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

31 March 2014

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

31 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, from what I see we have a group of students with us.  Welcome and enjoy the show.

**Climate Change

We will start off this morning by a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the release of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] Fifth Assessment report by Working Group 2.

The Secretary-General welcomes the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report on the impacts of climate change that was released today in Yokohama, Japan. 

The Report confirms that the effects of human-caused climate change are already widespread and consequential, affecting agriculture, human health, ecosystems on land and in the oceans, water supplies, and some industries.  The report concludes that at present the world is largely ill-prepared for climate change risks. 

Managing the risks of climate change will be increasingly difficult with higher levels of warming.  To reduce these risks, substantial reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions must be made, along with smart strategies and actions to improve disaster preparedness and reduce exposure to the events caused by climate change.

The Secretary-General urges all countries to act swiftly and boldly at every level to bring ambitious announcements and actions to the Climate Change Summit on 23 September 2014 and to make every effort needed to reach a global legal climate agreement by 2015.

** Myanmar

On Myanmar, as you will have seen, we released earlier today a readout of the Secretary-General’s telephone call with President Thein Sein of Myanmar, which occurred late last night.

This call came in the wake of developments in Rakhine State’s Sittwe, where staff and property of the UN and international NGOs came under attack.

The Secretary-General called for the protection of all civilians and the full respect of the rule of law.

In light of the subsequent and ongoing humanitarian and human rights concerns in Rakhine State, the Secretary-General requested that the Government help establish a strong UN and NGO presence. 

On the nationwide census, the Secretary-General underlined that it must be undertaken in a peaceful and, above all, credible manner.  He expressed hope that the conduct of census in Rakhine and elsewhere in the country will meet established international technical and human rights standards.

The Secretary-General reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to provide continued support to the national reform efforts in a constructive manner.  And that readout is also available on our website.

**South Sudan

Turning now to South Sudan, the heads of both the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations refugee agency arrived in Juba, South Sudan, today on a joint trip to meet conflict-affected people and to review the response and needs there, amid a spiralling humanitarian crisis.

More than 800,000 people have been displaced in South Sudan by the conflict, which flared up on 15 December 2013.  This includes 68,000 people who are sheltering in UN peacekeeping bases.  A further 254,000 refugees have crossed into neighbouring countries seeking shelter and food.

The WFP Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), António Guterres, will spend two days in South Sudan to meet displaced people, partners and local authorities before crossing over the border to meet some of the more than 80,000 refugees that are currently in Ethiopia.  An inter-agency appeal led by UNHCR is calling for more than $370 million to fund the refugee response in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.

** Afghanistan

Over the weekend, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the attack on the Kabul headquarters of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan.  The IEC and confirmed that its own neighbouring base was hit by small arms fire.

The Mission denounced this latest violence on a civilian location.  It reiterated that electoral institutions and their staff should not be the targets of deliberate attacks.  There is more information on UNAMA’s website.

**Security Council

The Security Council today is holding a session this morning to wrap up its work for the month under the presidency of Luxembourg.  Nigeria will replace Luxembourg in the rotating Presidency of the Security Council starting tomorrow, 1 April.

Ambassador Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg, the Permanent Representative of Luxembourg, will be here in this room soon after the briefing to brief you on the Council’s work. 

And that is in fact it for me.  I’m happy to take some of your questions.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thanks a lot.  I wanted to ask about the Central African Republic.  There are reports over the weekend that Chadian Special Forces there killed somewhere between 8 and 30 civilians shooting into a crowd after they were fired at.  And I wanted to know if the UN presence in the city is aware of that and what they think about it?

Spokesman:  Yes, they are aware of it.  In fact, there’s a statement in the works, which is in the pipeline above my head somewhere.  It should be coming down shortly.

Question:  I don’t know if the statement will address it but I wanted to ask you this.  One of the issues that has arisen is that the shooting seems to have been done by, as I said, Chadian Special Forces, a part that is not a part of MISCA [African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic], and it’s not clear what their mandate is in the country even under there…?

Spokesman:  Well, I will wait for the statement.  Hopefully, it will address that.

Question:  Stéphane, has there been any comment by the Secretary-General about the apparent failure of the Lavrov/Kerry US/Russia meetings on Ukraine?

Spokesman: I think you know the Secretary-General is taking the long view and again reiterating his call for a diplomatic solution to this crisis, which involves the parties talking to each other, and an engagement obviously by the US and the Russian Federation is a welcome one.  So, no immediate reaction on that, but as I said, it’s a diplomatic process.  These things take time.  And we are continuing to support it in whichever way we can.

Question:  Thank you Stéphane, welcome.  Stéphane, our distinguished colleague Thalif Deen from IPS [Inter Press Service] broke the story last week that there is some extra scrutiny, I would say, complaining from the countries from G-77 Group that they are not able to do the business within the bank system here in New York since those scrutinies are occurring.  And that they said that they are going to even pay their dues with hard cash.  Is that has already occurred or is that permissible?  What do you say?

