22 April 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.  It’s noon.


**South Sudan


The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says that as a result of the violence over the past few days, it is now protecting some 22,000 displaced persons at its base in Bentiu, in Unity State.  This is up from 4,500 people at the start of April.


The Mission also reports that many dead bodies remain by the side of the main road between Bentiu and Rubkona — and that the Rubkona market has been repeatedly looted.


The Mission also says that on Thursday four rockets were directed at the Mission’s base in Bentiu including two that exploded within the compound and one just outside.  Two civilians that had been seeking shelter inside were injured.


Elsewhere in Unity State, the Mission has received reports that after fighting over the weekend, Opposition forces are in control of Mayom town, which is some 70 kilometres east of Bentiu.


And in Jonglei State, the Mission reports that the situation in Bor is tense.  Yesterday, UN staff met with community leaders from the protection site to discuss security in light of Thursday’s attack, and explained measures taken, including enhancements to the berm wall.


In Upper Nile State, the Mission also reports artillery explosions in Renk yesterday.  Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and Opposition forces clashed in Renk over the weekend, and shells landed close to the base, wounding two UN contractors on Saturday.  The UN Mission in South Sudan says that indirect fire also impacted the Mission premises on a number of occasions.


The Mission strongly condemns the fighting close to its premises where it continues to protect tens of thousands of civilians.  The UN once again reiterates the necessity for all parties to respect the inviolability of UN premises and assets, and to respect the life-saving work done by the United Nations in South Sudan.


**Somalia


From Somalia, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, condemned the killing today of a Member of the country’s Federal Parliament.


He is the second MP to be killed in less than 48 hours in Mogadishu.  Mr. Abdiaziz Isaaq Mursal was the one killed today.  Both attacks have been claimed by Al-Shabaab.


Mr. Kay also condemned the killing of a media worker from Radio Dalsan in Mogadishu last night.  The media must be allowed to carry out their work without fear of attack, Nicholas Kay said.


He added that he was concerned by the recent attacks seen in Mogadishu and called on the authorities to investigate them and bring the perpetrators to justice as quickly as possible.


**Cyprus


As you will have seen last night, we issued a readout yesterday following the Secretary-General meeting with Derviş Eroğlu in his capacity as the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.


They exchanged views on the negotiations and had a productive discussion about the way forward in light of the resumption of the talks on 11 February.


The Secretary-General reaffirmed his continued personal attention and the United Nations commitment to assisting the sides in reaching a comprehensive settlement on the Cyprus issue.


You can find the readout posted on our website.


**Myanmar


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that nearly 40 aid workers from UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations are being allowed to return to Rakhine State in Myanmar.


As you’ll recall, attacks on UN and other premises in Rakhine’s capital temporarily interrupted relief efforts and led to the relocation of more than 170 aid workers.


Also on Myanmar, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that recent clashes in southern Kachin State have forced thousands of people — including 1,000 children — to leave their homes.  For many, this will be the second or third time they have been forced to flee in the past year.


UNICEF’s Representative to the country, Bertrand Bainvel, said that the fighting and resulting displacement of people has increased the dangers to children’s health, including curbing their access to safe drinking water, as well as sanitation facilities.


The Representative said that though urgent help is necessary, it is not enough because children need peace and stability in order to grow and develop.


He said that for the sake of Myanmar’s children all parties must immediately commit to do all they can to end the violence and to protect children from exposure to landmines, as well as recruitment into armed forces, and be committed to peace.


And more is available on UNICEF’s website.


**International Mother Earth Day


Today is also International Mother Earth Day.  Marking International Mother Earth Day, the Secretary-General appeals to all people everywhere to raise their voices and speak out on behalf of this planet. 


He says that we must recognize that, as the world population grows, the consumption of the planet’s resources is unsustainable.


The Secretary-General calls for a global transformation of attitude and practice, adding that is particularly urgent to address the way we generate energy that drives our progress. 


Burning fossil fuels is the principal cause of climate change, which increasingly threatens prosperity and stability of all regions.  He notes that this is why world leaders have pledged to reach a global legal climate agreement in 2015.


The Secretary-General is convening the Climate Summit in New York on 23 September to generate ambitious action on the ground and to raise momentum for this new climate treaty.


