Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

21 March 2011

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

21 March 2011
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.

So, good afternoon, everybody.

** Haiti

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the elections in Haiti.

The Secretary-General congratulates the people of Haiti and the Haitian authorities on the successful conduct of yesterday’s elections.

The United Nations was honoured to support the Haitian people in exercising their right to choose their next Government, whose primary task would be to oversee the reconstruction of the country after the tremendous tragedies that have befallen it in the past year.

The Secretary-General reaffirms the commitment of the United Nations to continue to assist Haiti in building a prosperous future.

**Secretary-General in Egypt

The Secretary-General spoke at Cairo’s El Sawy Cultural Centre today, telling the civil society groups, youth, women’s groups and others that they are the voice and face of Egypt’s future.  He said that he had come to Cairo to listen, to hear the hopes and aspirations of the Egyptian people.

The Secretary-General met in the morning with a number of senior Egyptian officials, including Prime Minister Ezzam Sharif and Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Armed Forces Supreme Council, to encourage progress in Egypt’s democratic transition.  He commended the Council for its public commitment to a democratic transition, but also asked them to listen to the many voices of society in charting the course ahead.  And he urged them to lift the state of emergency well before elections.

He also met with Amr Moussa, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, about the changes taking place in the Arab world, and particularly on Libya.  Speaking to the press afterwards, he said that the United Nations will continue working urgently to bring an end to fighting and provide humanitarian relief.

While noting difficulties, including in Libya, he told the Egyptians: “If you succeed here, the rest of the Arab world can hope.”  The winds of change are blowing from Tunisia and Egypt to Bahrain, Yemen and beyond, he said.  The Secretary-General is leaving shortly for Tunisia.

** Libya

As of 19 March, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimate that at least 320,000 people have fled Libya, while nearly 9,000 remain stranded at the borders with Tunisia and Egypt.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Rashid Khalikov, wrapped up a three-day visit yesterday to Saloum on the border between Egypt and Libya.  He met with people who have fled the violence in Libya, and discussed preparedness measures with humanitarian partners and authorities in the event of an increased outflow of people from Libya.

On Saturday, some 2,700 Libyans — mostly women and children from Ajdbeya and Benghazi — crossed into Egypt, citing fears for their physical safety and the reported massive use of force by Libyan Government forces.

Chadian migrant workers stranded at the border told Khalikov of targeted intimidation by anti-Government forces, including arbitrary arrests and accusations of being mercenaries fighting for the Government.

**Security Council

And this afternoon, at 3 p.m., the Security Council will hold consultations on Libya.  And following that, the Council will hold a closed meeting on Sudan.

** Darfur

Djibril Bassolé, the UN-African Union Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur said that the parties to the Darfur peace talks will resume their negotiations on 18 April in Doha, in Qatar.

Bassolé and its mediation partners welcomed the submission by the Government of Sudan, the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) of their comments and observations on the draft texts of the outcomes of discussions so far.

The mediators said this development represents concrete progress towards achieving a comprehensive peace agreement for Darfur.  They commended the parties and urged them to pursue a final agreement when they resume the talks in April in Doha.  And we have copies of the mediators’ statement in my office.

**Press Conferences

This afternoon, there will be a press conference here, at 2:15 p.m. on the eighth plenary session of the Contact Group on Piracy off the coast of Somalia.  That will be with Ertuğrul Apakan, the Permanent Representative of Turkey.

And then at 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference on the launch of the report of the eminent persons working on behalf of the least developed countries, in advance of the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries which will take place in Istanbul, from 9 to 13 May.

So, that’s what I have.  I am happy to take questions.  Yes, Nizar?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, whereas in Libya the refugees and people who are running away from the fighting zone can find refuge in neighbouring countries, in Bahrain there is no way to run away from the military rule which is taking place there now with the help of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries.  One hundred people are missing, and one of those missing yesterday, the father of three children, was found dead from torture.

Spokesperson:  What is your question, Nizar?

