24 May 2013
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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General is on his way to Addis Ababa to attend events celebrating 50 years of the Organization of African Unity and the African Union.  The Secretary-General is scheduled to have a number of bilateral meetings with African and other leaders while in Addis Ababa over the weekend.  He will also convene a meeting on Saturday of the oversight mechanism for the Framework Agreement for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region of Africa.  We’ll aim to provide details of those meetings where we can.

Earlier today, the Secretary-General flew from Rwanda to Uganda, where he had meetings in Entebbe with President Museveni and Ugandan Government ministers, along with the World Bank President.  The Secretary-General and the World Bank President spoke to reporters in Uganda and also in Kigali before leaving Rwanda.  The Secretary-General is due back in New York on Monday.

**Trip Announcement

As you will have seen from the note to correspondents we issued overnight, the Secretary-General will depart New York on Thursday, 30 May, to attend the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, known as TICAD V, in Yokohama, Japan.

On Saturday, 1 June, the Secretary-General will deliver one of the keynote speeches at the Conference’s opening, which will commemorate the twentieth anniversary of TICAD and the fiftieth anniversary of the Organization of African Unity.

He will also attend the award ceremony of the Second Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize, which recognizes individuals or organizations which have made outstanding achievements in the fields of medical research and medical services to combat infectious and other diseases in Africa.

On Sunday, 2 June, the Secretary-General will take part in TICAD V sessions on themes including the post-2015 development agenda and peace and stability.  He will also take part in a high-level event — hosted by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Japan — on the theme, “Building Climate and Disaster Resilience for African Development”.  On the margins of TICAD V, the Secretary-General will hold bilateral meetings with leaders of countries attending the Conference.  The Secretary-General will return to New York on Monday, 3 June.

** Afghanistan

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, reports that there was an attack today in Kabul, which involved the compound of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).  As a result of the attack, three IOM staff and one International Labour Organization (ILO) staff were injured.  One of the three IOM staff was seriously injured.  All are receiving medical attention.  All UN staff in the capital are accounted for.  We send our sympathies to those who were hurt.  We keep monitoring the situation for developments.  The safety and security of our staff remains a priority for us.

** Niger

In a press statement issued this morning, the members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks that occurred yesterday in Agadez and Arlit, Niger.  The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring the perpetrators of these acts to justice, and urged all States to cooperate actively with the Nigerian authorities in this regard.

The Secretary-General strongly condemned the two suicide bombings, which took place in Niger, in a statement we issued yesterday.  The Secretary-General reiterated the support of the United Nations to the efforts of the Government of Niger and other countries in the Sahel region to combat the scourge of terrorism and transnational crime, in close collaboration with the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States.

** Syria

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that it expects that growing numbers of people will continue to seek safety and assistance across international borders as the violence in Syria continues.

The refugee agency commends the neighbouring Governments of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq for hosting more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees so far and recognizes the heavy burden the refugee influx is placing on their societies.  While Governments have given assurances that borders will remain open, UNHCR is concerned about reports that many Syrians trying to flee may be backed up at the borders in areas that are extremely dangerous.  The refugee agency calls on all parties to protect civilians and allow safe passage for those wishing to flee.  It also encourages all countries, not just those bordering Syria, to keep their borders open to offer protection to Syrian refugees.

** Lebanon

Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, met with Lebanon’s caretaker Minister of Interior, Marwan Charbel, in Beirut today.  Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mr. Plumbly expressed his concerns about the continued fighting in Tripoli.  He said that there is no excuse for the fighting and that it must stop for the sake of Lebanon, as soon as possible.  He urged all political leaders and all those with influence to do everything they can to enable the army and the security forces to control the situation and restore peace and normality in the city.  We have a press release with more details.

** Guatemala

The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) today said that it is concerned about the rights of victims in Guatemala to obtain remedies.  This comes amid continued legal uncertainty about what the ruling of the Constitutional Court — annulling the verdict convicting the former de facto Head of State, José Efraín Ríos Montt, for genocide and crimes against humanity — means in practice.

