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

3 July 2012

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

3 July 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 and welcome to the briefing.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council met in closed consultations to discuss their programme of work for this month and the situation in Sudan and South Sudan.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, will speak today at the Security Council stakeout following her briefing to the Council on the human rights situation in Sudan and South Sudan.  We anticipate that that will take place at around 12:30 p.m.

This afternoon, the Council will meet in closed consultations to discuss the United Nation Mission in South Sudan. 

Following this briefing, at around 12:30 p.m., as well, Ambassador Néstor Osorio, the Permanent Representative of Colombia and the President of the Security Council for the month of July, will be here to brief you on the Council’s programme of work for the month.120703 SC

**Secretary-General’s Remarks

This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty.  He noted that for the first time, Member States are gathering at the United Nations to negotiate a treaty regulating the international conventional arms trade, which he said is important, impressive and long overdue.

The Secretary-General said that our common goal is clear:  a robust and legally binding arms trade treaty that will have a real impact on the lives of those millions of people suffering from the consequences of armed conflict, repression and armed violence.  He was also presented with a petition from civil society in support of the treaty.

The Secretary-General also spoke this morning at a high-level event on the death penalty.  He said that the United Nations system has long advocated abolition of the death penalty or — at a minimum and in the interim — moratoriums and restrictions on its use to only “the most serious crimes”.  Yet the death penalty, the Secretary-General said, is still used for a wide range of crimes that do not meet that threshold.  He called for us now to do our utmost to put a final end to this practice.  Both sets of remarks are available in my office and online.

**Trip Announcement

As you will have seen last night, we announced the Secretary-General’s forthcoming trip to Japan.  The Secretary-General will depart New York on Friday for Tokyo.  On Sunday, the Secretary-General will attend the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan.  During his stay in Tokyo, he will also meet with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba.  The Secretary-General will return to New York on Monday.

**Secretary-General on Syria

Last night we released a statement on the agreement reached by the Action Group for Syria at a meeting held in Geneva on Saturday.  The Secretary-General said it was crucial that the Action Group put pressure on the parties in Syria to prevent further militarization of the conflict and advance the prospects of a political transition.  He said that all parties to the conflict in Syria must take heed of international calls to engage genuinely with the Joint Special Envoy, cease all violence and recommit to the six-point plan in its entirety.  The Secretary-General said the Syrian people and the region cannot afford more atrocities, suffering and chaos.

** Iraq

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Martin Kobler, has condemned in the strongest terms the attacks in Diwaniyah and Karbala today, which killed and injured dozens of people.  In a statement, Mr Kobler said he was deeply saddened by these atrocious attacks on civilians and pilgrims and the continuing suffering inflicted on the Iraqi people.  He extended his condolences to the families of those who were killed.

** Somalia Child Soldiers

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, has welcomed an agreement to end the recruitment and use of children in the national armed forces of Somalia.  The so-called “action plan”, which was signed in Rome today, outlines concrete steps to be taken by the Government of Somalia to ensure that children are not recruited into the army.  Mr. Mahiga, who signed the plan on behalf of the United Nations, said it is critical for the professionalization of the security forces and will contribute positively to efforts to stabilize Somalia.  There are more details available online.

**Press Conferences

A few press conferences on Thursday.  At 11 a.m., there will be a press conference by Robert Vos of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  That’s to launch the World Economic Social Survey 2012 report.  And then at noon, the guest will be Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  At 2:15 p.m., there will be a press conference on the impact of Rio+20 in the future of development cooperation.  Participants will include Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women.

A reminder that there will be no briefing tomorrow.  Questions, please? Right at the back and them I’m coming down the row.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Navi Pillay yesterday stressed that opposition groups are using children as human shields in the conflict in Syria.  What was the official reaction to this? 

Spokesperson:  I think it’s obvious that the report to the Security Council yesterday by Ms. Pillay was quite detailed.  It was, of course, in consultations, in other words, behind closed doors, but I know that her spokesperson in Geneva has been providing some details on that.  The key point is that Ms. Pillay has said that there have been human rights abuses and violations of various kinds, including torture and including the use of children, and that this is something that is not restricted purely to the Government forces, there have been violations by the opposition forces too.  Other questions please?  Yes, and then I’m coming over this way.  I think I saw Masood’s hand rather tentatively going into the air.  Yes?

Question:  I wanted to follow up on this question.  I did see that Mr. Colville put out a pretty long briefing note about the Syria briefing.  I guess I want to ask you, there was quite a bit of fighting back and forth about what should be briefed on.  There was a briefing on Libya and Palestine yesterday afternoon, and today on Sudan and South Sudan, and I just wonder, since the Council reached consensus on getting all four briefings, without prioritizing one over the other, is it possible to get a similar readout of the Libya briefing or the Palestine briefing?  Or is there some reason that the Syria one is described in great detail by Mr. Colville and that office, and the other ones are not mentioned in the least?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think the answer to your question is something I alluded to at the start, and Mr. Colville did mention explicitly, and that is that is was a closed-door session, that diplomats have been briefing on what she said, so I will summarize it for you.

Question:  She did a UNTV stakeout after the Syria session, but not after the Libya and Palestine one, and I’m told she’s not going to do one after Sudan and South Sudan today.  I know you don’t speak for her…

Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, you were told wrong, because as I also said, right at the beginning, she is going to speak at around 12:30 p.m., so you’re going to have to clone yourself because it’s at the same time as the Security Council briefing.  But technology can help you there.  Yes, other questions?

Question:  On this conference in Tokyo which the Secretary-General is going to, is this going to be in any case an effort to bring in more funds for the one country and for the region over there, and why is it that Pakistan always is not invited to such conferences?

