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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 5 April 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 everyone. Welcome to the briefing.

** Syria

This morning, you will have heard the remarks made by the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General and Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan on Syria at an informal meeting of the General Assembly. As you will have heard, the Secretary-General said that there can be no higher priority at this moment than stopping the bloodshed in Syria.

You will also have seen this morning that the Security Council issued a presidential statement, in which it notes the Syrian Government’s commitment to implement the Joint Special Envoy’s six-point proposal. The Council calls on the Syrian Government to implement urgently and visibly its commitments to cease troop movements towards population centres, and all use of heavy weapons in such centres, as well as the pullback of military concentration in and around population centres.

The Security Council presidential statement also calls upon all parties, including the opposition, to cease armed violence in all its forms with 48 hours of the full implementation of these measures. And the Council also underscores the importance of an effective and credible UN supervision mechanism in Syria to monitor a cessation of armed violence, as well as of the Syrian authorities’ allowing in immediate full and unimpeded access of humanitarian aid.

You will have heard the Secretary-General say that the stakes are extremely high, and that the backing of Mr. Annan’s efforts by the General Assembly has played a crucial role so far. The Secretary-General also said that the Security Council had for its part spoken out again in support of Mr. Annan’s work. And he sincerely hoped that this regained sense of unity in the Council will put pressure on all concerned to end the violence and suffering. And the Secretary-General asked all members of the international community to rally behind Mr. Annan’s efforts, especially in the crucial days ahead.

However, he did note that despite the Syrian Government’s acceptance of the Joint Special Envoy’s plan of initial proposals to resolve the crisis, the violence and assaults in civilian areas have not stopped and that the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate.

So the remarks by the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly and indeed of the Joint Special Envoy are all available online. And we’ve also made available a transcript of the press briefing by Mr. Annan’s spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, earlier today in Geneva. And, of course, the Security Council presidential statement is also available.

** Mali

You will have seen that this morning we issued a statement on Mali in which the Secretary-General joined the Security Council in demanding that the rebels cease all violence and seek a peaceful solution through political dialogue.

The Secretary-General himself has continued his engagement with regional and other leaders on the situation in Mali, holding conversations with the Presidents of Mauritania and Niger, and the Foreign Minister of Algeria, as well as with President Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire, who’s the Chairman of the regional organization ECOWAS, President Compaoré of Burkina Faso, who’s the ECOWAS appointed Mediator on Mali, and with Mr. Jean Ping, who’s the Chairperson of the African Union Commission. In his discussions, the Secretary-General reaffirmed his support for regional efforts to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the crises in Mali aimed at ending the rebellion and restoring constitutional order and the country’s territorial integrity. The full statement is available online.

** Central African Republic

In a message to a meeting today of the Friends of the Central African Republic, the Secretary-General said it was crucial that the international community supports the Government’s efforts regarding the sustainable disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants. He said these efforts should help improve security in the country, and in the subregion.

The Secretary-General appealed to the Friends of the Central African Republic to provide the necessary support, and not allow the process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration to falter.

He said that the fallout from a return to conflict would have profound consequences, not only for the Central African Republic, but for the subregion. The full statement, which was delivered by Lynn Pascoe, the Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, is available online.

**Press Conference

And still in that regard, at 2 p.m., here in this auditorium, there will be a press conference by the Prime Minister of the Central African Republic and the Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA). And they will be here to brief you on that meeting of the Group of Friends.

** Headquarters Closed

And just a reminder that tomorrow is a UN holiday, and so that means the briefing will resume on Monday.

In the meantime, I am here, and questions, please? Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Thank you, Martin. As you mentioned, the Secretary-General would like the international community to support the efforts of the Joint Envoy on Syria, Special Envoy, but prominent personalities, such as General [inaudible] said that those efforts may not be successful mainly because the monitors will not be armed. What does the Secretary-General think of that?

Spokesperson: The most important point here is that commitments have been made, promises have been made, and they now need to be implemented and kept. That refers, of course, primarily, to the Syrian authorities in Damascus, but equally in due course to the opposition in Syria itself. As you know, there was fairly clear language in the presidential statement from the Security Council on what is envisaged and the Secretary-General has been asked to provide — if I can just dig out the appropriate passage — the Security Council requests the Secretary-General to provide proposals for such a mechanism as soon as appropriate, and we are talking about a credible and effective supervision mechanism in Syria to monitor a cessation of armed violence in all its forms. And so, the Secretary-General has been asked by the Council to provide proposals for such a mechanism. I would also note what Kofi Annan himself said, the Joint Special Envoy, that this is very fluid, there are no fixed front lines. So, this is a rather unusual set of circumstances into which a possible monitoring team could be placed. Other questions? Yes, Matthew?

