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

11 August 2011

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

11 August 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 Vannina Maestracci, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Bonjour, and welcome to the noon briefing.

**Secretary-General in Republic of Korea

The Secretary-General attended the opening of the Global Model United Nations Conference in the city of Incheon in the Republic of Korea, today.

He told hundreds of students from more than 60 countries that they should never underestimate the power of the individual to make a difference.  And he said the young generation was showing a growing resolve to change our world — and a capacity to make things happen, through peaceful means.

The Secretary-General also spoke to the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Seoul and later to an audience of school and university students in Incheon.  He told the Korean students to look beyond their own borders and to become global citizens.

At the Chamber of Commerce, he urged major Korean business leaders to help support the work of the United Nations, and urged the Government to boost its overseas development assistance to be more in line with the country’s economic importance.

** Libya

The Secretary-General spoke by telephone yesterday with the Prime Minister of Libya.  The Secretary-General expressed his concern about the loss of innocent civilian lives as a result of the fighting and the lack of medical supplies and fuel, which added greater urgency to the need to address the humanitarian needs of the Libyan people.

The Secretary-General told the Prime Minister he was very troubled that there had been an absolute lack of progress in the efforts to find a politically negotiated solution to the crisis in Libya, despite the efforts of his Special Envoy.  He said all sides must commit to a political process.  He urged the Prime Minister to respond constructively to the Special Envoy’s ideas on this topic.

This is a readout we put out late last night and you also saw that we put out a readout on the Secretary-General’s phone conversation with Bono.

** Middle East

On the Middle East, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, expressed alarm today at the announcement by the Government of Israel that it would develop new housing units in East Jerusalem.

If confirmed, this provocative action undermines ongoing efforts by the international community to bring the parties back to negotiations and shape a positive agenda for September.

Mr. Serry noted that this announcement comes only one week after a separate decision by the Government of Israel regarding the construction of additional housing units in another settlement in East Jerusalem, which was widely criticized by the international community.  The Special Coordinator will engage with Quartet partners on this issue.

** Côte d’Ivoire

The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) says that the human rights situation in the country is still fragile despite an improvement of the security conditions.

In the last month, the mission’s Human Rights Division has recorded more than 100 violations of human rights, including 26 extrajudicial or summary executions.  Eight mass graves were also found in the Yopougon district of Abidjan.

The Human Rights Division of the mission is also concerned over the violent clashes between the Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire and some young people, in villages around Abidjan and elsewhere.

The mission also lead assessment missions concerning the detention of Laurent Gbagbo.  It says it had some concerns about the conditions under which Gbagbo and his wife were detained. And recommendations in this regard will be transmitted to the Ivorian authorities.

** Darfur

Over the last two days, the Joint Special Representative for the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Ibrahim Gambari, has met with officials of the Government of Sudan, in Khartoum.

Gambari said he had told the officials, which included the Foreign Minister, that the mission would fully respect the sovereignty and integrity of the country while working with all parties to implement the mission’s mandate.

The Joint Special Representative also noted with concern the increased number of peacekeepers being attacked and killed in the course of their duties, and called on the Government of Sudan to do its utmost to bring the perpetrators to justice.

**Horn of Africa

And finally, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, will arrive in Kenya tomorrow for a three-day visit.  During her mission, she will meet with humanitarian organizations covering Kenya and Somalia, to understand the challenges in responding to the crisis, and she is also scheduled to visit Dadaab camp.  And we’ll have more information on her travels while they unfold.

That’s what I have.  Any questions?  Mr. Abbadi?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Vannina.  This morning’s meeting on the Global Model United Nations meeting in Korea, the Secretary-General said “if there is one thing that sums up my first term as Secretary-General and which will run through my second term for the coming five years, that is new multilateralism”.  What does he mean by new?

Associate Spokesperson:  I’m sorry, I barely heard your question.  So, in this speech this morning, he said that in his first term and in his second term he would…?

Question:  He would address and the term will be more significant…

Associate Spokesperson:  And I think if you read on in the speech, I mean what’s in the speech, there was a fairly long speech, and what’s in the speech and it is posted on our website, it, you know, he basically explains what he means.  So…

Question:  I have his speech, but what does he mean by “new multilateralism”?  The word “new”, what’s new about multilateralism?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, I think he is referring to maybe a new way of engaging in multilateralism, sorry — it’s a hard word for me to say.  But, no, just simply what’s… if you have the speech, I mean, we can go through it, but he explains the idea, he doesn’t just say new multilateralism period.  So, we’ll look at it together if you want.  Anything else?