Spokesperson:  Well, again, I don’t think that that is actually correct.  You should check on that.  My understanding is that Pakistan is not only invited, but attending.  And this is part of a series of events, conferences, gatherings that are designed to help to provide support in different ways, including in providing funding to Afghanistan, and it’s a concerted effort by the international community to help to support Afghanistan through its transition.

Question:  Sorry about that.  Thank you for correcting me about, yes, that Pakistan is going.  I would like to try to say basically is why it happens in Tokyo since it’s on Afghanistan, they try to raise funds over there.  Is that the same effort?

Spokesperson:  As I said, it’s part of a process, part of a series of events.  As you know, we already had a meeting just very recently in Kabul, and prior to that there was an earlier meeting that was looking at different aspects that was in Chicago, and looking at the transition too, and that was during the NATO Summit that took place there.  So this is showing that the international community is really pulling together to support Afghanistan and working with Afghanistan because, after all, it’s the people of Afghanistan that will need to lead these efforts.  But they clearly also need assistance and have asked for it and that’s what they’re getting.  Other questions, please.  Yes, Tim?

Question:  The Secretary-General is to hand over a report to the Security Council on the future of UNSMIS by 2 July.  While the events have pushed that back, but is there a new deadline or a new estimate on when that report will be handed over?

Spokesperson:  I think it will be quite soon.  I can’t put an exact date or time on it, but I think it will be quite soon.  And you’re absolutely right that clearly there was a meeting at the weekend in Geneva and that needs to be taken into account in what’s provided to the Council.  Yes, please?

Question:  The media report has it that the Syrian President has expressed regret about the bringing down of the Turkish aircraft.  I want to know if the UN had any contrary view or are you in tune with that comment?

Spokesperson:  I think the Secretary-General made his views on that incident quite clear right after it happened.  And I don’t really have anything to add to that.  Gianpaolo?

Question:  The Secretary-General’s report, is it going to be released before he leaves for Japan?  You said soon.  

Spokesperson:  I did say soon and I said soon deliberately.

Question:  Does that mean yes, before he’s leaving for Japan?

Spokesperson:  Say again?

Question:  Before he’s leaving for Japan?

Spokesperson:  I said soon.

Question:  When is he leaving for Japan?

Spokesperson:  Pardon? 

Question:  Friday?

Spokesperson:  Yes, I did say Friday.  I’m going to start handing out questionnaires at the end.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  About this United Nations agency asking Jordan to open another camp for the Syrians over there.  What is the response of the Jordanian Government?

Spokesperson:  I think you have to ask them, but clearly the needs of the refugees and those displaced are quite considerable and the numbers have increased quite considerably too.  I think you will have seen that the United Nations has quite sharply raised the estimate for the number of refugees that we believe there will be, Syrian refugees, by the end of this year.  It’s already around 90,000, so quite high, including in Jordan, as you mentioned.  Yes, Evelyn?

Question:  Is there any way you can contact Colombia and see that we can go to both, so that one can be delayed?

Spokesperson:  Technology is a wonderful thing.  You would be able to watch the webcast of one or the other either at the same time or afterwards.  But I have already seen that the President of the Security Council is ready to come in.  So I might even cut this short and that will give you some extra time.  Yes, Matthew?  You probably don’t like that idea.

Question:  I’ll go fast and furious. 

Spokesperson:  Not furious. 

Question:  Okay, in the expectation of maybe not being able to go to this Sudan stakeout, and also because it’s really a UN Secretariat question, there are reports of significant fighting between the Government and the SPLM-North in Blue Nile State on the Ethiopian border, with the Government claiming to have killed many rebels, the rebels denying it.  Because it’s close to a border, I wonder, is it something that the UN system is aware of… is tracking?  It seems to be a more serious flare-up than usual.  Do you have anything on that?

Spokesperson:  We’re certainly aware of those reports in the media.  You will also have seen Ms. Amos expressed her deep concern and alarm about the nature of what’s happening in Blue Nile State, but also the need for access that we do not have.  Proximity to a border does not necessarily mean that you can have total insight into what is happening.  But plainly there is concern and alarm, not least in the humanitarian community.  I’ll take one last question.  Yes, Evelyn?

Question:  You spoke about the arms negotiations and UNTV is not covering them.  Or it’s on the web, but in the original language and you have to dial in.   And also to meetings that they are covering that most of us don’t want to look at.  So if you could put in a good word to please cover those that we do want to look at. 

Spokesperson:  I think your good words will have been heard, but I think it’s purely a question of the number of channels that are available.  But you’re mentioning it here means that those listening can do something about it, will be able to do something about it.  This is the last question.

Question:  One question I wanted to ask you because it’s about UNAMA and Afghanistan.   Maybe you’ll answer this or maybe you can get an answer to it.  I’ve heard that UNAMA and UNAMI were both ordered to cut their staff costs by 15 per cent, I was told.  There was a recent video conference with them.  I was told that UNAMA has decided to cut their international support staff by only 5 per cent, but their political staff, mostly Afghan, by 20 per cent.  There seems people working in UNAMA — whistleblowers of the type that have come forward with a law-and-order trust fund for Afghanistan material — said that it’s hurting the UNAMA presence in the country.  And I wanted to know, since it seems like a big cut, can you confirm whether it’s DPA or DPKO, has imposed a 15 per cent cut on both missions and that this is cut, as the whistleblowers in Afghanistan say, is being imposed on UNAMA, and what’s the rationale for imposing it disproportionately on political officers?

Spokesperson:  I would need to check on the precise nature of any cuts that there might be.  But it’s self-evident that cuts that are being made across the UN system are not without pain.  But I think we need to look into the details and then come back to you on that.  Okay, thank you very much.  Thank you.

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