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

29 November 2011

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

29 November 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the noon briefing.

**Noon Guest

Today’s guest is Nigel Fisher, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti.  We will begin by letting Mr. Fisher make an introductory statement followed by Q’s and A’s, after which I will read a few things and take a few questions.  Mr. Fisher, the floor is yours.

[Press conference by Mr. Fisher is issued separately.]

A few notes for you.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General has arrived in Busan in the Republic of Korea.  In a few hours he will be speaking at the formal opening session of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness.  The forum is an important part of the discussions around the emerging aid architecture leading up to 2015, the deadline year for the Millennium Development Goals.

On arrival in Busan, the Secretary-General told Korean reporters the forum came at an important time, and that aid effectiveness and solidarity were vital in these times of financial austerity.  In his remarks to the forum, the Secretary-General is expected to say that aid needs to reach those most in need and that it needs to be accountable, flexible and country-driven.

While in Busan, the Secretary-General will have a range of bilateral meetings with leaders from both the public and private sectors.  We'll provide readouts when we receive them.  The Secretary-General is also expected to visit the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea to pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the Korean War.  He will be the first Secretary-General to visit the cemetery, where 2,300 soldiers from 11 countries are buried.  The Secretary-General will return to New York on Thursday.

**Palestinian People

In his message marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People delivered by the Deputy Secretary-General, the Secretary-General said the need to resolve this conflict has taken on greater urgency with the historic transformations taking place across the region.  Such a solution must end the occupation that began in 1967, and meet legitimate security concerns. 

The parties have a particular responsibility to cease provocations and create a conducive environment for meaningful negotiations.  Israel’s recently intensified settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is a major obstacle.  Settlement activity is contrary to international law and the Road Map, and must cease.

He also urged the Palestinians to overcome their divisions, based on the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the positions of the Quartet and the Arab Peace Initiative.  Palestinian unity that supports a negotiated two-State solution is essential for the creation of a Palestinian State in Gaza and the West Bank.

To mark the day, hundreds of students from schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Jericho area have created a massive aerial image of the Dove of Peace in conjunction with the world-renowned artist, John Quigley, to send out a peace message to the world.  The photograph may be viewed on the UN website.

** Lebanon

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is currently investigating, in cooperation with the parties, to determine the facts and circumstances of today’s incident — when UNIFIL radars detected firing of at least one rocket into Israel from south Lebanon.  Force Commander Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas is maintaining close contact with the parties and has called for maximum restraint in order to prevent any escalation of the situation.  He said that this was a serious incident in violation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).

He added that it was imperative to identify and apprehend the perpetrators of this attack and that UNIFIL would spare no efforts to this end, working in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces.  The Force Commander is in close contact with the parties, and they have reassured him of their continued commitment to maintain the cessation of hostilities in accordance with resolution 1701 (2006).

** Somalia

In Somalia, following the Secretary-General’s statement we issued yesterday, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that any disruption to ongoing humanitarian efforts threatened to undermine the fragile progress made this year. 

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that its office and warehouse in Baidoa remained occupied.  It adds that it is assessing the impact on its humanitarian operations and is extremely concerned that interruptions to operations across Somalia pose great risks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) for its part says that all medical supplies were looted when their offices were raided yesterday in Baidoa and Wajid.  Although WHO says organizations providing health care in the area have enough supplies to continue their services, the Organization is worried there could be shortages if access is not re-established soon.

Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) reports that in Mogadishu, the root causes driving forced displacement have changed, moving from drought to conflict.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council met to discuss the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo told the Council that no less than the taking of full, statesman-like responsibility is demanded if the present opportunities for moving towards peaceful, durable solutions are not to be missed.

This afternoon they will meet at 3 p.m. to discuss the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

** Yemen

Wrapping up a four-day visit to Yemen, UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Catherine Bragg warned that millions of Yemenis are facing a severe and deepening humanitarian crisis.  She said we are seeing chronic deprivation made worse by continuing violence, with some of the world’s highest malnutrition rates, a breakdown of essential services and a looming health crisis.  Millions of vulnerable people in Yemen — not only those who are directly affected by the conflict or displacement — are now in acute need.


