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

30 June 2011

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

30 June 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 Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

** Sudan

I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General concerning the Framework Agreement for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States in Sudan:

The Secretary-General welcomes the signing yesterday in Addis Ababa of the agreement between the Governments of Sudan and Southern Sudan on border security and the joint political and security mechanism.

The Secretary-General commends both parties for this positive outcome and urges them to conclude and implement, as a matter of priority, a cessation of hostilities agreement.

The Secretary-General is mindful that, unless the parties decide otherwise, UNMIS, the United Nations Mission in Sudan, will be required to cease operations in these areas as of 9 July.  The Secretary-General stresses the importance of protecting and guaranteeing humanitarian access to vulnerable communities.  He remains extremely concerned over the humanitarian situation and the plight of vulnerable civilians in Southern Kordofan.  He calls on the Government of Sudan to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those in need and that it takes steps to create a conducive environment for humanitarian operations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States with the cessation of the United Nations Mission in Sudan mandate on 9 July 2011.

** Sudan – Humanitarian Situation

Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the Government of Sudan has granted access to limited areas in Kadugli town where partners have their offices.

All UN agency offices had been looted of their stocks and office equipment, with the exception of UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Most offices and guesthouses were damaged or destroyed.

Moreover, unhindered access to the affected population continues to be denied. UN agencies continue to discuss the pressing need to have access to other areas with the Government of Sudan.

**Human Rights

Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said today that the collective actions of the people of North Africa and the Middle East have reaffirmed the importance and universality of human rights in a way we could not have dreamed of at the start of this year.

She discussed recent developments, including in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria. And she also welcomed yesterday’s announcements by the King of Bahrain, including that he is setting up a Royal Commission, composed of experienced international jurists to look into allegations of human rights violations during the events of February and March and “subsequent consequences.” Her staff is currently examining the details of these major developments in Bahrain.

** Ethiopia

The World Food Programme (WFP) confirmed today the safe recovery of two of its Ethiopian staff members, who had been missing after an incident in Ethiopia’s Somali Region on 13 May.

The World Food Programme confirms that the staff members have been brought to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where they are receiving medical treatment and stress counselling and being reunited with their families.

WFP and the UN system more broadly worked closely with national and regional authorities for the safe return of the two men. This incident underscores the need to ensure the safety and security of UN staff.


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Lamberto Zannier, announced today that he will be taking up the post of Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) and he will leave Kosovo.

Mr. Zannier, in announcing his departure from the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said that he is pleased to leave to his successor an operation that is reconfigured and well-suited to the current challenges. And he once more encouraged Pristina and Belgrade to fully engage in dialogue to resolve open issues. And we have a press release with more details.

** Cyprus

Concerning Cyprus, the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities met this morning in Nicosia.

They discussed police issues and their forthcoming meeting with the Secretary-General, which is to be held in Geneva on 7 July.

Representatives are expected to continue discussions on Saturday.

**Security Council

And the Security Council this morning extended the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights (UNDOF) by six months.

Today is the last day of Gabon’s Security Council presidency, and Germany will take over the presidency of the Council for the month of July.

That’s it from me.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Farhan, two questions.  One question about this report that France has been arming the rebels for quite some time now; is this allowed under the Security Council resolution which authorized use of force for protection of the civilians?  Do you see that and, I mean, in the sense that… has the United Nations looked into it, as to what is happening; why is one group allowed to be armed, and the other, [Muammar al] Qadhafi and his parties are not?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, we are certainly aware of these reports.  And for his part, the Secretary-General expects that all Member States should abide by all the resolutions of the Security Council. Regarding how the resolutions of the Security Council are interpreted, including the ones on sanctions in Libya, such as Security Council resolution 1970 (2011):  as you know, there is a Sanctions Committee chaired by the Ambassador of Portugal that deals with the implementation of the sanctions resolution, and we trust that they will look into any matters of concern to them.

Question:  So what you’re saying then, in that case, it is about the interpretation that you do and then you can arm or not, and then complain or not complain, according to your interpretation of the resolution, is that right?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Ultimately, the Security Council is the author of these resolutions.  It is up to the Security Council to determine what the resolutions mean and what they entail and how to… whenever a sanctions resolution is approved, it also creates with it the establishment of a Sanctions Committee which is designed to make sure that the implementation of that resolution is carried out.  And in this case, the Sanctions Committee chaired by the Ambassador of Portugal would do that for resolution 1970.

