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

10 February 2012

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

10 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, everyone.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Sudan-South Sudan Negotiations

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General on the Sudan and South Sudan negotiations.

The Secretary-General is concerned by the lack of progress in the negotiations on post-independence issues and the possibility of further escalation of tensions following unilateral decisions taken by both Governments over their oil dispute.

The Secretary-General calls on the parties to re-commit to the negotiation process scheduled to start today in Addis Ababa, and reach agreements on all outstanding issues.  The moment has come for the leaders of both countries to make the necessary compromises, once again, that will guarantee a peaceful and prosperous future for both nations.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council was briefed in closed session by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe, and discussed Sudan sanctions.

This afternoon, the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, will brief the Council in closed session to discuss South Sudan.

**South Sudan

And also on South Sudan, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says that 30,000 Sudanese refugees have already been registered in Ethiopia and South Sudan so far this year.

Since June of last year, more than 130,000 Sudanese have been driven to these two countries following the fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States.

The agency adds that, in Ethiopia, the pace of relocation from border areas has picked up in recent weeks and the two existing camps in the Assosa region have reached full capacity.  The refugee agency is seeking additional funds of $145 million to relocate the refugees from the border areas, provide them with basic relief items and services, and build additional refugee settlements.

**Deputy Secretary-General

The Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Helsinki over the weekend to deliver a keynote speech on global governance.  She will then continue on to Doha to represent the Secretary-General at the closing ceremony of the Non-Aligned Movement’s Third Ministerial Meeting on the Advancement of Women.  The Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on Thursday of next week.

**Middle East

Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, is concerned about reports of the deteriorating conditions of a Palestinian in administrative detention who is on a hunger strike.  Mr. Serry has called on the Government of Israel to do everything in its power to preserve the health of the prisoner and to resolve the case while abiding by all legal obligations under international law.

During his recent visit to the region, the Secretary-General discussed the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody with the Palestinian Minister for Prisoners’ Affairs.

Mr. Serry’s office is following up on some of the issues related to the question of prisoners, particularly on the use of administrative detention, which should only be employed in exceptional circumstances, for as short a period as possible, and without prejudice to the rights guaranteed to prisoners.

** Libya

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has expressed its serious concerns to the authorities about an incident involving attacks against Tawerga internally displaced people on the morning of 6 February at the Janzur Marine Academy near Tripoli.

The Mission has confirmed that seven people were killed — three inside the Academy and four during a street demonstration by the Tawerga.  Three of the dead were children and two were women.  Nineteen people were injured.

The Mission welcomes the action taken by military police of the national army in restoring security, and calls upon the Government to conduct an investigation into the incident and bring those responsible to justice.

**Press Conferences

Today at 3 p.m., here in the auditorium, there will be a press conference by Héctor Marcos Timerman, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Argentina.

And immediately after, at 3:45 p.m., there will be a press conference by the United Kingdom Ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant.

**UN National Staff

I was asked yesterday about national staff in South Sudan.

The UN Mission in South Sudan has taken the complaints by national staff members very seriously, and adopted the necessary measures to address them.  The Special Representative for the Secretary-General, Hilde Johnson, and the Deputy Special Representative for the Secretary-General, Lise Grande, held meetings with representatives of the national staff association this week and discussed their concerns and the way forward.

** North Lawn Building

I was also asked about a recent incident in the North Lawn Building here at Headquarters involving a noose.  It’s the policy of the Organization not to comment on cases that are still under review.  And this case is indeed still being reviewed.

Questions, please?  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [inaudible], good morning, good afternoon.  The Secretary-General is meeting with the Italian Prime Minister today, Mr. Mario Monti.  Is this just a get-to-know-each-other meeting or have the Prime Minister and the Secretary-General agreed on some topics and you can anticipate them for us?

Spokesperson:  Well, we will provide a readout on the meeting, of course.  But I can tell you that, obviously, as you well know, the Italian Prime Minister has been visiting the United States, and as part of that visit he is also coming to the United Nations to meet the Secretary-General.  Obviously, Italy is an important partner and Member State within the United Nations, plays an important role in peacekeeping operations and in development work, amongst others.  And, of course, the question of the economic crisis, global economic crisis, is something that is likely to be discussed.

