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

23 March 2011

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

23 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.

Good afternoon everybody.  Sorry to keep you waiting.  I have three statements attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**West Jerusalem

The first is on the bomb attack in West Jerusalem.  The Secretary-General strongly condemns a bomb attack today adjacent to a bus stop in West Jerusalem, which has reportedly killed one woman and injured over 30 Israeli civilians, some of them seriously.  Such attacks are unacceptable.  The Secretary-General is deeply concerned and calls for an immediate cessation of acts of terrorism and violence against civilians in order to prevent further escalation and loss of life.

** Syria

The second statement is on Syria.  The Secretary-General condemns the violence against peaceful demonstrators in the southern Syrian city of Deraa, which resulted in several killed and many more injured today and yesterday.  There should be a transparent investigation into the killings, and those responsible must be held accountable.  The Secretary-General reiterates his call on the Syrian authorities to refrain from violence and to abide by their international commitments regarding human rights, including the right to peaceful assembly.  He reminds the Syrian Government of its obligation to protect civilians, and of its responsibility to address the legitimate aspirations of its people through a purposeful dialogue and reforms.

** Libya

And the third statement is on Libya.  The Secretary-General condemns the continued use of force in the western part of Libya, including Zintan and Misrata.  Once again, he reiterates his call for an immediate end to violence by all parties, in accordance with Security Council resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011), and for the responsibility to protect civilians.  All those who violate international humanitarian and human rights law will be held fully accountable.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is on his way back to New York from Tunisia right now.

Last night, he told reporters in Tunis that Tunisia has a map for the path ahead towards a democratic transition.  The United Nations will work with Tunisia if it requests that.

He also spoke about Libya, saying that the international community has acted to save lives there after the country’s leader was deliberately and indiscriminately killing his own people.  Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) significantly advances the doctrine of the responsibility to protect, he said.

The Secretary-General intends to brief the Security Council on developments in Libya, as well as on his visit to Egypt and Tunisia, tomorrow afternoon.

And then at approximately 4:40 tomorrow afternoon, the Secretary-General is expected to address the press at the stakeout outside the Security Council, following his briefing to the Council.

** Darfur

The UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has confirmed that two of its peacekeepers received multiple gunshot wounds when they were ambushed yesterday while driving in West Darfur.

Unknown assailants opened fire on the peacekeepers’ vehicle in Masteri, near El Geneina, the main town in West Darfur.  The peacekeepers were seriously injured but are both now in stable condition.

The Joint AU-UN Special Representative in Darfur, Ibrahim Gambari, has voiced outrage at the attack.  Mr. Gambari says the Mission remains undaunted and its commitment to fulfil its mandate is unwavering.  He also calls on the Sudanese Government to bring the perpetrators to justice.

**OCHA — Palestine

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has launched a new report on East Jerusalem.  This is the first UN report to offer a comprehensive review of the humanitarian impact of Israeli policies on Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.

Among other areas, the report highlights the vulnerability of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents in accessing basic services such as education and health.

The report is available online, and a press release is also available in my Office.

** Yemen

I was asked yesterday about the Permanent Representative for Yemen.  We have not received any official notification regarding a new Permanent Representative for Yemen and we have not received any official notification from the Mission regarding the resignation of the current Permanent Representative.

That’s what I have, I’m happy to take questions.  Yes, Nizar?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yeah, Martin.  What’s the different between civilians in Syria, Gaza and Bahrain?

Spokesperson:  I’m not quite sure what you mean there.

Question:  There’s condemnation of attacks on civilians in Syria, but no condemnation of attacks on civilians in Bahrain.

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has been quite clear in expressing his concerns about what happened in Bahrain and people who were hurt.

Question:  But there’s no condemnation, Martin.

Spokesperson:  He’s been extremely clear on his views, and indeed when he spoke to the King of Bahrain he was able to express those views quite clearly. What was your other question?

Question:  Do you have any statements regarding the killing of eight civilians in Gaza, mostly children?

Spokesperson:  Yes.  We issued a statement yesterday, as you know, strongly condemning that action.  We issued a statement yesterday, would you like me to read it?

