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

27 June 2012

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

27 June 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.

**Global Food Security

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the meeting of the High-level Task Force on Global Food Security:

This morning, the Secretary-General chaired a meeting of the High-level Task Force on Global Food Security.

The Secretary-General welcomes the strong outcome from Rio+20 on food and nutrition security.  Following the launch of the Zero Hunger Challenge last week, the High-level Task Force will be reoriented to focus on the Challenge’s five objectives as a guide for a coherent United Nations system approach to food and nutrition security.

The Secretary-General noted that since it was established in 2008, the Task Force had made progress in devising a common comprehensive framework for action for the United Nations system in food and nutrition security, particularly during recent food crises.  It helped forge united positions among its member agencies in Rio and at the G-8 and G-20 summits.  The High-level Task Force also supports the Committee on World Food Security as the primary governance body for food and nutrition.

But with close to 1 billion people still experiencing chronic hunger, he urged agencies, Governments, businesses, civil society organizations and the scientific community to eliminate hunger in our lifetimes.

** Syria

The Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, announced today that the Action Group for Syria will convene at the ministerial level this Saturday, 30 June, in Geneva.  Mr. Annan said that he looks forward to a productive meeting this weekend, where all can agree on concrete actions to end the cycle of violence and bring peace and stability to the Syrian people.

Also, Deputy Joint Special Envoy Jean-Marie Guéhenno spoke to the Human Rights Council in Geneva today, telling them that, at the moment, all sides appear to not believe in the possibility of a political solution.  He said the Syrian people have not had adequate opportunity to engage with outsiders or with each other on sensitive political issues, and they have been rightfully fearful to do so. Political goals, he said, are being pursued with military means.  We have his remarks in my office.

**Secretary-General on Counter-Terrorism

The Secretary-General spoke this morning at a symposium on promoting dialogue and understanding and countering terrorism.  The Secretary-General said that it takes more than traditional security approaches to counter terrorism.  We must also work together to extinguish the flames of hate and intolerance that breed terrorist violence.  We have his speech in my office, and it’s also online.

**Security Council

The Security Council is discussing Afghanistan in an open meeting right now.  Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told Council members that significant progress was made during two international conferences in Kabul and in Chicago, with a third to take place next month in Tokyo.

Mr. Ladsous added that a strategic decision has been made to reshape the provincial footprint of the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, in line with a comprehensive review undertaken last year.  We have his remarks to the Council, and those of Yury Fedotov, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Earlier this morning, the Security Council extended the mandates of the United Nations Mission in the Golan Heights, by six months, and of the one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, by one year.

** Myanmar

As we mentioned yesterday, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict today witnessed the signing of an action plan for the release and reintegration of children associated with the Government forces in Myanmar.  The signing took place in the capital, Naypyitaw.

Radhika Coomaraswamy said that the new action plan is both a testament and a test of Myanmar’s engagement with children.  She also met with President Thein Sein today.  And there is more information on this available online.

**Legal Counsel

The Legal Counsel of the United Nations, Patricia O'Brien, is in Moscow, where she is participating in the annual meeting of the Russian branch of the International Law Association at the invitation of Kyrill Gevorgian, the Legal Adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.  Ms. O'Brien delivered opening remarks and a speech on the concept of the “Responsibility to Protect”.  The texts of the speeches can be found on the website of the Office of Legal Affairs.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., here in this auditorium, there will be a press conference on Fashion 4 Development, a global platform to advance the Millennium Development Goals.  Participants will include Ray Chambers, Millennium Development Goals Advocate and the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Malaria; Franca Sozzani, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Italia and the Fashion 4 Development Goodwill Ambassador; Cesare Ragaglini, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations; and Evie Evangelou, the co-founder and Global Chair of Fashion 4 Development.

** Eritrea

I was asked yesterday about the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council on Eritrea and whether it had been withdrawn. 

Security Council resolution 2023 (2011) requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on Eritrea's compliance with the provisions of the resolution.  After again reviewing the report, the Secretariat concluded that it had not adequately responded to the requests in resolution 2023 (2011).  The Secretariat decided to withdraw the report to make it more responsive to the request by the Security Council.

Questions please?  Yes, Masood, first of all, you’re nearly on the UNCA President’s chair.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Ha, ha, ha!  Oh boy.  Anyway, what am I saying, I’m going to ask you, will the Secretary-General be going to this Action Group meeting in Geneva?  And also, will he be going to this meeting on Afghanistan in Tokyo?

Spokesperson:  Yes, he will be going to the meeting in Geneva.  He’s been invited.  Yes, he will be going.  On the meeting in Tokyo, I think we would anticipate saying something a little further, probably next week.  

