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

18 June 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.

**Secretary-General in China

The Secretary-General arrived in China today.

He met a group of leading Chinese executives whose firms are part of the UN {United Nations] Global Compact network of companies.  Their discussions focused on sustainable development and the fight against climate change.

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General is scheduled to meet President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.  We expect to provide readouts of those meetings.

The Secretary-General will also visit a peacekeeping training centre near Beijing and speak by video link with Chinese peacekeepers based in South Sudan.

** Turkey

And I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the situation in Turkey.

The Secretary-General continues to closely follow developments in Turkey.  He remains concerned about ongoing clashes between protesters and security personnel.  He is saddened by the deaths and injuries that have occurred.

The Secretary-General urges maximum restraint and the pursuit of constructive dialogue in order to resolve differences and avoid further violent confrontation.  He believes that stability is best assured through such dialogue and when the rights to peaceful assembly and the freedom of expression are fully respected.

** Turkey — Pillay

And continuing on Turkey, the High Commissioner for Human Rights has welcomed the Turkish Government’s decision last week to put a hold on further action on the development of Istanbul’s Gezi Park and then to submit the issue to a local referendum.

Navi Pillay urged the Government and civil society to build on this decision and to act in a manner which would defuse tensions.

She said that the atmosphere is still highly combustible, stressing the importance of the authorities recognizing that the initial extremely heavy-handed response to the protests is still a major part of the problem.

The High Commissioner said that because of that response, the scope of the protests broadened to include other aspects of governance, including those relating to fundamental human rights, such as freedom of assembly and freedom of opinion and expression.

In times of growing public outcry and large-scale protests, the Government must take all necessary measures to ensure that police forces do not resort to excessive use of force and other human rights violations while discharging their duties, she said.

There is more information on this available on the website of the UN human rights office.

**Security Council

The Security Council held a meeting on Libya this morning and heard from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Tarek Mitri, who noted the recent political polarization there.

Mr. Mitri said that the risks in Libya should not be underestimated, and that the opportunities should not be overlooked.  He said that managing the country’s transition is bound to be difficult, but added that, despite the gravity of some recent developments, Libyans have not lost their confidence.

We have Mr. Mitri’s remarks available in our office, and he plans to speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout once the current consultations on Libya have concluded.

** Brazil

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) urged the Brazilian authorities today to exercise restraint in dealing with spreading social protests in the country, and called on demonstrators not to resort to acts of violence in pursuit of their demands.

The UN human rights office welcomed the statement by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff that peaceful demonstrations are legitimate, and also the agreement on Monday that Sao Paulo police would not use rubber bullets.

The human rights office called on authorities to conduct prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into reports of excessive force.

** Nigeria

The UN refugee agency said today that the crisis in north-eastern Nigeria sees refugee outflows spreading to Cameroon, while people are still arriving in Niger.

A team from the refugee agency visited areas along the Nigeria-Cameroon border in the Far North region of Cameroon and reported the presence of over 3,000 Nigerians.  Crossings began a week ago and most of those who have arrived so far are women and children.

The refugee agency said that the refugees are being hosted in churches and schools.  The agency is working with the authorities to relocate the refugees to safer places away from the border.

There are more details available online.

**Secretary-General Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed Major General Michael Finn of Ireland as the Head of Mission and Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).

Major General Finn succeeds Major General Juha Kilpia of Finland who will complete his assignment on 30 June.

We have more information on this appointment in our office.

I have time for a few questions.  Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesperson:  Microphone, please.

Question:  Yes, sir.  In the aftermath of the G8 talks where the… the Russian President and the American President were not able to come to any sort of compromise or conclusion on the this process forward in Syria, do you think that the Geneva conference that is being held by the United Nations, will it hold any promise at all, or what is it that the Secretary-General can do to spur it forward?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Mr. Brahimi continues to work very hard with all parties to try and bring them to the table.  We are waiting to see what the final communiqué of the G8 meeting is and what it says.  And we are also looking to Mr. Brahimi, who is working very closely with Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov, to get this conference going.  So, this is where we are at right now.  Obviously, as Mr. Brahimi said in Finland, I believe, was picked up by the media, it is a difficult process; it’s not… nobody said it was ever going to be easy; it’s a very complex process.  But, it is a very necessary process given the number of deaths and casualties in Syria, and the effects of violence, not only in Syria, but in bordering States.

