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

11 January 2013

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

11 January 2013
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.


The Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, met in Geneva today with the United States Deputy Secretary of State and the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister.

You will have seen that Mr. Brahimi spoke to reporters after that meeting.  He said that during their talks, they all stressed the need for a speedy end to the bloodshed, to the destruction and all forms of violence in Syria.  He said they also underscored the necessity to reach a political solution based on the Geneva Communiqué of the 30th of June last year.

Mr. Brahimi said he would continue to engage all Syrian parties, as well as other stakeholders in the region and internationally, and that he plans to brief the Security Council later this month.  A full transcript of his remarks is available online.

**Syrian Refugees

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that the severe winter conditions across Syria and the surrounding region have brought new difficulties for refugees and other displaced people.  At the same time, there has been no let-up in the number of people fleeing Syria into neighbouring countries.  As of yesterday, more than 600,000 people were either registered as refugees or being assisted as such.

In Jordan, the first week of the year has seen a surge in new arrivals with an average of more than 1,100 Syrians crossing the border every day.  For people arriving at the border, the refugee agency managed yesterday to send 1,000 blankets and 500 mattresses, along with emergency clothing.  The World Food Programme (WFP) also sent 3,000 meals.

At Za’atari camp, which saw flooding earlier this week, is expected to be dry soon after the refugee agency elevated the ground level with gravel and improved drainage.  The agency is also distributing five blankets and winter clothing to each new refugee, as well as blankets and mattresses for those whose belongings were affected.

In Lebanon, the UN refugee agency has also increased distribution of blankets, heaters, fuel vouchers, winter clothing and plastic sheeting.  Six thousand seven hundred families have had their homes weather-proofed, and renovation help has been provided to 5,300 others.

The refugee agency also says that all camps in Turkey were affected by the harsh winter conditions of the past week.  The Turkish authorities have done significant work in reinforcing camps against the winter conditions and the UN refugee agency has also provided family tents for 83,500 people and blankets and kitchen sets for more than 100,000 people.  There is more information available on the website of the UN refugee agency.

And also, just to inform you that the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin, will be in Turkey from 13-15 January to visit World Food Programme’s food assistance operation for Syrian refugees and to hold meetings with senior Government officials in Ankara and Istanbul.

** Mali

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Said Djinnit, will be in the Malian capital, Bamako, early next week, as part of efforts to speed up implementation of the Security Council resolution 2085 (2012), including consultations on the political track, which remains essential for addressing the crisis in Mali.  Mr. Djinnit will also be travelling to other capitals in the subregion.

As you may have seen, in a press statement issued last night, the members of the Security Council expressed their grave concern over the reported military movements and attacks by terrorist and extremist groups in the north of Mali, in particular their capture of the city of Konna, near Mopti.  The members of the Council called for a rapid deployment of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).  They also called for the immediate issuance of an agreed political roadmap, which includes serious negotiations with non-extremist Malians in the north and presses for the full restoration of democratic governance.

**Security Council

The Security Council heard an update this morning on the situation in the Central African Republic by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the country, Margaret Vogt.

Speaking from Libreville by videoconference, Ms. Vogt noted the gains by rebel factions in the Central African Republic since December, and efforts by African and other forces to protect the capital, Bangui, in recent days.  She also discussed the diplomatic efforts led by the Economic Community of Central African States that began in recent days in Libreville, Gabon, which her UN team has helped to support.

Ms. Vogt said that, just today, three agreements had been signed by the parties in Libreville: a declaration of principles to resolve the political and security crisis; a cease-fire agreement; and a political agreement. Under those agreements, President François Bozizé would remain in power and a Prime Minister from the opposition would be appointed, with legislative elections to be organized within 12 months.  We have her remarks available in my Office.

Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Special Representative on sexual violence in conflict, also briefed the Council, and we have her remarks available, too.

**Central African Republic

And staying with the Central African Republic, the UN refugee agency said today it is seeking immediate and unconditional access to tens of thousands of refugees and civilians displaced by the recent fighting in the north and east of the country.  The agency believes that these civilians face deteriorating living conditions and that they need urgent and potentially life-saving help.

The Central African Republic hosts some 17,000 refugees and 2,500 asylum-seekers.  The refugee agency calls on all sides to respect the human rights of all civilians and to allow humanitarian access to them.  It said that it is particularly worried about some 2,000 Sudanese refugees in the Bambari camp, in the central part of the country — an area under rebel control, and that it is trying to re-establish contact with this refugee population.

The refugee agency said that the looting of several World Food Programme warehouses could cause serious delays to food distribution to refugees.  UN agencies are looking for a quick solution for resuming food aid.

** Saudi Arabia — Sri Lanka

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed its deep dismay today about the execution of a young Sri Lankan woman in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.  The Office said that it is deeply troubled by reports of irregularities in her detention and trial.  There is more information available on this on the Office’s website.

