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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 31 October 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.

So, good afternoon everyone, and welcome to the briefing.


I am very pleased to have with me here today as my guests, on my right, Yuri Fedotov, who is the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and to my left, António Guterres, who is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. And they are here to brief you on their joint Memorandum of Understanding on the way that they will further enhance their cooperation in the way that they work together. And before they actually tell you a little bit more about that, they actually, they will sign this Memorandum of Understanding right here, and right now.

So, without further ado, I shall first of all give the floor to Mr. Fedotov, who will tell you a little bit about the document that has just been signed, and then I’ll hand over to Mr. Guterres. So, please, the floor is yours.

[Press conference by Mr. Fedotov and Mr. Guterres is issued separately.]

Okay, so, I just have a few more items and I’d be happy to take a couple of questions at the end.

** Afghanistan

As you will have heard, suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a UN compound in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, this morning, killing three employees of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and wounding two others. The refugee agency is seeking a fuller understanding of the circumstances of today’s attack, and has added in a statement that the functioning of its Kandahar office has been seriously disrupted. António Guterres, the High Commissioner for Refugees, who as you know was just here, has said in that statement that “this is a tragedy for UNHCR and for the families of the dead and wounded”.

And the Secretary-General this morning said that this attack underscores the risks that UN and international aid workers face in Afghanistan. He emphasized, once again, that this work is purely humanitarian. Its sole purpose is to improve the daily lives of the country’s people.

**Secretary-General on Population

The Secretary-General said that the world's population reached 7 billion today. He added that, together, we can be 7 billion strong — by working in solidarity for a better world for all.

He said that he will leave tomorrow for the G-20 summit in Cannes. And his message there will be loud and clear: Think about our children. Think about the future, with vision and foresight.

The Secretary-General acknowledged that we face a serious economic crisis, and that, for much of the world, fiscal austerity is the new order of the day. Yet even in these difficult times, he said, we cannot afford to cut loose those who are hardest hit. We have his remarks in my office and online.

**Myanmar Statement

The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, arrived today in Myanmar for a five-day visit at the invitation of the Government. The Special Adviser will hold meetings with the Government of Myanmar, political parties, civil society organizations and other key interlocutors, in implementing the Secretary-General’s good offices mandate.

**Security Council

On behalf of the Secretary-General, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, briefed the Security Council this morning to update it on the peace building agenda. In her remarks she noted progress has been made in creating more cohesive UN senior leadership teams and to respond more rapidly to leadership gaps, and this has helped minimize the loss of strategic momentum during critical periods. She concluded by noting that peacebuilding takes at least a generation to become truly sustainable, but that with new tools and a culture shift in place, we can help post-conflict countries beat the odds.

This afternoon, the Council will meet in formal sessions to discuss the situation in Libya and peace and security in Africa, followed by the situation in Somalia. And this will be followed by closed consultations on Somalia and other matters.

**Ladsous in Sudan

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, is visiting UN Peacekeeping operations in Sudan and South Sudan. At the weekend, he visited Darfur where the African Union-United Nations Mission, UNAMID, operates.

Today he is in Abyei, where the newest UN peacekeeping operation, the UN Interim Security Force (UNISFA) is operating. And he will visit South Sudan and the UN Mission (UNMISS) there in the week to come, as well as Addis Ababa where he will be holding meetings with African Union representatives as well as the United Nations Office to the African Union.

** Cyprus

The Secretary-General will be meeting with the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities in Greentree, Long Island, again today. Following the first day of talks yesterday, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Alexander Downer, spoke to reporters. And he said that the Secretary-General instituted substantive discussions on four key issues: governance and power-sharing; property; territory and citizenship.

Instead of making a statement to the press this evening, the Secretary-General will now probably speak to reporters tomorrow morning here at United Nations Headquarters. And we will alert you to the exact time when that is confirmed.

**Press Conferences

And at 2 p.m., there will be a press conference on the “Financial Crisis and Cooperative Banks”. Speakers will include Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

And then tomorrow at 11:15 a.m. in this room, there will be a press conference by Faiza Patel, Chairperson of the Working Group on Mercenaries.

And then at 12 p.m., the Secretary-General along with Assistant Secretary-General Robert Orr, will be here to brief on “Sustainable Energy for All”.

And then at 12:30 p.m., the Acting Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service, Justin Brady, and the Programme Manager for the Joint Mine Action Coordination Team in Libya, Max Dyck, will brief you on UN Mine Action and the challenges being faced in Libya today.

