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

29 August 2013

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

29 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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General met today with the President, Chancellor and Foreign Minister of Austria in Vienna.  He discussed Syria extensively with all three.  The Secretary-General briefed the President and the Chancellor on the work of the UN chemical weapons investigation team.  He underscored the importance of giving diplomacy a chance and enabling the investigation team to finish their work.

In remarks to reporters, the Secretary-General said that the chemical weapons investigation team in Syria will continue its activities in the country until Friday and will come out of Syria by Saturday morning.  He expects to be briefed by the team after they come out of Syria.  For that reason, he added, he would cut short his visit to Austria; he is in fact on his way back to New York now.

**Deputy Secretary-General Travels

This evening, the Deputy Secretary-General will depart New York to give the keynote address on 2 September at the World Water Week in Stockholm.  He will travel afterwards to Uppsala University to take part in a panel discussion on “The Future of the UN”, which will be attended by around 1,500 teachers and students.  A wreath will also be placed at the graveside of Dag Hammarskjöld in the presence of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.

On 3 September, he will speak at a seminar in memory of former Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who was assassinated in September 10 years ago.  On 4 September, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Lund to deliver the 2013 Anna Lindh Lecture at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute at Lund University.  The Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on Thursday, 5 September.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) says that Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) have resumed operations today to remove the M23 threat of shelling into populated areas from the Kibati Heights.  The UN Force continues to support this operation, including with use of its artillery and attack helicopters.

As you may have seen in a statement issued last night, the Secretary-General condemned the killing of a Tanzanian peacekeeper and the wounding of 10 others, when they came under fire from the M23 group while carrying out the mandate of the Force Intervention Brigade.  The Secretary-General offered his sincere condolences and sympathy to their families and to the Governments of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of South Africa.

Since the statement was issued last night, the Mission reports that one further peacekeeper has been wounded.  The Security Council will hold consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo today, and will be briefed by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  We may have further updates after these consultations.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) until August 2014. 

The Council was then briefed by video-conference by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Farid Zarif.  He told the Council that important progress has continued towards the implementation of the Agreement reached between the parties on 19 April.

Mr. Zarif said that the leaders in Pristina and Belgrade have sustained their commitment to work towards implementation of the Agreement in a timely and constructive manner, notwithstanding some complications in the process.  He said that such progress remains fundamental to building mutual trust and realizing the key aspirations of both parties, the population in Kosovo, and indeed of the region.

**Central African Republic

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) today called on the authorities in the Central African Republic to take immediate action to protect civilians from fighting in the capital Bangui and allow people to return to their homes.  The UN agency said that over the past 10 days, arbitrary arrests, detention, torture, extortion, armed robberies, physical violence, restriction of movement, lootings and attacks on civilians have displaced thousands of people.

By Thursday morning, an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 people, including many women and children, had taken refuge at Bangui International Airport, blocking the runway and forcing flights to be rerouted to Cameroon.  There were already more than 206,000 internally displaced people in the Central African Republic before the recent events.


And last, a UN team fielded by the Department of Political Affairs in New York will visit the Maldives from 31 August through 12 September 2013.  During its stay, the team will assess the political and electoral situation prior to and after the 7 September presidential election.  While present in the country, the team will work in close coordination with the UN Resident Coordinator in the Maldives.

That’s it from me.  Yes, please in the back?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Can we get a sense of… can we get a sense of the timeline on the reports in the [inaudible].  Where they will go?  How and when that report will be presented to the Secretary-General?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, once the team leaves Syria, they will immediately try to get some of the material that they have got — and they got quite an extensive amount of it, material, in recent days — to go to laboratory testing.  And that will occur at several different sites in Europe.  The inspectors, some of the inspectors will be on hand for all the various deliveries to the various laboratory sites to ensure the chain of custody of the evidence that they have collected.  And they will wait for the laboratory analysis to be completed.  At the same time, of course, the Secretary-General, as he told reporters in Vienna, has made very clear that he expects to at least receive a briefing from the team once he and they are here; that is to say the Secretary-General is coming to New York and the investigators are leaving Syria on Saturday morning, as we just said.  And so, he does expect to have some sort of briefing from them.

Question:  On Saturday?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Farhan…?

Question:  Which means…?