**Follow-Up to Questions


And just a few follow-up from yesterday:  we were asked a few days ago whether the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, UNSOM, pays taxes in Puntland.  I’d just like to note that, according to the status of mission agreement between the Federal Government of Somalia and the UN Mission, UNSOM is exempt from payment of local taxes.


Also, I can confirm that there had been a phone call between Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.


And also, I was also asked yesterday about the recent work by Mokhtar Lamani, who had been heading the Damascus Office of the Joint Special Representative for Syria.  I can confirm that Mr. Lamani is leaving that Office.  He will come to New York in the next few weeks for consultations at Headquarters as he wraps up his work at that post.


**Committee on Relations With Host Country


Also, I just want to flag that there is a meeting this afternoon of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, chaired by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus.  Obviously the issue of the Iranian Permanent Representative will be discussed.  I’m told by the Mission of Cyprus there will be a stakeout afterwards, I believe outside of Conference Room 1.  And the Ambassador, I’m told by the Mission, will take a few questions after the meeting.


**Noon Briefing Guest/Press Conference Tomorrow


Tomorrow Nicholas Kay will be here, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Somalia, and he will be joined by Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia and who also heads up the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).


And then, at around 12:30 p.m., you will be briefed by the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly Afaf Konja.  She will be brief you on the President of the General Assembly’s thematic debate on ensuring stable and peaceful societies.


That’s it for me.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  With all of these new additions to the UN base in Bentiu, how is the UN going to be able to protect all of these civilians given what happened in Bor and threats that are still taking place in Bor?


Spokesman:  Well, we have, if I’m not mistaken, about 500 peacekeepers in Bentiu.  They are doing their utmost to protect the civilians that have sought shelter in the UN base.  But it is always good to remind the Government of South Sudan of their primary responsibility in protecting UN premises and in ensuring the protection of their own civilians as well as the Opposition who have — all the armed forces have a responsibility to avoid civilian casualties.  Yes, sir, and then we’ll go to Matthew.


Question: Thank you, Stéphane.  On Syria there are increasing reports about the use of some kind of poisons in the weapons in Aleppo and in other areas.  I wonder whether the United Nations is contacting the Syrian Government in this regard directly to talk about this issue.  And also, on the… I wonder also whether you have anything on the presidential elections in Lebanon for tomorrow.  Thank you. 


Spokesman:  I don’t have anything on tomorrow yet.  Maybe tomorrow we will have something for then.  On chemical weapons, we’ve seen these reports, some reports have been brought to the attention by Member States and we are also talking to our colleagues in the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) to see if they have any information, what they may have done.  But, all these reports of use of any sort of gas or chemical weapons are very troubling indeed.


Question:  Just a follow-up.  I just wonder whether there is any direct contact between the Secretariat and the Syrian Government in this regard.  And also, whether the Secretariat has conveyed any message regarding the presidential elections in Syria?  In fact beyond the statement that you read yesterday. 


Spokesman:  I think the statement yesterday was a fairly strong and direct message on the presidential elections.  If I have anything else on the chemical weapons, I will let you know.  Matthew.


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask about DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Central African Republic and you’ll see why they are connected.  One is the Ugandans are saying that the leader of the ADF, Jamil Mukulu, has been evacuated by some unnamed ally from the eastern DRC.  So I wanted to know is that MONUSCO’s [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] understanding?  And also, I saw that the Force Intervention Brigade Commander, James Mwakibolwa, is leaving and I wanted to know does that indicate… is he being replaced?  What does that portend and what’s the process for replacing him? 


Spokesman:  I’ll see if, in fact, he is leaving and if there’s anything on that.  On the Ugandan report, I don’t have anything. 


Question:  This was… the reason I was… I was hoping to understand how he’ll be replaced because the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Congo has said… has sort of issued a public call saying that the countries of the CEEAC (Economic Community of Central African States), including, you know, Chad and others, should be represented in the leadership of the new UN Mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA.  And so I wondered, who decides… how is that… what’s the process for that?  Is that done by the Security Council?  Is it done by DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations)?  Seems like it’s important to a number of countries that they’ve being serving…


Spokesman:  It’s done by the Secretary-General; the Security Council is then informed.  Currently, General Gaye is the most senior representative in CAR (Central African Republic).  You know the Mission comes online officially in September.  Obviously, as part of that establishment of that Mission, leadership will be selected and when we are ready to announce it, we will. 