Question:  There a report, from the American Centers of Control for Disease, that the cholera was actually in Haiti, bring about by the Nepalese peacekeeping operations.  What is your comment on that?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, we are aware of the report, and as with other prior reports, we will study its findings diligently. As you know, we are very concerned about the outbreak of cholera in Haiti, which is why the Secretary-General established an Independent Panel of Experts at the beginning of this year.  And you will remember that report, which we made public.  As the Secretary-General said at the time that he received this report, he has convened a Task Force within the UN system to ensure prompt and appropriate follow-up.  And in fact, that Task Force has met recently.

The UN continues to assist the Government and the people of Haiti in the ongoing fight against the cholera epidemic. And for our part, we also continue to be interested in receiving as much information about this as possible. Yes?

Question:  Just a follow-up on this Libya question; resolution 1973 (2011) only authorizes Member States to engage in this protection of civilians if they notify the Secretary-General, and says the Member States concerned have to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to this authorization. So, my question, it’s just, factually, France is arguing that by dropping weapons in these Nafusa Mountains, they are protecting civilians.  Did they notify the Secretary-General, as specified in the resolution?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Simply put, we will leave all measures having to do with the applicability of the sanctions resolution to the appropriate Sanctions Committee.  And then we leave the matter in their hands.

Question:  But if it says the resolution, you’re saying that they passed it, but it has a plain language that says “notify the Secretary-General”.  It’s just yes or no:  did he get notification, right?  Not should he get or anything.  Did?  Yes, you see what I mean?  Factually.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  As far as that goes, you can ask the Government of France who they did and did not notify.  And beyond that, like I said, the nub of any sanctions resolution is that the Sanctions Committee oversees how it is implemented; and we trust that they will do so in this case, as well.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, thanks, Farhan. The issuing of indictments in the [Rafiq] Hariri tribunal raises tensions in Lebanon even further.  Does the Secretary-General have any message for how the parties there should conduct themselves in the coming weeks?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, he does have a message, and I was hoping really strongly that I would have that message to convey to you right now, but it’s not ready yet.  If it happens over the course of this briefing, I will read it out to you, but otherwise, we will give it to you once it is approved. Yes?  [He later issued the following message:

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has confirmed that an indictment, accompanied by arrest warrants, was delivered this morning to the Prosecutor General to the Supreme Court in Lebanon, Mr. Mirza.   While the delivery of the indictment and warrants has been publicized, their contents have not been shared with the United Nations.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is an independent court of law established at the request of the Government of Lebanon, with a clear mandate from the United Nations Security Council pursuant to its resolution 1757 (2007).  Under resolution 1757, the Lebanese authorities are required to locate, arrest, detain and transfer the accused persons to the Tribunal.

The Secretary-General reiterates his strong support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and for its efforts to uncover the truth and send a message that impunity will not be tolerated.   He calls on all states to support the independent judicial process, in particular by cooperating with the Special Tribunal in the execution of the indictment and arrest warrants.  The Secretary-General expects the new Government of Lebanon to uphold all of Lebanon’s international obligations and to cooperate with the Special Tribunal.]

Question:  On 27 June, the Staff Union, through its Committee on the Independence and Security of International Civil Servants, issued a communiqué in which it says that staff, UN staff, were detained in Sudan and Cambodia. And it expressed great concern about their intimidation, their detention and the impact of that on the functions and operations of the United Nations.  What does the Secretary-General have to say about that?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  As you are aware, we are always concerned about the detention and other mistreatment of staff, wherever that may be.  We have been following up on these cases.  As you may be aware, several of the people who had been arrested in Sudan have been released. But there remain some in detention.  We are working to secure their releases, as well as of those who are affected in Cambodia.  Yes?

