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

27 March 2013

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

27 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Security Council

The Security Council will hold consultations at 3 p.m. this afternoon on Mali.  Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, will brief Council members on the latest developments.  Yesterday afternoon, Council members received the Secretary-General’s latest report on Mali, which responded to the Council’s request for recommendations on options for establishing a UN peacekeeping operation.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General will depart New York on Saturday for San Marino, Andorra, Monaco, Spain and the Netherlands.

On Sunday in San Marino, the Secretary-General will meet with the Minister for Foreign Affairs.  The next day, he will take part in the investiture of the newly elected Captains Regent.

Then the Secretary-General will travel to Andorra and Monaco, two countries that are commemorating the twentieth anniversary of their membership in the United Nations.  He will meet with the Prime Minister of Andorra and the President of the Parliament, before addressing the members of the Parliament.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Secretary-General will meet with Prince Albert, the Minister of State, and other Government officials.  And he will also address the constitutional bodies of Monaco.

On Thursday, 4 April, he will travel to Spain, where he will meet with the Crown Prince and the Prime Minister, and launch an event for the 1,000 Days of Action for the Millennium Development Goals.  Then he will participate in the United Nations Chief Executives Board (CEB) meetings.

While in Madrid, the Secretary-General will receive an award from the New Economic Forum in recognition of the United Nations contribution to promoting peace and security and economic and social development.

Then on Sunday, 7 April, the Secretary-General will travel to the Netherlands.  During the visit, he will meet with Queen Beatrix and Dutch Government Ministers.  On Monday, he will attend the opening session of the Third Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  While in The Hague, the Secretary-General will also meet with the President and Members of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and with the Presidents of the Hague-based international criminal courts and tribunals.


The Secretary-General spoke this morning at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum here at United Nations Headquarters, saying that young leaders have the energy and ideas we need to change our world.

In his remarks, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations is ready to partner with young people and that is why he appointed the first United Nations Envoy for Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi.

He said that he is confident his Youth Envoy will help young people understand the United Nations and incorporate their ideas into our work.  The Secretary-General said that he fully endorses his Youth Envoy’s plan for change and he called on the international community — including senior officials at the United Nations — to give his Envoy their full support.  His full remarks are available in my office.

And also on this topic, this afternoon at 1:15 p.m., there will be a press conference here on the ECOSOC Youth Forum.  The theme is “Shaping tomorrow’s innovators:  Leveraging science, technology, innovation and culture for today’s youth”.  The speakers will be Ambassador Néstor Osorio, the President of ECOSOC; Ahmad Alhendawi, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Youth; Stacy Martinet, the Chief Marketing Officer of Mashable.com; and Wael Ghonim, an Internet activist and computer engineer.

**South Sudan

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that clashes between the South Sudanese army and other armed groups continue to affect thousands of people in Jonglei.  Insecurity due to attacks along the roads is also hampering aid delivery to affected communities.  Despite the challenges, aid organizations have distributed food to thousands of people displaced in Pibor, and have reached nearly 4,000 people with essential household kits, water and sanitation services.

The UN refugee agency reports a significant increase in the number of South Sudanese refugees fleeing the violence in Jonglei to Kenya in 2013.  So far this year, about 360 people have been registered in Kenya’s Kakuma camp, compared with an average of 45 people per year between 2010 and 2012.  Meanwhile, aid organizations carried out the first round of a nationwide polio vaccination campaign last week.  The campaign, which aims to reach more than 3 million children under 5, will continue next month.

**Post-2015 Development Agenda

The Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda concluded its meeting in Bali, in Indonesia, earlier today.  Discussions during the three-day meeting focused on how to build a global partnership and means of implementation for the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

At the conclusion of the three-day meeting, the Panel issued a communiqué, which highlights key areas that need progress for realizing its post-2015 vision.  The Panel’s next scheduled meeting will take place in May in New York, and the Panel aims to submit its final report to the Secretary-General by the end of that month.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed Lieutenant General Edson Pujol of Brazil as Force Commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  Lieutenant General Pujol succeeds Major General Fernando Rodriguez Goulart, also of Brazil, who completes his assignment today.  We have more information on that appointment in my office.

**Noon Briefing Guest

John Ging, the Director of Operations for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, will be my guest at the briefing tomorrow.  He will brief on his recent visits to Myanmar and the Philippines.

