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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 8 February 2012

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. Welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Guest

As you can see, my guest today is Hervé Ladsous, who is the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. Mr. Ladsous is here to brief you on the focus of UN peacekeeping for this year and its activities. After Mr. Ladsous has briefed you and taken questions, I will have a few other items for you and will also be happy to take questions. So first of all, welcome, and the floor is yours.


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

And as Under-Secretary-General Ladsous just mentioned, we earlier issued a statement in which the Secretary-General welcomed the inauguration of the Darfur Regional Authority today. He congratulated the Government and the Liberation and Justice Movement on this important step forward. He also reiterated the commitment of the United Nations system to support their efforts and those of the Darfur Regional Authority to bring peace to Darfur. And the full statement is available online.

**Security Council

This morning Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet briefed the Security Council on the UN Mission to Kosovo and the situation there. Mr. Mulet said that while the situation on the ground has calmed down, it remains fragile. He noted that as the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was resuming in Brussels following a three-month hiatus, all sides renewed their efforts to stabilize the situation on the ground and focused their attention to achieve results through good faith engagement. And the full text of his comments is available in our office.

This afternoon at 3 p.m., the Secretary-General will brief the Council in closed session on his recent visits to the Middle East and to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa. The Secretary-General is expected to speak to journalists at the stakeout afterwards.


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said today that the assault on the Syrian city of Homs was appalling, and that it was urgent that the international community to cut through the politics and take effective action to protect the Syrian population. The full version of Ms. Pillay’s statement is available on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

**South Sudan

The level of food insecurity has risen sharply in South Sudan, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

It says that the number of food-insecure people has jumped from 3.3 million last year to 4.7 million this year. Of those, about 1 million people are severely food insecure. The report also estimates that the number of people who are severely food-insecure could double if conflict continues to cause major population displacements and food prices keep rising.

The World Food Programme and its partners are already preparing to respond to increased needs if the situation deteriorates further. And there is more available on that online.

**Press Conferences

And finally a couple of press conferences tomorrow. At 1 p.m., there will be a press conference by Jan McAlpine, Director of the UN Forum on Forests.

And then at 3 p.m., there will be a press conference on the Tara Oceans Expedition. This press conference is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations.

Questions, please? Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question: I want to ask on the Maldives. I definitely heard your statement yesterday…

Spokesperson: Say again?

Question: On, about the Maldives. Things are now supporters of the, I guess, former President have started seizing some police stations. But it was described as a, you know, here, as a resignation and an appointment and a handover of power. And now the individuals say, the President, Nasheed, said that he was forced out at gunpoint, and he would like his successor, who he attributes that to, to also step down. And I understand that his successor, Waheed Hassan, was actually a UN system employee at one point, just for what it’s worth. I am wondering, is there any update to the Secretary-General’s statement that he made yesterday, in light of that it really, apparently, wasn’t a resignation, but in fact it seemed to be an armed coup by a former UN system official.

Spokesperson: I think if you look at the statement carefully, what it said was that the Secretary-General expresses his strong hope that this handover of power, which has been announced as a constitutional step to avoid further violence and instability, will lead to the peaceful resolution of the political crisis that has polarized the country in recent months. And he calls on all Maldivians to refrain from violence. He still does. Yes, we have seen the reports of violence, and he also continues to encourage them to engage constructively in addressing the challenges that the country faces. And also, as we already announced, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernández-Taranco, is still planning to visit the Maldives this week.

Question: I just… you know, I absolutely… I… I mean, I did… I am looking at it right now, I am just wondering, it is the first… it’s the top paragraph that I am looking at where it says “resignation”. Is it now, or does it remain the UN position that this was a resignation, or was the man forced to resign at gun point? Is that a resignation?

Spokesperson: Well, do I have to read that out as well, Matthew?

Question: No, no, I am just wondering, is there an update?

