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

23 April 2013

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

23 April 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 Guest

Today, I am joined by John Wilmoth, the Director of the Population Division in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, along with Professor Graeme Hugo, the Director of the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide.  They are here to brief on global migration trends.  Gentlemen, the floor is yours.

[Press conference on global migration trends is issued separately.]

Okay, we’ll continue on, ladies and gentlemen.

**Security Council

The Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General are at a retreat today with the members of the Security Council.  The Secretary-General will be back in New York City this evening.


And I have the statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the attack on the French Embassy in Tripoli, Libya.

The Secretary-General condemns, in the strongest terms, the attack on the French Embassy in Tripoli on 23 April and sends his sympathies to the victims and their families. The targeting of diplomatic missions and their staff is not acceptable and never justifiable.

The Secretary-General is confident that the Libyan authorities will take every action to ensure that the perpetrators of this attack are brought to justice and that adequate protection for diplomatic premises is provided. The Secretary-General calls on all Libyans to support their Government's efforts to establish strong and effective security institutions. The United Nations remains committed to assisting the Libyan Government and people with the process of building a democratic state and affirming the rule of law.


The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, wrapped up a visit to Haiti yesterday with the Co-chairs of the Political Champions for Disaster Resilience — the head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, and the British Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening.

Three years after the 2010 earthquake, the Political Champions are calling on the international community and the Haitian Government to take action to make Haiti more resilient to disasters.  With the upcoming rainy season only weeks away and the hurricane season approaching, they stressed the urgency of integrating disaster risk reduction into better coordinated and locally driven initiatives to prepare and recover from disasters.  The group of Political Champions was formed in 2012 to promote a resilience-based response to climate-related crises.


The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, today urged the judicial authorities involved in the trial of former Head of State of Guatemala José Efrain Rios Montt and former Chief of Intelligence José Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez to conclude the case and bring accountability for the crimes committed during the internal armed conflict in Guatemala, which lasted from 1960 to 1996.

Mr. Dieng urged the judicial authorities to act responsibly and prevent any attempt at interference, obstruction of justice or manipulation of the law, which would seriously undermine the credibility of the judicial system in Guatemala. The Special Adviser said that this is the first time that a former Head of State has been indicted by a national tribunal on charges of genocide and that, with this process, Guatemala has established an historical precedent.  There are more details in a press release available in my office.


Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will attend a tribute in the General Assembly Hall to Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and the UN Board of Design.  The event will be co-hosted by the President of the General Assembly and will feature rare film footage and photographs of the work of the Board leading up to the construction of UN Headquarters in New York.  The event will be webcast.


Yesterday, we were asked about the recent violence in Lebanon near the Syrian border.  Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, would also like to reiterate, as the Security Council has now said on several occasions, the importance of respect for Lebanon’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and the need for all concerned to respect Lebanon’s policy of dissociation and the Baabda Declaration.

I have time for a few questions.  Mr. Abbadi?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  You started by saying the Secretary-General is meeting in a retreat with members of the Security Council; what is the subject under discussion, and…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Those meetings are in closed consultations and they are confidential.  I cannot reveal what they are talking about.

Question:  Eduardo, I saw a dispatch of an answer that Farhan [Haq] gave to a question about Richard Falk’s remarks the other day, blaming the Boston bombings on the United States and Israel, in part.  I want a clarification of why the Secretary-General apparently had… a letter went to the Secretary-General; there has been no response from the Secretary-General’s office.  What is the position of the Secretary-General in regards to Mr. Falk’s remarks and why, if he refuses to make remarks on this, what is his position then about this?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I have to check on that.  I have no knowledge of a letter. I’d have to check and see if a letter, in fact, went to the Secretary-General’s office.  I don’t have any information on that.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later confirmed that a letter went to the Secretary-General on the matter, from the group, UN Watch.]

Question:  Okay, but Richard Falk did make these comments…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Richard Falk speaks independently; he is not a representative of the Secretary-General, so he is free to say what he wants to say. The Secretary-General doesn’t comment on everything everybody says.  Hank?

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  The Secretary-General’s meeting with Prime Minister of… readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with Prime Minister [Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr]Al-Thani of Qatar yesterday; I didn’t see a statement out of your office.  The Associated Press said that the SG had implored Qatar and other Arab countries to stop supplying arms to either side of the Syrian conflict.  Can you provide any further detail on that, number one?  And number two, did the SG use the face time with the Qatari Prime Minister to ask him for the other $98 million out of the $100 million that they have not delivered, that they did commit in Kuwait?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I would invite you to read the readout that came out of the meeting yesterday between Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, the Prime Minister, and the Secretary-General, along with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States.  It was a readout that’s three paragraphs long; I suggest you take a look at it.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure. I have some other questions, but I wanted to ask one follow-up on… on this.  In… I mean, they said… what the… the… what was surprising about what Farhan said is that in… in 2011, the Secretary-General, at least Vijay Nambiar, who was his Chief of Staff at the time, did criticise what Falk said about 9-11.  So without taking any… without getting into except… it… it just seems strange to now say he didn’t appoint him… he doesn’t… he is not going to comment on anything that he says…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, that’s not what I said; what I said was that I don’t have the information on what he may or may not have written to the Secretary-General; what he may or may not have said.  If and when we have something to say about it, we will say it.

