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

7 February 2012

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

7 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.  Welcome to the briefing.


I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the Maldives:

The Secretary-General has learned of the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives and the appointment of former Vice-President Mohammed Waheed Hassan as the new President of the country.

The Secretary-General expresses his strong hope that this handover of power, which has been announced as a constitutional step to avoid further violence and instability, will lead to the peaceful resolution of the political crisis that has polarized the country in recent months.  He calls on all Maldivians to refrain from violence and engage constructively in addressing the challenges their country is facing, and to protect and build upon the important gains the Maldives has made in recent years in establishing democracy and rule of law.  The Secretary-General acknowledges the important contributions of President Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected President, to the establishment of democracy in the Maldives and his role in raising international awareness of the dangers of climate change and rising seas.

The United Nations will remain a close partner of the Maldives and will continue to extend its support in the period ahead.

**Security Council

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Roger Meece, briefed the Security Council this morning.

He said the national presidential and legislative elections late last year were marked by numerous problems.  He noted that the UN Mission in the country, MONUSCO, had expressed its strong concern about reported irregularities and underlined the importance of a thorough and open review of the elections.  Mr. Meece also said that the Mission had been conducting investigations into all reports of election violence.

He added that, with the recent announcement of the provisional legislative elections, the attention in the country was now turning to the new National Assembly, the consolidation of coalitions and the formation and ratification of a new Government.  He said it was very important that all newly elected officials play an active role in those discussions.

On the security front, Mr. Meece said he was concerned by the apparent renewed activity by the FDLR in eastern DRC.  He also said there was an emergence or growth of various Congolese groups in North and South Kivu.  He said the Mission was discussing with the national Congolese army ways to address these challenges and realize durable improvements in the east of the country.


The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, says that hundreds of children have died or been injured in the nearly 11 months of violence in Syria.  This is in addition to reports of children being arbitrarily arrested, tortured and sexually abused while in detention.

While UNICEF does not have access to the affected areas of the city of Homs and cannot confirm the impacts of the attacks there, it says there are credible reports that children are caught in the violence.  The Fund’s Executive Director, Anthony Lake, urged the Syrian authorities to allow help to all those who need it.

**Mali — UNHCR

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has deployed emergency teams to countries surrounding Mali to help meet the needs of thousands of people who have been forced to flee fighting in northern Mali.  UNHCR says that, in the past three weeks, at least 10,000 people are reported to have crossed into Niger, 9,000 have found refuge in Mauritania and 3,000 in Burkina Faso.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that, in Niger, the majority of the displaced have moved into the locality of Sinegodar, which has already felt the impact of the recent drought and where food availability is very low.  The most urgent needs are food and shelter, as well as hygiene, water and sanitation.  UNHCR is preparing to send aid for 10,000 people from its stockpiles in the region.  It is also strengthening its presence in both Niger and Mauritania.

**Press Conferences

Today at 12:45, there will be a press conference by Precious Gbeneol, the Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on the Millennium Development Goals, and that will be along with Corinne Woods, Director of the UN Millennium Campaign.

And then tomorrow, my guest will be Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and he will brief you on UN peacekeeping’s focus for this year and its activities.

Questions, please?  Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yeah, sure.  I want to ask you, in South Sudan, there has been an announcement by the Lou Nuer and the Dinka that they are forming an armed militia of 30,000 people, they said, to quarantine the Murle.  This goes all the way back to this fighting in Pibor, and I wanted to know, one, it is a pretty big number, what is the UN system and UNMISS doing about it?  Also, I heard Mr. Meece say that he is receiving four new Ukrainian helicopters in MONUSCO.  I wanted, I guess, to know, is it still the case that UNMISS, despite this new 30,000-strong militia, has only two military helicopters?  And I would once again, I know you said that you heard the request, since Hilde Johnson of UNMISS said that she would provide the date on which she subsequently was informed that Russian helicopters would fly.  What was that date?

Spokesperson:  We are certainly aware of the press release that has been issued by this so-called White Army, and that is something that has been reported in the media and which you have obviously seen too.  But the Mission doesn’t have evidence at this stage to confirm that statement.  The United Nations remains actively engaged on all fronts, whether it is political, security or humanitarian, in support of the Government of South Sudan and the concerned communities to end the cycle of violence.  And we are urging the Government of South Sudan to continue to take the necessary measures to prevent another episode of violence and ensure security in the area.  On the subsequent you made, I am fairly sure that Mr. Ladsous will be addressing those, or would be prepared to address those tomorrow.  And yes, please?

