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

25 July 2012

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

25 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General today began his visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he met with the members of the Presidency, among other top officials, and also addressed the Parliamentary Assembly.  Tomorrow, he will visit Srebrenica.

Earlier today, the Secretary-General was in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where he met with the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and former General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim.  He also addressed the country’s parliament, saying that, while the country is a young democracy, its achievements have already been well-recognized, including the election of Srgjan Kerim as the President of the sixty-second session of the General Assembly, and its support for efforts to reform the United Nations.  Those remarks are available in our office.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for a period of 12 months.

The Council also adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group for 12 months, and welcomed the Group’s recommendation to set up a Joint Financial Management Board to improve financial management, transparency and accountability of Somalia’s public resources, called for an end to the misappropriation of funds, condemned the politicization of humanitarian assistance, and demanded that all parties ensure safe and unhindered access for the timely delivery of humanitarian aid.

The Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, told the Council that the past month has been characterized by a continuation of the effort to restart talks, amid worrying developments on the ground.  Mr. Serry said that any Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is contrary to international law, and that any Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations, and will not be recognized by the international community.  He also mentioned the increasing violence in Syria, and the possible spillover to other countries in the region.

** Myanmar

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, will undertake a visit to the country from 30 July to 4 August 2012, at the invitation of the Government.

During his six-day visit, the independent expert, designated by the United Nations Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Myanmar, will meet with Government officials, Members of Parliament, the National Human Rights Commission and civil society in Naypyitaw and Yangon.  He has also requested visits to Rakhine State and Kachin State.

On 4 August, at the end of his mission, Mr. Ojea Quintana will present preliminary observations at a press conference at Yangon International Airport at 18h15.  His full report on the visit will be presented to the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly.

Questions, please?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Two questions.  On Côte d’Ivoire, victims of the attack on the Nahibly camp are claiming that United Nations peacekeepers there did very little to protect civilians in the camp when they were attacked by a group of youths.  I am wondering if you have a response to that?  And yesterday, there was a press conference here where non-governmental organizations sharply criticized the draft treaty of the arms trade.  They said it had a lot of loopholes that can render the treaty almost useless.  I am wondering if the… if you have any response to that as well?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, with respect to Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) has reinforced its presence.  Some 150 police and 200 military are currently providing enhanced security in the Nahibly camp, the Catholic mission and near the Mairie and Sous-Préfecture and Carrefour neighbourhood of Duékoué.  The United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire confirmed the death of six people during the attack.  It is also verifying the cause of death of a seventh body found there.  The situation is currently calm.  Humanitarian agencies and UNOCI are providing assistance to those who have been displaced from the site.  With respect to the arms treaty, I would only say that the Secretary-General had called for a robust treaty and that we are withholding comment until we see a final treaty.  We are not going to comment on it right now.  Masood?

Question:  There’s a report in the Washington Post about drones.  Basically it refers to the United Nations report, which, of course, will be released very soon.  What it says is that the amount of drones flying all over Somalia is making it a very dangerous area, dangerous zone, and it is seemingly also against the arms embargo placed on Somalia.  And that some of the drones that have been found were made in the United States, not necessarily all of them, but some.  Do you have any reaction to this?  It is a United Nations report.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we have no reaction to it.  The Secretary-General has said that the use of drones should be governed by international law, humanitarian law, and the impact of the use of drones should be followed by international humanitarian law, also.

Question:  So you have not seen this report, which is a United Nations report…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ve seen the report, but we have nothing else to comment on it.

Question:  What I am saying is, have you seen the report or…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I personally haven’t seen the report, but if it’s a United Nations report, obviously the powers that be have seen it.  Yes?

Question:  They announced that another computer virus bug affected Iranian nuclear systems.  This is the fourth or fifth time that different viruses are affecting nuclear systems in Iranian oil industries or whatever, and since it can cause dangerous effects on radiation, whatever, Iran has also announced that they asked the United Nations to talk about that.  Does the United Nations have anything about that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you would have to contact the International Telecommunications Union, the ITU, who are responsible for telecommunications around the world.  It would be their primary responsibility to look into this allegation.  Madame?

