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

27 March 2014

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

27 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 Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon. 

**Secretary-General in Greenland

The Secretary-General wrapped up his visit to Greenland this morning.

Due to inclement weather, he was unable to take a boat tour yesterday of the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] World Heritage site, so he did that very early this morning before departing Greenland.  The Secretary-General arrives back to New York this evening.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

And I have another trip to announce.  The Secretary-General will travel to Brussels, Prague and Kigali next week.

On Tuesday, 1 April, in Brussels, he will participate in the International Conference for the Prevention of Genocide.  The next day he will attend the European Union-Africa Summit as well as a high-level meeting on the Central African Republic.

While in Brussels, the Secretary-General will meet, among others, with the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.  He will also hold discussions with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Belgium, as well as King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium.

On Thursday, 4 April, the Secretary-General will travel to Prague, where he will, on Friday, give a lecture at Charles University on the topic “The Czech Republic and the UN:  Peace, Development and Human Rights in a Changing World”.  He will also see how the city has been dealing with the changing weather patterns and adapting to climate change by visiting a mobile flood barrier system which protects homes and businesses and prevents the consequences of floods, which have frequently threatened Prague in the last two decades.  The Secretary-General will also meet with the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic and other officials.

Finally, the Secretary-General will travel to Kigali to participate in the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, which will be marked on 7 April.  In addition to the ceremony and events marking this occasion, the Secretary-General will visit a project by genocide survivors, and meet with President Paul Kagame, as well as other officials who will be in Rwanda at that time.

**Security Council

This afternoon at 3:00, the Security Council will hold a formal meeting on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Council members will then hold another meeting, followed by consultations, to discuss the work of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq.  Nickolay Mladenov, the Head of that Mission, will brief Council members.

And the Security Council has also scheduled consultations on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  On that last subject, we put out a note last night following questions about reported missile launches by that country, in which we said that the Secretary-General is increasingly concerned about the successive reports on new launches of ballistic missiles by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Such launches are contrary to building trust in the region.

The Secretary-General urges the DPRK to cease its ballistic missile activities and focus, together with other countries concerned, on the dialogue and diplomacy necessary to maintain regional peace and security.

** Darfur

Joseph Mutaboba, the Deputy Joint African Union-United Nations Special Representative for Darfur, and Ali Al-Za’tari, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, have expressed their deep concern at the increasing violence in Darfur.

They are also calling on the Government of Sudan and all parties involved in the conflict, and the international community, to take robust measures to ensure the protection of civilians and unimpeded access of aid workers in Darfur.

In a joint statement issued today, Mr. Mutaboba and Mr. Al-Za’tari said that in the last month a wave of violence has been under way in Darfur, affecting tens of thousands of people.  Since the beginning of 2014, more than 215,000 people in Darfur have been displaced from their homes.

They add that it is particularly troubling that, in the face of this violence, the UN and the humanitarian community at large are being increasingly constrained from helping the majority of those affected.  Due to the access restrictions and security constraints placed upon humanitarian agencies, even monitoring the numbers of people who have been displaced from their homes is increasingly challenging.

**South Sudan

And on South Sudan, the UN Mission in the country, UNMISS, reports a large presence of Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) troops in the vicinity of its site in Malakal, in Upper Nile State, where peacekeepers continue to protect some 21,000 displaced civilians.  Elsewhere in the state, the Mission has received reports of fighting between SPLA and opposition forces in Kaka, in Manyo County.

Meanwhile, the Mission continues to report recurring violations of the status-of-forces-agreement, as signed between the UN and the Government of South Sudan, including restrictions of movement of UN personnel.  The Mission calls on all parties to ensure unhindered freedom of movement of UNMISS and humanitarian workers, so that it can carry out its mandated tasks in support of the South Sudanese people.

** Afghanistan

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) says that progress is being made by the country’s security forces in creating conditions for citizens to exercise their right to vote, a week before elections.

The Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom, said that the Afghan security forces have demonstrated their increased capabilities in the extensive preparations undertaken to give those Afghans who wish to vote the opportunity to do so.  He emphasized that Afghans should not be intimidated or denied their right to choose their leaders and shape the country’s future by the enemies of democracy.