Question: And then so… related to the contingents that come in… like if you re-hat contingents that are already in MISCA.  Does that mean…


Spokesman:  There’s no formula of you supply X troops and you get — obviously, we try to pick the best suitable leadership for every mission. 


Question:  Yes, Stéphane.  The Syrian Permanent Representative complained at the stakeout recently that his letters regarding the use of chemical weapons by the Opposition groups or the armed groups have been ignored by the United Nations.  He sent few letters a few weeks ago regarding intercepting some communications between the rebels themselves warning about imminent chemical use.  So what did the United Nations do about that? 


Spokesman:  I think these letters were circulated to the Security Council so it would be up for the Council to act.  I have nothing. 


Question:  I have another question regarding the raids… recent raids on Yemen.  The drone raids.  Does the United Nations have anything to do about that or say about that?


Spokesman:  I don’t have any comment at this time.  Mr. Abaddi?


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  On Sunday, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Prize winner, said that we are on the verge of genocide in Central African Republic, and he further said that we may already have begun genocide there.  Does the Secretary-General share this assessment?


Spokesman:  I think we were very pleased by Archbishop Tutu speaking out on the Central African Republic.  The Secretary-General has himself being speaking out regularly and forcefully after his visit.  As you know, he issued a message in Sango to the country over the weekend, and his message, a very important part of his message has been to rebuild the communal threads that kept CAR together, that kept Christian and Muslim societies and groups living together in harmony.  And he has called for an end to sectarian violence, and the UN team on the ground has been pushing that message as well, and we’ve been very, very concerned and disturbed by all acts of ethnic and targeted… You know, communities that were targeted because of their ethnic or religious… belonging to a group, if I can try to speak English today.  Masood, sorry.


Question:  I just want to know, I’m sure this question has been asked again and again.  After the United… President Obama signed this law into… I mean, sign this law about barring the Iran’s nominee to come to United States.  What is the… why media that the Secretary-General thinks it’s possible to somehow mitigate the Iranian concerns now? 


Spokesman: You know I don’t want to get ahead of this very important meeting this afternoon of the Committee for Relations with the Host Country.  There will be a representative of the Office of Legal Affairs there, and let’s just let the work of that Committee go forward before we say anything more.  


Question:  But the reason why this question is become… I mean now whatever that the Host Committee and what everybody else does, it becomes a moot point.  The United States is not going to allow him now. 


Spokesman:  I think let’s wait for the Committee to go forward.  Obviously, countries have obligations they’ve signed onto which are very important for them to live up to, but in this particular case let’s let the Committee go forward.  James and then we’ll go forward.  If you are not ready, you are going to lose your spot. 


Question:  It’s stuck.  It’s stuck.  One more question on Syria and the chemical weapons.  Does the Sellström team still exist?  And could it be tasked with investigating these new allegations of chemical or chlorine use?


Spokesman:  I don’t believe the Sellström team currently is still functioning.  They were tasked with a particular task and that was completed.  Obviously, the OPCW has a very important part to play in looking at uses, reported uses of chemical weapons.  Yes, sir? 


Question:  Thank you.  I was wondering how difficult for UN to set a category that if you want to be ambassador or if you want to join certain organizations, you have to have certain qualifications.  So countries like US doesn’t jump the gun and cut things…


Spokesman:  It’s not up to the Secretary-General or the UN to say who can be an ambassador or who can represent.  It’s up to each Member State to present a Permanent Representative with the credentials to the Secretary-General.  Obviously, there are two parts of that process:  there is the issue of credentials, which can be questioned by the General Assembly, and there’s obviously the issue of a visa to allow that person to come in, and that is the role of the host country, whether it be the United States, Switzerland, Austria, Kenya — wherever we have large presence.  But, obviously, Member States are free to appoint and to put forward whomever they choose as a Permanent Representative. 


Question:  Sorry, I didn’t mean who… I meant what kind of qualification… what kind of a background? 


Spokesman:  It’s not up to the Secretary-General to set those rules.  Yes, ma’am.  You’ve got to be ready.  All right, Pam and we’ll come back to you. 


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  A quick follow-up on the appointment on the Iran Ambassador.  We had talked about a few cases in the 70s of… but it never came to a point where the US had actually denied the visa.  You said you were going to see if there were any cases in the 50s.  Have there been? 


Spokesman:  As far as we know, this is a unique case involving a Permanent Representative.  Talking to people who know, talking to people who’ve been around for a long time, I think the word “unique” is an apt word to use.