Question: [inaudible] this meeting in Geneva.  Is the Secretary-General going to be taking his own proposals also, along with other proposals [inaudible] foreign ministers, five permanent members of the Security Council?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General is clearly supporting the efforts of the Joint Special Envoy in this process, and in putting together this Action group, which of course, as the Joint Special Envoy said, is aimed at producing an outcome.  And that’s what they will be aiming for.  That’s why the Secretary-General is supporting the work of the Joint Special Envoy.  Yes?

Question:  Thanks, Martin.  Any comment or insight into the Joint Special Envoy’s decision not to invite Iran to the Action Group meeting in Geneva after previous indication that he wanted them there?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Joint Special Envoy has been clear about the need for Iran to be part of the solution.  And as I understand it, the Joint Special Envoy will brief Iran after the meeting of the Action Group for Syria.  And he will also ensure their continued engagement.

Question:  Why not just invite them then?

Spokesperson:  This is, as I said, he’s, he’s been clear about the need for them to be part of the solution and he will, as I understand it, brief Iran after the meeting. 

Question:  Turkey has been invited.  He invited…  Why can he invite Iran?

Spokesperson:  As I said… you know what I’m going to say.  Yes, Matthew?

Question: [inaudible] here is actually a follow-up on something else.  But I wanted to… to… also about Syria.  But just on this, maybe I know you’re going to say, I just want to ask you.  I was told by a Council diplomat this morning that US Secretary of State, she would not attend if Iran did.  For that… on that basis, Kofi Annan didn’t invite them.  I know the Secretary-General also said he should be invited.  So is there… is this statement, is this… I think he was in… on that trip, he gave an interview, in which he said Iran should be part of the process.  Is there… one, you have any response to the idea that a single country could bring about non-attendance of Iran.  And what’s Ban Ki-moon’s own response to them not attending?   

Spokesperson:  As I said, the Joint Special Envoy has… has been clear about the need for Iran to be part of the solution.  So is the Secretary-General about the need for Iran to be part of the solution.  And on the rest of it, I’ve already said and I’m not going to repeat myself.

Question:  Will Saudi Arabia get a similar briefing?  Is that… some people were surprised that they are not invited and see it as somehow linked.  Is… is… Are they also going to be briefed by Kofi Annan at the end of the… of the…?

Spokesperson:  I would have to check on that, Matthew.  It could potentially grow into a list of people to be briefed.  And I’m sure that is part of the diplomatic process in any case.

[The Spokesperson later added that he understands the Joint Special Envoy will also brief Saudi Arabia after the Action Group meeting and ensure their continued engagement.]

Question: I want… you just mentioned the briefing by Mr. Guéhenno of the Human Rights Council, I guess, earlier today.  And I wanted to ask you, I noticed in it that he said… he said that the mission in… in Syria stopped operations on 15 June, which is Friday, in which DPKO provided its notice to the Council.  But I know that here when it’s not… you said I was going around in circles.  But I just want to sort of end the circle.  Here, you said the official ending was on Saturday, 16 June, when General Robert Mood said it was ending.  So, it’s again… we have this thing.  Which is it?  It’s now Guéhenno says fifteenth, from here, you said sixteenth.  Is there any change in your position?  Is that… we have two different dates with a gap of several hours [in fact some patrols?] when I was told.

Spokesperson:  I really don’t think there is the need to comment on that, Matthew.  Yes, other questions?  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  Just a question about the SG’s remarks at the counter-terrorism symposium this morning.  Specifically what… the one that you quoted about using non-traditional measures to fight terrorism.  Does that include addressing Member States who are quietly openly known to fund… and by this, I’m referring to the Friends of Syria Group, which has raised money to pay armed gangs in Syria.  Many people think that’s what’s keeping this revolution happening there.  I’m asking you, as part of the counter-terrorism symposium, is it appropriate to address States that are funding armed gangs that are openly [inaudible] in countries like Syria?

Spokesperson:  I think what the Secretary-General was clearly talking about, and you paraphrased, was that there are a number of strands beyond traditional hard security responses to countering terrorism.  That includes working with young people.  It includes de-radicalization programmes and other measures of that kind.  In other words, helping from an early age to inculcate the need for tolerance and to counter hatred.  And that’s what he means by non-traditional means.  I think I would leave it there.  Yes, other questions?  Yes? 

Question:  I wanted to ask…

Spokesperson:  Let me go to Ozlan first, and then I will come to you, Matthew.  Yes, [inaudible]?

Question: [inaudible] maybe I don’t know.  What does concrete… what does Secretary-General expect from the Geneva meeting, thinking that Iran and Saudi Arabia won’t be there?

