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

29 July 2011

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

29 July 2011
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


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.

And I’d like to welcome in particular a group of journalists from Kazakhstan who are visiting today.

**Horn of Africa

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that 12.4 million people are now in need of immediate assistance in the Horn of Africa and that $1.4 billion is still required to help them.

The Office adds that, without additional contributions, the famine could spread throughout Somalia and into neighbouring countries within the next month or two.

And on the ground, the World Food Programme (WFP) says that the second flight in the airlift to Mogadishu arrived today, carrying more specialized nutritional food for malnourished children under the age of 5.

And in Gedo, in southern Somalia – the western region that borders Kenya and Ethiopia – the first airlift arrived today, carrying five tons of high-energy biscuits; that’s enough to feed 5,000 people for five days.

In Ethiopia, the UN Humanitarian Air Service is scaling up from two to four flights a week to Dolo Ado, near the border with Somalia, due to increasing numbers of requests from humanitarian workers.

And meanwhile, in Kenya, the UN refugee agency says it has moved more than 3,000 Somali refugees from the outskirts of the Dadaab refugee complex into the Ifo Extension site.  This relocation started on Monday.  The site will provide tented accommodation for 90,000 refugees by the end of November.  Work has also started on another site, known as Kambioos, which will accommodate another 90,000 people.

And there is more information on this in the Geneva briefing notes.

**Special Tribunal for Lebanon

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has announced today the identities of four men accused of involvement in the attack of 14 February 2005 that killed the former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, and others.  An indictment against the four was confirmed on 28 June this year and presented to the Lebanese authorities, with accompanying arrest warrants on 30 June.

The Secretary-General reiterates his strong support to the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice.  He calls on all States to support the independent judicial process, including by cooperating with the Special Tribunal in the execution of the indictment and arrest warrants. The Secretary-General also reiterates his expectation that the new Government of Lebanon will uphold all of Lebanon’s international obligations, including its obligations to support and cooperate with the Special Tribunal.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed Haile Menkerios of South Africa as his Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.  Mr. Menkerios served as Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) since March 2010, and will, in his new capacity, continue to assist the parties in reaching a negotiated settlement.

And we have more on that appointment in my office.

** Myanmar

The Secretary-General spoke by telephone today with U Wunna Maung Lwin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar.

The Secretary-General underlined that he had publicly welcomed the reform measures announced by the new Government.  He said that he hoped that the Government would now move towards concrete action and take the country forward towards peace, democracy and prosperity.

The Secretary-General emphasized that the release of the remaining political prisoners was the single most important step that the international community expected the Government to take.  He called for early action in this regard.  The Secretary-General expressed concern about the ongoing violence with some armed groups and the impact on the civilian population, and urged the Government to resolve the situation peacefully.

The Secretary-General welcomed the recent meeting between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Mr. Aung Kyi, the Minister for Social Welfare, and the fact that she was able to engage in public activities beyond Yangon.  We will be distributing the full readout on that telephone conversation shortly.

**Security Council

At 5 this afternoon, the Security Council has scheduled meetings on Somalia and on the UN-African Union mission in Darfur.  Those will be the last scheduled meetings for this month, under the Council Presidency of Germany.   India will assume the Council’s rotating presidency for the month of August.

**UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Afghanistan remains the largest source of the global illicit trade in opium and heroin, according to a new study by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which is known as UNODC.

The report states that about 16.5 million people annually abuse opiates worldwide.  Heroin consumption, for example, is the highest, with more than 12 million people consuming a total of almost 400 tons each year.

UNODC says opiate abuse in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries has risen sharply in the past decade, and it’s also spreading to East Asia, Africa and Europe.

Transnational organized crime groups have profited most from the $68 billion global opiates trade in 2009, according to UNODC, of which the Afghan Taliban earned around $150 million and Afghan farmers made an estimated $440 million.

And you can find the entire report on UNODC’s website.

** Somalia

I was asked yesterday about alleged stockpiling in Somalia.  As I mentioned, the World Food Programme has been quite clear on this.  Let me also say that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is also very concerned by the incorrect and damaging perception generated by inaccurate reports regarding food stocks in Mogadishu warehouses allegedly not being distributed.

The UN and partners are doing everything they can to scale up their response to the rising numbers of people in need.  They are using all available routes and partners to bring in and deliver supplies as fast as possible. There would be no purpose in stockpiling in a situation like this.

**Guests at Noon Briefing

Valerie Amos will be my guest at the noon briefing on Monday.  And she will brief you on the latest developments in the Horn of Africa.

And then at 4 p.m. today, Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, will speak to reporters at the stakeout on the 2nd floor of the North Lawn Building, and that’s after his meeting with the Secretary-General.

And just a couple of items from next week:  at 12:30 p.m., on Tuesday here in this auditorium, Hardeep Singh Puri, the Permanent Representative of India and President of the Security Council for the month of August, will brief reporters on the Council’s programme of work for the month.

