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

1 February 2012

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

1 February 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon and welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General arrived in Israel this morning and met with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.

He later travelled to Ramallah, where he has been meeting with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki.

The Secretary-General discussed the Middle East peace process with all leaders, and discussed especially the talks initiated in January by King Abdullah and Foreign Minister [Nasser] Judeh of Jordan.  He noted that negotiations are the only path for a sustainable resolution of all final-status issues.  While in Ramallah, the Secretary-General met with Palestinian civil society organizations.  And he also met with graduates of the United Nations annual media training programme for Palestinian journalists.

We will continue to issue readouts of the various meetings the Secretary-General has had with officials and provide transcripts of the Secretary-General’s various press encounters.

**South Sudan — Amos

Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, is in Juba today on the first stop of her three-day visit to South Sudan.  She met with representatives of aid agencies to discuss the multiple humanitarian challenges facing the world’s youngest nation, six months after South Sudan gained independence.

Ms. Amos said that South Sudan faces significant humanitarian challenges, including hundreds of thousands of people displaced in 2011, people returning from Sudan and refugees from the conflict in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States in Sudan.  She added that conflict, poverty and increasing food insecurity are having a major humanitarian impact.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that a relatively small number of aid organizations carry out some 30 simultaneous emergency operations in a vast, remote and insecure country, facing tremendous logistical challenges.  Tomorrow, Ms. Amos is expected to travel to Jonglei State.  There is a press release on this visit available from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


Yesterday, we issued a statement on Senegal, in which we said the Secretary-General is concerned about the upsurge of tensions in Senegal ahead of the presidential election scheduled for 26 February 2012.

The statement said that the Secretary-General urges all political parties and national stakeholders to refrain from violence in the pursuit of their objectives, and to pursue peaceful means to resolve all electoral grievances. 

The statement said that the Secretary-General calls upon all concerned actors to create enabling conditions for transparent, credible and peaceful elections that reflect the legitimate concerns and aspirations of the people of Senegal.  The full statement attributable to the Spokesperson is available online.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., Under-Secretary-General Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women, will hold a press conference to mark the one-year anniversary of UN Women.

And then at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by Ambassador Kodjo Menan, the Permanent Representative of Togo to the United Nations and President of the Security Council for the month of February.  He will be briefing on the programme of work for the month.

**South Sudan

I was asked yesterday for an update on Warrap State.  Here’s what I can tell you at this point:

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says that, on 30 January, it facilitated and accompanied a Government mission to the Bulich area in Makuac Payam/Tonj East County in Warrap State, which confirmed reports of an attack by an unknown number of armed uniformed men from Mayendit County, Unity State.

According to local sources, so far, 78 people were reported killed, 68 wounded, 9 missing and thousands are reported to be displaced.  The team from the UN Mission observed 15 bodies that were still unburied.  The humanitarian community will call an emergency meeting of all humanitarian and protection actors to coordinate a response, while the human rights division of the Mission will investigate the incident.

The UN Mission has also held discussions with senior Government officials at the national and state level, and an integrated mission including Government officials is being planned for today.

That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Yes, Anita?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Unrelated subject; there was a… there is a court case in Washington [inaudible], on Friday, a man named Jeffrey Armstrong was tried in federal court; he was sentenced on Friday to 18 months in federal prison on Friday in Washington.  Evidently he was working at the United Nations in a security job, and at the same time he was working at a security job at the National Labour Relations Board.  Has the UN said anything about this?  The Secretary-General’s Office, would you have anything on this?

Spokesperson:  Not at this point.  I’ll see if there is anything, but not at this point.  We were obviously aware of the case that was going through the courts.  But I don’t have anything at this point.  Let me check.  Yes.  Anything else?  Yes, Matthew, and then Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  Yeah, sure, I want to ask two things on Sudan.  One is, it is said now that the World Food Programme is deploying helicopters to Jonglei; I wanted to know, is that the case and what is the status of the military helicopter situation?  I wanted to also continue to ask for the dates that I had requested when Hilde Johnson was subsequently informed and when the Secretary-General knew that there were no helicopters.  And I have a question about Mr. Gambari, but that would be North Sudan, which I will wait.  So on the South Sudan, can you state, are there still only two military helicopters?

