Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 21 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.
**Secretary-General in Rio
This morning in Rio de Janeiro, the Secretary-General met with representatives of civil society and then attended a side event on energy, gender and economic growth.
And at that event, he noted that women still suffer terrible exclusion in too many parts of the world, with energy poverty taking an especially heavy toll on women.
The Secretary-General then participated in a side event on Green Growth for All, where he said that when we invest in green growth, we benefit the economy and the environment.
From there he attended an event on youth, where he said that young people want policies that respect people and our planet, and want to know that world leaders are on their side.
The Secretary-General is also meeting many world leaders on the margins of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, and we will provide details of those meetings as we get them.
He will also participate in a large number of events throughout the day, and his remarks at those events will be available in my office and online.
I was asked yesterday about the Secretary-General’s views on the just-concluded talks in Moscow between the E3+3 and Iran.
The Secretary-General regrets that the E3+3 and the Islamic Republic of Iran were unable to reach agreement on concrete and reciprocal measures at their meeting in Moscow.
The Secretary-General hopes that, in advance of the forthcoming technical and political meetings, the parties strengthen their resolve to quickly achieve a negotiated solution that restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.
In this connection, the Secretary-General appeals to the parties to resume their diplomatic engagement with renewed intensity and with the utmost flexibility.
And you will have seen that the Secretary-General met with President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad of Iran in Rio de Janeiro yesterday, and the readout of that meeting is available in my office.
The Security Council is holding consultations today on the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights, as well as on sanctions regarding Sudan.
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), recent violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State has resulted in a loss of lives and livelihoods, and widespread damage to property, including the burning of more than 2,000 houses. The World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed food to more than 80,000 people.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have helped the Myanmar Medical Association provide health-care services through mobile clinics. And for its part, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has provided plastic sheets, kitchen sets and other items to 900 families.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
Tomorrow at 2:00 p.m., here in this auditorium, there will be a press briefing organized by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute on the Conference on Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Risks Mitigation, which will be taking place all day tomorrow in Conference Room 1 of the North Lawn Building.
That’s what I have. Questions, please? Yes, Nizar?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Martin, it has been reported that two of the Palestinians who were killed in Gaza yesterday died as a result of poison gas — I mean, they were, the attack was against them by poison. Do you have any information about this, or is the United Nations following that up?
Spokesperson: No, I don’t have any information on that, Nizar. Should we have any information on that, I will let you know. I don’t have anything at the moment.
Question: Yeah, sure, I want to ask a couple, I guess, Sudan questions. One is, there is, there is, there are conflicting reports between the Government and the rebels of fighting in Southern Kordofan with the gover… rebels claiming they have taken over a major town; the Government saying it is not true. I know it’s difficult for the, for the UN, for the UN to, to speak on it, but it seems like it is an important topic for the UN, so what, what do they have to say about that fighting? And, and I also, I wanted to follow up on something that [Major] General [Moses Bisong] Obi said, but maybe I’ll do that, I’ll see if there are other questions. But first, first things first, Southern Kordofan; do you have anything on that?
Spokesperson: Well, first of all, you’re quite right that it is very difficult, because the United Nations does not have the access that it is seeking at a humanitarian level in Southern Kordofan or indeed in Blue Nile. Both of those areas are areas where we have been seeking to have the right kind of humanitarian access. So, we don’t have that, and that also therefore means that we don’t have a good picture of what is happening there. There are indeed conflicting accounts. You will also have seen that the Secretary-General had a meeting with the Vice-President of Sudan and the Secretary-General raised in that meeting the need for humanitarian access in both of those locations. Yes, Masood, and then Anna, yes?
Question: You want Anna first? Okay.
Spokesperson: I think it was marginal, but I think your hand went up first.
Question: Yes. Okay. I just wanted to ask, maybe this question has already been asked about this story about Syria, United States supplying arms to Syrian rebels. So, my question is: with that decision being, rebels being forwarded arms by the United States and by Saudi Arabia and Qatar and… Mr. [Kofi] Annan’s peace process, isn’t it in total tatters? I mean, these people, by doing this, have they undermined the peace process?
Spokesperson: Well, a couple of points: One is that the Joint Special Envoy and the Secretary-General have said repeatedly that further militarization of the situation in Syria is not desirable. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that, as became very clear at the Security Council meeting just recently, and even before, that when both Joint Special Envoy and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States joined the United Nations Secretary-General in briefing the Security Council and the General Assembly, the six-point plan is the plan, and it needs to be implemented in all its facets. That is plainly not happening at the moment; that has been said very clearly. But the determination of the international community is there for it to be implemented. So, is it where we would like to be? No, it is not. But it is the plan, and it is the one that the international community is pushing to see implemented.
