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

16 January 2012

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

16 January 2012
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.  Happy Martin Luther King Day.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General is in Abu Dhabi today, and he addressed the opening of the World Future Energy Summit, which focuses on sustainable energy.  He told the audience that energy is central to everything we do — from powering our economies to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and from combating climate change to underpinning global security.

He said energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, increased social equity and preserving the environment.  The Secretary-General said his High-level Group on Sustainable Energy had created a framework for a robust action agenda to be ready for this June’s “ Rio+20” Conference on Sustainable Development.

He also had a wide range of bilateral meetings, including with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.  Readouts of these bilateral meetings are available online.  The Secretary-General gave a press conference on sustainable energy, and we’ll issue a transcript as soon as we have it.

The Secretary-General arrived in Abu Dhabi yesterday from Beirut, where earlier in the day he had opened a major UN conference on the democratic transition under way in the Arab world.  The speech is available online and in the Spokesperson’s Office.

On Saturday, the Secretary-General visited the UN Interim Force in Lebanon to meet those serving in the mission and to pay tribute to all those who have lost their lives since the mission began in 1978.

**Security Council

This morning the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Said Djinnit, presented the Secretary-General’s report on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa to the Security Council.

The Special Representative noted that the situation in West Africa continues to improve and that a number of States in the region have held credible elections.  However, he also cautioned that piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, organized crime and drug trafficking, and the activities of groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, continue to pose serious threats to the region.  The full text of his statement may be obtained in the Spokesperson’s Office.

That’s all from me.  Questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yeah, Eduardo, the Secretary-General, sorry, when he was in Beirut over the weekend, one of the prominent political figures there made a suggestion that there should be a UN monitor to administer the referendum in Syria on the future of the Government there, perhaps as a way to staunch the violence that’s been going on for 10 months.  I didn’t see that there was any reaction from the Secretary-General.  I was just wondering if there was anything?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, the Secretary-General has called on violence from all sides to end; he has called on the President and on people on all sides to stop the killing, he has expressed his support for the League of Arab States monitoring mission, and we are hopeful that the situation there will resolve itself.

Correspondent:  Right, about the idea of a referendum that the UN would somehow be involved with in terms of giving the pro- and anti-Government sides, you know, a chance to express themselves over whether which Government they… who they want to have in power, let’s put it that way.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, nobody can hold a referendum if you’re not invited to it by the country involved.  So we would have to… to the best of my knowledge, we have not received any invitation yet to monitor any referendum, nor has anybody in Syria talked about a referendum.  So I think it is quite premature to be speculating about that.  Matthew?

Question:  Yeah, sure.  I wanted to ask you, over the weekend the South Sudan Government has said that in what they call reprisal attacks by the Murle against the Lou Nuer, either in one case they said 55, another one they said 81 people were killed.  And I wanted to know, what is UNMISS doing on this back-and-forth?  Do they in this case verify, you know, validate or in some way, what do they say about the Government’s numbers?  And I also wanted to ask again about this Russian helicopter thing as I have yet to hear anything.  I have now been told that Lise Grande, the Deputy SRSG there, said before the violence began that the failure… that soldiers had been prepositioned near Pibor, but could not reach the site due to a lack of helicopters.  And I just wanted, since it’s… given what happened afterwards, can the UN, you know, confirm that the lack of helicopters impeded their response, and can you confirm that now Bangladeshi and UNISFA [United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei] helicopters are serving where the Russians would not?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I would have to defer to what Lise Grande said, so she would have to…

Question:  I have heard that from a UNMISS staff member, not from officially, that’s why I am asking you.  This has been an issue for some time; Ms. Malcorra said she would speak on it and I am wondering, what’s the UN’s position on this?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, have you asked Ms. Malcorra?

Question:  I have, she said she would discuss it and she has not.  And so I am asking…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think we should…

Question:  I have asked at four noon briefings in a row now.  What… does the UN acknowledge that the Russians not having a Letter of Assist and not flying helicopters played some role in the death of people in Pibor?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as Martin has said from this very podium, we do not discuss negotiations that are under way, and as he also said, while Letters of Assist are being drafted and are being negotiated, helicopters fly.  That’s as far as I am going to [inaudible].

[The Deputy-Spokesperson later added that the reason for the Russian helicopters not to fly was a matter of safety and security, based on the threats and risks the Russian troops have faced in the past.]

Question:  I understand, no I agree, I am not asking about the negotiations, I am just asking what is the current status of UNMISS helicopter service to Jonglei State?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I will find out and let you know.  Yes, Tim?

Question:  Has the Arab League made a formal request for help to the UN?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t believe they have, no.

Question:  Not yet?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Not yet.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that, at the request of the League of Arab States, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has agreed to train observers and will deploy to Cairo to do this training.]

Question:  There is a report of a UN system staff member in Yemen being kidnapped.  Can you confirm that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, a UN staff member has been taken.  We are in communications, we are in negotiations, and you will understand if we don’t make any public comments on it.

Question:  I understand that.  I also wanted to ask you about the Extraordinary Courts and the Chambers, Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, that it’s been said that the Cambodian Government is now saying that the UN has no role in reappointing the replacement judge and I wanted to know, is that, what’s the UN going to do as this accountability mechanism seems to be falling apart?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we are under discussion, that’s under discussion right now, and we will let you know when we have something to announce.  Anything else?

Question:  Just one more, this is something I… you may say that Martin… it… before this trip to Lebanon and the UAE I had asked Martin to, if the travel was going to be paid for other than through the UN budget, whether that would be disclosed and he said if it is paid for… I took him to say if it is paid from outside of UN funds that would be said.  And I have sort of, I have heard it described he flew on a private jet from Beirut to UAE.  Who is paying for the private jet?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I will have to find out; I don’t have any information on that.  Martin, I think, was quite clear last week in what he said, and if we have any further information to give you, we will.

Question:  So was it paid for by the UN?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have that information with me.  But Martin said if, there is full transparency.  So if in fact a private plane is ever used, it is normally announced after the fact, for security reasons.  But right now I don’t have any information on that.

Okay, thank you.  Have a nice afternoon.

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