Question:  My question is, is the Secretary-General going to ask for a meeting of the Security Council to protect the people of Bahrain?

Spokesperson:  As you know, the Secretary-General has been quite outspoken on what has been happening in Bahrain, and including has repeated those concerns over the weekend.  And as we’ve also mentioned here before, it would be for the Security Council to decide if they wish to take up this topic.  I am sure that you could check with the Council whether they intend to do that.  Yes, Tuyet, and then James.

Question:  [inaudible] shouldn’t he, I mean, respond to the request by the Bahraini people for protection?  Should he, I mean…?

Spokesperson:  As you know, I think the Secretary-General has been quite outspoken and he raised the subject, he called the King of Bahrain to raise his concerns about what has been happening and he has again spoken indeed over the weekend about what has been happening there too, while he has been in Cairo, he has been speaking out about that too.  Yes, Tuyet?

Question:  Yeah, Martin, do you have details of Mr. Ban’s visit today in Tunisia?  Who is he going to meet with and how long the visit will last?

Spokesperson:  Well, he is about to leave Cairo to fly to Tunisia, and we will be able to provide more details of his itinerary in Tunisia a little bit later.  But it is essentially the same kind of visit as you have seen in Cairo; very important emphasis on meeting a broad cross-section of society, and really very importantly, being in listening mode.  I think that’s how I would want to characterize it at this point.  I am sure there will be more details about the exact itinerary which we’ll be able to provide a little later.

Question:  What happened to him this morning in Cairo?  Was he shot at or stoned?  Can you relate to me what happened?

Spokesperson:  As the Secretary-General and his delegation came out of the meeting at the League of Arab States there was a group of demonstrators shouting slogans, not against him and not against the United Nations, and there was, as I say, quite a bit of shouting.  To our knowledge, there were no stones being thrown, as had been reported.  And furthermore, because of the jostling that was going on, it was decided that the Secretary-General would leave by a different route.  Nobody was hurt in that incident.  Yes, James?

Question:  Thanks, Martin.  Can you tell us which countries have notified the Secretary-General they are going to be involved in military action in Libya?

Spokesperson:  A number of countries have provided letters, as they are required to do, to the Secretariat.  And these letters have been logged by the Security Council Affairs Division, and those letters are then transmitted to the Security Council, and I understand circulated as documents after that.  The exact list, I would be able to give you a little bit later.  Of course, as time goes by, there will be further countries added.  I’ll be able to give you that, I would think, quite soon after this briefing.

[The Spokesperson later said that the following countries have so far notified the Secretariat under the terms of Security Council resolution 1973 (2011): United Kingdom, France, United States, Denmark, Canada, Italy and Qatar.  Those notifications have been transmitted to the Security Council, he added.]

Question:  Sure, thanks.  Do you know off hand if there are any Arab countries on that list?

Spokesperson:  I believe there is one.  After the briefing I will be able to give you a list and we’ll be able to make sure that everybody has it.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Following the resolution, United States officials have been saying and Robert Gates has said that the objective of the United States in this Libyan operation is not regime change.  What is the understanding of the Secretary-General as to what does the resolution mean?  Does he want Qadhafi to go?  Is that the objective?

Spokesperson:  The objective is stated very clearly, and that is to protect civilians.  And that is the primary aim, and that’s the reason for the resolution.

Question:  Are there any estimates about the number of civilians killed in this military campaign?

Spokesperson:  That is something that is to be established.  I don’t think that anybody has a clear picture of that at the moment.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I have [inaudible] Libya and then something on Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire; however you want to do it.

Spokesperson:  One at a time, please.

Correspondent:  Sure.

Spokesperson:  There are still other questions.

Question:  Absolutely.  On Libya, the operative paragraph 8 of resolution 1973 (2011) says that the UN provides for the Secretary-General to have kind of a coordinating role, in coordination with…  So, since the resolution was passed on Thursday, I mean, is it fair to say this has to do with flight ban?  Is the Secretary-General in fact coordinating enforcement of the site… of the flight ban, and what steps is he taking in that regard?