Question:  Thank you.  There are growing concerns shared by neighbouring and Western Governments about the security of chemical weapons in Syria.  Some of the chemicals can be easily transported and used against civilians if the… they are worried that they can be used against civilians if the Government falls.  Does the Secretary-General share the same concerns with those countries about the chemical weapons?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is aware of reports related to the possible relocation of the last chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, and the Secretary-General wishes to emphasize a fundamental responsibility of the Government of Syria in ensuring the safety and security of all weapons stockpiles.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask about Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but I wanted to ask a follow-up on this Côte d’Ivoire question, just very specifically, I mean, because I got your written response that it’s being reinforced, but there’s quotes from named individuals, not off the record, on the record.  For example, camp president Jean Taha says that he was beaten directly in front of the peacekeepers.  “At the moment, the white people just stopped.  I tried to go to the whites, to UNOCI, and they chased themselves… they chase you away themselves.  I don’t know why,” he said, holding his hand.  The other guy said that UNOCI pushed them off the truck to them being beaten.  So I wanted… I just… I mean I don’t… obviously, you’re not responsible for that, but what I want to know is, what’s going to be the response by UNOCI and Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to these named individuals claiming that they were essentially thrown to the mob by the United Nations peacekeepers?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ve seen the reports, Matthew, and we have to investigate.  UNOCI is carrying out an investigation of what happened, and when we have a response, we will be able to give it to you.

Question:  Is it fair to ask, are these two named individuals going to be spoken to, since they’ve given their names?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t… I don’t know how UNOCI is going to carry out its investigation, but I imagine it is going to speak with all people who were witnesses to whatever happened there.  They will try to get all the information possible and report to the Secretary-General as to what happened.

Question:  Thanks.  I wanted to ask you on Syria.  I saw the various quotes by Mr. Ladsous that… that half of the observers have now left Syria.  I want… so first I wasn’t clear, like what… well, first I wanted to know, one of the quotes says that they’re not coming back, whereas I thought the resolution that was passed said that the Mission might continue if the situation, some call it unlikely, but if it improves.  So is it DPKO’s position, as quoted on Agence France-Presse, that these people that left will not come back?  Will they be replaced by other countries’ troops, or is there a decision already made to close this Mission?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, I haven’t seen anything about that in terms of people going back or not going back.  The 150 have been sent out.  The Secretary-General’s report of 2012/523 reported the number of military observers will be temporarily reduced.  That is the position.

Question:  The quote is in… now Lebanon with an Agence France-Presse story quoting a United Nations official, not saying who it is, saying these people won’t come back.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll have to see who it is and we’ll have to see what the situation is.

Question:  And how was Mr. Ladsous’s comments, I guess, distributed to the United Nations press corps here?  I didn’t see them, so were you… did your office send them out, or is this entirely up to DPKO?

Deputy Spokesperson:  It’s up to DPKO.

Question:  Okay.  And I wanted to ask this one Congo question, if you can…  There’s talk that the M23, which was driven back, is now on the move again towards Goma, has taken over Rutshuru, and I just wanted to know, is that… it seems like a very fluid and dangerous situation.  What is the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) doing, and where are these M23 mutineers at the moment?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, it is a… let’s see… on the morning of 24 July, M23 mutineers attacked the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) based in Rwaza, which is located in the Rutshuru-Goma axis near Rugari.  Civilians have fled to seek protection, including at the MONUSCO base in Katale.  MONUSCO and the FARDC launched an immediate counter-offensive, also including firing, using Mission attack helicopters, and MONUSCO has also established a protective corridor around Katale, including to help the civilians gather there.  That’s the information I have on that.

Question:  I’m sorry… this just came… I just want to ask this, hopefully just only once, but I know that when… when Kofi Annan and the Joint Special Envoy… sometimes we get two messages.  They put out a statement through Mr. Fawzi and then your office would then send it out, I guess, either to a wider group or… with some people getting it twice.  If DPKO is part of the Secretariat, and I can say for a fact that DPKO is not sending it to all correspondents that are covering that issue, could your office just make it… make it your business to…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, what we get, we send out.

Question:  So you didn’t get the Ladsous transcript of his press conference?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I will have to check and see.

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

* *** *

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