Spokesperson:  As we’ve already said, there will be a number of foreign ministers there, foreign-minister-level officials there.  It includes the members of the P-5, the permanent five members of the Security Council.  This is a serious undertaking that has the full support of the Secretary-General.  The objectives of the group as set out by Mr. Annan are to identify steps and measures to secure full implementation of the six-point plan and relevant Security Council resolutions, including an immediate cessation of violence in all its forms.  And this Action Group should also agree on guidelines and principles for a Syrian-led political transition that meets legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, for example, and agree on actions to make these objectives a reality on the ground.  So this is as set out by Mr. Annan, the Joint Special Envoy.  And he is looking forward to a productive weekend meeting, where all can agree on concrete actions and the Secretary-General fully supports him in that endeavour.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask about Sudan and Haiti.  On Sudan, I know there… continuing protests in Khartoum and elsewhere about austerity and someone wants to change the Government.  But there have been journalists rounded up and one Egyptian journalist has been deported from the country.  I know that a couple of times… what UNESCO is saying.  But I wonder again because of the UN’s particular interest in Sudan and in North Sudan-South Sudan process in Darfur.  Is there any response to the beginning of not only detaining but actually deporting foreign journalists for covering peaceful protests of the Government in Khartoum?

Spokesperson:  I think I’ve answered that question already, Matthew.  If I have anything further, I will let you know.

Question:  I just wanted to be sure to ask you this, on Haiti because this is… involves directly MINUSTAH, the peacekeeping mission.  It’s now been… been stated by the dean of the state university there on 15 June,  MINUSTAH came in with weapons, heavy weapons and broke up the meeting, and he called it an outrage.  I know I’ve asked you before, but is MINUSTAH… how did they explain?  It doesn’t seem to be in dispute that they entered this university.  But isn’t there some need for the UN to explain why they would enter a university with arms?

Spokesperson:  I believe the Mission has done so.  Yes?

Question:  I’ve been asking here.  I’ve not seen it. 

Spokesperson:  I believe the Mission has done so, Matthew.  Yeah.  Other questions?  Yes?

Question:  Yesterday’s debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.  Pakistan’s Ambassador pointed out that the Secretary-General’s report is basically contradictory, and also in a sense hypocritical, because it criticizes Pakistan for not taking care of civilians in the line of fire in armed conflict.  While it doesn’t do the same… other countries, like, for instance, Israel, when it goes into Gaza and so forth, does the Secretary-General have a response to that? 

Spokesperson:  I don’t think so, as the report speaks for itself.

Question:  I wanted to also follow up on other questions about Kashmir.  I asked you this question the day before yesterday… burning of… now the situation is becoming bad in India.  Is there any reaction by the Secretary-General about this situation?

Spokesperson:  Masood, if I have something further to say, I will.  But we are aware of the report.  Yes?

Question:  I just want a hats-off.  There is a French press release by MINUSTAH, so I will read that about Haiti.  I’m not sure what it says, but thanks.  But while… I wanted to ask you, I’m glad to get it done today.  On the announcement you made about Eritrea report, you said that, you know, it was prepared under the resolution which called for the report on sanctions, and then looking at it, I guess, after it’s already gone online, the Secretariat concluded that it did not adequately respond.  But the question is, if you can explain, who wrote the report, the report as written?  I have a copy of it.  It says this is the report of the Secretary-General.  Then it talks about what Eritrea said about sanctions.  So when you said the Secretariat looked at it and decided that it did not comply, who… didn’t the Secretariat write it, or is there…? Can you just explain a little more of how it makes sense to have the Secretariat knock down its own report?   

Spokesperson:  Well, it’s precisely what it says here.  After again reviewing the report, the Secretariat concluded that it had not adequately responded to the request in resolution 2023 (2011).  The Secretariat provides the material for such a report.  I think it’s obvious that the Secretary-General himself does not sit down and pen the reports.  They are prepared on his behalf by those who work in those particular areas.

Question:  Because I don’t want to misunderstand it.  Is it… I heard from some Member States, they expressed their discord with the report.  Speaking specifically about Ethiopia, possibly Djibouti, the United States…  Can you give some flavour of… was this just an internal review by the Secretary-General of his own, or his department, or DPA’s report, or was there communication and complaints received by Member States that are neighbours or concerned about Eritrea?    

Spokesperson:  I do not know the answer to that, Matthew.  Simply put, the Secretariat has decided to withdraw the report to make it more responsive to the request by the Security Council.  In due course, you will see it.  All right?  Okay.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you very much. 

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