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

31 May 2012

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

31 May 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.

**Noon Guest

We will begin today with our guest, António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who will launch his Office’s flagship book entitled The State of the World’s Refugees.  Mr. Guterres will make a short presentation, we will have the Q-and-A session afterwards and, after that is over, I will resume the normal noon briefing.  Mr. Guterres, the floor is yours.

[Press conference by Mr. Guterres is issued separately.]

Thank you so much, Mr. Guterres for a very informative and challenging presentation you have made, and I am sure you have left us all with lot of food for thought.  Thank you so much.  Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General has been taking part in the Alliance of Civilizations Partners Forum in Istanbul today.  In remarks to the meeting, he said the Alliance was founded to advance the most noble of common ideals — greater understanding among peoples and nations, and a deeper embrace of global diversity.

The Secretary-General said that on tolerance and cooperation, the Alliance has emerged as an increasingly important voice on the global stage.  The challenge before us now is how to enable the Alliance of Civilizations to play an even more constructive role on the issues that confront us.

On Syria, he said the UN Supervision Mission is there to help bring about a ceasefire.  The observers are the eyes and ears of the international community, there to record violations and to speak out so that the perpetrators of crimes can be held to account.  The Secretary-General said the massacre of civilians of the sort seen last weekend could plunge Syria into a catastrophic civil war — a civil war from which the country would never recover.  He said a united international community demands that the Syrian Government act on its responsibilities to its people.  His full remarks are available online.

The Secretary-General has had a range of bilateral meetings and we will provide readouts where possible.  The Secretary-General has also just visited the United Nations Industrial Development Organization’s International Centre for Hydrogen Energy Technology to highlight the importance of sustainable energy and next month’s Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council met to discuss its recent trip to West Africa.  It later met in closed session to consult on the situation in Sudan and South Sudan.

**Secretary-General’s Appointments

We have three more senior appointments to announce today.  They are, for the position of Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, the Secretary-General has selected Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal of Austria, who, since 2007, is the Spokesman and Head of the Department for Communication and Information of the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs.

For the position of Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, the Secretary-General has selected Wu Hongbo of China, who, since 2009, is Ambassador of China to the Federal Republic of Germany.

For the position of Assistant Secretary-General in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Secretary-General has selected Ms. Shamshad Akhtar of Pakistan, who, until recently, was the Vice-President, Middle East and North Africa at the World Bank.  We have more information on all three in my Office.

**“Only One Earth” Stakeout

And there will be stakeout on the second floor of the North Lawn Building today at 1 p.m. by three Ambassador-level representatives, in connection with the book entitled Only One Earth, which is directly related to the Rio+20 process.  They are Minister André Aranha Correa do Lago of Brazil, Mr. Ahmed Ehab Gamaleldin of Egypt and Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thébault of France.

That’s it from me.  We have time for one or two questions.  Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  What is the name of this Pakistani…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Ms. Shamshad Akhtar.

Question:  Former Governor of [inaudible].  I see, okay, Shamshad Akhtar.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay?  Mr. Abbadi? 

Question:  Thanks, Eduardo.  The Syrian situation is getting to be very critical. As you mentioned, the Secretary-General said that it might fall into civil war; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that also recently.  And the Special Envoy, Joint Envoy, is talking about the impact of the situation on the regional States when he visited Jordan yesterday. Does the Secretary-General think that the situation in Syria is now threatening international peace and security?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think the Secretary-General has been very clear in his vision that the spill-over effects of the situation in Syria can, in fact, pose a problem for the region and for the world.  It’s a very serious security problem.  There is a humanitarian problem of the Syrians being killed, but there is also the political challenges of the region.  That’s a very complicated and highly charged region, and that there could be that we have to try and limit the fallout of that to regional States, and that’s been very much on the Secretary-General’s mind, which is one of the reasons why both he and Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan have called for the non-militarization, for no militarization of the conflict and for a peaceful solution, for Syrians to come together in a dialogue and to resolve their differences peacefully and to proceed in that sense.  But that the violence must stop, and the violence in Syria must stop.  And that is the position of the Secretary-General and it is in conscious of the impact it could have on the region.  Masood?

