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

12 April 2013

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

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.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) reports that it has been notified formally of the actions being taken by the Congolese Government to bring to justice the perpetrators of serious human rights violations committed in Minova in late November 2012.

In its notification, the Government of the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] reports that it has launched investigations and recorded around 400 testimonies from victims, witnesses and suspects.  It adds that several arrests have been made as an interim internal disciplinary measure.  The Government also informs that a number of officers allegedly involved in these acts have been suspended and put at the disposal of the Military Prosecutor for the purposes of the investigation.  Among these officers are the commanding officers and deputy commanding officers of the two main battalions suspected of committing these acts, as well as officers of eight other units.

MONUSCO notes that the suspension of the commanding officers is an important signal of the commitment of the Congolese authorities to hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable.  MONUSCO will continue to monitor the judicial process.

**Millennium Development Goals

At 3:30 p.m. today, at UN Headquarters, the Secretary-General will lead the official observance of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Momentum to call for accelerated action in the 1,000 days leading to the target date in 2015.  At the event today, the Secretary-General will highlight the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals and give his strong support for accelerated action for the next thousand days.  He will urge all of us over the next 1,000 days to give 1,000 per cent.

** Syria

I had been asked when Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, will be in New York next.  I can confirm that he will be here on Friday, 19 April, when he is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Syria.  He intends to hold a press stakeout afterwards.  And I can add that his briefing to the Council will be a day after one by several senior UN officials on the humanitarian situation in Syria.

The Secretary-General discussed the proposed work of the technical mission on chemical weapons in press remarks following his meeting with US President Barack Obama yesterday and said it is regrettable that the Syrian Government has rejected his offer.  Discussions on the matter continue.

The Operations Director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, John Ging, will begin a three-day visit to Aleppo in northern Syria on Saturday.  His visit is aimed at assessing the humanitarian situation on the ground with a view to improving assistance to people affected by the violence.

** Iraq

Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, condemns in the strongest terms the attack against worshippers after their Friday prayers in the town of Kanaan, east of Baquba, which killed and injured dozens.  He said that these brutal acts of violence will not undermine the true and deep belief in peaceful coexistence among the people of Diyala.  Mr. Kobler conveyed his deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wishes for a speedy recovery of the wounded.

** Yemen

We issued a note to correspondents last night saying that the Secretary-General welcomes President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi's ongoing efforts to restructure the Yemeni armed forces with a view to integrating them under unified, national and professional leadership and command based on the rule of law.  That is in accordance with Yemen's Transition Agreement signed in Riyadh on 23 November 2011 and Security Council resolutions 2014 (2011) and 2051 (2012).


The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, is today visiting refugees from the Central African Republic in a remote and difficult-to-access area of northern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The refugees are located along a 600-kilometre stretch of the Oubangui River.  The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says the needs of the refugees are significant, but access to the area is difficult.  The agency says it is working with the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as two other receiving countries, Cameroon and Chad, to provide protection and assistance.

Tomorrow, in Kinshasa, Mr. Guterres is scheduled to meet senior Government officials, including President Joseph Kabila and Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo.  There are more details available on the UN refugee agency’s website.

** Darfur

The UN refugee agency said that fresh inter-tribal fighting in West Darfur has led more than 74,000 civilians to flee to south-east Chad in the past two months, including 50,000 people in the last week alone.  The agency said this is the largest influx of refugees from Sudan into Chad since 2005.  Agency staff in Chad found people exhausted, traumatized and visibly disturbed by the recent violence.  The agency is concerned that the number of people fleeing Sudan will increase as clashes continue.  There is more information online.

** Mali

The Office of the United Nations in Mali said today that it is deeply saddened by the tragic death of three Chadian soldiers killed in a suicide bombing in Kidal, in the north of the country, this morning.

The UN mission condemns the attack which has also injured several members of the same contingent serving under the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).  It said that this attack shall not undermine the United Nations’ determination to support AFISMA in its efforts to restore peace and territorial integrity in Mali.

Also, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said today that the Central Emergency Response Fund has allocated $16 million over the past few weeks to kick-start life-saving humanitarian projects in Mali.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that Mali is at the beginning of the lean season and the food situation in the northern regions of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal is alarming.  The Consolidated Humanitarian Appeal for Mali has only received about one quarter of the $410 million requested.  The Central Emergency Fund’s allocations are therefore critical stop-gap measures pending more substantial funding of the Consolidated Appeal.

