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

26 March 2014

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

26 March 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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, everyone.

**Secretary-General in Greenland

The Secretary-General has been in Greenland today to see first-hand the impacts of climate change.  He spent the morning in the town of Uummannaq, which is several hundred kilometres above the Arctic Circle.

The Secretary-General, together with the Prime Ministers of Denmark and Greenland, hoisted flags and observed a prayer ceremony in a local church.  He has just been dog sledding, and shortly will meet with indigenous people.  In the afternoon, the Secretary-General will tour the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage site, by boat.

In the evening, he will be briefed on solutions that are available and innovations that are under way to address climate change in Greenland.

The Secretary-General will return to New York tomorrow.

**Security Council

Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General for Sierra Leone, briefed the Security Council this morning on the work being done by the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in that country (UNIPSIL) before its mandate ends at the end of the month.

He said that the Peacebuilding Office is in the final stages of its drawdown before it ends next Monday.  Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen said that Sierra Leone has made remarkable strides in post-conflict recovery, democratic transition and peace consolidation.  And he added that the general atmosphere of peace that now prevails is the culmination of more than 15 years of successive Security Council-mandated peace operations in the country.

Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen said that, although Sierra Leone is continuing on the right path, it still faces a number of challenges linked to the root causes of the war that require sustained attention and support.  These include pervasive poverty and unemployment, especially among the youth; endemic corruption; upholding the rule of law; and the need for the authorities to widen the political space.  His remarks are available in our office.   This afternoon, the Security Council has scheduled consultations on the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Golan and the UN Office in Burundi.

** Central African Republic

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Central African Republic, Babacar Gaye, called on all Central Africans to put an end to the spiral of violence in their country.

This was at a press conference he held in Bangui today, along with the Deputy Special Representative and the Humanitarian Coordinator for the country.

Mr. Gaye asked all armed groups to stand ready to answer the call for talks by the transitional authorities.  And in turn, he asked that these authorities take measures to start a political dialogue aimed at addressing the root causes of instability in the Central African Republic.  He said that the security and social situations in the country were deteriorating, adding that the homes of officials had been attacked.  He said that people were being harassed on the basis of their religious affiliation and that entire communities were besieged.

** Darfur

The joint African Union-United Nations [Hybrid Operation] in Darfur (UNAMID) reports that a mission convoy with relief items from UN agencies arrived in Khor Abeche, South Darfur, yesterday.  The mission's peacekeepers, with the support of community leaders, began the distribution of food to thousands of internally displaced persons who are taking refuge at the mission's base there.

And in Korma, North Darfur, an integrated team consisting of UNAMID and the UN country team conducted a security and humanitarian assessment of the situation there yesterday.

The mission reports that the number of displaced persons gathered next to its base for protection has increased to more than 3,000.  The mission continues to provide security and water to the displaced persons, and is working with humanitarian personnel to deliver necessary emergency assistance.

** Iraq

The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) has reiterated its full support for the independence and integrity of the Independent High Electoral Commission.  The Commission's independence and integrity are provided by the Constitution and all political entities have the responsibility to respect it.

Special Representative Nickolay Mladenov urged the Board of Commissioners to continue their work, and for everyone to cooperate in addressing existing concerns within the Constitution and the legal process.

Mr. Mladenov said that the people of Iraq must not be prevented from voting and choosing their representatives on 30 April.  Any delay for political or other reasons will set a dangerous precedent for the country.


The Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Kyung-wha Kang, signed today an agreement with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa to strengthen humanitarian and disaster preparedness efforts in the region.  This was at IGAD’s Drought Resilience Summit, which took place in Kampala, Uganda.

Ms. Kang noted the need to strengthen the linkage between humanitarian and longer-term interventions in the collective work towards building the resilience of communities dealing with drought and other emergencies.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that several countries in the region, including Djibouti, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda, receive less than 600 millimetres in rainfall every year.  The devastating drought in 2010-2011 affected more than 13 million people in the region and brought food insecurity to fatal levels in many areas.

**Noon Briefing Guests

Tomorrow, in this room, at 9:30 a.m., there will be a press conference entitled “The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, 20 years later”.  The speakers will be Mr. Bongani Majola, Assistant Secretary-General and Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and Dr. Ousman Njikam, Legal Officer in the Immediate Office of the Registrar.

That’s it for me.  Any questions?  Yes, Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:   I guess I wanted to first ask whether…there’s any comment from the Secretariat on this new launch by the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] into the East Sea or Sea of Japan.  There are a number of countries that have commented on it and there seems to be some buzz in the Council, possibly, about it.  What does the Secretariat have to say?

Deputy Spokesperson:  You’ll recall that there was a launch of short-range ballistic missiles just a few weeks ago and in response, on 17 March, what we said is that the Secretary-General emphasized the need for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to refrain from any provocative acts and instead, to work with its neighbours to build a political atmosphere conducive for the resumption of dialogue.  We may have more to say specifically about today’s launch; and if we have that, we’ll share that with you later.  Yes, in the back?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  As you said, yesterday at around 8 p.m. in the evening, a statement was issued by the Secretary-General on the killing of the Iranian border guard.  And my question is — why so late in the day and not during the regular hours?  Is there any particular reason?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We put them out when we get them.  It’s as simple as that.  We get statements approved.  I received it my computer around that time and sent it out within the next couple minutes.  Okay?

