Special Representative for Syria, was at that meeting and was able to provide that message to the participants.  And in that — you’ll find it on the website, by the way — the Secretary-General says, above all, the international community needs to unite to support a negotiated end to the crisis.  “A military solution will not bring an end to violence in Syria.  Left to themselves, the current dynamics risk the disintegration of Syrian State institutions and full-fledged civil war, with widespread killings along ethnic and confessional lines.  Syria could be plunged into a destructive spiral from which recovery will be hard and long, with dangerous consequences for the entire region.”  So I would encourage you to read the overall message.

Second point, we have obviously seen the troubling reports that there are about the alleged firing of missiles in Syria, along with other extremely concerning reports about the escalation in the violence in Syria.  We are obviously alarmed by that escalation, and also the reported use of these weapons in the conflict.  And clearly, the use of any weapons, but the escalation of the use of different kinds of weapons is only going to bring more fear and destruction to Syria and to the people of Syria and increase their suffering.  So we are obviously watching that extremely closely.  I may have something further to say on that a little bit later.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Say again?

Correspondent:  Back to… I mean, the… the… the… hopefully the… the… I think you may have something on this one, whereas, as opposed to the Sri Lanka one, which was sort of responding to what you said.

Spokesperson:  You have been looking at my folder?

Question:  No, I am guessing.  There is a big Human Rights Watch report out about the… the finding of… they have issued a report that 200 children have been… are in Bagram prison, having been arrested by the US, they say, as part of their report that they have raised this issue to the UN, which is presumably the kind of thing they would work on through UNAMA [United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan].  Can UNAMA confirm that, that children have been arrested and held in Bagram?  And what has the UN system been… been… been doing about this high number of children in a prison?

Spokesperson:  Let me check with UNAMA on that, I don’t have anything with me right now.  Sorry about that, but I am sure that my colleagues in UNAMA will be able to help me.  Okay, any further questions?

Question:  [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Pardon?

Correspondent:  I guess there is.

Spokesperson:  Yes, I am going that way, yeah.  Did I also see your hand?  It looked a little tentative, but I am coming to you.  Yes?

Question:  Okay.  Today, The New York Times writes in an article stating that the UN Tribunal in The Hague had convicted the Bosnian-Serb General Tolimir of genocide and mass murder of the Bosnian Muslim prisoners in Srebrenica during July 1995.  Although the current President of Serbia stated early in the year that Srebrenica was not genocide, what is the Secretary-General’s position on this, considering that he said that there were lessons to be learned, and of course he visited Srebrenica early in the year?

Spokesperson:  I am not precisely sure what your question is focusing on here.  If it is about the ruling from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, then obviously we don’t pass comments on the judgements made there.  They speak for themselves.  With regard to Srebrenica, you are absolutely right that the Secretary-General did visit there, and he spoke very eloquently and powerfully while he was there.  And I would simply refer you to his remarks that he made while he was there.  Yeah?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Later on this afternoon, the Secretary-General is seeing the Ambassador of Japan, Nishida.  Is the subject under discussion the dispute over the islands in [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  I am not going to prejudge what those discussions are; we don’t typically refer to meetings with Permanent Representatives here.  So you may wish to pursue that with the Japanese Mission, if you have interest to do so.  Last question, thank you?

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Pardon?

Question:  Could I ask you about DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] and Egypt?  I’ll try to put them together.

Spokesperson:  If you can put them together, put them together.

Question:  Yeah.  In… in… in DRC… the… in… in… I… I… I guess my question is, in these talks in Kampala, which the UN is providing, you know, some… some support to, but at the request of the Government of Uganda…

Spokesperson:  Technical secretarial support.

Question:  Technical support, sure, sure; but, I mean, the UN is also somewhat… is an expert in… in political… there has been a request made, I guess, I just want to see if there is a comment, there is a request made publicly by the M23 that President Kabila step down, and I wonder, is that the UN’s understanding of what these ICGLR-sponsored talks are about?  And related, Zimbabwe has announced that it will deploy troops into DRC and… and… so… although that is up to maybe SADC, some are saying this looks like a repeat of the ‘98 war, basically having regional Powers bringing in a large number of troops.  The allegation is that Rwanda is supporting the other side; is there something… I understand that it is an ICGLR process, but does the UN as a… as… as having long been active in the area, do they… do they think it is a good thing, the bringing in of these… of these battalions, and do they think there should be some limits in terms of what… what they do in terms of patrolling the border or actually just combating as happened in ‘98?

Spokesperson:  Well, the composition of that neutral force and its rules of engagement have not yet been finalized, so I don’t think that I’d want to comment on that at this point.  And with regard to the negotiations, the talks, the discussions that are going on in Kampala, our role is, as you mentioned, a technical role, and therefore I am not going to comment on the discussions that are under way at the moment.  We are obviously aware of the various reports that there are, but I think that we need to let those discussions take their course at this point.  Okay, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon, thank you.

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For information media • not an official record