**Children’s Health

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a new global action plan today that could save up to 2 million children every year from deaths caused by pneumonia and diarrhoea, which are some of the leading killers of children under five globally.

The plan sets clear goals for the world to achieve by 2025:  a 75 per cent reduction in incidence of severe pneumonia and diarrhoea from 2010 levels among children under five, and the virtual elimination of deaths from both diseases in the same age group.  It also aims for a 40 per cent reduction in the global number of children under five who are stunted.

The plan calls on Governments and others to prioritize investment in the population groups with the poorest access to services to prevent and treat pneumonia and diarrhoea.  Nearly 90 per cent of pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths in children currently occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.  There are more details in a press release available online.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

The Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, will travel to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, 16 April, to give a keynote address at the Alliance for Peacebuilding Annual Conference, held at the United States Institute of Peace.  The Deputy Secretary-General will arrive back in New York the same day.

**United Nations Development Programme

The General Assembly approved by acclamation today the re-appointment of Ms. Helen Clark as the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator for a second four-year term.

**Capital Master Plan Move

The Spokesperson’s Office and the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit — which includes our Media Documents colleagues — will be closing our offices at 1 p.m. today as part of the [Capital Master Plan] move.  We will be open for business on Monday on the 2nd floor of the Secretariat building.

Since it will take a little while on Monday to be completely operational, there will be no noon briefing that day.  Any information that would have been shared at noon will be posted, as usual, in our daily highlights.  Should you have any urgent questions for the Spokesperson’s Office after 1 p.m. today, you can still contact us on our BlackBerries.  We will continue to brief you in this room on Tuesday, 16 April, until our new briefing room is ready on the 2nd floor.

**Press Conference

And on Monday at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference here sponsored by the Republic of Kazakhstan on the thematic debate, “UN and Global Economic Governance”.

Questions, please?  Nizar?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes.  I asked earlier about whether Al-Nusra is considered a terrorist organization by the United Nations or what.  Now that they have come out of the closet and said that they are part and parcel of Al-Qaida in Iraq and Syria, how does the United Nations view that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the United Nations views all parties to the conflict who are using military means to achieve their goals as fighting a futile battle.  There is no military victory available in Syria.  People continue to die and the violence must stop.

Question:  But this is not a clear answer.  Are they a terrorist organization or not?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have that information with me, Nizar.

Question:  Sure, Eduardo, I wanted to ask you about your statement on the Minova rapes.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes?

Question:  But first, thanks for… for giving… I asked yesterday, you said you would get back, and here you are at the next noon briefing with it.  So, I wanted to ask you two questions about it and something about process.  One, when you say several have been arrested, yesterday I asked you whether that means three, and the way it is reported, a sub-lieutenant, a corporal and a soldier of no rank.  So several… is it… does it remain the fact that only three people have been arrested for 126 rapes?  And I also wanted to ask you, which, to name, finally name the battalions.  There has been a lot of back and forth, or DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] wouldn’t name the battalions until… now, it seems like it has reached a stage, so I wanted to know if you could give the numbers.  And on process, I wanted to ask you… I mean, although I appreciate you reading out the statement today, I obviously saw last night and today stories on Reuters and AFP [Agence France-Presse] where Kieran Dwyer of DPKO chose to, in fact, give precisely this answer, maybe a little less, to favoured media, and I wonder, what does it say?  I want to know, I guess, how is it acceptable…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, Matthew, let me stop you right there.

Correspondent:  Please.  Okay.

Deputy Spokesperson:  There is no question of favoured media.  The media…

Question:  What happened?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The media involved telephoned DPKO yesterday afternoon.  We had just received this information on an if-asked basis, and DPKO gave it to them in response to their questions.

Question:  And not to the person who asked the question here?  That’s what I don’t understand.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well…

Question:  This happened about three or four times, so that’s why I am using the phrase.  And I wanted to know, I want, I guess I want to say to you, if I asked a question here and you have an answer to it, please give it to me at least at the same time that you give it to others.  Otherwise, it looks like an attempt to favour media that didn’t ask the question, or who write very favourable stories.  For example, is this issue, Mr. Ladsous for four months didn’t ask, answer any questions on these rapes.  Now, belatedly after a BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] exposé, there is this announcement, and the question is, what follow-up is there going to be?  Is Ban Ki-moon comfortable with Mr. Ladsous’ addressing of these 126 rapes?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, the answer we gave you over the past few months was that, while an investigation was in progress we were not going to be commenting on the aspects of the investigation.  As I said here, the investigation has been launched, over 400 testimonies have been received, several arrests have been made, and a number of those officers allegedly involved have been suspended and put at the disposal of the military prosecutor.  So, the investigations continue apace, they are in the hands of the military prosecutor.  You may want to contact the military prosecutor’s office in Kinshasa to find out what they are doing about it and what more information they have.