Question:  Is this a war crime?  Do you consider this a war crime, because it’s perpetrated by an army directly…

Spokesperson:  We have strongly condemned the killing of three Palestinian children and their uncle, and the wounding of 13 other civilians by an Israeli tank shell in the Gaza Strip.  This we did in the statement yesterday.  And as you also know, the Secretary-General has expressed his concern about the escalating violence.  He is indeed greatly concerned about that.  And, as I mentioned to you, we condemned, and he condemned, the killing and the injury of Palestinian civilians in Israeli military actions, as he did also the rocket fire — indiscriminate rocket fire — against Israeli civilians by Palestinian militants.  And I can tell you that his envoy, Robert Serry, is in close contact with all to try to promote restraint and a de-escalation of what is obviously a rather tense situation.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  [inaudible] just follow up on …

Spokesperson:  I’m going to go for some other questions now, I think.  Thank you.

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask… I noticed you didn’t have any new update of these notifications under resolution 1973, but this morning I was told by a diplomat there that in fact the Ukraine one, listed yesterday, may not be an actual notification.  That they’ve written to the Council saying that they might want to extract their nationals from Libya, but with no indication that they were indeed supporting militarily.  Is that your understanding?  Have you seen the letters?

Spokesperson:  If you listened to what I said yesterday, Matthew, I said that the notifications do not necessarily mean that they are taking part in any military action.  They are notifying, under the terms of the resolution.  And notifying under the terms of the resolution would include precisely the kind of message that you’re referring to.

Question:  So we shouldn’t take this list to be people that are in any way in support of the no-fly zone…?

Spokesperson:  I said that very clearly…

Question:  Okay, no, no, I’m actually asking you to just to…

Spokesperson:  [inaudible] I said it very clearly yesterday.  Very clearly in response to a question from James.

Question:  Okay.  It’s obviously not clear to many, because they’re reporting that these are countries in support of the no-fly zone.

Spokesperson:  I can’t be responsible for what people write.  I’m trying to make it clear from here, which I did yesterday.

Question:  Does… I mean, the UAE [United Arab Emirates], for example, provided — just to be clear — they’ve provided notice, but now they’ve said publicly that they’re not in support, and that — due to the West’s position on Bahrain.  Is that…

Spokesperson:  As I’ve said, Matthew…

Question:  Sure.

Spokesperson:  The Security Council resolution 1973 says that there should be this notification under the terms of the resolution, and countries should notify.  What each notification contains is a different matter.  And we, I, have simply informed you which countries have provided notification.  I haven’t said what each notification contains.  It’s for those countries to say what their notification contains if they so wish.  What we receive is transmitted to the Security Council members.  And that’s what I have been telling you about.

Question:  Are you, you’re going to do this each day at noon?  Or is there a more systematic way to…

Spokesperson:  I will do it when I have an update.  I don’t have an update today.  If and when there are further notifications that have been received by the Secretariat, transmitted to the Council, then I would let you know.  But I don’t have any further ones today.

Question:  Does the Secretary-General believe — will his briefing to the Council under 1973 be an open session?  Does he believe it should be open?  I’ve heard there’s some — either it’s not decided, or — I just want to know if he thinks it should be open.

Spokesperson:  That’s for the Council to decide.  That’s for the Council to decide.  And, as I just told you, the Secretary-General will speak to reporters after the Council session about his briefing to the Council.

Question:  And on Mr. [Abdul Ilah] Khatib, the last thing on this.  Have you yet figured out whether he’s an Under-Secretary-General, is he a staff member?  And is he being paid by the Government of Jordan?

Spokesperson:  We’ve addressed this…

Question:  Is he an Under-Secretary-General or is he a staff member?

Spokesperson:  We’ve addressed this already.  If we have anything further I’ll let you know.

Question:  You didn’t answer what he is.

Spokesperson:  If I have anything further I’ll let you know.  Matthew, I said if I had anything further, I would let you know.  Okay?  Yes, Masood?

Question:  There’s a report that about, like, seven former envoys and political leaders have written to the Secretary-General to start an international process for Afghanistan – securities in Afghanistan.  Has the Secretary-General received that letter?  Has he responded to that letter?

Spokesperson:  I’m not aware of such a letter, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been received.  I will check.  Yes?