Question:  Farhan, does the Secretary-General plan to present what the inspectors present to him to the Security Council in a… in a meeting specifically, you know, convened on Syria?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything to say about any Security Council meeting at this stage.  What I can tell you is that once the Secretary-General is back and in fact he will be back tonight, starting tomorrow he will try to reach out to Member States and take discussions forward on the question of what is happening in Syria.  Yes, please?

Question:  Yesterday, the Ambassador of Syria said that they had presented a letter to the Secretariat asking to investigate three additional events where military members were, according to them, attacked with gas and died consequence of the attack.  Is it true that they have requested the investigation team to stay longer in Syria, and then what’s the response from the Secretariat to that proposal of possibly staying longer and not just to stay until Saturday, but until maybe next week?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, what I can say is as we told reporters yesterday, the Secretary-General has received the request in writing from the Government of Syria.  Any reports of alleged incidents of the use of chemical weapons that are brought to the Secretary-General’s attention by a Member State will be given serious consideration.  Yes, please?

Question:  Hi. On Monday, Secretary of State Kerry, he mentioned that the fact that Syria didn’t allow the inspectors for five days was a sign of their culpability, when in fact the letter… the request from the UN… from the UN wasn’t delivered until Saturday and the request was granted the next day.  So I was wondering why the UN didn’t correct that fact publicly and why it took so long to deliver a letter that could have been faxed the same day.

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, we put out a message in a statement on 22 August asking for that access, and that was a public statement and we followed it up with communications with the Mission here at the United Nations.  So… so…

Question:  Correct, but on Thursday…

Associate Spokesperson:  So that was on Thursday, not on Saturday.

Question:  But on Thursday you announced that you… Eduardo announced that you were going to write and send the letter.  And I believe that Angela Kane delivered it on Saturday.

Associate Spokesperson:  There were personal discussion being conducted by Angela Kane, our head of Disarmament Affairs, which started once she got to Syria, which was on Saturday.  That was as fast as she could get there, of course.

Question:  But the letter could have been sent the same day, so they didn’t have an excuse to postpone that.

Associate Spokesperson:  We already conveyed our views on the need for access as early as Thursday.  The sort of personal talks with Government officials in Syria that were needed to bring the issue forward were handled by Angela Kane and that was handled when she departed Friday to get there on Saturday.  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you…

Question:  And, and…

Question:  When do you…?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yeah, no, someone else is talking.  Yes, Sylvian?

Question:  When do you expect Angela Kane to come to New York to brief us?

Associate Spokesperson:  Ms. Kane expects also to depart from Syria on Saturday.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Can I get this?

Correspondent:  Sorry.

Question:  Thank you.  [inaudible] yes, I would like to know, on this… when the inspectors return, the Secretary-General has given… has asked the Member States or the world to give diplomacy a chance.  Is there a timeline on what… on his appeal that they should give, or is it…? I mean, what he is saying that let diplomacy work and stop this war rhetoric.

Associate Spokesperson:  What the Secretary-General made clear was a number of things.  He wants all the parties to give diplomacy a chance, he wants to be able to have all the parties on the ground and in the wider region as a whole to take seriously the effort to get the parties together for negotiations, including through the Geneva II conference that we have been trying to arrange for many months now.  At the same time he made very clear that he wants the Security Council to live up to their responsibilities and it is time for the Council to act in a united fashion and live up to their responsibilities.  So all of that is part of what he wants to see.

Question:  Just a minute…

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes?

Question:  …since… and just a follow-up, since this… the… the mandate of the inspectors does not include at the appropriate who… who [inaudible] did the chemical attack in that the case, what determination would that inquiry make and how would this United Nations say that we believe that A-B-C-D did it in order for the international community to act?

Associate Spokesperson:  Masood, you asked the same question yesterday and I think I will just give you the same answer, which is that the investigators intend to put together an evidence based narrative of what…

Question:  [inaudible]

Associate Spokesperson:  …of what the facts show.  And those facts should help you get to the bottom of what happened on 21 August at Ghouta.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, Farhan, I asked this question earlier regarding the 12 people who were… from Al-Nusra who were seized in… captured in Turkey carrying two kilograms of sarin gas.  Did the Uni… the inspectors have a look at that gas?  Did they… is it possible that they compared the quality of the gas with what has been used in Damascus or the neighbourhood of Damascus, because that is while relevant here, and it seems it is obscured in all this talk about investigations?  Khan al-Asal also it looks like has been put back… I mean, not on their priorities any more.