Correspondent:  Battalions…

Deputy Spokesperson:  I cannot give you that information.

Question:  Why not?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have it.

Question:  Okay, so, I mean, I guess what I am really emphasizing to you, you’re the Spokesman’s Office.  If a question is answered here, now that you said that you had the answer, I would really encourage you to give the answer to the people that ask the questions.  It just seems like a set-up, and this happened literally three or four times in a row.  I can see exactly what is happening and I… I object to it, it’s…

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ve heard you, Matthew.

Correspondent:  Thank you very much.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Hank?

Question:  Eduardo, thank you.  The US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said late yesterday, speaking about Syria, the quote is that, he said that the most likely scenario that we see, even after Assad falls, is probably more fractionalization, if I can use that word, both geographically and on a sectarian basis, for some period of time, at least for a year, a year and a half.  So, if the Assad regime falls, he says — this is the US Director of National Intelligence — that there will be another year, a year and a half, of fighting.  What’s the SG’s reaction to that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the SG has said that the fighting has got to stop.  Violence is getting nobody anywhere, except for getting people killed, maimed, and injured, and protracting a conflict that should have been settled ages ago by the Government’s listening to the democratic will of the people.  The escalation has taken place, the Secretary-General continues to find it completely unhelpful, any kind of militarization of the process, and what you have claimed is obviously a result of, a possible result of, what the situation is.  I am not going to answer hypothetical questions.  We don’t have the answers to what is going to happen in Syria in the next couple of months or years, but all we can say is that the violence has to end, and the violence is not leading anybody anywhere except on a road to misery and death.  Nizar?

Question:  Yeah, here, of course, we are talking about terrorist organizations which are not accessible, they don’t talk to anyone, they don’t want negotiations or anything like that.  How can the United Nations, I mean, influence these?  Also, since the Arab League itself is party to financing and organizing the conflict, are they [inaudible], are they still remain… I mean, to be interlocutors?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Nizar, I am not sure I understand exactly what your question is.

Question:  Now, the Arab League, and many countries in the region, are financing and organizing this conflict, and helping some terrorist organizations.  How is the United Nations going to deal with that in order to bring [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I said earlier, Mr. Brahimi will be here next week, he will do a press stakeout after his presentation to the Security Council.  That’s a good question to ask him.

Correspondent:  Oh, I have another question regarding the chemical…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, I’m sorry.  I’m, sorry, Matthew?

Question:  Okay, let’s go back.  I have quite a few, so we can go back and forth, it should, it could be fun.  I wanted to ask you about the attack in South Sudan on the peacekeepers that killed the Indian peacekeepers, the Kenyans and the South Sudanese.  There is now a pretty detailed account, how talking to eyewitnesses, saying that 200-some armed fighters attacked the convoy.  But, one thing that came up yesterday, actually in the North Lawn Building, around the senior advisory group, many of the troop-contributing countries are protesting that the Indian peacekeepers didn’t have APCs [armoured personnel carriers], basically saying they didn’t have the right equipment to be in an area as dangerous as it is, and I wanted to know, is it true?  Does UNMISS, South Sudan Mission, not have armoured personnel carriers?  Why was it in that area?  And, I know, you know, 20/20 hindsight, but they are saying there were no APCs and that’s a problem, and I am wondering, what do you know about it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to find out for you, Matthew. I  don’t have that information with me.

Question:  Yeah, on the chemical issue, again, yesterday, Secretary-General put the blame squarely on the Syrian Government with regard to this commission of investigation.  Why don’t we have an idea about what was agreed about last Thursday?  That document which Angela Kane had signed with Mr. Bashar Ja'afari is not available?  What happened to the letter of Mr. Moualem?  It is not still published or distributed?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Foreign Minister of Syria can publish his letter if he wants to publish it, we certainly don’t do that as a matter, of course.  As far as anything else is concerned, what the Secretary-General said stands, and that’s his position on it.

