Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 06 August 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.
** Sudan and South Sudan
I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Sudan and South Sudan.
The Secretary-General welcomes the deal reached by the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan on oil and financial arrangements. It is an important milestone for building good neighbourly relations between the two States.
The Secretary-General is encouraged that the two Governments have significantly narrowed their positions on contentious issues. He regrets, however, that they have not met the 2 August deadline set by the United Nations Security Council in endorsing the African Peace and Security Council Road Map. He urges the Sudanese and South Sudanese leaders to muster the necessary political will to resolve all outstanding issues.
The Secretary-General commends the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North for signing, separately, Tripartite Memoranda of Understanding with the African Union, League of Arab States and the United Nations on humanitarian assistance to war-affected civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. He urges the Government of Sudan to expeditiously enable the delivery of aid to the populations concerned.
The Secretary-General commends the African Union High-level Implementation Panel, led by former President Thabo Mbeki, and his Special Envoy for their efforts in helping the parties make progress.
Lieut. Gen. Babacar Gaye, the interim head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), said today that he was extremely concerned about the continued violence in Syria, and, in particular, the significant deterioration in Aleppo and its impact on the civilian population.
He urged the parties to protect civilians and respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. Civilians must not be subjected to shelling and use of heavy weapons.
General Gaye called on all parties to take all necessary steps to open a dialogue as the only way to alleviate the suffering of civilians and bring this conflict to an end.
The Secretary-General will be leaving New York on Friday for a visit to the Republic of Korea and Timor-Leste.
In the Republic of Korea, the Secretary-General will visit the southern city of Yeosu to take part in the closing ceremony for the 2012 Expo. The Secretary-General will speak at an international conference there on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, during which he will launch the UN Oceans Compact.
In Seoul, the Secretary-General will hold talks with a number of officials and he will also visit two universities to highlight women's empowerment and global health.
In Timor-Leste, the Secretary-General will hold talks with the President and Prime Minister, and deliver a speech in Parliament. He is also expected to visit the country's police academy.
Also while in Timor-Leste, the Secretary-General will meet with key education actors, visit a school and give a lecture at the University of Dili on the role of education in nation-building. This will be in advance of the launch of Education First initiative on 26 September, his new global effort to promote universal access to quality, relevant and inclusive education. He will be accompanied by the Director General of UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], Irina Bokova, and his Special Envoy on Global Education, Gordon Brown.
The Secretary-General will return to New York on 17 August.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, began her three-day mission today to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.
After meetings in Kinshasa, she is due to travel to the east of the country tomorrow, where she will see for herself the humanitarian impact on hundreds of thousands of people recently displaced by intense fighting in the Kivu provinces.
She is scheduled to give a press conference in Goma on Wednesday.
The World Food Programme has confirmed the death of one of its drivers in an attack in the State of South Kordofan, in Sudan.
The World Food Programme’s driver, Jamal Al Fadil Farag Allah, was killed in an armed attack on 4 August near Hilat Yatu, some 80 kilometres north of Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan State.
The World Food Programme’s Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, said that it is unacceptable for humanitarian workers to face attacks while they are working on the frontlines of hunger in countries like Sudan.
I can tell you that the Secretary-General is saddened to hear this news, and he shares the views of the Executive Director.
** Middle East
Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, has said he regrets the decision yesterday by the Government of Israel to bar the Foreign Ministers of Bangladesh, Cuba, Indonesia and Malaysia from access to the West Bank. The foreign ministers had intended to attend the extraordinary meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement’s Committee on Palestine yesterday in Ramallah.
Serry said that the denial of access was yet another step that contradicts the credibility of the Oslo arrangements. He called upon the Government of Israel to reconsider its decision.
Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, has expressed concern over the delay in selecting the new Board of Commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC).
He said that any further postponement in appointing the new Commissioners would pose a serious threat to the democratic process in Iraq, and he called for the selection process to be completed. Mr. Kobler also repeated his call for the parties to ensure that women are represented in the new Board of Commissioners.
The Secretary-General announced today that the Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security, Gregory B. Starr, has conveyed his intention to leave the position of Under-Secretary-General towards the end of 2012 due to personal and family reasons. The Secretary-General has accepted Mr. Starr’s decision with regret, and will initiate the process of selection to identify a suitable successor.
The Secretary-General is deeply grateful to Mr. Starr for the dedicated services he has rendered to the Organization and for so ably leading, during nearly four years, the United Nations Department of Safety and Security at a critical and challenging juncture within heightened serious security risks facing the Organization worldwide. The Secretary-General is particularly appreciative of the great leadership and exemplary commitment displayed by Mr. Starr in the implementation of his mandate.
So questions, please? Nizar and then Masood.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Regarding this incident in Rafah, which took place over the weekend, the attacks on the Egyptian soldiers, does the Secretary-General have any reaction to that incident?
Spokesperson: We are aware of the reports but I don’t have anything at the moment. If that changes, I will let you know.
Question: How about the killing of three Iranian hostages today in Damascus and the threat of killing the rest of them by the Syrian Free Army?
Spokesperson: Again, we are aware of reports of a number of people being held but not of the latest development you’ve just alluded to. If we have anything further, I’ll let you know. But I don’t have anything at the moment. Masood?
Question: Okay. Is the Secretary-General any closer to announcing an appointment to replace Mr. [Kofi] Annan, who has resigned? And, what you call, the other question is about this incident that happened in Wisconsin, where seven Sikhs were killed, and the Sikh community was outraged at that. Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to that?