Questions, please?  Ali, then I am coming to you.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, thank you, Martin.  First of all, do we know whether Syria, the Syrian Government, has accepted Mr. [Ǻke] Sellström as the head of this chemical weapon team in Syria?  And my second question is about the size of this team and whether it is going to be based in Damascus or somewhere else.

Spokesperson:  On the first question, yes, we do; they have.  On the second question, as we’ve mentioned, this is something that is still in progress, both the logistics and the composition.  So once I have more to say on that, I will.  But at the moment I do not.  Yes, Tim?  I beg your pardon, I am coming to you first, and then to Tim, yes?

Question:  Thanks.  Yes, so, also on Syria, regarding your comment yesterday about how it was definitely going to be a technical mission, and that you weren’t… you were interested in whether there is chemical weapons and not that whether, how they were perpetrated, by whom, I’m just… I’m kind of trying to get some clarification on sort of why… what… what you mean by a technical mission there?  I mean, I know that there is a precedent for doing similar investigations in the Iran-Iraq war, for instance, where there was also just looking for the presence of… of chemical weapons.  But what I don’t understand is kind of why can’t there also be a technical aspect of looking into, for instance, the longitude and latitude of where the missile was projected from, why… why aren’t those things also considered, you know, something that can be scientifically investigated?

Spokesperson:  Well, because this investigation has been established and will be carried out under a very specific mechanism known as the Secretary-General’s mechanism.  And the details of that are laid out in fairly extensive annexes that you can find online, that specify some of the information that you are asking about.  It is technical in nature for that reason, because it is very clearly delineated.  And also, because the experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), they are specialists in determining whether a chemical weapon has been used, if there is an allegation to go and look to see whether a chemical weapon has indeed been used, or some kind of chemical weapon agent material.  So it is of a very specific nature.  It is not the role of this mission to apportion responsibility or blame.  As I said yesterday, it is not a criminal investigation; it is looking at whether chemical weapons were used and not by whom.  I think Tim had a question, and then Nizar?

Question:  So on the same topic, has the Government, the Syrian Government, agreed to give unfettered access which the Secretary-General asked for, and could that determine the scope of the mandate?

Spokesperson:  Well, that is certainly what we require.  And obviously, there is a great deal of communication between the Syrian authorities through their Mission here and with our colleagues in the Office for Disarmament Affairs as we pull together the details that we need.  But it is obvious that to be able to do this work, you need unfettered access, and that is why the Secretary-General has underscored that in his communications, which we have — and that aspect of it — we have made abundantly clear publicly.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Yes, yesterday the summit in Doha, the Arab Summit in Doha made it possible for States to provide weapons for the rebels in Syria.  Given that this contradicts the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, how does the United… the SG, view this opinion, or this encouragement?

Spokesperson:  I think we have said enough times here for probably you to sit here and say the same thing that I am going to say, which is that the further militarization of the conflict in Syria is unhelpful and undesirable.

Correspondent:  But these, these States joined the United Nations, accepting the Charter, which says that they should be peaceful and respect the human rights…

Spokesperson:  Nizar, I think, regardless of the way you frame the question on this, the answer is still the same:  further militarization is unhelpful and undesirable.  Yes?

Correspondent:  Hi, Martin.

Spokesperson:  Hi.

Question:  The Serbian media, and the media in the Balkans, are reporting that the President of Serbia did offer to the United Nations delay or the cancellation of the criminal conference on the ICJ, conditioned on having the suspects sentenced by the Hague tribunal serving their sentences in Serbia.  Is Secretary-General aware of this? What he has to say on this?

Spokesperson:  Well, the…

Question:  You didn’t get answer, did you get anything like that?  Did anything like that, got to UN?

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge.  The short answer is that this event that you are talking about, I think on 10 April, is an event that is being organized by the office of the President of the General Assembly and, therefore, I would refer you to them.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, Martin.  I’ve got a, I guess, three… three questions on Africa and one on Sri Lanka.  I want to ask first about the IDPs [internally displaced persons] in Darfur.  I know I had asked you the other day about how they were taken despite armed UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] protection; it is now said that they are still not taken, and I am still waiting to find out sort of how was it was possible that they were taken.  Were… were any shots fired by the UNAMID individuals, because there is some criticism now of… of… of what was, what is being called the handover by UNAMID of the IDPs.  What’s the status of these people?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know the answer to that, Matthew.  I would need to check with my colleagues from Peacekeeping Operations, whether they have had an update beyond what I told you the other day from the mission.