Question:  How does UNICEF or other UN organizations recognize the latest situation in Homs, in Syria, about the number of the casualties or the access [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I mentioned, UNICEF has said that they don’t have access to the city, so they are not in a position to be able to give precise figures.  But they are saying they have credible reports that children are caught up in the violence there.  And you will also have seen and heard the statement issued yesterday by the Secretary-General, in which he said he was appalled by the escalating violence in Syria, particularly at the mounting death toll and continued onslaught on the city of Homs involving the use of heavy artillery and the shelling of civilian areas.  And he believes that such violence is totally unacceptable before humanity, and he strongly condemns these attacks.  Now, we do not have precise figures; I think you can understand why it is difficult to arrive at those figures.  But it is evident that there is a mounting death toll.  And this is clearly utterly unacceptable, as the Secretary-General says.  And he again has urged that all violence must stop.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  As you just said, the Secretary-General has called for the end of violence.  And he has done that, as you know, many times and it is escalating and [inaudible].  The United Nations and some people have seen these as humanitarian crimes.  Now, the Security Council is blocked by the veto, and some parties are thinking of going around this and going to the General Assembly in the framework of uniting for peace resolution which led to the early intervention of the UN in the Korean peninsula.  A resolution in the GA could call on Syria, to order Member States to stop all diplomatic and commercial ties with the Syrian regime.  Would the Secretary-General be in favour of such efforts?  We know that it is up to Governments, but would he be in favour of efforts at the General Assembly?

Spokesperson:  I think it is obvious that it is for the Member States of the General Assembly, in other words the entire membership of the United Nations, to look at what could or should happen in the framework of the General Assembly.  That’s the first thing.  The second is that the Secretary-General has called upon all concerned in Syria and in the international community to redouble efforts aimed at stopping the violence and seeking an inclusive Syrian-led political process in accordance with international law.  Now, he is speaking in general terms.  It is for the Member States of the General Assembly, as I just said — that’s all of the Member States — to decide what happens in the framework of the General Assembly.  The Secretary-General’s concern, as it is for many people around the world, is that these attacks have continued.  Yes, the resolution in the Security Council was not passed at the weekend, and as the Secretary-General said, the lack of agreement in the Security Council gives no licence to the Syrian authorities to step up attacks on the Syrian population.  Other questions, please?  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, I want to ask that the Cypriot, the President of the House there, now says that he has written a formal letter informing the UN of a unanimous resolution passed expressing lack of confidence in Mr. Downer.  I know that you said that you had confidence; I just wanted to, the whole thing seems to revolve around the phrase that he used here where he referred, it seems, to Greek Cypriots as well and to the EU Presidency, which was interpreted there as somehow saying that it is not a Cypriot or Republic of Cyprus presidency.  So I just wanted to know, do you… looks like you do.  Is there a clarification, and have you received a letter from the House President of Cyprus?

Spokesperson:  On the letter, I’ll see.  I do not know the answer whether a letter has been received.  As I said last week, it goes without saying that I have confidence in Alexander Downer’s abilities, but it is not, that is really beside the point.  The point is that the Secretary-General has full confidence in his Special Adviser, and indeed in the impartiality of the United Nations very considerable efforts to help facilitate a solution on Cyprus.  Just to answer the other point, the remark was made in the context of a media encounter at the end of the first day of the Greentree summit.  And the UN envoy, Mr. Downer, was clearly referring to one of the parties in the context of those negotiations and the team that represented them at the summit.  And I think that is where I want to leave it for now.  If I hear anything about the letter, I will let you know.  Yeah, other questions, please?  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you.  Later on this afternoon, the Secretary-General will receive the Permanent Ambassador of… Permanent Representative of Libya, Ambassador Shalgham.  What additional aid can the UN give his Government at this stage?

Spokesperson:  At the moment, as you well know, there is an important mission, support mission, in Libya that is working extremely hard with the transitional authorities there in supporting their efforts.  And it is headed by a very able Special Representative of the Secretary-General.  They are focusing particularly on the transition for elections.  They are looking also at rule of law and reconciliation, while also keeping a firm eye on human rights.  So they have a full agenda of topics to deal with.  And this, as you well know, is a mandated mission, mandated by the Security Council.  Other questions?

Question:  Just one other question, a follow-up on that.  There was some reports that a former Qadhafi-era ambassador, diplomat, was killed by either those in charge or those who are supporting those in charge now in Libya, and I just wondered if the UN was aware of that and if they had, you know, Mr. Martin, if there is any comment on that in terms of the rule of law or, or…?

Spokesperson:  I seem to recall I have been asked about that before.  And first of all, we have heard of the reports, of course, and I am sure that UNSMIL, the Mission, will be looking into all of these matters as it continues to monitor human rights.  And if I have anything further, then I will let you know.

Question:  And I just, if I could, this thing on… thanks for the statement on Mr. Downer, clearing, clarifying, what he said.  I did want to ask you again about Mr. Schulenburg.  I know that there was a statement put out that he was leaving.  There remains, you know, sort of publicly and in the Sierra Leonean press, a lot of controversy of why he left seven months early.  There are various things out there and I just wonder, is there… if there is… if there is some benign explanation.  Is there anything to be said of why he left so abruptly at this time to at least perhaps allay other things that are being said – as your statement on Downer just did? 

Spokesperson:  Well, thank you for that.  The point is that there was indeed a statement on Mr. von der Schulenburg, and we don’t have anything beyond that at this point.  If that changes, I will let you know.

Okay, 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.