Question:  Alright and I’m sorry.  Did the Office of Legal Affairs… you were going to follow up on the decision on how to react to the General Assembly resolution on Ukraine? 


Spokesman:  On Ukraine there is no change.  They are looking into it and it remains our guide.


Question: And how it stays on maps… all of those questions that came up.


Spokesman:  I have nothing to add on that. 


Question:  Yesterday…it is follow-up on Syria… the elections in Syria.  Yesterday, you told us the UN position from the elections and you believe that these elections will damage the political process.  But you didn’t tell us what the UN going to do to stop this step.  I mean, if you talk to the Government and now you confirm that Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi talked to Mr. Lavrov and I know… I wanted to know if Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi send him a message to talk to the Government stop this.  What’s going on?  Thank you. 


Spokesman: Obviously, you know, the Government, like any government, makes its own decision.  The United Nations, the Secretary-General, Mr. Brahimi have made their positions clear on the issue of the presidential elections, and what we’ve always said is that it would be important for those countries that have influence on the various parties to exercise that influence.  So Mr. Brahimi spoke to Mr. Lavrov, and as you may recall, on the sidelines of the Geneva/Ukraine meeting, I know Mr. Brahimi also met with Secretary of State, John Kerry.  Jonathan, we are going to do a first round. 


Question:  Stéphane, just wondering… you know the UN is in part involved, although it’s the committee reviewing the Iranian Ambassador dispute, but what mechanisms does the UN have in its personnel or committees or something like that to review the credentials of individuals, diplomats who come into this building.  I mean, it’s one thing for… 


Spokesman:  The issue of credentials is one that is decided by the General Assembly.  If there is a question of credentials, and you’ll recall in the past there have been issues of who is, who the General Assembly recognizes as being the representative of what country.  So it is Member States that decide on credentials.  If there is no opposition the Secretary-General receives the credentials of the new permanent representative, and you’ve seen these ceremonies happen on a regular basis.  The other issue of visa — allowing the person to come in — is a question for the host country.  The UN, the Secretariat, the Secretary-General, if this is what you are implying, doesn’t run background checks, security checks or checks the CV’s or bona fides the permanent representatives that are nominated by country X, Y or Z. 


Question:  So, essentially, the UN will vet its own personnel?  You do have a least a mechanism by which if a person applies for a job…


Spokesman: Yes, when I applied for a job, there is a vetting.  I am sure they checked whether I actually went to college.  But that’s for the people we hire.  We are not going to do that and we would not want to do that for diplomats.  That’s not the role of the Secretary-General. 


Question:  But let me just ask on a case of President Bashir in Sudan for instance, he is an indicted war criminal by the ICC (International Criminal Court), so is that a reason, for instance, that the UN, if he were to have come for the United Nations General Assembly debate, that the UN would have intervened and at least made some sort of recommendation? 


Spokesman:  I think that’s a different issue.  The issue of contacts with people who are in indictment for the ICC is one we’ve talked about here and that position has not changed.  Yes, ma’am. 


Question:  On the abduction of all those girls in Nigeria.  There is nothing, not even the numbers are clear. 


Spokesman:  The information I think is — we don’t have any hard facts that we can report back to you on behalf of the UN.  Obviously, the fate of those girls who remain abducted is of great concern to us, but we have no facts on that issue. 


Question:  Stéphane, I wasn’t clear on what you said about who can check on the reports on Syrian chemical… usage of chemicals that the White House said is the Syrian Government, other people say it’s the Opposition.  Is somebody going to check on that or is it just OPCW…


Spokesman:  It’s an issue that the OPCW is entrusted with once they receive reports or a demarche from State parties, but I will see if get anything from our folks on the ground.  Yes, ma’am.  Go ahead. 


Question:  [inaudible] Indian peacekeepers in Bor.  Two Indian peacekeepers were injured in the attack in South Sudan.  They were fulfilling the mandate of protecting civilians, but clearly they are working in a really difficult situation.  Is the Secretary-General or the Security Council sort of urging working with the South Sudan Government to ensure at least peacekeepers are protected…?


Spokesman:  I think it’s a message we keep delivering from here, a message that is delivered on the ground in South Sudan that the UN premises need to be respected, not only for the safety of UN personnel, but I would say more importantly for the safety of the tens of thousands of civilians who have sought out UN bases to seek refuge from the violence.  We’re very much indebted to those countries who contribute troops to the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.  They have done valiant work in protecting tens of thousands of people who wouldn’t be alive if they weren’t doing their work. 


