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

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

5 October 2011

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

Good afternoon, and welcome to the briefing.


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Haiti, Mariano Fernández, has welcomed the confirmation of Garry Conille as Prime Minister, after a vote by the country’s Senate yesterday.

Mr. Fernández congratulated President [Michel] Martelly, as well as the President of the Senate, and the President of the Lower House of Parliament for their efforts and constructive dialogue. He said he hoped that the programme of the Prime Minister would get approval from both houses so that the major projects of national reconstruction can begin without delay. There is a press release in French on this from the UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). I also understand that the Secretary-General will be writing to the new Prime Minister.

**United Nations House in Abuja

Helen Clark, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), laid a wreath yesterday at the site of the August attack on the UN House in Abuja, Nigeria. Speaking to reporters following her meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan, she stressed that United Nations staff working there were unarmed civilians who had dedicated their lives to helping the people of Nigeria. She vowed that the attack would not stop the critical United Nations development work there.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

At 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference here sponsored by the Holy See [Observer] Mission.

And then at 12:30 p.m., there will be a final press conference by Michael Williams, the Special Coordinator for Lebanon, and that’s to mark the end of his mission in Lebanon.

That’s what I have. Questions, please? Yes, Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Sure. One is factual. First, I want to see if you have a comment on this. I know that the Secretary-General had said on Syria a couple of things. He’d said, you know, the… the… the… President Assad had lost all… lost his sense of humanity, earlier, and then more recently he called for coherent Security Council action. Given last night’s result of two vetoes, four abstentions, what’s his comment? It doesn’t seem like it was coherent, so what’s his message, what’s been his involvement, what does he intend to do?

Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General believes that the violence in Syria is unacceptable and cannot continue like this. And he’s been calling on the international community to speak and act in a coherent manner. The Secretary-General regrets that the Security Council has not been able to agree and hopes that it will overcome its divisions and find a collective way to address the situation. He believes we have a moral obligation to prevent further bloodshed and help the people Syria out of this dangerous crisis. That’s what I have for you. Okay?

Question: A follow-up on that?

Spokesperson: Yes.

Question: Do you expect a statement like this regarding Bahrain for example? And what is happening in Saudi Arabia at present? There is a crackdown on demonstrators…

Spokesperson: Well, it’s interesting you should mention that, Nizar, because, as you may know, we had a statement on Friday on Bahrain, in which the Secretary-General called for the release of all political detainees and he reiterated his appeal to the Bahraini authorities at the highest level to ensure the application of due process and respect for international human rights norms. That was on Friday. And that still stands.

Question: Yeah, but this is not addressed to the Security Council. The security, the… the… but the…

Spokesperson: Well, with respect, Nizar, this is addressed to the Bahraini authorities directly through this statement. And what the Secretary-General said in his statement on Friday still applies today. Okay, next question?

Question: Do you have anything regarding Saudi Arabia, I mentioned…?

Spokesperson: No, not at the moment. We are following these reports and if I have something I’ll let you know. Yes, Matthew?

Question: Sure, I want to ask about tomorrow’s Security Council meeting. It’s described as one on UNISFA [United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei], but the… yesterday the President of the Security Council said it will also somehow involve Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. So I wanted to know from the Secretariat side, first, is Hervé Ladsous the one going to do the briefing? Two, will it include the… the… the… those other two areas, and will Mr. Ladsous maybe do a stakeout or a first media… media availability if he is the one to do the briefing?

Spokesperson: Let me check on that multilayered question. On the last part, about whether the new Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations will speak to the press at the stakeout or in some other form, he will do that quite shortly. That is planned. So on the other parts, let’s find out. Yes, Tim?

Question: Has the Secretary-General met the Yemen Special Envoy since his return and will he be speaking to the press at all?

Spokesperson: I know that Mr. [Jamal] Benomar will be briefing people within the Secretariat on his various activities while he was in Yemen. And he is scheduled, I believe, to brief the Security Council. And I also understand that it’s quite likely that once he has briefed the Council that he would also speak to reporters. Once we have more details I’ll let you know.

Question: The SG said no more involvement in Yemen?