And then on Thursday, Alain Le Roy will be the guest at the noon briefing, as his end-of-assignment appearance; that is, obviously, the end of his assignment as Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.

**Michael Williams

And then just one final point:  we have seen press reports about the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, being reprimanded.  I just wanted to say there is no truth to these reports whatsoever.  They are absolutely untrue.

The Secretary-General continues to stand by his report and his Special Coordinator.

Questions, please?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, I wanted, I guess I had some other questions about Sudan but now that you have announced this appointment for Mr. Menkerios, if it’s, is he, where is he going to be based?  Is he going to be based in Khartoum or Juba?  Is there going to be any ongoing sort of UN presence of this Sudan/South Sudan Office in the northern part of the country?

Spokesperson:  He will be based in New York and will obviously be travelling and liaising with people on the ground.

Question:  And I wanted to… the SPLM-North — and you will see where I am going with this — they say that they have now surrounded the city, Kadugli in Southern Kordofan, and have blocked the airport; they say so to stop the aerial bombardment in the Nuba Mountains.  And I understand that the UN doesn’t, you know, all the things that you’ve said, that they can’t patrol, but it strikes me if, if the UN — and I don’t know how many troops are still left there of the Egyptian battalion — but is the UN, can the UN confirm or say something about reports of now the surrounding of Kadugli, the airport being closed, since that would even impact on the UN’s ability to get its peacekeepers out?  Is there any knowledge of what’s happening there?

Spokesperson:  My colleagues in Peacekeeping Operations are seeking to provide information, including on the number of peacekeepers who remain in Southern Kordofan.  I don’t have that information to hand.  We have asked for it.  But the fact remains, as you have mentioned yourself, I have made it clear before that the peacekeepers who are there and have not yet been able to leave, they do not have a mandate to patrol or indeed to operate in any way.  Should there be something that they are passing back to Headquarters, then obviously we would make that known.  But to my knowledge that is not the case.  Okay, other questions?  Yes, George?

Question:  Three small questions, if I may, Martin.  One, on this Lebanon Tribunal and the four indictees, is there a bulletin being distributed by your Office on that with the four names?  Second, with relation to the aid arriving in Mogadishu, are you monitoring the fact of whether it gets to its intended users or being intercepted by tribal leaders, as it very often is in that anarchic atmosphere?  And finally, is there any word yet on the replacement for Monsieur Le Roy?

Spokesperson:  I’ll start with the last one first:  the short answer is no, not yet.  When we have an announcement we’ll let you know.  And moving back up the list, on aid arriving in Mogadishu, obviously it is imperative that it is distributed as swiftly as possible to the people who need it.  And that is precisely what is happening, and that’s what I was alluding to earlier in the remarks.  On the Tribunal, the Special Tribunal has issued a press release that provides the names.

Question:  Is that available to us?  Are you distributing it?

Spokesperson:  Yes, it’s on their website, but I am sure that we can make it available to you.  Okay, further questions?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you yesterday, during the consultation on Serbia’s request for a meeting, the Serbian Foreign Minister came with the President of the Council, did a stakeout, although after some delay afterwards.  But some… I just wanted to know if it was true or not that the Kosovo delegation that came had sought entry into the… a certain type of pass to come into the UN to also address the press yesterday and had not been able to receive it from Protocol, due to a lack of an official appointment within the UN.  Is that true or not true?

Spokesperson:  The way that it works is that non-Member States, other entities, whoever they may be, do require an official engagement, if you like, appointment, within the UN to come in.  And this was the case yesterday.  Originally, as I understand it, they — both the Kosovo representatives and Serbia — had been looking at the possibility of being invited to the closed consultations in the Security Council.  But as you know, neither delegation was invited to the closed consultations.  Serbia is a Member State and, therefore, has access to the compound.  As I think you know, the Foreign Minister of Serbia met with the Secretary-General yesterday afternoon.  This afternoon, there will be a meeting with the representatives from Kosovo.

Question:  But, just, and thanks for… I guess it just seems like, since their territory whatever it is was on, was being discussed in the Council and there was an open possibility they could come in, it seems to some, it seemed kind of technical, actually they waited at the gate, and then if somehow they are summoned in, then they are, then they are allowed in.  I mean, I know that the Palestine, you know the Palestinian Mission, POLISARIO, the Turkish Cypriots, all of these have access to go…

Spokesperson:  I think we’re talking about, let’s not mix things up here.  I think you know what the United Nations status position is; it’s very clear under [Security Council resolution] 1244 (1999).  And I think that that’s where I would leave it.

Question:  Was there any communication by the Russian Mission to Protocol on this, on this legal matter?

Spokesperson:  Ask the Russians.  Okay.  All right.  Thanks very much.  Have a nice afternoon and a nice weekend.

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