Question:  But, what I wanted to ask is if you end up having nothing to say, can you, as a Spokesperson, explain what the difference is about his comment on 9‑11 and his comment on Boston?  Is it… is it the relative, you know, I hate to say it, death count?  What… what… what… what require… what triggers the Secretary-General commenting on what a Special Rapporteur said in some instances and not in others?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General made a statement last week on the Boston bombings.  The tragedy in Boston took place. He made a statement.  He reflected his views and the views of this Organization as to what we thought was a very good reaction to the bombings in Boston, which took three lives and injured over 175 people.  That is what the Secretary-General had to say about this.  What other people have to say, I will check and see if the Secretary-General has any comment, period.

Question:  Sure, I just… I am just wondering about the statement that he has nothing to say because he didn’t appoint him, that’s what I am trying to zero in on, is that…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, Matthew, Matthew, Matthew, we make… we… we make statements and we don’t make statements.  We made a statement on the occasion of the Boston bombing, and we made statement obviously in 2001, on 11 September.  So the Secretary-General has made the statements he has to make.  That’s all I am going to say about this.  Nizar?

Question:  Eduardo, I wonder if you issued any statement yesterday regarding the kidnapping or abduction of two clerics who went to Aleppo, two… two Christian clerics…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the High Commissioner for Human Rights believes that the situation on the ground is extremely worrying.  Kidnapping and abduction of civilians is a growing concern in Syria.  All kidnapped and abducted civilians should be released immediately.  International humanitarian law prohibits the taking of hostages by any party to a conflict.

Question:  How about the release of the… Mr. [Sameer al] Issawi, who… who broke up his hunger strike, which runs at 277 days?  Do you have a statement about that and the rest of the Palestinian prisoners who are under…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Nizar, we’ve answered this before.  Mr. [Robert] Serry has addressed this with the Israeli authorities, with the Palestinian authorities; we’ve read Mr. Serry’s comments.  Obviously, we have nothing to say right now on the agreement of Mr. Issawi.  If we have something to say, we will let you know.

Question:  Yes, Eduardo, on the… on the Falk issue, the Secretary-General is in many ways the moral voice of this Organization, the UN calls Richard Falk a top UN expert; why would the Secretary-General not make some sort of remarks… to get some sort of guidance…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I didn’t say he will not make remarks; I said I do not have any remarks to report at the moment.  If the Secretary-General has something to say, we will report it.  That’s it.

Correspondent:  But that doesn’t… that doesn’t square with the comment that we got yesterday from the UN Spokesman’s office.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I will have to check with Farhan, I am not aware of that.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that what Farhan Haq had said on the matter was: “Richard Falk is an independent expert.  The Secretary-General did not appoint him and is not responsible for his views, which he has criticised in the past.  Mr Falk reports to the Human Rights Council, which is composed of different Member States.”]

Question:  On a more general level then, is it not the Secretary-General’s responsibility to actually give moral voice to the issues that Richard Falk…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Falk is appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.  That’s a body that is independent of the Secretary-General.  The Secretary-General, to the best of my knowledge, did not nominate Mr. Falk to any position.  Therefore, Mr. Falk speaks independently from the Secretary-General.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  In answer to my earlier question regarding the retreat of the Secretary-General with members of the Council, you said that you will not get into it because it is confidential.  How does that square with the declared policies of the Secretary-General regarding transparency and openness?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is having a conference with the Security Council, when Security Council consultations take place; these consultations are confidential, they are not made public, and this is a confidential consultation with the Security Council outside of Headquarters.  So, it is confidential; we cannot disclose anything.  One more question, Matthew?

Question:  Eduardo I want… okay.  I was going to ask about another Special Rapporteur, but I am going to… this is… this seems key.  There was a UK… I am pretty sure you will have seen this or… or article, there is a… a… a British businessman, Jim McCormick, who has just been… you know, been found guilty of selling various parties a… a… a false bomb-detecting equipment that is essentially a… just a golf ball set and they sold it, he says, for 27,000 pounds, including — and this is why I am asking you — to the UN for use in Lebanon.  So I… what I want to know is, now that there… this is a… this is a final… you know, the Old Bailey, at the… the case is done, what was that procurement?  What’s… is the UN going to recoup its funds, was any one put at risk, what’s the UN’s response to having a golf ball detector as a bomb detection equipment for Lebanon?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, I don’t have anything on that right now.  When we get something, we will let you know.

Correspondent:  It’s in the Telegraph…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t know.  I know the article.  We’ve seen the article, but when we have something we’ll get back to you.  Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.

* *** *

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