Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 08 July 2013
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.
This morning, the Security Council was briefed in an open meeting by Hilde Johnson, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan, on the eve of the country’s second anniversary.
Speaking from South Sudan, Ms. Johnson pointed to progress made since independence with the support of the UN Mission, UNMISS, including becoming a more stable and democratically accountable country. However, she noted that despite these achievements, progress has been hampered in other areas, including the security situation in Jonglei and human rights violations by both armed groups and national security institutions. Ms. Johnson’s full remarks are available in my office.
The Secretary-General spoke this morning at a General Assembly thematic debate on inequality, saying that the United Nations is determined to promote social progress and better standards of life not for some, but for all.
In his remarks, he said that the Millennium Development Goals have been remarkably successful in generating global action across a range of issues. He also said that progress has been uneven within and among countries, and that in many countries, rich and poor, social and economic inequalities are widening. The Secretary-General said that tackling inequality, eradicating poverty and promoting shared prosperity must be at the heart of the UN sustainable development agenda. And his full remarks are available in my office, too.
The Secretary-General has appointed his two Deputy Special Representatives in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). They are Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal and David Gressly of the United States of America.
Mr. Bathily has been serving as Senior Minister in the Office of the President of Senegal since 2012, and Mr. Gressly has most recently served as Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel. Mr. Gressly will also serve in MINUSMA as United Nations Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). There is more information on these appointments in my office.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that the deaths of students in another attack on a school in north-east Nigeria should be condemned absolutely by all communities. UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine, said that there can be no justification for the deliberate targeting of children and those looking after them. UNICEF called for those responsible to be brought to justice and for communities to demand that schools be considered as places of safety. The Secretary-General shares these views and I’d expect to have something further on this a little bit later today.
United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Ali Al-Za’tari, has expressed sadness over the killing in Nyala, in South Darfur, of two Sudanese staff members working with the non-governmental organization World Vision International. A third World Vision staff member was also critically injured in fighting between Government forces and an armed group.
Mr. Al-Za’tari said that the incident highlights the continuing unstable security in this region that threatens to disrupt the flow of much-needed humanitarian assistance, destabilize reconciliation efforts and derail progress towards greater economic and social development.
Nicholas Kay, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, has expressed his sorrow at the killing in the city of Gaalkacyo of a TV reporter, the fifth journalist to be murdered in the country this year. Nicholas Kay noted that this is a politically tense period in Puntland ahead of local elections and called for restraint on the part of all political actors. He said that the new UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, UNSOM, is dedicated to working with Somali authorities to strengthen the security and justice sectors in order to ensure that Somalia is safe and that perpetrators of violent crime are brought to justice.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Martin Kobler, has welcomed the relocation of a first group of seven residents of Camp Liberty to Germany. Mr. Kobler said that these are the first of approximately 100 residents that Germany has agreed to accept for relocation. He thanked the Government of Germany for offering a new home to these people in need of international protection.
And just to note that Mr. Kandeh Yumkella of Sierra Leone officially took up his post as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sustainable Energy for All, at the beginning of this month. As Special Representative, Mr. Yumkella will seek to mobilize action towards a sustainable energy future and accelerate the implementation of the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative.
Mr. Yumkella most recently served two terms as the Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) from 2005 until this year. And before joining UNIDO, Mr. Yumkella served as Minister of Trade, Industry and State Enterprises of Sierra Leone. While serving as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Mr. Yumkella will continue to chair UN-Energy, the coordination body of United Nations agencies dealing with energy-related issues.
Questions, please. And please do use your microphone. Yes, Edie?
**Questions and Answers
Correspondent: Martin, welcome back, and I am sorry to be the bearer of a major complaint on behalf of all of us. You mentioned the briefing by Hilde Johnson this morning in the Security Council. Unfortunately, none of us could hear it because it was not available either on EZTV or on the Webcast. And I think a lot of us at this point, after being back in this building for a month, are wondering why we have traded in a perfectly good system that worked to monitor all of the UN meetings for a system which isn’t working at all.
Spokesperson: It’s a valid question, and I will see if I can get an answer from those who deal with this. I understand your frustrations.
Correspondent: May I add to that that this… May I add here that this Web… this briefing itself is not broadcast on Webcast or on EZTV. We could not access it in the offices.
Spokesperson: Well, in which case I am very glad to see you, Nizar.
Question: Sure, can I just add?
Correspondent: Yeah, no, I just wanted to, because it is true…
Spokesperson: Are you seeing it there on your screen?