Associate Spokesperson:  Regarding your second question about Khan al-Asal, we, the investigation team, continues to intend to investigate the situation in Khan al-Asal and other two sites.  It had begun some of that work prior to the 21 August attack, but once that attack happened, the Secretary-General had asked them to look into that one as a matter of priority.  They intend still in due course to look into those other incidents.  As to your other question, ultimately we are not going to comment on the operational work of the team until it is able to complete that work.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, where are these laboratories in Europe where the testing will take place?  Maybe you could give us a little detail on what each lab is looking into?  And in terms of reporting, how long are we going to have to wait to get information?  Is the going to be a preliminary report, initial sense of what… what happened, or are we going to have to wait for several weeks for a big, beefy report to be written up and distributed?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, in terms of the laboratories, the discussions are ongoing, so I don’t think I would be able to provide specific countries at this stage.  Regarding how the team goes about its work, the Secretary-General does expect to have some form of an oral briefing from the investigators, once they are out of the country.  In terms of when they have concluded their work and when they have their final findings, that would of course await the laboratory analysis that will now take place.

Question:  When do you expect the briefing… the briefing… I am sorry, thank you.  When do you expect the briefing between the Secretary-General and the UN mission, Mr. Sellström?  When do you expect the meeting… the brief… the briefing between Ban Ki-moon…?

Associate Spokesperson:  We don’t have a date scheduled yet, but the Secretary‑General is flying back as we speak, and the investigators as currently scheduled, expect to wrap up their work by Saturday morning.  Yes, in the back, Ali?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  So Mr. Sellström is going to brief the Secretary-General here in New York?  And does that… do you mean that he has already got some initial results from the… what he saw in… in Syria?  Also, did the Secretary-General cut short his visit or his travel plans?  Thank you.

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, he did.  As he said while he was in Vienna, he was cutting short his visit so that he could hear from the inspectors, the investigators.  Regarding your initial question, the basic point is that the Secretary-General expects to receive an oral briefing.  It will be later on once they have completed things like laboratory analyses that are essential to their work that they will have a final briefing about what they found.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, thanks.  Your answer on Khan al-Asal and on the… the letter that Syria submitted yesterday sort of implies that they intend to go back.  Is that… is that the idea that they are coming out to make this report, but they… they believe that they can go back in and investigate those other locations?  And did… what were they able to accomplish on Khan al-Asal?  Is it going to be part of the report they give to the Secretary-General?  And finally, are there other UN staff… is there any other UN staff that will be leaving Syria at this time?

Associate Spokesperson:  That’s several different topics entirely.  The basic point is that Khan al-Asal and other sites, they will in fact be investigated in due course.  Since the investigators are leaving right now to deal with this priority matter, first they are going to discuss the 21 August Ghouta attack, and that is where their current priority lies.  They do intend to return for further work down the line.

Question:  Do you… I mean, obviously, if there were any kind of military action as is being widely discussed, do you really think they would get back in?

Associate Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t speculate on what that would entail. Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  The British Foreign Min… Foreign Secretary has said that if the UN failed to decide anything on Syria, Britain and its allies should do… take some action against it.  What’s the UN comment on that?

Associate Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t have any comment beyond drawing your attention to what the Secretary-General said at his speech in the Peace Palace where he laid out very clearly what he believes the priorities for Syria should be.  Yes, you again?

Question:  Hi, I would like to know what’s the status of the readout on the call with the Secretary-Gen… Kerry and the Secretary-General that we had requested yesterday.

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t believe that there is going to be a readout provided.  There is a very large number of calls that the Secretary-General has made…

Correspondent:  But that is obviously the most important one.

Associate Spokesperson:  There is a very large number of calls that the Secretary-General has made in recent days to Secretary Kerry and many other officials, largely concerning the situation in Syria, and we don’t have specific readouts on all those calls.  Yes?

Question:  Just to clarify on the three sites that weapons inspections team went in initially to look at; did they ever visit any of those sites?  And the second question is, will that oral briefing be conducted face-to-face or by another means?

Associate Spokesperson: Well, I don’t actually have any details about how that briefing will take place just yet.  That will become clear in the coming days.  But the team was able to do some preliminary work about the three sites it was initially looking into, but it has not been able to conduct on-site visits and get that sort of information to those areas, basically because this new priority rose up while they were in country.  Yes, please?