Spokesperson: Well, as you know, he has again spoken out repeatedly on the need for dialogue there and indeed on the need for the parties to make use of the good offices of his Special Envoy, in this case Mr. Benomar. Yeah, when we have more I’ll let you know. Yes?

Question: About the regret expressed by the Secretary-General on the Security Council that they didn’t agree on a resolution, does the Secretary-General have an opinion on a resolution that could find agreement? I mean, it looks like at this point from what we heard from the Russian, the Chinese delegations, they all agree that a resolution has to come out. It’s just that the language has to be… it should be a resolution that all can agree, so it’s not like an opposition to actually a resolution. So, if the Secretary-General could help in this, could he find the language for them if they come?

Spokesperson: Well, I think the Security Council is perfectly able to work as the Council should, and as it does. It’s not for the Secretary-General to suggest language. What he has said is that he indeed has repeatedly called for the international community as a whole, and that of course includes the Council, to speak and act in a coherent manner. And that’s why he regrets that the Council has not been able to agree, and he hopes it will overcome its divisions. And that’s obviously extremely important because of the level of bloodshed we’ve seen and the need to stop further bloodshed. It’s for the Council to work on the form of words and the action or otherwise of the activities that they will undertake. I think that’s where we are. Yes?

Question: Sure. Okay, I wanted to… to… to… to… there is as… It’s actually a Lebanon question. I don’t know, I… I… I… I just wanted to ask, there is a report that the Finance Minister of Lebanon has… has denied receiving the UN request for the Special Tribunal on Lebanon funding, he said that is not true, they haven't received a request. So I just… it’s kind of a factual issue and I want… I don’t… so I thought I’d… I… I ask you, has the UN system made such a request?

Spokesperson: Repeatedly, and will continue to do so, because it is a commitment that Lebanon entered into. Yes, other questions?

Question: Talking about brutality in Syria, have you seen this new footage of a girl who was mutilated and then turned out on television to be alive, still alive? The opposition presented a mutilated body saying that it had been tortured, and the girl appeared on television the same day and showed that she was not killed and someone else. I mean, the SG’s statement has been all the time one-sided, accusing the Government of killing…

Spokesperson: Nizar, that is absolutely not true. Yes, of course we’ve been extremely firm in condemnation of the violence being perpetrated by the security forces of the Syrian authorities, absolutely. But we — and I just did so again — we’ve said that the violence in Syria is unacceptable. That means violence from any quarter. And with regard to that particular case, we have not expressed a view on that particular case, but we are concerned about human rights abuses in Syria in general. And they need to be looked at. As you well know, there was supposed to be a fact-finding mission mandated by the Human Rights Council. Such a mission would be able to determine the facts in many cases and not just in one. Other questions?

Question: [inaudible] the Secretary-General word that civil… could develop a full blown civil war in Syria?

Spokesperson: What we’ve said, and as I just mentioned, Nizar, the Secretary-General believes we have a moral obligation to prevent further bloodshed and help the people of Syria out of this dangerous crisis. Other questions? Okay, have a good afternoon. Oh, I’m sorry. It’s really difficult to see you because of the camera and the lights. Yes?

Question: Can I ask you how to understand the Secretary-General’s comments on the Security Council? He said…

Spokesperson: Can you start again? I didn’t hear the beginning.

Correspondent: Okay.

Spokesperson: Another tip is to sit further down where the microphones are. Yeah, great. Thank you.

Question: Can I ask you how to understand the comment of the Secretary-General on the Security Council? You said the Secretary-General said he regrets the Council didn’t agree. So it sounds… could you enlighten us, does he regret… he regret on the… the… the… the absence of the agreement itself or the disagreement on the specific resolution?

Spokesperson: It’s imperative that the international community speak and act in a coherent way, that’s what the Secretary-General has been saying repeatedly, not just today. And he regrets that the Council has not been able to agree. And he hopes that the divisions that there are will be overcome. And it’s not for me to parse the language that’s been used; I think that it speaks for itself. Yes, last question.

Question: Okay. I have one for comment and one factual.

