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

4 March 2013

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

4 March 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.


You’ll have seen that the Secretary-General met over the weekend with the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, to discuss the ongoing situation in Syria and Mr. Brahimi’s continuing efforts to encourage a political solution.

Both expressed deep frustration at the failure of the international community to act with unity to end the conflict which has left over 70,000 dead and resulted in a massive human displacement within and outside Syrian borders.  In this context, the Secretary-General and Mr. Brahimi stressed the necessity of the unity of the international community.

The Secretary-General and Mr. Brahimi also spoke about recent statements by the Syrian Government and the opposition indicating their willingness to engage in dialogue.  The United Nations would welcome and be prepared to facilitate a dialogue between a strong and representative delegation from the opposition and a credible and empowered delegation from the Syrian Government which can take place according to an agreed agenda.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) reports that the situation in North Kivu remains highly volatile.  A split within the M23 armed group and attacks by APCLS (Alliance des patriotes pour un Congo libre et souverain) elements, another armed group, have displaced thousands in recent days.

In Kitchanga the situation remains very tense.  Yesterday, 3 March, the APCLS armed group attacked the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) there and recaptured the town.  At least 80 persons have died and approximately 100 people have been injured in the fighting so far.  There are still 3,000 internally displaced people around the MONUSCO base in Kitchanga.  Also yesterday, following the withdrawal of the FARDC from Kiwanja and Rutshuru, the M23 moved back into the two towns.  MONUSCO's attack helicopters are monitoring the Munigi-Kibumba-Kibati area.

**International Atomic Energy Agency

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, today addressed the organization’s Board of Governors, which began its first meeting of the year.

Yukiya Amano said that next Monday marks the second anniversary of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.  The Agency, he noted, continues to help Japan deal with the accident’s consequences, and Member States are also making serious efforts to implement lessons learned.

On the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Mr. Amano said the Agency remains ready to contribute to the peaceful resolution of the issue by resuming its nuclear verification activities once political agreement is reached among the countries concerned.

The Director General’s remarks also touched on Iran, which he said is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the Agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and its activities.  The Agency therefore cannot conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities, he said.

He urged Iran to take steps towards the full implementation of its Safeguards Agreement, and its other obligations, and to engage with the Agency to achieve concrete results on all outstanding issues.  Mr. Amano’s full remarks are available on the Agency’s website.


The Deputy Secretary-General spoke this morning at the opening of the session of the Commission on the Status of Women here at United Nations Headquarters, saying that we need to do more together in confronting violence against women.

In his remarks, he said that we must bring an end to this blatant manifestation of brutality, inequality and abuse of human rights.  He also said that we have to provide concrete help for those affected and to empower victims.  For this we need to mobilize all good forces, and we have to create a culture where shame around these crimes is solely directed to the perpetrators.

The Deputy Secretary-General said that we have to respond everywhere and on every level.  This means encouraging also men and boys to stand up and say no to violence against women.  He said that ending violence against women is also critical to reaching the Millennium Development Goals.  His full remarks are available in our office.

**Security Council

The Security Council met this morning and agreed on its programme of work for March.  Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of the Russian Federation, the Security Council President for this month, will talk to you about the programme of work in a briefing in this room, starting at 12:30; in a few minutes from now.

**HIV/AIDS Breakthrough

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) welcomed today news of a baby born with HIV who now as a toddler appears to be “functionally cured” through treatment.

The UN agencies said that if the findings are confirmed this would be the first well-documented case of an HIV-positive child who appears to have no detectable levels of the virus despite stopping HIV treatment.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said that this news gives us great hope that a cure for HIV in children is possible and could bring us one step closer to an AIDS-free generation.  He said that this also underscores the need for research and innovation, especially in the area of early diagnostics.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said that this case demonstrates what we already know — it is vital to test newborn babies at risk as soon as possible.  UNAIDS and UNICEF said that they look forward to further studies to see if the findings can be replicated.

**Press Conferences

And tomorrow at 2 p.m., Michelle Bachelet, UN-Women’s Executive Director, will brief the press here on the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which runs from today though 15 March.

Correspondent:  Did you say tomorrow?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Tomorrow; I’m sorry, yes.

Correspondent:  It was today.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Oh, you are right, yes, I’m sorry, it is today.  My mistake.  Thanks for correcting me.

Tomorrow, at 10 a.m., there will be a press conference here by Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister for Women’s Rights of France, on the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

And at 4:30 p.m., at the Security Council stakeout, the Secretary-General will speak to the press after briefing the Security Council on his report concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A few questions before Ambassador Churkin arrives?  Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  The Secretary-General, in his conversation… he had conversation with his Joint Special Representative of Syria, did they… would you know by any chance, did they discuss this issue, you know, arms by the Saudis and other agencies into the Syrian… into Syria?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I said, we had a readout, we had a statement this weekend and what I said is what we have for the record.  Nizar?

