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

16 August 2013

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

16 August 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.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General is wrapping up his Middle East visit in a few hours and will be back in New York tomorrow.

He started the day by meeting the Israeli President, Shimon Peres, and he also held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Justice Minister, the Defence Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.  As in Ramallah yesterday, the main focus has been on the Middle East peace process.

The Secretary-General spoke to reporters about his meetings, stressing his full support for the direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians and praising the courage of their leaders for starting these talks.  We will provide more details on the talks.

The Secretary-General also took part in an Israeli Model UN event at the UN headquarters in Jerusalem.  He attended a similar event with Palestinian students in Ramallah yesterday.  He said students everywhere should have both passion and compassion, and lift their vision beyond boundaries.

While at UN headquarters, the Secretary-General met the new head of mission of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), Major-General Michael Finn.

He also visited Yitzhak Rabin’s grave site on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

** Lebanon

The Secretary-General and the members of the Security Council have both strongly condemned the car bomb explosion in the southern Beirut suburbs yesterday.

In a statement, the Secretary-General said that such acts of violence are completely unacceptable and only reinforce the determination of the international community to continue to support Lebanon’s security and stability at a time of severe regional turbulence.  During this period of heightened tensions, the Secretary-General urges all Lebanese to remain united, to rally around their State institutions and to focus on safeguarding Lebanon’s security and stability.  He hopes that the perpetrators will be brought to justice as soon as possible.

The members of the Security Council, in a press statement, stressed the importance for all Lebanese parties to respect Lebanon’s policy of disassociation and to refrain from any involvement in the Syrian crisis, consistent with their commitment in the Baabda Declaration.

** Egypt

The Security Council received a briefing on Egypt from Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson in consultations yesterday afternoon.

Following that briefing, Ambassador Maria Cristina Perceval, the Security Council President, said that Council members expressed their condolences to the victims in Egypt and regretted the loss of lives.  She said that Council members believe that the parties should exercise maximum restraint, stop the violence and advance national reconciliation.


The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that thousands of Syrians crossed into northern Iraq yesterday in a sudden, massive movement.  Refugee agency field officers present described waves of people "streaming" over the recently constructed bridge at Peshkhabour.  The first group of Syrians, some 750 people, crossed over the pontoon bridge at Peshkhabour at the Tigris River before noon.  Later in the afternoon, a much larger group of 5,000 to 7,000 people followed.

The vast majority of the new arrivals are women, children and elderly persons, mainly from Aleppo, Efrin, Hassake and Qamishly.

As of today, almost 2 million Syrians have fled the war and registered as refugees or applied for registration.  Two thirds of these have arrived this year.

** Somalia

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that during the first half of this year, there were some 800 cases of sexual and gender-based violence reported in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu.

The Office said that rape continues to be perpetrated by unknown armed men and men wearing military uniforms and also that the internally displaced continue to be the most affected by sexual and gender-based violence.

The Office says that survivors were provided with medical assistance, psycho-social support, and legal counselling by humanitarian partners.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that some one third of the victims of sexual violence are children.

**Press Encounter Monday

And, on Monday, at 12:30 p.m., the Secretary-General will have a press encounter here, in this room, on his recent travels.  As a result, there will be no noon briefing on Monday.

Questions, please?  Erol?  Microphone?  Okay, the young lady in the back?  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes.  The Military Staff Council is meeting right now; can you tell us a little bit what that is about or if we are going to have a chance to ask them questions?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I don’t have any information on that right now; we’ll have to get back to you on that.

[The correspondent was later informed that a regular periodic meeting of the Military Staff Committee was taking place.]  Masood?

Question:  Yes, sir.  Following this dismal Security Council meeting which was unable to reach, arrive at any concrete decision, and given the fact that, in, in Egypt, at least, if not hundreds, thousands of people have been killed.  And it has repercussions in the whole region and… in the whole region, and it poses a threat to international peace and security.  Will the Secretary-General, when he comes back, invoke Article 90 of the [United Nations] Charter and call for a Security Council meeting, meeting to seriously consider the consequences of what is happening in Egypt?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, there was a Security Council meeting yesterday, Masood, and we’ll have to see what the Security Council decides.  It’s up to the Security Council to take a decision, not the Secretary-General.

Correspondent:  No, but, the Secretary-General, when he invokes Article 90, it’s his, it’s his prerogative to do that.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, there is nothing in the plans right now for that.  Erol?

Question:  Thank you.  Just to go for, small follow-up on the Masood question.  It’s actually; do they, United Nations, now have, in counts, really how many casualties are in Egypt, since we have a conflicting reports?  In hundreds and in thousands?  That’s the first question.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we don’t have an exact number, no.  We don’t have a mission there engaged in counting bodies.  We have to base ourselves on the figures that are released by various sources, including the Ministry of Health.  Matthew?

