Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

16 February 2012

Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

16 February 2012
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

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

and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Nihal Saad, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the briefing.  Immediately following this briefing, Nihal Saad, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will be here to brief you.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is in Vienna today, and has had a wide range of engagements.  This morning, he addressed the opening of the Third Ministerial Conference of the Paris Pact Partners on Combating the Afghan Illicit Opiate Trade.  The Secretary-General said the drug trade was a threat to the well-being and development of Afghanistan and its neighbours.  He said the fight against that trade went to the heart of UN efforts in Afghanistan and our work on reducing poverty.

He later delivered a lecture on the theme of Empowering People in a Changing World.  The focus of the speech was on the role of women and youth in those changes.  The Secretary-General said we can apply the lessons we learn from women’s empowerment to the task of empowering young people.  And he said that addressing the needs and hopes of the world’s women and young people was an act of necessity rather than simply an act of solidarity.

The Secretary-General has had a range of bilateral meetings with the Austrian President and Foreign Minister, and the Foreign Ministers of France, Russia and Kyrgyzstan.  He also met the Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  We have readouts on those meetings and they are online.  There is also a transcript of the Secretary-General’s press conference with the Austrian President.

Tonight, the Secretary-General will be the guest of the President at the Annual Opera Ball at the State Opera House.

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will attend a ceremony to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization before he returns to New York.

** Bahrain

This statement is attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Bahrain (issued yesterday):

The Secretary-General is concerned about reports of clashes in Bahrain between security forces and demonstrators over the past few days.  He calls on all parties to exercise maximum restraint, and expects the Bahraini authorities to act in accordance with their international human rights obligations.

The Secretary-General strongly believes that a genuine, all-inclusive and meaningful dialogue that meets the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis is the way to promote peace and stability in the country.

The Secretary-General reiterates his call on the Bahraini authorities to do everything possible to expedite the implementation of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, especially its provisions aimed at effective confidence-building measures.

** Camp Ashraf

I will readout out parts of a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Camp Ashraf.

The Secretary-General continues to follow the situation in Camp Ashraf.  Over the past few months, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), under the leadership of his Special Representative, Martin Kobler, has been working tirelessly as an impartial facilitator to promote a peaceful resolution of this issue, within the framework of UNAMI’s humanitarian mandate.

At the request of the Secretary-General, the Government of Iraq extended its deadline to close Camp Ashraf from 31 December 2011 to 30 April 2012.

The Secretary-General acknowledges the efforts of the Government of Iraq to prepare the temporary transit location to host the residents and allow the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to undertake refugee status determination.

The Secretary-General believes that the time has come to start the relocation process without further delay.  He urges the Iraqi authorities and the residents of Camp Ashraf to continue to cooperate and complete the process in a peaceful manner.  The Secretary-General reiterates that the Government of Iraq bears the primary responsibility for the security and the welfare of the residents of Camp Ashraf.  At the same time, the residents of Camp Ashraf also bear a responsibility to abide by the laws of Iraq.  Any provocation or violence must be avoided and would be unacceptable.

The press release can be found online.

**Security Council in Haiti

The Security Council is wrapping up its mission to Haiti today.  This morning, they visited a police academy where the instructors of the Haitian National Police have been trained by UN police.

Security Council members also met with internally displaced people at the Carradeux camp in Port-au-Prince, and saw the living conditions there, as well as the work done by peacekeepers and humanitarians.  They were then briefed on the response to the cholera epidemic at a cholera-treatment centre.  Security Council members will hold a press conference in about an hour, before their departure from Haiti.

That’s about it from me.  Questions, please?  Erol?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  As you know, the referendum has been done in… has been finished in northern part of Kosovo.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  In which the local Serbs are expressing their view that they are not recognizing any Kosovo institution.  What are the Secretary-General views on that and does he see — I don’t like to say — but security potential in the negative way in that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the UNMIK [United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] is not monitoring the referendum and does not have any role to play in the referendum.  As you’ll recall, the Secretary-General said in December that he welcomes a resumption of the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.  He calls on all parties to honour the agreements reached in the framework of the dialogue, to refrain from unilateral action and to actively support the de-escalation of tensions on the ground.

Question:  Just different, but to the same region.  As you probably know, there is a snowstorm that has been the biggest on the record in the last 100 years in the western Balkans.  I remember when Secretary-General issued a statement on the floods a year or so ago in Montenegro and in the region.  Does he have anything, do you have anything on that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check on that.  I have got nothing on it.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  I wonder if the Secretary-General has any reaction to the announcement by the International Criminal Court… Tribunal in… for the Former Yugoslavia that it will try, begin to try General [Ratko] Mladić on 14 May for the crimes he committed against humanity in Bosnia?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General respects the independence of the court, so normally he would not comment on that.