Spokesperson:  Well, the first step he did was to take part in the meeting in Paris, which was at a rather high level as you know.  And that was part of the follow-up to the Security Council resolution.  And I am sure when he briefs the Council on his return from his trip, as he is also expected to do under the terms of the Security Council resolution, there will be more details about precisely how this is being coordinated.

Question:  Do you think he is being… he was told in advance of things like the air strikes on the air defences of Libya?

Spokesperson:  As you know, countries are duty-bound under the terms of the resolution to notify what measures they are taking.  And those notifications are being received and transmitted to the Council as they are received.

Question:  Isn’t the coordination something different than just transmitting notifications?  And I am just wondering what the understanding of it is.

Spokesperson:  As I said, Matthew, he took part in a high-level meeting in Paris — that strikes me as a fairly clear example of coordinating.  And further details of what other mechanisms are in place, I am sure, will be becoming clear as the days pass, not least when he briefs the Council.

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask about Mr. Khatib, if you don’t mind, also on Libya?

Spokesperson:  Say again?

Question:  On Mr… the Envoy, Mr. [Abdul Ilah Khatib.  It’s… I wanted to know… I mean, I had asked last week whether he is a USG or what his status is with the UN, but since then I have learned that, I mean, he is still a senator in Jordan, and so he is being paid… my understanding is he is being paid a salary by Jordan.  I wanted to know if this… it raises questions under UN rules and what is being… whether it is being considered by the UN system and what, why it complies with the Charter?

Spokesperson:  This is a Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, in the same as any other Special Envoy, and has the same requirements to file financial disclosure, just the same as any other envoy.

Question:  Yeah, I guess I have been told that he won’t file until March 2012, since he was hired this year.  So, I wanted to know, I have been told that [inaudible] and OLA [Office of Legal Affairs] has to rule on… that being paid by a Government while you work for the UN.  Is that permissible?

Spokesperson:  As I say, the requirements of Mr. Khatib are the same and no different as they are for any other Special Envoy or anybody else being… working for the Secretary-General in this kind of capacity.

Question:  Is he being paid by Jordan?

Spokesperson:  I’ll have other questions now.

Question:  Is he being paid by Jordan?  I just want to put that question here.

Spokesperson:  Well, ask the Jordanians, ask the Jordanians.

Question:  No, but he is a UN official.

Spokesperson:  Yes, Masood, yes?

Question:  I mean, the Americans are saying, I mean, I just want to be very clear on this, that protecting the rebels is not part of their mission.  Now, do you consider the rebels part of the civilians or they are separate from civilians, because they confronted the Qadhafi’s… uh…?

Spokesperson:  The Council resolution is explicit in talking about the need to protect civilians.  And that is what this entire resolution was founded on, and that’s what’s taking place.

Question:  I understand that, but the thing is the rebels who are there are, are… were considered to be part of the civilian regime, I mean, setup.  So, now, if they are not part of… so they do not come under protection of the so-called coalition forces?

Spokesperson:  The aim of this is to protect civilians, Masood, and that’s the aim.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, Martin, I would like to ask the position of the UN with regard to the Libyan Mission here.  You know, most of the personnel there has denounced the Qadhafi regime.  Does the UN still consider the Mission here as the official representative of Libya, because even just last week the Ambassador showed up and attended the meeting of the Council on 1973 (2011)?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all let’s correct you there; Mr. [Ibrahim] Dabbashi did not take part in the Security Council meeting.

Question:  But the Ambassador was there.

Spokesperson:  And what I can tell you is that, as you know, there are other people in the Libyan Mission apart from the Permanent Representative and the Deputy Permanent Representative.  And those people are able to continue to work.  The Permanent Representative and Deputy Permanent Representative, as you know, on 27 February, the UN received communication from the Government of Libya stating that Mr. Dabbashi and Mr. [Mohamed] Shalgham are no longer authorized to represent or speak on behalf of the Libyan authorities at the United Nations.  And so this is the case.  And what I can also tell you is that both Mr. Dabbashi and Mr. Shalgham have courtesy passes.