Question: Alright; let me ask a further question. Being that, as you are saying, that so, does that mean, does the Secretary-General or the Secretariat believe that by supplying arms to the rebels or other factions over there, whoever is supplying, whether it is the United States, whether it is Saudi Arabia or Qatar or Russia coming in, does that undermine the process or not? This is what the question is.
Spokesperson: And I have answered; maybe not to your satisfaction, but I have answered it. And that is that further militarization of what is happening in Syria is not desirable. Yes, please?
Question: Thank you, Martin. I don’t know if you have any news you can report on this — always on Syria — quoting from The Guardian about this hypothetical UN-sponsored conference in Geneva on political transition in Syria; the story has been picked up by lots of media, all of them are just saying that it has supposedly been discussed with the G-20. Do you have anything that can confirm that actually there is a, that the discussions by the, should lead to this kind, this conference in Geneva? Have you heard about it? Can you comment about it?
Spokesperson: Well, Ahmad Fawzi, the Spokesperson for the Joint Special Envoy, has already said, and I can repeat, that there have been discussions going on for some time now and the Joint Special Envoy’s office has been involved in those discussions with Member States of influence and others for some kind of international meeting. But the details of where, when, who — those are topics that are under discussion. Yes, Giampaolo?
Question: The Secretary-General, in Mexico last Monday, said clearly for the first time that he is supporting the presence of Iran in any contact group or international conference regarding Syria. Is this pretty clear, is this understood, even if this doesn’t coincide with the American position, for example?
Spokesperson: I don’t think you really expect me to contradict the Secretary-General, do you? [Laughter]
Question: No, no, just to make sure that… no, my question is: contact group or international conference, what is that stage?
Spokesperson: As I said, there are discussions going on, including what such a meeting might be called, where it might be and when it might be. Yes, Nizar?
Question: Martin, has there been any progress regarding the evacuation of thousands of civilians from Homs?
Spokesperson: I think that’s a question to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been seeking to help evacuate people in Homs. I have not seen media reports that would suggest that that’s taken place yet. In fact, I’ve seen media reports to the contrary.
Question: Now, the observers are not involved in that in any way?
Spokesperson: They are not; but as I think you will recall, the head of the mission, General [Robert] Mood, said in his statement just the other day that he calls on parties to take immediate action to ease the pain of Syrians trapped in the violence and the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) stands ready to monitor their release once the decision is taken by the parties. …So just “stands ready to monitor their release” once the decision is taken by the parties. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask, it, this is, this also will be a Syria question; something that, that was asked but really didn’t get an answer on Tuesday in front of the Security Council, and I guess this is an UNSMIS question; which is that, what is the status of, of the, the investigation or report on the massacre at Houla that the Council asked for when they had this emergency weekend meeting. Syria has put out its own report that many people don’t, uh, don’t believe, but the… UNSMIS was supposed to do it. How has the slowdown impacted that and will there in fact be an UNSMIS report on Houla?
Spokesperson: Well, the Mission has sent its observations on the al-Houla killings to the Secretary-General for his consideration. The Secretary-General is in turn sending these observations to the relevant UN bodies monitoring human rights in Syria. And once these bodies complete their work, the findings on what I think everybody agrees was a terrible incident will be presented by the Secretary-General to the Security Council. Okay. Yes, Erol?
Question: Martin, I don’t know whether I missed it or whether you already announced that the Secretary-General, according to some press reports, will go to the Balkans and when. And if you did, please, can you tell us, eh, what you know about that?
Spokesperson: Was it you I spoke to this morning on the telephone, Erol?
Question: It was, and I was surprised… and you can understand that I am the only journalist who persists in asking these questions, almost four years, and I am saying, when it comes, we will announce. The Secretary-General exactly a month ago told me on camera that he is going to go to the region. And you have to understand that I am asking this question. I am embarrassed, though, not to be first to break the news that he is going to the region.
Spokesperson: [Laughs] Erol, as I told you on the telephone this morning, I don’t have anything to announce. If and when I have something to announce, then I will do so. But I do not at the moment. Okay. Yeah?
Question: Can I ask about, I want to ask about, a follow-up to what Mr. Obi said yesterday, and then I have one press freedom question; so, I want to be sure to, just running that by you in advance. The, the, General Obi, and you were with him, so I just, I, there is, he said a lot of things, but one thing that really grabbed me is, is in, he said that he, he very much would appreciate for his mission in South Sudan having unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles, i.e., drones; that it is a big area, it needs to be done. And when asked what safeguards might be in place in terms of how the information is used, he said: well, that would be up to the Secretariat; he would live by whatever limitations are, are imposed on him. Do, I wanted to get, I don’t know if it will by Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous, maybe it will be by somebody else in DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], is it possible to know what is the thinking of DPKO and, and the Secretariat on… Have they already proposed drones to C-34 [Committee of 34], on how the information will be shared, would, as raised by Mr. Obi yesterday?
