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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 23 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. Welcome to the briefing.

** Syria

Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, has ended his trip to Damascus and is now in Cairo. Tomorrow morning, Mr. Brahimi will brief the Security Council by videoconference in its consultations on Syria.

And meanwhile, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that Lebanon has become the third country in the region to see its population of registered Syrian refugees and people waiting for registration exceed the 100,000 mark. As of yesterday, Lebanon had more than 101,000 Syrian refugees in the country. Turkey and Jordan already have refugee populations above that level, and across the region, the number has climbed to more than 358,000.

The refugee agency says that, nearly four weeks after its launch, the revised Syria regional response plan remains only about a third funded. The agency says that it is racing against time to ensure that hundreds of thousands of refugees are protected from the winter cold. And that plan is for $487.9 million. And it is only one third funded.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding consultations on Libya this morning. Taye-Brook Zerihoun, the Director of the Africa II Division of the Department of Political Affairs, briefed the Security Council on the latest developments in the country. You’ll recall that, over the weekend, the Secretary-General called on all the Libyan authorities and those in Bani Walid to begin immediately a process to resolve the Bani Walid stand-off peacefully. And that statement is available online.

**Art for Peace

This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at an award ceremony for the United Nations “Art for Peace” contest, in which children and young people expressed how they envision a nuclear-weapon-free world.

More than 6,600 young people from nearly 100 countries took part in the contest. The Secretary-General honoured 17-year-old Haruka Shoji of Japan, who won for her painting called “Someday”, in which a young woman looks into the distance to a better future. The Secretary-General said he would do everything possible to make her painting a vision of the present, not the future. And his full remarks are on our website.

** Pakistan

According to Government estimates, nearly 5 million people have been affected by the flooding this year in southern Pakistan. UN agencies and non-governmental organizations are delivering assistance in support of Government-led relief efforts.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan says that, while thousands of food packages and other supplies have been distributed, people’s lives are still in jeopardy in flood-affected areas of the country. He said that we must not allow the flood crisis to become a forgotten emergency. The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated nearly $10 million to provide water, food, shelter and health care to thousands of families devastated by the flooding.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

John Ging, the Operations Director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, is in North Kivu as part of a week-long mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Today, he visited a distribution centre for food and non-food items in South Lubero, organized by the Rapid Response to Movements of Population, which is a mechanism managed by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and UNICEF. This distribution is targeting some 6,500 people.

Mr. Ging commended this innovative distribution system which gives people more choice and respects their dignity. Mr. Ging is also due to meet with humanitarian partners, and the head of the UN mission in North Kivu.

**Press Conferences

Today at 1:15 p.m., there will be a press conference here in this room by human rights experts on torture. Speakers will include Juan Mendez, the Special Rapporteur on torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Claudio Grossman, the Chair of the Committee against Torture; and Malcolm Evans, the Chair of the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture.

And there are a number of other forthcoming press conferences on human rights that will take place here this week. And I would urge you to check our website for details or check with my Office.

That’s what I have. Questions, please? So yes, Misha?

**Questions and Answers

Question: The Secretary-General has a couple of interesting appointments this afternoon with…

Spokesperson: Which would they be?

Question: The supersonic skydiver, Felix, and the South Korean pop star, Psy. I just wondered if you can just give us a bit of background on why he is meeting with them, how these meetings came about, and is he hoping for a dance lesson from Psy? [laughter]

Spokesperson: On the latter, come along and see. The Secretary-General has many interesting meetings and important meetings. You will notice that he has a wide range of meetings today, covering all kinds of topics. It is important that the Secretary-General is able to reach out to different parts of society, whether it is on a political track dealing with extremely weighty matters, such as Syria or Mali and the Sahel, but it is also important to be able to engage with other audiences too, for example, those who have been enthused by the scientific aspects of Felix Baumgartner’s leap from the edge of space. And in the case of Psy, the Secretary-General has of course already addressed this topic. He firmly believes that music has great power, particularly in helping to overcome intolerance; it helps to reach out to audiences in a way that many other forms of culture or interaction cannot do. How did the meetings come about? In the case of both the two gentlemen we are talking about, Mr. Baumgartner and Psy, they both happened to be in town and were interested to meet the Secretary-General, and he was interested to meet them. As simple as that, okay. Yes?

