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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 03 October 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, everyone, and welcome to the briefing.

** Darfur

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the attack on a UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] patrol in West Darfur.

The Secretary-General is appalled and deeply saddened by the latest attack on peacekeepers in Darfur, which occurred during the evening of 2 October when unidentified armed assailants ambushed a UNAMID patrol in El Geneina, West Darfur. Four Nigerian peacekeepers were killed and eight were wounded.

The Secretary-General urges the Government of the Sudan to conduct a full investigation and to ensure that the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice.

The Secretary-General expresses his condolences to the Government of Nigeria and to the families of the fallen peacekeepers and UNAMID.

**Security Council

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Haiti, Mariano Fernandez, briefed the Security Council this morning. He said that after eight years of work by the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, security gains were obvious — but that efforts to consolidate the rule of law had to be maintained to see the full dividends of stability.

He stressed the need for dialogue and for consensus among Haitians to address the challenges facing the country. He said that the Mission is now working to help establish a permanent Electoral Council which would be widely accepted.

Mr. Fernandez intends to speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout at the end of that meeting.

** Pakistan

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the United Nations and its humanitarian partners have so far distributed 655 tons of food to more than half of the 20,000 families affected by flooding in Pakistan’s Balochistan and Sindh provinces. Similarly, life-saving medicines have been given to more than 440,000 people in the hardest-hit districts in Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs adds that more than 300,000 people in the flood-affected districts in Pakistan urgently require help.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

Following consultations with the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, and with her concurrence, the Secretary-General has appointed David Malone of Canada as Rector of the United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo. Dr. Malone will succeed Professor Konrad Osterwalder of Switzerland, who has served as UNU Rector since 2007. We have more information on this appointment in my office.

** Côte d’Ivoire

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d'Ivoire, Bert Koenders, met with Ghanaian President John Mahama in Accra today. The Special Representative’s two-day visit, which ends tomorrow, is part of his good offices role and in support of the cordial relations between the countries in the West Africa sub-region. Mr. Koenders is due to meet other officials in the Ghanaian capital before returning to Abidjan tomorrow.

**Press Conference

At 4:30 this afternoon, here in this auditorium, the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Vuk Jeremić, will hold a press conference focusing on the first weeks of his presidency.

Questions, please? Louis?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Martin, thanks. Today in Turkey, a mortar bomb that came from Syria fell inside Turkish territory and killed at least three people, according to reports, and the Turkish Foreign Minister spoke with the Secretary-General. I wondered if you had a readout; if you could tell us, you know, what their concerns are about this? It looks like the situation is escalating into Turkey in a dangerous way.

Spokesperson: Well, I can certainly confirm that the Secretary-General did speak with the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoğlu, who called the Secretary-General this morning to express his Government’s deepest concern at that incident today in Turkey, where a shell apparently emanating from Syria killed a number of civilians. The Secretary-General expressed his condolences at the tragic loss of life and encouraged the Minister to keep open all channels of communication with the Syrian authorities with a view to lessening any tension that could build up as a result of the incident. I should add that the Minister had also spoken earlier to the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, on the same subject. So that’s what I have for you. Okay, yes, Nizar? And then Stefano.

Question: Regarding the bomb explosions in Aleppo today, the suicide bombings, do you have any statement on that?

Spokesperson: As you are well aware, there are unfortunately bombings and aerial attacks and shelling going on every day, with many casualties, and today’s loss of life is, of course, another example of that. And it underscores the need for there to be collective responsibility in the international community to really bring an end to the bloodshed. You will have heard the Deputy Secretary-General speaking here yesterday on this topic and talking about the two paths that there are, the two directions that there are. One, the military route, and that’s the path that both parties appear to be on at the moment, believing that military action can succeed — and they are wrong; and on the other path, where we would prefer people to be, and that’s the path of political dialogue. But you need to reduce the tensions, reduce the level of violence before you can get to the political track. And that’s where the efforts of Mr. Brahimi are focused. Today’s incident in Aleppo, with large loss of life, is the latest in a catalogue of ghastly attacks and bloodshed emanating from both sides, and of course it is something that we wish to see an end to.

Question: One follow-up on that?

Spokesperson: Yes, Nizar?

Question: You spoke about dialogue and necessity of dialogue; of course, there is an external dimension to this conflict which everybody now is aware about. What do you think about the continued boycotting of Saudi Arabia to the four… the committee… the four-party committee which is supposed to meet in Egypt? Do you think that their leadership should participate in such a meeting?

Spokesperson: As you will also have heard the Deputy Secretary-General say yesterday, Mr. Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative, is closely liaising with many players in the region, precisely to coordinate any action, any ideas, proposals that there may be. And this is one area in particular where Mr. Brahimi is certainly coordinating very closely with the Egyptian President and his team, for example. And that’s also another good reason why Mr. Brahimi has chosen to locate himself in Cairo in the coming days. Yes, Stefano, and then Ali, yes?

