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

14 October 2013

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

14 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.

**Secretary-General in Washington

The Secretary-General is back at UN Headquarters today, following his visits to Hungary and Brunei Darussalam last week.

Yesterday, he also visited Washington, D.C., where he spoke at the annual meeting of the International Development Finance Club.  He said that climate change is the single greatest threat to sustainable development; but at the same time, addressing climate change is one of our greatest opportunities.  With enlightened action, we can create jobs, improve public health and protect the environment.

The Secretary-General said that the climate clock is ticking.  The longer we delay, the greater the costs — to communities, to businesses, to economies and to the planet.  His remarks are available online.

** Syria

Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, met in London today with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman also participated in the hour-long meeting.

The meeting discussed preparations for the International Conference on Syria.  Mr. Brahimi and Secretary Kerry both reiterated at the conclusion of the meeting their conviction that only a political solution could bring an end the Syrian crisis.  They urged all parties to prepare in earnest for the Geneva II Conference.

And speaking to reporters afterwards, Mr. Brahimi said that he would go to the region after the Eid holiday to hear from Governments in the region on what they can contribute to make the Geneva II Conference a success.

** Darfur

We issued two statements over the weekend on attacks against personnel from the African Union–United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, UNAMID.  Yesterday, a UNAMID convoy was attacked in West Darfur, killing three peacekeepers and wounding another.  And on Friday, a UNAMID military observer was killed in an attack in North Darfur.  The Secretary-General said that these attacks were unacceptable and called on the Government of Sudan to bring those responsible to justice.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

The Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Washington, D.C., later today for meetings with representatives of the United States Government.  While in Washington, he will also speak at the Brookings Institution and address the Executive Council on Diplomacy.  The Deputy Secretary-General will be back in New York on 17 October.

**Peacekeeping Operations

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, is in China to deliver a keynote speech to the sixth Asian Regional Summit on Peacekeeping Training in Beijing.  And while in China, he will visit both the military and police peacekeeping training centres and will travel to Harbin, where he will meet with troops that are preparing to be deployed to the UN Mission in Mali.  Mr. Ladsous will also meet with the Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister and Minister of Public Security, and deliver a speech to the National Defence University.

** Guinea

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, who is the International Facilitator of the Inter-Guinean dialogue, has been in Conakry for the past four days where he joined the efforts deployed towards the publication of the provisional results of the 28 September legislative elections.  And in that regard, Said Djinnit issued a statement yesterday on behalf of the international community which called upon the electoral commission to make every effort to complete the tabulation of preliminary election results for publication before Eid al-Adha.


The Special Representative and Head of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has strongly condemned the bombing that occurred this morning in northern Kosovo.  Farid Zarif has called for a swift and thorough investigation into this incident and said that these acts of violence must stop.  The full statement is available online and it’s in my office.

But I am here, and I can take questions.  Yes, please?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Very good.  Top of the class; thank you.

Question:  Has the SG spoken with the President of Kenya in the past few days?

Spokesperson:  No, he has not.

Question:  He has not.  Okay.  Could I follow up?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  The African Union Heads of State summit this weekend took a resolution that no sitting Heads of State should be expected to appear before the International Criminal Court, a reference clearly to the Presidents of Sudan and Kenya.  What’s the Secretary-General’s reaction to that?

Spokesperson:  Well, we have obviously seen the outcome of that meeting, and I can tell you that senior advisers to the Secretary-General, including, for example, the Legal Counsel, are carefully studying that outcome.  Simply to reiterate what we have said many times; that the Secretary-General believes that the International Criminal Court plays a central role in the efforts of the international community to ensure accountability and to end impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern.  But as I say, the outcome of that meeting is being studied, and I think we will probably have something further to say, but not right at the moment.

Question:  A follow-up on that?  On this same topic, there is at least one media report that says that the Secretary-General called a number of the Presidents in attendance and told them that he would use his position to amend the Rome Statute.  Maybe you have seen that report and I just wonder, what’s your… it… it also includes the response of one of the Presidents, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, saying that the Secretary-General has no ability to amend the Rome Statute.  But is it… could you… could we get just a factual readout of who he called in… in… in connection with that AU summit?