Question: Sure, Martin, I want to… about the session that just took place in the North Lawn Building. Some were… it seemed like on UNTV, if you were… the press wasn’t allowed in, but on UNTV you could see the presentations by the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly and Kofi Annan, and then it went black and we didn’t see. We could see through the glass, the other, you know, Ja’afari and other ambassadors speaking, but we have no id… it became closed, and I wanted to know, some people thought either it was one sided or just were curious why one part of the meeting was open, and the other wasn’t. Was the Secretary-General consulted, and why did UNTV turn off the cameras before the second part of the meeting?

Spokesperson: I would point out what the President of the General Assembly said at the outset of the meeting, and indeed what I said just at the beginning of this briefing, that it was an informal session, which typically would be entirely behind closed doors. But, because there were remarks by the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General and the Joint Special Envoy, those remarks were televised and after that, the interjections by the Member States were behind closed doors because it was an informal meeting. And that is not something specific to this meeting, it is a standard procedure.

Question: Yeah, there… have there… I mean are there… maybe there are, in which… if it is an informal, usually they don’t televise anything, so some… I am just saying, at… at… upon leaving the meeting…

Spokesperson: Well, as I just mentioned to you, Matthew…

Correspondent: Yeah, sure.

Spokesperson: …as I just mentioned to you…

Correspondent: Sure.

Spokesperson: …that’s right, but there were remarks by the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria. Those remarks were all being televised, because of the evident public interest in what was being said. It was, however, an informal meeting. The exchange of views afterwards was behind closed doors. There is nothing unusual in that, it is standard procedure.

Question: I just… just one follow-up, just to put up…, I mean there… there clearly was public interest in… the same of… of either the same, or at least some, public interest in hearing what was said afterwards, so I just… I am just trying to understand.

Spokesperson: Well, you are not trying very hard…

Correspondent: Sure.

Spokesperson: …because I have spelled it out twice, if not three times already, and I don’t propose to do so again. It is standard procedure. Okay, other questions?

Question: Has it happened before, that’s what I am asking?

Spokesperson: Other questions?

Question: Has it happened… I mean has it happened before that, that opening statements are televised and then nothing after?

Spokesperson: Correct. Yes, it has.

Correspondent: Okay.

Spokesperson: Yes?

Question: Regarding the rules of procedure on the election of the sixty-seventh President of the UN General Assembly, in a meeting with Ion Botnaru, the Director of the UN General Assembly and ECOSOC Affairs, it was confirmed that Lithuania did announce its candidacy back in 2004 on behalf of the Eastern European group, and Ambassador Dalius Čekuolis was the only candidate until very recently. Is it possible to invite Mr. Botnaru, as a special guest at a noon briefing, now that Serbia has put forth a second candidate, Vuk Jeremić, at the last minute in addition to Lithuania’s Ambassador Dalius Čekuolis? That would possibly force a vote in the General Assembly, rather than the next President being elected by acclamation. The last time this happened was in 1991.

Spokesperson: Well, we can certainly ask, but I really do think that it is a matter for Member States. It is within the overview of the 193 Member States. It is for them to decide. And beyond the technicalities, the mechanics of how such a vote takes place, beyond that, I don’t think there would be anything further that we could really say on the matter. It is for the Member States to decide and then to carry out. Okay, other questions? Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question: Martin, the faction that is holding Saif al-Islam, the son of Colonel Qadhafi, said that he would be tried in the country, that is in Libya, rather than in the International Criminal Court. What is the position of the United Nations?

Spokesperson: Well, first of all, typically, it is for national authorities to ensure that there is no impunity and that justice can be carried out in accordance with the law. That’s typically the case. And it is also the case that you have to look at the bigger picture, but typically, that is where we are, that if there is a national process available, then that is what should be carried out. But, there are two things here. One is that the ICC, in any case, the International Criminal Court is, in any case, independent of the United Nations. And the second is that the Libyan authorities are handling this and it is for them to decide, as a sovereign country, how they do deal with it. But, I am talking as a general principle about how these things would be handled. As you well know, with the International Criminal Court, it typically is involved in a number of circumstances, either if there is a Security Council mandate to do so, or if a Member State, a State Party to the ICC Rome Statute, is either unwilling or unable to carry out the national measures that I mentioned earlier on. Okay, other questions, please? Yes?

