2 January 2014
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, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, I will be joined a little later by Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.  She will be here to discuss the recent humanitarian challenges we face in several different parts of the world, including Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Philippines.

**South Sudan

The UN Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, reports that it continues to protect around 57,000 civilians across the country.  It also reports a decreased number of civilians at its Malakal base and Bor base.  The numbers have been fluctuating in recent days.

The United Nations and other humanitarian partners are providing relief, and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, will provide further updates, we expect, when she comes to brief after this part of the briefing is done.

The Mission reports that 246 officers from two formed police units have deployed to South Sudan to strengthen security and order for civilians seeking refuge inside its bases.  A medical team from the UN Mission in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) arrived today in Juba to bolster support at the UN Juba bases.  Logistical support for air operations is being provided by the UN [Organization Stabilization] Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO.

In a New Year message to the people of South Sudan yesterday, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, said that both the leaders of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the United Nations are calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the release of all political detainees, political dialogue and humanitarian access.  She called on the parties to take decisive steps for peace.

Ms. Johnson also emphasized that all violence must stop, and warned against the risk of a cycle of violence between communities in South Sudan.

She said that accountability for grave human rights violations will be essential to prevent this cycle of violence, and reported that the Mission’s human rights teams continue to gather evidence for use in future accountability measures.

** Lebanon

The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, deplored the car bombing in the Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik this afternoon that has killed and wounded a number of people.  He extended his condolences to the families of all of the victims of this bombing.

Mr. Plumbly expressed his outrage that this is the fourth bomb to have exploded in Beirut’s southern suburbs since July.

The Special Coordinator stressed the importance of bringing to justice those responsible for this and all other such acts of terrorism and the need for restraint at this difficult time.  We expect a statement from the Secretary-General later, today as well. 

[Following the briefing by Ms. Amos, the Acting Deputy Spokesperson provided the following statement:

The Secretary-General strongly condemns today’s car bombing in the southern Beruit suburb of Haret Hreik that has killed and wounded a number of people.  He extends his condolences to the families of the victims and to the people of Lebanon and wishes those injured a swift recovery. 

The act follows the terrible bombing on 27 December that further reflects a deeply worrying escalation of the violence witnessed in Lebanon in recent months.  The Secretary-General calls on all Lebanese parties to act with restraint and for the Lebanese people to come together to support the institutions of the state, particularly the army and security forces as they work to prevent other acts of terrorism and to safeguard the stability and security of their country.  The Secretary-General underlies the need for the instigators and perpetrators of this crime to be brought to justice as soon as possible.

And that statement will be available in our office and online.  Thanks very much.]

** Iraq

The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, UNAMI, says that the total number of civilian casualties in Iraq in 2013 has been the highest since 2008, with more than 7,800 people killed and nearly 18,000 people wounded.

According to casualty figures released yesterday by the Mission, a total of 759 Iraqis were killed and another 1,345 were wounded in acts of terrorism and violence in December alone.

Nickolay Mladenov, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, said that this is a sad and terrible record which confirms once again the urgent need for the Iraqi authorities to address the roots of violence in the country.

**Security Council

With the start of a new year, five new countries — Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania and Nigeria — have joined the Security Council as elected members.

Jordan has also assumed the Security Council’s rotating presidency for the month of January.

Ambassador Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zedi al-Hussein, the Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations and the President of the Security Council for this month, will brief you tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. on the Council’s programme of work.

And that it is for me.  Are there any questions, while we wait for Valerie Amos’ presentation?  Yes, Pam?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes, Farhan.  Thank you.  I’d like to just ask you the question several of us have asked about the invitations going out to the late-January peace talks on Syria.  Have they been sent?  And what have they done?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  What I can say about that is that the Secretary-General is looking forward to issuing the letters of invitation to the International Conference on Syria as soon as possible.  On 20 December, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, announced the list of countries whose invitation had been agreed with the initiating States of the conference.  There are also several issues that need to be finalized by the initiating States, once that is done, we will promptly issue the invitations.

Question:  And just as a follow-up, will those… will the countries invited be made public?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We certainly hope to be able to provide all the information about who is being invited once the invitations go out.  But, we’ll put out an announcement, whenever that may be.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Yes, Farhan.  I wanted to ask you two questions about peacekeeping in South Sudan.  One is that, it’s reported that India is unhappy with not being consulted in some of the ways their peacekeepers were used and intends to send its own military team to meet with its peacekeepers there.  I wanted to know, separately, [Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar] Mukerji has, over the holidays, said that the Force Intervention Brigade may put peacekeepers in danger.  What’s your response to that?  And also, I wanted you… if you could confirm… I’ve heard that the UN wants to send Moroccan peacekeepers to South Sudan and they’re pushing back.  And one of their reasons for pushing back is that Morocco is not a member of the African Union due to the Western Sahara.  And I wanted if it’s DPKO’s (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) position that countries don’t have a right to have a sort of principled, political stand on why they wouldn’t take peacekeepers?  Or should they take anyone that DPKO sends?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, we wouldn’t comment on the specifics of how we’re trying to bring more peacekeepers in.  We, as you know, are in touch with a number of Member States trying to build up the forces, as was approved by the Security Council.  And when we have details of which countries are coming in, we’ll provide those details at that point.  But, I don’t have any specific names to give up until more arrivals come in.