Spokesman: No, I am not aware of anyone having to, having requested to pay their dues in cash.  Obviously, we would hope these issues are worked out in a positive manner with the host country and through the host country committee. 

Question:  Follow-up, is that permissible, number 1, and number 2, what happened with the Chase Bank, whether the Chase Bank is going to have its affiliated office here in the UN as it used to have or…?

Spokesman:  No, I am not aware of Chase having a branch in this particular building.  You know they are across the street.  As to, you know, we expect Member States to pay their dues, whether or not they can pay them in hard cash, I don’t want to speculate on it.  But obviously money is money.  So, if I find out anything, I will let you know.

Question: Regarding the border zone between Turkey and Syria, in the Kasab area near Latakia.  There have been reports that the Turkish forces are involved in these attacks and they are facilitating the crossing of many terrorist groups like al-Nostra into Syria to wage the battle there.  Do you have any statements regarding this?

Spokesman:  No, I haven’t seen any of these particular reports, I’ll see what I can get for you.

Question:  Thank you.  India will hold its national elections next week, is that something that the UN or the Secretary-General will follow closely given that any new government will have a political and economic crucial role to play in the political-economic situation in the region and the globe?

Spokesman:  I mean we will obviously follow all national elections closely and India is a very important partner of the United Nations, but we follow them like we follow any other elections and we do follow them closely.

Question:  Stéphane, does the Secretary-General have anything to say regarding the just finished completed election in Turkey and does he intend to call Mr. Erdoğan who obviously switched party just won according to the press statement in Turkey and to talk to him?

Spokesman:  No, there are no plans that I am aware of of a phone call, but I would remind you that these were local elections.  An exchange of letters and phone calls are usually done for Heads of State or those types of elections. But, as per the last question, we follow all these elections.  Yes, Joe.

Question: Last week the Secretary-General, in response to a question, said the United Nations will abide by the General Assembly resolution that was passed concerning the annexation of Crimea and its invalidity.  Does that mean that we can infer from that the Secretary-General now is of the view that the annexation of Crimea and the associated referendum are invalid?  And how on practical terms would the United Nations Secretariat operationalize the General Assembly resolution?  For example, in terms of UN maps, UN agencies, references and documents to Crimea, whether it is still a part of Ukraine or part of Russia?  Thank you.   

Spokesman:  I don’t really have anything to add to what the Secretary-General said, which was, he said that the United Nations will be guided by the General Assembly resolution.  We are obviously looking and starting the resolution, looking at those implications.

Question:  Welcome back, Stéphane.  On DPRK during the weekend, the North and South Korea exchanged gunfire across disputed sea border and also the North threatened to carry out what they called new forms of nuclear test.  So does the Secretary-General have anything to comment on this new development? 

Spokesman: I may have some language for you just a little bit later.

Question:  Thank you Stéphane.  On Syria, do you have any updates on Geneva 3?  We are talking there are more talks about Geneva 3, any update…

Spokesman: No, nothing… I understand nothing further to add.

Question: On Bahrain, recently the authorities have passed very harsh sentences against protestors and some photographers even.  Over 10 years of jail sentences, some of them 15 years or more, just for participating in protests.  Do you have anything on that please? 

Spokesman: No, not on that.  I mean, I would refer you to what the Secretary-General has said in the past on Bahrain.

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you, and I read the readout of the Secretary-General’s call to Thein Sein of Myanmar.  There are reports today that the authorities have said, contrary to what I think UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] had said earlier in the year, that even if people write in Rohingya, that this will not be registered and it will not be counted.  So can we read this line in the readout where he said that he hopes that it’s credible and meets human rights standards, does the UN expect the country, despite what he has publically said today, to allow Rohingya to register as such? 

Spokesman:  What we expect is for this census to be credible.  And to meet established international standards, and we do understand that there are a number of observers there from other countries, but I don’t want to pre-judge anything until the census is done.

Question:  Did this issue, I mean, it seems like this is a main issue in the census is whether, if Rohingya, some of which Myanmar will try to throw out…

Spokesman:  I think you read the readout as I did.  I think the Secretary-General’s calls are fairly clear in that.

Question:  Regarding Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, there are reports that there is an agreement already reached in order to allow for the aid to come in.  Can you confirm that, or what are the consultations regarding arrangements such as…?

Spokesman:  No, I haven’t seen anything come across our office.  I know our colleagues at UNWRA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] have been working tirelessly to try to get aid in the Yarmouk camp and have being trying to focus the world’s attention on it.  So we do hope some agreement is made soon to bring help to those who need it.

Question: Sure, I want to ask a couple of “openness” questions.  One has to do with there’s an [inaudible] meeting this afternoon of the Security Council on Crimea and Tatars.  And I believe also a journalist might be inside, so I wanted to know, it’s not in the journal, but it’s also not in the media alert, and I wanted to know, one, why it’s not in the media alert?  And two, whether it is open to the press and public?  Particularly given that there is a journalist testifying to the Council.

Spokesman:  You know the Security Council are members of the masters of their domain.  I will not, I mean, you can ask the President of the Council and they choose to have the meetings the way they want to have it.