Question:  Courtesy passes.  Did Tripoli say who represents Tripoli here at the UN?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the authorities in Tripoli sent a subsequent letter designating Mr. [Ali Abdussalam] Treki, the former President of the General Assembly, as their next Permanent Representative.  But, as I have told you before, any Permanent Representative, including Mr. Treki, the designated Permanent Representative, would need to present those credentials here to the Secretary-General in New York.

Question:  And he is not here yet?

Spokesperson:  That has not happened.

Question:  Follow-up [inaudible].  It was reported over the weekend that President Treki was at the Regency Hotel outside of Tunis, which said that the Secretary-General will be staying.  And so it was speculated by a media organization that he would be presenting his credentials to Ban Ki-moon there.  I don’t think that’s true, that he will present them, but when you are saying he, its presentation of credentials, does it have to be in New York or could it be there and have you had any communication with him?

Spokesperson:  Yes, it has to be in New York.

Question:  It has to be only in New York?

Spokesperson:  The person is Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, and credentials must be presented in New York.

Question:  Sorry, Martin, there is a report this morning that Mr. Ban also will meet Mr. Treki in Tunisia, is this correct?

Spokesperson:  Well, let’s wait and see.  I don’t have any details about… I am aware of the reports that Mr. Treki is in Tunisia.  I am not aware at this point, I already said, I don’t have the Secretary-General’s itinerary at this point.  His intention is to meet a broad cross-section of Tunisian society while he is there.  Yes?

Question:  Sudan and Côte d'Ivoire.  On Sudan, the SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] has announced yesterday that it will block or is opposed to the deployment of 1,500 police from the north in Abyei.  So, this seems like a potentially explosive refusal on their part.  Does, is UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] aware of this and what’s going to, you know, what’s UNMIS’ role in trying to defuse this tension?

Spokesperson:  Well, let me check on the details that you’ve raised.  UNMIS’ role in general is to try to calm things down wherever possible and to liaise with the parties concerned to that end.

Question:  And I want to ask on Côte d'Ivoire, I wanted to ask two things.  One is the… I know… I mean, I am very… maybe there was some miscommunications, but I think on Friday there was an e-mail sent out saying that today, the press statement that was read out this morning had been read out by the Chinese Deputy.  So, I just wanted to know what… was it in fact read out?  And also, even as read out today, it says, and I know it is a Council document, but it’s based on I think a statement by the Secretary-General, it says that these attacks on the market were allegedly committed by the Ivorian defences.  And I wanted to know if, since Friday, when the Secretary-General’s Office made the statement about allegedly… has any further proof come in?  Is it still an alleg… is it still… is the responsibility for those deaths in the market still only an allegation or is there additional proof?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything further on the last part of your question.  If my colleagues in the mission, who I am sure have been investigating this matter, have anything further, they will say.  On the first part of your question, I think that, as I understand it, this was explained quite clearly at the stakeout by the spokesperson for the Chinese Mission, and it’s not for me to speak on behalf of the Chinese Mission.

[The Spokesperson later said that the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) had confirmed that the mortars fired at the Abobo market came from a military camp of forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo.]

Question:  He said he only called Xinhua, that that was all they did.  Is that… is that constitute reading out for purposes of a Security Council press statement?

Spokesperson:  As I say, I don’t speak on behalf of the Chinese Mission.  And I know that you did speak to the Chinese spokesman about it, and…

Question:  [inaudible] your Office, because that you put out the e-mail saying that this thing had been read out and I just I have been trying all weekend to find out was it read out or not?

Spokesperson:  As you well know, you spoke to the spokesperson for the Chinese Mission, and you received an explanation.  What our Office circulated was the precise information that we received from the Chinese Mission.  End of story.  Okay, thanks very much.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.