Question:  Correct me if I am wrong, the inspectors, they are looking where the gas or the chemical weapons were… have been used, and not who used the chemical weapons, right?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.  Their mission is to determine whether chemical weapons have been used, not…

Correspondent:  Okay…

Associate Spokesperson:  …it’s not about attribution.  At the same time, I would like to point out that they are capable, they will have a large number of facts at their disposal.  They have collected a considerable amount of evidence, evidence through samples, evidence through witness interviews, and they can construct from that a face-based narrative that can get at the key facts of what happened on 21 August.

Question:  Okay, but everyone know… right now, everyone knows right now that the chemical weapons have been used.  So how this…?

Associate Spokesperson:  No, no, we don’t concede that, until, I believe that…

Question:  I mean, it’s known that this gas is used somewhere in Syria, so how this fact will you…?

Associate Spokesperson:  The point, I am sorry, but the point of their activity is to determine whether it has been used.  They have not taken it as a foregone conclusion that it has been used.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, now there is a UK report, the US is coming up with its own report.  How do we… how do we compare the UN report with… with those reports and how credible are they from the perspective of the UN?

Associate Spokesperson:  That’s your job, not mine.  It is not my job to compare those reports.  We will come out with a report, and you can judge it on its merits.  Yes, please?

Question:  Yeah, Farhan…

Question:  I…

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, please?

Question:  Just a minute…

Associate Spokesperson:  Okay.

Question:  Can… can… this is changing gears, I just wanted to ask you, that there is a report in IPS that the United Nations phone system is like NSA, it records every conversation by every staff member at the United Nations.  Can you please confirm or deny it?

Associate Spokesperson:  My colleague, Martin Nesirky, the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, has actually spoken to IPS on that, and I would just refer you to what he said, that this is in line with a Bulletin issued by the previous Secretary-General, by Kofi Annan.  There is some language there, and I can refer you to that.  Yes, please?

Question:  Yes, thank you.  I just… I just wanted to… wondered who… two questions on the… on the chemical weapons.  One, do you have a sense of how long the lab reports might take to come back?  And also, is Angela Kane coming back to New York directly?  Do you know who exactly is coming back to New York?  And then also, I have a third question that’s not related, it’s about the… the ship in Panama.

Associate Spokesperson:  Maybe we can come to that after them.

Correspondent:  Sure, sure.

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, in any case, the question about the ship in Panama is one that I would leave in the hands of the relevant Security Council sanctions committee…

Correspondent:  Okay.

Associate Spokesperson:  …regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is chaired by the Ambassador of Luxembourg so you can refer him to that one. 

Correspondent:  Okay, great.

Associate Spokesperson:  As for your other questions, yes, Angela Kane will be coming back to New York.  What was the first question again?

Question:  The lab reports — do you have any sense of how long those are going to take? 

Associate Spokesperson:  There are established procedures that the chemical weapons investigation team will follow, in line with the operational guidelines that have been devised, which, in turn, are in line with the Chemical Weapons Convention, itself.  So it takes a certain amount of procedures involving laboratory testing and other things.  Once those are done, then their work can be completed, but first they have to follow those particular procedures.  It’s something that would take longer than days, but it is the clear intention of the investigation team to finish its work as soon as it possibly can.

Question:  So does that mean that the oral report that the Secretary-General expects to get… is that going to give a sense of whether a chemical weapons attack did take place, or to have an answer on that, do we have to wait days or weeks?

Associate Spokesperson: I can’t possibly say what would happen in an oral briefing before it’s been given.  Yes, please?

Question:  I would like to know how many UN staff are going to remain in Syria after the departure of the inspectors on Saturday?

Associate Spokesperson:  There are roughly 1,000 UN international and national staff in Syria right now.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  On the side of witness, the witness interviews, what are the criteria used to these interviews?  Who will be involved, both sides, one side?  Can you tell us more about this particular issue?

Associate Spokesperson:  I can’t provide more details beyond saying the interviews are conducted in line with procedures that are in the operational guidelines that have been devised and the Memorandum of Understanding that has been agreed to with the Government of Syria.  Yes?

Question:  There’s some confusion about… you mentioned a while ago that the UN conveyed their concerns about the chemical attacks that took place in Syria.  Now, there is a difference about conveying the message or making an official request to send the UN inspectors.  So can I have the date, a specific date, when the letter was submitted to the Syrian Government asking for permission for the UN inspectors to go in and start their work there?  And my second question is… I mean the inspectors are about to complete their investigation there.  Was this process… was this completed in a timely that was expected, or was this pushed because of the war rhetoric that’s taking place in the United States?