Question:  On this question, which been just floating around that Israel should recognize some soft borders with Palestine in the Occupied Territories, has the Secretary-General weighed in on those as yet?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General… the UN’s position is quite clear and I am not going to repeat it again.  The Secretary-General’s position is quite clear.

Question:  Sure, I just… I… I may have mis… misheard you, the… the… the… Wu Hongbo is… who is getting DESA and… or is he getting DGACM?  I didn’t understand, the middle… the middle of the two… you said DPI…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Mr. Wu Hongbo of China, who since 2009 is Ambassador of China to the Federal Republic of Germany

Question:  And so… and… and… and the woman from Pakistan is getting what, [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  She is getting Assistant Secretary-General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Question:  Okay, so ASG?  Okay, okay, I got you.  So… so DGACM still has not been announced nor DPA?  I wanted to ask you on… on the DPA announcement… this is kind of a… yesterday at the stakeout, on the record, the Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari was asked about the possibility of Jeffrey Feltman taking the position, and he said… and I’d like you respond to it, he said this is a sign of escalation, this is not a sign of keeping things under international law and that such an official should be impartial and neutral.  He thinks the individual is not.  So I’m…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew…

Question:  …I’m asking…

Deputy Spokesperson:  …we have absolutely nothing to announce in terms of DPA, and we have no comment to make on the Ambassador’s remarks.

Question:  It seems like… I mean, I guess what I am saying is… is it your position, you have no response to that?  It is a major conflict going on, he is the Ambassador of the country and he is saying that he believes that the Secretary-General is on the verge of escalating rather than building a bridge.

Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has been building bridges, he has been trying to get the international community speak with one voice, he has appointed Kofi Annan as Joint Special Envoy, they have come up with the six-point plan, they have gotten both sides nominally to agree to the six-point plan, so I would say the Secretary-General is extremely actively involved in building bridges.  Now, what the Ambassador of Syria may have speculated on yesterday, as you know, we don’t comment on speculation.

Question:  Mo, no, and thank… I mean, all I want is your response.  The Ambassador of Russia, Mr. Churkin, also said that the expulsion of diplomats from Syria from various countries sends a… may be misinterpreted as a step towards military intervention.  So I wanted to know, since the Secretary-General is a bridge-builder and a diplomat, does he view these expulsions as a positive step or is potentially sending the wrong signal and escalating it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as Kofi Annan, the Joint Special Envoy, said two days ago, that is a question of national sovereignty and that is a question that Member States have to take on their own.  That is not a question that we are going to comment on.

Question:  Can I ask one other thing?  There is… there is… this is a… one maybe you will comment on.  There is a US official… he is… Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philip Verveer has testified to Congress that… and… and that… what… what many there understand to be a UN proposal to have a greater role in the Internet, he says with slow innovation and would allow the UN to control too much things that are taking place online.  I think… I guess, I… I… I think the Under… the UN is somehow saying that that’s not its proposal, or the ITU is not part of the UN.  I don’t really understand the UN’s response, but this is a… this is a senior official to Congress today saying that the UN is proposing to censor the Internet essentially.  So I wanted to know, what’s your response?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, your comment is the first thing I have heard about it, we are going to have to check into that, I have no information on that.  Last question, Masood?

[The Deputy Spokesperson later referred journalists to the following speech made by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary-General, Hamadoun I. Touré:  http://www.itu.int/en/osg/speeches/Pages/2012-05-01.aspx.]

Question:  This… on the Syria thing, I just wanted to find out whether now that there are investigations going on to find out who killed who, especially after this El-Houleh massacre and so forth, I just want to know, is there an investigation also being conducted into activities of the so-called rebel groups who are being aided by other countries?  Is that part of the whole process?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we have been speaking about the conflict in terms of all sides.  All sides must stop the violence; all sides must stop committing atrocities.  As you know, tomorrow, the Human Rights Council will meet in Geneva.  Let’s see what they have to say, let’s see what they have found and let’s see what they comment. 

Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

* *** *

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