[The Spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General is dismayed by the execution this week in Saudi Arabia of Rizana Nafeek, a young Sri Lankan domestic worker.  He is concerned about reports of irregularities in her detention and trial, as well as the increase in the use of capital punishment in Saudi Arabia.  He insists on the application of international human rights law, including the right to a fair trial, for all men and women in Saudi Arabia, irrespective of their migration status or nationality. Currently, in Saudi Arabia, women do not have equal access to the courts or an equal opportunity to obtain justice.  The Secretary-General is concerned that this is a situation which is even more precarious for women migrant workers given their foreign status.]

** Haiti

Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, who is in Port-au-Prince, will attend a ceremony scheduled to take place at the Mission’s [MINUSTAH] headquarters early this afternoon.  He will deliver a message on behalf of the Secretary-General and we expect to share this message with you once it is delivered.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed Kevin Kennedy of the United States as Acting Head of the Department of Safety and Security.  Mr. Kennedy will replace Gregory Starr, who announced his intention to leave the position of Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security due to personal and family reasons.  We have more information on this appointment in my Office.

**World Bank

The Deputy Secretary-General [Jan Eliasson] has been visiting the World Bank in Washington, D.C., today, and he met this morning with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, with whom he discussed the opportunity to revitalize the relationship and cooperation between the United Nations and the World Bank.

They also discussed the commitment by their respective organizations to boost joint efforts on the Millennium Development Goals and the foundation for the post-2015 process, and how to work jointly to accelerate progress on the Goal concerning sanitation, which is the one that is lagging behind the most.

That’s what I have for you.  Questions, please?  Yes, Sylvian?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  On Syria, the Foreign Minister of Syria has accused Maître Brahimi of bias.  How can this affect the ongoing mediation right now, and what’s the direction of the Secretary-General on this issue?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you will have seen that Mr. Brahimi spoke to reporters in Geneva, he was asked the same question, and he said:  “I saw the statement by the Syrian Government, they expressed their point of view, but at the same time, they said they are ready to continue cooperating with me.”  So, that’s what he said in Geneva a little earlier.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Was there a response to this Syrian Government’s charge that they… they no longer trust Mr. Brahimi as a… as an interlocutor in… in… in the crisis?

Spokesperson:  That’s the same question, Masood, and the answer is the same, that Mr. Brahimi has said he saw that statement…

Correspondent:  Yeah.

Spokesperson:  …and they expressed their points of view, and he said at the same time that they said they are ready to continue cooperating with him.  So, that’s what I have for you.

Question:  So, Secretary-General continues to have…?

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  The same.  The Secretary-General obviously supports the work that Mr. Brahimi is doing and he is obviously aware of the statements made by the Syrian Government, and he is also aware of how Mr. Brahimi has responded.

Question:  Mr. Brahimi will be expected to come here at the end of the month, but when exactly do you… can you tell us more about it?

Spokesperson:  We don’t know exactly when yet, but it is, as he himself said, to be this month and to brief the Council.  As soon as I have a date, I will let you know, but I don’t have that at the moment.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Do you have anything on India and Pakistan situation?  Any… any…

Spokesperson:  Not today.

Question:  No update?

Spokesperson:  No.  Thank you for phrasing it like that, thank you.  Yes, Hank, and then Matthew?

Question:  Good day, Martin, thank you.  On Pakistan and the [Secretary-General’s] condemnation statement of the bombings that happened there over the last two days; he reiterated the strong support of the UN for the efforts of the Government of Pakistan to combat the scourge of terrorism.  The Shiite community there, which has borne the brunt of these attacks, is actually protesting today by not burying their dead, because… you know, protesting by not burying their dead until they feel like the Government has upped security for their community to an acceptable degree.  Is the [Secretary-General] satisfied with the Pakistani Government’s efforts to put down terrorism in that company… in that country, because many Shiites there feel as though the Pakistani Government is complicit?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think the statement that the Secretary-General issued yesterday speaks for itself in this regard about his views on the Pakistanis’ efforts with regard to security.  I don’t have anything to add to that.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, Martin. I want to ask you first a question about Darfur and then something about drones, if you don’t mind.  One is, there’s reports that an entire village in central… in central Darfur, Nagadoli, has been destroyed by pro-Government militias.  So, it seems… I mean, I… I… I saw what you’d said yesterday about Jabel Mara, this is in a different place, and I just wonder, first of all, does UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] know about this alleged destruction of an entire village, and two, what… what does UNAMID  make of what… where… where are things going, is there any plan to either increase patrols, increase the size of the mission?  What… why is… is violence ticking up at this time?

Spokesperson:  They are all valid questions, Matthew, and I’ll see what I can get from the Mission.

