22 May 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.


**Secretary-General in China


The Secretary-General wrapped up his visit to China today.  He began his morning by speaking at Shanghai's Fudan University, exhorting students to play a greater part in addressing global challenges.  He added that he expects China and its Government to continually improve human dignity.  He told the students that we needed to work together to advance human rights — the foundation of global harmony and stability.


The Secretary-General then visited the Zhou Bin Calligraphy Culture Institute.  As you may know, he is a keen student of calligraphy.  His last appointments before departing China were the opening of the Shanghai Centre for Maternal and Child Health and a lunch event for his "Every woman, every child" initiative.  The Secretary-General is scheduled to arrive in New York later this evening.


** Syria


As you know, the Security Council failed to adopt a resolution on a referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court earlier this morning.  The draft resolution received 13 votes in favour and negative votes from two permanent members of the Security Council.


The Deputy Secretary-General spoke before the Security Council vote and delivered a statement on behalf of the Secretary-General.  He said that the recent attacks against humanitarian convoys and personnel, which may constitute war crimes, add to the urgent need to see action now on accountability in Syria.


He said that the Security Council has an inescapable responsibility in this regard.  States that are members of both the Security Council and the Human Rights Council have a particular duty to end the bloodshed and ensure justice for the victims of unspeakable crimes.


The Deputy Secretary-General said that, for more than three years, the Security Council has been unable to agree on measures that could bring an end to this extraordinarily brutal war.  The Secretary-General calls on the Council and pleads with their Members to set aside their differences and finally work together on a joint approach that can bring to an end this long nightmare for the Syrian people.  We have his remarks available in our office.


** Syria — Humanitarian


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the inter-agency convoy that travelled on 8-9 May to the besieged locations of Nubul and Zahra and other villages in Syria helped open the way for humanitarian organizations to plan further aid for people in need across Aleppo Governorate.  The United Nations and its partners are now working with all parties to assist over 500,000 people throughout the governorate, including in opposition-held areas, pending approvals from the central Syrian authorities.


**Security Council


The Security Council is now hearing an update on the situation in Somalia from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, Nicholas Kay.  And we will have his remarks will be available in my office as soon as it is done.


** Nigeria


Late yesterday, we issued a statement on Nigeria in which the Secretary-General condemned in the strongest terms the recent series of attacks on civilians in Nigeria, which have left hundreds dead and injured.  There is absolutely no justification for such attacks.  The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the families of the victims and expresses his solidarity with the people and Government of Nigeria.  And he wishes a rapid recovery to those injured in the attacks.


** Mali


From Mali, the UN [Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization] Mission  in that country, MINUSMA, is working in coordination with key international partners including ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), the African Union and members of the Security Council, to develop a potential series of measures to formalise the ceasefire in the country and encourage the parties to bring about a return to the political process.


As you know, the Government declared a ceasefire yesterday evening after an assault on the town of Kidal by the Malian Defence and Security Forces which led to heavy fighting with the Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad — otherwise known as MNLA — and other armed groups.  The northern towns of Kidal and Menaka are now under the control of the MNLA, and MNLA movements in Anefis, Aguelhok and other locations have also been reported.


The UN Mission on the ground continues to engage with the Government and armed groups to achieve an end to hostilities, to protect civilians and to revive the political process.  And as you’ll recall, the Secretary-General called for the immediate cessation of fighting in Mali and reminded all parties of their obligation to protect civilians.


And on the humanitarian front, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that an estimated 3,400 residents of Kidal have fled to rural areas of Algeria and Gao since fighting erupted.  Some 450 people have already arrived in Gao.  Humanitarian agencies are sending relief items to Gao as Kidal is inaccessible to humanitarian workers from other cities.  The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are sending medical and water and sanitation kits from Bamako.


** Central African Republic


From nearby in the Central African Republic, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, Babacar Gaye, called today on the anti-balaka militia to lay down their arms and on the ex-Séléka to stand ready to enter the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.


