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

29 April 2011

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

29 April 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, and welcome to the briefing.

** Nepal

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Nepal:

With Nepal's constitutional deadline less than one month away, the Secretary-General urges all parties in Nepal to exert the utmost effort in reaching consensus on outstanding issues, including the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist army personnel and fundamental issues regarding the new Constitution.

Nepal’s peace process has already delivered significant achievements.  However, the process remains overdue and incomplete due to continuing differences among the parties.

At this decisive point in the process, the Secretary-General calls on all parties to exercise maximum flexibility in seeking a common political ground to enable them to fulfil their commitments, including the adoption of a new constitution by the Constituent Assembly.  The United Nations will continue to support the parties in their efforts.

** Morocco

We issued a statement late yesterday saying that the Secretary-General was appalled by the bombing in Marrakech, which killed and injured Moroccans and foreign nationals.  He reiterated his firm rejection of the use of indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians.  The Secretary-General said that no political objective justifies or is served by such heinous acts.

In their own statement to the press, the members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack in Marrakech.  The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable.

** Yemen

The Secretary-General expressed his concern yesterday about the violent clashes earlier in the week in Yemen.

He appeals to all concerned in Yemen to exercise utmost restraint and desist from provocative acts.  The Secretary-General reiterates his call on the Yemeni authorities to uphold their responsibility to protect civilians and abide by international human rights obligations.

The Secretary-General emphasizes that broadly inclusive political dialogue and mutual understanding are critically important for overcoming the current crisis and preserving the country's unity and integrity, and in that regard, he welcomes the efforts being made to promote a peaceful transition that will be acceptable to all.

** Libya

The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Mr. Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, travelled to Benghazi today to meet with representatives of the Libyan opposition.

Yesterday, the Special Envoy met in Ankara with the Turkish Foreign Minister and in Rome with the Italian Foreign Minister to discuss the crisis in Libya in the framework of the implementation of Security Council resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011).

Next week, the Special Envoy will brief the Security Council about his activities in support of a peaceful solution for the Libyan conflict.

And staying in Libya, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is very concerned that people fleeing Libya could be caught in the crossfire as Government and opposition forces battle for control in the border area with Tunisia.  UNHCR says that escalating clashes at the Dehiba border crossing between Libya and Tunisia have stopped the outflow of refugees from Libya’s western mountains.

Before the fighting intensified yesterday, there were long lines of vehicles packed with families waiting to cross into southern Tunisia.  There was a renewed exodus of Libyans crossing from the impoverished Western Mountains region in recent days.  More than 3,000 people crossed the border on Wednesday alone.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that its partner organizations in Libya are reporting a critical shortage of nurses, doctors and surgeons.  Patients are being sent home before they have fully recovered.

**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

The World Food Programme (WFP) is launching an emergency operation to respond to the urgent hunger needs of 3.5 million vulnerable people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The World Food Programme says it is starting this operation because Government rations were currently providing only half of people’s daily food needs.

The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has launched a $20 million appeal to prevent chronic malnutrition in the country from developing into acute malnutrition.  UNICEF says that its assistance will focus on the five most food insecure provinces with the highest rates of malnutrition.

**Security Council

Over the weekend, France will assume the presidency of the Security Council for the month of May.  The French Permanent Representative, Ambassador Gérard Araud, is expected to brief the press here in this room on Tuesday, 3 May, at 12:30.  And he will set out the Council’s programme of work for the month. 


The Secretary-General has appointed Ms. Geeta Rao Gupta, a United States national born in India, as Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund.  Ms. Geeta Rao Gupta will succeed Mr. Saad Houry.  Before becoming a Senior Fellow, Global Development, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ms. Rao Gupta served for over a decade as the President of the International Center for Research on Women.  And we have more information on this appointment in my office.

That’s it from me.  Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  You mentioned clashes at the Libyan and Tunisian border crossings.  There are reports now also — you’re probably also aware of those — that there are clashes between the Libyan forces and the Tunisians, and that they have been attacking each other for various reasons.  Do you have anything on that?

Spokesperson:  We have seen the reports but we don’t have any specific details on that.  What is obviously troubling is what UNHCR, the refugee agency, is reporting, that the fighting in the border area, regardless of who is actually involved in that fighting, is having an impact on those who would like to leave the area.  And as I said, the refugee agency is concerned that people could get caught in the crossfire.  But I don’t have anything specific on the reports, which we have obviously seen.

