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

2 September 2011

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

2 September 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the Noon Briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

First item on the agenda, Secretary-General’s travel.  The Secretary-General is en route to the Pacific to attend the Summit meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Auckland, New Zealand.

But first, the Secretary-General is scheduled to arrive in Australia tonight and meet with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and brief them on his current UN initiatives in the areas of international security and climate change, as well as on the discussions he had with world leaders in Paris yesterday at the International Conference for the Support of the New Libya.

He will then visit Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, on Saturday, where he will meet with Prime Minister Danny Philip.

Next, he heads to the Republic of Kiribati, where he will speak to local communities of this low-lying island affected by rising sea levels.  He is also expected to meet with President Anote Tong.

In New Zealand, the Secretary-General will meet with leaders of Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) member States, including New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, as well as Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

Thereafter, the Secretary-General will return to Australia.  During his stay, he will address students at the University of Sydney and visit a training facility for international peacekeepers in the nation’s capital.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed Hervé Ladsous of France as Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.  Mr. Ladsous will replace Alain Le Roy.  The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Le Roy’s dedicated service to the United Nations and for his able leadership of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations during a very challenging period.

As a seasoned diplomat, Mr. Ladsous brings to the position an extensive experience in the diplomatic field acquired during his service in a variety of countries.  He also brings to the position an acute political judgement, strong crisis-management capacities, especially in the area of peacekeeping, a profound understanding of the challenges facing the United Nations.  We have his full biography in the office.

** Libya

On Libya, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya arrived in the capital, Tripoli, yesterday with an inter-agency team to re-establish the Organization’s presence there.

Panos Moumtzis said that the humanitarian situation remains fragile, stressing that it is critical to ensure an immediate and effective UN presence on the ground to assist vulnerable people who have been affected by the conflict and by the disruption of services.  His team will help respond to water shortages in Tripoli and in the surrounding areas.

For its part, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has delivered an additional 500,000 litres of bottled water, enough for 24,000 people, to the capital.  An additional 3 million litres is expected to arrive this weekend to cover 85,000 people for at least one week.

**Horn of Africa

On the Horn of Africa, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that it is very concerned about the increasingly poor health of Somalis recently arriving in Ethiopia.  Nearly one fifth of all children at the Kobe camp are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, while high rates are also being reported at other sites.  An inter-agency task force has agreed to increase food distribution points in the camps, to open additional nutritional feeding centres and to ensure that malnourished refugees receive supplementary food.

In Kenya, the new school term begins on Monday, 5 September, with 40,000 children at the Dadaab refugee camp preparing to go to school, many for the first time.  The influx of more than 150,000 new refugees from Somalia this year — half of whom are children — has added to the already pressing needs at the camp, the agency says.  Currently, there is only one teacher for every 100 pupils for the 156,000 school-age children at Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee complex.

** Bolivia

With respect to Bolivia, the High Commissioner for Human Rights today welcomed a historic decision by Bolivia’s top court to convict two former ministers and five senior military officers for their involvement in the deaths of dozens of people during anti-government demonstrations in 2003.

Nearly 70 people died and more than 400 were injured when soldiers repeatedly fired on crowds demonstrating against a Government plan to build a gas pipeline near the Bolivian capital, La Paz.  Navi Pillay today described the convictions by the Bolivian Supreme Court as a very healthy trend towards combating long-standing impunity in Latin America.  There is more information on the website of the UN Human Rights Office.

**Press Conference

At 12:30 p.m. today here in the Auditorium, Ambassador Nawaf Salam, Permanent Representative of Lebanon and President of the Security Council for the month of September, will brief on the programme of work of the Council this month.

That’s all from me, over to you.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you.  My first question is that, actually we were told by the Spokesperson’s Office that the Secretary-General was going to have a statement on the flotilla report, and we haven’t heard about the flotilla report.  Has the report been submitted to the Secretary-General officially?  That’s my first question.  And my second question is that, are the views in the report the commission’s report… commission’s views, or are they actually the wider UN system’s views?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The report will shortly be issued; it was received in the Secretary-General’s Office this morning.  As you know, I read before, he is travelling.  So we are waiting for him to authorize the release of the report.  And it will be accompanied by a statement that should be self-explanatory.  With respect to the report itself, it is a Palmer Commission report, it is the report of the commissioners who analysed the situation.  And I’ll leave it at that until the Secretary-General’s statement comes out.

[The following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General was later issued:

The Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident, which was an independent body established in August last year, submitted its report to the Secretary-General this morning.  The report is now available on the United Nations website.