Speaking at a press conference in Bangui, he said that the support that the international community is trying to mobilize for the country will be in vain if the parties do not act responsibly for the long-term stability of the country.  The Special Representative also expressed the United Nations support to the implementation of a national reconciliation strategy — which was presented yesterday by the Government to the international community.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


From the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Great Lakes, Mary Robinson, was in Goma yesterday where she said true progress had been made, especially on the military front, but one of the priorities was to accelerate the demobilization and reintegration process of former rebels, especially those who fled to Uganda or Rwanda.


Asked about a potential amnesty for these fighters to accelerate their repatriation to the [ Democratic Republic of the Congo], she reiterated that the agreement between all countries in the region was that no amnesty should be granted in cases of crimes against humanity or other serious crimes.


**Biodiversity


And today, for those of you who are unaware, today is the International Day for Biological Diversity, under the theme of “Island Diversity”.  In a message, the Secretary-General said that island biodiversity was being lost at an unprecedented rate in the face of growing risks, and that many species were facing the prospect of extinction.  He called on all countries around the world to scale up best practices to protect fragile ecosystems for the benefit of all the islanders — and people everywhere who depend on them.  The full message is available upstairs.


**Balkans


A quick update on the Balkans floods.  Waters have started to recede in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but in downstream Serbia, the risk of further flooding remains high.  Our humanitarian staff informs us that UN agencies are providing direct support with three flights of relief supplies with a total value of almost a million dollars to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to Serbia.  They also mobilized volunteers and experts, including in sanitation and shelter to support Governments’ efforts.


** Thailand


The Secretary-General is seriously concerned by the military takeover in Thailand today.  He appeals for a prompt return to constitutional, civilian, democratic rule and an all-inclusive dialogue that will pave the way for long-term peace and prosperity in Thailand.  The Secretary-General urges all parties to work together constructively, refrain from violence and respect human rights.  And that statement is available upstairs, not upstairs rather, next door.  I’m still not used to it.


** Burundi


Yesterday, Matthew, you asked about two letters from NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and political parties.  We’ve checked again this morning for you and we cannot ascertain that we have received such letters at the Secretariat.


** Darfur


And on Dafur you asked yesterday about Kalma camps in Darfur and I have the following for you:


On 19 May, on Monday, some internally displaced civilians in Kalma camp reportedly stole goats belonging to Arab nomads.  In a mediation efforts by UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) on 20 May, the internally displaced persons agreed to compensate the Arab nomads.  Within minutes of leaving the UNAMID Camp, Arab nomads reportedly shot and killed a 30-year-old Fur internally displaced person and injured another.  In retaliation, the internally displaced surrounded the patrol site of UNAMID police and accused it of inaction.


**Press Conferences


Press conference at 1 p.m., today we will have Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and joined by Said Djinnit, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on West Africa.  They will talk to you about the High-level Donor Conference to Support Transnational Crime Units under the West Africa Coast Initiative, otherwise known as WACI, that will be at 1 p.m.


At 2 p.m., there will be a press conference in this room on the Closing of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  Speakers include Sioyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, Valmaine Toki, Member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and Myrna Cunningham, Adviser to the President of the General Assembly for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.


Lastly, tomorrow, at 10:30 a.m., in this room, the Permanent Representative of Ukraine, Yuriy Sergeyev, will brief the press on the “Presidential elections in Ukraine and the current political situation”.


Matthew.  Today, you’ve got to be ready, Matthew.


**Questions and Answers


Correspondent:  I’m ready… I’m ready, don’t worry.  So, okay, I’ve got to choose which one to go with.  I guess I’ll… I’m surprised you don’t have any statement on this shooting… either shooting back and forth, or shooting one way between DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and South Korea?  It seems to be a pretty dangerous event.


Spokesman:  I don’t have any formal statement.  Obviously, the Secretary-General would appeal for calm, and for calm in this particular regard, but I don’t have anything specific.


Question:  And also, since you don’t have anything specific, I’m going to go quickly with the Mali question.  I had asked you a couple of days ago about this purchase of a plane by IBK, the President of Mali, and today, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) reiterated that… that it’s… that it’s concerned by it, that it’s basically frozen IMF programme with the country until June.  And I just wonder, since Bert Koenders is there, I understand there are a lot of things going on, but does he have any view of other international organisations saying that the Government is violating its commitment and ignoring its people.


