Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 21 July 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.
**Security Council and Noon Guest
The Security Council has been receiving an update on the situation between Israel and Lebanon, in closed consultations this morning. Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, briefed the Council and he will be joining me shortly to brief you on his meeting at the Council.
He was presenting the Secretary-General’s recent report on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006). And I can also tell you that Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, also briefed Council members on Lebanon today.
**Secretary-General on Malawi
I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Malawi.
The Secretary-General is concerned by news of violence in Malawi, where clashes between demonstrators and police caused many deaths and injuries. He is saddened by the loss of life and reiterates his call for all differences to be resolved through peaceful means.
The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, was in Mogadishu today. He was joined by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, in a visit to show solidarity with the people of Somalia amid the suffering caused by the drought. Mr. Pascoe met with the Somali leadership, including the President, the Speaker of Parliament and the Prime Minister.
Mr. Pascoe’s discussion with the Somali leaders also focused on a variety of political issues, including the implementation of the Kampala Accord, the adoption of the road map and the end of the transitional period, and the consultative meeting to be held in Somalia in the coming weeks. Mr. Pascoe held a joint press conference with Somali officials in Mogadishu and he is also speaking to reporters in Nairobi.
The World Food Programme’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, is also in Somalia today to view the Programme’s operations to feed vulnerable people there. She said the situation was a life and death one. The World Food Programme is preparing to open up a number of new routes — by land and air — into the core of the famine zone to establish the necessary operating conditions, including those that will secure the safety of humanitarian personnel. She added that the World Food Programme would start airlifts within days into Mogadishu to bring in vital supplies of special nutritious foods for malnourished children.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Saïd Djinnit, was in Conakry today to meet with President Alpha Condé of Guinea. Djinnit condemned the attack on the President’s residence, as expressed by the Secretary-General in his statement on Tuesday.
He reiterated the support of the United Nations to the democratic process in Guinea. He also encouraged President Alpha Condé to pursue the path of dialogue with political parties, including the opposition, in seeking consensus on the outstanding issues regarding the preparation of legislative elections.
**United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Wrapping up a three-day visit today to Iran, Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), met with the country’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. UNODC is strengthening its work in Iran with a new country programme.
At today’s meeting, Mr. Fedotov and President Ahmadinejad discussed ways to enhance cooperation and increase technical dialogue with the international community. During his three-day visit, the Executive Director also visited Iran’s eastern border with Pakistan and Afghanistan to see first-hand how Iranian authorities are strengthening border security and anti-narcotics efforts. And there is more information on this on UNODC’s website.
**Occupied Palestinian Territory
Two senior UN officials visited the Bedouin village of Khan Al Ahmar in Area C of the Occupied Palestinian Territory today, at a time when there has been a significant increase in demolitions in the area.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that more demolitions have taken place so far this year than in all of 2009 or 2010. The Office presented new research, based on field visits to 13 communities in Area C, which found that, in most of these communities, Palestinian families are being forced to leave due to restrictive policies of the Israeli authorities. The research also shows that these policies, which include settlement activities, are undermining traditional livelihoods and placing thousands of others at risk of displacement.
I was asked yesterday about the detention of a Sudanese staff member of the UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Idriss Abdelrahman, who had been arrested in South Darfur on 27 April.
The Darfur mission has informed us that Mr. Abdelrahman was released from detention yesterday afternoon in Nyala, South Darfur. The prosecutors told UNAMID officers that charges against him were dropped due to lack of evidence.
That’s what I have for you. And I am happy to take questions. I understand that Mr. Williams will be joining me shortly. Yes, please, Paolo, and then Masood, yeah?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I have a question about yesterday’s meeting on climate change. After what happened in the Security Council, the so-called concept of the climate change peacekeeping force, the agreement is still viable or is it something that is off the table now?
Spokesperson: Well, as I think you saw, there was a presidential statement issued by the Security Council, and that I think gave you a good snapshot of where the Council is on this matter. And I think you will also have seen that the Secretary-General, in his remarks, was quite clear on his views on the topic. And I think that they were self-explanatory. There is certainly more work to be done on that topic in different forums. And I know that it does remain a subject that the Secretary-General is very keenly interested in. Masood, and then Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Martin, on top of the briefing that you talked about the Bedouin being replaced and are being displaced on the West Bank and so forth. Has the Secretary-General had any conversation with any Israeli officials about this?
Spokesperson: He has done periodically in his contacts with Israeli officials; not in the last few days, but it is a topic that has come up periodically, certainly.
Question: In another similar matter, one Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, has accused Israeli authorities of mistreating the minors, Palestinian minors, who they arrest between 17 years or younger. Have you… has the Secretary-General or anybody taken note of that and asked the Israeli authorities to ease up on this? There are cases that 835 minors have been sentenced by Israelis or punished by the Israelis.
