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

2 October 2013

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

2 October 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Security Council

The Security Council, in a presidential statement this morning, urged all parties in Syria to immediately cease and desist from all violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights.  It called on all parties to fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and to take all appropriate steps to protect civilians.

The Security Council stressed that the magnitude of the humanitarian tragedy caused by the conflict in Syria requires immediate action for the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance in the whole country, including in areas and districts where humanitarian needs are especially urgent.  It urged the Syrian authorities to take immediate steps so that humanitarian relief operations can be expanded, and to lift bureaucratic impediments and other obstacles.

Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, welcomed the presidential statement (S/PRST/2013/15) and said that the task now is to turn the Council’s strong words into meaningful action for the children, women and men who are the continuing victims of the brutal violence.  She said if the Council’s statement is implemented, humanitarian workers would be able to reach some 2 million people who have been unreached for months.  She also said that ultimately, the international community must find a lasting political solution to end the suffering of ordinary Syrians.

I expect we will have something from the Secretary-General on this a little bit later, but clearly he strongly welcomes this presidential statement that was adopted and circulated this morning.  And also, in line with what Valerie Amos said about the need for a lasting political solution, certainly the Secretary-General and the Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, are working in a very determined fashion to ensure that the target of having the conference in Geneva, the international conference in Geneva, take place in mid-November will be realized.  They are working extremely hard in that direction.

** Syria

Staying with Syria, chemical weapons inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations, they have completed their first working day in an operation that aims to rid Syria of its chemical weapons programme by the middle of next year.

Joint work with the Syrian authorities has begun on securing the sites where the team will operate, especially in outlying areas.  The team has also been considering the health and environmental hazards, which they may have to confront.  In addition, planning continues for one of the team's immediate tasks, disabling Syria's chemical weapons production facilities, which should begin soon.  Meanwhile, discussions on the size of Syria's stockpiles are also under way, as well as long-term planning, so that deadlines unanimously imposed by the Executive Council of the OPCW and the UN Security Council are met.  There is a press release with more details on this.

But, I’d just like to highlight that the advance team I just mentioned, of OPCW and UN staff, arrived in Damascus just yesterday, and that that’s just four days after the OPCW Executive Council and the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed this plan to send them to Syria to begin the process of overseeing the destruction of the country’s chemical weapons programme.

**Secretary-General on Non-Violence

The Secretary-General spoke today at an event commemorating the International Day of Non-Violence — which marks Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday.  The Secretary-General said that some of history’s greatest leaders rejected the battleground for the negotiating table.  He said that durable peace cannot be won through force of arms, and that’s why he had insisted throughout the war in Syria that all concerned must work for a political solution.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, says that the situation remains tense and volatile in the Ituri district, in the Orientale Province of the country.  The Mission says it is concerned about the fighting between the Congolese army and the Front de Résistance Patriotique de l’Ituri, FRPI, which has displaced many civilians south of Irumu territory.

The Mission has also expressed its concern over the situation in Pinga in North Kivu, where a Mission patrol was fired upon yesterday.  The Mission says that 70 Mayi-Mayi combatants surrendered near Beni, and the Mission also helped to free six civilians detained by other Mayi-Mayi combatants near Pinga.  There is more information on all of in the weekly press conference from the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

** Guinea

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, who is the international facilitator for dialogue in Guinea, welcomed today the civic behaviour of Guinean voters on elections day and the calm that accompanied the voting, despite some problems reported by voters and other stakeholders.

In a statement, Said Djinnit also encouraged the Independent National Electoral Commission to make every effort to publish the provisional results of the legislative elections as soon as possible.  And the Special Representative called on political parties to respect the verdict of the ballot box and use the appropriate legal channels to resolve any disputes arising from the elections.

** Darfur

The joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) organized a conference this week, bringing together more than 100 tribal leaders to discuss the root causes of tribal conflicts in the area and to propose solutions for sustainable, peaceful coexistence.

At the start of the two-day event, Retta Reddy, who is the head of the Mission’s Civil Affairs Section, said that to resolve the root causes of the conflict in an inclusive manner, Darfur needed to manage its resources soundly to ensure that all people of the region benefit in an equitable manner.  During the conference, which ended yesterday, participants recommended setting up clear rules on the management of land and natural resources, as well as the full implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.  And there is more available on the Mission’s website on that.

**Press Conferences

At 12:30 p.m., so in a short while following this briefing, there will be a press conference by Ambassador Agshin Mehdiyev, the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan and the President of the Security Council for the month of October.  He will brief you on the Council’s programme of work for the month.

And, at 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference on the General Assembly high-level dialogue on migration.  Speakers will include Abdelhamid El Jamri, the Chair of the Committee on Migrant Workers, and François Crépeau, the Special Rapporteur on the protection of migrants.

And that’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Mr. Abbadi?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  The statement you spoke about of the Security Council on Syria deals with very important issues, such as the protection of civilians, respect for humanitarian law, terrorism, and it asks the Secretary-General to report regularly on the humanitarian situation in the country, as well as in neighbouring countries.  This is an action-oriented statement.  Why didn’t the Council adopt this kind of statement in the form of a resolution?  Was there some opposition to that, do you know?