Question:  No Syria?

Spokesperson:  I am sure they will be covering geopolitical matters, and let’s see what exactly unfolds during that meeting.  Yes, Masood? 

Question:  This meeting on the… which the readout was issued by… on meeting between the Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister of Argentina, the Secretary-General offered his good offices to resolve the dispute, if at all needed.  Has he talked to the British Ambassador about this issue also?

Spokesperson:  Well, let’s read exactly what he says, Masood.  The Secretary-General reiterated that his good offices to resolve this dispute remain available if both countries request it.  So this is not something new.  He is reiterating that his good offices to resolve this dispute remain available if both countries request it.

Correspondent:  The reason I am asking because the tensions over there again are running high and…

Spokesperson:  Indeed, and the Secretary-General expressed his concern about the increasingly strong exchanges between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom on this particular issue.  And he has expressed the hope, as you will have seen, that both Governments avoid an escalation of this dispute and resolve their differences peacefully through dialogue.

Question:  Is there anything, a follow-up, on a question which I asked yesterday on this killing of the Iranian nuclear scientist, which is allegedly by Mossad and other agencies involved in it?  Has he… what has the Secretary-General has to say about that?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I mentioned to you yesterday, already we did comment at the time of that most recent incident, and I don’t have anything beyond that at this point.  Yes, and then Nizar.  Did you have a question?

Correspondent:  Sorry, Martin, I didn’t have a question.

Spokesperson:  Okay.  Just a flick of the shoulder.  Okay.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Okay.  Martin, do you have anything to say about this bombing in Aleppo, I mean, suicide bombing which took place today?

Spokesperson:  At this point, we don’t have a clear picture of precisely what happened, except that once again people have been killed.  And clearly, as the Secretary-General has repeatedly said, as we have repeatedly said, that the bloodshed has to stop and that killing, bombing, shelling by whomever has to stop, regardless of where it is from.  It has to stop and should be condemned.

Question:  On the, sorry, [inaudible], there was a statement from the insurgents issued on Thursday, today, saying that they were responsible for the attack, for an attack on the security in the city [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Well, as I said right at the beginning, Nizar, we don’t have a complete picture of what happened.  But whatever happened, the result was that many people lost their lives.  And that is something to be condemned.  Yes?

Question:  A terrorist attack?  Do you consider that a terrorist attack [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Nizar, I have said that wherever the bloodshed comes from, wherever the violence emanates from, it has to stop.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  I have some other questions, but first to follow up on Argentina.  The Foreign Minister, when he came out of the meeting, said to the media in Spanish that in the meeting with the Secretary-General, the Secretary-General had said that since the continent, the Latin American continent, is so supportive of the Argentina’s position that should make it easier to resolve.  And that’s what he told the media when he came out of the meeting.  And I just wanted to know, is that something that the Secretary-General said?  Is that his view?

Spokesperson:  We’ve…

Correspondent:  I see your readout, I mean…

Spokesperson:  Yeah, well, the readout has said very clearly that we are concerned about the strong exchanges between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom.  And it is his hope that both Governments will avoid an escalation of this dispute and resolve their differences peacefully and through dialogue.  That’s what I have for you.

Question:  Okay.  I also wanted to ask… well, I wanted to ask you about, in the Maldives, there is… it is obviously becoming more and more contentious in terms of what led to the President to resign.  But he has called for fast elections, and I wanted to know, I know Mr. Taranco is there, but given the UN’s stated commitment to democracy, do you think that, is that something the UN supports, the idea of actually having an election when it is alleged that somebody was deposed by force?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you pointed out, Mr. Fernández-Taranco is in the Maldives, and he met today with both the newly sworn-in President and with Mr. Nasheed.  And he is clearly listening to all.  The key point here is to encourage dialogue and non-violence, and that is precisely what he is doing.  And he is expressing his concern about the evident polarization of views in the Maldives.  At this point, he is there, he is assessing, he is listening.  And we don’t have any further comment beyond the need to encourage dialogue and avoid violence.