Question: Sure, I want to ask something about Sudan, but just two more things about this session this morning. One is, in the open… in the part that was televised, we were able to see the ambassador of Syria, Ja’afari, asked for a moment of silence and it was unclear if it was granted by the PGA or not. There were some people on the podium talking. Did the Secretary-General… what did… did he have any view of the request and did he observe this moment of silence that was requested by the Perm Rep of Syria?

Spokesperson: I think you heard the President of the General Assembly simply point out that this was, as I’ve said a number of times already, it was an informal meeting. So, I would refer you to the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly to find out if there is anything further beyond that. But, that is what the President of the General Assembly said in the session. You heard it too.

Question: But, since a… I mean at least another Permanent Representative in the closed session said that he thought it was inappropriate that Syria, the Syrian Government, would ask for a moment of silence, given, he said, their role in… in the deaths that were being silenced. Does the Secretary-General share that view? Did he have any view other than the sort of technical distinction between a formal and an informal meeting?

Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has been very clear talking about the suffering and the loss of life that there has been in Syria for a year now. And, as he himself said, the violence should have stopped months ago. Indeed, it never should have started, and the death toll is rising everyday and the human rights of the Syrian people continue to be gravely violated, and that people have been victims of horrendous abuse, including sexual violence. So, he has been very clear on his views on what is happening in Syria. I would refer you to the technicalities, on the technicalities, to the Office of the President of the General Assembly on that particular point.

Question: No, that’s very… and then, I just wanted to ask, this is sort of a… you might think it is…

Spokesperson: This is sort of…?

Question: …you might think it is a technicality, but through the windows and the… of this morning’s session in the North Lawn, I saw Maged Abdelaziz in the seat as the Permanent Representative of Egypt. So, since he has been named some time ago as a USG working for the… when does that begin and is there… I… I guess I just want to ask again: is there any acknowledgement that it could at some point present a conflict of interest to have somebody who has already accepted a job with the Secretariat still, you know, in the Budget Committee and in other forums overseeing or even negotiating around Secretariat matters? When does he start and… and what’s the response to the [inaudible]?

Spokesperson: Well, let’s find out the start date. I know that there have been exchanges on this matter already in my absence when we were travelling in Asia. I don’t propose to go over that ground again. If there is a start date available, then I will certainly let you know.

Question: And the Sudan one I just…

Spokesperson: Let me just check if there are other people, Matthew.

Correspondent: Okay, please, sure.

Spokesperson: Yes?

Question: Martin, you mentioned before Ahmad Fawzi is the Spokesperson for the Arab League…

Spokesperson: I don’t think I said, or I hope I didn’t say he is the Spokesperson for the Arab League. I said he is the Spokesperson for Kofi Annan.

Question: For Kofi Annan. Who are the staff of Kofi Annan besides Ahmad Fawzi?

Spokesperson: Again, this is something that has been gone into, and I don’t propose to revisit that. He has a team to do the job that he needs to do. And I am not going to go into further details at this point. Yes?

Question: Yes, maybe… maybe there will be an “if asked”, or some kind of a statement on this. South Sudan has said… has claimed for… again, that there has been bombing, aerial bombing of an oil pipeline of theirs, and this time they said that they shot down a Sudanese jet. So, this seems to be… if they did it, it’s a big development on… in this and I wonder, does UNMISS in Juba or in… with its… its peacekeeping mission there, can they confirm this skirmish and particularly the shooting down of a… of a Sudanese jet?

Spokesperson: Well, the short answer is no, they can’t confirm it. The UN Mission in South Sudan is certainly aware of the reports of an aircraft being shot down over South Sudan yesterday. They are aware of the reports. And the Mission has been in contact with the South Sudanese authorities on this matter, but as of yet, they have not been able to verify those reports independently.

Question: Are they seek… [inaudible] or just didn’t know, are they going to send… are they… do they think it is important to send out to see if it is true [inaudible]?

Spokesperson: Well, as I just said, Matthew, the Mission has been in contact with the South Sudanese authorities on this matter. I am not going to go into further details about what that might entail, but so far they haven't been able to verify those reports.

Correspondent: Okay.

Spokesperson: Okay, have a good weekend. Thank you.

* *** *

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