Spokesman:  He’s not expressed any view to me or through me.  Joe and then we’ll go there.


Question:  Yes, Stéphane, can we expect a statement from the Secretary-General later in the day in reaction to the double veto of the Security Council ICC (International Criminal Court) referral resolution?


Spokesman:  I think you heard… we all heard Jan Eliasson, the Deputy Secretary-General, deliver his remarks on behalf of the Secretary-General.  Clearly, the Secretary-General is disappointed when the Council does not speak with one voice.  I think especially on an issue as important as this one.  As it was said, if members of the Council continue to be unable to agree, even on a measure that could provide some accountability for the ongoing crimes, the credibility of this body and of the entire organization will continue to suffer, not to mention the suffering of the Syrian people themselves and the stability of the region.


Question:  Thank you.  Do you have any update on the detention of the journalists of Life News in Ukraine?  Particularly, do the… does the staff of the United Nations in Ukraine have access to them?


Spokesman:  We’ve… you know, you’ve seen what Mr. Šimonović had to say yesterday.  We just asked again just a few minutes ago, see if there was an update and if there is, I will share it with you.  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  As you said, the Deputy Secretary-General has… has spoken to the Council and he said that there crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Syria and he observed that the Council has been deadlocked on this question for three years and you just said that the Secretary-General is disappointed.  Why doesn’t the Deputy Secretary[-General] suggest other ways other ways of resolving this deadlock in the Council?


Spokesman:  Well, you know as… and I would just add for the sake of clarity that the Deputy Secretary-General delivered the message from the Secretary-General, so it should be taken as the Secretary-General’s message.  The Secretary-General will… will continue to work with Council members to see if they can set aside their differences to find a joint approach to end the long nightmare of the Syrian people.  We are also continuing on the political track to bring the parties back to the table but today showed a clear lack of disunity in the Security Council.


Question:  Just as a follow-up, we have a precedent in the history of this Organization when the Council is deadlocked for a long period of time.  It’s called uniting for peace resolution and it happened in early 1950s regarding the case of Korea.  Why doesn’t anybody suggest that?


Spokesman:  I think that would be up for the Member States and it’s an issue for the Member States to take up.  Masood?


Question:  On this Israeli incarceration of Palestinian children in isolation and which has been, what you called, decried by many human rights organizations, does the Secretary-General has anything to say of these children being kept in isolation by the Israelis?  I mean, I’m not talking about the other two killed, I know the investigation is going on but these who are now in incarceration.


Spokesman:  You know the Secretary-General has repeatedly called for Member States to respect international law when it… especially when it comes to the detention of minors.  Yes and then we’ll go around.


Question:  Yes, my name is Abdul Hamid for [inaudible] from [inaudible].  I asked about the two children killed on 15 May by Israeli occupation forces and Mr. Oscar Fernández-Taranco asked the Israeli authorities to investigate.  Is there any update and if the… if there is no update is… is the UN following this investigation process?


Spokesman:  Obviously, you know, this happened two, three days ago, the call… Mr. Taranco’s presentation at the Security Council, I don’t have an update since then.  Yes ma’am and then we’ll go to Carla.  Go ahead.


Question:  My question is regarding Syria.  Since there is… is there any alternative plan or we were talking a couple… some days ago about the Iranian suggestion.  Is there something that is being discussed?  And the second question, also on Syria, since the political road… solution is not working since three years, why is actually also the humanitarian help on the ground for refugees in neighbouring countries very short, as you stated some days ago in the report?


Spokesman:  You know, I hope I understand the second part of your question properly.  The humanitarian situation both inside Syria and outside is dire and very troubling.  The neighbouring countries of Syria are sharing a huge burden of housing these refugees.  The financing for that effort is falling short as is the financing for our humanitarian efforts inside but we are trying, we keep trying to reach more and more people.  There is no alternative to a political solution.  There has to be a political solution, discussions are going on at different levels in many places and the Secretary-General said it himself, that they will continue, we will continue to look for a political solution, work with the people directly implicated in this and those who have an influence on those who are directly implicated.  Yes Carla?


Correspondent:  [inaudible].


Spokesman:  You have to use your mic.