Correspondent:  Sure.

Associate Spokesperson:  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask you about Sudan and then sanctions and then something, I guess, in-house.  On Sudan, the SPLM, the South Sudanese SPLM has criticized the Government of North Sudan, Khartoum, for not pulling out of Abyei.  They said that it is still a full military occupation ever since what they call the invasion of 21 May, and not a single soldier has left, and I wanted to know if that’s, given that there is a UN peacekeeping mission, UNISFA, there, what is the UN’s response to that statement?

Associate Spokesperson:  As you know, UNISFA is just arriving.  It is starting to deploy.  So, do you want us to confirm it or what…?

Question:  I want to confirm that no one has left and I want to know what the UN thinks, when the UN thinks that the Sudanese Armed Forces are supposed to leave, because obviously the SPLM (North), I mean, the SPLM thinks that already should have taken place.  That’s what they’re saying.  And they’re saying that actually there have been Ethiopian peacekeepers there now for some, you know, some weeks.  They seem to believe that the Sudanese Armed Forces should have left and I wanted to know what the UN’s understanding is; DPKO and UNISFA.

Associate Spokesperson:  I’ll check with DPKO.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Associate Spokesperson:  Yeah?

Question:  Also on Sudan, there is a report of a WFP worker in… in Darfur being… being killed and I wanted to know if that’s something that you have… I don’t know, can… can UNAMID confirm that and what do they say about it?

Associate Spokesperson:  This was in recent days?

Correspondent:  Yes.

Associate Spokesperson:  Let me ask WFP, the World Food Programme, yes.

[Later the Associate Spokesperson said the World Food Programme was not aware of any member of its staff being killed in Darfur.]

Oui, Monsieur Abbadi?  Yes?

Question:  …the Security Council was supposed to be briefed yesterday on Syria, what are the highlights of that briefing?

Associate Spokesperson:  As you know, it was in closed consultations so we’re actually not sharing that.  And you’ve seen that the ambassadors, different ambassadors, have spoken at the stakeout.  So, you know, it’s up to the Security Council if they want, what format a meeting of the Council will have, and we’re going to respect the fact that this was done in closed consultation, following the wishes of the members of the Council.  Anything else?  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask you about sanctions and something in-house.  I want to know, there has been a lot… the UN is… is obviously talking a lot about the… the, you know, famine in the Horn of Africa.  So, an issue has come up, which… whether there is a move afoot to impose additional sanctions on Eritrea, which is one of the countries suffering this hunger crisis.  I want to ask you, what the Secretary-General, you know, maybe you, you can get an answer from him, thinks of this idea, mostly because he is quoted in Korea in… in the press today as saying that it is too soon to remove sanctions on North Korea.  So, since he is willing to comment on sanctions regimes, what does he think of sanctions on Eritrea during a time of famine in the Horn of Africa?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, I think it’s more a question for the Sanctions Committee.

Question:  But isn’t… why… isn’t the North committee… why… why is he speaking about Korean sanctions and not others?

Associate Spokesperson:  He is obviously in Korea right now and was asked about it and decided to answer.

Question:  So I am trying to ask you to ask him about Eritrea.

Associate Spokesperson:  Are you saying now he needs to answer on every sanctions committee issue?

Question:  I am saying if, once he starts, once you go down that road…

Associate Spokesperson:  You are hoping, are you? [laughter]  Let me check if he has something to say.

Question:  Okay.  And the other thing is just… it’s just… I mean it might seem overly in-house.  Yesterday, at the… at the… one of the stakeouts in front of the Security Council it seemed like the… the… the… the… the UN broadcast crew was… was… was pretty skeleton staff, i.e., there was no boom microphone, the US Mission’s transcript of the stakeout had every reporter’s question as “inaudible”.  And I guess they couldn’t even… it couldn’t really be heard.  So, I wanted to know, I have heard that… that beyond 17 people are already let go, that there are seven more broadcast engineers who have gotten pink slips to be fired because of some decision by DPI, and I just wanted to know, one, can you confirm this level of layoffs and two, is there an acknowledgement that it actually hurts this, you know… one of the… one of the kind of newsier organs of the UN in terms of not having people there to actually capture sound when there are meetings on, you know, whatever, on Somalia and Syria yesterday?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, I wasn’t aware of problems, sound problems, at the stakeout, and I am not aware of the layoffs either.  I am not sure the two are related, so let me check first what happened yesterday at the stakeout.  It might just be a technical…

Question:  [inaudible]

Associate Spokesperson:  Yeah, it might just be a technical problem, nothing else.

