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

7 December 2011

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

7 December 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, and welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

In Durban today, the Secretary-General met with key parties in the climate change negotiations.  He just held discussions separately with the Group of 77, the Alliance of Small Island States and the US Special Envoy for Climate Change.  Earlier today, he also met with the European Union Commissioner for Climate Action, as well as with the “BASIC” countries – that’s Brazil, South Africa, India and China.

The Secretary-General also addressed events taking place on the margins of the seventeenth Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

At a high-level event on long-term climate financing, he said that we still have a long way to go towards mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020, but stressed how important it was for developed countries to fulfil their commitments.  He added that the immediate challenge was how to get a scaled-up climate finance system up and running.  The Secretary-General called on the parties at the Conference to resolve any differences remaining on the design of the Green Climate Fund in Durban.  The new Fund must not be an empty shell, he said.

The Secretary-General also spoke at a High-Level Forum on International Forest Protection.  He said that forests continued to disappear at an alarming rate and that more needs to be done with a greater sense of urgency.  He called on the COP-17 to reach a decision on financing for REDD+ this week and to use private sector partnerships to implement the REDD+ agenda.

The Secretary-General will be travelling next to Nairobi, where he will meet with the President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki.  From there he will go on to Doha, where he will attend the opening of the Fourth Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations.  He is scheduled to meet with the Emir of Qatar, as well as with the Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey.  As you know, the Governments of Spain and Turkey launched this UN initiative.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council met to hear a briefing on the situation in Burundi by Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Karin Landgren, and the Chair of the Burundi Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, Switzerland’s Ambassador, Paul Seger.  Ms. Landgren said that the road out of past violence is long and difficult, and in 2012, Burundi is expected to initiate a formal process of truth and reconciliation.  This meeting was followed by consultations.

And this afternoon the Council will discuss the work of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) with Judge Theodor Meron and Prosecutor Serge Brammertz, and the work of the International Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) with Judge Khalida Rashid and Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar.

**United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Afghanistan and its neighbouring countries joined the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna today to launch a new initiative to respond effectively to drug trafficking and organized crime.

The Office’s Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, said that as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) gradually disengages, the international community will increasingly look to the United Nations to take on additional responsibilities in supporting Afghanistan.  Areas in which cooperation will be enhanced may include training counter-narcotics law enforcement officials, conducting joint raids and tackling cross-border illicit money flows.


The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, called on the world today to reaffirm and recommit to the values of international protection and to find concrete ways to collectively address the new challenges of forced displacement.  He made the appeal at the start of a two-day conference on refugees and stateless people, the largest event on this topic in the UN refugee agency’s 60-year history.

In a video message to the conference, the Secretary-General underlined the importance of the principle that people should never be forced into harm’s way.  He urged countries to pledge their support for the Refugee Agency and to join efforts to reduce statelessness.

**Deputy Secretary-General

The Deputy Secretary-General addressed the high-level session on financing for development in the General Assembly this morning.  She noted that most donor countries, faced with mounting debts, are tightening their budgets.  But even in this difficult environment, it is critical that they fulfil their commitments to official development assistance.  The Deputy Secretary-General’s full remarks are available online.

And the Deputy Secretary-General will leave tonight for Torino, Italy, where she will chair the United Nations System Staff College Annual Board Meeting.  And the Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on 10 December.

Questions, please?  Yes, and then Nizar.  Yes, Anita?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, I was wondering, will there be any response to this interview that Barbara Walters did with Syrian President Assad, and particularly he had a comment that the United Nations was not a credible institution?

Spokesperson:  Well, I would expect to have something a little bit later on this.  But let’s remember here that the United Nations and specifically the Secretary-General have spoken out consistently on what needs to happen in Syria.  And I think that it may be that we have a little bit more on that.  But we’re pretty clear and have been pretty clear on what needs to happen and what needs to stop.  Yes?

Question:  A quick follow-up on that?  And maybe even before you have the statement, one of the statements made in the interview by President Assad is that they are the forces of the Government, I don’t own them; I am the President, I don’t own the country, so these are not my forces.  So, just a kind of a yes or, like – not yes or no, but when the Secretary-General called President Assad, did he view him as the Head of the Armed Forces, was that the capacity, what does he think of the claim that he is not the Head of the Armed Forces?

Spokesperson:  The Head of State of any country, including Syria, has ultimate responsibility for the protection of the population.  And I think that that’s quite clear.  Yes, please?  Yes, Nizar, then I am coming to you, yes?

