Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 24 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, welcome to the briefing.
The Secretary-General is meeting the newly appointed Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and League of Arab States for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. Mr. Brahimi was appointed a week ago and formally takes over the position from the former Secretary-General Kofi Annan as the Joint Special Representative on 1 September.
Speaking before the meeting, the Secretary-General said that Mr. Brahimi had a very important and crucial task to bring peace and stability to Syria, and to promote human rights there. He said Mr. Brahimi has extraordinary talent and expertise that he can bring to the region. Mr. Brahimi said that the interests of the Syrian people would be his first master and that he will be considering those interests first and foremost.
The Secretary-General will be travelling to Washington, D.C., later today for a reunion with the friends he made 50 years ago during their visit to the United States, which was organized by the American Red Cross. This is very much a personal journey for the Secretary-General, and something he has really been looking forward to. He has said many times that the Red Cross study trip half a century ago, and the meeting the group had with President John F Kennedy, inspired him to pursue a life of public service. The group will also be visiting United Nations Headquarters here in New York on Monday.
** Syria – Humanitarian
The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that the total number of Syrian refugees registered or awaiting registration has surpassed 200,000. The refugees are located in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Turkey continues to host the largest number, about 75,000 to date.
The refugee agency’s operations in Syria continue despite an escalation of military activity in the capital which is restricting staff movements and the ability of those who are displaced to reach the office. Hotlines continue to operate, giving counselling to refugees who ask about relocation, food distribution, financial assistance, residency, registration and resettlement. Relief items like hygiene kits and mattresses are being distributed to displaced people with the help of local partners. There is more information available on the refugee agency’s website.
The refugee agency says that it is alarmed by the health situation of the 170,000 Sudanese refugees living in camps and settlements across South Sudan’s Unity and Upper Nile States. Given the rain and cold, the agency is seeing refugees suffering from respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea and malaria.
It adds that nearly half of the refugees in Upper Nile are under the age of 11, and it is this group that is suffering the most. Their mothers and other caregivers are also often weak and cannot look after them properly. The agency and its partners launched an extensive health and hygiene programme this month, and are also building latrines in camps to keep pace with new arrivals.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has called on all those in the country who are engaged in stabilizing Jonglei State to take immediate action to safeguard recent gains in the peace process, stem human rights violations and hold perpetrators to account.
The Mission is concerned by the recent increase in serious human rights violations allegedly committed by some undisciplined elements within the South Sudanese Army in Pibor County. These troops are deployed to assist the Government’s civilian disarmament programme there, as part of the overall peace process. There is more information from the Mission and that is available online.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
I was asked about events in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) tells us that there was a meeting between Government officials of North Kivu Province and the Mayi Mayi leader Janvier.
In line with the Mission's mandate and at the request of the Government officials, MONUSCO provided transportation for the delegation and security during the meeting, in order to facilitate a peaceful discussion between both parties. MONUSCO was not involved in the discussions. The Mission has also confirmed that they are not aware of, and have not taken part in, any initiative to recruit Mayi Mayi.
I was asked about an audit report about the UN’s UMOJA project. The report of the United Nations Board of Auditors covers the period from April 2011 to April 2012. Corrective measures have been implemented since then, such as stronger governance of project leadership, which have been recognized by the Board as steps in the right direction.
The Secretariat is confident that it is on the right track, and as the Board of Auditors follows up on further progress made – and the impact of the corrective actions taken – during the 2013 audit of the project, it will be able to demonstrate significant progress on the status of the project.
On Monday at 11 a.m., here in this room, there will be a press conference sponsored by the Office for Disarmament Affairs to launch the 2012 Small Arms Survey and that is entitled “Moving Targets”.
So, questions, please? Yes, rrol? And then I’m coming to you. Yes? First Erol, and then I’m coming to you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I asked two days ago about Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi’s approach on Syria. First of all, since he met the Secretary-General, did they discuss, obviously, not only his approach, but whether he is going to go immediately to Syria or not? And if you can please be more specific about what is actually left from the Annan plan to be used in the Brahimi report, and if anything is left?
Spokesperson: I think you’re mixing up a number of things here. First of all, as I just said at the outset, the Secretary-General is meeting Mr. Brahimi right now. So it’s rather difficult for me to say precisely what they have discussed, given that they are meeting right now.
Correspondent: [inaudible] sorry.
Spokesperson: They are meeting. Mr. Brahimi is in New York for about a week of consultations that will involve not just this conversation with the Secretary-General, obviously, but with other senior officials. So I think we’d need to wait a little while and allow Mr. Brahimi to have those consultations with other UN officials before we comment further on what he may or may not be doing and where he may or may not be travelling. With regard to the six-point peace plan, as I’ve said on a number of occasions, that peace plan remains intact as endorsed by the Security Council in its entirety. And you have, in addition, the Action Group’s communiqué from the end of June. Those two elements are there as building blocks for Mr. Brahimi to use, and of course he will be looking, with other UN officials, at how this is going to be taken forward. But at this point, we can’t really comment on what that might be. He’s just arrived literally yesterday, and he’s starting his discussions today. Yes?
Question: I apologize in advance about my question, but I need a quote. A judge in Texas has expressed concern that the UN might invade Texas if Barack Obama wins the next election. My question is very straightforward: does Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have a plan to invade Texas, and how does he judge this kind of comment made by a US official, knowing that these comments are not so isolated? They are actually quite recurrent.