Question:  There was no individual there carrying a microphone.  So, there seemed to be a connection.  But also, if you could get some confirmation of the layoffs.

Associate Spokesperson:  But it could be anything else, you know.  It’s August, people are on leave, somebody, the person who was working could be sick, it could be tons of things.  Let’s not make that link right now.

Question:  [inaudible] okay.

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes?

Question:  Last week — and I am talking about the Syrian question again — last week there was the Security Council meeting in… there was the presidential statement…

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Yesterday, the Security Council was briefed by, I think, I don’t know by who.  And what [inaudible]?

Associate Spokesperson:  What is the what?

Question:  What is the… afterwards, how did the procedure goes on?

Associate Spokesperson:  The procedure, it’s up to the members of the Council to decide the format of the meeting.  And on 3 August they decided to issue a presidential statement, and yesterday they decided to have closed consultations.  The briefer was Fernando — what am I saying — Oscar Fernandez-Taranco of the Department of Political Affairs.

Question:  Was it his personal decision not to do a stakeout, not to speak to the press about what he briefed the… the… the… I mean some spokespeople came out and said that it was an appalling briefing; he was talking about torture, and so it seems like… is there some… who decides when DPA gives a briefing like that, or sometimes they will come and talk to the press.  In this case he didn’t.  Is that some decision to underplay what is happening in Syria or is it just a personal decision by Mr.…?

Associate Spokesperson:  No, I don’t think that’s it.  Again, there is, you know, it could be a number of things, including other meetings, other appointments, you know.  It could be a number of things.

Question:  In this case, can we find out what it was?

Associate Spokesperson:  Sure.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Question:  [inaudible] in response to Matthew’s comments earlier.  You didn’t make any response.  It’s a little unusual not to have something to say about…

Associate Spokesperson:  Which one?

Correspondent 1:  [To Matthew]  Do you want to say…

Correspondent 2:  I am not sure which one.

Correspondent 1:  Uh, the one just before this one.

Correspondent 2:  About the hire…

Correspondent 1:  Yeah, and the guy who got killed in Sudan, and that… oh you had like two, three events.

Correspondent 2:  Well, I think she, we’re going to be getting answers.

Question:  No comment?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, it’s not that I don’t have a comment, it’s just that I am not going to comment on something — I am going to check first.  And if we have something to say, we’ll share it as we always do.

Question:  But you didn’t say that, so…

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, I did say that.  I said that I would check with the World Food Programme.

Question:  But you didn’t say anything.

Associate Spokesperson:  Okay.

Correspondent:  Sorry, I misheard.

Question:  Can you [inaudible] what’s the next step?  What sort of… will the Security Council get together meeting on… on Syria?

Associate Spokesperson:  Syria again?  Yes, on Syria?

Question:  What’s the… after yesterday’s meeting, yesterday’s briefing to the members, what is the next step?  Are they going to go to… come together next week in 10 days’ time?  In what form?  Are they going to hold the official meeting or consultations?

Associate Spokesperson:  Again, that’s not for me to decide.  And it’s for the Member States to decide, they, and the members of the Council decide, you know, they set the topics that they want to discuss and the format that they are going to use to discuss those topics.  It’s not a decision that’s made by Headquarters, it’s by the members of the Security Council.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  On the same question, yes, the Council has to decide itself.  But at the same time the Secretary-General can make his own decision.  The Secretary-General in this case seems to be very frustrated about his discussions, his telephone conversation with the Prime Minister of Libya.  What does he plan to do next?  Is he going to bring the issue to the Council?  And I am talking about Libya.

Associate Spokesperson:   We’re on Libya now?

Correspondent:  Yes.

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, as, you know, the Security Council has been following both Syria and Libya.  But you know, right now, the Secretary-General is travelling.  When he is back in New York next week, let’s see what he does then.  Yeah.  Anything else?

Question:  A follow-up?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  It’s just that… it will just be kind of a factual one.  There is a… there is… AP yesterday had this report about a private military contractor operating in Somalia called, you know, Bancroft, Bancroft Global, and it says, you know… it describes them as… as, you know, essentially they are mercenaries working for the U… most of the story is about how the US is funding mercenaries in Somalia, but the article says funded by the UN and State Department, Bancroft has provided training and sniper services, etcetera.  So, I wanted to know, I wasn’t aware that the UN was funding a private military contractor in Somalia.  If it’s not true, is the UN seeking some either retraction, or if it is true, why is the UN funding mercenaries in Somalia?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yeah, let me check on that.  I’ll give you an answer on that one, yes.  Okay, have a good afternoon.

* *** *

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