Question: I will… I’m… I’m trying not to be confused by it, but it is true it is not just on… on EZTV, it is also on the Webcast and also now the things on the side don’t have any trans… doesn’t… for… for example, the… the… the event that the Secretary-General attended, it didn’t list any translations for it, which maybe there were, maybe there weren’t. So I want to… in… in order to ask the question whether… since it seems to be not just EZTV, but system-wide, whether it has anything to do with this new contract given to TeamPeople, which I have heard basically the staff has been cut in half and the benefits given are or have been reduced by 25 to 30 per cent, I would like a sort of a… an answer what, whether this has to do with that, rather than just the move back to the building.
Spokesperson: As I say, I do understand your frustrations, and I do know that there have been some difficulties both today and on other days, and I am waiting for a response, because needless to say, we’d already asked and I am waiting for a response from those who deal with these matters to see what we can tell you. Yes, Pam?
Question: There is… just to follow up on that point, it is not only the EZTV, it is also if you can follow up on the Web. In other words, the upload which is not the camera, that is a different… your division… I mean, it is DPI, the uploading of this for example, might take a full day now, whereas it was almost immediately up. Some of the Security Council meetings and… and stakeouts are now delaying more, if you could just add that to it. But my other… my actual question is this: the Syrian Ambassador, this morning at the stakeout, did bring up the invitation to Angela Kane and Professor Sellström that has been extended. He sort of referred in passing to the Secretary-General’s reaction. Can you give us some reaction, and do you know how soon that meeting might take place in Damascus?
Spokesperson: On the second part of your question, I can’t answer that. Certainly, the Secretary-General has been made aware of the press briefing by the Permanent Representative of Syria. He remains seriously concerned about all allegations on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. What is most urgent at this time is that the Syrian Government allows access to the UN investigation mission without further delay and without any conditions. In this regard, the stated intent of the Syrian Government to invite Dr. Sellström and Ms. Angela Kane is a move in the right direction. We need to analyse the elements in the announcement by the Syrian Permanent Representative today. In the meantime, let me repeat the importance of having comprehensive access to the sites of allegations. Okay, other questions, please? Yes?
[The following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General was later issued:
The Secretary-General welcomes the offer of the Government of Syria to continue discussions on the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic. He remains seriously concerned about all allegations on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
The head of the Mission, Dr. Åke Sellström, will travel to New York this week to update the Secretary-General on the status of his activities. Pending its on-site access in Syria, the Mission has continued to monitor developments as well as to collect and analyze information made available by Member States. The Mission has also conducted fact-finding activities in a neighbouring country.
The Secretary-General hopes that Syria will grant access to the Mission to conduct its comprehensive on-site investigation. Cooperation from Syria in this regard will be essential for the Mission to establish facts in a credible manner regarding any use of chemical weapons in Syria.]
Question: May I follow up on Syria? What are the concerns now regarding the situation in Homs, and that the Syrian army is obviously making progress against the opposition, and the opposition is also threatening to retaliate against some Shiites villages in… near Aleppo? So what is the respo… the… the United Nations call now for the Syrian Government or the opposition in this regard? Thank you.
Spokesperson: Well, I think that it has been stated repeatedly and quite recently the concerns that the Secretary-General has about developments in and around Homs, and particularly the need for there to be humanitarian access. So I think I would simply at this point refer you to the most recent statement by the Secretary-General, which is still valid in these circumstances. There are, of course, conflicting, differing accounts of precisely what is happening on the ground. One thing is for sure, and that is that civilians continue to face and endure the brunt of this military operation being conducted by both sides, and it is those people that we need to think about — the civilians. And that’s why there needs to be humanitarian access so that the people receive the assistance that they urgently require. Erol, and then Iftikhar, yes? Please use your microphone. I have it written in big letters in front of me here to try to remind myself and you.
Question: Okay. Thank you, Martin. As you know, Thursday is 11 July; yet another sad anniversary of Srebrenica. I wonder, since the Secretary-General — and you were with him last year in Potocari in Srebrenica — said very strong words that has… have echoed somehow till now, does he have to say anything this time on that?
Spokesperson: Well, today is 8 July, if I am not mistaken, Erol, and the…
Correspondent: I am giving you time, so…
Spokesperson: Yes, yes, I do appreciate your providing quite a generous time frame to come up with a response. So let me see if we can do that.
Question: [inaudible] follow-up, if you allow me. On 11 July…
Spokesperson: But just very… Seriously, Erol, you are absolutely right that the Secretary-General was there. It was obviously a sobering experience for all those who were there on that particular visit, and his words carried weight, and they continue to carry weight. And if we have anything further to add as we approach the actual anniversary date, I will let you know.
