Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

14 November 2011

Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

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

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

and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Nihal Saad, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.

Immediately after my briefing, Nihal Saad, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will be here to brief you.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General arrived in Bangladesh yesterday evening.  This morning, he met with the Foreign Minister and senior Government officials before opening the Climate Vulnerable Forum with the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina.

He told participants that climate change is a global problem requiring a global solution.  We are in the middle of a serious economic crisis, he said.  But even in these difficult times, we cannot afford delay.

Later, he held a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister and they jointly inaugurated the “One Stop Service Centre”, an e-governance initiative.  He said at that event that Digital Bangladesh is becoming a reality, adding that modern electronic systems have replaced century-old, heavily bureaucratic manual administrative practices.

The Secretary-General also met with Khaleda Zia, the Leader of the Opposition, and he also visited the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research.

**Security Council

This morning the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa, Abou Moussa, briefed the Security Council on the situation in the region.  He also delivered the Secretary-General’s report on areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army and on the activities of the United Nations Office for Central Africa (UNOCA).

Mr. Moussa reported that the establishment of UNOCA underscored the willingness of Central African leaders to find appropriate solutions to the conflicts that have affected a number of countries in the subregion in the past.

He identified a number of key challenges facing the subregion, including cross-border security and the activities of armed groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, the circulation of small arms and light weapons, and drugs and human trafficking.  He also noted that piracy in the region remains of great concern.

This afternoon the Council will meet in closed consultations on Myanmar.

** Middle East Quartet

Quartet Envoys and Quartet Representative Tony Blair met separately in Jerusalem today with representatives of the parties.  Those meetings followed up on the Quartet statement from 23 September and the meetings from 26 October.

Envoys continued to encourage the parties to resume direct bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions.  They discussed with the parties their development of proposals on territory and security in the context of the shared commitment to direct talks on the basis of the Quartet statement of 23 September.  Envoys called upon the parties to create a conducive environment for restarting talks, and urged the parties to refrain from provocative actions. 

Envoys will remain in close contact with each other and the parties, and intend to have a follow-up meeting in December.

** Lebanon

Robert Watkins, the Acting Special Coordinator for Lebanon, met with the Lebanese Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, today.  He noted the overall stability in southern Lebanon in recent weeks, as well as progress in marking the Blue Line.

At the same time, he expressed concern about the security of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  And he also voiced concern about border-management issues, particularly on the border with Syria, where a number of incursions of the Syrian military into Lebanese territory have been noted.

His remarks to the press following his meeting with the Prime Minister are available online.

I am happy to take questions before handing over to Nihal.  Yes, Sylviane?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Do you know when the report, 1701 report, will be released and if Mr. Robert [Serry] will be coming?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I understand it, from what Mr. Watkins said after speaking to… after meeting the Prime Minister and then when meeting journalists earlier today, he said that the report is going to be sent off to the Security Council tomorrow, and will be discussed at the Council on 29 November.

Question:  Will he be coming to discuss it, present it to the Security Council?

Spokesperson:  I’d need to check on that; I’d need to check on that.

Correspondent:  Thank you, Martin.

Spokesperson:  Okay, other questions?  Yes?

Question:  Martin, what does the Secretary-General mean by saying that the UN is willing to support the Arab League with a protection mechanism in Syria?  What does that mean?

Spokesperson:  Well, no, what he said is he welcomes the League’s intention to provide protection for the civilians, and expresses his readiness to provide the relevant support when requested.  So, we need to figure out what, if anything, is requested.

Question:  What does that mean, “relevant support” for, I mean he is offering something vis-à-vis a mechanism that is announced by the Arab League, but not spelled out, but the Secretary-General offers…?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think that’s why it says “relevant support when requested”, in other words, we need to understand what the request says, if a request is forthcoming.  But at this point, I don’t have any further details.  And I think that may well be because we have not yet had anything formal.  But let’s wait and see.

Question:  So the SG offered support for the concept without spelling out what’s in it?

Spokesperson:  No, his readiness to provide the relevant support when requested.  So, he needs to understand, to be provided with the request and at that point we’d be able to respond further.

Question:  And another question about what you just said about Mr. Watkins regarding the incursions into Lebanon from Syria.  Did the UN… I mean, are you requesting anything in particular from the Lebanese authorities that they must do that is causing you worry, that probably is also part of the protection-of-civilians concept?