On 10 May, the High Commissioner for Human Rights welcomed the sentence by the first instance court.  The Human Rights Office says that the victims have waited three decades for justice for atrocities committed against the Ixil population, and it is unfortunate that a verdict of such importance has been annulled on procedural grounds.

**School Feeding

The State of School Feeding Worldwide report is being launched today by the World Food Programme (WFP).  According to that report, around 368 million children — or about one out of every five — get a meal at school every day in 169 developing and developed countries.  Yet, in low-income countries, where children are most likely to be poor and hungry, only 18 per cent receive a daily meal at school, compared to nearly 49 per cent of children in middle-income countries.

**Press Conferences

This afternoon at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference here by Claudio Grossman, the Chairperson of the Committee against Torture and the Chair of the twenty-fifth meeting of human rights treaty bodies, which started on 20 May.

On Tuesday, 28 May, at 1:30 p.m., there will be a press briefing here on the preparations for the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, as part of the ongoing session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

** Holiday at Headquarters on Monday

As you know, Monday is a holiday, so there will be no noon briefing, and we will all be enjoying a bit of sunny weather.

Questions, please?  Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes, sir.  There is a report by AP, Associated Press, which says that most of the information given to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna is by the United States and the Israeli intelligence agencies, information which has been proved to be fraud in the past.  And that the Secretary-General, since now he knows that that information is fraud, will he be telling his agency, IAEA, to be more diligent in forming their opinion before they rush to judgement on Iran’s nuclear programme?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, we don’t know that the information is false.  And secondly, I would suggest you ask the IAEA for their opinions on the information they are getting.

Question:  Yes, sir, but what I am trying to say to you is that it’s a… it’s just… it’s a report… I mean, a credible report by AP, and it is basically suggesting that this information could be fraud, and…

Deputy Spokesperson:  What I am suggesting to you is that is that you should contact the IAEA to find out what they think.

Question:  I am only saying that IAEA, which is still… which is still under the supervision of the Secretary-General… I mean, under the purview of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, could he tell them… direct them that… that they should be more diligent in the way they get the information [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think the first line of attack has to be to ask the IAEA what they think of the AP report.

Question:  But isn’t it…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The AP report is a report, but it does not necessarily mean that the AP is completely factual.

Question:  I understand, sir, I am… what I am saying is, is the Secretary-General gonna… at… I… I mean, in a general term, is the Sec… can the Secretary-General tell the IAEA that they should now be more careful now that such reports are emanating, not necessarily they prove to be right or wrong?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is confident that the IAEA is very careful in the information it gets, and it is very careful in the information it publishes.  Whether AP has a report or not, that’s up to the IAEA to ascertain if what the AP is saying is right.  But, right now, the Secretary-General has full confidence in the IAEA and the work it is doing.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, I would like to know, the attacks this morning in Afghanistan, would this represent any kind of drawback from… in… in Afghanistan like it happened in Iraq after the attacks?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we are not going to speculate on it.  I just read a statement that we have issued right now on the attacks in Afghanistan, and that stands.  We are not going to speculate any further than what I said.

Question:  But does that bring in any reflection about the whole Mission or not?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Mission… the reflection on the Mission is a constant state.  I mean, we are always evaluating what we are doing there; we are always following the situation in Afghanistan.  There was an attack this morning, and we have reported on it.  Matthew, you have a question?

Question:  Yeah, quite a… actually, several, but I wanted to ask, in… in Bukavu, if you have any readout on this, in… in the… the… the zone of… of… of MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] there was reportedly ethnic clashes, targeting of Tutsis and many people injured, and I am wondering, was MONUSCO on the scene and… and… and… and what… what are they doing about it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe MONUSCO was on the scene, and if we have anything to add… one second, we have here, in North Kivu province?

Correspondent:  Go ahead, I’ll take what we have.

Deputy Spokesperson:  The UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) reports that on Wednesday, 22 May, a crowd of internal displaced persons (IDPs) gathered outside one of its bases in North Kivu province following clashes between the FARDC [Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo] and the M23 armed groups in Munigi, near Goma.  MONUSCO said that peacekeepers took care and protected these displaced people by transferring them to the nearest safe location, where security is provided.

