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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 8 June 2011

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Guest

My guest today is Professor David Freestone, who’s the Lobingier Visiting Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence at George Washington University. And he’s here to brief us on the occasion of World Oceans Day.

**World Oceans Day

The Secretary-General, in a message, noted that World Oceans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of oceans to sustainable development. And it’s also a time to recognize the many severe challenges related to oceans. These range from depleted fishery resources, the impacts of climate change and the deterioration of the marine environment, to maritime safety and security, among others.

So what I would like to do is turn the floor over to Professor Freestone, who has some introductory remarks, and he can take some questions. And then I’d be very happy to take other questions and provide you with some other information after that. So, please professor, the floor is yours.

[Press conference by Professor Freestone is issued separately.]

So I have a few other items, and then I am happy to take some questions.

**Secretary-General on AIDS

The Secretary-General addressed the General Assembly’s meeting on HIV/AIDS this morning. He said that, while 30 years ago, AIDS was terrifying, deadly and spreading fast, we have a chance today to end this epidemic once and for all.

The Secretary-General emphasized that, from its birth, the campaign against AIDS was much more than a battle against disease. It was a cry for human rights. It was a call for gender equality. And it was a fight to end discrimination based on sexual orientation. It was a demand for the equal treatment of all people.

He said that if we are to relegate AIDS to the history books, we must be bold. That means facing sensitive issues, including men who have sex with men, drug users and the sex trade.

He also pointed to the need for greater global solidarity, for lower costs and better programmes, for accountability, for the promotion of the health, human rights, security and dignity of women and girls, and for the start of a “prevention revolution”. And we have his remarks in my office and online.

** Sudan

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Georg Charpentier, has expressed concern about the impact of the deteriorating security situation on civilian populations of Southern Kordofan.

The outbreak of fighting in Kadugli and in some rural villages in Southern Kordofan State has led to civilians being displaced. An estimated 7,000 people have sought refuge near the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) base in Kadugli.

The Humanitarian Coordinator has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Southern Kordofan, and reiterates that it is the responsibility of national authorities to protect civilian populations. Mr. Charpentier urges all parties to allow humanitarian organizations to assess the situation and provide necessary emergency relief.

** Libya

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Libya, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, is continuing his contacts with the principal Libyan actors on the way forward in the search for a political solution.

Yesterday, he met with the authorities in Tripoli, including the Prime Minister and the Chair of the People’s Congress, among others. He urged them to share their views with the United Nations regarding a transitional period that will allow for a political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people.

And today, in Benghazi, Mr. al-Khatib discussed the same issues with the Transitional National Council leader, Mr. [Mustafa Abdel] Jalil. The objective is to determine how best to help the Libyan parties agree on a transition linked to a political process that would end the fighting in the country.

The Special Envoy will attend the 9 June meeting of the International Contact Group for Libya in Abu Dhabi, along with the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe. The Special Envoy is expected in New York next week for consultations.

**Security Council

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, briefed the Security Council this morning on his investigations into the situation in Darfur. Council members followed the open meeting with Mr. Moreno-Ocampo with a private meeting on the same subject.

And as I think you know, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo will brief all of you in this room at 1:15 p.m.

And then, at 3 this afternoon, the Security Council will hold consultations on the Middle East. Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco will brief Council members on recent developments in Syria.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General will depart New York on Friday morning for a four-country trip that will take him to Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.

In Colombia, he will meet with the President, Foreign Minister and the Secretary-General of the Union of South American Nations. He will witness the signing into law of the landmark Victims’ Rights and Land Restitution Bill. He will also take a helicopter flight over flooded areas and meet with those affected.

The Secretary-General will then travel to Argentina, where he will meet with the President and Foreign Minister. And while in the country, he will also visit the International Centre for the Promotion of Human Rights and give a public address at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In Uruguay, the Secretary-General will visit the National School for Peacekeeping Operations, where he will meet troops who have participated in peacekeeping missions. He will also meet with the President, Vice-President and Foreign Minister, and address the country’s parliament.

And the last stop on his trip is Brazil, where he will hold talks with the President, Foreign Minister, Ministers for Social Development and Environment, and other senior officials. The Secretary-General will return to New York on 18 June.

That’s what I have for you. I am happy to take questions. Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question: The situation in Yemen… The President of Yemen is sitting in Saudi Arabia recovering from his wounds. Do you have any information that he is definitely going to come back, or is he not fit enough to travel and will relent?

Spokesperson: We don’t have any specific separate information. Of course, we are monitoring this extremely closely. The Secretary-General mentioned that to you here at his press conference just the other day, on Monday. Clearly the fact that he — President [Ali Abdullah] Saleh — is out of the country does change the picture, and it is too early to say precisely how it will change the picture. And it is why we are keeping a very close eye on it.

Question: There are reports — and you have read them, of course — that tribes are taking over certain parts of Yemen. I mean, certainly, there are tribes emerging and certain parts are being taken over. So will the… is there fear that this country can be balkanized?