Spokesperson:  Well, I’d simply refer you to what Mr. Watkins said, which was “we are very concerned about these developments”, meaning incursions of the Syrian military into Lebanese territory.  “We are very concerned about these developments and what this implies about the lack of control that the Lebanese Government has over the borders with Syria, and how important it is for those borders to be demarcated so that there is clarity about this issue”.  So that’s quoting from Mr. Watkins speaking to journalists earlier today in Lebanon after his meeting with the Prime Minister.

Question:  One last follow-up on that.  So the demarcation would be taking quite a long time, I suppose, in order to get there?  Are there any sort of transitional measures that the United Nations wishes to see in protection of the civilians until the borders are demarcated?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything beyond what Mr. Watkins said this morning, and I’d refer you to what he said to journalists there.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Martin, did Mr. Watkins receive any complaints from the Lebanese Government on the situation on the border, the Syrian border?

Spokesperson:  You’d have to check with the Lebanese authorities.  I think if you take a look at his remarks to the journalists in Lebanon, then I think that speaks for itself.  If you want to find out what the Lebanese authorities said, then you should ask them.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Martin, this is a question that I have been asking earlier.

Spokesperson:  Say again?

Question:  I said this is a follow-up on a question that I have asked earlier on which I had received no answer.  I mean, this is about these graves that have been found in India, in Kashmir, of the people who were buried in… following the movement of 2008 and then the 1990s so-called struggle in [inaudible], in the occupied territories.  Now the human rights group has called upon the Secretary-General to hold an investigation.  Has the Secretary-General received such a report?  And has he received such a request to hold an investigation about these mass grav… of graves?

Spokesperson:  Let me check.  I am not aware that the Secretary-General has received a request of that kind.  I’d need to look.  I don’t know.

Question:  Okay, so at this point in time you don’t have any…?

Spokesperson:  As I said, I’d need to check.  I am not aware of the Secretary-General or his Office receiving a request at this point.  That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t, but I am not aware of it.  I’d need to check.  Yes?

Question:  Does the Secretary-General believe the time is right for the Security Council to take up the Syria issue again, given the Arab League’s decision?

Spokesperson:  This is really for the Council to decide.  The Secretary-General, as you saw, has issued a statement at the weekend, or rather, through me, saying that this is a strong and courageous stance.  It’s really for the Council to decide what matters they take up, and when and how.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you about this, it’s reported in Bangladesh that the Secretary-General met with this Khaleda Zia, the opposition leader, and her readout of the meeting is that they discussed that the scrapping of the non-party Government has led to a default in… a deficit in democracy, asking for UN help and about this international crimes tribunal they’re setting up.  So, I wondered, what did the Secretary-General have to say to the opposition leader on the idea of democracy being going down in Bangladesh?  What’s the UN’s role?

Spokesperson:  It wasn’t just reported in Bangladesh, I just read it out, Matthew, so it is reported here in New York as well.

Question:  So what is the UN going to actually do?

Spokesperson:  So I think what we’ll see is a readout a little later, but I don’t have it now.  Yes?

Question:  I wanted to ask you also, the Kenyan Government has been calling for a blockade of Kismayo, a port in Somalia, saying that since Al-Shabaab gets much of its income from this port that it should be blockaded.  And I wondered since it is a pretty extreme request to blockade a town where people live, what do Mr. Mahiga or the Secretary-General have to… what do they think of this idea of blockading Kismayo?

Spokesperson:  I’d have to check, I don’t have anything on that, Matthew.

Question:  And I wanted also to ask you about the WFP; there is this upcoming election or possible reappointment of Ms. Sheeran.  I had asked you, I think a couple of weeks ago about, she appointed this Mr. de Silva - who was a UN official in Iraq at the time of the Canal Hotel bombing, of whom Kofi Annan’s Spokesmen said he will never work in security again in the UN system - as her Chief of Operations, and many people, including staff of WFP and others, have said now he is in charge of, or working in security for WFP, so what is the follow-through from the Secretariat side on that?

Spokesperson:  Well, what I can tell you is that WFP’s new Director of Field Security Division is Stephen Gluning, who reports to the Director of Policy Planning and Strategy Division and Special Adviser to the Executive Director, Manuel Eranda da Silva.  And Manuel Eranda da Silva has been one of the key leaders in recent UN security reforms, and is recognized as one of the most experienced UN leaders in security matters.  And this is what I have from WFP.

Question:  Can I… I mean, I think I’d provide you with a date, there was one of these briefings before both of us were here…

Spokesperson:  I am fully aware of…

Question:  …and Fred Eckhard said he will never work again, so what happened?

