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

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

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

So good afternoon everybody, welcome to the briefing.

**Group of 77

The Secretary-General spoke at the chairmanship handover ceremony of the Group of 77 and China this morning. As you know, Argentina handed over to Algeria.

The Secretary-General thanked the Group for its commitment and support.  He said that we have a historic opportunity to address one of the main challenges facing humanity: building a sustainable world.  He said that Group of 77 leadership is fundamental in ensuring that concrete measures are adopted at the “ Rio+20” conference in June.

The full remarks are available in my office.

**Security Council

Earlier this morning the Security Council heard a briefing on Darfur by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous.

He said that the initial steps taken by the parties in implementing the Doha Document provide reason for optimism.

However, Mr. Ladsous noted that the Government and non-signatory movements still needed to return to the negotiating table. He said they had not met since the signing of the Doha Document. No movement had signed the Document in the allotted time frame.

Mr. Ladsous said that the United Nations would continue to work with the African Union for a comprehensive and lasting settlement.

The Under-Secretary-General also noted that the increase in manoeuvres and clashes between Government and movement forces in recent weeks was accompanied by a sharp increase in restrictions of movement imposed on the African Union-UN Operation in Darfur, UNAMID. He added that this had seriously impeded the mission’s ability to implement its mandate.

The Security Council is now holding consultations on Darfur, and this afternoon, it will hear a briefing on the situation in Somalia.

**Press Conferences

Immediately following this briefing, Mourad Medelci, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria, will hold a press conference here to discuss the Presidency of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, as well as the political, economic and social situation in Algeria.

And then tomorrow, Mark Bowden, the UN’s Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, will be the guest at the noon briefing.

And at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference on the Investor Summit on Climate Risk and Energy Solutions.

That’s what I have.  Questions, please.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yeah, sure.  One of the issues that came up after Mr. Ladsous spoke in the Council was this allegation by the Ambassador of Sudan that JEM rebels crossed into South Sudan and he maintains it and South Sudan denies it, and I just wonder, since there is a peacekeeping mission in South Sudan and it wasn’t really addressed but it was topic raised there, can they confirm or deny this important allegation made in the open Council?

Spokesperson:  You are talking about a recent allegation, I mean, not that it was mentioned today, but the event?

Question:  Yeah, my point is he wrote a letter to the Council and…

Spokesperson:  Right.

Question:  …and I believe the Secretary-General [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Okay, so that’s something that has been referred to before.

Question:  Yeah, sure.

Spokesperson:  Right.

Question:  And I wondered, yeah, and do they, and I guess since it is now, it has sort of, you know, repeated, it seems like the kind of thing that the UN should maybe… might be in a position to say either this is true or not true?

Spokesperson:  I think Lise Grande did address this when she spoke by videoconference, if I am not mistaken.  But let me check again further with the mission.  Other questions?  Yes?

Question:  An Iranian scientist was assassinated today, and this is part of an ongoing chain of terrorist attacks on Iran’s nuclear scientists.  My question is, does the United Nations have any reaction to this?

Spokesperson:  We are aware of the reports coming from Tehran and we are looking into them further.  I don’t have anything further to say just at the moment, but we are certainly aware of the reports.  Yes, you had a question, Mr. Abbadi, right?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  The Secretary-General emphasized sustainable development in his address during the ceremony of handover to the new Chairman.  Does the Secretary-General think also that the Group of 77 and China can play a very important role in the resolution of regional conflict?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think the focus in this particular meeting was on the sustainable development agenda, which is obviously a major priority.  This is not to say that other developments do not fit into the picture.  Of course, peace and security are fundamentally important if you are to ensure that developments can take place.  So, the role of the G77 and China is going to be important in many arenas.  The focus today was on sustainable development.  Other questions, please?  Matthew and then I am coming back to you. Yes?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to, another issue that sort of was raised in this morning’s Council proceeding was the, oh just, forget the Council proceedings. Omer al-Bashir, the President of Sudan who was indicted by the International Criminal Court, recently travelled to Libya.  It’s given rise to a lot of controversy and I know that often you are asked about trips that Mr. Bashir makes.  But in this case, since there is a UN Mission in Libya and they have, they recently signed a status-of-mission agreement, I wondered whether Ian Martin had any in his dealings with the Government in Libya, if this issue of how the visit by an ICC-indicted Head of State came up at all, and if he has any thoughts on it, if it is within the UN’s mandate to talk about accountability on an issue like this in Libya?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am not sure that events in Sudan would relate to the Mission’s mandate in Libya, but let me check whether anything has been raised on that topic recently by the Special Representative.  Okay.  Yes, I think you had a question?

Question:  My question is that, aside from this incident that just happened today, it is not the first time that Iranian scientists are becoming the target of such terrorist attacks.  Does the United Nations ever condemn such an attack or does the United Nations have any other reaction to the prior attacks?

Spokesperson:  As I said, if we have something to say, we will let you know, but we are certainly aware of the reports — this most recent one and previous cases, of course we are aware of them.  If I have anything further, then I will let you know.

Question:  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Yes, up there at the back, yes?

Question:  A French journalist just lost his life in Syria; is there any comment in this regard, please?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is aware of this report, and clearly it is extremely disconcerting that a journalist working has been killed while actually in Syria.  And we are obviously waiting to hear more details about this.  But as the Secretary-General has said, he is extremely concerned about the level of violence and the pattern of violence in Syria.  And that violence has to stop.  It is obviously distressing that so many people have lost their lives in the course of the events in recent months in Syria.  And today we have seen a Western journalist, a working journalist, killed, and that’s obviously something that the Secretary-General regrets to hear.  Okay, yes, Evelyn?

Question:  I may have missed this by coming in late, but is there any reaction to the name-calling in Syria?  It’s everybody’s fault but mine?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think the Secretary-General has said what needs to happen, and I don’t think that that has been changed by recent statements.  It is incumbent on the Syrian authorities to listen to the people, and it is also for the Syrian authorities to stop the violence and for violence from any quarter to cease.  As I just mentioned, many people have lost their lives in recent days and months.  This is something that has to stop immediately.  Other questions?  Yes, Stefan?

Question:  Yes, about…

Spokesperson:  And then Nizar.

Question:  Yeah, about the events in South Sudan, then about the numbers of people that lost their lives, we heard of different numbers in the last days and then, is there any… UN now has a definite number?  A hundred fifty, hundred twenty-five, or we still are in search of the number of victims of the ethnic…?

Spokesperson:  No definite number for several reasons:  one is that the terrain is extremely difficult.  And you will find that there are not enough air assets, which in plain English means helicopters, to be able to get out there to find out precisely what happened.  But the assessment so far of the Mission is that the large numbers that were circulating in the media at the end of last week are too large, and that the number likely to have been killed is smaller than that.  But we do not have a figure; I know that the Mission is working to try to get a good assessment, but they do not have a precise figure.  Whether they will ever have a precise figure is another matter.

Nizar, we’ll make this the last question because I see that the Algerian Foreign Minister has arrived, so I need to stop.  So, please, one quick question.

Question:  On many occasions you said that President Assad should listen to the people.  Today President Assad was in Damascus, and the people were chanting for him to stay in power.  Which people should he listen to?  Those who are demonstrating in Damascus or those who are demonstrating in Homs?

Spokesperson:  He needs to listen to all of the people, Nizar, all of the people.  Okay.

Correspondent:  People are calling for him to stay.

Spokesperson:  As I say, he needs to listen to all the people; and it is something that is for the people of the country — all of the people in the country — to decide, and not for the outside world.

Okay, thanks very much.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.