Spokesperson: Certainly, we are aware of the report, and I think the relevant folks who handle this, in other words, that would be our colleagues at UNSCO [United Nations Special Coordinator’s Office] in Jerusalem and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would be aware of this and looking into it. But I don’t have anything specific on that right now.
Question: The only reason I asked was because… has the Secretary-General taken note of this, would he be talking to the Israeli authorities about it?
Spokesperson: As I say, we’re certainly aware of the report, and the relevant people within the UN system, I am sure, would be taking a closer look at it. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Martin. The Secretary-General, as you know, attributes the highest priority to the issue of climate change. As you mentioned, the Security Council issued a statement to that effect. Would the Secretary-General have preferred a resolution, which has the full force, than a simple statement by the President of the Council?
Spokesperson: Well, let’s be careful. A presidential statement is not simple; that’s an important matter. And this was clearly a topic that drew a lot of interest, and you only had to look at the number of speakers at that meeting yesterday to see that. The Secretary-General has made clear his views on the importance of this subject, and believes that it was crucially important that the subject was the topic of a Security Council meeting.
Question: Because the Secretary-General attributes the highest importance to the issue, would he have preferred to see a resolution come out of the Council?
Spokesperson: As I’ve said to you, the Secretary-General expressed his gratitude to the presidency of the Council in the person of Ambassador [Peter] Wittig of Germany, and he said that this was a very important meeting and dealing with an important subject. And he said that, as the effects of climate change increase, so too will the threats to international peace and security. So, he has stated quite clearly what his views are. He has also… I think the important thing is the priority, climate change is obviously crucially important. As you know, the Secretary-General is seeing this within the context of sustainable development, needing to join the dots between these different areas to ensure that the world can move on in a sustainable way. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Yes, sure, I want to ask about Sudan and peacekeeping. One is, there has been this quote by the Foreign Minister of Sudan, Ali Karti, that there is an openness on the part of Khartoum to, quote, “foreign troops” in Southern Kordofan. Is that, has the UN been informed of that? What does the UN think of that statement?
Spokesperson: We are certainly aware of the statement, and we’re following up with the Sudanese authorities to try to understand in greater detail what that means.
Question: Okay. I also… this, and I guess I am still looking at now this… this report that was put out by the human rights component of UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan]. And I’m just… you know, one of the many things said in it is that…
Spokesperson: Let’s just roll back a bit, and I am sorry to interrupt you, but it is not a report that has been put out by UNMIS, it is an as yet un-finalized report that was leaked. So let’s get the context correct.
Question: Okay, no; absolutely. Let’s say this: the leaked report says that an UNMIS staff member witnessed 150 dead bodies of Nuban descent in a military facility in Sudan. So, my question is, even though it’s a leaked report, it seems to be such a serious allegation that it seems strange that the UN would say, well, we’re going to wait two weeks to finalize it. What is being done, since that 150 dead bodies was witnessed by a UN staff member? What actions have been taken, even while the actual document itself is being finalized?
Spokesperson: I am sure that the relevant people, and you’ve heard Ivan Šimonović speaking on this topic, will have been seeking to follow up on it. And as you heard Mr. Šimonović say, there are efforts to gain access, so that there can be the kind of follow-up that you are talking about. And if Mr. Šimonović has any further follow-up on that, then obviously I’d let you know.
Question: And just one more on peacekeeping. Today at the stakeout, Mr. Le Roy said that he’s leaving on 10 August. So that seems to be coming up pretty quickly. What can… without, I guess, getting into the names, but what’s the process for… is there are going to be a new Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations on 10 August, or when is the process thought to come to a conclusion? Is there a shortlist, et cetera?
Spokesperson: I would doubt that there would be a new Under-Secretary-General in place to take over the day after Mr. Le Roy leaves office. Obviously there are, there is an established procedure for having an officer-in-charge until a new Under-Secretary-General is appointed. And when we get to that stage, an announcement will be made. Okay, further questions? Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Martin, yesterday, I asked a question about the tension in the South China Sea, and I asked particularly if the Philippines have… they have sent a message to the United Nations asking for mediation, and have you been able to find out whether such a message arrived?
Spokesperson: Well, we’ve checked; so far, as far as we know, no formal request has been lodged with the United Nations. Clearly this is a topic that is being dealt with in the region by the regional countries and indeed by the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] regional organization. Clearly, our hope would be that this is a subject that is dealt with through dialogue and consultations so that an amicable arrangement can be reached.
That’s what I have for you. Anything else? Okay, so I think what we will do is we will draw to a close and when Mr. Williams is available, we will start again. Okay, thank you very much.
[Press conference by Mr. Williams is issued separately.]
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