Spokesperson:  Yeah, I remember what you said…

Correspondent:  Sure.

Spokesperson:  …and this is what I have, okay?

Question:  So it means… I guess my question is, is there… are things said under one Secretary-General not carried through under another one?  Or was there some repeal of that statement?  What happened?

Spokesperson:  As I have just said, the new Director of Field Security Division is Stephen Gluning.  Any other questions?  Yes?

Question: The UN Envoy Benomar is in the region right now trying new efforts to ask Saleh to step down.  How long is he going to be there for, and is he going to be briefing the press when he comes back?

Spokesperson:  Well, as we said when Mr. Benomar set off, he was to be there a week, and that’s the case.  He will be back here towards the end of this week with the aim of briefing the Secretary-General and then by doing so, for us to be able to brief the Security Council.  Precisely which day he is coming back, I couldn’t say.  But as you know, he has been extremely active on the ground in Yemen in very difficult circumstances, and he is continuing to work extremely hard on this.

Question:  He is definitely only staying a week, because last time he stayed a lot longer?  Or is there any chance that his visit will be extended?

Spokesperson:  Well, again, that is something that we’d have to see.  As things stand at present, the idea is that he would return towards the end of this week so that he can brief the Secretary-General and so that the Security Council can also be briefed.  Yes?

Question:  So what is he doing?  What exactly is his mandate this time, because I think this is the first time he goes after the Security Council resolution?  So what exactly… who was he meeting with?  What’s he doing?

Spokesperson:  He is meeting various players from the parties concerned, and he has had a number of meetings already, and will continue to do so.  Obviously, as you well know, this is not an easy environment in which to work.  But he continues to push very hard.

Question:  For what?  What is he pushing for?  What’s his mandate?

Spokesperson:  As you know, we have said that he is there on behalf of the Secretary-General, and it is a good offices role, and the aim is to encourage dialogue between the sides and to try to push forward the process so that the aspirations of the Yemeni people can be fulfilled.

Question:  So… but if it is a matter of mediation and aspirations and a dialogue, this is not exactly what the Security Council resolution said, because it endorsed the Arab… the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] initiative, and that called for him to step down, for Ali Abdullah Saleh, the President…?

Spokesperson:  As you know, there is a need for dialogue, and he is working with the sides.  And he is working extremely hard on that.  It’s not easy.

Question:  Is he meeting President Saleh, as well?

Spokesperson:  I think we’d have to wait and see.  I think that is something that would be logical, but let’s wait and see.  Okay, yes, Matthew, this is the last question.

Question:  Okay, there is — it’s sort of a two-pronged question — there is an investigation…

Spokesperson:  I thought it might be.

Question:  Okay.  Yes, there is an investigation by the Florida Centre for Investigative Reporting, finding that this year the US so far has deported 250 Haitians back to Haiti where, according to them, they face jail without charge and the threat of cholera.  So one, I wanted to know whether MINUSTAH is aware of this and the human rights component of MINUSTAH is following up on the jailing of people without charge.  And also, what has the UN done so far on this letter requesting recompense for victims of cholera in Haiti?  Is that… you said we’re studying them; how is the studying coming along?

Spokesperson:  It’s coming along.  And as for the other question, I think that’s something that we can ask the Mission about.  And I am sure you can also ask the US authorities.  But we will ask MINUSTAH.

Thanks very much.  And now it’s Nihal to brief you further.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon, everyone.

The President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, is halfway through an official trip to Japan.  He arrived in Tokyo yesterday, Sunday night, and he began a series of official meetings today.

Today, Monday, he participated in the opening session of the “ Tokyo dialogue on Security Council reform — generating a new dynamism for progress”, an event organized by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  And in his keynote address, the President of the General Assembly emphasized that UN reform and revitalization is one of his four pillars for this sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly.  He encouraged participants to engage in discussions in a spirit of flexibility and compromise in order to achieve the desired progress in this much-needed reform.  President Al-Nasser also reiterated his position that timely Security Council reform is important if the UN is to respond to the realities of the twenty-first century.  He also stressed that Security Council reform should be driven by Member States and be based on the collective will of the Member States.  The full remarks of the President of the General Assembly are available on our website.