Question: Sure, I want to ask about this meeting that the Secretary-General had yesterday with the Foreign Minister of Argentina. I’ve seen… I’ve seen the readout, there’s… I just wanted to make sure of one… there is one phrase that some of those who left the meeting used, which was good offices. Did… which I know is something that the Secretary-General offered for example to the Colombian FARC and they didn’t take it up. Was… was this term of good offices used in the meeting, has the Secretary-General offered in any way to use the UN’s good offices between the two parties, Ghana and Argentina?

Spokesperson: As the readout says, the Secretary-General expressed the hope that both Governments will find a way to address the matter on a bilateral basis.

Question: So he did not? There’s… I mean, I just want to make sure that that’s what it means.

Spokesperson: The Secretary-General expressed the…

Correspondent: Okay. All right.

Spokesperson: …hope that both Governments will find a way to address the matter on a bilateral basis, okay. Next question?

Question: Sure, I wanted to ask you about Kadugli. There is now, all reporting… and I… I mean, I know there was a previous statement that shelling of cities is… is, you know, contrary to international humanitarian law, but can… whatever the UN presence is in Kadugli, can they confirm the death of two children and what… what… where do they see this conflict going? What steps is the… are the UN taking to both the Government’s bombing of… of villages around Kadugli, but the shelling of Kadugli itself, what is being done about it?

Spokesperson: Well, Mr. Ladsous did speak about South Kordofan yesterday, and he mentioned that, in both the South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, what we require is humanitarian access to those areas where we are currently unable to operate, and that remains the case. We don’t have any update at this point from our humanitarian colleagues who are on the ground in Kadugli. As you well know, there is no peacekeeping operation in South Kordofan. There is a logistics base outside of Kadugli that is not mandated to undertake activities in that area. It is a logistics base for the Abyei mission, as I think you are aware. So at this point, we don’t have any further update, but the message remains the same as indeed when the shelling first started, that is obviously unacceptable.

Question: But does the.. the OCHA presence there and do they have some kind of a reporting mandate? I guess what I am saying is that there are… there are quotes not just from the Government, but… but… but witnesses in the town that a shell…

Spokesperson: As I said, Matthew…

Correspondent: Yeah, sure.

Spokesperson: …I don’t have any update at the moment. We have asked for one. If we get one, we’ll let you know, okay. Other questions? Yes, Ali? And then Sylvianne.

Question: Lebanon is facing that flow of refugees from Syria, is the UN doing anything to just accelerate the humanitarian support to the Lebanese Government or whoever is going to deliver that humanitarian assistance for the refugees in Lebanon? And my other question, in fact, is about Brahimi, whether… do we in fact… do we know whether Mr. Brahimi has gotten any promises from President Assad or the opposition regarding the ceasefire this week during the Adha, and has he set up any plan for dialogue or transition in Syria?

Spokesperson: Well, Mr. Brahimi will be briefing the Council tomorrow, as I mentioned, and I hope that we will be able to provide some details on that briefing, which, of course, is in consultations. But, I hope that we will be able to at least give a flavour of the conversation. As I mentioned yesterday, Mr. Brahimi did meet President Assad over the weekend, and I think you will find if you look at what I said yesterday we characterized how Mr. Brahimi felt the ceasefire proposal had been received. So I would refer you to that. Indeed, also mentioned the way that the opposition forces that Mr. Brahimi has been able to speak to have also reacted to this proposal. Of course, it remains to be seen what will happen.

Mr. Brahimi is pushing extremely hard, as is the Secretary-General, because this is an extremely important moment. The work obviously the bigger picture continues, which is for a long lasting ceasefire that will enable a political process to unfold. Mr. Brahimi will, as I say, be briefing the Council on his efforts so far and I hope that we will be able to share some of the details about that. With regard to, excuse me, with regard to refugees and Lebanon, this is, of course, part of an extremely troubling picture of movements across borders and within Syria itself. Troubling because of the effect that it has on the receiving communities who have been exceptionally generous in all locations, and of course on the people themselves who have to move, uprooted, having to leave everything behind, frightened and not knowing what the future holds.

