|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Daily press briefing by the office of the spokesman for the secretary-general
and the spokesperson for the general assembly president
(Delayed for technical reasons, issued on 20 September 2005.)
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Good afternoon. Our guest at noon today will be Carolyn McAskie, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Burundi, and she will be here to brief you on the latest situation in that country.
** Korean Peninsula Statement
I have a statement on the Korean Peninsula. The Secretary-General strongly welcomes the consensus reached at the six-party talks in Beijing on the principles for a peaceful and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. This is a major step towards a comprehensive settlement through multilateral diplomacy of one of the most difficult international security issues.
The Secretary-General welcomes in particular the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) commitment to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes, as well as its return at an early date to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to the IAEA safeguards. He is hopeful that this agreement, when fully implemented, will lead to a Peninsula free of nuclear weapons, normalized relations and enhanced security between the countries concerned, and flourishing economic cooperation in North-east Asia.
The Secretary-General commends the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States, as well as all the other participants, for their flexibility and realistic approach, as well as for their readiness to overcome differences through dialogue and mutual respect. China’s efforts were critical for the success of the fourth round of talks.
The Secretary-General also welcomes the role played by the Republic of Korea, as well as all the other participating Governments. Continued efforts in this direction will be necessary in devising “a road map” for implementation of the agreement just reached. The United Nations will do its part to support this process towards a successful conclusion.
Also on the DPRK, out of Vienna today, the Executive Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters that he looked forward to the return of IAEA inspectors to the DPRK.
He said the Agency would conduct “the necessary inspections to assure ourselves that the nuclear weapons programme in the DPRK has been abandoned and that all nuclear activity in the DPRK is subject to safeguards and dedicated to peaceful purposes”. Mr. ElBaradei told reporters that he will be consulting with the officials in the DPRK on when IAEA inspectors can return to the country. We have a press release from Vienna with more details upstairs.
Turning to Lebanon, as you all know, the Secretary-General this morning read out the final statement of a meeting held by representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the European Union, the Russian Federation, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Nations, the World Bank and the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Fuad Siniora.
The Secretary-General said that those officials gathered to demonstrate the support for and commitment to the new Government of Lebanon as it works to reaffirm Lebanon’s sovereignty, engage in vital reforms, and strengthen Lebanon’s democratic institutions. We have more upstairs.
Turning to Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, said that the adoption of the draft constitution by Iraq’s Transitional National Assembly was an important step.
He said that the distribution of the draft text among the Iraqi people, which the UN Mission in Iraq will assist, will help them to make an informed choice on whether to accept or reject the document during the referendum scheduled for the 15th of October. He urged the Iraqi people to participate in the referendum to exercise their democratic right of choice. We have more upstairs in a press release.
From Afghanistan, we issued a statement yesterday saying that the voting in that country’s National Assembly election and Provincial Council election showed once again the clear determination of the Afghan people to pursue peaceful and democratic development in their nation.
The Secretary-General urged the candidates and their supporters to cooperate fully with the electoral authorities to ensure that the process, including vote counting and the certification of results, unfolds in a peaceful and orderly manner. We have a full statement upstairs.
** Burundi Report
Turning to Burundi, the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council on Burundi is out today and is the subject of discussion in this morning’s Security Council consultations.
In the report, the Secretary-General notes the progress achieved in consolidating peace, but outlines significant challenges ahead, which I’m sure Ms. McAskie will elaborate on just after I’m done.
In addition to Burundi, Council members adopted the report of the Security Council to the General Assembly. Council members are now going into a formal meeting to adopt a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia.
**Economic Commission for Africa
Today we’re also announcing the appointment of Abdoulie Janneh of Gambia as the new Executive Secretary for the Economic Commission for Africa. More information and a copy of Mr. Janneh’s bio are available in the office upstairs.
Going back to Saturday, the Secretary-General chaired a ministerial meeting on Haiti here at UN Headquarters. Members of the Core Group and the Prime Minister of Haiti took part.
In opening remarks to the meeting, the Secretary-General said that Haiti’s upcoming elections need to be inclusive and those seeking office should pledge now that they are ready to work together after the elections to promote progress in the next phase of Haiti’s transition.
And from Kosovo, the UN Mission there reports that a UN police vehicle exploded yesterday south of Pristina. Although the vehicle was badly damaged, nobody was injured. An investigation is taking place at this time. We have a press release upstairs.
The Focus 2005 Treaty Event, which took place during the high-level segment of the General Assembly meeting, ended on Friday. In all, 98 States and the European Community participated, with 52 States participating at the level of Head of State or Government.
In addition, there were a total of 265 signatures, ratifications and accessions to various treaties, with Liberia alone accounting for about a third of all of those.
Other highlights included the Nuclear Terrorism Convention, which opened for signature at the Treaty Event and got 82 signatures, and the Convention against Corruption, which received enough ratifications to enter into force on December 14th.
The Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty will meet this week at the UN here in New York, from Wednesday to Friday. At this year’s meeting, a number of States which have not yet signed or ratified the Treaty, are expected to do so.
The President-designate of the Conference is Alexander Downer, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia. We have a press release available upstairs on that.
**Meetings and Press Conferences
Just a few more notes. The International Day of Peace will be observed at UN Headquarters and around the world on Wednesday, 21 September. The Secretary-General will ring the peace bell at 9:30 on Wednesday, and he has called for a global ceasefire on Wednesday and for a minute of silence at noon on the same day. And we have more upstairs on that as well.
A reminder for tomorrow: the Secretary-General will host a meeting at the principals level of the Middle East Quartet, which brings together the Foreign Ministers of Russia, the United States and European Union, and the Secretary-General and the Quartet officials are to hold a press briefing at about 11:40 in Conference Room 4. And seeing the timing of that press conference at 11:40, we will spare you a noon briefing tomorrow.
And at 1:15 here, Alan Doss, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Liberia, will brief you on the latest developments in Liberia.
And tomorrow at 11:30, Gianfranco Fini will hold a press conference in this room. Before I turn to Pragati, any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: What came to us about the present state of the Secretary-General’s good offices mission for dealing with a conclusive settlement about the Cyprus issue? Do you have any new position?
Spokesman: No, the Secretary-General’s position is unchanged. He had a chance to discuss this with a number of officials over the last couple of days and obviously the timing for the resumption of the good offices would have to be the right one, but at this point there is no change.
Question: According to the Greek Cypriot press, the UN Secretary-General has asked the two parties to send their representatives here. Is this true?
Spokesman: I will be happy to check up on that. I have not been informed, but I will be happy to check for you on that.
Question: From the Lebanon meeting that the Secretary-General chaired this morning, what was the message in meeting with Siniora rather than the elected President of the country?
Spokesman: The Lebanese Prime Minister, I think, was newly elected following the free and fair elections that were held recently in Lebanon, and I think it was natural for him to represent his country at this conference.
Question: But is the Secretary-General sending any particular message to the Lebanese, given the fact that Lahoud was speaking in the General Assembly while Siniora was actually in the meeting and talking in the press conference?
Spokesman: I think no one should read anything into the timing of the conference. A lot of things happen here in New York at Headquarters during these days, so it’s always difficult to find a time that is good for all the participants. And, I think the message that was sent was the representatives of the international community surrounding the Prime Minister of Lebanon and pledging their efforts and goodwill to help him and the people of Lebanon.
Question: It’s about Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Obviously there will be a pledge for Lebanon. The meeting today did not come up with any solid pledges, no dollar figures, nothing. In that case, why would the Saudis, and especially the Egyptians, who are not particularly a wealthy country, be invited to this meeting? Were they invited for a political endorsement or for another reason?
Spokesman: I think this was not a meeting about money; it was about sending a signal of support to the Lebanese people and to the Lebanese Government.
Question: You may have answered this over the last couple of days, but we’ve been kind of busy. Where are we on Zimbabwe because there were reports last week that Mugabe had withdrawn the invitation for the UN to visit, but we were speaking to Gambari late in the week and he said that it may still be on?
Spokesman: As you know, the Secretary-General and President Mugabe met on the sidelines of the Summit and they obviously discussed issues of importance both to the UN and to Zimbabwe. They reviewed the humanitarian requirements, relating particularly to the situation resulting from demolitions and food requirement shortfalls. They agreed it would be appropriate to have, in the near future, a high-level visit from someone from the humanitarian affairs department. As for a possible visit by the Secretary-General, the two,
Mr. Mugabe and the Secretary-General, both agreed that it needs to be properly prepared. So the focus is on both the humanitarian and obviously on preparing an eventual visit.
Question: So no Gambari, but someone from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs?
Spokesman: Yes, that’s correct. Pragati, all yours.
Spokesperson for General Assembly President
In the General Assembly, the general debate continues in morning and afternoon meetings today. For the first time, the debate has an agreed theme: “Follow-up and implementation of the Summit outcome”. It is expected to run through the end of this week.
In his opening statement on Saturday, President Jan Eliasson said that he believed that the World Summit Outcome document is a “strong and substantial foundation” for work ahead, and “a beachhead of common ground from which we launch ourselves forward with urgency and common purpose”. He said that once he has absorbed the contributions from the general debate, he plans to present an outline of work for the Summit follow-up and for the revitalization of the Assembly.
This evening around 7 p.m., after all statements conclude, the plenary will take up the report of the General Committee and will adopt the agenda and allocation of items for the Assembly session.
[This part of the plenary was postponed to Tuesday evening due to the partial power outage at UN Headquarters on Monday.]
President Eliasson also participated this morning in the wreath-laying ceremony observing the anniversary of the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, who is a personal hero of his.
* *** *For information media • not an official record