Question:  Number one, yesterday Human Rights Watch issued a very strong report regarding the abuse of human rights in Bahrain.  Does the Secretary-General add his voice for the immediate release of those prisoners who were sentenced in military courts rather than civil ones?  And what is the follow-up on the report?

Spokesperson:  Well, on the first part of your question on the military courts versus civilian courts, we are on record already as having welcomed those cases which have been looked at again in a civilian context rather than through these special courts; and that’s something that we would wish to see continued.  And with regard to the second part of your question; this is obviously an internationally composed commission that looked at what is going on in Bahrain, and there have been calls subsequently and they’re from outside and there have been promises from within the country to take action based on what the report found.  And so, we are obviously keeping a close eye to see what happens.  But we don’t have anything further on that.

Question:  Did the Secretary-General speak to Sheikh, the King of Bahrain, on the implementation?  Those people who committed atrocities against the detainees are still in power, according to the numerous reports, and many bloggers are still in jail, many medics, many doctors.  Did he talk about that, did he see the follow-up on the report itself, how it is reported?

Spokesperson:  Well, again, we have consistently called for the need for the promises made on reforms to be followed through on.  And that has not changed.  We would still see that that is extremely important, that the report that you refer to underscores that need.  And so we will be keeping a close eye on that.  Yes, next question then I’ll come back to you, okay?  Yes?

Question:  Can we quickly go back to Syria?  You said the United Nations, the Secretary-General, spoke on what needs to happen in Syria; could you please be a little more specific, give me a [inaudible], on what needs to happen.

Spokesperson:  Of course!  Well, first of all the killing needs to stop.  The violence needs to stop.  This is something that has been said, not just by the Secretary-General, by the League of Arab States and many in the international community, but the Secretary-General has been consistent in saying that the bloodshed needs to stop from whichever quarter – it needs to stop.  That’s the first thing.  The second is that peaceful protesters have been on the streets because they wish to see reforms in their country.  And it is incumbent on the authorities led by the President of the country to listen really attentively to what the people are saying.  And so those are the two key parts.  Another aspect of this is, as you know, there was a humanitarian assessment mission that was, was allowed in and did make its assessment.

The same is not true of a mandated human rights mission.  That, so far, has not been able to get into the country, and we would certainly wish to see that happen.  As you also know, there was this independent commission of inquiry that was made up of extremely credible individuals with distinguished records in their field.  And that report the Secretary-General has already said contains disturbing evidence that needs to be looked at further.  Yes, then Nizar, yes?

Question:  So, President Bashar said that report was not delivered to his Government?  Can you comment on whether that was delivered to…?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you’d have to check with the Human Rights Council on precisely on the mechanism for its delivery.  But as I think you will be aware, it is in the public domain.  And as I think you will also be aware, what the Independent Commission of Inquiry said was that the Commission deeply regrets that despite many requests, the Government failed to engage in dialogue and to grant the Commission access to the country.  And the Government informed the Commission that it would examine the possibility of cooperating with the Commission once the work of its own independent special legal commission was completed.  And that the Commission reiterated its call for immediate and unhindered access to the Syrian Arab Republic.  So, the report itself is out there, public domain.  But you may wish to check with the Human Rights Council whether a copy has been physically given to the Syrian authorities in Geneva, in New York or indeed in Damascus.  That’s something that you could check with them.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  On these attacks against pilgrims, against religious processions yesterday or the day before in Afghanistan, Iraq and others; there were many edicts issued in Saudi Arabia by clerics; state-paid clerics.  Considering other sects as non-Muslims, and these have helped into inciting such kind of violence against other sects, does the Secretary-General believe that Saudi Arabia should stop from issuing such edicts and should address these incitements in a proper way?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think we issued a statement condemning the violence that took place both in Iraq in recent days and in Afghanistan.  I don’t have anything further to add to that.

Question:  Yeah, but how about edicts which are issued from Saudi Arabia which is a religious authority there?

Spokesperson:  As I have said, the statements clearly condemn the violence that has taken place, and I don’t have anything further to add.

Question:  How about the inciters? And [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, we can go round and round in circles; I am saying I don’t have anything further to add to it, Nizar, okay?  Yes, next question?