Spokesperson: It says “the Secretary-General has learned of the resignation”. I mean, if we want to sit here and parse statements, we can happily do that. But it says “has learned of the resignation”, and it says “which has been announced as a constitutional step”. Clearly, events are unfolding, and that’s one reason why it is particularly timely that Assistant Secretary-General Fernández-Taranco is going to visit the Maldives. Next question?

Question: Okay, sure. The… I wanted to ask about this thing that I had asked you before about the noose. I had asked you in this room to… to… that security sources said that a noose had been found and that they were very troubled that it had just been removed; they were unaware of steps taken. Can you, I believe that you can, or maybe you won’t, at… now after, at this distance, can you confirm that that it was found and what is being done about it?

Spokesperson: I think we already told you, Matthew, that an investigation was immediately launched, and that an investigation is under way and will, we believe, be brought to a conclusion quite quickly.

Question: But there is a confirmation that the noose was found, just an investigation of who planted it?

Spokesperson: There was an investigation into the incident, that’s right.

Question: Right, but I am just want to understand you correctly, that means that the UN acknowledges that the noose was found, they just don’t know what…?

Spokesperson: Yes, of course.

Correspondent: Okay, all right, all right.

Spokesperson: Yes, of course.

Correspondent: All right. I want to be…

Spokesperson: Yes, of course, Yes.

Correspondent: All right, thank you.

Spokesperson: Yes, Masood?

Question: On the situation in the Persian Gulf, which is now becoming more contentious, reason seems contentious, President Obama has imposed more sanctions on Iran. Has the Secretary-General got to add anything to his original statement he keeps on repeating, that you repeat on his behalf, that Iran [inaudible]?

Spokesperson: Masood, shall we cut a deal here? Masood, shall we cut a deal here? You don’t need to keep asking me. When I have something new, I will tell you. How about that?

Correspondent: That’s all right, I have to keep on asking you this question because the situation is changing every time.

Spokesperson: I think the situation is indeed, the situation is indeed tense.

Correspondent: Very grave.

Spokesperson: Of course it is, and the Secretary-General has expressed his repeated concern over that. And he has also expressed what needs to happen. And if I have anything further to elaborate on that, then I would surely let you know. But at the moment, what he has said stands. Okay, other questions, please? Yes?

Question: Hi, Martin, good morning. President Saleh, he has said recently in the papers that he would be back in Yemen in time for the 21 February vote. What comments does the Secretary-General have on that or any of his travels — not the Secretary-General’s, but President Saleh’s travels — at all? Anything new?

Spokesperson: Not really. If we have something further beyond what we have already said on this, what is important is for the agreement that was reached to be implemented fully. And that is the most important aspect. And that includes ensuring that the elections that are scheduled to go ahead later this month do indeed go ahead. Yeah. One last question, Matthew?

Correspondent: Martin?

Spokesperson: Yes?

Question: I have been [inaudible] another question on Falkland Islands. Has the Secretary-General been contacted by the Argentinean Government on the issue of Falkland Islands [inaudible]?

Spokesperson: No, we have read the reports, but no, not so far. Yeah?

Question: I just want… and I just… you heard Mr. Ladsous now say that the number is in the hundreds. And I am just wondering, is that, I heard him say it, so we can just report that the UN says that it is in the hundreds, the casualties from Pibor. But is there…?

Spokesperson: That’s what a press conference is for.

Question: No, I understand. So I mean, but hundreds is obviously anything between 101 and 999. Is the UN ultimately going to get… the last he said was dozens and your deputy said 15, so in terms of this issue of updating, is that… this is the update, is there ultimately going to be a [inaudible]?

Spokesperson: Well, again, again, Matthew, again, Matthew — let me choose my words quite carefully here — you know well, and the Under-Secretary-General just said so, that an investigation, an inquiry, was being conducted by human rights specialists in the team in the Mission to understand what happened. That is in the process of being completed, and when it is done, then I am sure that more details will be given. He has given you, if you like, a sneak preview, and more details will be forthcoming. As he said, those figures in themselves are high, but not as high as the media estimates have been quoting a local official at the time. Okay, thanks. Have a good afternoon, thank you.

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