Question: Yes, it is about the recent attack in Kenya on a church full of children; one child died and I… I mean, if there is any reaction to that attack and if it could be related to the recent violence for the video? If it is something related to religion or if it was because the city of Kismayo in Somalia there, where the troops, the Kenyan troops, occupied, then pushed out the Islamists? Because also yesterday there was also another attack between a university in… that looks unrelated, but there is an attack on a university in Nigeria that… where apparently between 25 and 35 victims, students, and there is news that said that was… the attack was from another Islamist group and I would like to know if there is any suspect that this can be in any way…this can be related to the recent, religious violence?

Spokesperson: Well, I don’t think it is proper for me to draw conclusions from events of that nature right now. As a general principle and as you heard the Deputy Secretary-General say yesterday, it is really important that everywhere there should be a focus on tolerance and on reducing levels of tension. Freedom of expression and freedom of speech should not be abused and people should also try to avoid falling prey to provocations that then lead to violence that has a spiralling effect in an already tense world. And I think I would refer you back to what the Deputy Secretary-General said, as well. As I say, I don’t have anything specific on these particular instances. Any loss of life of course is to be regretted. Ali?

Question: Yeah, thanks. There was a report two days ago that the Syrian authorities intentionally killed the two Turkish pilots after they hit the aircraft a few months ago. My question is whether this issue was raised between the Secretary-General and the Turkish Foreign Minister? And my second question, do you have any comment on, also, reports that Hizbullah operatives were killed in fighting in Syria? Thank you.

Spokesperson: No information on the second question. Seen media reports the same as you have, but I don’t have any information on that. On the first, I have provided you with the information I have on the telephone conversation, and I don’t have anything further. Yes, Matthew?

Question: Sure, I wanted to ask you, this Za’atari camp in Jordan where a lot of Syrian refugees have gone; it’s reported that the UN pulled its staff out of it in the… in response to rioting due to conditions. Is that the case? Are there any plans to try to improve conditions in that camp, that was raised, I think there was a high-level meeting on Syria where this came up before, but what is the status of that camp and what is the UN thinking of doing, if it can’t keep its staff there?

Spokesperson: I’ll have to check on that, Matthew.

Question: Okay, also I wanted to ask you about Abyei. The South Sudan negotiator, Pagan Amum, has said that they have nothing more to talk about Abyei; their negotiations are over. I know that you’ve previously, when I asked you what the UN’s role on Abyei was, said: look at the communiqué. So I did and it calls for negotiations by both sides. Is there any UN response to South Sudan saying… and… or… or can you say more what the UN’s role is, beyond just paragraph 8 of the communiqué that you directed me to?

Spokesperson: Well, I think you have answered your own question; we would call on both sides to negotiate. I think that’s obvious. Next question?

Question: Okay, another negotiation question. I know that the Secretary-General, when he met with the Presidents of Malawi and Tanzania, you know, each readout mentioned this Lake Nyasa. But since leaving New York, the President of Malawi has said she has broken off talks with Tanzania. And I wonder if that…did the Secretary-General think his… these talks went well? Does the UN have any role in it? Is there…it seems like actually the general debate may have made it worse, or at least it is worse now than it was before they came to New York. What’s… what is the UN comment on this?

Spokesperson: Well, that is your own analysis of the situation. Yes, the topic was raised in both meetings, as you pointed out. We did refer to that in the readouts on those two encounters. I don’t have anything further to add, except that obviously dialogue is the way to solve any differences that there may be, and we would encourage both countries to pursue that path. Yes, Nizar?

Question: About the detainees in Bahrain, obviously one of them perished in jail because he was denied medicine and there was escalation in… on popular press side as a result of that. Are there any new communications between the United Nations and the Bahraini authorities in order to release those detainees?

Spokesperson: Well, I think we have expressed our views on this a number of times. And we have repeatedly made clear the Secretary-General’s concerns about due process in Bahrain, including in the case of the doctors. And the Secretary-General has also repeatedly appealed to the Bahraini authorities to ensure the application of international human rights norms, including the right to a fair trial, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. And he has also called on the Bahraini Government to complete the full implementation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations. This is something that you will have also seen a reference to during the meeting between the Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister of Bahrain. The Secretary-General believes that there needs to be an all-inclusive and meaningful national dialogue that addresses the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis, as this is the only way to promote peace, stability and justice in the country. Okay, other questions, please? Yes, last question, Matthew?

Question: Sure, a spokesman for the M23 has said that they are thinking of marching on Goma. They are blaming the various killings that have taken place in Goma; at least 10 people were killed in a series of shootings that M23 says are in some way attributable to the Government. Since there is MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo] there, what is MONUSCO’s analysis of these…these deaths in Goma? Who has done…who is behind them? What’s being done to… to… to… and… and I guess if there is some kind of statement — I am sure there is — to M23 about, regarding Goma?

Spokesperson: Let me check on that, Matthew. I don’t have anything on that right now, okay? Thank you very much. Have a good afternoon. Thank you.

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