Question:  Yeah, sure, Eduardo, I wanted to… I know that the… definitely Valerie Amos, but I think the Secretary-General, as well, has spoken about the lack of humanitarian access to Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile in Sudan, and since the Security Council press, you know, statement was circulated by e-mail, President Bashir of Sudan has said… has again said that he would block any international NGOs from accessing the area, calling them biased and… and… and so essentially nothing has improved.  And I wonder, is there any reaction by the UN Secretariat to this mounting humanitarian crisis, as it is described?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we intend to stand by our insistence that humanitarian aid be allowed to reach the affected areas.  It is a humanitarian crisis and it has to be addressed.  The Security Council has also expressed its opinion, and we stand by it.

Question:  Well, what, I guess also on Sudan, yesterday, I had asked you these things about complaints by South Sudan that Sudan is not allowing people to repatriate, and also a crackdown on a demonstration by South Sudanese in Khartoum.  There has been another such demonstration crackdown on, and I just wonder, I mean, the UN has two peacekeeping country… two peacekeeping missions in Sudan, one just across the border; what’s the reaction by the UN to these events?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything on that yet; we will ask, we will inquire from the missions.  Sir?

Question:  [inaudible] Ministers for Foreign Affairs for France and Russia — two countries that have very different positions about Syria.  What did he tell them?  What can he do to make their positions closer, and maybe before the vote today?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I would invite you to look at the readouts that are online.  We have published the readouts of the Secretary-General’s meetings with both Foreign Ministers; they are online.

Question:  A follow-up on the same question.  What did Mr. Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, has told the Secretary-General?  I know the Secretary-General asked to open the routes for humanitarian aid to be delivered for the Syrians, but there is no indication what was Mr. Lavrov’s reply.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, that you would have to ask Mr. Lavrov’s staff to tell you.  We report on what the Secretary-General’s vision was; the Russians will comment on what the Foreign Minister did.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Regarding the conflict over the Malvinas Islands, Falkland/Malvinas Islands, the Secretary-General, as you know, has called for a dialogue between the two parties to resolve peacefully the conflict.  Do you know of any effort under way aimed at achieving that purpose?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General met with Foreign Minister Timmerman last week and, as he said in the readout that we published, he would offer his good offices if both countries asked for it.  So he is basically willing if both countries ask to engage his good offices in a dialogue role for them.

Question:  And so far none of the parties has asked for that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe the Argentines have, but you need two to tango.

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo, again.  Talking about readouts, last week, we had a readout with the Secretary-General meeting the Foreign Minister of Serbia, Mr. Jeremić, and we read what is inside.  However, did they mention his candidate, candidacy of Mr. Jeremić for the President of General Assembly?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have that in the readout.  I wasn’t at the meeting, so I depend on the readout myself to figure out what was said.

Question:  Can we find out [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, you’d have to ask the Serbian side for that.

Correspondent:  They will not talk.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Neither will we.  We don’t talk at [inaudible]

Question:  [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes?

Question:  A couple of other questions, but first, a follow-up on Malvinas and Falklands.  There have been some complaints by some that work inside the Department of Political Affairs that Assistant Secretary-General [Oscar] Fernandez-Taranco, who is from Argentina, was spending a lot of time on this issue.  So without in any way, you know, saying which side is right, I wanted to know, is there a UN, a general rule against, or practice against, working on issues of their own countries or with their own national Governments, and if so, how can you explain what many describe as a focus by this Argentine ASG on this issue?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, we don’t comment on rumours and speculation.

Question:  [inaudible], okay can you then describe the work…?  Can you, I don’t expect you, I guess, sitting down here, but can you… can you get a description of the work?  Did he attend the meeting with Mr. Timmerman?  And beyond that, can you get some idea or a statement from him? I mean, I haven’t; I know he was in the Maldives, maybe he is back, in terms of the amount of time devoted to that issue?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We can try.

Question:  Eduardo, first you mentioned that the focus is Syria with the Secretary-General now in Europe.  Did he tackle any, with anybody, the crisis of eurozone or financial crisis of Europe?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I imagine it has come up in the conversations, but I don’t have anything specific on it.  But I imagine it has come up in the conversations.  Okay, thank you so much.  Have a good afternoon.

