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

13 February 2013

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

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

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

**Noon Briefing Guest

Today, my guest is Ambassador Néstor Osorio, the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations, and he is here to brief you on the Economic and Social Council’s programme of work for the year.  Ambassador Osorio, the floor is yours.

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

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, I have a number of things to read, and then I will take a few questions.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General arrived in Washington, D.C., this morning and is now visiting the headquarters of the Organization of American States.

The Secretary-General has just addressed the Permanent Council of the Organization.  In his speech, he said the global influence of the Americas as a whole was on the rise.  He also said that the four pillars of the Organization of American States — democracy, human rights, security and development — aligned with his own action agenda for his second term.  His full remarks will be online shortly.

This afternoon the Secretary-General will have separate meetings with members of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will meet with the new United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, before returning to New York later in the day.


In a statement we issued yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the attack at the Cilvegozu border crossing between Turkey and Syria which has led to the death of both Turkish and Syrian nationals.  He reiterated his deep concern over the spillover of the Syrian crisis into neighbouring countries.  He renewed his call for all parties to refrain from using violence, exercise restraint and move towards a political solution.  The Secretary-General reminds all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law.  The full statement is available online.

Today the UN refugee agency completed its second aid delivery into north-west Syria, where thousands of internally displaced people are in acute need of humanitarian help.  The operation was carried out in collaboration with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the local community.  The latest convoy, involving seven trucks carrying 1,000 tents and 15,000 blankets, travelled from Latakia and Damascus to the Bab al-Hawa area near the Syrian-Turkish border, where the aid was delivered.


Today the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, James Rawley, met with Palestinian Minister for Prisoner and Detainee Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, in Ramallah and expressed the United Nations’ continued concern about Palestinian detainees in Israeli custody.

They discussed the situation of four Palestinian detainees currently on hunger strike and, in particular, the critical health condition of one Palestinian detainee, Samer Issawi, who has been on hunger strike for more than 200 days.  The Humanitarian Coordinator reiterated the Secretary-General’s position that those detained should be charged and should face trial, with judicial guarantees in accordance with international standards, or else should be released without delay.


The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, began a three-day joint visit to the subregion today.  They will meet with the Heads of State of Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger, as well as with representatives of civil society, to discuss the challenges facing the Sahel region, including the situation in Mali, and ways to address them.  This mission follows their first joint visit to the region in mid-December of last year, and is part of efforts to develop a regional strategy for the Sahel.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB) by one year, until 15 February 2014.

Afterwards, the Council began a meeting on cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations to discuss relations with the European Union.

**Violence against Women

On Thursday, 14 February, the Deputy Secretary-General will participate in an event calling for firm global action to end all forms of violence against women and girls.  The event is sponsored by UN Women and the Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign.  It takes place at 12.30 p.m. at the north end of the UN Secretariat lobby.

UN staff are invited to join forces to say “no” to this global pandemic affecting millions of women.  The event will also draw attention to the upcoming session of the Commission on the Status of Women, from 4 to 15 March 2013.  This meeting has the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls as a priority theme.

The gathering at the UN on 14 February is coinciding with the manifestations around the world by One Billion Rising, a civil society campaign focusing on ending gender-based violence.

**Managers’ Compact

The Secretary-General will sign his senior managers’ compacts for the year 2013 at a signing ceremony on Friday, 15 February 2013, at 9 a.m. in his conference room on the 38th floor of the main Secretariat Building.  The press are cordially invited to attend.  Senior managers at Headquarters will be physically present, while those away from Headquarters will participate via video conference. 

It will be recalled that the compacts set specific programme objectives and managerial targets for a given year.  But they also help set the tone at the top for improving performance and accountability across the entire Organization.  Their collective signing in public reinforces the commitment of the Secretary-General and his senior leadership team to a culture of results, transparency and accountability. 

**Press Conference

And tomorrow at 11 a.m., here in the Auditorium, there will be a press conference by the Committee to Protect Journalists, to present their annual report.  This event is sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Questions, please?  Mr. Abbadi?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  As you indicated, the Secretary-General is in Washington, D.C., today to meet with the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate and the new Secretary of State, John Kerry.  What special message is he bringing to them?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think the special message is the importance of the United Nations to the United States and the importance of the United States to the United Nations.  I think he is going to be speaking with people from a wide variety of American political life, and his message will be that the United Nations works with the United States, and the United Nations is the only place where all countries of the world come together and provides a venue for dialogue and for the peaceful resolution of differences.  In addition, of course, he is visiting the Organization of American States, which is probably the oldest regional organization in the world, and with whom the United Nations has a good relationship.  There is a coincidence of values, a coincidence of objectives and in this sense, the Secretary-General — I would draw your attention to his speech, which should be online very shortly — speaks about the cooperation and the importance of Latin America, North America and the Caribbean to world politics.  Masood?

