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

17 October 2013

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

17 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

As you will have seen a short while ago, the General Assembly elected five new non-permanent members of the Security Council.

Chad, Chile, Lithuania, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia will each serve a two-year term starting in January of next year.


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that people continue to arrive in Abyei, with aid agencies estimating that more than 3,000 people have travelled to the area since September.

The Office adds that local communities have organized transport from Agok to Abyei town, but poor road conditions — which prevent any vehicle traffic between these locations — mean some people remain in Agok and others are stranded in transit.

Aid agencies have distributed household items to transit areas along the Agok-Abyei road and in Abyei town itself, to ensure that new arrivals have shelter, clean water, mosquito nets and other essential items.

Humanitarian partners are preparing to distribute food to vulnerable people in different transit sites.

** Jamaica

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, will visit Jamaica today to attend a regional meeting on disaster management and humanitarian response.  Ms. Amos is expected to hold a press conference after the meeting.  And a press release with more details is available online and in my office.

That’s what I have for you.  Questions, please?  Yes, Ali?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  We understand that Mr. Jeffrey Feltman is doing some extensive work and meetings in preparation for Geneva II.  Can you please tell us what exactly he is doing and whether there is dates set for Geneva II to be held in Geneva next month?  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Well, as the Secretary-General mentioned yesterday, Mr. Feltman was in Moscow yesterday for talks.  Prior to that, he was in London where he took part in the meeting that Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi had with the Secretary of State of the [ United States], John Kerry.  And Mr. Feltman is now on his way back to New York from Moscow.  So, that’s what Mr. Feltman has been up to.  And as we also mentioned yesterday, the Secretary-General mentioned it, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi the Joint Special Representative for Syria will also be travelling in the region, and I think we will be able to have some more details in the coming days.  And also, the Deputy Joint Special Representative, Mr. [Nasser] al-Kidwa, will be travelling to Turkey, as we said yesterday.

With regard to your other part of the question, we have obviously seen the reports that are out there.  The Secretary-General will be convening the conference in Geneva.  And when it is time for an announcement, he will make one.  And so I would, for the time being, just refer you to what the Secretary-General said yesterday standing right here:  In other words, that we are intensifying efforts to hold the Geneva II conference in mid-November, and that we are working this at all levels.

Question:  A follow-up:  there is no time frames, uh, no time, dates that are set for now?

Spokesperson:  When it is time for an announcement, the Secretary-General will make one.  And I would remind you and everybody that it is the Secretary-General who will be convening the conference, and it will be the Secretary-General who invites the different parties to attend that conference in Geneva.  Yes, Erol?  Using the microphone, please, thank you.

Question:  I am not going to abuse it.  Thank you.  Martin, follow-up to follow-up:  titles, news titles, I know you are not commenting on news titles, but one of the representatives of the Syria oppositions mentioned 23rd and 24th of November.  Please comment on that.

Spokesperson:  I just did.  We have seen the reports, and the Secretary-General will be convening the conference; and when it is time for an announcement, he will make one.  Okay?  Any other questions?  Yes, Pamela, and then… yes?

Question:  Martin, on the trust funds for the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons)-UN mission, several nations have already announced what they are contributing.  Do you have an overall list of the contributors to the trust fund?

Spokesperson:  Not standing here right now.  But, obviously, we would endeavour from the UN perspective to try to get that for you.  And I would refer you to the OPCW with regard to their own trust fund.  They are being obviously organized separately.  It is a complementary undertaking to provide funding for this joint mission, but they are separate trust funds receiving funding from their different constituencies:  the States parties to the OPCW and the Member States of the United Nations.  Needless to say, there is considerable overlap there, but for different types of work within that joint mission.  Yes?  As a radio person, you know how to use a microphone.

Question:  Hello, check one, check two.  I wanted to ask you, we know that the Canadian abducted, Carl Campeau, abducted in the Golan almost eight months ago, has managed to escape.  What can you tell us about his ordeal?  What’s next for him, how he managed to escape — any information on Carl Campeau?