Question:  I wanted to ask you a question.  There is two former UN officials that are in Nepal that have sought UN protection.  There is a pretty… it’s a… one is a former DPI employee, the other one worked, was an ASG, for UNICEF.  And they have been featured in a magazine put out by the ruling party in Nepal, and they claimed they have been targeted for death, so this is a… they have spoken out and I am wondering, what does the UN system do when former high officials publicly seek the protection of the UN and they are…?  What they… what they have very specifically said is that, they say that the Secretary-General intends to travel to Nepal in March to discuss this project called Lumbini,which is the birthplace of the Buddha, and they think it is highly inappropriate and actually adds to their problems there.  So I have two questions.  One, what’s the reaction to a call for personal protection of former officials, and two, what is the Secretary-General’s role in this project in Nepal?  This is, I have asked this in the past but it keeps being reported by the Nepalese that he has, supporting of the project.  Is that the case?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we are looking into the situation of the Nepalese who are claiming they are being targeted.  And I have no comments to make on the Secretary-General’s travel plans.  When in fact they take place, they will take place.

Question:  Sure, forgetting the travel plans for a moment, is it possible to get… is it, since Nepal has now repeatedly said that the Secretary-General supports this development project in Nepal, can we get a description, either a statement by him on it or, or are they totally off-base?  Has he given any indication that he… I mean it is… it’s sort of a commercial and somewhat of a tourism project?  So does he support it or are they wrong to say so?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We can take a look.  Nihal, the floor is yours.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon, everyone.

**General Assembly on Syria

The General Assembly ninety-seventh plenary meeting will be held in the General Assembly Hall at 3 p.m. today.  The meeting will be chaired by the Vice-President, His Excellency Ambassador Gary Francis Quinlan, the Permanent Representative of Australia, on behalf of the President of the General Assembly, who is on an official trip to India.  The draft resolution A/66/L.36 regarding Syria will be considered for adoption.

**General Assembly President in India

On the activities of the President of the General Assembly:  the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, is in India, on a three-day official visit.  Just a moment ago President Al-Nasser held discussions with the Prime Minister of India, His Excellency Dr. Manmohan Singh.  They discussed UN reform and revitalization, the state of the global economy, the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), and the situation in the Middle East.

President Al-Nasser also held talks earlier today with the Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. R.K. Pachauri, who is also the Director-General of The Energy and Resources Institute of India, better known as TERI.  President Al-Nasser commended TERI for its important contributions to the fields of energy, the environment and sustainable development.  They also discussed the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development ( Rio+20).

Yesterday, in Delhi, the President of the General Assembly held talks with India’s Minister of External Affairs, His Excellency S.M. Krishna.  Their talks covered a wide range of issues, including the latest developments in Syria, the state of the world economy, preparations for Rio+20, as well as General Assembly revitalization and Security Council reform.

At a joint press conference which followed the meeting with the Foreign Minister, Minister Krishna reiterated India’s commitment to the principle of multilateralism and to the UN’s leadership in confronting several global challenges.

President Al-Nasser is now scheduled to visit Egypt on Sunday, where he is going to be meeting with Egypt’s Foreign Minister, His Excellency Mohamed Kamel Amr, and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Dr. Nabil Al Araby.

Any questions?  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Nihal, so actually do we expect the voting today; it’s going to be definitely?

Spokesperson:  3 p.m.  As I said the meeting is going to discuss or to consider the draft resolution on Syria A/66/L.36.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  What concrete action has the President of the General Assembly initiated with respect to the situation in Bahrain?

Spokesperson:  Other than what we have issued recently and after his official visit to Bahrain, we have not issued a statement.  Otherwise, we would have circulated that.  That matter was not brought up.

Question:  Well, what is his position, concrete position as far as the situation [inaudible]…?

Spokesperson:  I will have to check and get back to you on an official position regarding Bahrain, because we have not issued a new statement regarding that matter.

Question:  Why hasn’t the President issued a statement on the situation?

Spokesperson:  We do not usually issue statements on every situation.  We have certain guidelines regarding what to be issued and what not to be issued.  So, we do not usually issue statements on every particular incident or event or situation in a particular country.  There are certain guidelines, and we did not issue a statement.

Question:  What are the guidelines?  This is a very important human rights situation.

Spokesperson:  Maybe then we can discuss this, I mean later.  I can give you a copy of our guidelines, as well, but it is very lengthy and I am sure that you have other things to do, so I am not going to be discussing the guidelines right now.

Question:  But, as you know, the situation is one of human rights issue and the General Assembly is entrusted with that responsibility.  So, shouldn’t the President of the General Assembly have some say in the situation?

Spokesperson:  As I mentioned earlier, I will check whether we will issue a statement or we will have a particular position on that situation; and I will get back to you.  Thank you.

Question:  Thank you.  What will be the President of the General Assembly main purpose of visiting Egypt at this time?  Is it regarding Syria, as I see he is going to meet with Nabil Al Araby, the Secretary-General of the Arab League.  And what is the agenda with the Egyptian Government; what he is going to discuss while he is there?