Spokesperson:  Plainly, that’s a question for the Council members, not me.  I think you will have heard Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, saying that she will continue to encourage the Security Council to transform this presidential statement into a resolution.  But, let’s be very clear, urgency was needed.  The humanitarian crisis, after all, is quite considerable and worsens with every passing day and, therefore, it was obvious to the Security Council members that they needed to act quickly.  You will have heard a number of the members of the Security Council address that particular aspect.  As I mentioned, the Secretary-General has consistently called for there to be humanitarian access, and an improvement in that, and he mentioned that during his remarks in the Security Council on Friday and for that reason, amongst others, he strongly welcomes this statement; and I would imagine that we would have something a bit further to say on that a little bit later in the day.  Please?  Microphone, please.  Should we go to someone else, and you find the microphone and then I’ll come back to you.

Question:  Follow-up to Mr. Abbadi’s question.  Actually, what would the Secretary-General do between now, this [presidential] statement, and during the preparation for Geneva talk until the middle of November?  Is there any dynamics precisely that you know that he’s going to do regarding Syria?  Any kind of meetings that are planned or who Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi will see and talk about?

Spokesperson:  Well, clearly, there have been already contacts during this past 10 days or so related specifically to this… and in the format of meetings the Secretary-General has had with Ministers, Heads of State, Heads of Government from various countries.  And Mr. Brahimi, as the Joint Special Representative, is the person who is out there driving this process and liaising with Member States and particularly with the parties concerned to ensure that two single delegations will be there, without preconditions, and the aim is very clearly for mid-November.  Trish, you have the microphone now?

Question:  Thank you.  Has there been any update on the situation in Ma’aloula?  Has there been any update from any UN people in the country about what’s going on there?

Spokesperson:  I think we’ll need to check on that.  I don’t have anything for you on that.

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  On the Geneva II, you had mentioned, and a few people have talked about the November date.  The Syrian Foreign Minister in his [General Assembly] address put some questions, questioned whether that really was feasible.  He said he didn’t think that was necessarily feasible, to do mid-November.  So, and there was some questions that the Ambassador just raised at the stakeout about who’s going, who’s representing the Syrian Government.  Obviously, there’s a lot to be done between now and mid-November.  But, do you see that date as still feasible?  Does the Secretary-General?  Does Mr. Brahimi?  And, also, he said, this is Mr. [Walid] al-Moallem, said that [the United States], France and [the United Kingdom] had put pressure to not have the mandate of the Åke Sellström team be to investigate who did it, who perpetrated the chemical weapons attack.  Are you aware of any pressure on the Secretary-General from the P3 countries?  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Well, I’ve addressed that question already.  I’m happy to repeat it again.  “No”, is the short answer.  The longer answer is that, as I spelled out the other day, and I don’t think I’ll do it in quite as much detail…

Correspondent:  That part, I know.

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, as you’ve asked me; first of all, that there are the guidelines under the Secretary-General’s mechanism, which comes from Member States from the General Assembly and endorsed by the Security Council, there’s that part.  Plus, the Secretary-General’s own assessment based on his advisers that this was indeed the right course of action:  to ensure that you would determine whether chemical weapons had been used, and not by whom.  With regard to the first part of your question, the Secretary-General is determined in his commitment to work towards that target of mid-November, and so is Mr. Brahimi.  There are no guarantees in this line of work, obviously, but it is his determined commitment to aim for the middle of November, and it’s precisely with that in mind that there have been already meetings here during the general debate and there will continue to be in the days and weeks to come, for sure.

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  I would like to come back to my colleague’s question.  I asked the same question last week about Ma’aloula and the Christians.  What… did this subject came to during the discussion between Mr. Ban Ki-moon and the other leaders during this general debate, because this is an important matter.

Spokesperson:  I think that there are certainly great concerns, speaking generally.  I don’t have a specific new update; this is the point I will need to check.  But, of course, there are general concerns and there have been about the increasingly sectarian nature of the violence and the dangers that minorities, including Christian minorities, face in Syria, and obviously, that’s extremely troubling.  If I have a specific update, then I would certainly let you know.  Matthew?

Question:  Thanks.  I want to ask about Syria and also about the UN’s planned new building.  On Syria, just now at the stakeout, the Syrian Permanent Representative, [Bashar] Ja’afari, reiterated, said a bit more about the idea that… he said that there’s one Government of Syria, that he represents the Government of Syria and that meetings held inside the UN premises with someone like Mr. [Ahmed] al-Jarba violate the UN Charter.  That’s his allegation.  Since he used this words “inside the building”, I wanted to know, I wanted to ask you to respond to the idea:  Is this one of the reasons that the Secretary-General met with Mr. al-Jarba at his residence?  And I also wanted to know, since you said… it’s his residence, we should understand it wasn’t in the media alert, it seemed like that same day there were photos taken by UN Photo of him going into the building… and looking at papers, relaxed after a day of hard diplomacy.  So, how is that consistent?  What time did he meet with Mr. al-Jarba?  And why was no photograph taken, as was taken with Mr. Sellström?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think we’ve already said the Secretary-General met on Saturday evening with Mr. al-Jarba and other members of his delegation and with Senior Advisers from the UN.  And this took place at the residence for precisely the reason that I mentioned, that it was at the end of the day, it was arranged at relatively short notice, and so that’s the first point.  The second point is simply this:  that we’ve addressed the question of last week and that meeting that took place.  I don’t have anything further to add to that.

