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

23 August 2011

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

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

Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General — Libya

The Secretary-General has been speaking to a number of world leaders, including the heads of regional and international organizations, over the past two days in an effort to coordinate the international response to the recent developments in Libya.  All of his interlocutors underlined the importance of the United Nations taking a lead role on behalf of the international community in helping the Libyan people face the challenges ahead.

As part of that effort, the Secretary-General spoke by phone this morning with Mr. Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, Chairman of the National Transitional Council of Libya, who expressed appreciation for the United Nations work in Libya and the role played by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Abdel-Elah al-Khatib.  Mr. Abdel-Jalil especially emphasized the significance of UN support in the post-conflict period in Libya.

The Secretary-General stressed the need for national unity, reconciliation and inclusiveness, as well as the protection of diplomatic premises.  Mr. Abdel-Jalil assured him that the National Transitional Council would take those issues seriously.

** Libya Transition

The Secretary-General has invited the Heads of the League of Arab States, the African Union, the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for a meeting on Libya on 26 August in New York; that’s this Friday.  The objective of the meeting will be to develop ways in which the international community can work together on the post-conflict phase in Libya.

Mr. Abdel-Elah al-Khatib, the Special Envoy for Libya, and Mr. Ian Martin, the Special Adviser dealing with post-conflict planning, are in Doha today for discussions with the National Transitional Council leadership on its expectations for UN assistance to the Libyan authorities and its people.

We continue to work on post-conflict planning to assure that the United Nations is ready to respond when Libyan authorities specify the areas for which they would like to have assistance.

**Security Council

B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, will discuss recent political developments with the Security Council in closed consultations at 3 this afternoon.  Among other things, he will talk about the Secretary-General’s recent phone calls concerning Libya.

In the morning, the Security Council has been holding consultations on Lebanon, including on the work of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

**Secretary-General in Denver

The Secretary-General will travel to Denver, Colorado, on Wednesday, 24 August, for a one-day visit.

While in Denver, the Secretary-General will deliver a keynote speech at the fourteenth annual Korbel Dinner hosted by the Josef Korbel School of International Studies of the University of Denver.  The Secretary-General will also receive the University’s Global Advancement Award in recognition of his efforts to strengthen the United Nations, empower women and promote sustainable development.

As part of his focus on climate change, the Secretary-General will meet with various leaders of the energy industry, including those involved in wind, solar and natural gas, to discuss sustainable energy for both the developed and developing world.  The Secretary-General will also tour the United States Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, the United States’ only federal laboratory dedicated to the research, development, commercialization and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

The Secretary-General has truncated his programme in view of pressing developments on Libya and will, therefore, return to New York on Thursday, 25 August.

**Horn of Africa

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has sent an emergency team to the Gode area of Ethiopia to respond to an influx of some 18,000 new Somali refugees.

The agency says that saving lives among this badly weakened population is a priority.  It stressed that it is critically important that new arrivals receive food, water and medical attention.

It is also concerned about the high death rate at the Kobe camp in south-east Ethiopia, which is home to 25,000 people.  Measles is suspected to be a major cause of death, and the high prevalence of acute malnutrition and poor hygiene practices are compounding the problem.

In Somalia, the distribution of relief supplies continues in the capital, Mogadishu, and in the country’s south.  In June and July alone, the Agency’s aid distributions within Somalia have tripled, reaching more than 180,000 people.

Meanwhile, in Kenya, the agency continues to relocate refugees from the outskirts of the Dadaab refugee complex to new sites.  Dadaab shelters some 440,000 refugees, with 1,200 new arrivals from Somalia daily.

**Deputy Secretary-General

The Deputy Secretary-General will depart this evening for Addis Ababa, where she will lead the UN delegation at the African Union-led Pledging Conference on the Horn of Africa scheduled for Thursday.

On Friday, she will attend the meeting being convened by the African Union on the situation in Libya and then return to New York on Saturday.

** Afghanistan

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, has welcomed the Independent Election Commission’s (IEC) decision regarding the membership of the country’s Lower House of Parliament.

This decision marks the end of a long impasse.

Mr. de Mistura also recognized the decision of President [Hamid] Karzai to leave the electoral commission with the sole authority to finalize results, so as to seek a conclusion to the 2010 parliamentary elections.

The Mission says it remains fully committed to supporting the Afghan people and their democratic institutions.

**Human Rights Council

And the Human Rights Council today decided to dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry to Syria to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since this March.

The commission would also, where possible, identify those responsible to ensure that those who have committed violations — including possible crimes against humanity — are held accountable.

In a resolution, the Council also strongly condemned the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, calling for an immediate end to all violence in the country.

It urged an inclusive, credible and genuine national dialogue, conducted in an environment without fear and intimidation, with the aim of addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian population.

That’s it from me.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  On Libya, the humanitarian situation is getting to be very critical in some parts of the country, especially in terms of food and medicine.  I know you have said that there will be a planning meeting for post-conflict building of the country, but what is the UN doing urgently to relieve the humanitarian situation?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We are trying to help the humanitarian situation where possible.  Poor security conditions at the port in the Libyan capital will delay the docking of a boat that was chartered by the International Organization for Migration, which had been due to arrive later today.  The boat was to carry out an initial evacuation of 300 migrants stranded in the city by the violence.  The International Organization for Migration will maintain a ship off the coast of Tripoli until security conditions have improved and the safety of staff and migrants can be guaranteed.