Question:  Okay.  And then… I mean, tha… I mean, tha… if… I… I wanted to ask you this on drones, I wish I had been able to… to… to… it’s just… it’s a more specific… I heard what you said yesterday about consulting with governmental bodies and all that, I just wanted to know, since in the consultation, it seems that at least five countries raised, from their point of view, serious questions about the proposal to deploy drones in eastern Congo.  I wanted to get a very… a clear answer on does [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] feel that it has to have the… the support of all 15 members of the Council?  Is it enough to have the support of some in the Council and what… what is the response to who would get the information, the informational feed from the drones and whether it complies with International Civil Aviation Organization regulations, as was raised in the Council?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t really have anything to add at the moment, beyond what I have said, Matthew.  Simply to underscore that what I did say included the following:  As a matter of policy, UN peacekeeping assets and resources are used in line with Security Council mandates, force requirements and guidelines.  So, the question you ask about support from the Security Council is answered there by saying that these resources are used in line with Security Council mandates.  And also, I did say that the use of UAVs — unmanned aerial vehicles — would be done only in full cooperation with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in this particular instance.

And also to introduce them, we obviously need the support of the Member States to equip the Mission.  With regard to the use of the information, what we have said is that such UAVs, which are obviously unarmed, are one [inaudible] that we are considering in order to protect civilians better and to monitor the movements of armed groups.  And, I think that it is obvious that there are many consultations that have been under way, and those consultations will continue with the relevant bodies.

Question:  Bu,t I can… no, no, thanks a lot, and I just wanted… because… because in the Security Council, some decisions require all 15, and some can be taken without the… without.  That’s why I am trying just… maybe I… I don’t… you don’t have it in the… in the folder, but maybe they can say, is it DPKO’s understanding they need a 15-0 or… or is a majority enough, and will they announce it before they put them to use?  I just, since I heard you already talking about Member States, don’t, you know, giving the assets, it struck me, like could… could we just learn one day that [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] is using drones or would it be something that they would have some kind of a vote or have the consensus of 15 and then announce that they are going to use them and then use them, or would they just use them?  That’s the question.

Spokesperson:  Well, they’re used in line with Security Council mandates.  And the Security Council would decide on the shape of that mandate.  That’s the first aspect of this.  The second is — whether it is in my folder or in my head — I don’t have any further details at the moment.

Correspondent:  Okay.  Okay.

Spokesperson:  All right.

Correspondent:  Fine.

Spokesperson:  Thanks.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  I am sure you heard about this [inaudible] fighters in Syria to rape girls as long as they are over 14 years of age.  I wonder, what is the position of the United Nations [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  You say that I am aware of it; in fact, I am not.  So I’d need to find out about that.  Yes, Erol?

Question:  Martin, since the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. [Matthew] Nimetz, is in the region negotiating the new round between Skopje and Athens on the name issue, I wonder, and since you are always saying that Mr. Secretary-General is very well informed, I wonder whether Mr. Nimetz discussed recently directly with the Secretary-General his proposal that apparently he has something new in his diplomatic luggage or so?

Spokesperson:  Well, as we announced, Mr. Nimetz is indeed in the region.  I don’t believe that he has spoken in the last couple of days to the Secretary-General.  That doesn’t mean that the Secretary-General is not briefed on what is happening during the course of such a visit, but I don’t have any further details at the moment.

Question:  If I may follow up on that, since the Secretary-General is not only the champion of human rights, but also the champion of the international law, I wonder, and whether… probably he didn’t discuss with Mr. Nimetz recently, but I wonder, what is his view on the proposals of Mr. Nimetz that concern the geographical… the geographical term of the name… State name of former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia?

Spokesperson:  Look, this is a diplomatic process that has been going on for some time, and Mr. Nimetz has the full support of the Secretary-General in this difficult task.  And as we have already said, Mr. Nimetz is in the region, I don’t have anything further at this point, okay.  All right.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Can I ask about Sri Lanka… Sri Lanka and Sudan?  In Sri Lanka, the… the… after quite a bit of run up, the… the Parliament has voted to impeach the chief justice and it’s something that parliamentarian… that… that… that the international commission of jurists and other groups around the world have been commenting on.  I wonder, given the… the… the Secretary-General’s… you know, what he said in 2009 about Sri Lanka, does he have any views of this impeachment of the chief justice?

Spokesperson:  No, we don’t have any comment on that, Matthew.

Question:  On Suda… on South Sudan; yesterday, Russia, following the incident where… where this helicopter was shot down and four Russian pilots were… were killed, they brought it up in their press conference yesterday and said that they still don’t have the black box.  It made me wonder, one, what the status of the… of the UN’s inquiry into that, and also, since it was a UN helicopter, who is supposed to give them the black box?  Are they wrong to think that they will get it, and if they are supposed to get it, is it the UN that has custody of the… of the destroyed helicopter or does South Sudan have custody of it?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check with the mission.  Thank you.  Have a good afternoon, and a good weekend.

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