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

19 January 2012
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

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.

Good afternoon and welcome to the briefing.

**Security Council

This morning, the Secretary-General addressed the Security Council on the rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict settings.  He said that never has the UN’s rule-of-law sector faced such great challenges — or such historic opportunities.  Our task is to usher in an era of respect for the law in every field: from peace and security to trade and development, from the high seas to local communities.

He noted that our approach has three basic components.  First, to promote accountability and reinforce norms through transitional justice.  Second, to build justice and security institutions to promote trust.  And third, to focus on justice for women and girls to foster gender equality.

He encouraged the Council to include the promotion of transitional justice measures more broadly in the mandates of peacekeeping and political missions.  He also called on the Council to reject any endorsement of amnesty for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity or gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

**South Sudan

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, called for an immediate end to the cycle of violence in Jonglei State.  She condemned the use of violence by communities and urged their political, traditional and youth leaders to do their utmost to end the killings and confrontations.  She said she is particularly concerned about continued statements that could incite ethnic violence.

Ms. Johnson also urged the Government to deploy additional forces and further strengthen its forces in the key areas to stop further violence.  She said that this would also provide the basis for a peace process between the Jonglei communities.  The Special Representative welcomed the Government’s decision to establish a peace team to lead the peace process.  She said it was urgent to appoint this dedicated team and get the process moving forward.

Ms. Johnson said that the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had been relocating its military forces to areas most at risk.  The peacekeepers have provided medical aid and helped evacuate a number of people from the village of Duk Padiet, where the latest attack took place on Monday night.  Looking back on the new country’s first six months of independence, she also underscored the importance of relations between Sudan and South Sudan.  And she also welcomed the political and security reforms that were introduced in South Sudan.  We have her full remarks in my office.


We have been asked about the Secretary-General’s most recent trip.  The United Arab Emirates Government provided an aircraft to fly the Secretary-General from Beirut to Abu Dhabi because of time constraints.  National Governments have provided similar assistance in the past, to this Secretary-General and to his predecessors.  And as you well know, most of the Secretary-General’s official travel is on commercial flights or peacekeeping aircraft.

That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yesterday at the stakeout, Valerie Amos referred to, answering to a question about whether Gaza was occupied or not, she referred to a Palestinian occupied territory, meaning the West Bank and Gaza, implying that Gaza is not occupied.  So I wanted to know, where does the UN stand on this question?  Is Gaza occupied or not, according to the UN?

Spokesperson:  Well, under resolutions adopted by both the Security Council and the General Assembly on the Middle East peace process, the Gaza Strip continues to be regarded as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The United Nations will accordingly continue to refer to the Gaza Strip as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory until such time as either the General Assembly or the Security Council take a different view.

Question:  Can I follow up on that?  It is the legal definition of occupation and why is Gaza considered occupied?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I have just said, there are Security Council and General Assembly resolutions that cover this.  For example, there was a Security Council resolution adopted on 8 January 2009 — 1860 — and that stressed that the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967.  And as you know, Security Council resolutions do have force in international law.  Furthermore, there is a resolution from the General Assembly from 20 December 2010, and while it noted the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank, it also stressed, in quotes, “the need for respect and preservation of the territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”.  So just to repeat that the United Nations will continue to refer to the Gaza Strip as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory until either the General Assembly or the Security Council take a different view on the matter.  Okay, other questions?  Yes, Masood?  And then Mr. Abbadi, yeah?

Question:  Yes, Martin, I wanted to ask you about this rise in tensions in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf that Iranians have also warned and that the, and Israelis are not relenting on their determination to attack Iran.  At any time they can do it.  Has the Secretary-General had any conversation with anybody in Israel and Iran about this situation that exists now?  And if the Strait of Hormuz is closed it will be very bad for the oil.

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has spoken publicly about his concerns about tensions in the Strait of Hormuz, namely that firstly there is an urgent need to defuse the tensions that there are.  And that should be through dialogue between the parties concerned.  And of course, it also includes the need on the part of the Iranian authorities to prove to the satisfaction of the international community that their nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.  And furthermore, the Secretary-General has said that the Strait of Hormuz is an extremely important conduit for international trade and commerce, and that it is important that free passage should be guaranteed in accordance with the Law of the Sea.

