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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 09 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.

** Syria

The Secretary-General sent a message to the Consultative Meeting on Syria taking place today in Tehran. In it, the Secretary-General said that, despite repeated verbal acceptances of the six-point plan endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, both the Government and the opposition continue to rely on weapons, not diplomacy, in the belief that they will win through violence.

The Secretary-General said that the primary responsibility for stopping the violence rests with those on the ground. A first move by the Government is vital, as its intransigence and refusal to implement the six-point peace plan has been the greatest obstacle to any peaceful political process, ensuring the distrust of the opposition in proposals for a negotiated transition.

The opposition, too, should be more forthcoming in favour of opportunities for a political solution. Most importantly and urgently, all sides must protect civilians and abide by their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.

We have the full text of that message available in my office.

** Libya

Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, has welcomed the peaceful transfer of authority from the National Transitional Council to the newly elected National Congress.

In a statement, he warmly congratulated the Libyans on the peaceful and democratic transfer of power, which is not only a first for the country but an inspiration for others. He called it a profound break with the past and a great leap forward on the road to a democratic and accountable State.

Mr. Martin said that the United Nations remains ready to continue to assist the Libyans in their democratic transition. He added that much work lies ahead to consolidate and build on what has been accomplished.

We have a full text in my office.

** Myanmar

Wrapping up a four-day visit to Myanmar, the Director of Operations for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs expressed his concern today over the plight of more than half a million internally displaced people in the country. John Ging also called for respect for humanitarian principles and for international humanitarian law to allow aid agencies to help those in need in conflict areas.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Myanmar’s authorities have made notable efforts to achieve peace in the country, but conflict still continues in Kachin State, and more than 60,000 people have been uprooted by the recent violence in Rakhine State.

Mr. Ging said that, while there has been significant progress resulting from democratization, peacebuilding and development processes, conflict and communal tensions could undermine stability and generate significant humanitarian needs. He also appealed for donors to support the $32.5 million Rakhine Humanitarian Response Plan. The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, has released $5 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund to provide immediate support to the most vulnerable.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo/Rwanda

Ms. Amos is in Rwanda today. The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs completed her trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo yesterday, visiting a public site on the outskirts of Goma, where some 30,000 people have settled. Ms. Amos met people who had trekked for days as they fled fighting between the national army and armed groups.

Insufficient funds, insecurity and poor roads are hampering relief efforts, but aid organizations remain active in North Kivu. Ms. Amos praised the efforts of the staff on the ground, who are working to get help to as many people as possible.

We put out a press release with more details, and it is also online.

**Central Emergency Response Fund

More broadly speaking, I can tell you that Ms. Amos has allocated $55 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to bolster humanitarian operations in eight countries with neglected humanitarian emergencies. Those countries are Afghanistan, Cameroon, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Sudan.

**Food Prices

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released today its Food Price Index for the month of July. This Index climbed 6 per cent after three months of decline. This sharp rebound was mostly driven by a surge in grain and sugar prices. The severe deterioration of maize crop prospects in the United States following extensive drought damage pushed up maize prices.

International wheat quotations also surged amid worsened production prospects in the Russian Federation and expectations of firm demand for wheat as feed because of tight maize supplies.

I can tell you that the Secretary-General, the Deputy Secretary-General and other officials here at United Nations Headquarters are keeping a close eye on these developments.

**Indigenous Peoples

Today is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and the Secretary-General will speak at an event to mark the occasion at 3 this afternoon.

He will say that in recent years, indigenous communities and individuals have taken advantage of traditional and new media to tell their story and make their voices heard. And he will pledge the full support of the UN system to collaborate with indigenous peoples, including their media, to promote the full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

That’s what I have for you. Questions, yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question: The New York Times article that came out about the UN clean development mechanism. It claims that carbon credits provided by this mechanism are driving up production of coolant gas, which is highly damaging to the ozone layer. I’m wondering if you’ve seen it and if you have a response to it, and how the UN plans to reform this programme?

Spokesperson: I would urge you to speak to our colleagues at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. If I have anything further, then I will let you know but that’s good first port of call. Yes, Joe.

[The Spokesperson later noted that the Secretary-General announced the Sustainable Development Solutions Network to support the work of the post-2015 development planning, which includes the recently launched High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. This initiative will bring to the debate the voices of the academic and scientific community under the leadership of Professor Jeffrey Sachs, the Special Adviser on the Millennium Development Goals.]

Question: Was there a UN representative in Iran at the UN Syrian summit?

Spokesperson: That’s implicit in that, I said that there was a message. It was read out at the meeting by the Resident Coordinator.

Question: [inaudible]

Spokesperson: Say again.

Question: Can you share that with us?

Spokesperson: I, I’m telling you now that…

Correspondent: Oh, okay. It wasn’t implicit then. Now implicit.

Spokesperson: Well, if you see it online, you will see that it says it was delivered by the Resident Coordinator, and gives her name. But, yes, that’s, that’s the case. Okay other questions? Masood, did I see your hand in the air? Not this time, no. All right. Okay. Yes?

Question: Sure. I want to ask, the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has said that it will not negotiate with the so-called M23 mutineers… people who were in the Army. They claim that the agreement to reintegrate them signed on 23 March 2009, was, was broken. Does the UN, given its role with MONUSCO and otherwise, does the UN think that the Government should negotiate with these people or should not negotiate, and they simply disappear?

Spokesperson: Thank you. I would put this in a broader framework of the meeting that took place in Kampala and what’s going to transpire after that. Those discussions continue, but in the Great Lakes setting. And I would put it in that framework for now. Other questions.

