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

19 May 2011

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

19 May 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, and welcome to the briefing.

**Security Council

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, briefed the Security Council today on the situation in the region, including on the reconciliation agreement concluded by the Palestinians, and the serious clashes on Sunday between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in Syria, Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Both developments, Mr. Serry said, remind us that popular protests and political change continue to sweep the Arab world and shake the unsustainable status quo found in many parts of the Middle East.  The Arab-Israeli conflict will not be immune to these dramatic developments.

He warned that deep differences remain over the stalemate in the peace process.  There is a genuine lack of trust, and no credible initiative has yet been taken that could overcome the impasse.  He noted that, in the absence of negotiations, and amid continued Israeli settlement expansion, the Palestinians are preparing to approach the United Nations in September to seek recognition of a Palestinian State.  We have his remarks in my office.

The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, is briefing the Security Council in its closed consultations today about his recent visit to the country.  And that briefing should be taking place right about now.

**Security Council Mission to Africa

The Security Council will send a mission to Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya, to deal with the peace and security issues in the region.  The mission will depart from New York later today.  And we have more details on that trip available in my office.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

And as we also announced yesterday, the Secretary-General will travel to Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ethiopia and France; he leaves New York tomorrow.  The Secretary-General’s trip to Nigeria and Ethiopia will focus on the “Every Woman, Every Child” global health effort, which he launched last September during the Millennium Development Goals Summit.

**Maternal and Child Health

And the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health, established last December, presented an advance copy of its report to the World Health Assembly in Geneva today.

You will remember that the Commission was set up by the United Nations as a follow-up to the adoption of the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health at last September’s Millennium Development Goals Summit.  It is co-chaired by President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada.

The report, entitled “Keeping Promises, Measuring Results”, makes recommendations to increase the likelihood that pledges for women’s and children’s health will be honoured, and that resources will be spent in the most effective way.  You can find out more information on the report on the “Every Woman, Every Child” website.

**Central Emergency Response Fund

The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) today surpassed the $2 billion mark in funds disbursed to aid agencies in natural and conflict-related emergencies.  In a press release, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says this is a milestone in efforts to speed up the international response to humanitarian crises.

The Response Fund was launched in 2006, and it has become the UN’s sixth largest source of revenue for humanitarian appeals, allocating an average of $400 million a year to 82 countries.  The Secretary-General said:  “Member States established CERF for a simple reason:  when people are hit by disaster, there is no time to lose.  CERF is a proven life-saver.”  And we have the full press release available in my office.

** Iraq

Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, strongly condemned today's terrorist attacks targeting security forces in Kirkuk, killing dozens and wounding many more.

Mr. Melkert expressed concern at the continued acts of violence targeting security and Government officials in Iraq, including those in Kirkuk.  He urges all parties concerned to work together to expedite the settlement of all pending issues that will show collective determination to promote stability and security throughout Iraq.  He reiterates the United Nations’ readiness to assist the parties in their efforts towards this objective.


The Secretary-General has appointed Ms. Margaret Vogt of Nigeria as his Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA).  Ms. Vogt will replace Ms. Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia.  We have more information on Ms. Vogt available in my office.

**Genocide Event

Tomorrow, from 10 a.m. until midday, John Prendergast, a human rights activist and co-founder of the Enough Project, will join the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, Francis Deng, in a discussion on genocide prevention.  The morning event will be followed by a workshop for educators and students, to be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.  Media are welcome to attend both sessions and we have more details available.

**Press Conferences

Today at 4:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by Erika Feller, Assistant High Commissioner on Protection in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (OHCHR); that is on the sixtieth anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and the fiftieth anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

And then tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference to launch the United Nations Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership (UNIPP) — the first global initiative to protect indigenous peoples’ rights.  Speakers will include Ambassador Carsten Staur, the Permanent Representative of Denmark to the United Nations, and Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.

Questions, please?  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, Martin.  On Myanmar, Sudan, Sri Lanka — Myanmar first, since he is briefing.  Since Mr. Nambiar left the country, the press accreditation agency of the Government has prohibited newspapers in Myanmar from reporting the comments by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on her meeting with Mr. Nambiar, and also about the country’s attempt to lead ASEAN [Association of South-East Asian Nations].  And I just wonder, I’d like to ask him when he comes out, but if he is not going to speak, I wanted to be sure to ask you now so I can include, whatever… does the UN have any comment on restrictions placed on Mr. Nambiar’s interlocutors, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi being reported in the newspapers in that country?

Spokesperson:  Well, two things.  One, we’ve seen the reports and we are trying to follow-up on those reports to understand to what extent these reports are correct.  The second is that freedom of the media is a universal right which we would support in any location.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  When you find… will there be some… if you find that to be true, will Mr. Nambiar or your office put something out, and could he be made available when he comes of out of the Council to speak to us?

Spokesperson:  Well, we already answered that yesterday, and what I also said yesterday was that we would endeavour to provide more information if we could, and I anticipate that we will be able to do that.

Correspondent:  It seems to be a freedom-of-the-media kind of a question, like you have an official there… he is coming out…

Spokesperson:  That’s right, and that’s why I said, Matthew, that we will endeavour to provide additional information.  That sounds pretty free to me.  Yes?