Question:  Going back to the telephone conversation between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Brahimi, can you elaborate about that and also tell us whether Mr. Brahimi discussed with Mr. Lavrov the possibility of relinquishing his job?  Also whether the United Nations is looking for a replacement to Mr. Brahimi?


Spokesman:  You know the rumours of Mr. Brahimi’s departure have started I think the day after he took the job.  And I think until we have something to announce we are not going to talk about rumours.  I think Mr. Brahimi himself has talked about it.  Currently, he is the Joint Special Representative and remains so until he no longer is. 


Question:  In the last meeting between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Brahimi, was it only a photo-op or were there real discussions between the both men?


Spokesman:  I will go out on a limb here and I would very much hope that it was more than just a handshake and I’m sure Mr. Kerry didn’t take time out from the Ukraine negotiations just to have his picture taken.  But here I’m speculating. 


Question:  May I follow up if you don’t mind?


Spokesman:  Please, it’s your briefing. 


Question:  The Deputy of Brahimi, Mr. Nasser al-Kidwa, has been a long time since he left the job.  I wonder if the Secretary-General is intending to appoint a replacement for him and whether the Secretary-General intends to appoint a replacement for Mokhtar Lamani as well, thank you. 


Spokesman:  Yes, for Mokhtar Lamani, Martin Griffiths has replaced him and I believe is currently doing his job or will be soon in Damascus to do his job.  On al-Kidwa, I’ll see if I can get you something.  Mr. Abbadi. 


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  On Mokhtar Lamani, you indicated earlier that he is coming back to Headquarters for consultations.  Can you elaborate on that? 


Spokesman:  I think it’s only normal.  He’s done a great job.  He’s been in Damascus for quite some time, I think it’s only normal that his colleagues here in Headquarters would want to hear from him and get some end of report briefing, end of mission report, end of mission briefing.  I don’t think that there’s anything more to elaborate, that it’s sort of normal procedure.  Masood, and then we’ll go down this way. 


Question: Yes, Stéphane.  On this presidential elections in Syria, which basically Secretary-General has [said] should not be held under the circumstances.  What about the election being held in Egypt where there is military Government which is power… which is making decision?  And has [inaudible] democracy over the electorate over there by… also ordering… I mean one of the judges has ordered at least judicial murder of 529 people.  So, what does he think about that election? 


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General has spoken out as well as the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the mass sentencing, as well as other judicial issues in Egypt, and we would hope the elections would be free and fair and transparent. 


Question: So [inaudible] at least concede that election should go ahead.  Why not Syrian elections go ahead?


Spokesman:  I don’t think the comparison is apt.  Syria is in the middle of the circumstances that we know.  There is a political process, peace process under way, under the auspices of both the Arab League and the United Nations, so I wouldn’t compare both.


Question: Sure, thanks a lot.  I wanted to follow up on our journalistic colleague, Nizar’s first question about Syria.  And it has to do with… there was a stakeout on the 17th on Thursday after the consultations of the council on Holms and Ambassador Ja’afari gave a long statement.  He spoke about US missiles that have been found in Syria, but then when I went to find the link to it, I find that it’s not on UNTV.  It’s not neither chronologically nor searching by name. 


Spokesman:  Was it…


Question:  It was at the stakeout.  It was immediately after the President of the Council.  So I wonder…


Spokesman:  You wonder and I wonder too, so I’ll check. 


Question:  And I want to… Thanks for giving… for saying that there will be this stakeout on the Host Country Committee thing today.  So I wanted to just know, since it wasn’t in the media alert, how… does it… it… what triggers something going into that, a country saying or somebody saying, I want to speak at a stakeout?  Is that why it wasn’t but now it is? 


Spokesman:  Frankly, I didn’t see it in the media alert.  As I try to do my best to share information with you, I spoke to the Mission of Cyprus; she said there would be a stakeout.  It’s a Member State issue.  We are obviously trying to put it in the best things we can for you, for all of you to be able to do your work.


Question:  And this is where I was going with this.  I wanted to… yesterday Mr. Eroğlu did speak and he spoke on the first floor.  And this was all fine and good.  And I know, somehow you said that, you know, you couldn’t answer… this question couldn’t be answered.  But I wanted to know, since it’s not a country but it’s part of a process and he speaks, was that stakeout requested by Turkey or by him as Turkish Cypriot community?  And in which case could Polisario or any other entity in its status simply call and say, I’m setting it up and you’ll announce?