Question:  Were they able to answer this question of the… the training of the… for four UN peacekeeping missions in Nepal and how it might relate to the introduction of cholera into Haiti and any safeguards?

Spokesperson:  As I said yesterday, I would ask; we did, and once I have a reply, I will let you know.

Question:  And could I ask, thanks, if you don’t mind?

Spokesperson:  We are getting through; that’s two, there is another one, and then one on Sri Lanka, I think.  Yes?

Correspondent:  Yeah, yeah, I don’t have to do them all in a row, I’m… I’m more than…

Spokesperson:  That’s fine, that’s fine.

Question:  All right.  I wanted to ask, okay, then, if I have to choose between these two, I wanted…

Spokesperson:  No, no, you don’t have to choose, just please, just carry on.

Question:  Sure, sure.  Okay, I wanted to ask you the… the… the… on the question of Bo… of Mr. [François] Bozize.  I… I think you may have just been a misunderstanding, I think, Monday I had said, I asked if he was in Cameroon and if his family had… is… which is described as an entourage of 20 to 25 people, had been… had been transported by the UN system within the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo]. Yesterday you said UNHCR says they didn’t move Mr. Bozize, which is fine.  But did they or did MONUSCO, as is now reported, in fact transport the… the Bozize family from Zongo, it is called, to Kinshasa, and if so, is that a form of kind of, uh… uh… if it’s UNHCR in particular, is it kind of a VIP service for… for… for… or is it offered to… I mean, that… so… I just want to focus on the family, not the… not Mr. Bozize himself.

Spokesperson:  The reply relating to UNHCR, the refugee agency, stands for the family, as well as for the President.  It spoke about the Bozize situation, so…

Question:  But MONUSCO not to be, did MONUSCO move the family in DRC?

Spokesperson:  I will need to ask Peacekeeping Operations.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  All right, and you had one on Sri Lanka, and then I am coming back to you.  I am coming over this side of the room.

Question:  Okay, sure.

Spokesperson:  Yes, I haven’t forgotten, please?

Question:  Hopefully, I… I… I don’t know if you’ll… you will have any stuff about this, I asked about this, but I will ask anyway, and maybe you can get an answer.  It’s… it’s reported that… that the UN demining in northern Sri Lanka has… it’s now been decided since the resolution that was passed in the Human Rights Council in Geneva to turn this over to, uh… to the… to… to… to the Sri Lankan military, to basically get the UN out of the demining business in northern Sri Lanka, citing the language in the… in the resolution which did offer some praise to Sri Lanka, so I wanted to make… some people are saying this is going… this… this… this uh… given the continuing issues, may… may… may… may be a problem and it involves the UN kind of pulling up stakes, but is it possible to know whether there… whether that’s true, and if there is a relationship to the resolution that was passed in Geneva?

Spokesperson:  I can check with my colleagues from the UN Mine Action Service, okay? Yes, and then I am working my way back around the room.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  Can you look into this, because as we brought up many times here, it is very difficult to communicate with the Office of the President of the GA.  And if you can look into this, was any… any… any… any offer like that been sent?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I said to you, not to my knowledge.  If that changes, I will let you know.  Not to my knowledge.  The Office of the President of the General Assembly has a spokesperson; I would refer you to him.  Yes?

[The Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly said that the debate on international criminal justice and reconciliation will take place on 10 April, as announced.]

Question:  But is the Secretary-General going to take part in this?

Spokesperson:  We’ve already said, we’ve already said, or Eduardo [del Buey] has said that…

Correspondent:  Oh, I missed that, I am sorry.

Spokesperson:  That’s okay, I am happy to repeat it:  If the Secretary-General is in town, he will attend.

Question:  Thanks, Martin.  We’ve seen the Chinese naval exercises across the South China Sea, particularly in some zones that, if you follow UN Law of the Sea, would fall under the exclusive economic zones of countries like Malaysia; any comment from the SG on this, or is he fielding any communications or complaints from the region this week?

Spokesperson:  On the latter part of the question, not to my knowledge.  We don’t have any comment on that.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Yes, sir, it has already been asked by my colleague over there about Bahrain, about these conditions of prisoners of conscience in the jail.  One incident was documented in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, about a woman dying because she refuses to eat because she is not wearing a special uniform so she is being persecuted.  Do you have anything to say about that and other prisoners in Bahrain, languishing in Bahraini jails?