Spokesperson: On the second question first: Of course, the Secretary-General is aware of what happened in Wisconsin and he was deeply distressed to hear of that. And of course, the details of what was behind this attack are still emerging. But any incident that takes the lives of people in such an atrocious way in a place of worship of course is to be condemned. But if we have anything further, I will let you know. On the first question, I suppose, by definition, yes, we are moving closer to an announcement, but we are not there yet. The Secretary-General remains in very active and close contact with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States. If and when we have an announcement, we’ll make it. Yes?
Question: Sure. I actually have one follow-up on this. I wanted, maybe, you will, you will, on Friday, I asked Russian Ambassador [Vitaly] Churkin about the prospect, somewhat widely reported, of Martti Ahtisaari possibly replacing Kofi Annan. He expressed a pretty negative opinion. My question to you is not whether or not he is a nominee, but what is the role of P5 in this? I understand that it’s the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General of the Arab League, but does the Secretary-General check with the permanent five members of the Security Council prior to announcing a name or after it’s announced?
Spokesperson: I think it’s normal, for any high-profile appointment, that there would rather be broad consultations ahead of an announcement. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Martin, good morning. In the absence of the appointment of a new Special Envoy, might not the good offices of the Secretary-General and his considerable mediation skills be of use in this Iranian hostage situation before, say, any others are killed? I mean, there is still time to save lives here.
Spokesperson: I think that it’s obvious that there are a number of players involved in this already, and I don’t think I want to go into more details at this point. Yes?
Question: Again on this case of the Rohingya. Over the weekend, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, was quoted as saying, “The Rohingya are not our problem,” and also somehow saying that they may be terrorists, or saying a variety of things that are leading to no aid being delivered to them in the territory of Bangladesh. I wonder: is the UN system trying to just speak to Bangladesh about providing aid to the Rohingya? Or what’s the, what’s the, it seems like, you know, it’s from the top of the country, so it seems that maybe the UN will have a response to it.
Spokesperson: Well, in the past, the Government of Bangladesh has discharged its international obligations by providing and facilitating humanitarian support and assistance to the refugees that have entered its territory. And given its traditional hospitality to the people fleeing violence and unrest, notwithstanding the challenges posed by the present situation in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, we hope that the Government of Bangladesh continues to facilitate provision of humanitarian assistance to Muslim refugees from the northern Rakhine State. Yes?
Question: On another Iranian matter, in Libya, you know, there are at least seven members of Iranian Red Cross picked up in Libya. Do you have any response to that?
Spokesperson: We are aware of the report, as are our colleagues in the Mission in Libya, the United Nations Mission in Libya, but as I’ve mentioned, I think that this is an appropriate question for the International Committee of the Red Cross and for the Libyan authorities, and also for the International Federation of Red Crescent and Red Cross Societies. Yes, Masood and then Nizar?
Question: Sir, is the Secretary-General, does the Secretary-General concur with Mr. Robert Serry’s statement on Israel’s denial of visas to the six foreign ministers of non-aligned countries? And has he, since then, spoken with anybody in the Israeli Government to either tell them to facilitate this at all?
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General, to my knowledge, has not spoken in the last day or so to Israeli authorities. No, he has not. Other questions, please? Yes, Nizar?
Question: Martin, it’s obvious from various media reports coming over the weekend that Al-Qaida is deeply involved in the circumstances or the situation in Aleppo in particular. Even The Economist mentioned Al-Qaida housed in Turkey, where everybody goes there and is recruited to go to Aleppo. How does the Secretary-General feel about countries now blatantly helping Al-Qaida to go and infiltrate and interfere in another country, with all the resolutions taken at the Secretary-General, at the Security Council and at the General Assembly?
Spokesperson: I think we’ve made perfectly clear on any number of occasions that the Secretary-General does not believe that further militarization of what’s happening in Syria is helpful. Other questions?
Question: How about, how about with Al-Qaida, in particular, to go in and have its own bases in Turkey? Is Turkey not violating all these resolutions?
Spokesperson: Nizar, I’ve answered the question. Yes?
Question: Sure. There was an incident where it’s said $300,000 en route to UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) in Darfur was stolen, heading to Nyala. They haven’t, the UN hasn’t, sort of a, seems like, they confirmed there was a theft and they haven’t confirmed the amount. I’m just wondering: was this, were these UN funds, is it somehow insured? Is it just lost? Do you any idea whether it went to armed rebels like JEM [Justice and Equality Movement]? What more can you say about this incident? It’s a lot of money.
Spokesperson: This was, I’m informed by my colleagues in the Mission there, UNAMID, this was an armed robbery of a Bank of Khartoum vehicle, and it involved the theft of undisclosed amount of money that belonged to the bank; it didn’t belong to the United Nations nor to the Mission. It belonged to the bank. And indeed, the vehicle which was carrying bank employees and Sudanese police officer had been on its way to the UNAMID headquarters in Nyala, and Sudanese police have begun an investigation. But just to make it clear, it’s the bank’s money, not the Mission’s money. Okay. Last question?
Question: There was another theft, of a lower profile but of a, of a, GPS of the French peacekeepers in Lebanon, in UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon). I think in a place called Tyre. I’m just wondering, do you have anything on that, in terms of, just because it obviously has a potential for a, for use? What, what, what, is the UN investigating? Is there any potential for getting it back? What’s behind it?
Spokesperson: I’ll check with UNIFIL. Okay. Thanks. Have a good afternoon. Thank you.
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