The transfer of the refugees to an IDP camp was decided on security grounds.  A military base is not the safest place to host civilians because it can be the target for military attacks.  In extreme emergency situations in the past, IDPs were allowed into military bases only as a temporary safe heaven.  MONUSCO reaffirms its commitment to continue to protect civilians, particularly in the current volatile situation in North Kivu.

Question:  You know, the… and… and thanks for that, I… I had actually… or Bukavu is in South Kivu and I… maybe they will have… they will end up later today or something, if you have it.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, well, we may get something later on, but I just want to let you know what they have done in North Kivu.

Question:  That’s great.  Thank you.  I also wanted to… I mean, I… I… I know that you… your… Austria is now not just the Defence Minister, the Foreign Minister has said today that if the EU Foreign Ministers who meet on Monday in Brussels remove the arms embargo on Syria, there are “serious problems with Austria remaining in the Golan Heights and UNDOF”.  So, again, are you saying you haven’t gotten any letter from them?  But, I guess, what I am wondering is, since the UN is running the peacekeeping mission of UNDOF, is there anyone in the UN system that is trying to make any UN view known to the EU foreign ministers who will vote on this?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, we are constantly monitoring the situation in all of our missions around the world, but we do not address speculation; it is [speculative].  We are not going to speculate on what the Austrians may or may not do.  To the moment, we have not received any indication from the Austrians; we have not received any communication from them on this, and that is where we stand.

Correspondent:  Sure.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Masood?

Question:  Yes, sir.  In the aftermath of President Obama’s speech yesterday on this re-evaluating United States policies on terrorism and drone attacks, UN lawyer Ben Emerson, who had gone to Pakistan to conduct his own inquiry, has issued a statement wherein he [inaudible] endorsing President Obama’s positions that he is now taking a more transparent position.  Does the Secretary-General… have you seen that report?  Does Secretary-General support what is being said by Mr. Emerson on the drone…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Masood, Mr. Emerson does not speak on behalf of the Secretary-General.  He is an independent Human Rights Rapporteur appointed by the Human Rights Council in Geneva.  What we have said before is that the Secretary-General remains concerned that the use of UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] must be undertaken with strict compliance to international humanitarian and human rights laws.  That was his position; that continues to be his position.  I said it yesterday, and I say it again today.

Question:  Yeah, my only reason for asking that question was… does the Secretary-General… what I am saying… I know, but you said that Secretary-General does not necessarily agree with the position taken by the UN lawyer, but what I am saying is that, in this case, has he studied it or does he agree with it or disagree with it?  That’s all.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Does he agree with what?

Question:  [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesperson:  What I have given you is the Secretary-General’s position on UAVs.  That is his position on UAVs, period.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew?

Question:  Great, this one, I… I am going to try to keep it… keep it to two questions because of the coming…

Deputy Spokesperson:  They are the last two questions, by the way.

Correspondent:  Okay.  I mean…

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m getting ready for a long weekend.

Question:  Okay, absolutely.  The first one is just, is… is… is… I had asked Martin, before he went on the trip about Mr. Romano Prodi being based in Rome and the fact that ACABQ [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions] has said that that may be a waste of money for the UN.  He… I… so far, I haven’t gotten a response yet, but I want to add to that one.  Some, at least within the UN, are raising… want to know where Mary Robinson, who is obviously the Envoy to the Great Lakes, just to know factually, is she based in Dublin, Ireland, or is she based in Nairobi?  And, if Dublin, Ireland, how do you… would you address the same concerns that were raised about Mr. Prodi being based out of Rome?  Is this…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe her office is located in Nairobi, and that’s where her UN staffers are, but we will check on that for you.