The Secretary-General expresses his gratitude to the members of the Panel for their hard work and to the parties for their full cooperation with the Panel.]

Question:  Thank you very much.  I’d like to ask you about Libya.  At the international conference yesterday in Paris, the Secretary-General emphasized five areas, five important areas of cooperation or assistance for Libya, like inclusive political dialogue, extending State authority.  And also, he made a briefing on 30 August in which he also emphasized five areas of importance.  But at that time he mentioned public order and security, while at yesterday’s meeting he did not mention it.  So, was there any reason why he did not mention it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, it is an evolving situation.  As you know, the meeting in Paris took place with the National Transitional Council, it was an opportunity for global leaders and the National Transitional Council to exchange views, and for the National Transitional Council to express its needs over the longer term and the shorter term.  So I think in that sense we have to realize we’re talking about a moving target.  And as development as occur, issues will change and new issues will arise, old issues will fall by the way side.

Question:  On Haiti, I am just wondering exactly, on accusations against Uruguayan peacekeepers, whether the UN is planning on investigating and, if so, when that will take place, how long it will take, who will be investigating?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the UN is investigating.  Of course we take these allegations very seriously.  We have launched an internal investigation to find out what is happening, or what has happened with the case of abuse by the members of the military in Port-Salut.  We are following it very closely from New York.  As you know, given the status-of-forces agreement, it is the responsibility of the sending country to do an official investigation and take whatever sanctions are considered necessary.

Question:  [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesperson:  One second, I’m sorry…

Question:  With all due respect, you didn’t tell me whether this report expressed the commission’s views or the UN’s views.  What… what’s the difference there?  I mean, is the UN system going to own this report and are these views going to be the UN’s views or are they going to just stay there as the commission’s views?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I would wait till we have the Secretary-General’s statement this afternoon.  Yes, you?

Question:  Okay.  I’d like to ask a question about this report that has been, now, since last two days that at the Indian-Pakistani border there has been clashes, three Pakistani soldiers have been killed by the Indian forces in the border of Kashmir and Pakistan, which you know has been part of this whole thing for a very long time.  Now, there is a United Nations presence over there in the occupied Kashmir area which is called UNMOGIP [United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan].  Do you have any report from them as to what has happened, why these people were killed and which the Pakistanis claim were patrolling and were killed by the Indian forces?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We are still in the process of investigating it, and when we have something to announced, we will announce it.

Question:  May I follow up on…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  My colleague talked about the presence of UNMOGIP.  This is a 40‑member observer group.  We hear about the activities of all UN peacekeeping forces except UNMOGIP.  Why is that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, that is a question I will have to explore for you and get back to you on it.  As you know, I am brand new here, so I am in the process of asking questions and exploring myself.  So if and when we have a response, I will be very glad to report it to you.

Question:  Thank you.  Will there be any legal implications for the flotilla report, vis-à-vis international law?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you have to take a look and see what the Secretary-General’s statement says this afternoon and we’ll take it from there.  Right now, I cannot prejudge what was in the report, because I myself personally have not seen it.  So, we’ll see what happens this afternoon with the statement from the Secretary-General.

Question:  I understand you are new here, but maybe you have a fresh look at the whole thing, and fresh perspective.  Does it look for you as normal that a UN report gets published everywhere and everybody has seen it and knows the contents and it has been reported on and reaction, official reaction from the Turkish Government and other parties on it, and the UN is yet to speak on it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we cannot comment on a report until it is received, and to the best of my information the report was received this morning in the Office of the Secretary-General.  And we do not comment on leaked reports. So…

Question:  I understand that [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesperson:  …what has occurred in the media that the reports were leaked obviously, and we have to wait for the report to be officially submitted.

Question:  I am sure the report is finished for months, it’s not like it just finished this week and the SG has no knowledge of what it includes.  Everybody more or less knows that the SG knows what is in it and it’s finished for months and there have been efforts for the two Governments to talk and see… to talks here and there, including New York between the adviser of Netanyahu and the Deputy Minister, Foreign Minister of Turkey under the auspices of the United States.  There have been efforts to patch the gap between the two and keep the report from being made public.  But it’s not that it just finished this week and the UN doesn’t know the content.  But now that everybody is making comments and official comments by Turkey and the withdrawing their Ambassador from Tel Aviv, there are repercussions built on that report.  By the way, the report’s… people already said that it is not legally binding, because it is not legal or the fact as it is because they only depended on facts… or not facts, information supplied by the two parties and they were not allowed to question people nor request documents even.  So isn’t it odd that the United Nations is the last one to comment on such a report?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, it’s not odd, because the United Nations comments on a report when it receives it officially.  Before we receive it officially, there is not an official report, consequently we cannot comment.  Richard?