Question: Can I just go with a follow-up? On 11 July, there is going to be the central commemoration here at the Dag Hammarskjöld Park at 12 noon, and I know somehow that Secretary-General was invited either to come himself or to send his envoy to magnify that event. Whether he is going to attend or he is going to send some, do you know?
Spokesperson: I don’t. I need to check on that. Stefano? Iftikhar and then Stefano, yes.
Question: Thank you, Martin. Is the UN doing anything to calm the situation in Egypt, where the military after having deposed an elected Government seems to be on a killing spree, violating human rights?
Spokesperson: Well, I do know that the Secretary-General is watching this extremely closely. He is aware of the most recent developments over night. He is seriously concerned about those developments, and I would anticipate that we would say something further on this a little bit later today. Stefano?
Question: Thank you, Martin. Today, Pope Francis visited the little island of Lampedusa in the middle of the Mediterranean. This is a little island that is a symbol of immigration, where hundreds, thousands of people reach the island. We don’t know how many don’t reach and die between Africa and this little island. I would like to know what the Secretary-General thinks about the visit of the Pope, a symbolic visit, and if maybe the Secretary-General ever thinks to do something similar to that?
Spokesperson: Well, certainly, the Secretary-General is aware of the visit and he also recognizes the focus that the Pope has placed in particular on the plight of refugees. And this is also something, of course, that the Secretary-General has done in his own way in different places. And the plight of refugees, not just there, but around the world, is something that needs to be highlighted continually. And it is something that we will continue to do, certainly. If I have anything more specific, I will let you know. But just to reiterate, the Secretary-General certainly admires and respects the focus that the Holy Father places on the plight of refugees. I am going right to the back of the room, I can see you. And if you put the microphone on, I can see the red light, and then I’ll see you even more clearly. Yes?
Question: Thank you so much, Martin. I assume you are aware of what happened to President Evo Morales of Bolivia in Austria. And there is a statement from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, and they call it unwarranted action and violation of international law what happened to him. Please let us know about what the Secretary-General thinks about it.
Spokesperson: I do believe that my colleague was able to say something on this topic last week. I don’t have anything to add at this stage. If that changes, I will let you know. Yes, Nizar?
Correspondent: Thank you.
Question: Martin, [inaudible]…?
Spokesperson: Microphone, please.
Question: Oh, sorry. [inaudible] still not used to that. These towns which are, sometimes you call villages, Nubuland Azzahra’a, they host minimum 65,000, they are big cities, they have been under blockade for over a year by al-Nusra mainly. And what we heard that Aleppo itself is under blockade now by al-Nusra for four days, they have been denied food, water, fuel, everything. The whole town of, sorry, city of Aleppo, is under total blockade. Are there any contacts or any way to deliver aid to the people of those two towns and Aleppo in the meantime?
Question: Because this terrorist organization?
Spokesperson: I think my answer is rather similar to the answer on Homs. And that is that humanitarian access is required throughout the country. People have endured terrible hardships, and continue to suffer — and I mean civilians here — and it is incumbent on all sides to enable humanitarian aid to get through. And I will obviously check further with my colleagues in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to see if they have an update on the particular locations that you have just mentioned, Nizar. Pam, and then I am coming to Matthew, okay. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Martin. There have been some troubling recent developments at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and while the Secretary-General wouldn’t normally weave in, there has been a series of letters, one by the Prosecutor, one by the former Danish judge, Harhoff, and… I mean the current Danish judge, Harhoff. And then there was a letter from 100 different journalists and organizations from the entire region of former Yugoslavia to the Secretary-General written on 25 June, I believe, 26 June, asking for him to comment or intervene because of the recent acquittal of two Serbian intelligence officers and the fact that several of the judges felt there was undue influence on that decision. The Prosecutor seems intent on appealing that. But there is not over as much real oversight of the courts, since it is a UN-appointed agency, I mean at least Tribunal, is there anything the Secretary-General would say or has to say about that letter?
Spokesperson: I need to check whether that letter you have referred to from 26 June was indeed received. That may well be the case, but I need to check for sure.
Correspondent: It was.
Spokesperson: Let me also see whether I have anything further. I do believe that my colleague Eduardo had something to say about the ICTY, but let me just double check. And if that is not the case, I will make available whatever guidance we have on that. Matthew?
Question: Sure, and thanks a lot. I… I have a… questions on Mali, Sudan and Haiti, but I’d wanted to ask one more thing about Syria, which is that, at a stakeout, Ambassador Ja’afari mentioned by name this Russian journalist Anastasia Popova and the evidence that was provided. I know there was some… I just wanted to factually, maybe not… not… not now, but maybe later today, get some idea specifically what was turned over by Angela Kane and her office to Åke Sellström, specifically like the size… there seems to be some… I just wanna know what was turned over. He seems to thi… I’ve talked to her actually, and she says it was several gigabytes, I just wanna know, you know, how just… just factually what was turned over since it is now, you know, become part of the… at least the presentation by Syria again. Is that possible?