President Al-Nasser also proceeded today to the Prime Minister’s Office, where he was met by Osamu Fujimura, the Chief Cabinet Secretary and Prime Minister ad interim, on behalf of Prime Minister Noda who was out of the country attending APEC and related meetings in Honolulu.  The Chief Cabinet Secretary delivered Prime Minister Noda’s heartiest words of welcome and delivered the assurance of Japan’s continued intention to work closely with the President of the General Assembly for global peace and prosperity, in particular in the areas of disaster risk reduction and UN reform.

President Al-Nasser, in his response, referred to his visit on Sunday to the Centre for the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial, in the Kobe area.  He expressed his intention to collaborate with Japan on this issue, and pledged his full support for the 2012 High-level International Meeting on Large-scale Natural Disasters, to be hosted by Japan.

During the visit to Kobe, Mr. Al-Nasser was shown how the city of Kobe managed to overcome the disaster and become a front-runner in sharing experiences globally on various ways to improve resilience of communities and to contribute to disaster risk reduction.

The President of the General Assembly also visited Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, where he received a warm welcome and paid visits to various historical sites there.

President Al-Nasser is scheduled to meet today with representatives of the Democratic Party of Japan and representatives of UN organizations.  Tomorrow, he is scheduled to meet with Tajashiro Yokomici, the Speaker of the House of Representatives.  He will also meet with Koichiro Gemba, the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Any questions?  Yes, please?

**Questions and Answers

Correspondent:  Yeah, time and again we have been requesting about this, on Security Council reform, for Ambassador Tanin to come and give us a briefing because he is…

Spokesperson:  I am waiting…

Correspondent:  …he was doing it last, in the years past.  But he has now not given a briefing in a really long time.

Spokesperson:  No, no, if I understand your question correctly, Ambassador Tanin is already aware of the request.  I have already conveyed the request for him to come here to the auditorium and brief you.  As you know, there is scheduled to be another round of intergovernmental negotiations on 28 November.  He has already announced that, I believe last week.  So I will try to coordinate with Ambassador Tanin and see exactly what time would be good to make this briefing, either before or after this new round.

Question:  This, you were just saying that the President in Japan…

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question: …talked to the Japanese about Security Council reform?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Is it his desire to go to every State, every country which wants to become a member…?

Spokesperson:  Come again, please?  Is it his desire to what?

Question:  Is it his… I mean, he believes that he should visit every country, like India or Brazil, and get their point of view of… he can get their point of view where about what is happening on Security Council, their position on Security Council reform?

Spokesperson:  Yeah, well, I mean, you know that this… he is taking part in this dialogue which was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as I have mentioned earlier, by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and he is definitely taking note of all views there.  And as he said, he stresses that timely reform is very important for the Security Council in order to be able to respond to the realities of the twenty-first century.  And he believes that the process should be Member States driven.  No one Member State can do this reform or can go along the process alone.  He believes that it should be Member States driven, and that’s what he will try to do.  Matthew, yes?

Question:  Yeah, sure, I… when Amre Moussa was here, he met with Ban Ki-moon.  But then I noticed that he also met with the PGA… he came down, met with hi…  What was… what did they discuss?  Is there a readout of that meeting?

Spokesperson:  We did not release a readout, but the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Al-Nasser, also met with the former Secretary-General of the Arab League, in his capacity as former Secretary of the Arab League.  They discussed a wide range of issues, Arab issues, basically — the Arab Spring, the developments in the Arab region and in North Africa.  We did not release a readout, that’s correct.

Question:  And just to, I mean, I guess, to understand your process better, when… could you say generally like when you release a readout and when you don’t?  Is it only if it’s with a Head of State, or is there some distinction?

Spokesperson:  We have particular guidelines as to when we release readouts.  So yes, the readouts we release are usually when it is a Head of State, Head of Government, a Foreign Minister, basically, or the President or the head of a major UN organ.  That’s basically the guidelines that we have for releasing readouts.

Question:  And I just wanted to ask something about this International Court of Justice election that was going on last week.  And I guess was… has there been a date set for the continued balloting?

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge, but I can check this out for you.  But I do know from colleagues that that has not been confirmed yet.  So let me check out the dates for you and get back to you.

Question:  And one thing I didn’t understand, people have been saying that if after a number of rounds there was no agreement, there would be some kind of a panel set up between the two organs.  Is that up to the chair?  Who decides how to proceed?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have enough information to give you at this point, but I will — if you can send me an e-mail and I’ll try to get the answer and the details for you, Matthew, thank you.  Any more questions?

Then, have a lovely afternoon.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

* *** *

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