Associate Spokesperson:  The time that the inspectors have taken, the investigation team has taken, is the time that the investigation team believes was needed.  Dr. Åke Sellström had devised a plan by which they would gather evidence, gather different types of facts on the ground, and once that has been completed, then their work is done.  And, so far they’re satisfied with how their work has been done, so they believe they can wrap up their work tomorrow and leave on Saturday.  Yes?

Question: [inaudible] I guess, yeah, who made the political decis…?

Question:  …the official request?

Associate Spokesperson:  The request, like I said, was first made on Thursday, 22 August, that was an oral request.  Angela Kane then personally delivered the letter two days later, on Saturday, having flown out on Friday, the following day after the request was made.  Yes?

Question:  I just… and thanks, I wanted to ask you… I mean, obviously, they went into the country to look at Khan al-Asal and two other incidents and then you’re saying that now they have… who… how was the decision made to in fact not look at those at these times?  I’m not saying it’s an illegitimate decision, but you’re saying he decided to leave at this time.  When did the Secretary-General or Mr. Sellström decide that the original purpose of the trip would be jettisoned for this one incident?  Whose decision was that?

Associate Spokesperson:  As we made clear at the time, the Secretary-General asked Dr. Sellström and the team to look into the 21 August attack as a matter of priority, and that is what they’ve done, they’ve looked at it as a matter of priority.  Work has continued on the other three sites, and it will continue on the other three sites, but once they were assigned that, they looked upon that as a matter of priority.  You can see that in the statements that were issued at the time.

Question:  And can we just get it, I guess, either he… now or later today, a description of what work was done on the other three and where, where that stands and whether that will play any role in this report?

Associate Spokesperson:  Again, that would be something ultimately for the investigation team itself to provide as they choose in their briefings.  I, you know, at some level, some of this information will have to wait for when they believe their work has been concluded.  

Question:  A follow-up on the same…?

Associate Spokesperson: Okay.

Question:  Who’s in control in Khan al-Asal now?  It was reported earlier, a few weeks ago, that it is under the control of Al-Nusra.  Is this the case?  How are they dealing with the experts who are investigating the incidents?

Associate Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t have any comment on that.  That’s an area of heavy fighting, and the situation there has been murky for some time now.  Yes?

Question:  Do we know anything about who fired on the team initially in Syria?

Associate Spokesperson:  No.

Question:  And have there been any further complications in terms of their ability to move around and gather what they needed?

Associate Spokesperson:  No, the assailants have not been identified at this point, and there have been no further incidents of that type.  The team has been able to go about its work today and they were able to collect samples and gather evidence.  So they’re satisfied with how that day has progressed.  Yes?

Question:  Just to follow up on my colleague’s question.  Why not stay and wrap up the investigations that were part… that were the original mission?  I mean, is there fear that there’s going to be a missile strike and is that why they’re leaving on Saturday?

Associate Spokesperson:  This is not… this is not about that, no.  They need… there’s a series of fairly complex procedures that need to happen in order to ensure that the information that they have accumulated so far can be processed.  Part of what needs to happen is they need to submit it for laboratory testing — investigators would need to be present for many of the handovers.  There needs to be labelling of data and other sorts of work, many different types of work that they need to do outside of Syria, and that will now proceed.  So they can get the information that is required for this particular priority task that they have been assigned, which is to say the investigation into the 21 August Ghouta incident.  At a later date then they do intend to return and go back to work that they had initially come to the country to do, which is to say the work on those three sites.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, just to… just to put up the exact word on record for the Secretary-General.  Some countries, including for example the Government of Italy, had criticised the… who is putting together coalition… a military coalition before there is any resolution from the United Nations.  So what is exactly what the Secretary-General react to the fact that there are ships and movement, military movement to… against Syria and an attack can expect any time the fact that yet there is no any resolution presented?

Associate Spokesperson:  Again, the Secretary-General has made it very clear repeatedly that all parties need to give peace a chance, they need to give diplomacy a change.  He has urged nations to avoid further militarization of Syria, and he continues to do.  And he has urged the Security Council to come together and take united action on Syria, and he continues to do so.  At a time like this, when you have seen so many people killed, and when you had a catastrophic incident like what happened last week, he believes that that should be a wakeup call for all the nations of the world, and particularly the members of the Security Council to take their responsibilities very seriously.  Yes, Margaret?

