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

14 January 2014

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

14 January 2014
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.

Spokesperson:  I am very pleased to welcome my guest today, Ambassador Martin Sajdik, the incoming President of the Economic and Social Council.  Ambassador Sajdik is the Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations.  I am going to pass the floor to the Ambassador very shortly.  But, I just wanted to point out that, immediately following the briefing, at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference here; that’s on the theme of “Genocide:  A preventable crime — Understanding early warning of mass atrocities”.  And so, I will be a piece of salami in the middle of the sandwich.  I will have time to read out a few items after Ambassador Sajdik’s part of the briefing and hopefully take a few questions.  But, first of all, please, welcome, and the floor is yours.

[Press conference by Mr. Sajdik issued separately.]

Spokesperson:  Thank you very much, indeed, Ambassador and incoming President.  Congratulations again.

Permanent Representative of Austria:  Thank you very much, Martin.

Spokesperson:  Thanks.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is now in Kuwait City, where he will chair the second High-level Pledging Conference for Syria tomorrow.  He will meet the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister today and is also scheduled to meet other Kuwaiti officials and officials from Member States attending the pledging conference.

The Secretary-General arrived in Kuwait from Iraq, where he was in Erbil this morning.  He visited a camp for Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan region.  He met with a refugee family and was briefed on the situation in the camp.  Speaking to reporters, the Secretary-General said that he was there to show the solidarity and support of the international community.

We issued a transcript of his press encounter a little earlier and also a  readout of some meetings that he held while in the Kurdistan region.

**South Sudan

I have an update from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).  It is reporting heavy fighting between pro- and anti-Government forces in Malakal, in Upper Nile State, today.

The Mission says that the fighting began early this morning in the vicinity of the UN base, with combatants apparently using heavy machine guns and tanks.  Stray bullets are reported to have landed inside the UN base, wounding internally displaced people who had sought shelter there.  The UN Mission says it is treating dozens of patients for wounds at its hospital.

It calls on all the parties to respect the integrity of UN installations.

As a result of today’s violence, the number of uprooted people seeking refuge at the UN base in Malakal has in fact nearly doubled to 20,000.  Nearly 1,000 UN peacekeepers — including 110 newly arrived police — are protecting civilians at the base.  The Mission is protecting, overall across the country, more than 65,000 civilians.

And the Mission has received reports of a boat carrying a large number of civilians capsizing on Sunday in the White Nile River between Malakal and Lelo in Upper Nile State.  The civilians were reportedly fleeing fighting in the area.  The Mission is seeking to verify reports of casualties.

I think I’m going to stop there.  The rest of my briefing materials will be placed online and I’m happy to take a couple of questions.  Yes, Talal?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Concerning the donor conference in Kuwait tomorrow, there is a report coming out tonight by Oxfam, which we have a few titbits from it, showing that rich countries with very high GNI, gross national income, are not doing their parts, such as Russia, which has given 5 per cent of its fair share, South Korea, giving 5 per cent of its fair share, and even Japan is giving 37 per cent — not even 100 per cent of its fair share — while countries like Jordan are giving 14 times its fair share, more than 14 times.  Even Britain, more than three times their fair share.  What is the Secretary-General going to do to get these countries to carry their own fair share of the burden for Syria, such as South Korea, such as Japan and Russia?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has convened this pledging conference for that very reason.  It’s at a relatively high level and it is the convening power of the Secretary-General and his powers of persuasion that are being brought to bear precisely to try to raise the amount of money that’s needed.  As you know, the UN launched its appeal in mid-December for $6.5 billion and it’s hoping for generous contributions from Member States at the pledging conference on Wednesday.  More than 60 countries have already confirmed their participation in the conference and, as I say, mostly at senior ministerial level.  Everyone recognizes that there are still economic difficulties around the world.  But, everyone also recognizes, as the Secretary-General saw for himself again today in Erbil, the plight the Syrian people, both in refugee camps and inside Syria itself.  And so, really, this is a chance for people to step up, and certainly, the Secretary-General has had conversations, including most recently with President [Vladimir] Putin, in which President Putin did indeed pledge to contribute to this conference.  So, I’d like to take a couple more questions.  I’m already out of time, but I’m going to take a question from Tim and then Matthew.

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  On South Sudan, does the UN, do you have access to Malakal still from the outside?  And have any peacekeepers opened fire at all during this fighting, or any recent point?

Spokesperson:  I would need to check with our peacekeeping colleagues on precisely what happened with regard to any use of live fire by our own peacekeepers.  As you could see, this was an extremely dangerous incident and dozens of patients are being treated for wounds, again as I say.  And finally, on this topic, with regard to access to Malakal:  well, 110 of those police are newly arrived.  I don't know if it was today, but newly arrived.  I will ask my colleagues in peacekeeping operations to confirm whether there is still access. 

[The reporter was informed that the shooting was near the UN base but not involving UN personnel and that UNMISS has access to Malakal.] 

Matthew, last question please?  Keep it short.

Question:  I will, I will.  There was the… I'm sure you've seen the report by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) about human rights abuses in Central African Republic and what I wanted to ask you is that, they say that the disarming, that the French disarming of some left Muslim communities subject to attack and that Chadian FOMAC (Multinational Force of Central Africa) peacekeepers credibly colluded with ex-Séléka forces that they’re accusing of human rights violations.  So, I wanted to know how it works.  Given that the Chad Army is also a peacekeeper in the UN force in Mali, does, what happens in the Secretariat or DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) on a finding such as this, that peacekeepers in one country may have colluded with human rights abusers?  What’s the next step?

Spokesperson:  Well, let's just be clear.  This was a team that was deployed, four people who were deployed, to the Central African Republic from the twelfth to twenty-fourth of December.  And what they have produced today, and what Ms. Navi Pillay’s office has been talking about today, and she herself has been talking about preliminary findings that describe a cycle of widespread human rights violations and reprisals.  And Ms. Pillay has made clear she will give a fuller account of the team’s findings during a special session called by the Human Rights Council, and that’s due to take place in Geneva on 20 January.  So, I think I’d rather wait until that and see what else comes out of that meeting.  I’m sorry that I’m out of time.  In fact, I’m over time.  I hope that our following guests will not mind too much and I’ll see you again tomorrow.  Good afternoon.

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