Spokesperson:  I will check.  What we will be able to say:  the Secretary-General certainly did make a number of telephone calls, but I don’t think that we will be going into the details of those calls.

Question:  What about who… just who… who he called?

Spokesperson:  I can tell you that a number of telephone calls were made, and not just by the Secretary-General.  Other questions, please?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  The P5+1 Iran nuclear talks have begun and they start in earnest Tuesday after initial dinners.  I know the Secretary-General and you have said that… I mean, you have said the Secretary-General doesn’t play a formal role; there is a senior UN official quoted by Associated Press today, who had been the intermediary between Iran and the six parties in the past, saying that the six parties would like very tough restrictions on the Iranian enrichment.  Can you say anything to the role of the UN may have in being an intermediary in this, at all, or in the current talks or… or anything about this senior… former senior high UN official?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t know who that person is that’s being referred to there.  As my colleague Farhan Haq told you last week, the UN does not have a role in those talks, and I fail to see why there would need to be an intermediary when the E3+3, or the P5+1, are sitting down with Iran in Geneva.  Other questions, please?

Question:  All right, can I just follow up?  So there is no… you… you can confirm there is no role and there has not been in any intermediary…?

Spokesperson:  Look, in those negotiations, there is a set format, a set structure, and those negotiations are now about to start again in earnest.  And of course, the Secretary-General may not have a role, the United Nations may not have a role in those negotiations, but they certainly have a keen interest in the outcome.  And the Secretary-General and others within the UN system have spoken consistently about what needs to happen and the desirability of reaching an agreement as soon as possible.  So there is certainly interest and there is encouragement.  But there is no seat at the table, and there is no need for an intermediary.  They are sitting there at the table, and that’s a very welcome development.

Question:  But no one’s functioning in that role right now?

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge.  I don’t think it would be necessary.  Tim, and then Oleg?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  A leading component of the Syrian National Coalition says it won’t go to the Geneva talks.  I am just wondering, when Mr. Brahimi goes to the region, will he go to Damascus or will he speak to the Syrian opposition?

Spokesperson:  Well, he has said that he is going to the region; I don’t have his exact travel itinerary.  I suspect that we would not say in advance precisely where he is going, but with regard to the opposition, everybody knows that there are difficulties between different parts of the opposition, to put it mildly.  Everybody knows that it is a heavy lift to bring the opposition in a united form to the Geneva II Conference on Syria, but it is the earnest intentions of the international community, and that has been reiterated again in London today, to do precisely that, to work extremely hard so that there will be two delegations at the international conference on Syria in Geneva; one representing the opposition, and the other representing the Government of Syria.  That’s where we are at the moment.  Oleg, and then I am coming to you again, Sherwin.

Question:  Thanks, Martin.  Anything from the Secretary-General on the entry into force of the Chemical Weapon Convention for Syria?

Spokesperson:  Well, this was long overdue, and it is obviously welcome.  And there is a lot of hard work that needs to be done now with Syria inside that convention — various obligations that need to be lived up to.  We have seen good cooperation so far in the work that is being done there in Syria with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspectors and the UN supporting them.  Of course there are tight deadlines to be kept, but it’s a very welcome development, of course, that that can now be done within a proper framework.  The race is on really to make sure that those deadlines can continue to be met.  Yes, Sherwin?

Question:  Thanks, Martin.  Returning to the ICC, and I know you are going to get into the details later, but this AU resolution says trying a sitting Head of State could undermine a country’s sovereignty, stability and peace.  So, as a broad principle, what is the UN’s position of sitting Heads of State appearing at tribunals or at international courts?

Spokesperson:  Well, I mean, I think at this point it is still being looked at very carefully, the outcome of that meeting, but I would ask you to read the Rome Statute quite carefully.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask, in… in Syria, there is reports of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers…

Spokesperson:  Sorry?