Spokesperson: I think that the main fear at the moment, or the main concern, is the level of violence and the fact that a ceasefire did not hold, and, I think, coupled with that is obviously the concern that that violence is affecting many civilians, the civilian population. And that is something that the Secretary-General finds particularly troubling. Yes?

Question: On Libya, I just want to… on Libya, where Mr. al-Khatib is there now negotiating and so forth… on Libya, now, what kind of viable mediation can be found, because it seems that the Secretary-General and the UN has weighed heavily towards asking Mr. [Muammar al-]Qadhafi to leave, to ensure that peace is restored in the country?

Spokesperson: Well, I should correct you there. I don’t think that that’s the case. What the Secretary-General and others have said is that they believe that Mr. Qadhafi has lost legitimacy. And that’s rather different from what you said. And of course, as I just mentioned, Mr. al‑Khatib has visited Tripoli, and today Benghazi, and he is then going to the Contact Group meeting tomorrow. This is part of an effort of — yes, you’re right — mediating, talking to the two parties and then to others who are involved in this. As you know, there are other people and parties who have been visiting Libya, both Benghazi and Tripoli. This is a part of a coordinated effort. Yes?

Question: Yeah, I actually would like to follow up on the Libya question. There are reports that NATO has significantly escalated the attacks, helicopter bombing attacks, now during the day in Tripoli on Qadhafi’s compound, risking more civilian lives in the process. So, what I… and the military commanders, NATO commanders, are now openly saying that the objective is to pressure Qadhafi to leave. I am wondering, under the Security Council resolution 1973 (2011), which requires periodic reports to the Secretary-General — of incremental steps like this in the military campaign and in particular going beyond the narrow objective of protecting civilians — have there been recent reports to the Secretary-General as these bombings have escalated, and if so, can you share some of the substance of those reports?

Spokesperson: Not right here and now, I can’t. But you are quite right that there is a provision in the resolution for periodic reporting by the Secretary-General to the Council on the implementation of the resolution. And the idea is there is coordination that goes on. The reporting of any military operations is either for individual countries or groups of countries, including the ones you mentioned, to send to the United Nations through the Secretary-General to the Security Council. I can, of course, check to see where we are with those periodic reports, and indeed when the next one will be by the Secretary-General.

Question: Okay. Is that something that may be in the transcript to this press briefing that comes out later in the day, if it’s possible and you have more information, you can supplement it?

Spokesperson: Of course, yes. If we have additional information, we would certainly want to make sure that people have that available. Of course, yeah, if we have it at that time. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question: Thank you, Martin. The Secretary-General has met with the Foreign Minister of France, Mr. Alain Juppé, about the Middle East process. Does the Secretary-General… is he in favour of the holding of an international conference in Paris on the Middle East process, and are there any plans to have a meeting of the Quartet any time soon?

Spokesperson: Well, as the Secretary-General has mentioned, it’s obvious that there needs to be some movement in the Middle East peace process. There is no movement, and there are dangerous tensions that we have seen just in recent days and in the weeks that have gone by. The Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister of France agreed that the peace process needed urgent revitalizing. And they also exchanged views about recent discussions regarding the next steps in the peace process, and they recognized the important role of the Quartet.

Will there be a Quartet meeting any time soon? I don’t know the answer to that. What I can tell you is that the relevant envoys of the Quartet, including the Special Coordinator, Mr. [Robert] Serry, they meet regularly. They met recently in France. They will continue to meet and when it is appropriate timing, the Quartet principals would then be able to meet. But I don’t have any time or date for that at this point. Any other questions? Yes?

Question: There is this feeling that — about the Quartet, a follow-up on the Quartet meeting — that the Quartet is in the process of losing its relevance because it is not longer valid, because the negotiations that are going on now are between the United States, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Quartet is now becoming irrelevant?

Spokesperson: Well, I would think that’s a fairly old argument, that there is a sudden predominance in these negotiations and about the role of the United States. That is a relatively old argument, I would say. There are many efforts that need to be taken within the framework of the Quartet, which includes the United States. And so I think its relevance is clear, and remains. And as I have mentioned, even when they don’t meet at principals level, they are still meeting regularly. And, of course, there is also the envoy for the Quartet, Tony Blair. So I think that there is still work being done. It remains an important forum and mechanism, as well; even when they are not meeting in person, it is a mechanism for them to be able to exchange views, including on new initiatives that emerge. They need to be discussed.

Question: I am sure, but the thing is what is being said; that because the negotiations are still taking place between the United States, Israel and Palestine, why was the Quartet not involved in those negotiations, if it was still happening? It’s outside the Quartet’s mandate, is that what it is?

Spokesperson: Well, again there is any number of meetings going on. As you know, when the Secretary-General was in Rome just last week, he met with President [Mahmoud] Abbas. He as also able to speak briefly to the Israeli President, who also attended the same event that the Secretary-General was there for. So, these conversations, these meetings go on in different formats with different people.

So I wish you a good afternoon. Some people on World Oceans Day might like to be beside the ocean, given the temperature outside. All right, thank you. Bye bye.

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