Question:  Yeah, it’s regarding the statement today by Mr. Kerry, saying that his approval of arming the moderate elements in… with the Saudis.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about it?  Now they are [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General’s position remains firm in the sense that, you know, militarizing further the situation is not going to help anybody.  Joe?

Question:  Yes, does the Secretary-General have any comment on the arrest last week by Chinese security officials [inaudible], who were accused of inciting a series of self-immolations and [inaudible], that there were then over a 100 self-immolation deaths since 2009, [inaudible] themselves… Chinese security officials are cracking down on… on those who are [inaudible] support for some sense of self-determination?   Does he have any comment, particularly this arrest?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General urges Chinese authorities to take seriously the observations and recommendations made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in relation to certain human rights concerns of the Tibetans, and constructively cooperate with UN mechanisms in this regard.  That’s what I have.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, Eduardo, I want to ask you about Syria, and then Sri Lanka.  On… on Syria or UNDOF, more… more particularly, Croatia has announced that it’s… it wants to withdraw a 100 of its soldiers that it has in UNDOF, saying that it has become unsafe after reports of Syrian rebels getting weapons from the Balkans, including Croatia.  What’s the plan… I mean how, given from… from DPKO’s (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) perspective, how fast is Croatia pulling out and does it have some plan what countries are… is it asking to replace these soldiers in UNDOF?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, to date we have had no formal word from the Croatian authorities that they are planning to do that, so it remains hypothetical.

Question:  First question, do you know when Mr. Brahimi will be here?  And second question, has Mr. Brahimi commented at all upon the fact that the United States is now going to be supplying aid, lethal or non-lethal, to the Syrian opposition?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll check with Mr. Brahimi and let you know.  Pam?

Question:  Is there any comment by the Secretary-General on the Commission on the Status of Women since last year’s CSW closed with… in collapse, without any final document?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I have nothing on that right now, we’ll have to get back to you on that later.  Masood?

Question:  Yes sir.  On this latest terrorist attack in Pakistan, has… Secretary-General has anything to say about that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, if we have something to say, we’ll let you know, but as you know, the Secretary-General has been very concerned about the violence in Pakistan.  To date, it has been a lot of it, and he has always called on all people to tell them that there is no justification for terrorism by any way.  Nizar?

Question:  Today, the Israelis went into Lebanon through the technical fence near Al-Wazzani air region close to the Mount Helmand air region.  I wonder if you have any new information about that, and what UNIFIL has done to prevent that from happening?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we’ll have to check and get back to you on that.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, Sri Lanka and Guinea [inaudible].  On Sri Lanka, I notice that the Secretary-General, when he was in Geneva, was asked specifically about lack of accountability after… after all this time, and he cited his meeting he had with the Japanese ambassador and Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, at which a report was turned over, that was on 22 February.  The report, at least to… to my knowledge not yet public, but he said that this… this meeting and the report somehow gave him assurance that the Government is taking steps toward accountability.  I wanted to ask you first, can we… if he is now citing the report, can… can… can… is it… can it be at least summarized what he took from it and… and what are the steps he is referring to, since in the Human Rights Council meetings in Geneva, many people have said there have been absolutely no steps, nobody is going to jail despite the many people killed there?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has always stood by the principle that there has to be full accountability for what has happened in Sri Lanka, and if we have anything else to say on the report, I will get back to you on that.

Correspondent:  But I guess he did say that… I mean, I am pointing at his… his first answer at the press conference in Geneva.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, when we have something else to say on the report, we will say it.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  With regard to Syria and the supposed to start negotiations between the factions, the Government and the rebels, you mentioned that they are looking… that the… official delegation or the Government delegation will be properly empowered.  What criteria of empowerment are we talking about here?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I would say that both sides have to send delegations that are able to speak for both sides, and that are based… that are able to take decisions for both sides.  That’s why you have negotiations, is to bring your points to the table and try to resolve your differences through negotiation, by representation, rather than through violence.  Matthew, last question?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask you about Guinea.  It’s… I know that you… you’d read out a statement on Friday, but it seems like since then, the… the… the unrest has spread outside of the capital.  Two radio stations have been essentially trashed, and I am wondering, what… what’s the… since the UN had some involvement in brokering the… the deal for the upcoming election, what… what’s the UN have to say about it, and what… more importantly, what it’s actually doing about trying to tamp down this deadly unrest?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, again I’ll have to find out about that, I don’t have that on me right now.  Zero for zero today, Matthew.  Sorry about that.  Have a nice afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  I believe Ambassador Churkin should be here shortly.

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