Spokesperson: [laughter]

Question: If it’s possible that… they seem to be different in… one, just a comment, I want to know if you have… maybe you will have one if asked, maybe you don’t. There is a request by Palestine to join UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] that you may be aware of, and I just wonder, the Secretary-General has said that, you know, that he is for the two-State solution, he said a number of things on this, does he… do… what does he think of that… of that request?

Spokesperson: You are absolutely right that the Secretary-General, as does the United Nations, as you know through resolutions, support the two-State solution, the two-State vision. As you also know, UNESCO and other parts of the UN family govern their own proceedings, and this is very much a matter for Member States. And so, it’s for Member States to determine what happens in each particular case.

Question: Okay. And the factual one is just… and… and… and for… I… this… sooner or later this issue will be behind…

Spokesperson: But the other one was factual, too.

Question: Yeah, no, no, I meant… but it was a request for a comment.

Spokesperson: Right.

Question: This one is very… it’s a very… it’s a factual question. I am informed by Security… UN Security sources that there was some type of a… of a… of a, you know… you know, get-together by… by the Secretary-General and UN staff, including Security on Friday, and that sort of uniquely… this is the thing I wanted to ask you about, that at the… the line-up of UN Security, people were told that they’ll be on the clock when they attend, i.e., some people feel that people were encouraged to attend, to sort of put this rift about the… the Turkish-UN Security incident behind them by actually saying they’d be paid even if they weren’t on duty that day, to attend the party. And I don’t… I ask this with all due respect, but I just want to know, is that true, was there such an event, were UN Security actually paid to attend it, and some people view that as sort of trying to kind of curry favour, I guess would be the way I’d put it?

Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General has had a number of receptions which he has hosted for UN staff from various parts of the Secretariat to thank them for their hard work during the general debate period. Yesterday, there was an extremely well-attended reception — standing room only — in the Secretary-General’s conference room, and that included, for example, interpreters, colleagues from the Department of Public Information, it included colleagues from the Office of Legal Affairs and the Department of Political Affairs. There was a similar event on Friday for Security staff, and there was an earlier one for the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. This is his way of reaching out to say “thank you” to all the staff who in their many different ways contributed to the success of the Secretary-General’s role in the general debate of the preceding two weeks.

Question: [inaudible] the only question, and this is… maybe you don’t… you won’t have it right now, but is… it’s… they seem to find it significant, I wonder if it’s true of other departments that it was announced at a line-up that people would be on the clock and paid to attend even if they weren’t on duty at the time. That’s what I want to… it may seem a small thing, but to some people it seemed… it seemed related to the incident and… and so, I just want to know factually if, in the other receptions that you described, whether people were told… were told that you will be on the clock, you will be paid to attend this?

Spokesperson: Well, I don’t know the answer to that, Matthew. I can certainly check. But obviously the point I am trying to make is that the Secretary-General has hosted a number of events at which he has said thank you to staff at senior and more junior staff for the role that they played — big or small, always significant — in the success of the general debate session and the Secretary-General’s role in it.

**Trip Announcement

I have just got a trip announcement which I can read to you, and that will then conclude the briefing.

The Secretary-General will depart New York on Sunday, 9 October, for a three-country visit that will take him to Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

In Norway, the Secretary-General will attend the “Energy for All — Financing Access for the Poor” conference and participate in a high-level panel on the theme “Energy and the Road towards Rio+20”.

And then while in Oslo, he will join King Harald V in the 150th anniversary celebrations of the birth of Fridtjof Nansen, the renowned Norwegian explorer. Nansen was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and served as the League of Nations first High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Secretary-General will also hold talks with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and meet with members of the Norwegian Parliament. He will visit the site of the 22 July bomb attack in Oslo.

The Secretary-General will then travel to Denmark, where he will attend the 3G Global Green Forum, a high-level public-private partnership which brings together leaders from Government, business, finance and civil society.

He will meet Queen Margrethe II, Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and other senior officials, and visit the site of the new UN City in Copenhagen, which is being constructed.

The last stop on the Secretary-General’s trip will be in Sweden, where he will visit Dag Hammarskjöld’s grave in Uppsala. In Stockholm, he will meet with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and other top officials.

The Secretary-General will return to New York on Wednesday, 12 October.

Have a good afternoon. Thank you.

* *** *
For information media • not an official record

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