Question:  I just, amongst this report that Libyan President, I mean, ruler, whatever… [Muammar al-] Qadhafi’s wife and daughter have escaped to Tunisia.  Now the question is, have they contacted anybody from the United Nations, or does the United Nations know anything about that?  And do they have any details?  Are they in Tunisia?

Spokesperson:  Heard the reports, and also heard the reports of the denials.  And so I don’t have any information on that.  If we do hear anything, then, of course, we’d let you know.  But, as I say, I’ve seen the reports on both reports that these people have left the country and reports denying that.

Question:  So they are not going to touch with the…?

Spokesperson:  No, that’s what I said; I haven’t got any information on that.  If I have, I am happy to give it to you.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Martin, with regard to the impasse in the Middle East peace process, is the Secretary-General… does he intend to call for another meeting for the Quartet, especially that there hasn’t been a meeting for a long time, and shouldn’t there be any movement in order to expedite any settlement?

Spokesperson:  Well, this is precisely what Mr. Serry, who reports to the Secretary-General, said in the Council today.  He said that we will continue to seek enhanced and substantive Quartet engagement to shape the process between now and September, and beyond.  We must show purpose, rather than paralysis, as we approach a critical period in the search for peace in the Middle East.

Question:  However, he did not pinpoint who is the obstacle in these meetings.  Why are these meetings…?  I believe that the Secretary-General is keen to get a meeting done?

Spokesperson:  These meetings take place when the four members of the Quartet deem it appropriate to meet at Principal level.  The envoys, including Mr. Serry, are meeting more regularly in the background.  And of course, that is an important part of the process.  Yes, as the Special Envoy has said, Mr. Serry has said, there is a need for enhanced and substantive Quartet engagement.  And that is, I am sure, what they will be working for.

Question:  Yeah, on a relevant issue, today, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Prime Minister of Turkey, warned against destabilizing Syria and the regional impact on instability in Syria.  Does the Secretary-General share that view?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has made clear, including in telephone conversations with President [Bashar] al-Assad of Syria, that there needs to be reform, and that the leadership needs to listen to the people of the country, who are making their views known.  And there also needs to be, importantly, an end to the violence that there is.  And additionally, we are still seeking access for a humanitarian assessment team.  Yes, Evelyn?  Evelyn, I think you had a question?

Question:  Yes.  Can you bring us up to date on whether there is… well, on any negotiations the United Nations is driving in Libya and/or Syria?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the Special Envoy, [Abdul Ilah] al-Khatib, was in Tripoli.  He continues to be active in the region and speaking to relevant players.  I don’t have a specific update beyond what we mentioned earlier this week, right after Mr. al-Khatib had left Tripoli.  As the Secretary-General has made clear, the humanitarian crisis is getting worse, and the need for a political track to really work properly is growing ever more important.  And that’s what the Secretary-General is working towards, and so is his Special Envoy.  But, I don’t have any particular update with any specifics at the moment.  I am sure that my colleagues who are working with Mr. al-Khatib will be able to give some details as we move along.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  On Nizar’s question about the Quartet, I just want, it’s like a follow-up also, in view of what President [Mahmoud] Abbas has been saying, asking the international community to recognize Palestinian statehood.  Has anybody in Quartet discussed that at all?  Or is it just the Quartet minds have not met together and they have decided that this is important enough to consider it?

Spokesperson:  I would need to check whether the envoys have discussed this in any fashion.  Obviously, there are two things which I mentioned before, that a two-State solution is a clear and long-held UN policy.  And any question of statehood for any entity is for the Member States to decide.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, on Sudan, you… I passed… on this trip, there are conflicting reports in Sudan about whether the trip includes a stop in Kadugli and Abyei, and whether they will meet with Ahmed Haroun, who is indicted by the ICC [International Criminal Court].  So I wanted to know, you’d said there is more information, I’d try to pass through and see it, but it has… what is the status of, even just the logistics, is the Council in fact going to Abyei via Kadugli and is… will Mr. Haroun be present?

Spokesperson:  I think that’s a good idea; pass by and we can give you more details.  But to my knowledge, there is no meeting planned with Mr. Haroun, to my knowledge.

Question:  And I wanted to also ask you this, I was… it was confirmed to me yesterday that the search process for replacing Haile Menkerios as the Head of UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] has begun; there is a formal process with names.  I believe one of the names is Ian Martin.  So I wanted to ask this, given that he was named, that it was never really clear to me, although you described his role as post-transition in Libya, if he is in fact now applying for the job in Sudan, can you… what would you say there, to people that would say this means that the UN no longer sees what it saw when it appointed Mr. Martin to that post?  Is it… how solid is that post that Mr. Martin has?  Would somebody else be appointed to replace him if he moved to Sudan?

Spokesperson: There are too many hypotheticals there, Matthew, in the first case, and in the first instance.  And secondly, as you well know, any recruitment process is a process, and we would then talk about the outcome, but not about the process.

Question:  What about the current status of Ian Martin?  I’d asked you before, what’s the…?