Question:  I have two points.  One a question, one following up on my colleague here.  For lay people who are not as familiar with the issue, I wonder, especially for television purposes, if you can explain the significance of the report, not the UN comment on the report, the significance of this long-awaited report.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the significance of the report is that it will bring to light the views of the four commissioners.  We have seen the reports in the media, I am not going to comment on them.  But, the important thing is that these four commissioners have had an opportunity to explore the situation and come up with their own interpretation of what happened and their own recommendations.

Question:  What was their role in terms of trying to perhaps provide an impetus for reconciliation over this matter?  Not many reports have that, but that was clearly in the many delays there were other reasons for perhaps hoping that there… some good could come out of this, in a way?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the objective of the UN always is to espouse dialogue and to encourage different parties to come together and have a meeting of the minds.  So I would not be surprised if part of the process dealt with an intent to resolve the outstanding situations.  But, we will have to wait to see what the report says officially before we make any comment on it.

Question:  And now following up on Talal, you’re new and for the future… and I am not talking to you — and unfortunately the people are on the plane who should hear this — I am talking to the camera or absent other people, but the pattern of report release has deteriorated so much over the years, you would almost think the UN… it’s a negative approach.  There is no other organization that would do this.  Nobody who prepares reports are now, ever, really made available to the media to explain.  Thus, an organization and the Secretary-General that tries to talk about transparency, it is the exact opposite.  So people are made to guess and then the UN looks so out of touch or atrocious, or maybe it’s on purpose in this case, to have other people commenting on a report that’s out when it is their report.  You know full well the people upstairs that leaks are just one phone call, one document under a doorway, whether it was the Pakistan report or others, they are put out late in the day, usually on a Friday, but nobody is available.  There is not even a background briefing.  And these are reports that are sometimes highly touted by the Secretary-General, and a big hoopla is made when they are announced.  But it is the weirdest thing, it’s a big celebration at the beginning and then the important part — the conclusions — it’s hide and go seek.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I will take that message onwards and upwards.

Question:  I just would like to follow up, please.  I mean, you said that one of the reasons for the report is to bring people together.  We already… the report isn’t, according to you, not even officially been handed out to the Secretary-General.  We have the reaction of the — negative reaction — from the Turkish by pulling their Ambassador.  So that the whole… if that’s an objective of the report, it has already failed.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I can’t comment on the report until it is issued officially this afternoon.  What I can tell you is that the intention of the UN is always to bring people together, try and find common ground for conversation.

Question:  [inaudible] an official reaction of Turkey pulling their ambassador from Tel Aviv is already failed, if that’s the purpose of that report.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, it is one of the purposes.  The main purpose, obviously, was to find out, or try and find and ascertain the facts on the ground as to what happened.  Yes?

Question:  What do you call Turkey and Israel now [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m sorry?

Question:  What do you call the Israel and in light of this report, what do you call on Israel and Turkey to do now?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we have to wait and see what the report says and see what the Secretary-General’s statement reflects.  That will be our response.

Question:  So does the Secretary-General consider that the maritime blockade on Gaza is a legal blockade?  What is his position on the maritime?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We have to wait and see what the statement says this afternoon.

Question:  Yeah, I mean, I am not talking about the report [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the United Nations’ position on the blockade has always been that the blockade should be lifted.  And it has always been that organizations who want to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza should use the established routes.  That’s been the traditional UN position, that hasn’t changed.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  I’m sorry to… I just want to ask you a question about Sudan.  There is a report now of fighting in Blue Nile State, that the Government has bombed the Governor’s, that the Government in Khartoum has bombed the Governor of Blue Nile State’s house and that the state over which the UN has some you know, historic… Because of the CPA, duty is taking place.  What’s the response of the UN?  Is the UN aware of it?  Does it have any comment on this expansion of the fighting in Sudan?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we are aware of the reports, and I’ll have to look into it and get back to you on what our response is.

Question:  Okay.  I wanted to, because also yesterday on this Benin peacekeeper thing…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  …you said that… did you get any response from DPKO on what is actually taking place with the Béninois peacekeepers that were [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, we sent a note verbale, and we have not had a reply yet.  So we are waiting for a reply from the Béninois to let us know what is going on.

Question:  One more question?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m sorry, we have another question over here.  No?

