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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 15 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General has arrived in Vienna. Tomorrow, he will address the opening session of the Third Ministerial Conference of the Paris Pact Partners on Combating the Afghan Illicit Opiate Trade. He will have a number of bilateral meetings, including with the Austrian President and Foreign Minister. He will also give an address at the Hofburg Palace on the theme “Empowering People in a Changing World”.

** Sahel

Leaders of United Nations agencies, representatives of affected Governments, and major donors today called for an urgent scale-up of humanitarian, rehabilitation and development assistance to address rising levels of hunger and malnutrition caused by the combined effect of drought, high food prices, displacement and conflict affecting the Sahel region of West Africa. After an emergency meeting at the headquarters of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Rome, participants agreed that the time for humanitarian action in the Sahel is now.

Leaders attending the meeting called for a comprehensive, rapid and robust response to the crisis to address the needs of the most vulnerable — especially women and children — among the millions who have been affected by drought. They called for a combination of relief with early recovery and longer-term development actions.

** Niger

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos and United Nations Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark will travel to Niger for a two-day joint mission on 16 and 17 February of this year.

USG Amos and UNDP Administrator Clark are scheduled to meet with President Mahamadou Issoufu, Prime Minister Brigi Rafini and other key Government officials to highlight the preparedness, work and early action to address the food and nutrition crisis. They will also discuss the need to better integrate humanitarian and development programmes to address the underlying causes of recurrent crises in the region.

Valerie Amos and Helen Clark also plan to visit Tillaberi in the south-west of Niger to see how resilience and humanitarian programmes are addressing the immediate food needs of people and also helping communities prepare for and cope with future crises. Ms. Clark and Ms. Amos will also meet representatives of donors and aid agencies.

** Somalia

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, humanitarian agencies are deeply concerned about the impact that recent fighting outside Mogadishu may have on the Afgooye corridor, where there are some 400,000 very vulnerable internally displaced people.

Early reports indicate that thousands of people in the corridor are fleeing their temporary homes. The agencies warn that an escalation of clashes could lead to an influx of tens of thousands of displaced people into Mogadishu, exacerbating the already fragile situation there.

**Security Council

The Security Council is visiting Cap-Haitien today. The Council members met with Government and city officials, as well as representatives of civil society. They also visited the city’s prison and tribunal. Members of the Security Council are now on their way to see the Caracol industrial site, outside Cap-Haitien. They will return to Port-au-Prince later this afternoon. The members of the Council will visit the Delmas police station.

**Press Conferences

And today at 12:30 p.m., here in the Auditorium, there will be a press conference on the African Diaspora Parliamentarians Preparatory Meeting, to be held in June 2012 in South Africa. Speakers will include Dr. Moussa Idriss Ndélé, President of the Pan-African Parliament, and Jean Victor Nkolo of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa.

And then at 1:15 p.m., there will be a press conference by Thilmeeza Hussain, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Maldives.

That’s about all from me. Questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question: [inaudible], Polish Radio. The Secretary-General I think was also supposed to meet in Vienna the Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. [Sergei] Lavrov, and you didn’t mention it in your statement. Is he going to meet with Mr. Lavrov?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, he is going to be having a series of bilateral meetings with a number of foreign ministers during his stay in Austria, and I believe he will probably be meeting with Minister Lavrov. That will be some time tomorrow.

Question: [inaudible] the subject of [inaudible] his meeting [inaudible] will be certainly Syria. Do you think the Secretary-General has any possibility to make Russia change the… its position about the resolution of Syria?

Deputy Spokesperson: I am not going to speculate on what the Secretary-General may or may not do. We will have to wait till we see the readout of that meeting to find out what was discussed and how the discussions went.

Question: [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General is looking for a way to have the international community speak with a coherent voice on the situation in Syria, bring the killings and violence to an end, and have the Government listen to the people who are demonstrating for human rights and for democratic development. So, these are obviously goals and objectives the Secretary-General has. How he does them in the meetings, we will have to see.

Question: [inaudible] Secretary-General support the motion by some Arab States to provide logistical and financial support to the opposition who are carrying out attacks against the Government?

Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has said that violence from any quarter must cease and the killings must stop. That is the Secretary-General’s position.