Question:  And I just want to ask another question on [inaudible], there is a statement by Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu today, uh… yesterday, that the… that, because of the Palestinians, any peace talks are next to impossible with the Palestinians, between Palestinians and the Israelis.  Does the Secretary-General share that view and does he believe that the Middle East peace process, which is still on the hold in the United Nations, this so-called… can be again revived?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the peace process had its ups and downs over the years, and obviously, we are in a period right now where people, like the Secretary-General and others, are trying to get both parties to the table to try and get them to discuss their differences and their problems.  As I said about the Syrian situation, it is not easy; nobody said it was going to be easy.  There are very complex issues at stake, and the Secretary-General continues to work hard through his contacts, through people, like Robert Serry, the regional… the Middle East Coordinator for Peace, and others, to get the parties to the table and to get a basis of understanding between them.  Joe?

Question:  Yes, actually, this turns out to be follow-ups to both of Masood’s questions.  The first dealing with Palestine:  my understanding is that there is a UN international meeting in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace being held in Beijing this week.  It was requested by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.  So, my question on this point is whether the Secretary-General, while he is in China, is planning to participate in that meeting, and if so, would we be able to get a detailed readout?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to see what’s on his agenda.  I haven’t seen it on his agenda, but let’s see if he does have anything to do with it.  We’ll try and get you some information on that.

Question:  Okay.  Well, Joel, wait, wait, it’s just, because there is a second follow-up on… on Masood’s question which, uh, was the Secretary-General invited to attend the G8 meeting and would this have been an opportunity for him to, perhaps, serve in some sort of mediating role with Russian President [Vladimir] Putin and… and [United States] President [Barack] Obama, since the principals were there and discussing the Syrian situation?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check on that.  The principals were there in a sense, but the principals who are the Syrian Government and the Syrian opposition were not there.  So, we are continuing to work through Mr. Brahimi with the parties to try and get them to the table, and we are trying to work with the Russian and the American authorities to try and get the conference under way.  Back there?

Question:  In terms of the Brazil — the call that the Human Rights Commission made, can you just expand a little bit?  And just taking advantage of your knowledge of Hispanish[Sic], can you give the answer in Hispanish[Sic], just how important it is for Brazil to get into peace talks with the protesters, and just kind of just make sure that everything gets better before the World Cup?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t speak Port…, eu não falo Portuguese.

Correspondent:  No, no, en español! Ooh, en español!

Deputy Spokesperson:  Would you bear with me while I speak in Spanish, ladies and gentlemen?

Correspondents:  Yes.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Very kind of you, thank you.  [Deputy Spokesperson then responds in Spanish].  Thank you.  Sylvian?  Back to English.

Question:  Thank you.  I have to… I would like to ask you if Mr. Brahimi will be arriving soon to New York.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have his travel plans; we’ll try and find out and we’ll let you know when he comes.

Correspondent:  Okay, thanks.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  After his visit to Beijing, is the Secretary-General visiting any other country in the region?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, he will be coming straight back to New York on Friday morning.  Matthew, I see your hand through the corner of my eye.

CorrespondentLe tengo una pregunta.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Muy bien.

Question:  No, I’ll… I’ll go in English.  We’ll go in English!

Deputy Spokesperson:  [laughter]

Question:  The… I wanted to ask you, first about… about eastern Congo… the… the… the M23 [23 March Movement] has said that they went to Kampala to continue these negotiations they had been having with the… the Congolese Government, and that the Government said there is no more talks, it’s over.  And they claimed that they have written to Mary Robinson describing, you know, asking, I guess, for her… her to get involved in… in resuming talks and complaining also of 50 arrests, what they say are 50, the DRC {Democratic Republic of the Congo] Government says there is nine arrests of Kinyarwanda speakers and transferred to Kinshasa so, I won… it seems like this is right in her… her mission of this framework of hope or what, you know, has she gotten the letter and what… what’s the UN’s position on whether those talks should continue?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the UN’s position, obviously, is that the talks continue; dialogue is what the Secretary-General has called for, and the Secretary-General was in the DRC recently, basically to foster a sense of dialogue.  We’ll check with Mrs. Robinson’s office to see if she received the letter.

