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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 17 September 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.

** Syria

Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-League of Arab States Joint Special Representative for Syria, is in Cairo today. This evening, he will meet with the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, Iran and Turkey, who are attending the meeting of those countries being organized in Cairo.

Mr. Brahimi met over the weekend with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and he told reporters afterwards that the crisis in Syria is becoming worse by the day. He added that he will soon travel to New York to meet with the Security Council and others to discuss the crisis.

This morning in Geneva, the Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue with Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. Mr. Pinheiro, introducing the Commission’s report, said that gross violations of human rights in Syria had grown in number, pace and scale. The Commission recommended that the Human Rights Council forward its report to the Security Council.

**Security Council

Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told the Security Council this morning that the lack of progress between Israelis and Palestinians on the political track, and the continuing conflict and occupation put at risk the viability of the two-State solution.

He said that the financial and economic crisis affecting the Palestinian Authority is a sobering manifestation of that risk. He added that the Secretary-General sincerely hopes that the Quartet partners, in consultation with the parties, will chart a credible political way ahead in the coming months.

Discussing Syria, Mr. Serry said that the month of August registered the highest number of casualties so far, and the toll is growing. He noted the dangerous implications for Syria’s neighbours as conditions deteriorate. We have his remarks in my office.

The Security Council also extended the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) by one year, until the end of September 2013, in a vote earlier this morning.

** Iraq

Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, has welcomed the arrival of the last major relocation convoy of residents from Camp Ashraf at Camp Hurriya, which took place this weekend.

Mr. Kobler called the move an important step as we near the end of the relocation process. He thanked the residents for their cooperation and also thanked the Government of Iraq for paving the way for the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf.

In total, 680 residents moved in the convoy on Sunday. Of the 3,280 residents originally in Camp Ashraf, only a small group now remains temporarily to arrange details concerning the closure of the camp. UN monitors will continue to oversee the process, including the relocation of the remaining residents to Camp Hurriya. Mr. Kobler also urged the international community to speed up its efforts to accept residents in third countries.

** Somalia

Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, has congratulated Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on his inauguration as President of Somalia yesterday. He said that this marks the end of the transitional period and the beginning of a new era for Somalia.

As the process moves forward, the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) will continue to stand with the President in addressing key immediate tasks, including stabilization of newly recovered areas, the integration and stability of the security services, the delivery of basic services to the Somali people and the construction of a viable judiciary system.

** Mali

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, condemned today the human rights violations committed by the various armed groups occupying northern Mali, including cruel punishments such as amputations. In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, Ms. Pillay outlined a host of human rights abuses and alleged violations of international humanitarian law in this region and called for urgent national and international action to bring an end to the political instability that has been fuelling the violence.


Tomorrow afternoon, Mr. Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, will address reporters at the Security Council stakeout, following his briefing to the Council on the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

**Secretary-General’s Press Conference

And finally, a number of you had been asking when the Secretary-General would give his next press briefing. This is just to let you know that he will hold a press conference in this room on Wednesday this week, at 2:15 p.m. He will discuss the forthcoming session of the General Assembly, among other topics.

That’s what I have. Questions, please? Mr. Abbadi?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Thank you very much, Martin. As you noted, Mr. Serry, the Middle East Coordinator for the peace process, said that the Quartet members should look beyond prescriptive timelines, as you said, to chart a credible political way ahead in the coming months, and the Secretary-General said that. Does that mean that the Secretary-General no longer thinks that the Road Map worked out by the Quartet is credible? And would he be prepared to make recommendations for a new way of dealing with the problem?

Spokesperson: Well, first of all, the Road Map is something that has long been there, and was put together by those concerned; and I don’t think that there is any suggestion that that’s what is at stake here. What Mr. Serry is talking about is what you have seen on the political track, which is an obvious lack of progress, coupled with continued conflict and occupation. And that is risking the viability of the two-State solution, which is the bedrock for the Middle East peace process. Of course, it is always important to look to see if there are new, enhanced or different ways to tackle difficult problems that there are and challenges that there are, but this would be for the Quartet, among others, to consider. So I think it is in that context that Mr. Serry is making those remarks today. Yes?

Question: Sure, thanks. I wanted to ask you, there has been for a few days now, South Sudan has been saying that Sudan has been violating its airspace. Finally, there seems to be an aircraft that was actually taken into… or detained in some way by the South Sudanese that they say was bringing weapons to rebels. Has… does UNSMIS, the Mission there, have any information whether this, one, was a Sudan aircraft, and two, whether it did contain weapons?

Spokesperson: We’ll check UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan], I think you mean? Yes.