Question: Yeah, but sorry, he, here there is these countries which are unilaterally going on and giving support to the opposition, in this way prolonging the conflict and supporting them to get weapons. And, of course, we know that organizations are sending men through the border to carry out terrorist attacks in Syria. So what does he think about this?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as I said, the Secretary-General is looking for an end to the violence from all quarters. That is basically his objective. Violence has been perpetrated by the Government and violence has been perpetrated by demonstrators. He is looking for an end of the violence and an end to the killings.

Question: How about the inciters and the financial…?

Deputy Spokesperson: I am sorry, no, we have to move on to the next question. Sir?

Question: Good morning. Thank you. On violence and killings, the southern Afghanistan, US yesterday I think [inaudible] responsibility for killing eight civilians in a bombing in Afghanistan and accept the bomber was a US military aircraft. The SG must be very upset; what has been his reaction?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the SG is aware of the reports of the killing, and we are waiting for a report from UNAMA. As you know, it is not very easy for us to go out and investigate reports of killings. So until we have a report, we are not going to be commenting on it.

Question: Well, but you see, the US took responsibility for… he has been condemning bombings around the world over the past couple of days; is there anything different about this particular bombing?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as I said, we are waiting for UNAMA to give us a report. We base our reports on our findings. Sorry?

Question: Yeah, a follow-up to the question. Has the Secretary-General specifically condemned the role that Al-Qaida says it is now playing in Syria and those terrorist attacks?

Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has stated time and again that the killing and violence from all quarters must stop.

Question: Has he specifically condemned Al-Qaida’s role?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, he has specifically condemned those who are perpetrating the killings and the violence.

Question: And that includes Al-Qaida?

Deputy Spokesperson: I am saying he is completely against the killing and the violence, and he has said all killings and violence must stop. Matthew?

Question: Sure, yeah, I want to ask you about Sudan. There are, Government of South Sudan has said that Khartoum is blocking now the return of South Sudanese by barge because Sudan says that this will somehow help rebels along the way of the White Nile. Also, some South Sudanese who have been fired from their Government jobs in Khartoum have started protesting and being cracked down on. I wonder whether especially this is right in Mr. Menkerios’s wheel house. Does he have any comment on Sudan stopping or making more difficult the return to South Sudan, and also firing all South Sudanese civil servants?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we will have to check on that. I don’t have anything on it right now.

Question: And I also wanted to ask you this: A week ago, sitting where you are, Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous had said that on the appointment of this Shavendra Silva, the Sri Lankan general to be a senior adviser on peacekeeping, there was going to be further consideration. Martin said he’d ask him to see what he meant; he also told me to ask the Asian group, which I have, and the Bangladesh Permanent Representative has said that he and two other TCCs [troop-contributing countries] from Asia have told Sri Lanka to, quote “fix it”; that Mr. Silva is not acceptable. So, I wanted to know, is this what Mr. Ladsous was referring to and is the Secretariat playing no role whatsoever in seeking to fix having an alleged war criminal provide advice to Ban Ki-moon on peacekeeping?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I think Mr. Ladsous, and Martin and the Secretary-General have been very clear on this, it was a Member State decision. If Member States are taking actions, it is up to them to take whatever actions they see fit. But we are not going to comment on that because it is a Member State decision.

Question: So, just to be clear, if this does get fixed, the Secretary-General played no role whatsoever in blocking an alleged war criminal from advising him despite the advice of his own Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, just to quote you?

Deputy Spokesperson: Matthew, our position has been made very clear this is a Member State decision; it is for the Member States to decide.

Question: What is the Secretary-General’s criteria for condemning terrorist attacks? Because when it comes to condemning a terrorist attack on Iranian scientists he seems to be very hesitant; it takes him two or three times, two or three days to release any statement. But when it comes to the terrorist attack in Georgia and India, he releases a statement right away. What criteria he uses to release his statements?

Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General uses the criteria that when an attack takes place, we investigate the sources of the attack; we investigate the circumstances of the attack. And then if it is appropriate, he makes a comment. In the case of the attack on diplomatic missions, the Secretary-General has been quite clear: the inviolability of diplomatic missions must be maintained and it is a basic function of international law. And diplomatic personnel must be protected from violence. In the case of the Iranian scientist, I recall that I myself read that statement out the day after the incident took place. Basically, we had to find out what had happened. And, of course, we did not have the same… it was not the same situation as an attack on diplomats. Once we ascertained what had happened, we made the statement. So in that case it came out when it had to come out.

Question: Given that he specifically condemned that attack and almost every terrorist attack he specifically names the attack, has he specifically condemned the attack by Al-Qaida in Aleppo, for example, the other day? Did he [inaudible]…?

Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has condemned all violence from all sources…

Question: Did he specifically condemn the attack in Aleppo?

Deputy Spokesperson: If you’ve seen the statements that are online; available online, you will see what he has said.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that on 10 February the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General issued a statement saying:

“The Secretary-General firmly condemns the bomb attacks this morning in the city of Aleppo, which targeted governmental security offices and killed and injured scores of people. He extends his sympathy and condolences to the bereaved families of the victims, as well as to the Government and people of Syria. The Secretary-General reiterates that all violence is unacceptable and must cease immediately from all sides.

“The Secretary-General reiterates his strong conviction that the crisis in Syria can only be solved through a comprehensive peaceful political solution that addresses the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people and ensures the full respect of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”]

Question: [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesperson: Sorry?

Question: …about this case, [inaudible]…

Deputy Spokesperson: Sorry?

Question: [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesperson: I am sorry; the young lady in the red jacket?

Question: I just wanted to ask if the Secretary-General has any comment on Iran’s announcement on the new developments on nuclear technology?

Deputy Spokesperson: On?

Question: On their nuclear technology?

Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, well, the Secretary-General has been very clear on Iran. He has said that the Iranian authorities must satisfy the international community that its nuclear programme is for peaceful processes only, and that he has called on the Iranian Government to meet all of the Security Council and IAEA resolutions pertinent to that. And that continues to be his position.

Question: How does the Secretary-General categorize the situation in Syria? Is it a conflict? Is it an insurgency? Is it a civil war? Is it rebels? What kind of, how do you, does he, categorize it?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I don’t think we are categorizing and putting labels on things. What the Secretary-General has said and continues to say is that the violence from all quarters must stop and the killings must stop. The killings and the violence are totally unacceptable, whatever label is put onto it. That is the bottom line.

Question: But tomorrow — sorry the follow-up on that — tomorrow the meeting of the General Assembly is based on prevention of armed conflict. Does he subscribe to that opinion, or to that, this categorization?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we are going to see what the General Assembly decides tomorrow.

Question: Sure. I know that the Special Envoy, Vijay Nambiar, has been in Myanmar…

Deputy Spokesperson: Yes.

Question: …and the human rights… the, what is called the fledgling human rights panel of the country has just said publicly that it will not investigate charges of violations in the ethnic areas, which is something that the UN Special Rapporteur has said should take place and a variety of human rights groups have said. I wonder if he, as the UN’s, you know, this is, maybe everything else may be up to Member States, but he is assigned to deal with Myanmar; does he have any view of whether the Government of Myanmar should, in fact, as is called for by the UN system, investigate human rights violations in the ethnic areas [inaudible] Kachin area?

Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have any information on that. We will have to wait till Mr. Nambiar comes back and debriefs us on his meetings.

Question: [inaudible] he will debrief us, the press? Do you think he might hold a press conference?

Deputy Spokesperson: We will have to see; I can’t speculate on what he may or may not do.

Question: Will you ask him?

Deputy Spokesperson: We can always ask. One more question?

Question: Since the SG is condemning all violence in Syria, is he concerned about the role Gulf countries are playing in supporting, providing assistance to opposition figures who are using violence?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we are not going to get into labelling and not labelling who is doing what. What the Secretary-General has said and continues to say is that the killings and the violence in Syria must stop – from whichever quarter they come. And he has called on cooler heads to prevail and for a peaceful resolution of the situation in Syria. He has called for the people’s right to demonstrate to be maintained; the democratic processes and reforms should be introduced. But the most important message he has — and I continue to reiterate it — is that the killings and the violence from all quarters must stop.

Thank you so much. Have a good afternoon.

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