Question:  Okay, that would be great.  And then this one, and I’m… I… I… I… I understood… I have gone back over what you said, I wanted to ask you about these guidelines on media access, and the reason I am asking, and I’ll do it as quickly as I can, is that your Office, when I look at it, is a party to them although DPI [Department of Public Information] is one party, so is DSS [Department of Safety and Security], so is Office of the Secret… of the Spokesman of the Secretary-General, so is UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association].  So I am asking about these policies, because it is unclear to me, one, when… when they go into effect.  Two, there is a policy that would say there are no flyers allowed, no some… including something to flyers, for example, critical of the lack of… of a… of a table in front of the Security Council and a flyer was just yesterday defaced on the… on… on my office door and the door… office door of FUNCA [Free United Nations Coalition for Access].  So I wanted to know, number one, do you acknow… since you are party to the agreement, you should know when they are going into effect, right?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe, Matthew, that DPI is in contact with you.  I spoke with Stéphane Dujarric this morning, he told me he is in contact with you.

Question:  He is in contact with me, but I am getting absolutely zero answers.  For example, I have raised the defacement of the flyers…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the answers you get have to come from him.  They are responsible for the [inaudible].

Question:  But you are also a party to this agreement, that’s why I am asking you.

Deputy Spokesperson:  They are responsible; they will get back to you.  That is the information I have from Stéphane Dujarric.

Question:  And if they don’t, then what?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you keep on asking, we will keep on asking Stéphane Dujarric and we will…

Question:  Was your Office consulted before it was said that there will be no table in front of the Security Council?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Okay.  And you agree with that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Correspondent:  That’s why… Okay, so that’s the… Ban Ki-moon’s position, great.

Deputy Spokesperson:  But there is, you know, we run the office space, and journalists are given office space in this building…

Correspondent:  Sure.

Deputy Spokesperson:  …to the best of my knowledge, free of rent to be able to do their work.

Question:  But is that…?  Okay.

Deputy Spokesperson:  And that is where you have to do your work.

Question:  This is great, I… I… I appreciate this, because the… the only thing I want to ask you is this:  prior to the Security Council’s move down to the basement, there was always a table there…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well…

Question:  …and I will explain to you why it is useful, no matter how big the offices are upstairs, if you are there, you can speak to ambassadors going in and out, they don’t all leave at the same time, and there is meetings held by the President of the Council with ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] and other groups that you want to cover, and this guideline will prohibit that kind of coverage…

Deputy Spokesperson:  That will not prohibit…

Question:  …which was never done in the past.

Deputy Spokesperson:  You will be allowed to stand in the brief…

Question:  If you want to stand for four hours?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, that’s the way it is, Matthew.

Question:  [inaudible] space for a table.

Deputy Spokesperson:  That’s the way… Matthew, that’s the way it is.

Question:  So there is… this is a decrease in press access?

Deputy Spokesperson:  There is not a decrease in the press office…

Correspondent:  Yes, it is.

Deputy Spokesperson:  …in the press access.

Question:  [inaudible] you have to stay there…

Deputy Spokesperson:  And to say that is a decrease in the press access is simply silly.

Question:  …when there is not a formal meeting.  I’m sorry, I don’t mean to [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesperson:  You can stand there and wait with every other journalist.

Question:  What about the second sentence of that paragraph which says when they are not in a formal meeting, you shouldn’t be there?  But, the President can be in holding bilaterals.  For example, on the first day of June, the [ United Kingdom] will hold bilaterals there, but under this rule, you are not supposed to stand there.  So…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we always announce when a Member State is coming out, and right now, all you have to do is go down one floor…

Correspondent:  No, you don’t… that’s not… that’s… that’s [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesperson:  We always, I am sorry.

Correspondent:  There is nothing… Susan Rice, just yesterday, and that wasn’t announced, I happened to be there, so I asked her about Sudan.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, whenever… whenever the missions ask us to announce, we announce it.

Correspondent:  I ask your office to reconsider that policy.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t think…

Correspondent:  It’s a major decrease, major decrease in access.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Speak with…  It is not a major decrease in access.

Question:  And… and I’d like to know, I guess UNCA has signed off on it, too, a few [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesperson:  It is not a major decrease in access.

Correspondent:  Thank you very much.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Thank you.  Have a good weekend.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record