Question:  Can I also… this is about Mr. Fernández-Taranco, and I am sorry I didn’t use his whole name.  I had asked you some… maybe, I don’t know, maybe about a week ago, about this idea of a UN system task force on Syria, which I was told had already met and that had a UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] Yemeni former Saleh Minister as the head and Mr. Taranco, Fernández-Taranco, on it as well.  I never heard back.  Is that… are you saying that the task force exists or it doesn’t exist?

Spokesperson:  What I said to you at the time still stands; that it is entirely normal and appropriate for different parts of the UN system to discuss crises that there are in different parts of the world at different times.  Yes, Stafano, and then I am coming to you again.  Yes?

Question:  Is there any reaction on the use, though it is not confirmed, about possibly Qatari or British or both, military advisers who are inside Syria?  Did you hear this?  Did you have…?

Spokesperson:  No, that’s not something I have any information on, no.  Yes?

Question:  I have two technical questions.  Is there anybody else who is going to be present at the meeting with the Secretary-General and Prime Minister Monti?  Or is it just a private meeting, the two of them?

Spokesperson:  I think this is with respective delegations.

Question:  And do you know how long it will last?

Spokesperson:  I’d think about 20 minutes.

Question:  No more?  Is this the first time they meet, in as far as you know?  Or have they met…?

Spokesperson:  I believe so, but I’d need to check.

Question:  Could you?  I’m curious to know if…

Spokesperson:  Of course.  Yes, of course, yes.  Other questions, please?  Joe?

Question:  Thank you.  In 1982, the Security Council passed resolution 502 and 505 based on Article 51, which is Britain’s right of self-defence in the Falklands (Malvinas).  Is that… obviously the Secretary-General [inaudible] as well by that, resolutions.  Does he feel now that that applies and Britain has a right to self-defence in the Falklands?

Spokesperson:  I think I will stick to what I have said in the readout, Joe, okay?

Correspondent:  Okay.  It was worth a try.

Spokesperson:  It’s always worth a try, Joe.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  One, in… I… one question, at least I think, maybe I have missed it, that really wasn’t answered is I had asked you about the group that the Secretary-General said he was going to set up to review the UN’s own performance in Sri Lanka, and that Mr. Mortimer, who you said, you know, has written an open letter widely available, saying that its work has been disbanded, that it was Ms. [inaudible].  Has… does…?

Spokesperson:  It’s simply not true.

This is a review that will be taking place and the different parts of the UN system will be contributing to that. 

Question:  How long… how long has it been now since… I mean it’s been quite a bit of time, but you are saying that it hasn’t; he’s… that Mr. Mortimer is wrong in that assertion?

Spokesperson:  Correct.

Question:  Okay.  I also wanted to ask you, and I… it’s just that I wish I had been able to follow this up with Mr. Ladsous when asked about this selection of Shavendra Silva, who is the Ban Ki… the Secretary-General’s report on Sri Lanka as the head of a division said that the matter is being considered further.  I wasn’t clear what that meant by the Secretariat, or by the Asia Group or by Sri Lanka.  I wanted to know if you can find out what that is, and also I have been at least CCed on a number of letters that have been addressed to the Secretary-General about this issue, of taking what people seem to see as an alleged war criminal and making him an adviser, or selecting him or allowing him to be selected, and I wanted to know how many letters have you received and is it being reconsidered, what’s your… what’s the… where does this stand?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General himself told you, as you know, that this is a decision by Member States.  At this point, that is the end of the story, okay.

Question:  So there is no effort by the Secretariat, in any way, to speak to the Asia Group or to the country of Sri Lanka?

Spokesperson:  I also heard what Mr. Ladsous said, the Under-Secretary-General, as I was sitting right next to him…

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Yes, other questions?  All right, thanks.  Have a good afternoon and a good weekend.

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