Question:  But are they masters of the UN’s media alert?  I thought the purpose of that was to tell us, like…

Spokesman:  If we are notified, then we put it in the alert.  But I think that’s a question best asked to the Security Council.  Pam?

Question:  Stéphane, last week Farhan mentioned that there are some backroom negotiations on the Egypt issue, meaning the detention and so many journalists death sentence, mass death sentences of 500 at a clip.  Can you… yes, of Muslim Brotherhood, all of that.  Is there anything you can elaborate, has there been any success in terms of UN negotiations or discussions with the Government?

Spokesman:  No, nothing to add.  Yes?  Edith?

Question:  Thanks Stéphane, the Secretary-General is going to Europe for most of the rest of the week.  Is he planning any side meetings with any of the key leaders involving Ukraine or Syria?

Spokesman:  You know, there will be a number, most of the meetings he is having in Europe are centred on Africa.  I think Farhan announced the trip.  There will be a lot of focus on Africa, and especially, I know in Brussels on Central African Republic, on issues of prevention of genocide.  Obviously, there will be a number of Heads of State and senior leaders there.  Meetings may happen as they come and we’ll inform you as they do.

Question:  Another openness question.  One is on South Sudan, I know there was what I took to be an interim statement made that the UN had finished its own review of the weapons or containers with weapons in them that were found.  It seemed to me like they said they were still working on their conclusions.  Is that republic ever… is that report going to be made public in some fashion?

Spokesman: You know I’m not going to speculate.  I will check with DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] because I asked them if there was any update on the report and I don’t think there was.  But I will leave it at that.

Question:  OK, if you don’t mind, the other one.  I asked on Friday, I asked Farhan, I just wanted to know if there was any response to… there was article submitted to the Staff Voices of the iSeek system by a person who worked in the Treaties Division.  Pretty balanced article and they were told that it cannot be published due to the views of management.  And, I wanted to know, what are the policies of publishing, if it’s called Staff Voices, of an article being published on the UN Staff Voices website?

Spokesman: I will check.  I don’t know the case of this particular article.

Question:  Stéphane, taking in account what you just have said regarding the Secretary-General going to Africa and what he is going to have on top of his agenda.  Does that mean…

Spokesman: No, what I said was that he is going to Europe first.  And that’s what Edith was referring to.  The meeting is in Brussels will be a lot of focused on Africa.

Question:  Ok, I understood.  So bearing in mind all of that, does that mean, as what he has said to us actually when he was talking to the press last Friday, that somehow, he thinks that Ukraine is enough de-escalated as the issue and is moving from of the top of the agenda now, behind those issues in Africa?  And also, if I may use this opportunity — I know that you don’t like to add more than what the Secretary-General did say actually, but…

Spokesman: It’s not a good career move.

Question:  You never know.  What I was going to ask you.  When you was with him, President Putin sitting in that room in Crimea, is that move… totally… how would you describe it?  It was totally in the right direction in the escalation or still there are more tensions to be concerned of?

Spokesman: What was your first question again?  You know I think the UN, it’s not what is on top of the agenda, it’s a multifaceted agenda.  Everything is on top of the agenda.  And I think for all the people who, you know, people who are impacted, we have to keep the focus on all sorts of different issues at different times.  Whether it is South Sudan, whether it is CAR [Central African Republic], whether it is Ukraine, whether it is Syria, the people in Yarmouk camp.  I think the Secretary-General is using every opportunity he has to advance the diplomatic process on all those issues.  And I will leave the Secretary-General to describe the meeting with President Putin.  I think he did it perfectly well.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Valentina Samar, the head of the Information Service in Crimea, Press Information Service, and Mustafa Dzhemilev will be in the building today for this [inaudible] style meeting.  Will anyone from the Secretary-General’s office, or from his… or will he be meeting with any of them?  He won’t, but will anyone be meeting with them?

Spokesman: I am sure my colleagues in Political Affairs and other units will be meeting with our colleagues in from Ukraine, but not the Secretary-General.

Question:  Thank you very much.  Last week the UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] published a report where they say that the situation for the information and media online is getting difficult.  And then we had the news from Turkey.  So I would like to know if you have a comment from the Secretary-General on that situation.  And then, just because it was me that asked the Ambassador Churkin on Friday [inaudible] if you had commented on the shuttle of diplomacy of the Secretary-General between Moscow and Kyiv.  How did it go… if he had a comment?  He said many things, but he said also, the Secretary-General has to be kind of careful not to do too much.  Do you have a comment on that?

Spokesman:  I am not going to play, I am not going to comment on what Ambassador Churkin has said.  I think the Secretary-General’s motives for going to Moscow and going to Kyiv and speaking to all the parties will very clear in that is pushing for a diplomatic solution and encouraging all parties to talk to each other.  On the general issue on access to information and the Internet, I think it is something that the Secretary-General has spoken out for, and the need for the freedom of information and freedom to access information.  Thank you very much and Ambassador Lucas should be here shortly.

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