Spokesperson:  Well, thank you for the question.  Obviously, we are delighted that Carl Campeau is now free.  The Secretary-General is aware of his release, and is also very happy with this news; he has been following it very closely these past months.

What we can do at this point is confirm that Carl Campeau, who, as you know, is a staff member of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and who was abducted in February, is now free.  And he is now with the United Nations.  And initial indications are that he is in good health.  I don’t have any further details at this point to give you on this.

Question:  Can you confirm what he told Syrian State television:  that he managed to escape because his abductors had left the door unlocked?

Spokesperson:  Well, obviously, we have seen the same footage that you have seen, but, as I think you will appreciate, Mr. Campeau has only just been handed over to the United Nations and is now with the United Nations.  There will be a period of de-briefing, and I don’t think that you would expect us to have all of the details, right here, right now.  But, the most important point is that this has been something that my colleagues in the Department of Safety and Security have been working on with others for many weeks and months now, extremely hard, in an extremely intensive fashion.  And everybody is, obviously, extremely relieved and pleased that he is now free.  Yes, Ali?

Question:  On Syria again.  Thank you, Martin.  Mr. Feltman has been consistent that Iran should sit on the table for Geneva II.  Is there any conditions for Iran to sit on the table, from the United Nations perspective?  We know that opposition and some other countries in the region, like Saudi Arabia… he is not mentioning Saudi Arabia, is there anything wrong with that?  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Well, this is not just about Mr. Feltman.  This is, of course, something that is being dealt with by the Secretary-General himself and Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative.  They have said publicly that Iran’s presence would be useful, but that this is something that is still under discussion amongst the parties in the region.  And of course, that is one of the topics, doubtless, for Mr. Brahimi’s travels in the days ahead.  So, I would not wish to prejudge this; we have simply said that this would be useful.  But, of course, it remains for the parties concerned to discuss this further.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Thanks a lot.  I wanted to ask you about the OPCW has said that one of its ventures out to, to, to inspect sites was, quote, “turned back” after failing to receive assurances that it would be safe.  And I am just wondering, it’s, you know, since it’s a, there is, obviously this is a joint mission, failing to receive assurances from whom?  Was it assurances from the Government that they couldn’t give; or is assurances sought from opposition groups?  What, what can you say about an, a, a, a venture out that was turned back?

Spokesperson:  Well, it is extremely important that we do not talk about operational details and any impediments that there may be.  We are not going to be commenting on security matters.

Question:  But then can you comment on your partner of the OPCW, Michael Luhan, quoted in BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), on exactly the quote that I had said to you?  Is that, are you on the same page or not?

Spokesperson:  I have just told you what I have just said.  Other questions, please?  Pamela, yes?  And then I will come to you, yes.  [The news story citing Michael Luhan was later corrected, clarifying that the information about inspectors being turned back was incorrect.]

Question:  A follow-up on the OPCW-UN mission.  Is there a spokesperson or will there be a spokesperson appointed for Special Coordinator [Sigrid] Kaag?  During the advance teams of Angela Kane and others, there was no press person there.  Would there be with her, because she is obviously meeting the press, and would you be able to share it at some point?

Spokesperson:  Well, the simple answer is yes, of course, there will be a press component to the mission.  And that is something that is being worked on, and I think you can be sure that we will give you a name and details, once we have that.  But, we are not in a position to do that right now.  Yes, please?

Question:  Yes, thank you.  I want to ask about the [Åke] Sellström report.  When the report will be presented to the Secretary-General and is there a specific time for that?

Spokesperson:  What we have said is the end of this month, but we are not giving a specific date.  But certainly, Dr. Sellström and his colleagues are working on that.  As you know, there was already the report on the 21 August incident; that the team then returned to Syria to complete its work on the other pending credible allegations.  That is all now being put together into a final report.  And what we have said is that that will be available to the Secretary-General at the end of this month, but we are not giving an exact date at this point.  Erol?

Question:  Martin, coincidence or not, the commissioner for European Union, Stefan Füle, called yesterday on Macedonia, giving a positive report to move forward on the talks with Athens, with Greece regarding the name dispute.  At the same time, the Secretary-General announced that his Special Representative, Mr. [Matthew] Nimetz, will fly to region again.  My question is, what are the particular advices that the Secretary-General would give to Skopje and to Macedonia this time in order this to move forward?

