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

2 May 2014

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

2 May 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.  This is one of these three-ring circus days and I have no control over the orchestra.  I just have a couple of announcements, in fact, fewer than we need to.

**Security Council

As you saw, the Security Council has just begun its formal meeting on Ukraine.  Council members heard an update from Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, about the latest developments there, in which he noted recent violence in Slavyansk and reiterated the Secretary-General’s appeal for the release of the detained OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] monitors.  And we expect a statement from the Secretary-General on Ukraine shortly.

And following my press conference, the President of the Council for May, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea, will brief you.

And then at 3, the Security Council will hold a meeting on South Sudan, to hear from High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, as well as the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng.


An announcement on re-appointments:  following consultations with the Executive Board of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Secretary-General reappointed Mr. Anthony Lake today as the Executive Director of UNICEF.  The Secretary-General noted his appreciation of UNICEF’s progress in effective management for results, especially for the most disadvantaged children.

**South Sudan

From South Sudan, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are calling on the parties to the conflict in South Sudan to provide safe access to enable humanitarian assistance to reach vulnerable people.

This includes 125,000 Sudanese refugees in camps in Maban County, Upper Nile State.  Re-supplying refugee camps in Maban has been complicated by continued insecurity and fighting along the supply routes.  And we have more information in a press release available to you.

** Central African Republic

Also as we flagged too yesterday, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, is in Bangui, for a three-day visit to the Central African Republic, in preparation for the establishment of the UN Mission in that country, MINUSCA.

This morning, he visited Kaga-Bandoro, 245 kilometres north of Bangui, where he discussed the security situation and saw first hand the humanitarian challenges facing the population.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, and all of UNHCR say that it is shocked and saddened by the killing, yesterday in Bangui, of one of its national staff members.

The UNHCR employee was abducted in the morning from PK16 district of the capital and his body was recovered in the afternoon.  The agency says that his killing can be placed in the framework of inter-communal violence and it extends a call to all parties of the conflict to recognize and respect the neutrality and independence of UN humanitarian personnel in the country.

** Chad

Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, will visit Chad from 5 to 6 May.  This is her first visit in the country, and she’ll be there to raise attention to the humanitarian situation, notably the chronic food insecurity and malnutrition.  And we have more information from a press release.

** Afghanistan

From Afghanistan, the United Nations Assistance Mission in the country (UNAMA) condemns the suicide car bombing which took place in the central eastern province of Panjshir yesterday, killing at least 15 people — including seven civilians.  And we have more in a press release next door on that.

Also from Afghanistan, we were in touch with our colleagues in the Mission just a few moments ago following the reports of a massive landslide.  They tell us that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs staff in Afghanistan are coordinating local authorities to rescue those still trapped by mudslides.  Casualties are currently estimated at 350, but expected to rise, according to local officials.  Response is being mobilized for those who survived but were displaced with some humanitarian partners already on the ground.

** Pakistan and Afghanistan

Also from Afghanistan, or regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-Wha Kang will visit Afghanistan and Pakistan from 3 to 8 May to assess the humanitarian needs and response in areas impacted by crises, including insecurity, natural disasters and malnutrition.  And we have more in a press release upstairs.

**Capital Punishment

Also from the Geneva colleagues’ briefings:  the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said today that the suffering of Clayton Lockett during his execution in Oklahoma on 29 April may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment according to international human rights law.

The UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture have both previously called on the United States to review its execution methods in order to prevent severe pain and suffering.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

Yesterday we were asked about an attack against our Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Mayi-Mayi Janvier.  We can confirm the attack and that Mayi-Mayi Janvier is part of the APCLS [Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo].

As reported earlier, the ACPLS attacked DRC Government positions at Birere.  Heavy exchanges of fire were reported.  MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] supported the FARDC, the National Army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with fire support to recapture Birere.  Some 4,000 civilians sought safety at MONUSCO base in Nyabiondo.  Six Government soldiers were killed, three were wounded and two MONUSCO soldiers were also wounded.  However, further details concerning the injuries cannot be confirmed yet.

MONUSCO continues to monitor the situation, including through the use of unarmed aerial surveillance systems.

That is it, except I was just given a statement from the Secretary-General on Ukraine, which I would now read.

** Ukraine

The Secretary-General reiterates his grave concern over the deteriorating situation in regions of east and south Ukraine.  Escalating violence and reported further loss of life in the city of Slavyansk today is a stark reminder of how dangerous the situation has become.  Expansion of militia activities and ongoing seizures of public buildings by unidentified armed groups undercut the letter and spirit of the 17 April Geneva Statement.  He therefore urges all sides to exercise maximum restraint and appeals to those with grievances to voice them peacefully, so as to avoid more bloodshed.  He calls for all parties to respect fully Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Secretary-General once again calls on those responsible for the capture and detention of OSCE military monitors and accompanying Ukrainian staff to release them immediately, unconditionally and unharmed.

The Secretary-General stresses that a diplomatic solution is the only way out of this crisis and that all sides must redouble their efforts to revive the spirit of compromise displayed during the 17 April Geneva talks.