Beyond that, the Secretary-General did discuss a number of issues, including humanitarian issues by telephone with Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council of Libya, and we’ll try to have a readout of that phone call for you shortly.  Yes?  [See first item of this briefing above.]

Question:  I just want to know on what authority does Mr. [Luis Moreno] Ocampo issue this statement every now and then, this erroneous information that he has that [Muammar al-] Qadhafi’s sons are, have been arrested, have been picked up and then it turns out it was not true.  I mean, I am sure these people will be eventually arrested, but why is he feeding the wrong, erroneous information?  How does he verify his information?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the International Criminal Court is an independent judicial body, and we don’t speak for the International Criminal Court or for its Prosecutor.  You need to speak to Mr. Moreno Ocampo’s spokespeople.

Question:  Yeah, but this was put on your website, with the Secretary-General’s statement that he made on Libya yesterday morning.  It was put on along with that.  So obviously, you accept that information; that’s why it was put on your website.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We are aware of the information from the Criminal Court, but it is independent of us.  We don’t speak for Mr. Moreno Ocampo, who is, as you know, the Prosecutor and would need to explain what his sources of information were.  I am not aware of it.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Masood just mentioned the Ocampo case, sort of, that he was so sure that those two individuals were arrested, but during all these media reports that the sons of Qadhafi were arrested or apprehended, whatever, did you in the United Nations have some independent or whatever information that they were really arrested?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we did not have any independent first-hand verification.  And as you know, the Secretary-General did not touch on that topic when he spoke to you about this yesterday.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask about Syria, Libya and Sudan.  On Syria, you’d said yesterday that the UN mission, the assessment team was in Homs and that, and that they didn’t fall under fire, but something took place.  And it has since been reported by groups there that somewhere, either 7 or 10 people were actually killed when the Government fired into the crowd that had assembled to meet the UN team.  I wanted to know if that’s the UN’s understanding and what the UN has to say about that.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, we do understand that it was reported that people were killed and injured in protests in Homs yesterday.  That is not something that involved the mission directly.  As we pointed out yesterday, a protest situation developed in Homs, and the mission was advised to leave for security reasons.  And then afterwards, we learned of the information of people being killed and injured in the protests.

Question:  Just, I mean, because, what they are saying is that people assembled to greet the UN with this sign saying “SOS”, like “save us”, and that after the UN left, then the Government fired into the crowd.  So, it’s, obviously it’s not, I am just saying:  is it really a protest or is it people that assembled to sort of try to get their information to the UN, they were in turn shot by the Government?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Like I said, there was a protest situation that had developed.  It’s clear that people were concerned about their lives and their safety, but beyond that, like I said, the violence that occurred was not witnessed directly by the United Nations.  Now, I do actually have…

Question:  Did they see that?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Hold on just one second.  No, no, they did not witness that directly, no.  I do have, like I had promised to you earlier, a readout of the Secretary-General’s phone call with Mr. Mustafa Abdel-Jalil.

[See first item above.]

Question:  This statement doesn’t say anything about what I asked, which is the humanitarian, critical situation in some parts of Libya.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  And we are aware of the critical humanitarian situation.  The humanitarian situation was part of what was discussed with all the various world leaders that the Secretary-General has been speaking to in recent days.  And I believe it will also come up when Mr. Pascoe speaks to the Security Council at 3 p.m. this afternoon.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, did you announce the postponement of the [Geoffrey] Palmer report?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  It’s not a question of postponement.  We had not set a date, as you know.  We had said late August, and this is what we are continuing to say.  Beyond that, as I mentioned yesterday, the panel has yet to come to a consensus and the Secretary-General hopes that they will work to achieve a consensus on the text.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask on, on Libya, I am just wondering, there is, there was a, there is an article in the Dartmouth University paper about Mr. [Dirk] Vandewalle, talking about, saying that what he did for the UN was to synthesize a 70-page report to a single 30-page report and a three-page executive summary for the Secretary-General.  And then he seems to speak about what these documents said to his students.  And I am just wondering, is there any way that, that, that, that, that, that these documents… are they UN documents, can we see these documents, where are these documents?  Is it, if, one, is that the case, is that the work that he did for the UN?  And two, what do those documents say?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t comment on the work that he did as a consultant.  As you know, Dirk Vandewalle is a consultant working with Ian Martin’s team on post-conflict planning.  And that team is preparing ideas for what the post-conflict situation will be.  Those are not in any way public documents, but they will feed into the sort of discussions we have in the coming days and weeks about the future of Libya.  And like I said, Ian Martin, as you know, is travelling right now.  But we are hopeful that he or his team can talk to the press, possibly even on background, once those travels have ended.