Question:  The Israeli intelligence chief has been cited by the Israeli press as saying that the flotilla is no threat to Israel or anybody, suggesting that it’s okay for it to come.  Have you read those reports, and do you have any comments on that?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, we are aware of the recent media reports from either side about whether or not the flotilla constitutes a threat.  You, of course, are aware of our particular comments about the need to avoid raising tensions in the area, and also the importance of using the established aid routes.  If we have anything further to say in the coming days, I’ll certainly let you know.

Question:  Basically, in the sense that if he is suggesting it is no threat that it has basically, what he probably knows that there are no arms and ammunition being carried, as being feared by the Israel, I mean the [Benjamin] Netanyahu Government, so that flotilla is basically an aid flotilla, so why can’t it go through?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have to explain the reasoning of a different official who is making comments to the media.  We are aware of the various comments to the media and our position on the flotilla stands.  Yes, please?

Question:  Is it possible to get that update on who the new head of peacekeeping will be, to replace Alain Le Roy?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.  Well, as we have made clear, in our recent statement a few days ago, we are seeking a replacement for Alain Le Roy once his term ends.  All interested Member States can be expected to provide nominations for positions as they fall vacant.  And the Secretary-General would welcome their suggestions and give serious consideration to them.  And that’s all I have to say on this at present.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, actually just one follow-up on that and then I want to get back to Sudan.  Is it, many people say that this is a post that is pretty much committed to France and it will be a French individual.  Is there some… is that not the case?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, like I just said, all interested Member States can be expected to provide nominations for positions as they fall vacant, and that includes, of course, this one.  The Secretary-General would welcome their suggestions and he would give serious consideration to them.

Question:  And is there a response yet to that JIU [Joint Inspection Unit] report about hiring practices?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We do expect to have a response to that which is being, in fact, written.  Once it is shared with the relevant parties, I will make sure that we can share that with you, as well.  Yes?

Question:  On Sudan, can I ask this one? There is a report that Nafie Ali Nafie has announced that there is an agreement between North and South Sudan to have a 20 kilometre buffer zone around disputed borders; apparently not just in Abyei, but along the border.  And he says that it will be Ethiopian peacekeepers monitoring it.  Other articles say it will be the UN, as well.  What’s the UN’s understanding of this agreement, and could the Abyei force, which the UN will be paying for and to some degree supporting, be deployed outside of Abyei?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Abyei force is, as you know, a Security Council-authorized force, which is a UN force - the UN Security Force for Abyei or UNISFA, and that is the one that is entrusted with dealing with the situation in Abyei.

Question:  But what will be the UN’s role in monitoring this, under this border agreement?  Will it be able to operate on both sides of the border or only on the South side?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  The terms of reference for that particular peacekeeping force are being worked out right now.  And beyond that, of course, its terms of reference are spelled out also in the mandate provided by the Security Council.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  In Myanmar the regime, through its Minister of Interior, has sent a letter to Nobel Peace Prize [laureate] Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, telling her to cease all political activities and not to travel to the countryside.  What is the reaction of the Secretary-General to this specific request by the Government of Myanmar?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you will have seen, earlier this month, when the Secretary-General convened a meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar, we had made clear at that time the need for inclusiveness in the political process, including the involvement of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political parties.  And we hold to that position.  They should be allowed to go about their work, and of course, we continue to ask for the release of political prisoners.  Yes?

Question:  I want to ask on Sri Lanka, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Christof Heyns, who has said that this Killing Fields documentary shows war crimes, he has said that he has asked to visit Sri Lanka and has been rebuffed.  I wanted to know, one, whether the Secretary-General given his involvement in signing this agreement with President [Mahimda] Rajapaksa back in 2009 has he put in any, does he believe he should be let in, has he made any efforts in that respect, and has he yet seen the film Killing Fields, which has become quite prominent on this issue that he has spoken of many times?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ve actually shared that video with the Secretary-General, and when he has time, we expect that he will see it. I don’t know whether that’s happened already.  And regarding Christof Heyns, I would refer that question onward to our colleagues at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.  Have a good afternoon, everyone.

Question:  Do you have a readout on the meeting with Ms. [Tzipi] Livni yesterday?  Their side has put out a readout; is Ban Ki-moon going to do one?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No.  No, no, we don’t have a readout for that one.  Thanks a lot.

* *** *

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