The Secretary-General has asked the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, to travel to Moscow and Kyiv next week.  Mr. Feltman will meet with senior officials and international partners to promote de-escalation and work toward a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Ukraine.  He will be carrying a strong message from the Secretary-General that all actors need to exercise utmost caution.  He will stress the need for a return to diplomacy and highlight the willingness of the United Nations to play its good offices role.

I think that’s it.  Mr. Lee?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I… I just… it might have been better to start a little bit earlier, but that said…

Spokesman:  You know as I said, it’s a three-ring circus, I wish I could control all the animals in this building, but I don’t.

Question:  Once, there was an idea of a policy of like when you would delay and when you won’t.  Though I wanted to ask you, South Sudan, do you have any comment on the statement by John Kerry that Kiir, President [Salva] Kiir has agreed to talk to Riek Machar and does the UN have any role in that?  And also this Deputy NATO Secretary-General that I asked you about on the 29th that said he’s coming to the UN.  He’s since been quoted that Russia is the adversary of the West, and I’m wondering:  is the UN going to meet with him?  And if so, to what end?

Spokesman:  I don’t have any details.  I haven’t been able to find out any details of any appointments he may have.  I think maybe NATO can tell you who he’s planning to meet, but if I find out anything, I will let you know.

On South Sudan, no immediate comments on John Kerry, except to say that obviously any dialogue between Riek Machar and Salva Kiir would obviously be a positive development.  The Secretary-General has called on both of them to find a peaceful solution to the current crisis.  Madame?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  It’s… there are reports that the UN is looking for Syria… for a Syrian Envoy to replace Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi.  He’s preparing to quit at the end of the month.  How urgent this effort is?  And if it’s… you can confirm or not?

Spokesman:  No, as I’ve said, we definitely will not confirm it.  I think as I’ve said repeatedly here, the rumours of Mr. Brahimi’s departure, I think, began the day after he started.  He remains the Secretary-General’s and the Arab League’s Joint Special Envoy.  We’re not going to speculate on personnel matters.  The Secretary-General greatly appreciates all the work Mr. Brahimi has done and he continues to be the Joint Special Envoy.

Question:  What is the Secretary-General’s reaction to Russian statement, which is being said time and again that the Geneva agreement is no longer valid because of Ukraine’s consistent violation of the agreement?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General, in the statement I just read, I think answered your question and he said that all sides must redouble their efforts to revive the spirit of compromise displayed during the 17 April Geneva talks.

Question:  Also, I wanted to find out, Stéphane, in his… when he had this meeting with the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Mr. [Nabil] Fahmy, did the Egyptian Foreign Minister give any assurances at all to the Secretary-General?  I mean, I have seen the statement.

Spokesman:  You know I struggle to speak for the Secretary-General.  I’m not going to attempt to speak for anyone that he meets with.  So you got the readout from our end.  I think you would have to ask the Egyptian Permanent Mission.

Question:  So basically what you’re saying is that you are not able to say.

Spokesman:  I don’t… these readouts, I think each side can speak for themselves.  We gave the readout of the meeting and it is what it is.  Yes, George?

Question:  You said something about a landslide in Afghanistan and you had spoken to your people, who I take it are in Kabul.  You didn’t specify where the landslide itself… is that somewhere out in the country or near Kabul…?

Spokesman:  Yes, it’s out… as far as I understand, it’s not very near to Kabul.  It’s out further away.  And we’re talking to local authorities.

Question:  So you cannot state yet in what region it is?

Spokesman:  I don’t have that information right here.  Yes, sir?  [The Spokesman later issued a press release specifying that the mudslides took place in Badakhshan Province.]

Question:  Stéphane, has the Mr. Brahimi and Secretary-General meeting taken place?

Spokesman:  They were meeting this… they were meeting, I think, as we speak around now.

Question:  Will you send the readout then?

Spokesman:  No, there are no… we don’t traditionally send readouts of meetings between senior UN officials unless there’s something to announce.

Question:  Any press encounter or anything?

Spokesman:  Well, Mr. Brahimi will brief the Security Council at some point next week, I don’t have that date in front of me but I’m the President…

Correspondent:  It’s on the 13th.

Spokesman:  There you go.  Take it from the AP.  And I’m fairly sure that the Joint Special Representative will be delighted to take your questions at the stakeout.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Since there’s time that… that the… one of the people elected to head the staff union in elections held in December, the number two person has since been terminated, lost their job.  And, I’m wondering since people see this in the US at least, this would kind of violate NLRB [National Labor Relations Board] rules.  Is there some… any consideration given or is it in fact, retaliatory as some… as some have claimed?  What statement do you have on this?

Spokesman:  I don’t have anything on that.  I hadn’t… I was not aware of the situation.

Just one more note:  Monday, we will have… I can’t say we will have some entertainment but we will have an entertainer at the briefing.  The UN Free and Equal Champion and actress Celina Jaitly, who is a Bollywood star, would be here to brief on the UN Free and Equal Campaign for the LGBT [lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender] rights and as you know, we launched a video on that two days ago or yesterday, and it’s worth a look.

We will go get the President and he will brief you.  Thank you, have a great weekend.

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