Spokesperson:  You know, we’ve spoken many times on this topic, and the Secretary-General has repeatedly spoken about the need for all inclusive dialogue; he’s spoken about the need for good governance and human rights and reforms.  He has spoken about the efforts that Bahrain has made in this area, and he has welcomed those efforts to promote those areas I have mentioned.  But equally, he has pointed out that people need to be represented fairly and freely, and he wants to see that all Bahrainis can contribute to creating a conducive atmosphere for the dialogue that needs to take place.  So we have also spoken repeatedly about the need for due process and so on.  So if there is anything specific on specific cases, then I will let you know.  But for the time being, this is what I have to say.  Yes?

Question:  Martin, has there been any update in terms of the relocation of staff out of Syria, the UN staff in particular, due to the security situation and whether or not they are going to be, or is there a timeline for them when they are going to be put back into the country?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I mentioned, and just to be really clear, there are still UN staff in the country working hard, both international and national staff.  Those who have been temporarily relocated will return once our security colleagues judge that it is possible to do that.  They continue to work, for example, with regard to Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi’s activities, where they are presently located, as I mentioned the other day, Mr. Brahimi’s main office is in Cairo; his colleagues who were working in Damascus are able to support those efforts from elsewhere, and not just from in Damascus.  But just to reiterate, there are people in-country, doing the best they possibly can in very difficult circumstances, both national and international staff.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Martin, regarding the hunger strikers in the Israeli jails, the five who are in critical [inaudible], are there any contacts in order to alleviate the situation or reach them…?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check if we have any further updates beyond what Mr. [Robert] Serry has been saying.

Correspondent:  I have another question regarding this.

Spokesperson:  Yes?

Question:  I asked last week about the demolishing by Saudi authorities of holy places in Mecca.  And this is going on there.  Did you get any answer from UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] on that?

Spokesperson:  Well, I would certainly encourage you also to check with UNESCO, and if I have anything from them, I will certainly let you know.  But I would encourage you also to reach out to them.  Yes, Tim?

Question:  So just to return to the Syria inquiry one more time, is the question of unfettered access a deal-breaker for the Secretary-General?  Will it go ahead if there is no unrestricted access?

Spokesperson:  Look, the Secretary-General has made it clear what needs to happen for this to work.  And obviously, there are discussions going on in this time frame in the past few days and continuing about the terms of reference, I mentioned that.  What is really important to stress here again is that this is a technical mission.  It is at the… it follows requests from the Syrian, French and UK Governments.  And, as I have said yesterday and I have repeated, the initial focus of the investigation will be on an incident involving the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Kfar Dael region in Khan Al-Asal area in Aleppo Governorate — the initial focus.  I would also note that, as we said in the note to correspondents over the weekend, when the Secretary-General wrote to the President of the Security Council, in that letter he noted that he had received and responded to letters from the Syrian Government and from the French and UK Governments.  And he also noted that other Member States had also written to him or made pubic statements calling for the investigation mission to look into all allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  So there is a lot of work going on on this.  We fully understand the need to move quickly on this, and as I have said before, I do believe that my colleagues who are working on this are working extremely rapidly to pull this together and to make it happen.  Yes, and then I am coming to you, Matthew.  Yes?

Question:  Yesterday we had opportunity to talk to Foreign Ministers for Argentina and Cuba, Uruguay and we saw two sides of stories regarding the Falklands and the Malvinas; how does Secretary-General see resolution of this issue?  I know it has been talked a lot…

Spokesperson:  We put out a readout after the meeting with the Foreign Minister of Argentina and some other Foreign Ministers from Latin America; I don’t have anything to add to that.  Yes, Matthew, last question?

Question:  Sure, Martin, thanks a lot. I… I… I just… I wanted to ask about this as we get toward the end of March, uh, it was said on these 126 rapes in Minova that, that, that DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] had given, written one letter on 4 February and then a second, described as final letter on… on 18 February and, and there is some understanding that the deadline, although they have refused to disclose it, is the… is March.  I’d like to know first of all, has… since 18 February have any steps been taken to the UN’s knowledge by the FARDC, Congolese army, to… to prosecute and identify those who committed the mass rapes?  Or has the UN suspended any… any… any support to the two brigades left unnamed by the announcement?

Spokesperson:  I’ll see whether my colleagues in Peacekeeping Operations have any update on that.  All right, thank you very much.  Good afternoon.

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