Spokesperson:  Well, what we have said is that there are two military helicopters.  And we have also said that there are in excess of 20 commercial helicopters that are being used for different purposes.  I would refer you the World Food Programme for details on the helicopters that they may or may not be using.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  What about the dates?  What about the dates and also the number of people killed and people who are — I really appreciate that for Warrap now the UN is willing to put forward Government statistics and say, “these are the numbers”.  Whatever were the numbers for Pibor County?

Spokesperson:  As we said, this is according to local sources, and the Mission observed 15 bodies in this particular case.  We were able to provide a similar figure for people actually seen, bodies actually seen.  But, as you will also have heard, there is an investigation that has continued, and when we have details of that, I am sure that we will be able to let you know.  It is a complex and rather large area to be covering and I don’t think that that report is completed yet.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Yesterday, in the Security Council on the Sahel region, issued a statement, in which it called for coordinated approach and for coordination between the Maghreb States and the regional organizations, all of them — European Union, African Union and the United Nations system — and to address the problems of the Sahel, including economic development and terrorism.  The Council also said they will follow up on these efforts with the Secretary-General.  Does the Secretary-General intend to submit any specific recommendations on this question to the Council?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, there was a recent assessment mission, and in part, the statement from the Security Council is in that framework.  And also, because they, like many people in the international community, are certainly concerned about the knock-on effect of events in Libya and more generally instability in that region, both political and security, and also food insecurity.  That’s one point.  The other is that I would refer you to what the Secretary-General said while he was in Addis Ababa at the African Union Summit.  He did refer to the Sahel and the importance of coordinated efforts to deal with the problems that there are in that part of the world.

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask on… I had asked you this before, about Ibrahim Gambari attending the wedding reception for Idriss Deby and Musa Hilal’s daughter and embracing or greeting Omer al-Bashir.  There has been a letter… I mean, so I asked the… and I was sent a response that Mr. Gambari thought it was appropriate for a variety of reasons.  But I had wanted to know…

Spokesperson:  Is that an exact quote?

Correspondent:  Yeah…

Spokesperson:  Would you like to quote…?

Question:  I mean he’d only used the words “African traditions”, which some found as strange.  But that’s fine; what I want to ask you now is that Human Rights Watch…

Spokesperson:  Would you want to precisely quote what Mr. Gambari said?

Question:  What I want to know, does, as I asked before, you provided that quote, does… what is the UN’s policy on dealing with ICC indicted individuals and does Mr. Gambari… I… because I am going to quote from the policy, Human Rights Watch has now written to you, I could quote that, if you want, does… what is the UN’s policy and how does it comply with Mr. Gambari greeting an ICC indicted individual at a wedding reception?

Spokesperson:  Well, I would simply say, Matthew, that I can confirm that the Secretary-General received a letter from Human Rights Watch last week.  Mr. Gambari’s attention has been drawn to the letter, and to the need to avoid such encounters in future, however unintentional this particular encounter may have been.  Next question?  Yes, Joe?

Question:  Should we interpret the Secretary-General’s remarks in Jerusalem as being intended for Moscow?

Spokesperson:  Which particular remarks are you referring to?

Question:  When he said there is no more time to wait any more and that he expects the international community to move on Syria?

Spokesperson:  Well he said some…

Correspondent:  And we all know who is holding up the international community.

Spokesperson:  Well, he said something similar in Amman, and he has spoken in those terms before.  I would not place particular significance on the words said in Jerusalem today compared with the words, similar words, used in Amman yesterday.  I think the key point is that the Secretary-General believes that there should be a coherent and unified voice and message coming from the international community, and in particular the Security Council.  He is concerned about the timing of the need for action simply because people continue to be killed and to die.  And that’s the framework in which I would place them.

Question:  But there is impatience in his remarks [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  I beg your pardon?

Correspondent:  He is impatient, his remarks…

Spokesperson:  He is concerned that, as time passes, more people are being killed and that the need for action is because of that, because of the need to stop the killing.  Okay?  All right, next question?

Question:  Yeah, Mr… I wanted to ask about the envoy in Sierra Leone, [Michael Von Der Schulenburg], it’s… there are at least two newspapers there reporting the he was persona non grata and removed from the country.  Others say that he has left the country, but that he wasn’t thrown out, but they say it’s the UN, it’s removing him for its own timetable.  Are either of those accurate, does he remain the envoy?  Is his term coming up and was he encouraged, you know, there… the reports have various allegations by Government or opposition parties about him.  Was he told to leave or and has he left separately?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check, Matthew.  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.