Question:  But these blurring lines between who is violating the resolution, the ceasefire resolution on Libya, there are charges, the Libyan Government says that the rebels are, the so-called rebels, are the ones who are not abiding by the ceasefire and the rebels are charging that the Libyan Government are doing.  Does the United Nations, is [there] any mechanism with which you can determine as to who is violating the ceasefire?  Because there are serious charges from both sides.

Spokesperson:  Well, I think the key aspect of this is that it is very difficult to determine precisely the chain of events at the moment.  There is a clear chain of events from the outset which was that Colonel [Muammar al‑]Qadhafi’s forces have used force — and indiscriminate force — against civilian protesters and demonstrators and, as we have seen, that that has escalated.  I think Mr. al‑Khatib, the Special Envoy, will be able to provide more details on his most recent trip to Benghazi today when he briefs the Council next week, and I am pretty sure that he will make himself available to speak to journalists, as well, while he is here in New York.  Tim?

Question:  Will Mr. al-Khatib be going to Tripoli at all?  Is that planned, and is there, following…?

Spokesperson:  I am not aware of any immediate plan.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen, but I am personally not aware of any immediate plan.  As you know, the Special Envoy has consistently visited both Benghazi and Tripoli, and indeed Tobruk, and has had talks elsewhere in the region.  I am not aware of a specific plan right now.  If I hear anything to a different effect, I’ll let you know.

Question:  A follow-up on that?  Is, following these talks with the Turkish Foreign Minister and Italy, is there a kind of move to get behind a single process for a ceasefire, because there seem to be several different initiatives now — Turkish and the AU [African Union], Mr. al-Khatib…?

Spokesperson:  Well, certainly that’s one of the key reasons why the meeting which the Secretary-General convened in Cairo was so important, because it brought together the regional organizations, all of whom have an interest and a stake in what is happening in Libya.  And therefore it’s through that coordinating mechanism that we would like to ensure that there is indeed, if you like, a clearly coordinated approach.  And I think that all recognize the central core role of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General in that regard.  Yes?

Question:  I want to ask something about Libya and then a couple of other things.  But, on Libya, can you, what is the role of Ian Martin, hired by DPA [Department for Political Affairs]?  I’ve heard that he is now the adviser to the Secretary-General on Libya.  And how does, if that, can you just comment first on whether he is back working for the UN and at what level he is working and what his role is?

Spokesperson:  I think Mr. Martin’s role is part of the process for a post-transition Libya.  Obviously there needs to be careful planning for the future of Libya.  There will be very wide-ranging requirements and needs.  It’s in that regard that Mr. Martin will be working to help to coordinate that planning for the post-transition period.

Question:  But is he, what was his status before?  I know that he was at one point the SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] in Nepal, then he was doing a follow-up report at DPA; is he currently a UN staff member, and, if so, at what level?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out; I don’t know the answer to that sitting here right now, but let me find out.  Okay?

Question:  Isn’t it sort of to be, I am not saying it’s putting the cart before the horse, but when you say post-transition, can you just say, I guess I want to understand what you mean by that.

Spokesperson:  I mean what I say, Matthew.

Question:  You mean past, post-Qadhafi?

Spokesperson:  There will be a transition at some point; there will be a transition at some point.  It’s for the people of Libya to decide what form that takes.  It’s obvious that at a certain point when a transition has taken place, as determined by the people of Libya, that there will be considerable needs — reconstruction, all kinds of needs.  And there is no point planning after the fact.  You need to plan beforehand.  That’s what planning is all about, and that’s why this is an important role that includes all kinds of different parts of the UN system, whether it is the funds and programmes and agencies or different parts of the UN Secretariat.

Correspondent:  I just want, when you look into this, I heard that he is a USG [Under-Secretary-General]; that’s what I heard.

Spokesperson:  Well, as I say, I don’t have that detail with me here right now, and it’s something that, if I have it, I’d be happy to provide it.  Okay, thank you.

Question:  Can I… if you don’t mind, I also, I wanted to ask you this one question about, I know that that one of my colleagues had asked you before about Terje Roed-Larsen’s trip to Bahrain.  And you’d said, or, I don’t know if it was you or Farhan [Haq], maybe it was Farhan, had said that…

Spokesperson:  It was not me.

