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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 19 March 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 morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the noon briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General arrived in Jakarta today at the start of his trip to Asia.

Tomorrow he will hold talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and deliver a speech on peacekeeping at the Indonesia Peace and Security Centre. The Secretary-General is also expected to tour the centre, where peacekeepers are trained. In his speech he is expected to outline the challenges United Nations peacekeeping forces face and commend Indonesia for its long-standing role in peacekeeping.

The Secretary-General will meet separately with the Foreign and Health Ministers and hold a town hall meeting with UN staff. He will also hold talks with Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. We will provide readouts of meetings where we can. The Secretary-General has a further day of engagements in Indonesia on Wednesday before travelling on to Malaysia, Singapore and Seoul.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council met in consultations to discuss its working methods.

**Israel-Palestine: UNESCO report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee

The Palestinian state-building achievement is at increased risk, resulting from increased financial pressure on the Palestinian Authority and the continued absence of a credible political horizon for a negotiated solution, the United Nations report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) has concluded.

The report states that in the last six months the Palestinian Authority has continued to realize progress in a range of different areas, including, for example, the capacity of the security forces in the West Bank and in the provision of basic services, and addressing the needs of the most vulnerable members of Palestinian society. The deepening of institutional progress, the report observes, represents a further step forward in strengthening the institutions of a future Palestinian state.

However, the Palestinian Authority continues to face an immediate challenge in meeting its funding gap required to help the Palestinian Authority honour its obligations and avoid accruing further arrears. Similarly, the continued Palestinian divide and the unsustainable situation in Gaza, as highlighted once again in the recent upsurge of violence, represent fundamental challenges which must also be addressed. The report urges renewed momentum on the ground. The full report is available online.

That’s it from me. Any questions? Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Thank you very much. Can you confirm that a team of experts sent by Mr. Kofi Annan has arrived in Syria, and if so, how long are they expected to stay there and, how many of them are arriving? And, yeah, can you follow up on the mission?

Deputy Spokesperson: Is that all?

Question: Yeah. [Laughter]

Deputy Spokesperson: Thank you. Yes, a team of experts was dispatched and arrived in Syria where they will remain as long as progress is made on the monitoring operation to end the bloodshed. That was confirmed by his Spokesman Ahmad Fawzi in Geneva. The mission has arrived. There are five people with expertise in political, peacekeeping and mediation. They will be staying for as long as they are making progress on reaching agreement on practical steps to implement Mr. Annan’s proposals, which include a monitoring mechanism. Mr. Fawzi has said he cannot disclose their exact location or their precise plans, and that Mr. Annan’s next visit to Syria would depend largely on progress made by the Syrians in working with the mission. That’s all I have on that.

Question: A follow up on that?

Deputy Spokesperson: One second. Masood?

Question: A follow up on the same, unless you want to take a question from Matthew.

Correspondent: Go ahead.

Question: No, I was asking the, Mr. Annan has made up, has said that he will, that his visit will depend on what is the progress being made. So without any substantive, substantial progress he will not be able to visit Syria, is that the case?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, what he is saying is that he wants to see responses and he wants to see progress — that’s why this team is on the ground in Syria; to pursue the proposals he made to the Syrian Government to see what kind of a reaction there is.

Question: So, basically there are no tentative plans for him to go now?

Deputy Spokesperson: Right now there are no plans for him to visit Syria. He has a mission on the ground and the mission is working at a substantive level to analyze the situation and see what they can come back with. Madame?

Question: Sir Richard Branson on Thursday, I think, was very vocal about the issue of the war on drugs and in particular the United Nations involvement in there. Is there anything going on in the General Assembly or in the next month or so on the issue of the war on drugs?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the war on drugs, you would have to basically speak with the UNODC [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime] in Vienna. The General Assembly, I don’t know what’s on their plans, you might want to speak with their Spokesperson Nihal Saad to find out if there is anything on their agenda on the war on drugs. Matthew?

Question: Sure, I saw where Mr. Fawzi was quoted as saying that he couldn’t say, you know, where they are going, but can you say who they are? Is the tea…

Deputy Spokesperson: No, we cannot say who they are.

Question: Why not?

Deputy Spokesperson: Because we cannot say who they are.

Question: And, are they being paid with UN money and if so, how can you not say who they are?