Spokesman:  That’s a very good question.  I will try to answer it, but I can’t do it right now.  Pam and then Evelyn. 


Question:  Stéphane, could you give us an update on the status of the observers of the UN and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) in Ukraine?


Spokesman:  I cannot give you an update on the OSCE because they are not UN.  As I mentioned yesterday, we’re obviously trying to do our best to coordinate with the OSCE.  There are discussions going on to share information in as much as possible.  The observers, we’re trying still to ramp up the number to about 35.  They are in various places in the east and they’re continuing to do their work and I believe their next report is due early or middle of next month. 


Question:  Any in Crimea?


Spokesman:  They are none in Crimea that I know of from the United Nations.  Mr. Abbadi.


Question:  Stéphane, thank you.  Does the Secretary-General have any comment on the outcome of the elections… of the presidential elections in Algeria?


Spokesman:  None beyond the fact that a standard letter will go out from the Secretary-General as they do for elections for Heads of States.  Linda?


Question:  [inaudible]


Spokesman:  Thank you Edie. 


Question:  Do you have any information on the release of the next report on implementation of 2139?  The Syrian humanitarian…


Spokesman:  No, but I will find out. 


Question:  On the Nigerian… I mean… girls… the United Nations doesn’t have a figure?  Whether they were 19 or 119?


Spokesman: We don’t have investigative mandate or manpower on the ground in northern Nigeria.  We are following this from our country team in Abuja and from press reports.  But we don’t have the capacity nor the mandate to investigate.  It’s obviously a situation of great concern, but we don’t have any authority in that end.  Matthew and then Pam, you’ll be last.


Question:  Ok, great.  I wanted… two quick questions.  One is on Eroğlu.  I saw the readout, I just wanted to know, since they’ve said publically that they would prefer that there not be a replacement named to Alexander Downer in that high profile, that they would either take care of it themselves or the Secretary-General or one of his senior team do it.  What’s the thinking of the Secretary-General, in terms of making a new personnel envoy or good offices? 


Spokesman:  I think, you know, currently Lisa Buttenheim, who is the Head of the UN peacekeeping Mission, will serve as the acting Special Advisor until the… Lisa Buttenheim makes a decision on Mr. Downer’s successor.   


Question:  Ok, and the other one [inaudible] on South Sudan, I saw… a… Mary Cummins, who is the acting Coordinator for Unity State, she said that… really sounded the alarm that they need more forces there.  And she said, “we need the Ghanaian battalion to arrive soon”.  I thought that was the battalion whose weapons that were found in the boxes….


Spokesman:  Let me find out.  Pam and then Evelyn, I lied, you’ll be the last question.  Go ahead.


Question:  Quick question on… just can you follow up… I know this isn’t a substance question, but on the Time Warner coming into the building, it’s been quite a while and we haven’t been able to get an answer.  And the substantive question is, is there any answer of Robert Serry… I mean, is there any follow-up with the Robert Serry comments on Israel?  


Spokesman:  No, as I said, comments were made.  Public comments were made by the Israelis.  The issue is discussed by the UN and the Israelis and we’ll leave it at that. 


Question:  In South Sudan, Sudan Tribune and others had a story about the Government reconsidering the mandate of UNMISS.  Does that mean that they didn’t want a Chapter 7?  Can they do that…?


Spokesman:  We have not been officially notified as far as I know.  And, any change in the mandate would have to go through the Security Council.  This would really be my last question.


Question:  The chlorine gas attack recently, has that at least brought calls back to try to find out who was accountable for the horrible attack in which hundreds of civilians died and no one was held accountable for?  And does the UN have the capacity to go in and to be able to do a substantive investigation into who is responsible for these chemical…? 


Spokesman:  You know, I think the reports were made, obviously it’s… the UN staff on the ground are working in a very challenging environment.  Our focus at this point is on the Joint UN-OPCW Mission trying to secure as much of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.  And I think the figures — we talked about 80 per cent two days ago — I think they are up to 88 per cent now.  Also, some of you asked me about Sigrid Kaag; she will be here the first ten days of May.  We’ve already put in a request for her to be here.


Thank you.   


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