Spokesperson:  Matthew, next question.

Question:  Okay, all right.  Yesterday, I witnessed in the lobby of the GA [General Assembly], protesters about Sri Lanka and the report providing a copy of a petition to a DPA [Department of Political Affairs] staff member.  I asked him what was going to happen with the petition, but I guess, I’ll… I didn’t get an answer… I am wondering…?

Spokesperson:  Yes, you did, Matthew.  I know you got an answer from him.

Correspondent:  I followed him around, and…

Spokesperson:  He gave you an answer, and my answer is the same:  that the UN will be looking at it.  We received the petition and they will be looking at it.  Next question.  Yes, Iftikhar?

Question:  Martin, as you know, there are serious clashes taking place in Afghanistan between the Afghan people and NATO forces following the killing of civilians by NATO helicopters.  The Mission, the UN Mission in Kabul has not made any statement; does the Secretary-General have any comments on the situation?

Spokesperson:  Let me check.  I’ll check with our colleagues from UNAMA, from the UN Assistance Mission [in Afghanistan].  Yes?

Question:  Martin, today, the Lebanese army sent reinforcements to the north, to Wadi Khaled area, where there are reports that insurgents coming from Syria are taking shelter in that area and they enjoy support from the Future Party of Lebanon.  Is there anything the mission in Lebanon is saying about these reports, and how are you going to deal with them?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out, let me find out.  I don’t have anything on that for you.  Let me find out.  Yeah?

Question:  There have been a lot of requests in this room in the last month to have the Secretary-General actually do his press conference.  I know you’re pointing at a stakeout he did some weeks ago, but I notice that he did an interview with AFP [Agence France-Presse] yesterday.  And I wanted to know — obviously he is free to do however he wants; but given the number of questions that exist including, for example, about his comments about the… on the shooting of Osama bin Laden, questions about like the one I just asked you about the protests yesterday in front of his office — when is he going to do that, and can we get the transcript?  Why did he choose to do that?  If he had time to do media, why not do something where a variety of questions can be asked by a variety of media outlets?

Spokesperson:  You are quite right; it’s for us to decide how that works.  And I think Agence France-Presse has written quite a few stories from the interview, and you, like anybody else, you’re quite free to read them to see what was said.  That’s the first thing.  The second thing is that I have been asked a number of times about a press conference.  I am sure there will be a press conference in due course.

Question:  Was this an announcement of a second term?  I mean, that seemed to be one of the things they had in mind as a breakout.  So I was wondering, is that an accurate headline?

Spokesperson:  Well, I have read the story, and I was in the room, as well.  The story is very carefully worded, as were the Secretary-General’s comments.  And he said that his basic position is that, if Member States find his services useful and necessary, then he is willing to make himself available.  But, he also said that at the moment he has been extremely busy; there had been multiple crises this year.  And he said that, when the appropriate time comes, he will be able to express his views about his future.  And that’s something that he has said repeatedly.  He has said previously that his basic position is that, if Member States find his services useful, then he is willing to make himself available.  So, he phrased himself carefully.

Question:  Did he discuss this with the Permanent Representative of Gabon, who is the President of the Council in June, when the two met?  Was this topic raised, that it would be raised in the Council in June?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t know what was discussed with the Permanent Representative of Gabon.  What I can tell you is that, when the time comes, as the Secretary-General said, then he will make his views clear.  All right?  Yes?

Correspondent:  What he said is the basic news, and it should have been shared with all the UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association] correspondents.

Spokesperson:  Well, with respect, senior figures — not just the Secretary-General — give interviews, as well as speaking at stakeouts and speak in press conferences.  There are different ways to disseminate information.  And at some point, the Secretary-General will give a press conference; at some point, he will speak at a stakeout.  He spoke at a full press conference in Geneva just the other week.  He has given stakeouts in various locations on his travels, and done so here at Headquarters.  He will give a press conference here at Headquarters.

Correspondent:  But Martin, he can give interviews to whoever he likes and express his views, but when it comes to a basic announcement about availability, which we are waiting, we’ve been waiting for…

Spokesperson:  Well, no. Be very careful, Iftikhar, be very careful.  He has not announced anything. He has not announced anything, okay?  If and when he has an announcement to make, he will make an announcement.  But that’s for him to decide when he feels that it is the appropriate time.  But let’s be very clear; he restated a position that he has expressed before about availability, and that’s it.  I can assure you that he would not make some kind of announcement in an interview.  I can assure you.  Yes, Nizar?  Last question.

Question:  With regard to the situation in Bahrain, the authorities have ignored all calls not to try the protesters and the professionals who have been in custody for a long time without any real indictments.  Are there any moves from the Secretary-General, or anybody else in the United Nations, in order to communicate with the Government to stop from passing sentences against these people?

Spokesperson:  Well, I have said on a number of occasions, because you’ve asked me on a number of occasions, that the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights have been consistently clear about what should happen, including due process, including protecting the right for people to demonstrate and to ensure that those who are held, detained, are held in the appropriate conditions.  If there is anything further from the High Commissioner, for example, who has been extremely outspoken on this, then I’ll let you know.

Thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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