Question:  Yeah, sure, I wanted to ask you again about this Congo election where it’s now been further delayed, the release of results.  Some are saying that this is a last-minute attempt for sort of increased transparency, and there are some calling for the release of polling, you know, polling station results instead of just these overall results that they have been putting out.  And I just, one, I wanted to know if the UN has a view on whether it would be a good thing to release things at the polling station level, and just what is MONUSCO’s involvement, there seems to be a lot of, many of the embassies in Kinshasa are sort of speaking out, saying things, what’s the UN role in this last-minute push for transparency?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I have said to you on the last couple of occasions in this setting that we are not going to comment on the process at this stage while the counting continues, but that we are following events very closely.  And obviously counting for the presidential polls is continuing and provisional results are expected to be announced, the Mission tells us by the central election authorities by 8 December — that’s tomorrow.  The Mission is also reporting that the situation in Kinshasa and other population centres remains generally calm but tense, with a few serious incidents.  And so, again, we would appeal to political leaders and the people to remain calm and to exercise restraint while awaiting the results, which evidently are on their way.

Question:  And I wanted to ask you also about Sudan.  There is this sharpening dispute between Sudan and South Sudan about oil, one of the unresolved issues left over from the CPA.  And now China has sent an envoy that is now viewed as the sort of main broker, and I wondered, some have questioned, what is the UN’s role?  Is this issue of the economic relations between the two States, is this still part of Mr. Menkerios’s mandate and is he involved in these discussions?

Spokesperson:  I have to check on precisely what Mr. Menkerios is doing in this context.  He has a rather broad role related to that relationship as you know, given his evident experience in the region, and there in particular.  Obviously, this is a complex area.  And obviously, the CPA is absolutely crucial to ensure that newly independent South Sudan and Sudan can live side-by-side in harmony.  So, let’s see if I can get anything further on exactly what Mr. Menkerios is doing.

Question:  And just one last thing on Sudan, this thing, the alleged or you know, seemingly at least creating an impact, an effect, attack on Jaw by the Government of Sudan is that something now that UNMISS as a peacekeeping mission, yesterday you’d said that they couldn’t confirm it, have they been able to get out and get on the ground and…?

Spokesperson:  Well, yes, they have.  They did a mission to Bor County yesterday and they confirmed at least 37 people were killed and 22 wounded, and the Mission evacuated four critically injured people to Jubah.  But the Mission cannot confirm at this stage who was responsible.  So, yes, they did go, they have confirmed deaths and wounded as I have just stated; they evacuated four people, but they are not in a position at this point to confirm who was responsible, okay.  Yes, Nizar, and then I am coming to Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  Martin, do you believe, does the Secretary-General believe that there are armed insurgents in Syria and they are provoking the Security Coun… the security forces there?

Spokesperson:  Maybe they are provoking the Security Council as well, I don’t know!  But here the point is, as I have said repeatedly, and as the Secretary-General has said repeatedly, that the violence from any quarter needs to stop.  It is obvious that many hundreds of people have been killed.  The estimate that has been put together by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is now in excess of 4,000 people.  This is clearly wholly unacceptable.  We are aware of reports of security personnel as well as civilians being killed or dying in the course of these events.  The killing needs to stop from whichever quarter it is coming.  But, it is incumbent upon the Syrian authorities to allow peaceful protests to take place.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  On another subject, Indonesia has ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and there are only eight States that have not ratified that Treaty, and among them are six nuclear States.  The Secretary-General wishes to see the Treaty enter into force next year.  Given the fact that there are six nuclear States that have not yet ratified it, does he think that realistically that goal would be achieved next year?

Spokesperson:  Well, what the Secretary-General has said and others too, is that the ratification yesterday by the Indonesian Upper House is extremely important because it provides additional impetus and encouragement, if you like, to those remaining countries, Annex II countries, that need to ratify the Treaty for it to enter into force.  And the Secretary-General certainly encourages those eight countries, not only to ratify it, but for the political leadership in those countries to get behind that effort so that this can be achieved sooner rather than later.  No one is saying that it is easy, but certainly that momentum should now be further encouraged.  Other questions?

Question:  Do you know when the Secretary-General comes back to New York and does he intend to give a year-end press conference?

Spokesperson:  I have already said that he will give a year-end press conference, and that I would anticipate that in the middle of next week.  Okay, yes, final question, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask you again about this, the UN Dispute Tribunal.  There was a decision on 29 November, in a kind of long-pending case of a staff member who claims that he was, that you know, that he was exonerated in some way, but there had been a previous press briefing by one of your predecessors in which it was said that he had been suspended due to the charges.  So he’s continued to pursue it and there has been now a ruling saying that within the next month there will be a press briefing in this room in which the Spokesman – I think that it will be you – will somehow comply with this order and read some new statement.  I wanted to know if you are aware of the case.  It’s the Bangouraversus Secretary-General and it seems to impact on your Office, and I wanted to know if you have been, if we should be expecting that statement from you. 

Spokesperson:  If something comes along, I will let you know.  All right, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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