Question:  Regarding the so-called diminished credibility of the UN, Lakhdar Brahimi said at a press conference in trying to explain whether… this was 10‑15 years ago maybe around that time, why there were so many attacks on the UN people, forces all over the world, and he said because the UN is perceived as being a party to disputes.  And I was present during the first Gulf War in 1991 when Sadruddin Aga Khan and Marrti Ahtisaari denounced the horrific humanitarian consequences of the Security Council authorized resolution 678 (1990) and it seems to me that the Russian-Chinese veto is preserving the credibility of the United Nations, which can no longer be described as an arm of the Pentagon, which it was after the Iraq war.  Can you comment on this?  I mean…


Spokesman:  Carla, I… fascinated by your historical analysis.  I have a difficult enough time focusing on what’s happened today and yesterday.  I’m not going to go back 15-20 years.  I think what the Secretary-General said in his message is that when the primary organ responsible for the… for promotion of peace and security in the UN doesn’t speak with one voice, it does not help the credibility of this organization.  Yes, Matthew?


Correspondent:  Another question, but this is… just to be a little… I mean once Russia said yesterday that they would definitely veto… are you saying… should we read your statement that it should speak with one voice and when it doesn’t it undermines, should France have withdrawn it because it was clear that…


Spokesman:  I think every… every… you know, every member of the Security Council has a right to put forward a resolution.  I’m not going to get into who should have presented a resolution when and what the timing should be.  I was asked about the… I think the Secretary-General made his opinion clear before the vote and I’ve made clear his opinion after the vote.


Question:  And if… this might be cutting it a little fine.  There was a long speech by Argentina saying that, in fact, the way that this resolution had exclusions for non-ICC members and seemed also to exclude parts of the conflict in Syria involving the Golan Heights that this kind of undermined international justice.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to view of that…?


Spokesman:  I think you help me answer that question.  It’s cutting it a little fine for me.  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I just would like to return to this question of credibility of Security Council.  The members of the Council know that when there is a veto, there is a lack of credibility in the Council, but you just said that there is the credibility of the United Nations is at stake, not just the Council, including the Secretary-General.  My question is why doesn’t the Secretary-General or Deputy Secretary-General show more leadership and activity and make concrete suggestions on how to get around the deadlock?


Spokesman:  I think the Secretary-General has shown tremendous amount of leadership on… on Syria, on highlighting what is going on there in terms of the suffering on the humanitarian end.  I think it has been through no fault of his… of lack of leadership that we are where we are today.  Yes?


Question:  Yes, but Stéphane, the only thing is [inaudible] the contradictions [inaudible] pointed out by Matthew just now on this resolution.  I mean, on one hand, you want ICC to investigate, on the other hand, you want them to exclude certain things.  Why is…?


Spokesman:  I think it’s a question you need to address…


Correspondent: [inaudible] valid…


Spokesman:  I’m not saying it’s not a valid question.  I’m just saying that it’s a question better addressed to the authors of the resolution.  Yes, Matthew, and then we’ll…


Question:  No more… this is something… I wanted to ask you two questions, one about Sri Lanka, one about Burundi; a follow up to your response which I appreciated.  On Sri Lanka, I wanted to know, particularly since the Secretary-General recently met and I’ve seen the photographs of him sitting, smiling with Mahinda Rajapaksa.  In the day after that, two further news websites were blocked by the Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka.  One of the Sri Lanka Mirror, specifically for the content of the coverage, and I wondered, one, does the Secretary-General have any view of that and how should the… the… the readout be compared to that happening?  And two, just to be clear, does the Secretary-General fully support the Human Rights Council’s probe that, you know, was recently voted on because it’s his comments about the LLRC are being perceived as undermining it?


Spokesman:  I think, on the Human Rights Council, I think we’ve spoken to that in the past and I’ll see if we can get anything on the other part.  Thank you and we’ll see you at 1 o’clock.  Yes, you wanted… last, last question.


Question:  I just want to ask about what France has said, that the veto should be limited in the cases, which is concern to crimes against humanity?


Spokesman:  I think that’s an issue for the Member States in this case.


Thank you.  I’ll see you at 1 p.m.


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For information media • not an official record