Correspondent:  Angela Kane signed an agreement on last Thursday…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I haven’t seen that letter, Nizar.  If it’s a letter that has, that was signed, I don’t know about it.  I mean, if it’s a letter that was signed, it’s a leaked document, we don’t comment on leaked documents.  Hank?

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  Does the Secretary-General still favour a transitional Government over the sitting Syrian Government, the legal Syrian Government right now?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, the conditions set out in Geneva last spring continue to stand.  Yes?

Question:  Sorry.  A couple of questions.  On Syria, does it look like the chemical weapons team will go, since the Government doesn’t seem to want it to go to more…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you know…

Question:  …to more than one place?

Deputy Spokesperson:  …discussions continue.

Question:  Right.  All right.  On Mali, has the Secretary-General named a Special Representative or do you know when he will?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, when we have an announcement to make, we will make it.

Question:  Is there any date, is there any ETA?

Deputy Spokesperson:  When we have an announcement to make, we will make it.  Matthew, last question?

Correspondent:  I have, well, when he finishes, I have some housekeeping to ask you.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay. Matthew?

Correspondent:  I have housekeeping, as well, but I wanted, I guess I, if this is the last one, I want to ask about before it gets too late to ask it, about the meeting of the Secretary-General with President Obama.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes?

Question:  I read the statement that he gave when he came out, and I don’t, you know, obviously, it’s a big world, but it didn’t seem… maybe I am missing something, no conflict in Africa was mentioned, no peacekeeping mission in Africa, basically it seemed to be like North Korea, Syria.  So, I just wanted to, maybe this wasn’t a full presentation of what was discussed, but since so much of the UN’s work, actual work, is in Africa, I am wondering what African issues did the Secretary-General discuss with President Obama?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to check, I don’t have that information.  What I have is what the Secretary-General said yesterday.  You will understand that when the Secretary-General and the President of the United States meet, they have a limited amount of time and an unlimited number of subjects to select.  The hot issues of the day yesterday were the issues that the Secretary-General and the President spoke to, and I imagine that’s what they discussed.

Question:  After the meeting, the Secretary-General gave an interview in which he delivered a message in Korean to Kim Jong Un?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Correspondent:  Okay, all right.

Deputy Spokesperson:  It was on, if you watch CNN…

Correspondent:  I missed it, I don’t, I am not watching that, but the… the… okay.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, it was on Wolf Blitzer’s programme.

Question:  But, I guess this is the sort of, I just don’t want to misunderstand it.  Given that the UN… could you please describe what the UN Secretariat’s role is in the Korean stand-off, other than the Secretary-General’s interest, as compared to say Sudan, Congo, Somalia, where the UN actually has thousands of peacekeepers on the ground?  How could these issues not come up?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the issue of Korea is an issue that is facing the world right now with a threat of war, threat of possibly, as you, [as] somebody said here today, that the State Department had said that there was a possibility that they can mount nuclear weapons on missiles.  Obviously, in terms of discussions with the US President, that was very much on the table.  The role of the Secretary-General is to try to maintain the peace and to intervene where he can, as well as he can, to try and maintain the dialogue going between protagonists.  We have missions in many countries of the world.  The Secretary-General is fully appraised of what they are doing, is fully engaged in their work.  Yesterday, it so happened, that the topics of conversation were the topics of conversation, and what the President and what the Secretary — well, I am not going to speak for the President of the United States — what the Secretary-General said was basically what he discussed with the President of the United States, and they were the topics that were main and central to the discussion.

Question:  Just one last thing on that DC visit.  Was there, is there a readout of the meeting with, with Jim Kim of the World Bank?  Maybe I missed it.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t believe so, no.  I haven’t seen one.

Question:  I am confused — you are having a briefing on next week on the 2nd floor of the Secretariat?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, no, no, no, no, the briefing on Tuesday will be here.

Correspondent:  I see.

Deputy Spokesperson:  We are moving to the 2nd floor this weekend, yes.

Question:  And Kazakhstan will be here and so forth and so forth?

Deputy Spokesperson:  That’s right, yes.

Question:  And also, I just want to say it publicly on the air.  There has been a lot of trouble this month with the Wi-Fi, even when there is no other meeting going on.  Either it slows down or it turns off, and some of us have just gone into another office or gone home, because you can’t finish the story.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, thank you for that, we will take that into consideration.  Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good weekend and we will see you Tuesday.  Please, if you can, come down to the Secretary-General’s event on Millennium Development Goals at 3:30 p.m.  You are all cordially invited, and it is for a good cause.  Thank you so much.

* *** *

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