Spokesperson:  Definitely we are going to be issuing a readout when he gets to Egypt and on the bilateral meetings that he is going to be holding there in detail.  Right now what I said is that he is on an official visit to Egypt, at the invitation of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  So far, he is scheduled to meet with the Foreign Minister of Egypt on Sunday.  And on Monday, he is going to hold talks at the Arab League with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Dr. Nabil Al Araby.  There is a wide range of issues that are going to be discussed.  Of course, the developments and the situation in the Middle East, Syria, the Palestinian issue.  And as I said, we are going to be issuing detailed readout of how these meetings went and whether there will be other meetings scheduled for him there.  Yes?

Question:  Hi.  I was just wondering at today’s General Assembly meeting, what will be the order of speakers?  Will there be any [inaudible]…?

Spokesperson:  We do not have an order of speakers, but what is planned is that the plenary meeting is going to start with an announcement by the Vice-President, His Excellency Ambassador Quinlan [of Australia], that the draft resolution will be considered for adoption and then we will take it from there.  So, there is no list of speakers, if that is what you are asking about.  We do not have a list of speakers.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you, yesterday in the North Lawn Building there was a meeting sponsored by the Russian Federation on a series of amendments they said that they had put forward to this draft resolution.  They kind of complained that there hadn’t been consultations before the draft was, or wider consultations before the draft was put forward; they held this meeting, I wanted to know first, you know are they correct that there weren’t that… that… that in terms of a resolution most that come to the floor on the GA, you know, involve meetings for all Member States at some point before.  And number two, did the PGA’s office send anyone to that meeting?  Did they have any view of those amendments, which have been described as rejected in their entirety by the sponsors?

Spokesperson:  I have not seen those reports that you are referring to or what the Russians have said, so I cannot comment on what you just mentioned.  I cannot comment on something that I haven’t heard or I haven’t seen.  But, at the same time, what I can say is that it is unfortunate that some Member States did not feel that they had enough time to study the draft resolution.  But, clearly the majority of the Member States found that they had time and they were able to look and make some decisions on the draft resolution, as we were all seeing women and children being killed every day on daily basis in Syria, and there is an urgency to look into that situation.  So, I cannot comment on what the Russians said because I haven’t seen that.

Question:  Sure, I am just saying that they are actually, there was a meeting, it was down on the first floor of the North Lawn Building and I saw a senior official from the PGA’s Office in attendance; that’s why I am asking you what the view of the Office, if not of the PGA since he is travelling.

Spokesperson:  I will have to confirm that with my colleagues.

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Thank you.

Question:  I also want… I saw that he gave a speech at NYU before he left and at least the write-up I have seen has the following quote saying that he decided to request this briefing to… he said he would do it himself… such actions do not represent, quote “something every President of the General Assembly would do”, Al-Nasser said, as it, quote, “it could cause trouble”.  And I wanted to, just, I mean obviously you are not inside his head, but what, is this an acknowledgement, is this an…,

Spokesperson:  Was that in the speech?

Question:  Yeah, I mean, this is, yeah, it’s a quote, it’s given in the Q and A after the speech at NYU; written up at nyulocal.com.

Spokesperson:  I would have to go back to the Q and A session because I think you received the copy of the speech itself, so that is why I cannot recollect that that was in the speech itself.  I will have to check the Q and A, the transcript of the Q and A and confirm whether that is an exact quote or…

Question:  Sure.

Spokesperson:  Yeah.

Question:  But I guess the other, I mean, as well as just checking the wording, I mean, they put that in quotes, so, I am, unless they are somehow screwing up, I assume that they recorded.  But is it, I mean, is it his position that the actions he has taken both in calling for the briefing and in, at least, according to some Member States, going forward with the resolution without really considering amendments or having an open meeting before the, is it, you know, it’s… I mean, obviously you are saying it is his reasoning for it, but is it something that others wouldn’t do, and what did, what kind of trouble can it cause?

Spokesperson:  I cannot speak for others.

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  I cannot speak, Matthew…

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Matthew, I cannot speak for others.

Question:  All right.  Sure.

Spokesperson:  Okay. so, I am the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, and…

Question:  So, did he say that others wouldn’t do it; that’s my real, my question, and if so, what did he mean?

Spokesperson:  As I said, I have to go back to the quote and tell you exactly what he meant.  And we shouldn’t be taking quotes out of context.  I haven’t seen that quote; I have to go back to the full transcript of the Q and A after the lecture or the address at the NYU and get back to you and confirm that.

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Thank you.  Any more questions?  Thank you very much.  Have a nice day.

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