Spokesperson: Well, first of all, we have said very clearly, including initially in an exchange between you and me, where you seemed to express surprise that we would even be interested in receiving the material, and the material was indeed received. And any material that is received is taken seriously and looked at seriously and dispassionately. But it is not appropriate to comment on the specifics of the material provided — in any instance, and not just in this one. I think you had three other topics you wanted to get to, but let me see if there are others who wish to ask questions in the meantime. Yes, Please?
Question: The Secretary-General and Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan had a phone conversation over the weekend; can you tell us some details about the conversation?
Spokesperson: Not at this point, no. If I have any details, I will let you know. But there was indeed a telephone conversation that the Secretary-General had. If I get any more details, I will let you know.
Question: Okay, great, and thanks a lot. I… I wanted… on… on Mali, it’s a… the Malian army has said that the MNLA in Kidal is somehow violating the agreement they signed in Ouagadougou and has, they claim, organized, you know, throwing of stones at peacekeepers etc. What’s the… what’s the Mission… MINUSMA, what… what do they say about this?
Spokesperson: Well, the Mission says that on Saturday, 6 July, in Kidal, its peacekeepers exchanged fire after a checkpoint guarding entry into the town came under attack by armed combatants, and one uniformed staff member sustained a gunshot wound to his leg. And the Mission has since reinforced its presence in Kidal and mobile patrols are also being undertaken.
Question: Okay. No, thanks a lot and… One, this is a… I know when Under-Secretary-General Ladsous was in Khartoum, he said that, you know, the attack on the peacekeepers, the Nigerian peacekeepers, had been repelled with some… the use of some force and that a body of one of the assailants had been kept and it was said on Friday this was given to the Sudanese Government. I just wanted… It sounds strange, but the law, the Islamic law, at least seems to indicate that they should be buried. So it was… it was sort of said, like, this body is being kept as a way to identify the assailants or… so I just wanted to know, is there some… what’s the UN’s position on this? On… on… on actually turning over the body of a… of a… of a killed combatant, is that… is that the end of the story, is the person gonna be buried, returned to relatives…?
Spokesperson: Well, that would be for the Sudanese authorities, who are the appropriate authorities to receive that body. And I think that that’s what my colleague Farhan told you on Friday. What’s your question on, your last question?
Question: Okay, sure, and it has to do with Haiti and I am… I saw the letter that came out on Friday and I just wanted to… to get your response to it. One of the things in the letter seems to say that… that the majority of the recommendations of the group of, the Panel of Experts have been implemented and there is this report card, pretty serious organization, saying that a number of them, particularly on the UN side, haven’t been implemented. So I just wanted… is that… what’s the… the… the statement that… that a majority of the… I mean, well, I can go through each of the recommendations, I don’t want to… My question is, what’s that based on? Is that… is it… are all of the recommendations going to be implemented through time, are some of them being rejected, is there some way to know what the… what the response of the UN is to those recommendations, and what would you say to those who say there is still the problem of… of… there is a contradiction between saying we are doing all these things that for Haiti and the insistence on the denial of the… the legal claims of those killed by the cholera?
Spokesperson: Well, I think we have said publicly already about the recommendations and which recommendations are being implemented. And I would simply refer you to what was said then. I don’t have anything further on that particular topic today, okay. Yes, Stefano, last question?
Question: Yes. You said… I think you said before about Nigeria that incident with… about Nigeria that the Secretary-General is going to have a statement or something?
Spokesperson: I was probably a little more cautious and said I would expect that we would have something a little bit later today. Something along those lines. In other words, I am hoping that we will have something further…
Question: So I, at the request…
Spokesperson: UNICEF made a statement…
Correspondent: I know.
Spokesperson: …and I am hoping that we will have something from the Secretary-General a little bit later today.
Question: I just have a specific question, because it is now… of course, it is not just an isolated incident…
Question: …it happened already only in the month of June, it happened several times.
Question: So did the Secretary-General speak directly with the Nigerian Government to assess the situation? Did they have a direct conversation?
Spokesperson: He has in the past spoken to the Nigerian President. They met, as I recall, in Addis Ababa during, on the sidelines of the event to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Organization of African Unity/African Union. And I know that, in the meantime, there have been other contacts, not necessarily by the Secretary-General, with the Nigerian authorities. This obviously continues to be a topic of concern for the Secretary-General and for the United Nations more generally. As I say, I would anticipate that we would have something a little bit later today.
Thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.
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