So, questions please? Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Yes, in response to a question of mine on Friday, your Deputy Spokesman inserted in the verbatim transcript that the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, “has been coming up with new and innovative steps, including those which he has presented to the Security Council”. Could you please share with us what these new and innovative steps he was referring to are, since Mr. Ross’s most recent Security Council report, I don’t believe has been made public, at least I haven't seen it in going to the Security Council website. And his last public statement I believe was that there was essentially a stalemate in the discussions between the parties. And related to that, can you see if you can possibly arrange for Mr. Ross to provide a press briefing when he’s next in New York?

Spokesperson: Well, we can certainly ask. And I will also look into the first part of you questions. Yeah?

[The Spokesperson later added that on 26 October, the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, presented to the Security Council a variety of initiatives taken pursuant to the parties agreement to explore new ideas put forward in paragraph 120 of the report of Secretary-General on Western Sahara of April 2011. These include the issues of demining, environment and natural resources among others.

He also explained to Council members two initiatives he will undertake to try and garner different ideas and perspectives regarding the Western Sahara. One is to bring together a group of the wise from the Maghreb region and the other is a discussion among Saharawis from different backgrounds.]

Question: On this report over the weekend, the killing of 10 Palestinians by the Israelis and one civilian by the Palestinian fighting [inaudible] over the border, I’d like to ask how has it affected the Middle East peace talk?

Spokesperson: Well, we put out a statement as you know. The Secretary-General had said that he’d been following with deep concern the recent escalation of violence and bloodshed in southern Israel and Gaza. And obviously in addition, the Office of the Special Coordinator on the ground, Robert Serry, remains actively engaged in supporting efforts to try to ensure that there is calm in the region. Obviously, any tensions are unlikely to be helpful at this point, and as the Quartet statement said last month and the Secretary-General has indeed reiterated that point since then, any provocative actions need to be avoided at this time.

Question: Insofar as that Secretary-General’s statement is concerned, when he… in that statement he condemned the action by the… by the militants across the border killing one Israeli, but he cautioned… he cautioned and he warned Israel not to use excessive action when it killed 10 Palestinians. So why…?

Spokesperson: Let me, let me…

Question: …so why is this anomaly over [inaudible]?

Spokesperson: Let me correct you. What he said was he urges maximum Israeli restraint.

Correspondent: Yes, that’s what he said, maximum Israeli restraint.

Spokesperson: That’s right.

Question: While he condemned the attack across the border, which killed one Israeli and this one killed 10 Palestinians. [inaudible] militants, of course are human beings.

Spokesperson: I think the point here… the point here is that… I beg your pardon?

Correspondent: I said, they are militants, of course, but they are still human beings.

Spokesperson: Any loss of human life, of course, is highly regrettable. The Secretary-General had said something very similar sitting here just a little while ago. And as I just also mentioned from that statement, he has said that he has been following with deep concern this recent escalation of violence and bloodshed in southern Israel and Gaza — there is no qualifications there. And also, he is appealing to all sides and he knows that Egypt has been brokering a truce arrangement. And he has been saying that he hopes that all sides will fully respect the calm that is being brokered by Egypt.

Question: Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to the Palestinian entry into UNESCO by [inaudible]?

Spokesperson: I think you will have heard him speak on that topic just a little while ago sitting right in this seat, and I don’t have anything to add to what he said at that point. Yes, Matthew?

Question: Sure, I wanted to… I some Sudan questions, but I wanted to ask you first about Libya. There is a Human Rights Watch report out about reprisal killings, pretty detailed. It says that all of the people have been chased out of a town called Tawerghaand… and it says that 53 bound bodies of Qadhafi supporters presumably were found in a hotel in Sirte. So I wonder… what’s the response in terms of accountability for what would pretty clearly be war crimes?

Spokesperson: Well, as you know — two things really — first of all, the Security Council resolution on this point is very clear. And that’s speaking directly to the Libyan authorities, namely that they were expressing grave concern about continuing reports of reprisals, arbitrary detentions, wrongful imprisonment and extrajudicial executions. And as you will also remember from last week, there was a statement from the Commission of Inquiry on Libya that urges the National Transitional Council and indeed future interim authorities to undertaken independent, impartial, transparent investigations into all allegations of violations of the rights of detainees in their custody and if they deem it necessary, recommends — meaning the Commission of Inquiry — that they seek the support of the interntional community. So I think you can see that there is a body of opinion out there that says that the Libyan authorities will need to investigate all cases of alleged abuse, reprisals and that is precisely what the National Transitional Council has undertaken to do and the interntional community will watch that very closely.

Question: The only thing… I just want to follow up on that. I just wanted to know, sort of what the role of… of the UNSMIL Mission would be, particularly in the case of these Tawergha people, they are not dead or at least yet, they are in the desert and they can’t return to their town. Is there some effort being made by Mr. Martin or UNSMIL to actually act on these, you know, these still pending situations?