Question: Yeah, I know, I am sorry, yeah, yeah, I mean with the two ‘S’s. And also, I wanted to ask, I heard what you said about Somalia, but the… the… there remain this kind of shelling of Kismayo, and the… the town in Somalia and kind of a cordon around it, it seems like there is going to be a final assault. And I just wondered, there are some people saying that they are delaying to allow civilians to flee; some people are saying it’s a delay that’s due to logistics, but what is the UN’s either role in or comment on what seems to be a fairly methodically now pending assault on the city by an armed force?

Spokesperson: Well, I think we’ve spoken about this before, and so has Mr. [Mark] Bowden, talking about the need for every effort to be made to minimize the impact of conflict on civilians, and to allow full humanitarian access to all people in need, and that remains the case today.

Question: I guess what I just… if it’s… maybe you don’t have it with you, but I am wondering, I mean, I know that was like in mid-August, he said it, and it was a good statement at the time, but since…

Spokesperson: Well, why would it… why would…

Question: I guess what I am wondering is…

Spokesperson: It’s a principle that’s at stake there and that principle hasn’t changed; and that is the need to minimize the impact of conflict on civilians. That applies anywhere, and it applies equally right now in Kismayo.

Question: If I can… the only reason I am asking is because I understand the principle and it is said elsewhere. Here the UN provides, I think, logistical and financial support to the force that is actually surrounding the town. So I am wondering if, beyond just a statement, if there is some UN role in ensuring that it be implemented in this…?

Spokesperson: I think you don’t need to go beyond what has already been said. I think that you can also be sure that the logistical role that the United Nations has in supporting AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] is carried out in a very thorough way. And I know that there are regular visits and meetings on that front, and if I have anything further, then I will let you know about it, okay? Other questions, please? Yes?

Question: Mr. Nesirky, my name is Bratislav Nikolov, I’m a Bulgarian journalist from Bulgarian national television, BTV. We are all here for [inaudible] memorial television programme. It is very interesting. My question is connected with the last visit from Angelina Jolie, in Syria refugees. In your opinion, how [does] this kind of visit influence the work of Mr. Brahimi on the ground, with this conflict?

Spokesperson: I think there are two distinct channels. You have the obvious political channel, and Mr. Brahimi as the Joint Special Representative is responsible for that channel, that track reporting to the United Nations, the League of Arab States, the two organizations that appointed him in this role. Separate, but obviously linked, is the work on the humanitarian front, and that involves obviously the plight of refugees and those displaced within Syria. Anything that can be done to shine a light on that crisis and to draw greater attention to it is going to be extremely helpful. After all, there is an already very clear funding shortfall. In other words, the funds that are needed to do that work to help the refugees and those displaced, and to help with other humanitarian matters, is just simply not there to the extent that is required. So anything that can be done, including by leading Hollywood actors who have world status and long involvement with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is obviously welcome. It doesn’t complicate the political track; it simply helps to enhance the work that is being done on both of those lines. Other questions, please? Yes?

Question: My name is [inaudible], I am a Liberian journalist. My question has to do with the extension of UNMIL’s mandate. Was there any modification on the mandate of UNMIL?

Spokesperson: I’d have to check with you, I don’t know the answer to that. But I’d be very happy to follow up afterwards to help you with that, of course. Right after the briefing, let’s see if we can help you with that. I am personally not aware, sitting here right now, of any changes that there might have been.

[The Spokesperson later shared the draft resolution adopted earlier in the day by the Security Council on the mandate of UNMIL.]

Any other questions, please? Yes, Anne?

Question: Yes. We knew about the Secretary-General’s position on divisions within the Security Council concerning Syria, but what about the divisions in the GA on the PGA [President of the General Assembly] elections between Serbian Vuk Jeremić and the Lithuanian Ambassador, Dalius Čekuolis? Did the Secretary-General have any reaction to remarks made by Jeremić in an article published in The Economist just before the election, which referred to … the title was “A divisive Serb”, in which Jeremić said that he would get 118 votes from the Non-Aligned Movement, a cold war relic founded in Belgrade, while indicating that the EU [European Union] Member States would be split over Kosovo? Does the Secretary-General expect any problems concerning these divisive statements?

Spokesperson: Well, I think that we’ve done a number of things. One is simply to state that the election of the President of the General Assembly is a matter for the Member States, and that is an obvious response. Secondly, the Secretary-General has also spoken, including while in Belgrade quite recently, about his conviction that the incoming President of the General Assembly will be working impartially for all 193 Member States of the United Nations.

Okay, thanks very much. Have a good afternoon. Thank you.

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