In the case of Lebanon, as I understand it from my colleague, Melissa Fleming, who is the chief spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, the recent unrest in Lebanon has meant that the refugee agency’s operations have had to be temporarily — they have been temporarily disrupted, for example on registering refugees in a number of locations including in Tripoli and in Beirut. So they are assessing the security situation and they hope to be able to resume all operations as soon as possible. And I mentioned some of the figures, I’d be happy to provide more information if you like, after this briefing. Sylviane?

Question: On the international troop to be sent to Syria, is there anything like… the idea was floating these days that the international troop would be sent to Syria in order to stop the violence. Do you have anything on that?

Spokesperson: Mr. Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, addressed this yesterday, and I don’t really have anything to add to what he said sitting right here yesterday, okay.

Question: I have another question. Mr. Fawzi is officially retiring, or not retiring, or stopping his… he will not be the spokesperson to Mr. Brahimi any more. Do you have the name of his replacement?

Spokesperson: At the moment, he has not been replaced. However, of course, the interest remains in both Mr. Brahimi’s activities and what else the United Nations is doing on this particular track. DPA – the Department of Political Affairs – and my Office will be helping to coordinate requests for information, interviews and the like. So in DPA, it is Jared Kotler, and in my Office it is Vannina Maestracci, who actually works in my Office. All right, thanks very much. Yes, Matthew, and I’d like you to correct that, actually.

Question: Say again? No, no, I’m not correcting it, I want to ask…

Spokesperson: No, no, I’d… no I’d like you to correct it, Vannina is in my Office.

Correspondent: Okay, all right.

Spokesperson: Thank you.

Question: So I guess my question is, under… when Kofi Annan was the Special Envoy, there was a budget presented to the Fifth Committee, $7 million and it involved [inaudible] for six months, and I just… I wanted to know, that seems to have run out, that’s expired. Is… for the… for the… for the Lakhdar Brahimi mission, is a similar budget being prepared? How is it being funded and when is the budget going to be presented to the Fifth Committee?

Spokesperson: I will ask, Matthew.

Question: Okay. And I wanted to, as one… this Darfur thing, I… I… I… you know that it came up yesterday, both Mr. Ladsous wouldn’t answer it, you sought to answer, but there has been more, or at least I have found a more extensive quote from the spokeswoman for UNAMID saying that they believe, you know, not only anti-tank guns were used, but that the goal of the attack on the peacekeepers was to stop them from reaching a place called Hashaba and… and the quote I… I… what I can’t figure out is, it seems to be calling for a joint investigation with the Government and I wanted to understand, is UNAMID, the peacekeeping Mission, calling for a joint investigation of the attack on the… the deadly attack on the peacekeepers or for of Hashaba which people say the Government is… it’s a… it’s a… it’s a… you know, an abuse committed by the Government and what sense would it make to do a joint investigation with the Government of it?

Spokesperson: Well, I will check with the mission for more details on the first part of you question. We have said there needs to be an investigation into this incident, the attack on the peacekeepers. It is also well known that the mission has sought to find out more information to investigate the alleged incidents that have been taking place that you referred to. And if I have any more details on that particular aspect, I will let you know. But certainly, the Mission, UNAMID, has been extremely keen, eager to find out more, to understand more. But gaining access has been very difficult, particularly when incidents of the kind that we have just been talking about take place. It is a risky business, but the Mission remains committed to try to find out as much as possible about that reported incident.

Question: Okay. And is there some… and just to… it is sort of related. The… there is a report in the DRC that the MONU… the MONUSCO six Indian peacekeepers, they were injured along with the translator, it was never said, and I know, I mean, that whether the attackers were… some accounts implied that it was the M23 because it was in an area they’ve previously clashed, others have said it was Mai Mai militia. Does the U… given that the… you know, the… the… that… that, you know, thankfully, the people survived, is there any idea on the UN side of who… which… which of these two armed groups or some other armed group actually attacked them?

Spokesperson: Let me check on the details of that, Matthew. And also to check for an update on their condition, as well.

All right, thank you. Have a good afternoon, thank you.

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