Question: Sure. I want, this kind of, since it’s a, there don’t seem to be a lot of other questions. The dispute arising about this thing, called the Tax Equalization Fund, right, which is where both US employees of the UN, what they would have paid in taxes goes into the Fund, and there is also some leftover funds from peacekeeping missions. Anyway, some of that was used for, for a, CMP Security, but there is now a strong argument being made that law was passed after that, saying that they should absolutely be, be, uh, uh, put toward the US’s assessed contributions. And some are saying this is now going for the cost overruns of CMP. So I wanted to know, I don’t know if you will answer yes or no now, but if we can get a, a kind of straight answer, whether these additional costs of the CMP, $400 million overrun, whether it’s UN’s current intention to use the US Tax Equalization Fund toward that.

Spokesperson: Matthew.

Question: So, why it’s legal?

Spokesperson: Uh, Matthew, Matthew. You know you never get a straight answer out of me, so um, let’s…

Correspondent: No, I didn’t mean that I need an immediate answer. I wasn’t trying to…

Spokesperson: I’ll find out. All right. Any other questions, please? Okay.

Question: One more, an inside baseball one. Uh, there was a decision…

Spokesperson: I don’t know anything about baseball. Try cricket.

Question: All right. All right. This is the UN dispute tribunal. So there was a decision after a long delay in the case of a UN Security Officer, DSS, a matter of promotion and exams. It’s a pretty long decision and it’s very critical of DSS management. Some even tied it to Mr. Starr leaving. I’m not sure if that’s the case or not. But I’m wondering it seems like it’s a, it’s, what is the UN’s response to this, this pretty [inaudible] decision in the sense of, are they going to appeal? Did they think the decision was wrong and the criticism made in it, including of relations with the staff union and other things? Is there, couldn’t be a response to it?

Spokesperson: Well, my immediate response to the little aside in the middle about Mr. Starr, that is absolutely unfounded and gratuitous, not necessary. And on the broader question you’ve raised, I will see if there is a response.

Correspondent: Sure. I wasn’t trying to, I was just saying that people say it. I wanted you to deny it and I’m glad to hear you.

Spokesperson: I do emphatically.

Question: Has the Secretary-General narrowed this, what you call, his selection of people that he is considering to replace Mr. Annan and on that plan, Annan’s plan, will it continue as it is or the six-point plan will change into a five-point plan or a two-point plan? What’s the story?

Spokesperson: Well, first of all, on the six-point plan, you all have heard me read out at least extracts of the message that was delivered on the Secretary-General’s behalf at this meeting taking place in Tehran. That full message is available, and indeed it does refer to the six-point plan and also on the need of important work of the Joint Special Envoy to continue. So, I think there is a clear understanding that there is the six-point plan endorsed by the Security Council and the work on that needs to continue. Would a successor to Mr. Annan want to look at that plan and look at fresh approaches and taking into account also the Action Group’s communiqué from the end of June? That may be the case. But there, there is a bedrock, as I’ve already said here, there are two, at least two, building blocks, the six-point plan endorsed by the Council and the Action Group communiqué put together by a broader group. Those two building blocks you have right there. What you need to look at what’s happening on the ground and, and how fluid the situation is, very probably. But that remains for a successor, which gets me to the first part of your question. I will have to be as boring as usual and say that we are just not going to get into guessing games. If and when we have something to say about an appointment, then we will say it.

Question: A follow-up on the question yesterday. The Qatari Foreign Minister — I think, he was speaking on behalf of the Arab League — saying that he wants the next successor to try negotiating the transfer of power from Assad… he is not satisfied with the six-point plan… Does the Secretary-General have any thoughts on that, including the transfer of power as a precondition for the next envoy?

Spokesperson: There is very clear mandate already given to the Joint Special Envoy through the General Assembly resolution, and also the six-point plan, as I just mentioned, has the endorsement of the Security Council. And so that is the foundation, if you like, and the Secretary-General continues to believe that the Joint Special Envoy, whoever it will be, has important work to do in just the same way that Mr. Annan had important work to do. And also, as you all have seen, if you take a look at the statement that was delivered on his behalf in Tehran, the Secretary-General has again said that the proposals that are out there are for a negotiated transition, and that intransigence on the part of the Government and reluctance on the part of the opposition has meant that has not been able to come about, but this is ultimately where things are going to. This is a negotiated transition, in other words, a Syrian-led transition. Okay.

Question: I can’t remember [inaudible]; if you have, I apologize. There is this controversy about UN emergency shelter in East Jerusalem, which has been threatened with demolition. The authorities said it should have been built and the UN should comply with the law, and I think Maxwell Gaylord said it shouldn’t be, you know, they were much-needed. What’s the current status of that, and what’s the UN, I guess, response to the critici… to the idea that they were illegally built, and do they want them to stay there? Where does it stand?

Spokesperson: If this is referring to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, they are not in the building business. If this is something separate, then I have to look into it.

Question: …the headline is “Israeli Mayor to demolish UN humanitarian agency emergency shelter”. So it seems, kind of, I’m not sure if I should ask you, but have you heard of this?

Spokesperson: I’ve heard of the report, as I’ve said, that related to construction work, and to my knowledge, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is not in the building business. Okay.

Correspondent: …anyway, I will try to find out more but you can hear more.

Spokesperson: All right. All right. Thanks.

Question: Martin?

Spokesperson: Yes, right to the back. Sorry, it’s difficult to see with the spotlight. Yeah.

Question: There is a Security Council meeting on [inaudible]. Do we know already who is coming, which ministers are coming, which country?

Spokesperson: I think you need to speak to your compatriot, the French Ambassador, the President of the Council. As I understand it, they are in the lead on inviting ministers. I don’t have any details on that.

Question: [inaudible]

Spokesperson: At some point, maybe, but you will probably get it before me. Then you can tell me. But I don’t have anything at the moment.

Okay. All right. Thank you very much.

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