Question:  Can I ask you about the building?  I will just move on…

Spokesperson:  Of course.

Question:  Sure… it’s now been… released drawings for this new building on the Robert Moses Playground.  So, I wanted… to propose… and there’s the whole New York City regulatory process to follow.  But, given that the plans are now released, I wanted to know if you could just describe, within the UN system, within the UN Secretariat, who’s sort of giving the directions of how it should be done?  It’s alternately described as an “emergency back-up centre”, as a “high-security building”, and I wanted to know, given the UN’s other duties of openness, transparency and openness to the public, sort of what’s that process been and is there still… are there questions to be raised, or has it been determined how open or closed the building will be to the public?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all Matthew, don’t believe everything you read in the media, okay?  You say the plans.  There has been no decision.  And you asked where would the decision come from.  And, quite plainly, the decision would need to be made by Member States.  The Secretary-General has been asked by the General Assembly to explore different options for the long-term accommodation needs of the Organization.  And a report will be submitted to the General Assembly during what’s officially known as its first resumed sixty-eighth session, and that was requested by the previous session of the General Assembly.  The new report will include comprehensive information on all viable options, as requested by the General Assembly.  One of the many options being studied in the proposal from the UN Development Corporation is to construct a new building, known as the UN Consolidation Building.  The decision on one of the options will need to be made by the Member States.

Question:  That’s helpful.  Because they did a public hearing on 24 September, and [the United Nations Development Corporation] is presenting this as they have already… I guess they’re ones paying the architect.  But, normally, in New York, Euler process of city planning and City Council doesn’t start until there’s an actual decision to do the building.  Are you saying that there… is actually no commitment to this plan that they presented at NYU Hospital on the 24th?

Spokesperson:  That’s precisely what I’m saying, Matthew.  Any other questions?  Yes, Erol?

Question:  This is just a follow-up to Pamela’s question.  Let me put it this way:  Since the Secretary-General was very precise to say that what has happened in Syria was a war crime, number one.  Number two, the perpetrator should be punished.  And number three, there should be not impunity for those who did it.  Does the Secretary-General feel he should step in and actually lead this process and push for finding who did it?  So, that’s number one.  And number two, since you… mentioned the Syrian representative… many Syrian representatives are actually stating that there’s only one Government in Syria.  Are the Secretary-General, are you concerned that the United Nations, that the Geneva II, will be jeopardized with this position of Syria?  That they would push only for them, themselves that they representing only Syria, so probably they will not be flexible for another side?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think on that last part, you’re mixing up two different things here.  The Geneva communiqué of 30 June last year very clearly says that there should be two single delegations.  One representing…

Question:  Of when?

Spokesperson:  30 June of last year, the Geneva communiqué.  And just to back up, the resolution from last Friday for the first time endorsed that communiqué and reiterated the need for the swift convening of the Geneva II conference, the International Conference on Syria.  And for that conference, you would need two single delegations — one representing the Syrian Government, one representing the Syrian opposition.  The Syrian Government seemingly has its delegation ready.  It is for the opposition, as the Secretary-General has stressed to Mr. al-Jarba on Saturday evening, to corral the different groups that there are to ensure that the delegation that comes to represent the Syrian opposition is as comprehensive and as united as possible.  And so that’s really to answer that question.  Then, as for the question of “who done it?”, with regard to chemical weapons, the Secretary-General had a very clear mandate.  Dr. Sellström and his team had a very clear mandate, and that was to determine whether chemical weapons were used, and not by whom.  It would be for others, and I’ve said this already, and that primarily means Member States, to say and determine whether there should be another mechanism or whether there should be something that looks into this further.  But, that would be driven by Member States and not by the Secretary-General.  I need to go… okay, if you’re following up on this question, please.  Please, could you use the microphone, please?  Thank you.

Question:  As a follow-up, I would like to know if the team, the United Nations inspector team, would go to Khan al-Assal?

Spokesperson:  As we’ve already said, that team left Syria already.  They did so on the 30th, on Monday, and they are now working to pull together the information that they have gathered on that latest visit and before to compile a final report, which they aim to deliver by the end of this month.  Yes?

Question:  Do they have the mechanism to go through all those details, because it’s been a long time now?  Can they reach any conclusion?

Spokesperson:  As I’ve said before, and as we have said before in different formats, the investigation team has, within its portfolio, a number of different ways to collect information, to collect evidence, to collect samples and they have been using the full range that they have at their disposal so that they can now go back to The Hague, they can analyse material in all the different forms that they have managed to gather it and then finalize their final report, which is due by the end of the month.  I need to wrap up now because the President of the Security Council has arrived.  Thank you very much.  Good afternoon.

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