Question:  I have two questions.  One is about this… there is a report issued by Human Rights Watch in which they say that Israel violated the laws of war in November, when it struck… it was in Gaza, killing children and fathers and so forth, and that it went beyond that.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing on that right now, no.

Question:  You have not seen the report as yet?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I haven’t, no.

Question:  And another thing, do you have any comment… does Pakist… the… the… the UN representative in Afghanistan have any comment on this air strike in Afghanistan which killed nine civilians by NATO?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we are aware of the reports, and if we have anything, we will get back to you on it.  Nizar?

Question:  Yesterday the Syrian Ambassador, at the Security Council, raised an issue that, in the UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force] area, terrorists are being helped by the Israelis and sent into Syria to carry out attacks.  The… do the UNDOF forces there, or observers, do they spot such things, and what do they do if they see terrorists brought in the Israeli-Syrian border into Syria?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, UNDOF reports what it sees to UN Headquarters, and to date, I have seen no reports of what you were mentioning.  We will have to check with UNDOF to see if in fact they have any information on that.

Question:  I have another question regarding… recently, the Secretary-General was very critical about the persecution of a Sri Lankan health worker in Saudi Arabia.  But then we saw a lot… a wave of arrests and harsh sentences passed against poets, bloggers, in most of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries, such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates.  All of them have the sentenced… have passed harsh sentences towards poets and opinion… or journalists, even.  Do you have any statement regarding these arrests?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we haven’t issued a statement on it, but I can tell you the Secretary-General, as always, has called for Governments to respect the ability of people to express themselves freely and peacefully.  And that is a fundamental point that the Secretary-General underlines in all of his discourse with leaders, and that is where he stands on that.  Stefano?

Question:  Can he put any statements, because…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m sorry, Stefano?

Question:  Yes, yesterday, last evening, President [Barack] Obama’s speech, State of the Union speech, there was a passage; it was very interesting, and it was about the need for transparency, more transparency, at least, in certain decision-making.  And now, President Obama spoke not only of transparency towards Congress, but also to the world.  Any reaction on that passage by the Secretary-General?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has always stood for transparency and accountability; that’s one of the fundamental core values he has espoused since coming to office.  And, again, if you ask us about leaders and leadership, the Secretary-General has always called on leaders to listen to the democratically expressed, peaceful demands of the people for more democracy, for more human rights, and in this sense, transparency and accountability; they are always a very welcome facet.

Question:  Sure, Eduardo, I want to… I have a question on Sudan and one on South Sudan.  On Sudan, there is… it has come out that… I wanted to… maybe you will have this or you can check into it, but there… the… the… that… at least some on the Security Council are saying that the Sudanese army conducted a simulated attack on a UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] patrol, in which one of the panel of experts, their arms expert, was attacked, i.e. tried to intimidate the sanctions expert from doing his work and since it shows up in… in… in the resolution that’s being… I… I don’t want to mix it up, I understand you… that you are not involved in the negotiations of the resolutions, but since, as drafted, it refers to this incident and I have never heard UNAMID say anything about this simulated attack by the Sudanese Government, is there some way to… you can find out whether this did take place, when it took place, why they didn’t say anything at the time?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll check on it to see if it took place, and what the situation… what the circumstances were.

Question:  Okay.  And the South Sudan one, if you… may… may… it may be on the same basis, but it… it… still, there is no finding, I understand, on… on… on the… the… the shooting down of the Russian helicopter and the killing of the four pilots in South Sudan, but my understanding is that one of the questions outstanding is whether the… the leadership at the very top of UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] — double-S — Hilde Johnson, sufficiently informed the pilots of how dangerous this was and precautions to take.  This seems to be something that’s of much concern to the country concerned, so I wanted to know, is there a way… can you get a statement from UNMISS what… what their… what… what the prepara… I understand without getting into it, just to… while… while waiting for the probe, they seem to say, totally outside of the black box, they are not convinced that the leadership of UNMISS took the threat seriously enough, and so…

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, Matthew, as you know, the investigation continues and we are not going to comment on any aspect of questions being asked in the investigation until after the investigation is over.  Nizar?

Question:  Do you have any response yet to the appeal which was made in Kuwait and pledges… the amount…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m sorry, could you say that again?

Question:  …little payment of the amounts which were pledged in Kuwait, I understand $350 million has been paid so far out of $1.5 billion.  How does that affect the… the… the rescue operation, or the help operation, in Syria?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, obviously, the more funds we have, the better rescue operation and more complete a rescue operation and the longer a rescue operation we can mount.  We are counting on people coming through with the pledges, as Martin said last week, with hard cash, and that this will be applied to the humanitarian situation facing Syrians.

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

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