Question:  Good morning, Martin.  In the third statement about Libya that you read this morning, and forgive me if I misquote, I certainly don’t mean to:  “The Secretary-General condemns the use of force and condemns violence in accordance with resolutions 1970 and 1973”.  Has the Secretary-General given any reaction to the legal and understandable use of force by UN forces in the past week or so?  Because there have certainly been many casualties of civilians reported from US planes, from British and French planes, as well.  Has he given any reaction to those killings?  I understand it’s legal, and the strikes were legalized by resolution 1973, but they’re certainly no less violent.  And there were civilians and continue to be civilians killed by these air strikes, as well.  What’s his reaction to that violence?

Spokesperson:  As you know, there have been reports.  We have not been able to verify those reports.  That’s the first point.  The second is that the intention of the resolution is to protect civilians.  There’s no qualification on civilians here.  Civilians.  And that’s the important point.  Any loss of life of civilians is to be regretted, of course.  But there’s no confirmation that we have — we have not been able to verify the reports so far.  So far.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  You have read those reports and stuff like that, about China and Russia and other countries protesting about that these attacks by the so-called coalition of Western alliance are also killing civilians in there to enforce the no-fly zone, I’m sure.  Is the Secretary-General going to assess the situation?  Speak with the countries?  Or is he going to talk to the Security Council about it, about how to resolve this crisis which is emerging?  To China and Russia and all the other big Powers which abstained…

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, China and Russia are both…

Question:  [inaudible] they’re calling for a halt in this so-called military action.

Spokesperson:  China and Russia as you well know are both permanent members of the Security Council.  I’m sure that if they wish to raise something in the Council they will do so.  It’s for them to decide what they say, and how they say it.  The Secretary-General will be there in the Council to brief Council members under the terms of resolution 1973 on the implementation of the resolution.  And I have no doubt that he will be giving a snapshot of the information he has at that point.  As you know, there are differing views on this, but the Security Council resolution was adopted, and it has force in international law.

Question:  Martin, do you have anything on Mr. [Ali Abdussalam] Treki’s credentials to the United Nations?  As to why he has not been given the visa, or if at all that he’s applied?  What’s the situation as it stands now?

Spokesperson:  It’s very simple.  It’s very simple, and I’ve said it a number of times.  Credentials are presented here in New York to the Secretary-General.  When the person concerned, the designated Permanent Representative, is in New York and ready to present credentials, then an appointment is made and it happens.  That hasn’t happened yet.

Question:  Beyond that, whether he’s given a visa or not given a visa is not…

Spokesperson:  That’s nothing to do with us.  We don’t have anything to do with visas; that’s for the host country.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Martin, today the Israeli Knesset passed [inaudible] law considered by human rights group as apartheid laws, preventing the persons from expressing their feelings about occupation or about Nakba, the day they lost their country.  Also preventing the Palestinians from living among Jews or Jewish areas.  Is there any reaction to that law?

Spokesperson:  Not at the moment.  If I have anything further for you, I will let you know.  I don’t have anything at the moment.  Yes?

Question:  I wanted to ask about Sudan.  The SPLA [Sudanese People’s Liberation Army] has said that the northern — the Government of Northern, or of Sudan – has bombed western Bahr El-Ghazal State from the air.  I wanted to know whether that’s given — whether UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] is out there and looking — whether they can confirm that?  And also, I know that there was a meeting on Monday of the Council where Atul Khare briefed.  There was no readout by the Council after it.  The two — South Sudan and Sudan — both had totally different public statements about what the meeting was.  The Government of Khartoum said that Atul Khare backed them up totally, said that the violence is totally attributable to South Sudan in-fighting.  So I wanted to know, again, does UNMIS believe that Khartoum is supporting, materially or otherwise, Athor and Lam Akol, the two renegade Generals within South Sudan’s fighting?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check with my colleagues from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations whether there are any further details that we can make available from that briefing that you referred to.  As to the reports in which South Sudan says that the North has bombed its territory, the UN mission in Sudan has received reports of aerial bombings by the Sudanese Armed Forces on 21 and 22 March — in other words yesterday and the day before yesterday — in Firka and Timsaha in Northern Bahr El-Ghazal State.  And I can tell you that the Mission is investigating these reports.  That’s what I can tell you. Alright, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.

[The Spokesperson later said that the meeting of the Security Council on Monday was not an on-the-record session.  He added that, in line with standard procedure, the decision to release details of the discussion lies with the Security Council Presidency.]

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