Question:  …that it was in a personal capacity.  And I have since, I guess I’d want to know that — just a yes or no — whether in fact a staff, a UN staffer that works with Mr. Roed-Larsen on resolution 1559 (2004) accompanied him, and if so, if he used a laissez passer and if in fact it was characterized in Bahrain as a UN trip?  I just, these are…

Spokesperson:  Well, you may want a yes-or-no answer, I do not know.  I do not know the answer to that.  So if I have any answer, I’d be happy to give it to you, okay?  Yes, Masood?

Question:  On this, do you want to ask anything about Libya?  I just want to ask this question about the unity, proposed unity, of the Palestinian factions, the Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and as a precursor to the statehood.  Does the Secretary-General think it is a positive step towards implementation of that process?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you’ve seen Robert Serry’s remarks on this, and I think the Secretary-General’s thinking on this is in line with his Special Adviser.  Yes, Tim?

Question:  The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister has responded to the report, finally.  He says it’s full of falsehoods and indicates quite strongly that they reject it still.  Have they officially responded to the United Nations on that?

Spokesperson:  We have not received an official response.  We have, of course, seen what’s played out in the public domain.  And I think I have addressed that aspect already, earlier in the week, namely that, while we have seen this public response, including the most recent one that you refer to, we would certainly be looking for an official response, a considered official response.  And indeed, when the report was published, the Panel of Experts’ report was published, as you know, there was a statement alongside it, from the Secretary-General, in which he made it clear that we made repeated offers to the Sri Lankan authorities for their response, official response, to be published alongside the report of the Panel of Experts.  That didn’t happen.  But the offer still stands.  In other words, for an official response to be given to us and for us then to be able to disseminate it in the same way that the report of Panel of the Experts was disseminated.  No official response at this point.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  On the Palestinian question, you said that the Secretary-General associates himself with Robert Serry’s statement.  I understand that, but the thing is, in view of what Israelis have been saying — and they have been rather disdainful of this process — does the Secretary-General have a new sort of position to take on that point?

Spokesperson:  At this stage I don’t have anything further.  If that changes, I’ll let you know.  But as I have said, Mr. Serry did pronounce himself on this earlier in the week, and clearly the Secretary-General has seen that and is in line with that.  Yes?  You wanted to come back to Sri Lanka?

Question:  Yeah, I did.  I just wanted to ask one follow-up to Tim’s question, which is just, and I guess this is just, in that cover letter that the Secretary-General wrote, he said that the international investigation mechanism would require Host Country consent or the decision of Member States through an appropriate intergovernmental forum.  So far the Security Council President, outgoing Mr. [Nestor] Osorio, had said that that request wasn’t made to the Council during the briefing, and yesterday, Jean Victor Nkolo confirmed to me that no request had been made to the GA [General Assembly].  So maybe it seems clear, but has any request been made by the Secretariat to the Human Rights Council that they take up this report and consider, one way or another, authorizing an investigation or investigation mechanism?

Spokesperson:  What the Secretary-General himself said at the stakeout earlier in the week, after he briefed the Security Council, was that, yes, it is a fact that we would require Host Country consent or a mandate from an intergovernmental body.  And that could be one or more of the three you mentioned.  What the Secretary-General also said was that all Member States will have seen the report of the Panel of Experts.  It’s been published, it’s in the public domain, it is on the website of the United Nations — it’s out there.  And he is sure — and he made this point in the Council, the Security Council — he is sure that all Member States will be looking at the report and will take it seriously and will act accordingly.

Question:  Can I just, just one on this, I just, for some reason it seems contrastable with, in the case, I remember when there was a change of [Alassane] Ouattara and [Laurent] Gbagbo, for example, the Secretary-General affirmatively met with the General Assembly members and said, “I would like you to meet to consider changing the credentials from the Gbagbo to the Ouattara ones”; he affirmatively asked them.  Is he making a similar request in this case, or is he just saying it’s out there, if you want to do it?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think again, and not for the first time, it’s not useful to make comparisons with what are completely different circumstances.  What’s important here is that an advisory report from the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on accountability in the final stages of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka is published.  It was published this week, in full, unamended — it’s out there.  And all Member States, whether they are in the Security Council, whether they are in the Human Rights Council, and obviously by definition, in the General Assembly, have access to it.  And the Secretary-General has publicly said that he is sure that all Member States will take that report seriously and act accordingly, draw the necessary conclusions.  Okay?  Okay, so, I wish you all a very good weekend.  Thank you very much.

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