Question:  One more, it’s following my colleague’s question.  The report actually says that the blockade, maritime blockade in international waters, is legal.  This is the first time where the… a UN commission or a UN side, we would say… say that.  Is… how… how can you, you know… I mean, how can they say that blockade in international waters is legal?  What is the basis for that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, that is the Palmer Commission’s conclusion.  As I said before, if that is the conclusion — and we haven’t, I haven’t seen he report yet — if that is the conclusion, then the Secretary-General will have a statement that accompanies a report and that probably will be addressed.  If not, you can ask the question later on.

Question:  Do you swear you haven’t seen he report?  [laughter]

Deputy Spokesperson:  On my honour.  [laughter]

Question:  And you just said, that was the conclusion, and you said it wasn’t, but…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, yes, we’re being dragged into semantics here.  I mean, we’ve all seen the reports in the media, but I am not going to go any further than that.  Yes, sir?  No, back, in the back, please.  I’m sorry.  Yes?

Question:  You mentioned several times the Secretary-General’s statement to be given this afternoon.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Forgive me, I didn’t get any particular notice about this.  Is this a statement to be released by your Office or is he going to speak to us?  I have had nothing from MALU on this.

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, no, it’s a statement that is going to be released along when the report is released also.  So, it will be accompanying the report.

Question:  What time is…?

Question:  Will we have copies of the report available to us?

Deputy Spokesperson:  When it is released, yes, it will be posted online.

Question:  What time is he landing in Australia [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Some time soon, I don’t have the exact…

Question:  …is that what we are waiting for?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have the exact time with the logistics.

Question:  Do you have any comment to this report, in a television channel report, that the United States Ambassador has protested that United Nations has given 3 per cent, or 3 per cent or more, I mean, increase in salaries to all the UN employees and that they have been, that protest has been lodged.  Do you have any reaction to that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  That question was asked on Tuesday and the response is the same.  The decisions to increase salaries of civil servants are not taken by the Secretary-General, they are taken by the International Civil Service Commission.  Therefore, it is not the Secretariat’s decision, it is the International Civil Service Commission’s, of which Member States are all members.  That’s the only comment I can give you.  Yes?

Question:  [inaudible] the Secretary-General gotten the OCHA report on Syria.  There should be a report because there was a valuation team from OCHA in Syria.  Has he gotten anything from there?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I will check on that and we’ll get back to you.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that no external report was issued after the Syria mission.  However, as usual, all parts of the system, including the Secretary-General, were informed about the mission findings.]

Question:  Sure, two things quickly.  One is on Madagascar.  The press there is reporting that the de facto Prime Minister, Mr. Vital, met with Ban Ki-moon in New York about things, and since there is… it’s kind of a controversy that it’s still a coup-like country… is that, I had asked Monday by e-mail, but I don’t have an answer.  Did Ban Ki-moon meet with this de facto Prime Minister of Madagascar?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to check and get back to you on that.

Question:  And can I ask one thing… I want… on this announcement of Mr. Ladsous, and I understand you are putting out his CV, I just… since the other candidates that had been named in the process was a Mr. Chevalier, Bonnafont, what would you say… and what would you say to those who would say basically this is a post that was… is devoted entirely based on nationality and basically saying to France, give us a person.  Is that… is that correct or can you provide another description of the process for choosing a [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, it was a very open, professional process.  And this selection was made on the basis of competence.  And I can tell you as somebody who has gone through the process very recently, it is a very open and competitive process and it is a very transparent process.  So I don’t have any doubts about that.

Question:  But in a sense, I mean… I understand, I mean… and I am not saying at your level, I am saying for this DPKO P’s…

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, for this DPKO position…

Question:  [inaudible] were not French?

Deputy Spokesperson:  There are five, there were candidates from a number of Member States, and the selection was made of the best candidate.  One last question?

Question:  We all remember that this report on the flotilla was requested actually by the Security Council presidential statement.  It wasn’t a Secretariat initiated effort.  And hence, my question to you is, will the Secretariat deliver it now back to the Council to discuss it, since it was initiated and requested by the Council through a presidential statement?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we will have to take that decision once the Secretary-General has seen the report and once he has had a chance to decide on further steps.

Question:  But isn’t that the normal… the Security Council once a report will, is given a report…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Quite frankly, I cannot tell you what the norm is, but we will try and find out and get back to you on it.

Correspondent:  All right.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Thank you so much.  The Ambassador of Lebanon, the President of the Security Council will be with us shortly.  Have a good weekend, good long weekend and a safe one everybody. Thank you.

* *** *

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