Deputy Spokesperson: Matthew, the important thing is that we have two teams on the ground. One is following the humanitarian route to see if we can get humanitarian aid to the people who desperately need it. The other one is there to try and find a political solution to the situations, so the violence and killing end. Those are the main themes we are working on. If and when we have administrative issues to discuss, we will discuss them.

Question: My question is whether Nasser Al-Kidwa, the deputy who was named and appointed by the Arab League, is among those going, and it is not an administrative detail.

Deputy Spokesperson: I cannot say. I cannot say, I am sorry. Masood?

Question: Last week I had, I think it was on Thursday of last — I didn’t come on Friday — Thursday I had asked Martin that there was this report from Save the Children, what do you call, organization about 8,000 children being in Israeli jails on and off in the last several years and the charity has alleged that children were brutally treated and abused. And he said, he said we have nothing and we’ll get back to you. And he didn’t get back to us. But, when yesterday, when on Friday, somebody asked him a question about one person in [the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs tweeting] – I don’t know whether it was a tweet or not about something about Israel, I mean there was this long statement by him. On the children there is no statement. What, why is this going on?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, nothing is going on, Masood. The situation is that the Secretary-General has raised the question of prisoners with the appropriate authorities on a variety of occasions. He was in Israel and in the Palestine territories in the month of February; he raised the questions again. So, these issues are on the table, these issues are being discussed by the Secretary-General with the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government. And if and when we have something more concrete to say, we will say it.

Question: No, but what I am saying is in this case these are the children. I may, I have, when there is an abuse against children it is an absolute outrageous act. We remember what happened in Congo, what kind of action was taken by the United Nations and every time there is violence against children or children being used in an army and so forth, the United Nations comes out with some very, I mean statements saying in it that this is all wrong. But, children are being abused in Israeli jails. Palestinian children, for but stone throwing they are being punished with, I mean, so, that is what is that I asked the question about that particular aspect — for which there was no answer. Still there is none.

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as I said, the Secretary-General raises these issues on a regular basis with the authorities involved, and he seeks to find an improvement of the situation of all prisoners in jails.

Question: Sure, I want to as you, the, the, a num, a second judge of the Cambodian tribunal, extraordinary courts in the chambers of Cambodia has quit, Mr. Kasper-Ansermet, and he said that he has been interfered with by the Cambodian Government and disallowed from investigating further genocide suspects. Given the UN’s role in the court, what’s its response to this second resignation?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General has received Judge Kasper-Ansermet’s resignation as reserve international Co-Investigating Judge of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia [ECCC]. He is very grateful to Judge Kasper-Ansermet for his service and the situation of the ECCC continues to be of serious concern and we are examining it closely.

Question: This will be, I mean, given what he said publicly that he was undermined by the Government… I mean, do you have more to say, are you going to be naming…?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we have no comment at the time being for the reasons for his resignation.

Question: And with Mr. Senussi having apparently been taken into cap, ICC [International Criminal Court] indictee Senussi from Libya in Mauritania, did the Secretariat or the UN have any view of whether he should remain in Mauritania, go to the ICC in the Hague or go to France or Libya?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General has been on record always as saying that impunity should not be allowed and accountability should be enforced everywhere for all crimes. ICC is an independent body; it will proceed as it sees fit and we again believe very strongly in accountability.

Question: And also in Eritrea, Ethiopia, do you have any, I know that there was a statement that both sides should show restraint. There have now been more reports of Ethiopia going into Eritrea a second time. Can the UN, does it have any knowledge if that did take place and, I mean, even if some countries looking at it have said, is there, why did he call for restraint on both sides, if in fact the military action was entirely by one side against another?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we call for restraint on both sides so there would be restraint in the response, as well in the actions. In that sense I have nothing further to add. If and when we have something, we will get it to you.

Question: I just, I wanted to ask one…

Deputy Spokesperson: One more question.

Question: One follow-up, yeah, I asked about this, and Martin said he would look into it, this allegation by a former UN official that the UN system is not providing aid to the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan…

Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, we are exploring that, and when we have an answer we will get back to you.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, had informed his office of the following:

“UNHCR and partners continue to assist refugees in Yida. UNHCR has been working with various partners to provide basic life-sustaining assistance to refugees in Yida, including protection monitoring, community services and food. Moreover, UNHCR is providing funding support to one of two health clinics in Yida, as well as two protection NGO partners. UNHCR has also recently completed a full registration of the refugee population, which helps identify persons with specific needs and tailor protection and assistance interventions that respond to the broader needs of the refugee population.”]

Okay, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Have a good afternoon.

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