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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 24 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.


As I am sure most of you know, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is briefing the Security Council right now on his latest efforts. You will have seen his comments in Cairo earlier today, in which he said he expected an announcement by the Syrian Government regarding his proposed pause in fighting. He said that many in the opposition have also responded positively.

Separately, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has condemned the killing of a cameraman from the Syrian television broadcaster Al-Ikhbariya, earlier this month. Ms. Irina Bokova also called for efforts to secure the release of journalists reported to have gone missing in Syria and presumed to have been kidnapped.

**Security Council

And this afternoon, the Security Council will hear an update on the situation in Darfur by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet. That will be in an open meeting, which will be followed by consultations.

**Human Rights

The High Commissioner for Human Rights addressed the General Assembly (Third Committee) today, saying that the past year has been marred by developments which have put to the test the capacity of the international community to prevent and promptly respond to human rights and humanitarian crises.

Navi Pillay said that the protracted violence is an immediate reminder that the prevention of conflict and the protection of human rights in times of conflict remain among the most daunting challenges for the international community.

She stressed that outright disrespect for international human rights and humanitarian law, let alone for human life, is an anachronism which cannot be tolerated. The United Nations must act to uphold the rule of law and protect human rights.


Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, marked United Nations Day by visiting the UN Gaza office and a UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) project in Gaza.

He said that, during his visit, there was another escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza, which he deeply deplored. Mr. Serry calls on all parties to show maximum restraint. He expressed his concern that with recurrent violence, as illustrated today, continued closures and the persistent Palestinian divide, we will lose the race against time to preserve Gaza as a liveable place.

Mr. Serry added that people in Gaza and the West Bank expect their leaders to take tangible steps towards Palestinian reconciliation, and that the United Nations would continue to work with all parties to build confidence.


The Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Ali Al-Za'tari, has expressed deep concern about the escalation of fighting in and around Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan.

He said in a statement that an exchange of fire yesterday between Sudanese Government forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North killed a child and injured many others. Two shells landed near the UNICEF compound in Kadugli.

Mr. Al-Za'tari called on the two sides to implement the revised plan of action issued by the African Union, the League of Arab States and the United Nations. He asked the sides to provide the security guarantees to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance to people affected by the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The full press release is available in my office.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

John Ging, the Operations Director in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), has arrived in South Kivu on the latest leg of his week-long mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The latest crisis in the Kivus has displaced more than 767,000 people so far this year in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mr. Ging said that UN agencies and non-governmental organizations are making a huge difference on the ground in trying to alleviate the suffering. Mr. Ging called on the international community to sustain and strengthen a response that continues to save lives every day. That response has already brought health services to more than 10 million people this year, as well as food, nutrition and agricultural support to 1.6 million people.


The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, has welcomed the landmark peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which sets up a framework for settling the decade-long conflict in Mindanao.

Leila Zerrougui said that this is a major step, not only to bring peace and reconciliation to the region, but also to alleviate the plight of children affected by the conflict. In August 2009, the Front and the United Nations in the Philippines signed an action plan to halt and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the armed conflict in Mindanao. The full press release is available on the Special Representative’s website.


The World Health Organization (WHO) said today that polio cases have decreased by more than 99 per cent since 1988. The reduction is the result of the global effort to eradicate the disease. In 2012, only three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan — remain polio-endemic, down from more than 125 countries in 1988. Today is the first World Polio Day since India was removed from the list of countries with active transmission of wild poliovirus.

The World Health Organization says that this is a historic opportunity to complete polio eradication in the three remaining endemic countries and that complete elimination of polio in the next five years would save more than $40 billion.

That’s what I have for you. Any questions? Yes, Iftikhar?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Is it confirmed that the United Nations is trying to bring about this pause in fighting? And does it have a plan to utilize this pause to bring about negotiations between the fighting parties?

Spokesperson: Look, the consultations, just to be clear, the consultations in the Security Council continue. A couple of points here. One is that, obviously, ultimately, the aim is to move to a political track and away from the violence that we have seen for so many months and the bloodshed that we have seen for so many months. The focus now is on this particular pause, and plainly the aim would be to try to build on that. But clearly there are steps that need to be taken to get to that point. Other questions, please? Yes, Matthew?

Question: Sure, I want to ask you, there has been in Khartoum in Sudan, a large explosion in an arms depot or transit point, and the Government there is saying that Israel did it with airplanes, and I am wondering, since that would be an inter… obviously a cross-border, deep into Sudanese territory, is the UN… are they aware of the explosion, have there been any consequences of it and… and what… who do they believe is behind it? What… what’s their response to this?

Spokesperson: Well, we are obviously aware of the media reports, but we don’t have anything further on that, Matthew. Okay, any other questions? Yes?

Question: There are reports from Israel of at least 50 rockets being launched from Gaza into Israel in the last nine hours. Is there any comment from the Secretary-General? There have been two people gravely wounded.

Spokesperson: Well, what I would simply mention is that Mr. Serry has been visiting Gaza today, and he is aware of the violence that’s been unfolding, as he is actually in Gaza, in both directions. And I think I just mentioned that he is calling for maximum restraint. And the Secretary-General would certainly join him in that appeal. Okay. Yes, Matthew?

Question: Sure, I wanted to ask, at 11 a.m., there was a press conference here by the… the UN Special Rapporteur on IDPs [internally displaced persons], Chaloka Beyani, and he… I asked him about this incident that happened in Côte d'Ivoire in July in which an IDP camp was burned down and at least seven of its residents were killed, alleged to be [Laurent] Gbagbo supporters. He said… you know, he gave a long account of what he thought of it, but this is what I wanted to ask you, because it was… at the time it happened, it was said that the UN was going to investigate it and then the SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General], Bert Koenders, you know, was quoted dismissing allegations that peacekeepers failed in their mandate to protect civilians. So there is two things I want to ask you. One is, Mr. Be… Mr. Beyani said that his… his inquiry, which he says he is not… he’d like to continue on, found that… that… that DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], not only in Côte d'Ivoire, but elsewhere, has rules of engagement for its peacekeepers that they can’t fire upon civilians, even if civilians are killing other civilians. He described a crowd of thousands of youths invading the IDP camp and killing people and said the reason that they didn’t defend civilians is that they have a rule against it. So I wanted a response, I guess, from the UN, if that’s true, and also, he said that there is a UN investigation ongoing which I… I… which, given Mr. Koenders’ statement dismissing the allegation seems strange, but is there an allegation, is there an investigation ongoing, and is it a correct statement of DPKO policy that was given here this morning?

Spokesperson: I’ll check, Matthew. Other questions, please?

Question: He said one other thing I wanted to ask you about, about the Rohingya in Myanmar. He said that he has asked Myanmar to visit the country sometime in 2013, but was rebuffed and said that it wasn’t “the right time”, quote, unquote. So I wanted to know whether the Secretary-General and Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar believe, as part of the progress they have praised in Myanmar, that it should involve, you know, extending invitations or… or accepting requests to visit by mandate-holders like Mr. Beyani.

Spokesperson: I think the short answer is that, yes, it should. The longer answer is that this is a work in progress, and I think you will see, and you will have seen, some movements, positive movements in this particular area, and we would anticipate that that will continue.

That’s I think what I have for you. Thanks very much, have a good afternoon.

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