Spokesperson: Well, I understand your need for a sound bite, and this is it: It’s absolutely ridiculous. Yes?
Question: Yes, Martin, can you please tell us, will Mr. Brahimi any time come speak with reporters and journalists over here?
Spokesperson: As I said yesterday, we’re certainly aware of the interest of the media in Mr. Brahimi’s presence in New York, and the fact that he’s assuming this new and important role. And we’re aware of the need for journalists to have access to Mr. Brahimi. But I would also mention, as I’ve just said, that he’s just arrived, he does have consultations that he wishes to have first, and then we’ll see whether he is available. And I know that Ahmed Fawzi, his spokesperson, is also here in New York, and he’s also aware of the media’s interest in speaking to Mr. Brahimi or hearing from him.
Question: Another question on another topic, how many people are going to go with Mr. Ban Ki-moon on his visit to Tehran?
Spokesperson: Well, he has a normal sized delegation of…
Spokesperson: No, no journalists. That’s… but a normal-sized delegation to attend a multilateral meeting, which is the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, and for bilateral discussions, as we’ve outlined already.
Question: Just a follow-up, I want to know, like when you just said Mr. Fawzi and Mr. Al-Kidwa, there has been no change whatsoever…?
Spokesperson: Masood, I did not mention Mr. Al-Kidwa sitting here.
Correspondent: But earlier…
Spokesperson: Earlier? Yes, I have. But as I’ve also said, these are consultations that are taking place in the coming week. Part of that undertaking is to figure out what the constellation will be… who is needed, and yes, Mr. Fawzi is the spokesperson, at least for the coming weeks. Okay? Alright. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I need some follow-up on two of the items that you read back on. But I wanted to be sure to ask about Abyei first. There’s a dispute now between Sudan and South Sudan about whether South Sudan has unilaterally named the administration for Abyei. So, given the UN’s role in mediating on that issue through Mr. Menkerios and otherwise, what does the UN make of this? Sudan says that South Sudan has broken the agreement; since South Sudan says no, what does the UN say?
Spokesperson: That we are aware of the reports, and if I have anything further I’ll let you know. Right, next question?
Question: Yeah, I wanted to ask about this Mayi Mayi thing — and thanks, I was glad to get that, to hear that response. But the Mayi Mayi leader Janvier has been quoted as saying, the entire purpose of the meeting was to ask his group, which he claims had 4,000 fighters, to fight the M23. So I understand… I mean, you read that out. But what did the UN think the meeting was about? Or is Mr. Janvier misrepresenting what the purpose of the meeting was?
Spokesperson: Well, I read out precisely because it’s important to underscore that the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo was not involved in the discussions. As I’ve mentioned and read out, it’s within their mandate, and it was at the request of Government officials under that mandate, that MONUSCO provided transportation for the delegation, but was otherwise uninvolved in this, provided the transport. So I don’t think that it’s likely that we would know what happened in those discussions. We weren’t a party to them. And, as I’ve also said, the Mission confirms that they are not aware of, and have not taken part in, any initiative to recruit Mayi Mayi.
Question: Right, so now that Mr. Janvier has said – this is a direct quote – “They came to ask me to form an alliance to fight the M23” – what is the… what does the UN now say…?
Spokesperson: As I say, Matthew, transport was provided, MONUSCO was not in the discussions, you can ask the DRC what they asked the Mayi Mayi. You don’t need to ask us. What’s your next question?
Question: On UMOJA, I was glad to hear that. I don’t know, I’m looking at the transcript, I don’t really think I asked about UMOJA, but I know that I wrote about it. So I wanted to ask you, there is a question I do have about UMOJA, and it involved Mr. Ernesto Baca, who was named as sort of the ad-interim fixture of the programme. Some people have raised, with all respect, that he worked at WFP with Ms. Malcorra and at Telecom Argentina. So it’s the same question I asked about Mr. Greis, the acting head of DGACM. I wanted to know, yes or no, whether Susana Malcorra, the Chief of Staff of Ban Ki-moon, is she part of these recruitments? Or is she recused from the recruitments, given prior co-working with both individuals?
Spokesperson: Well, with all respect, Matthew, recruitment takes place within established guidelines. There are clear rules on this, and I’m sure that they have been adhered to. And you shouldn’t assume, when I say that I’ve been asked about something, you shouldn’t assume that it was you who asked. Yes, other questions? Yes, Matthew — Masood, I can’t even get people right now — yes Masood?
Question: About these attacks on the Palestinians in the Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank, especially by the settlers on the Palestinians, has the Secretary-General or the United Nations talked to the Israeli authorities about it, or it’s an ongoing process?
Spokesperson: I think the latter, rather than the former. And Mr. Serry is there, his office is there, and that is the usual conduit for discussions with the Israeli authorities on these matters. Yes, this will be the last question. Yes?
Question: Martin, there are repeated reports that the Serbian side would like to see more direct involvement of the United Nations in the dialogue with Pristina and Belgrade. I wonder, what is the response from the Secretary-General, and whether… did he address that issue with Prime Minister Dacic when he met with him a few weeks ago?
Spokesperson: Well, the question of UN involvement or anybody’s involvement in those discussions is a matter for the parties concerned, and I think I would leave it at that.
Okay, thanks, have a very good afternoon and a good weekend. Thank you.
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