Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 11 June 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.
The Secretary-General addressed a General Assembly meeting on HIV/AIDS this morning.
He reiterated that prevention is critical if the number of new HIV infections is to be cut by 1 million by 2015.
He said that goal would only be realized if people at risk were reached. That includes sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and also women and youth.
The Secretary-General also said that funds are needed to reach prevention and treatment targets, adding that international investment for the fight against AIDS dropped by 13 per cent from 2009 to 2010.
The Secretary-General has appointed Jeffrey Feltman of the United States as Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. Mr. Feltman will replace Lynn Pascoe.
Mr. Feltman recently served as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs with the rank of Career Minister.
The Secretary-General has also appointed Major General Young-Bum Choi of the Republic of Korea as Chief Military Observer and Head of Mission of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan.
Major General Choi succeeds Major General Raul Gloodtdofsky Fernandez of Uruguay, who will complete his assignment on 15 June 2012.
And we have more information on both appointments in my Office.
** Côte d’Ivoire
The situation in Côte d’Ivoire remains relatively calm but tense. No further incidents have been reported after Friday’s ambush, in which seven peacekeepers and a number of civilians were killed.
The UN peacekeeping missions in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and in Liberia (UNMIL) have taken a series of immediate measures, including the Mission in Côte d’Ivoire deploying additional uniformed elements to the border area.
Both missions have increased patrols and undertaken air reconnaissance missions. Even before the attack, the Mission in Côte d’Ivoire had already increased its presence in the area, and we understand that Ivorian and Liberian security agencies are increasing their presence as well.
The leaders of both peacekeeping missions have also been in constant contact with the Ivorian and Liberian authorities, respectively.
The Secretary-General called on Friday for the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to do its utmost to identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable for the attack. Four individuals have reportedly already been taken into custody by Ivorian security agencies, but their identities remain unconfirmed.
The Mission in Côte d’Ivoire, in collaboration with the Mission in Liberia, is launching a full investigation. As soon as we have additional information, we will make it available.
And the Security Council, as you may have seen, is meeting this afternoon to discuss Côte d’Ivoire in consultations. And that starts at 3 p.m.
Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, has expressed his concern about the delay in the relocation of the residents of Camp New Iraq, also known as Camp Ashraf, to Camp Hurriya.
He urges the remaining residents of Camp Ashraf to relocate to Camp Hurriya without delay. The relocation process should not be stalled.
Mr. Kobler said he was concerned that there will be violence if the relocation doesn’t recommence.
He also called on the Government of Iraq to avoid any forceful relocation, underscoring that each relocation must be voluntary.
So far, two thirds of the residents have already moved to Camp Hurriya, a temporary transit location near Baghdad, prior to resettlement in third countries.
At Camp Hurriya, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has a dedicated team determining the residents’ eligibility for refugee status, thus paving the way for a long-term solution, which would be their resettlement outside Iraq.
Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, welcomed the announcement yesterday by that country’s High National Election Commission that the National Congress elections will be held on 7 July.
He said the announcement of the date was an important step in Libya’s road to recovery and democracy, and it will enable essential preparations to be completed prior to voting.
Mr. Martin commended the Election Commission for the progress made in organizing a credible process consistent with the legal framework determined by the National Transitional Council.
And he emphasized that the United Nations is committed to supporting the Libyan people to achieve results which clearly reflect the will of voters.
** Latin America
The head of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, begins a five-day visit to the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Nicaragua today. During her visit to the three countries, she will reinforce the World Food Programme’s partnerships with Governments and communities in their quest to improve food security and nutrition.
And there is a media advisory with more details available in my Office.
**Noon Briefing Guest Tomorrow
And tomorrow, my guest will be the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy.
She will be here to discuss the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.
Questions, please? Matthew?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I have some other ones, but I wanted to ask now that you have confirmed the, the appointment of Mr. Feltman for DPA [Department for Political Affairs]. Inner City Press had reported this on 28 March and I’ve asked you a couple of times to respond to criticism by various Permanent Representatives here in the UN that they saw this as, not that Mr. Feltman is not qualified, but that he is so closely aligned with United States foreign policy on the Middle East that it, that it puts the UN in a, in a, in a, in a position that, that, that, that is, is viewed as less than independent. So you kept saying you had no announcement. Now that you have the announcement I just wonder, with all due respect, if there is some response to that criticism, which has been voiced even on camera by some Permanent Representatives but off camera by many more.