Question:  If you’ve got the time, I’ve got the question.  I wanted to ask you — Transnistria, which is a “breakaway section of Moldova”, has said that they shot down a drone that was launched from Ukraine to conduct recognisance.  I wanted to know whether on the off chance the UN has any knowledge of this, or two, does the UN and [the Department of Political Affairs] have any involvement in the issues of Transnistria and other Moldovan autonomous regions?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ve been following the situation in various parts of the region, given the circumstances there.  But, we have nothing specific to say about any of that, and we don’t have any particular information on the incident you mentioned.  Yes, Pam?

Question:  Farhan, in the briefing the Secretary-General is doing on Friday at the Security Council, do you expect that to be an open briefing, and will it be both on nuclear security and Ukraine?  Or just Ukraine?  Or the travel?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As far as I’m aware, the Security Council members are discussing the format of the meeting, so we don’t have anything to announce on what the format of that meeting is.  But, we do expect the Secretary-General to be able to brief Security Council members on his recent travels, as you know, to Ukraine and Russia last week, once he’s back.

Correspondent:  Alright, and there was, if I may follow up, there was a comment that he put out on the nuclear security, saying that there was a fear of proliferation in the world, but is there any comment he’s made about the fact that the Budapest Memorandum had Ukraine giving up its… there was a reference to it, but…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, yes.  I’d just refer you to the statement he made at the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague on Monday where he actually clearly addresses the question of the Budapest agreement.

Question:  Yes, exactly.  But, that’s the one I’m referring to.  Is there something further… can you find out if he believes this is a threat to non-proliferation, generally, or to the [Non Proliferation Treaty]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  He says what his views are on it in the speech.  I’d just refer you to his comment about the implications of that particular problem.  Hold on, yes, you.  Please use the microphone.

Correspondent:  The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations was in Pakistan and he’d gone to the UN mission there between India and Pakistan.  Do you have any update on his visit there given the fact that Kashmir is an issue between the two countries and India doesn’t want…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we provided an update the day before yesterday about his trip and had mentioned some of his meetings, including with the President and some other officials.  So, we have that.  If there’s anything further, I’ll share that with you; but yes, he met with several officials in Pakistan, as well as officials of the UN [Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan], UNMOGIP.  Yes, Sherwyn?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Are you able to talk about what the Secretariat is doing in terms of planning for a peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, despite the fact that we don’t have that authorization from the Security Council?  Are you also able to comment on the pace at which this matter is being considered, given the urgency on the ground?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, we always do contingency planning for a variety of scenarios.  But, in terms of being able to do any advanced planning, that would depend upon decisions by the Security Council.  So, we are waiting for the relevant decisions by the Security Council.  As you know, the Council members have received the Secretary-General’s recommendations and it’s up to them to act on them.  Yes?

Question:  Something on Syria and then, two, I guess, management issues.  Thanks, yesterday, you put out the list of people who Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi had met with at the Arab League Summit, and among them was Ahmad al-Jarba.  I just wanted to know… there’s, obviously, there’s always controversy, but there’s something called the Syrian Grassroots Movement which has said that, has organized protests within Syria itself, saying that Mr. [al-]Jarba doesn’t represent them and is not… should not be viewed by, I guess, the UN system and others as representing the opposition.  Did Mr. Brahimi reach out to any other opposition figures?  And what does he make of this Syrian Grassroots Movement saying [Mr. al‑]Jarba doesn’t represent them?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’re aware of the divisions that there have been, but of course, part of what Mr. Brahimi’s work is to reach out to people who he believes can have an influence in actually resolving the crisis in Syria.  And that’s what’s he’s doing.  Regarding his meetings, beyond that list, I don’t have any other names to share with you on this particular trip.  But, he has been in touch with a wide range of individuals over the course of his work, so that goes beyond the League of Arab States Summit in Kuwait.  Okay, yes, behind you.

Question:  Farhan, thank you.  Tomorrow, the members of the General Assembly will vote for a resolution about Ukraine.  One section of the resolution, draft resolution, is they confirm that Ukraine… Crimea is a part of Ukraine, and that the referendum was not legal.  What is your position from this?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, of course, as I mentioned yesterday, we’ll wait for the outcome of the vote.  We’re studying the matter and we’ll see what the Member States themselves decide upon.

Question:  I wanted to ask you about this, within G77, last week, there was a meeting in which there was a discussion of a number of missions, beyond the “usual suspects”, missions that are not under any kind of sanctions of any kind being prospectively denied bank accounts by JP Morgan Chase Bank.  So, I’ve seen your quote that the UN is working on this with the host country.  I wanted to know because the Comptroller had said months ago, maybe even as much as a year ago, that she was about to have “good news on this issue of banks”, for in this case, I think it may have been Syria and Sudan, but where does it stand?  What exactly is the Secretariat doing to ensure that the countries that are complaining don’t get denied bank accounts?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, it’s as I shared with your colleague, that we are working with the host country on this and we’ve been trying to determine different sorts of arrangements that would allow the missions that are here to go about their work.  That’s as much detail as I have on that, as this point.

Question:  Can the UN Credit Union… can they actually do banking services for missions?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I mean… the details I have on this, it’s as much as I have at this point.  If there’s any further progress, we’ll let you know.  Yes?

Question:  Last week there was this article in The New York Times, which said the [Inter Services Intelligence] chief knew about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.  Does the UN have any comment in the sense that?  Will it impact sanctions or will it come up in some Committee of the General Assembly, maybe?

Deputy Spokesperson:  It’s up to the General Assembly to determine whether they intend to take that up or not.  Have a good afternoon, everyone.

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