Question:  Not to put, can I just ask one follow-up on that?  Because, I guess what I am wondering is if, I mean, again, it’s not, I just would like to see them, but if he is describing them to non-UN personnel, is he in some way barred from, if he did this work for the UN, if it’s actually being made public elsewhere, why would the UN not release it?  That’s what I don’t understand.  If it was created for the UN and presumably for its Member States, I thought, are you giving it to the Member States?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, what we would give to the Member States is the final documents, and as you know, all documents go through a process of editing and approval, and so forth.  If there is information that we are going to share with Member States, we will share it at that point.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  You indicated earlier that the Human Rights Council has decided to dispatch a commission to Syria.  Has President [Bashar al-] Assad assured the High Commissioner of full and unimpeded access to all parts of Syria?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We have not received that assurance for either this Human Rights Council-mandated body or for the delegation that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has been trying to send in recent months. We continue to want access for those bodies.

Question:  Has the Commissioner spoken to President Assad?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not aware of any phone calls between Ms. [Navi] Pillay and President Assad.  As you know, the Secretary-General spoke with President Assad most recently last week.  Erol?

Question:  Farhan, where is now the commission in Syria?  Where, right now?  And would they have been able to get the information immediately, for example, from yesterday’s event where people were shot on?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I do have a few details about their recent travels.  In Talkalakh, the mission visited a Government hospital and met with the Director.  The mission then moved on to Naniyas, where they visited a local school, walked down the main shopping street and went on to Baniyas.  The mission was able to talk to many local people.  And the mission is also scheduled to visit Latakia, Aleppo and Hama.  Yes?

Question:  Who is organizing that trip for them?  Who is saying to them, you are going to see these or there?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, the mission had asked for access to various sites.  And as you know, this was something that the Secretary-General had discussed with President Assad; the ability to visit sites around the country.  The mission is led by Rashid Khalikov from our office, from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva.  Yes?

Question:  You didn’t say, you didn’t answer:  would they have been able to immediately pick up the information of the suffering of the people as it has happened yesterday?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: You mean in the situation in Homs?

Question:  Yes.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  They had received some reports early on about potential deaths.  Of course, they then tried to get further information as that progressed.  Yes?

Question:  A follow-up on Erol’s question.  What is the composition of that mission?  How many members compose it and can you list their names?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t list all their names.  Like I said, the team is led by Rashid Khalikov, it also includes the Resident Coordinator and it basically comprises UN humanitarian personnel, including those who had already been in-country.  Yes?

Question:  I have some Sudan questions.  One is, there is a report out today by the Rift Valley Institute going back into the South Kordofan elections that were held, that, I know it was a little, at least I didn’t understand the distinction, but that the UN welcomed the election but not the result.  This new detailed analysis is saying that Ahmed Haroun didn’t win, stole the election and that’s one of the roots of the problems there.  And I just wonder since the UN sort of opined or at least welcomed the elections if not the results, what do they think of this study? Do they, do they think, it seems like, what do they think of it?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  They welcomed the holding of the elections; we never commented on the result.  We had no favoured result, one way or the other.  And you are aware of course of the long-standing indictment against Ahmed Haroun.  But we welcomed the peaceful holding of the election at that time.  That’s what, that’s where we had stood.

Question:  But does the UN see it, I mean, has anyone, I guess, has anyone is still, if there was still an UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan], I guess they may want to have a comment on this, but is there anyone now monitoring that including Mr. [Haile] Menkerios as the political…?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  As you know, the mandate of the UN Mission in Sudan has expired.  If Mr. Menkerios has anything further to say about that, we will let you know if he has said that.  But he has not commented on this particular case.  Yes?

Question:  Still on Libya, several countries have now recognized the NTC — the National Transition Council.  Do you have their numbers, the total number of countries that have recognized them?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we wouldn’t be tabulating those numbers, no.  Yes?

Question:  A Darfur question; another from the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, put out a detailed account how in Darfur, in Nyala two — a Fur and a Masalit — political activists that were released by local courts were in turn arrested by national intelligence of Sudan.  So I am wondering, I know that yesterday you told me, ask UNAMID [United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur], and I want to tell you that I sent three questions to UNAMID and thus far have no answers.  So I am asking you, since there is a billion-dollar peacekeeping mission there, what does UNAMID think of this account by a respected NGO that civilian protesters in Darfur are being arrested and detained by the Government?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, again, that’s a question for UNAMID.  I think you’d have to follow up and get the facts.  I know some of these things are local media reports you’ve been following up on and we’d need to get those verified.  Yes?

Question:  I just want to know, in view of the recent events that happened, I mean, there are reports that probably, has Tripoli fallen?  Will the United Nations be able to pronounce that Tripoli has fallen to the rebels?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We haven’t made any such declaration.  But I’d just refer you to what the Secretary-General said in his press encounter yesterday.  Yes?

Question:  I would like to refer you back to my question and to your answer that the UN doesn’t compile the number of countries that recognize the NTC.  This is a political question, and why wouldn’t an organ such as the Department of Political Affairs do that?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I am sure they would keep track of that number, but it’s not our role to give out any authoritative number of these recognitions.  That’s simply not one of the things for which we would be asked to put out — the authoritative number.  You can, of course, always ask the National Transitional Council themselves how many countries have given them recognition.

Have a good afternoon, everyone.

* *** *

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