Spokesperson: I’d have to check precisely on that. As I think I mentioned last week, there are human rights officers within the Mission, and so let me check to see what I can get for you on that. And let me just see if there are other questions then I’ll come back to you about Sudan. Yes?

Question: Luis Moreno-Ocampo in Beijing yesterday noted… announced that he is going to be presenting a report to the Security Council on Wednesday. Any plans, is he going to do a press conference or…?

Spokesperson: Let me check, let me check. I don’t know the answer to that at this point. But if we find out tht he plans to hold a press conference or some other interaction with the media, we’ll let you know. Okay? Yes?

Question: Yeah, I want to [inaudible] a couple of developments in Sudan even as Mr. Ladsous is travelling there I want to ask you about. And then also one sort of a follow-up to something that came up last week about the mandate of UNAMID. But in… in Darfur itself, where he was over the weekend, there are these reports of up to 1,500 Zegawa people are displaced in North Darfur, and Radio Dabanga says, you know, they appealed to the UN and humanitarian organizations to protect them, I just wonder, in his time in Darfur, did this issue of these… of these people on the run, did it come up? What’s UNAMID doing about it? Is… are there really 1,500 people on the run or what’s up with that?

Spokesperson: I’d have to check with you on that that precise point. I don’t have the answer right now.

Question: And now, I’ll go to this kind of mandate questions, because I just want to sort of get an answer to it. I think it had been said… Mr. Ladsous himself personally had said that… that UNAMID has no mandate to monitor the… the… the… what the SPLM-North were saying were flights of Janjaweed from Darfur to Blue Nile and the… the one mission on the Council, actually the US Mission, has said that UNAMID has a mandate from 2007 to monitor, verify and promote efforts to disarm the Janjaweed and that they would urge UNAMID to do all it can within its capabilities to track, deter and report on any movements by air of Janjaweed to areas outside of Darfur. I wanted to know, what’s the… what’s d… does it disagree that that is within its mandate? Why did it say what it did and will it now? Is it following this urging or does it now have the resources to do so?

Spokesperson: Well, on the movement of Janjaweed militia from Darfur to Blue Nile State and on the mandate of UNAMID, the mission has no information related to the possible movement of former Janjaweed or other militia from Darfur to Blue Nile. UN peacekeeping, as you know, does not have a presence in Blue Nile State, and from Darfur, the mission has not witnessed the movement of such personnel by plane or other means. And as to the question of whether we have a mandate, or the mission has a mandate to monitor movement of personnel on government of Sudan planes, UNAMID does have a monitoring mandate. If the mission had information on such movements, it would raise it with the Government. The mission does not have a mandate to conduct static monitoring of the movement of personnel by the Government of Sudan, meaning that the mandate is not explicit about monitoring who boards Government of Sudan flights. Should the mission have a reason to question the Government of Sudan on air movements, the mission would do so. Okay, all right?

Question: [inaudible]

Spokesperson: What?

Correspondent: I’ll try to transcribe it.

Spokesperson: Well, I was trying to speak quite slowly, but okay.

Correspondent: Yeah, thanks.

Spokesperson: Okay.

Question: Yeah, this is a follow-up to the Gaza question. The Israeli Ambassador [inaudible] sent at least two letters in the last few days to the Security Council with, I believe, copies to the Secretary-General. The first being dated 27 October after the first launching of rockets by the Palestinian militants from Gaza. And then he sent a second on 29 October complaining that he never got any response to the first one. I mean, how can the Secretary-General, you know… respond to this in a constructive way, you know, with… beyond just saying Israel should show maximum restraint when in fact it has shown restraint, it sent a letter after the first incident, and then targeted the specific militants who launched the ro… the initial rockets? Does the Secretary-General plan to acknowledge these letters in public and respond to them to recommend that the Security Council actually take the letters into some consideration… [inaudible]?

Spokesperson: Well, that would be for the Council; obviously that’s for the Council to determine what matters it considers. As for correspondence from Member States, if it’s correspondence of a kind that requires some kind of acknowledgement, then I am sure that that would be forthcoming.

Question: Well…

Spokesperson: And as to the more genenral point — and then I think we’ll leave it there — I’ve already mentioned in response to Masood’s questions what the statement says. It speaks for itself, I don’t really have anything further to add to that. Of course, you can parse it in different ways. Someone once showed me a cartoon with a rock here, and a hard place here, and the Spokesperson in the middle, so I think we’ll leave it there. Have a good afternoon. Thanks very much. Thank you.

Correspondent: Fair enough. I don’t want you to be an [inaudible].

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