Spokesperson: Thanks for your respect, Matthew. Appointments that are made are made because the individual will then be serving as an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, reporting to the Secretary-General. They relinquish their national responsibilities, of course, and are at that point serving the United Nations, and they do so in an impartial manner. You witnessed a swearing-in ceremony for another Under-Secretary-General just this morning. And I would urge you to listen back to the wording, which will be the same for Mr. Feltman as it is for any other Under-Secretary-General.
Question: Just one, you know, just one follow-up if you don’t mind. I, I, I can, I think the question becomes because, because he was in that region for so long, representing the United States, there have been various public quotes out there by various players and parties in Lebanon and elsewhere concerning him, so I don’t, it’s not at all, even without even getting into the oath and, and complying with the oath, it’s that he is viewed in a certain way by parties that he now has to deal with, that, and which I don’t think Ms. [Ameerah] Haq is. So I am just, that’s with, that’s just to tighten the question up.
Spokesperson: Simply put, all senior officials bring to the task that they are assigned to deal with a great deal of experience in different fields. Mr. Feltman has expertise in other areas too, including in Eastern Europe, for example. So, just to reiterate, all senior officials, indeed all UN officials, do not serve in a national capacity. They serve the United Nations and they report, in this particular instance, to the Secretary-General. Yes, Masood, and then I am coming to you. Yes?
Question: In a front page article yesterday in The New York Times, they have focused on blacks, especially Ethiopians, who came into Israel following airlift of discrimination and patent discrimination against the blacks and human rights violations. They have been protesting; they have been in the streets. Has Secretary-General got to say anything about this? Because this is, has been going on for now quite some time, until they went out in the streets to demonstrate.
Spokesperson: I don’t have anything specific for you, Masood, at this point. If I do, then I will get back to you. I think as a general point, it is obvious that we would be against any form of discrimination. But as I say, I think I would rather check and see if we have anything further on that specifically. Yes? I’ll come back to you in one second; yes?
Question: But do you have anything…?
Spokesperson: I said I’d check, and if we have something I’ll come back to you. Yes?
Question: On Syria, if you please. Is it true that UN military observers have reported seeing Government helicopters shelling north of Homs?
Spokesperson: Well, I think you will have seen the statement or the note to correspondents from Ahmad Fawzi, the Spokesperson for Kofi Annan, that refers to helicopters, as I understand it. I can just read it out to you: “The Joint Special Envoy is particularly worried about the recent shelling in Homs, as well as reports of the use of mortar, helicopters and tanks in the town of Al-Haffa, Latakia”. So, I think that answers your question.
Question: But the question is the reports came from the UN, observers or reports from general sources? It doesn’t say that.
Spokesperson: Well, this is what I have here. And that, you could, I am sure easily check either with the spokesperson for the Mission or with Mr. Fawzi, who may have more details than there are here. But that’s what I have at the moment. Yes?
[The Spokesperson later added that the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) has reported heavy fighting in Rastan and Talbiseh, north of the city of Homs, with artillery and mortar shelling, as well as firing from helicopters, machine guns and smaller arms. In Talbiseh, UN observers reported that the Free Syrian Army captured Syrian Army soldiers. The impact from heavy artillery shelling and machine gun firing was heard and seen over the neighbourhood of Khaldiyeh in the city centre.]
Question: Thank you.
Question: Yes, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that, at the request of the Security Council, he will soon put forward a range of options. In doing that, is this, those options he’s doing with his Office or by himself, or he has, is welcoming options from other countries? How’s this, how he’s going to put together these options?
Spokesperson: There is a Mission on the ground, as I just mentioned and as everyone is aware. There is a Department of Peacekeeping Operations, a Department of Political Affairs — all are able to provide guidance, as well as the Office, naturally, of the Joint Special Envoy in Geneva — all are able to provide input into that process. It is being led, the process of coming up with these options, by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. And it is obvious that one would consult widely within the system and potentially beyond to hear what options are out there. But it is also obvious that, when the Secretary-General presents options to the Council, that these are coming together as compiled and recommended from within the system, from his own advisors.