Question:  Farhan, is the Secretary-General concerned at all about maybe some pressure on the inspectors to do their reporting rapidly, maybe about sacrificing accuracy or anything with so much seemingly riding on this in terms of perhaps military intervention coming in the wake of whatever they report?  I mean, is the Secretary-General concerned about the pressure on the team?

Associate Spokesperson:  We’re certainly aware of all the media reports as much as you are.  At the same time, it is imperative that the work that the investigation team does be seen, and by all, as fair, impartial and accurate, and so they will do their very best for accuracy while trying to get all the results in as soon as they possibly can do.  Yes, Jonathan?

Question:  About the briefings, who exactly is going to be giving the oral briefing to Ban Ki-moon and what mechanism?  By phone, or are we physically waiting for them to arrive in New York?  And can you talk about whether the Security Council might be briefed as well in oral fashion or are we not at that point yet?

Associate Spokesperson:  As far as I am aware, there is nothing scheduled in the Security Council so far.  Regarding the oral briefing to the Secretary-General, that would become more clear… he is going to try to make the necessary arrangements once he is back, but that will become clear in the coming days.

Question:  But is that by telephone or do we have to wait till everybody is in the same room?  How is that going to work?

Associate Spokesperson:  We’ll have to see.  Some people will of course be back here in New York, but others may not be.  Yes?

Question:  I am going to ask about the… about the DRC.  I wanted to know, the Foreign Minister of Rwanda has given a speech this morning saying that two people have been killed by shelling from within the DRC and there is some reports of actually tanks or some kind of military vehicles moving towards the border.  And so I wanted to know, what is Mary Robinson, or in the UN system… it seems like this problem is coming to a head and I wonder what is the UN… I have… I have heard everything they are saying about the… the MONUSCO fighting with M23, but this cross-border issue, what’s the UN currently doing about it?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, I believe that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Martin Kobler, as well as the Force Commander for MONUSCO, are visiting Rwanda, and they want to clarify matters as they continue to urge all sides for maximum restraint.  As far as I am aware, MONUSCO so far is not in a position to confirm the landing of a shell in Rwandan territory.  The Mission continues to encourage countries of the region to refer cases of cross border shelling to the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism to which it continues to provide support.

[Later, the Associate Spokesperson said that the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) reports that it can confirm firing incidents into Rwanda territory originated by M23 positions between 22 and 29 August.  The Mission further reports that it has not witnessed any FARDC firing into Rwanda territory during this period.]

Question:  Can I ask a Kosovo question, do you don’t mind?  Because I don’t know if Mr. Zarif… I don’t think is… is by video.  I wanted to… I am sure you have seen this Amnesty International report that’s pretty critical of UNMIK not having acted on for the relatives of people abducted, of mostly Kosovo Serbs during the time of… its time there, and I wonder, what is the UN’s response to that pretty damning report?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, the UN Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, attaches very high importance to the work of its own Human Rights Advisory Panel.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General has provided timely and positive responses on Human Rights Advisory Panel recommendations, and where the Panel has found that UNMIK had failed to ensure protection of human rights in cases of missing persons the Special Representative has explained that the events occurred under the interim administration of Kosovo.  UNMIK no longer exerts executive powers over the institutions and resources of Kosovo, including the Kosovo consolidated budget.  Therefore, for all practical purposes, UNMIK is not anymore in a position to follow through on the panel’s recommendations.  In addition, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General has urged, however and in light of the importance of this issue, that EULEX take all possible steps to ensure continuation of investigations and the need to bring perpetrators to justice.

Question:  They say the hostages… if you don’t mind, one follow-up?  The Amnesty International suggests that UNMIK make, you know, makes sufficient funds available to provide the relative of the missing etcetera, and I am wondering, is that so, is your… do I read your answer correctly to say that UNMIK is not going to do that, that it is essentially out of its hands and… and…?

Associate Spokesperson:  The claims you are referring to relate to alleged failures by the UN Mission in Kosovo in its capacity as the interim administration of Kosovo.  To date, a significant number of critical administrative functions are performed directly by the Kosovo authorities.  As a practical matter, UNMIK no longer exerts control over the Kosovo consolidated budget and therefore cannot make the decision to follow through on the panel’s recommendations for payment of financial compensation.  Thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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