Question:  I just wanted to ask on Egypt the following; yesterday, at, at the end of the Security Council meeting, the Egyptian Permanent Representative, I asked him and he said that Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman has asked to go, that arrangements have been made, that high-level meetings have been set up, then I, for some how, the UN, at least, as of yest…, yesterday, wasn’t willing to confirm that.  Can you now say, is Mr. Feltman going?  Are the meetings set up?  Who is he going to meet with?  That’s the question.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, Under-Secretary General Feltman has been asked by the Secretary-General to conduct some regional consultations in several countries after the conclusion of the Secretary-General's current trip to the Middle East.  While some of the stops are still pending, Mr. Feltman does hope to meet Egyptian interlocutors in Cairo next week.

Question:  And can you, can I just, this is a procedural question; when, this, this confirmation that you are now reading here, when did you come up with it?  When did, when was it…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, whenever I came up with it…

Question:  Right… was it given to some, was it given to some before others?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We are announcing it here now.  Nizar?

Question:  Yeah, given the cooperation between the Arab League and the United Nations, did the Arab League make any initiatives or communication with the United Nations to try to tackle the issue in Egypt, like they did in Syria, for example?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General, as I said the other day, has been in constant contact with a variety of regional leaders.  I am not going to get into — I think we’ve have readouts of some of them — I think you will see the readout of about three weeks ago on Sunday had something about the Arab League Secretary-General.  I’d refer you to that.

Question:  But, I, they haven’t sent any letters yet?  [Nabil] Elaraby, for example, did he communicate with you officially through letters or ask the Security Council to take action like, or [inaudible], for example, did…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you’d have to ask the Security Council whether they have received the letter.  I don’t think we have received a letter, but we’ll check.  Erol?

Question:  Yes, since the Secretary-General is visiting Israel for the sixth time, and then he visited the grave of the late Prime Minister Rabin, does that have a special significance?  Can you talk about this time in the light of the peace negotiation between Israel?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, he also visited the tomb of Yasser Arafat yesterday.  So, it’s a question of basically doing some protocol activities and…

Question:  Did he visit Prime Minister Araf…, Prime Minister Rabin grave any time before, when he was…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I really don’t know; I don’t have that information.  Masood?

Question:  Yes, sir.  I just wanted to make another follow-up on that Egyptian thing, because it is so important for United Nations world community to take action on what is happening in Egypt.  I mean, and you just said that Secretary-General has no, uh, and that’s when, let me re-phrase it.  That you just said Secretary-General has, you have no idea whether Secretary-General will invoke Article 92 [sic]; uh, ask the Security Council to hold a meeting to consider this thing.  So far, it has been going round and round.

Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General, as I said, is sending Mr. Feltman to Egypt, and I am sure that Mr. Feltman will report to the Secretary-General, and the Secretary-General will take Mr. Feltman’s advice into consideration and decide what the next steps are.

Question:  You just said that he is not planning any contacts in Cairo, so, he will be in Cairo, right?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I said Mr. Feltman does hope to meet Egyptian interlocutors in Cairo next week.  Quite plain.  Erol?

Question:  Yes, there are media reports; I wonder if you can confirm that, that WHO [World Health Organization] is saying that, after the wars in former Yugoslavia, there are some 750,000 persons somehow affected with the post-traumatic syndrome.  So…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’d say you’d have to check with the WHO; I don’t have anything on that myself.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  In, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there are reports of, of 11 people killed by armed groups in South Kivu, and I am wondering, obviously, this is a big focus for, for MONUSCO [United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] there and they have this intervention brigade.  What, what steps are they taking since this, the, this assault?  And do they have any idea which group is behind it in South Kivu?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I have to check into it for you.  I’ve seen the reports, but I don’t have anything for you on that.  Anything else, ladies and gentlemen? One more.

Question:  Okay, all right, I’ll go with this one then.  Ah, I wanted to ask you about the UN’s environmental policies.  It seems like some within DGACM [Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Management] are complaining that in the past — actually this is going to get a little personal here — in the past that they used to have glass pitchers full of water and glass glasses, and a decision was made to switch to all plastic bottles and plastic cups, and somebody provided me a picture of the four-deep enormous crates of plastic bottles and said, and, so, my question is, is this really environmentally sound?  What, what’s the, is, what’s the impact of it?  They believe that it’s just to cut down on labour costs and possibly to lay people off.  What’s the purpose of switching to all plastic bottles by the UN?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check on that for you, Matthew; I really don’t know.  Last question, in the back?

Question:  I was just wondering if you have any updates on the chemical weapons investigation team leaving for Syria?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Their departure is imminent.

Question:  Well, one last question regarding the investigation of the UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] on the al-Labouneh incident.  Do you have any update on that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, the investigation continues.  Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  As I said before, there will be no noon briefing on Monday.  We will have the Secretary-General here at a press encounter at 12:30 p.m.  Have a good weekend.

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