|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General
Good afternoon. Yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General attended closed consultations of the Security Council on the situation in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno briefed on Eritrea’s decision to restrict all helicopter flights of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), effective today.
The Security Council immediately held a formal meeting and Council President Ambassador Mihnea Motoc of Romania read out a presidential statement calling on Eritrea to reverse the decision.
**Statement on Ethiopia/Eritrea
I now have a statement on that situation.
“The Secretary-General learned on 4 September that the Eritrean authorities have decided to restrict all types of helicopter flights by the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) within Eritrean air space. In view of the seriousness of the matter, the Security Council met yesterday evening to consider the situation at the request of the Secretary-General.
“The Secretary-General is very concerned about Eritrea’s decision, which will seriously limit UNMEE’s operational capacity to implement its mandate as requested by the parties and authorized by the Security Council. This development could exacerbate the existing suspicions at the border area and create instability. The restriction will also negatively affect the security of UNMEE personnel and their operations. The Secretary-General wishes to stress that freedom of movement is a fundamental principle of all peacekeeping missions.
“The Secretary-General joins the Security Council in calling for the Government of Eritrea to immediately reverse its decision, and for both parties to show maximum restraint. The Secretary-General insists on the urgent necessity to bring the peace process to a conclusion by fully implementing the Algiers Agreements and the decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission and by engaging in political dialogue.”
And that statement is available upstairs.
**Statement on Democratic Republic of Congo
I now have a statement on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“The Secretary-General strongly condemns the recent incursion by armed elements of the Lord’s Resistance Army into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and supports the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s commitment to disarm the group, with the assistance of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).
“The Secretary-General welcomes in this regard the strong presidential statement issued by the Security Council on 4 October. In this context, he wishes to remind Governments that any recourse to the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo contravenes the United Nations Charter, as well as mutual commitments made recently by States in the Great Lakes region. Furthermore, inflammatory statements detrimental to the conduct of United Nations operations do not serve the cause of peace and could result in putting the lives of United Nations personnel in danger.
“The Secretary-General strongly encourages all Governments of the region to use established mechanisms, including the Tripartite Commission, to resolve the situation through concerted action amongst Member States and welcomes assistance by international partners towards that end. He also calls on the countries in the region to undertake strengthened and determined efforts to bring an end to the activities of all illegal armed groups that are inflicting such immense suffering on the people in the Great Lakes region.”
And that statement is available upstairs.
**Iraq – Secretary-General’s Comments
The Secretary-General, in comments made to a number of you earlier today, said that he thought it was important that Iraq’s Transitional National Assembly voted today to reverse the decision it had taken on Sunday on the rules applying to the 15 October referendum. The earlier decision, he said, “was patently inappropriate, and we made that clear to them”.
The Secretary-General, in response to further questions, says that the United Nations continues to hope that the Iraqis will find a process of reconciling and maintaining a united and peaceful Iraq. Meanwhile, he said, the United Nations is playing an effective role in the elections and the constitutional process, and being “as active as we can be”.
He also spoke to you about the situation in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and his receipt yesterday of Special Envoy Kai Eide’s report on Kosovo. The full transcript should be made available to you shortly.
Earlier today, the Secretary-General accepted the report of the Global Commission on International Migration, which I think you were briefed on a short while ago.
The Secretary-General said that international migration is an inevitable feature of modern society. He said the important challenge is to find ways to manage migration for the benefit of all –- of sending countries, receiving countries, transit countries, and the migrants themselves. We have his remarks upstairs and the full report is available on the Commission’s website.
** C ôte d’Ivoire
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire, Pierre Schori, left Abidjan today for Addis Ababa to participate in tomorrow’s summit of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union. Last night, he met with Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo to discuss the current situation.
At the summit in Addis Ababa, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will present its recommendations, from the meeting it held last week in Abuja, on the way forward in Côte d’Ivoire.
**Children and Armed Conflict
Out on the racks today is the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
In it, the Special Representative recommends that States harness the present strong momentum for the protection of the war-affected children into effective action.