Question:  I ask that only because Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous at the stakeout made a big point of saying, it’s not… when the house is on fire, anyone must be taken.  So, I just wanted to know, can you say… is that the UN’s position?  That even if there’s a political, principled stated reason not to take them… that wouldn’t… that should be overridden?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  For us, the priority is to get as many peacekeepers in as we can.  They’ve been authorized by the Security Council.  We’re trying to get the right numbers in order to stop the bloodshed as soon as we possibly can.  So, that’s our priority.  But, if we have any specific announcements to make about different countries joining in, we’ll make it at that point.  But, that’s not ready at this stage.

Question:  And on India?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t have any comment on that.  Is that it?  Okay?  Pam?

Correspondent:  Hi, Farhan.  I’d like to just correct the record that was established at this briefing a few weeks ago that the UN Correspondents’ Association has not… does not have any new Samsung TV sets in the room, never has had and has never accepted any donation or loan from the UN for Samsung TVs.  Thank you.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yeah, thanks.  I’m in receipt of a letter from the UN Correspondent’s Association, which says, which does read:  “Please be advised that there are no new Samsung TV sets in the UNCA room and have never been.  And the UN Correspondents’ Association has not accepted a donation or loan of new Samsung TVs”.  Thanks for that update.  We’ll try to get any updated guidance about the language that we had earlier received.  Yes?

Question:  I mean… actually, because I’m thinking maybe you’ll correct the transcript on the answer that was given to me in writing about the television.  If so, do you have any response about the note verbale that was filed by Syria that we previously discussed here?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, there’s no response to that at present.  But, yes, if there’s any fresh language on the language that was given to you, we’ll try to correct the record here.  Yes, Lou?

Question:  I wondered if you could give us any updates on what countries might be willing to send reinforcements to South Sudan.  I mean, I understand you don’t want to talk about specifics before things have come, but Martin [Nesirky] gave, you know, some details on Tuesday.  I don’t know if there’s anything to add to what he said.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, there’s no additional names to give at this point.  We’re still consulting with a wide number of Member States.  And as you know, we’ve also been pulling in facilities from other Missions — as I just mentioned, the ones that come in from the Missions in Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  So, we’re moving things around and we’re trying to get some more peacekeepers coming in.  Once we have more troop contributors that are arriving in the country, we’ll try to provide those names.

Question:  Just to follow up.  Are you still planning on having all the reinforcements in place within a matter of weeks?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  It all depends on how quickly we can receive them, but certainly, we’re trying to get them as soon as possible.  The needs, as you are aware, are urgent and the country continues to be unstable in a large number of areas.  And there’s, as you know, a large number of displaced people seeking our protection.  So, we need those soldiers right away and we are urging Member States to provide resources as fast as we can get them.  Yes?

Question:  I assume, Farhan, that the Under-Secretary-General will be able to answer this more to the point, but can you say anything about the $13 billion, the drive that was requested for humanitarian aid for the coming year?  How much of it has been fulfilled?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  She’ll talk to you about the various challenges that we’ve been facing, because yes, you’re absolutely right — we have an appeal that desperately needs to be filled, because, at this point, there are four different major crises — in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Syria and the Philippines — all of which require a huge amount of resources.  But, I’ll leave it to Valerie Amos to give more details about that.  She should be here, hopefully fairly soon, and can talk to you about that.  Michelle?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Just wondering if the UN has any comment on the killing of the colonel, the Congolese colonel, in an attack by the [Allied Democratic Forces]?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yeah, on that what I can say is that the Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, is looking into the matter.  It does not at this point have any information confirming this.  But, it is looking into those reports.  Yes?

Question:  I wanted to ask… I know the founder of this Peace One Day has tweeted that the Secretary-General will go to [the Democratic Republic of the Congo] this month.  I wanted to know if you can confirm that.  And also, the Presidency of South Korea has put out a pretty extensive readout of what they said is the Secretary-General’s call to President Park [Gyeun-hye], and I wanted to know:  were those the matters discussed?  Do you have your own readout?  Or maybe I missed it.  And, if not, why wasn’t a readout put out?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:   As we say fairly repeatedly, we don’t put out readouts of all the calls.  I can confirm that this is a phone call that took place between the Secretary-General and the President of the Republic of Korea.  But no, there’s no readout of that call.  And, as for your

Question:  It has to do with going to the [ Democratic Republic of the Congo], and a partner of the UN tweeting that they will film the Secretary-General in [the Democratic Republic of the Congo] this month.  Peace One Day.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We do not have any travels to announce on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  No.  And with that, I guess I will bid you adieu for a bit.  And I think in the next 20 minutes or so, we expect to have Valerie Amos.  So, come back around or stay in the room, if you have nothing better to do.

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For information media • not an official record