Question:  A follow-up.  When he was on this trip to Abu Dhabi and so forth, did he speak with the leaders over there, or the leaders around that area, at all about this situation that exists as of now?

Spokesperson:  Well, you will have seen that the Secretary-General did have meetings with the Crown Prince and Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates while he was in Abu Dhabi.  And I think we provided some details on those conversations, and indeed on the conversations that the Secretary-General also had with the Chinese Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea.  And just to reiterate, the Secretary-General has said publicly how concerned he is about the tensions that there are in that region and the need to defuse those tensions.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  In his message to the commemoration of the seventieth anniversary by United Nations, the Secretary-General said, and I quote: “In a world of seven…”, I am sorry, “Future generations may well describe the spirit as an inflection point when the contours of a new world began to take shape.”  How does he define the contours of the new world?

Spokesperson:  Well, Mr. Abbadi, that is a very wide and sweeping question.  I am not sure that we would go into huge details here.  I think just a couple of points.  The first is that the events that we have seen unfold in the past year in the Middle East and North Africa, but not just there, have been little short of remarkable, and have provided an opportunity for change for many people who have long sought that change.  These countries are in transition and they need assistance.  And the Secretary-General has repeatedly said that to mark, if you like, the truly momentous events that are taking place, the United Nations really will stand to support those countries that are in transition.  And also, those people who still seek the change that they have longed for elsewhere.  Yes?

Question:  On Yemen, where the Secretary-General’s Representative has gone back again, I just wanted to know, has he said anything about… does that agreement that was made with President Saleh still stand?  Or has he somehow been going back on the agreement to hold… I mean with the United Nations that agreement that he had… as you can…

Spokesperson:  This was not an agreement with the United Nations.

Question:  With the… when the Special Representative, understanding with the Special Representative… oh, yeah, sorry.  The agreement was with the so-called Arab Plan.  Does President Saleh stand with that?  Is that the understanding of the Secretary-General?

Spokesperson:  Well, I mean, I think you’d have to ask President Saleh whether he is sticking to the agreement.  What we have said is that there is an agreement that needs to be implemented.

Question:  The GCC agreement, yes?

Spokesperson:  Correct.  Right.

Question:  I just wanted to know whether Mr. Benomar’s understanding is that he is standing by the agreement.

Spokesperson:  Well, Mr. Benomar has been visiting Yemen again, one of his many trips; he has played an important role, of course.  And I think he will be reporting to the Council at some point.  But I don’t have anything further on that just at the moment.  Okay, other questions?  Yes, Ozlem?

Question:  The Secretary-General is going to meet with the Cypriot leaders this Sunday.  Can you give us some information about the format of the meetings?  Will it be the same like the previous one?  Do you have any information about it?

Spokesperson:  I will have some details, not right now, but I will have some more details, for sure.  Yeah.  Yes, Anne?

Question:  There have been several demonstrations by Tibetans in exile across the street from the UN in New York, and reports in The New York Times of Tibetan, Buddhists, monks and nuns setting themselves on fire.  Has the — and that was to protest human rights abuses against the Tibetan people — has the Secretary-General responded to any letters from non-governmental organizations on this issue?  And what about the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has she made any statements on this [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Let me check on that for you, Anne, okay?  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Just one last question I wanted to ask you about this situation as far as Nigeria is concerned.  Has the Secretary-General had any conversation with the President of Nigeria as yet?  President Goodluck Jonathan for what has been happening over there, terrorist attacks and so forth?  And has he had any latest conversation? 

Spokesperson:  Not a recent conversation, but the Secretary-General is well briefed on what has been happening there.  And as you know, we have issued a statement not so long ago about what has been happening there.  If we have anything further, then I will let you know.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you.  There are indications that we are heading again towards a famine crisis in the Sahel region.  And are there any preventive measures being contemplated to head off any crisis there?

Spokesperson:  In the Sahel?

Correspondent:  Sahel.

Spokesperson:  I’ll check with my colleagues from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  I don’t have anything right with me now.

Okay, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon, thank you.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.