Correspondent:  And I guess I just… just on that, because it, I mean, it seems to some that, in fact, this sending of the intervention brigade basically emboldened the Government to cancel the talks.  So, it’s kind of… what would… do you… can you, either in the spur of the moment or in when you respond later, what would be the response of the Secretariat to the idea that this… a lot of focus and a lot of effort but actually it’s… it’s resulted in less dialogue not more.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t do spur of the moment.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll try and check for you on that.  Something else Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  There are indications that China has a proposal regarding the Middle East proce-…, peace process.  Is the Secretary-General informed about that?  Has he received any plan from China?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I said in my earlier announcement, the Secretary-General is meeting the President; he is meeting the Foreign Minister and I imagine this is one of those issues that will loom large on their agenda as will other issues, such as Syria, the situation in the Koreas and other issues of global importance.  Matthew?

Question [Mr. Abbadi]:  My question, did he receive any such proposals?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to find out from his office; I don’t have know if he has received any such… any formal proposal or not.

Question:  I want to ask you about Kadugli and Sudan where… where the peacekeeper was killed last… last week.  The SPLM-North [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North] has said, you know, they… they said over the weekend, that there had been shelling on Friday… what they called military targets in Kadugli, and they actually have now said that they’ve resumed shelling on Monday.  So, I wanted to know… it… I… I know that it was said initially that the UN is, you know, in… in… investigating and can’t say anything, but it seems pretty clear that the… there is a party that is shelling the city, um, the other side is in the city, so I wanted to know, has there been any… any further development on the UN’s investigation?  Does the UN… what does the UN think of Sudan going forward with this?  There is a soccer tournament; this is the reason that the SPLM-North says they’re, fi… they are shelling it because they say it’s… it’s outrageous to hold the soccer tournament in Darfur and Kadugli given the… the… the… the… the… this conflict there.  Does the UN have any view of whether that soccer tournament is a… is good for civilians in Al-Fashir and Kadugli?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I said, we will have to check into it.  The investigation continues; I don’t have any further update.  We’ll try and get an update on the investigation.  And in terms of the soccer game, that’s something we’ll have to check with [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] to see what the mission thinks.

[The Spokesperson later said that the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei, UNISFA, has observed that bombing and shelling continued today in the vicinity of the stadium and the airport.]

Question:  And… and is there something on… do you have anything on Guinea?  There is… I know that there is… Saïd Djinnit was very involved, but now it’s been said that the election will not, as had been announced, take place by the end of June and I am wondering is there any… does… is the UN disappointed?  Is the UN trying to set another date?  What… the last we heard was sort… kind of a positive statement, but now there seems to be negative [Inaudible]…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll have to find out about that for you.

Question:  Oh, let me try one more.  This is an in-house sort of… I just wanna ask you this.  I… I was… I’ve been asking, I mean, it… it… it seems like a very strange thing, but the… the… the… the… it has… it goes to the idea that there can be more than one organization, uh, uh, advocating for media access in the UN and I have been told by [the Department of Public Information] — your favourite, my favourite — that, uh, that, in fact, any sign mentioning the free UN coalition for access has to come down, whereas an [United Nations Correspondents Association] sign can remain up.  And it seems so inconsistent with the UN’s idea of kind of multi-party systems and freedom of speech, I haven’t heard from the… the… the individual you usually refer me to, so I am asking you for a statement of how it is consistent with… with… how… how it is not just a violation of free speech and a sort of a favouritism and… and…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check with…

Correspondent:  …injustice.

Deputy Spokesperson:  …I’ll have to check with [the Department of Public Information] on that, Matthew, I don’t have the information on that, okay.

Correspondent:  Wednesday seems to be the deadline for them to take it down.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Last question?

Question:  Thanks, Eduardo.  Did the Secretary-General have any comment on the planned peace talks between the Taliban and the US [ United States] in Doha in the next few weeks?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has always said that dialogue is a way forward, and that as long as the Afghan Government is… is… is involved and working on the process, that he agrees that dialogue has to continue.  It is the only way to end the violence; it’s a political situation and political negotiations are required to put an end to the violence.

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

* *** *

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