The UN Mission also noted that the Afghan security forces also have a responsibility to remain politically impartial in discharging their duties.  This would include remaining completely impartial between candidates and allowing access to the electoral process by independent observers and candidates and political party agents.

** Myanmar

And last, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Myanmar, Toily Kurbanov, is deeply concerned about recent attacks on UN and non-governmental organization premises in Sittwe, Rakhine, by unidentified groups of demonstrators.  In a statement issued today, he called on the Government of Myanmar to ensure the protection of the international community present in Rakhine.  Despite the insecurity, the UN and its humanitarian partners are determined to continue providing life-saving assistance to communities in need.

That’s it for me.  Are there any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Ban Ki-moon said that the DPRK should instead focus on dialogue and diplomacy, but actually, they recently, including the Ambassador, Ri Tong Il, said that DPRK is open for dialogue without any conditions, and the conditions are made by the United States.  So do you have anything to say about that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, simply to reiterate that we have been encouraging dialogue, including any potential signs of resolving the tensions on the Korean peninsula, such as through the measures taken on family exchanges.  And so we have been trying to encourage that process.  What the Secretary-General believes is that actions such as the missile launch have been unhelpful, as we explained in the note that was issued last night, and so we want them to focus on the quest for dialogue.  Yes?

Question:  Does the Secretary-General believe the latest launches are in violation of the Security Council resolutions?

Deputy Spokesman:  I think we’ve just said what we’ve said in the note to correspondents.  I don’t have anything to add to that.  Yes?  Actually behind you, and then you can have after.

Correspondent:  This is on Turkey.  Right after the Twitter ban, and now today the Government also banned YouTube, it came right after the new tape leaked, it was the National Security Council meeting that Foreign Minister [Ahmet Davutoğlu was in there.  And they were talking about how to justify going into Syria, bringing like 1,000 Turkish soldiers, and maybe one of them saying that maybe we can shoot aid missiles back to Turkey.  That might be a reason that we can go into Syria.  That does… that leak it came yesterday, and Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, today he didn’t deny it; he said these are attacking the Government and these people.

Deputy Spokesman:  What’s your question?

Question:  What’s the UN’s response?  This is like… they are justifying, they are looking for some kind of reason to go into Syria to help their position or bring 1,000 soldiers there.  This is going to change everything in Syria.  And then they banned YouTube in Turkey today.

Deputy Spokesman:  With all due respect, sir, since you are new to this room, I don’t think you’re aware, but we don’t really have this as a venue for lectures.

Correspondent:  I want to find out UN’s response, because this is going to change…

Deputy Spokesman:  You’re well aware of what our diplomatic efforts have been regarding Syria, and those continue.  What we’re opposed to is, in fact, the further militarization of the conflict in Syria.  We have been encouraging all countries, including the countries in the region, to play a helpful role in avoiding the further militarization of the conflict.  And we’ll continue with our efforts to bring the Government and the opposition of Syria into further talks to resolve their disputes.

Question:  What about YouTube ban?  This is also important.

Deputy Spokesman:  On that, I would just refer you to the comments made about the similar Twitter ban a few days ago by the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, where they expressed their views very clearly on this.  Yes, Linda?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  I may have missed this, but I was just wondering what the latest diplomatic efforts regarding Ukraine are, regarding the DSG [Deputy Secretary-General], as well as the Secretary-General?

Deputy Spokesman:  On which topic, again?

Correspondent:  Ukraine.  Or Syria.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, on either of them, I think you know what the state of play is.  And Ukraine, I think you probably have noticed that the General Assembly just voted on a resolution, and if you were observing that, that vote passed by a recorded vote of 100 in favour, 11 against and 58 abstentions.  So that’s the latest on that.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  The Secretary-General constantly said that countries should avoid hasty actions in terms of the situation in Ukraine and Crimea.  Does he see any danger of passing such resolutions at this stage that isolate some countries?

Deputy Spokesman:  I think the vote just happened.  We’re studying the vote that just transpired and what the delegations themselves are saying about it.  If we have any further remarks on the Secretary-General’s behalf to make, we’ll make that afterwards, later in the day. 

With that, have a good afternoon, everyone.

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