Spokesperson: As I think the General made clear, there would need to be guidelines; and those guidelines would need to come from Headquarters. So, as and when such guidelines are developed, then I am sure that it will be feasible to provide some information on that. I don’t know how much information, but some information on that. I am sorry, Giampaolo?
Question: Martin, at the beginning of your briefing, you said the Secretary-General met Iranian authority in Rio. I didn’t get it; did he meet Ahmadinejad?
Spokesperson: Yes. Yes, he did. It was yesterday, yesterday evening. Yes. Say again?
Question: No, no, you said that there is a readout of the briefing downstairs of the meeting…?
Correspondent: Already sent, already sent.
Spokesperson: Yes, we have a readout, we distributed it earlier today. Yes. Yes, Nizar?
Question: Regarding the situation in the Kuwaiti Parliament, do you have anything today to say about it?
Spokesperson: I don’t. I am hoping to have something in due course, but I don’t have anything at the moment, Nizar.
Question: On Bahrain, it seems there is not any let, let-up in the release of these prisoners, so many of them, and also charges to be tried to and put to prison. What is the position on that? There is no such, no progress at all, it seems with regard to those detainees — Mr. [Abdulhadi] al-Khawaja still languishing in jail and although with all these calls, is Bahrain something forgotten or not?
Spokesperson: Absolutely not, Nizar. We have repeatedly stated our position on what needs to happen in Bahrain; and, when there are trials, for proper due process to be followed. We have spoken quite a lot about Bahrain and made our position very clear. And I don’t need to reiterate it right here, right now. Yes, Masood, and then I am coming back to you, yes?
Question: This is about this Gaza, about the stranglehold of Gaza and that Israel has killed two more Palestinians. The Secretary-General has any reaction to that?
Spokesperson: Nizar did ask about this in more, in slightly different terms. I mean, I think the key point here is that you will have heard the briefing by Mr. [Oscar] Fernandez-Taranco, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, earlier this week. And he specifically referred to the rocket attacks coming out of Gaza and said that we continue to condemn all indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel, which must stop. And we also urge Israel to show maximum restraint. He listed in his remarks, which were publicly accessible, the number of incidents to that point; obviously, this is now a subsequent incident to that point, those killed, those injured. So there is quite a lot of detail. I would refer you to his comments there in the briefing to the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Thanks, Martin. Thanks a lot, I wanted to make sure that all the, you know, substantive or, or outside world questions were asked in that, thanks for, for the Middle East. I just want, I had asked, I don’t know, a couple of weeks ago, what seemed at that time to me to be kind of a procedural or… or… or… or… you know, objective question which was, what’s the rights of, of journalists here to know if complaints are filed against them, particularly by competitors, and I had, I really don’t have an answer and that. That’s fine. But, I want to ask now, as I am extremely concerned, because I have become aware of a complaint filed by the Voice of America with MALU [Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit], asking that the status of my accreditation at the UN be reviewed; it’s to Mr. [Stéphane] Dujarric, it cites UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association]. And I’ve… so I have to renew this question. I want to know, what weights are given to such filings, particularly by large media organizations? Uh, are there other ones? What are the rights of journalists to know in these things or to, to respond to them, and, and what is, you know, if anything, I am sorry to put it this way, but does the Secretary-General have any views of this conflict, I guess, that has evolved, but has essentially resulted in a large media organization asking for me to be ejected for things that I have written, and I, I, I, I’m, I’m, I’m saying this as calmly as I can. I don’t know if you will respond now, but if I can get a response I’d like it.
Spokesperson: Well, I try to be as calm as I can always, too, Matthew, and I don’t have anything to say on this, at all.
Question: Do you think you could, and if, I mean, because I think it’s, I am sorry, I’m, that’s the reason I am asking is because I have, I am obviously extremely concerned. It’s not like it’s a, it’s not a small event. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a major United States Government, actually, entity asking that I be ejected from the UN. So I, I believe, and you’ve said before that we’d speak off-camera, there’d be some, some due pro… you know, some, and, and I, it’s not that I don’t trust due process. I’ve just, it’s, it’s actually come to a head now; it cites UNCA, and I just want to know what my rights are. You know, you can, you could e-mail me, but I do want to know what they are, so I can proceed accordingly.
Spokesperson: You have the right to ask questions here, and I think everybody would agree that you can ask questions of any kind. I also have the right to answer some questions and not answer others. And what I am… I am answering the question by saying I have nothing to say on this matter. Okay, all right, thank you. Have a good afternoon.
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