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that the global food system needs to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels to succeed in feeding a growing world population.  The challenge is to decouple food prices from fluctuating and rising fossil fuel prices, it notes.  There is more information on the Organization’s website.

**Press Conferences

And tomorrow afternoon at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.  William Pace, Convenor of the Coalition for the ICC and Richard Dicker, Director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, will be briefing you in this room.

That’s all from me.  We have time for a few questions.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  There was an event today in Iran with some people taking over the British Embassy.  Does the Secretary-General have any comment on that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the comment is that the responsibility for the protection of diplomats and diplomatic premises is up to the host Government, and in this case we expect Iran to live up to its obligations.

Question:  And a follow-up.  There is a report in the Iranian… in Iran, published reports that say that in 2012 the Secretary-General plans to visit Iran.  Is… Can you confirm or deny that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have no information on that at all.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you.  The Secretary-General, as you indicated, is now in Korea, and as you know, he has always put the sustainable development issue and climate change in first priority.  Why isn’t he in Durban?

Deputy Spokesperson:  He will be in Durban next week.  We haven’t announced the visit yet, but he will be in Durban next week, so don’t worry, the Secretary-General will take his rightful position in the climate change discussion.  Matthew?

Question:  Yeah, sure, I have some other questions, but I wanted to ask you again first about this Congo election.  There are more and more complaints now that the number-three candidate has said that the results should be thrown out, a UN source is quoted by AFP as saying that pre-marked ballots were found.  Meanwhile, Mr. Meese has said that everything… seems to have said that everything is going well.  So I am wanting to know, I mean, given that… I understand, I guess, that the UN is… what is the UN’s role with respect to the election and what does it say about what is happening?  Is it… is that an accurate characterization of Mr. Meese’s views?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The UN’s role was to provide technical assistance to the national electoral council and the voting process is still under way in other polling stations and therefore we are not in a position to make any comments yet.

Question:  He did make a comment.  I mean he did… he is quoted by Xinhua saying that things are going well, which is…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we here are not in a position yet to make a comment.  Okay?

Question:  Yeah, I also had a couple of other questions.  There is… it has emerged that Tony Blair, who is the UN’s… you know, is the Quartet’s Middle East representative, has also taken its… at least in the UK press they say it’s an $8 million… £8 million a year consultancy with the Government of Kazakhstan and it is described as also involving providing advice about the situation in the Middle East.  So I wanted to know whether this was checked with the UN, given his UN Quartet role and whether it is appropriate for a UN official that works… a part-time UN official that works on Middle East matters to rent himself out to other Governments on the same topic.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t know, I personally haven’t seen that report.  We don’t comment on reports in the media.  We will check out and see, but we would ask you to contact Mr. Blair’s office to find out what the exact nature of his responsibilities are.

Question:  [inaudible] only a UN question, I mean as a private citizen, he can do what he wants, but as a UN person, I would like to know what the UN thinks about it.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, if we have something on that we will get back to you.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later noted Mr. Blair is not an employee of the United Nations and that all enquiries should be directed to his office.]

Question:  And I wanted to… You’d said yesterday… there were at least two things you said you might have something on and I don’t see it in the transcript, so I wanted to ask again.  One is about these executions in Sudan; yesterday, I asked you about 19 executions ordered in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan.  There are now seven more ordered of JEM members in Darfur, and I wonder if, especially since there is a peacekeeping mission in Darfur, is there any comment by Mr. Gambari or UNAMID, what does he think of these death sentences?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, when we have something we will get back to you on that.  We don’t have anything yet.

Question:  And Pakistan, did you get… end up getting… I learned after the briefing that there was a letter sent to Ban Ki-moon by the Pakistani Permanent Representative about the incident of 24 Pakistani soldiers killed…

Deputy Spokesperson:  It was basically a letter requesting the Secretary-General to provide a letter from the Pakistan… I believe is a parliamentary defence committee, to the Members of the United Nations and I believe his office is in the process of doing so.

Question:  But do you think that the UN will end up having any… it seems like it is an incident that implicates international peace and security and sort of the need for safeguard in ISAF or of NATO operations, is there…

Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not going to speculate on what may or may not arise from this situation.

Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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