Question:  The ICRC workers that were taken… seized over the weekend.  It seems like they… the… the Red Cross is saying that three of the… their six staff have been released.  Is that… can the UN… is there no comment from OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] or what… what… what’s the… what’s the UN… what does the UN say about it?  It seems like they were taken by… by rebels in Idlib.  What’s the comment by the UN?

Spokesperson:  Well, obviously you would need to speak to the ICRC about that.  We value extremely the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, but on a matter like that you would need to speak directly to them.

Question:  But I guess I… I just want to… because I have seen, like in Sudan, if… if… if… if no… non… non-UN staff…

Spokesperson:  Speak to the ICRC, okay?

Question:  Okay, I think I will.  I will ask you about Haiti as well, if possible.

Spokesperson:  You will, but after Pam.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Back on one last little point, if you don’t mind, on the ICC and Kenya.  The ICC has made the point that even the withdrawal from the Rome Statute of Kenya will not stop the current prosecutions, which is why the African Union is making so many… or at least partly why the African Union is making so many statements.  Has the… has the Secretary-General or anyone at this end made any comment that explains that, or at least reiterates that in terms of the fact that the prosecutions go forward and, therefore, the withdrawal from the Rome Statute doesn’t really serve the purposes?  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  I think on that, you would need to speak to the International Criminal Court itself.  I don’t think that we would comment on that specifically.  But as I say, the meeting that took place recently at the African Union was obviously a very important one.  And we need to study the outcome of that meeting.  And if we have anything further to say on the outcome, then I will let you know.  But I don’t at this point.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  I… I wanted to ask you, in… in… in the wake of the… the lawsuit that was filed, there were over the weekend editorials in just here in New York in the Times, New York Times and the Daily News, all saying… using this word like apology, saying that the UN should in some way respond that it is clear.  So I wanted to… a… you know, ask if you have a response to that, and also the… the… the Prime Minister of Haiti, Laurent Lamothe, held a press conference after meeting with the UN on the topic of Haiti cholera and I wondered, does the UN side have any… to make sure we hear of the UN side, have any readout of that, of… of that meeting?

Spokesperson:  Well, certainly, the Special Coordinator was there in Haiti and had meetings with the Government of Haiti.  And UN authorities are working very closely with the Haitian Government in this particular area.  And I know that they will continue to work on the topic that the Prime Minister was referring to.  And then, if we have a further announcement on that, then we would let you know.  But at the moment, I don’t have any formal announcement on that.  With regard to editorials and so on; Farhan addressed this at length last week, and I have also, I didn’t really have anything further to add at this point, Matthew.

Question:  Okay.  I… I… I… I mean, the reason I was asking is just that both of them referred to a loss of credibility and… and moral legitimacy for the UN, so…

Spokesperson:  Look, look, as Farhan said last week, the UN remains committed to do all that the Organization can do to help the people of Haiti overcome the cholera epidemic.  And the United Nations is working on the ground with the Government and people of Haiti both to provide immediate and practical assistance to those affected, and to put in place better infrastructure and services for all.  And that’s precisely why the Coordinator, the Special Coordinator was there for discussions with the Prime Minister.  And with regard to possible claims against the Organization, as has been stated with regard to other cases that are subject to litigation, it is not the United Nations practice to discuss in public claims filed against the Organization, okay.  Any other questions?   Last question, Evelyn, yes?

Question:  Thank you.  Martin, could you check with the Legal Department, can people draw… withdraw from a treaty?  Could anybody withdraw from the ICC just by saying so after a President…  I mean, legislature ideally has ratified it?

Spokesperson:  Well, at this point, I don’t think that is what the outcome was.  So, as I said, the outcome that did come from that meeting is being looked at very closely.  And you could also refer to the ICC to understand what their reading of it is.  But I can assure you that this is being looked at extremely closely by our legal colleagues in particular, but also other senior advisers to the Secretary-General.

Thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.

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