Question: What, how much time we should expect? I know that it is difficult to exactly determine, but what is it, a week, two weeks…?
Spokesperson: At this point, I can’t answer that question. I don’t know. But obviously, everybody is aware that this is an extremely acute crisis, and the Secretary-General has said that he would be providing those options soon. I cannot put a date on it. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Martin. You just stated that the Secretary-General has appointed Mr. Feltman to replace Lynn Pascoe; do you know when he will be starting the job?
Spokesperson: I’d need to check. I can’t, I don’t have the date to hand with me. I’d need to check.
Question: Will he cover also Syria, the Syria programme or the Syrian crisis overall and the whole issue of the Middle East?
Spokesperson: Sylviane, he will be the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs; that covers an extremely wide portfolio that includes Syria, amongst many other topics. Yes, Matthew?
Question: A question on Myanmar and then two on Sri Lanka. One is, I am sure you have seen this uh, uh, violence that’s taking place, it’s reported as against by, by the Buddhist majority against Muslims, some say it’s Rohingya, some say it is just non-Rohingya Myanmarese Muslims. Anyway, at least 10 people are dead, and I am wondering, given, and there is a curfew has been announced, various countries have commented on it, what is the comment and what, and action of the UN, Mr. Vijay Nambiar, what, what do they think of what is going on and what should, what have they said to the Government?
Spokesperson: Well, what I can tell you is that we are following events carefully. And we are gravely concerned about the reports of violence and provocative actions taking place between the two communities. Okay?
Question: Have there been any communications? I mean, either sort of statements or Mr. Nambiar calling them or…?
Spokesperson: There was a statement I think you will have seen already by the Resident Coordinator in Myanmar, in which he mentioned that the United Nations has decided to temporarily relocate and voluntarily, non-essential international and national UN and partner NGO [non-governmental organization], international NGO staff and their families. And to come to the last part of your question, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator has requested full Government support for the safety and security of all UN and NGO staff and international NGO staff and their families in these various locations. Yeah. You had questions on Sri Lanka?
Question: I do, yeah. I do, yeah. One is… Yeah, the, the, I am sure you remember this, this chronology, but in September it was said that, that, that this panel will be reviewing the UN’s own performance in the final stage of the conflict, when up to 40,000 people were killed. Ms. [Thoraya] Obaid was named the head of the panel to look at three issues, it was said that it would be completed in four months and it’s now, I, I, I am counting, it seems like it’s nine, maybe it is eight; anyway I am wondering, what’s the status of that review? And also, I, I, I, I am compelled to ask you this: I’ve received a copy of a, of a, of a, you know, I guess I have received some of these, but this is a threat that I’ve received from it seems to be a Sinhalese or Sri Lankan extremist, saying I should “swim like a brick”, and the reason I am asking you about it is because it was cc’d to Marie Okabe and two other UN personnel. And I am wondering, what is the UN’s response when you receive this type of a threat? Uh, what do they do with it, what happens, and I want to know what they are actually going to do in this case?
Spokesperson: Well, I am not aware of that last one, Matthew. I don’t think I was copied on that one. On the first point, the review as recommended by the panel of experts is under way, and once…
Question: Is there some explanation?
Spokesperson: I beg your pardon?
Question: Is there some explanation for the four-month period being more than doubled now?
Spokesperson: This is something that is quite complex and quite important. And the review is under way, as I say. It is being headed by Charles Petrie, and it is in full swing, and when we have something to say further, I will let you know; but we don’t at the moment.
Question: And on this, when did Ms. Obaid leave, leave the post and, and, and…?
Spokesperson: She did not take the post; there are a number of difficulties of a personal nature for her taking it and someone else has taken the post, Mr.
Petrie, who is extremely well-qualified and is heading that review right now. Okay. So, any other questions, please?
Okay, all right, thank you. Have a good afternoon. Thank you.
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