Spokesperson:  Well, as we have already said, and as we mentioned yesterday, some details about Mr. Nimetz’s plans and movements.  And as we have already said, that it is precisely with a view to narrowing differences and to seek further convergences that Mr. Nimetz is planning to convene the representatives of the parties.  And the Secretary-General sincerely hopes that those discussions will pave the way for serious negotiations on finding a mutually acceptable resolution to the name issue.  Okay?

Question:  That’s all?

Spokesperson:  I think that’s quite enough.  Thank you.

Question:  Sure, thanks a lot.  I want to ask you about Somaliland and also this human rights architecture question.  So, I just wanted to know in advance if I can ask both of these questions.

Spokesperson:  Well, let me just say, Matthew, I think anybody would agree that you get to ask quite a few questions here.  And sometimes it is time to call an end to the briefing.  And I decide when that is.  And if you are not happy… if you are not happy with the number of questions you get to ask, then I am terribly sorry about that.  I can only apologize.  I do my level best to take a number of questions, but I am not going to stay here until the middle of the night answering your questions.  I will take a number of questions, and today… and today, I have answered one already, and I am happy to answer a couple more.

Question:  Okay, thanks.  I wanted to ask, in, excuse me, in Somalia, the, the, the, Somalia and the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), you know, the, the civil, civilian aviation organization, seem to have signed a new agreement to transfer the airspace from Somaliland control back to Mogadishu, and since this, in the past, there were, caused some disruption in UN flights and others, I wanted to know, is the, and I have seen quotes, by the Somaliland chief of aviation saying this is a major problem and should be reconsidered.  What’s the UN’s thinking in, in making this transfer again?  What’s different now than was different in the past?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think the Special Representative, Mr. [Nicholas] Kay, has commented on this topic in the past, and we’ll check with his office to see if there is any update on that.  What was your other question, Matthew?

Question:  Thank… I, I really appreciate it.  I, I wanted to ask, there is, it, and I want, I am trying to think of how to phrase it; a document has emerged in which the, the, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) is proposing that the rule of law functions of the Secretariat, as well as the staffing of the Special Representatives on children and armed conflict and, and R2P (responsibility to protect) and prevention of genocide all be merged together and this, it’s portrayed as a, as a reaction to the, the UN’s review of its own performance in Sri Lanka.  And so, I wanted to know, what is the thinking in the Secretariat side of rule of law and human rights being deemed you know, inseparable and being merged together?  And whether in, the document seems to refer to a, a, a, a country in which the UN system is helping build prisons but 98 per cent of the, of, of the prisoners in the prison system are there without, you know, detained, be, before trial and without charge.  And so it’s kind of critical of the UN’s human rights, current human rights performance.  So, I wanted to know what you can say about this proposal, what the timing is and, and, is it, in fact, the, the UN’s response or a UN response to, to its inaction or actions and inactions in Sri Lanka in 2009?

Spokesperson:  Well, it seems like you’re a member of the magic circle, Matthew.  You said that this document emerged.  I don’t think you would expect me to comment on documents that may or may not exist and may or may not have been leaked.

Question:  But for example, the Sri Lanka report of the, of the DSG (Deputy Secretary-General), that emerged in exactly the same way and Farhan [Haq] was, commented on it as if it was, had now been released, so I wanted to know…

Spokesperson:  No, he did not.  I have read that transcript very carefully; no, he did not.  Any other questions?

Question:  So, is that another document?

Spokesperson:  Any other questions?  Yes, Pamela, yes?

Question:  The representative here last week on the women’s issues was discussing the fact that there might be some kind of consolidation of UN-Women (United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women) with some of the other women’s programmes — the Special Representative.  Do you foresee any kind of consolidation?

Spokesperson:  I think you’d need to check in with the UN-Women on that.  I don’t have anything on that.

Question:  All right, thank you.

Spokesperson:  Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.

* *** *

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