The Special Representative lists several specific recommendations, including asking States to stop the cross-border abduction of children, as well as other cross-border activities that affect children, such as the illicit trade in natural resources and small arms.
The Secretary-General today named Prof. Klaus M. Leisinger, President of the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development, as his new Special Advisor on Global Compact.
He will act as an ambassador of the Global Compact and he will advance critical issues in areas relevant to the initiative. And we have his full bio upstairs.
And lastly, I’d like to remind you of the lecture -- which will begin at 1:15 p.m. today at the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium -- where Lakhdar Brahimi, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, and Jane Holl Lute, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, will speak on “Peacekeeping and conflict resolution: then and now”. Journalists and all staff are invited to attend. And that will be moderated by Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.
That’s it for me, any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I guess it’s almost nightfall in Eritrea. Are any helicopters flying today?
Spokesman: We are still waiting for an update, but we have no indication that helicopters are flying. [He later confirmed that all helicopters had been grounded.]
Question: Given the LRA incursions into eastern Congo, has MONUC changed its force make-up, is it deploying in different areas, is there any change in strategy?
Spokesman: We are doing whatever we can to assist the DRC Government in moving troops to that region. Obviously, our own resources are stretched with what’s going on in the eastern part of the country, but we’re doing whatever we can to work with the DRC Government in that respect.
Question: And just for the record, Mr. [William] Swing has been in town for several days. Wouldn’t it be kind of good for him to give us a briefing, considering?
Spokesman: We will see what we can arrange with Mr. Swing on that.
Question: On Iraq, was the United Nations at any point in time aware that these changes on the voting procedures were taking place and didn’t do anything to stop it?
Spokesman: Were we made aware that the changes were taking place? I’m not aware that we were aware.
Question: What does it imply, that somehow the United Nations was complicit in this?
Question: Can you give us any details on the planned meeting with the Secretary-General and Prince Charles?
Spokesman: No, I saw the visit was announced and we’ll see what details I can give you after the briefing.
Question: It says November, any specific date?
Spokesman: We’ll see what we can get you after the briefing. We have nothing to announce officially from this side.
Question: Is the Secretary-General confident that it is possible to have a national reconciliation in Iraq within the next 10 days, prior to the date of the referendum?
Spokesman: We hope that the referendum will be used as a pathway to national reconciliation.
Question: Couple of questions about Giandomenico Picco. Mr. Picco was apparently the Chairman of the Board of GDP Services, which was a contractor of the United Nations, at the same time he served as a personal representative of the Secretary-General. Do you know if he declared that conflict of interest to the United Nations at any time?
Spokesman: I have no information on that at this point.
Question: Couple of follow-ups, do you know if the United Nations knew about any potential conflict?
Spokesman: No. As I said, I saw the story you filed yesterday, and I have nothing to add, though I would say that, obviously, as far as the reform process goes, we hope to be rolling out, fairly shortly, new and stronger policies on conflict of interest and financial disclosure.
Question: I’m sorry, Steph, let me clarify. Are you saying your information is that helicopters are grounded, did not fly today as a result of the order?
Spokesman: I mean we would not be flying helicopters in contradiction of a Government order not to fly them. We need their permission to fly them.
Question: So the order is being implemented and you have no choice?
Spokesman: As far as I know, it is, and, yes, we have no choice.
Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President
The General Assembly held an informal plenary meeting yesterday afternoon to hear Member States’ views on President Jan Eliasson’s proposed work plan for follow-up to the World Summit. Reactions were positive overall, and the President concluded that the process should move forward as he had outlined.
Informal consultations of the plenary on the Peacebuilding Commission will begin this Friday morning, 7 October. The co-Chairs assisting the President with that issue will be Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Løj of Denmark and Ambassador Augustine P. Mahiga of the United Republic of Tanzania. They will aim to conclude negotiations by mid-November, so that the Commission can be made operational by the end of the year, as leaders requested in the Summit Outcome Document.
Informal consultations of the plenary on the Human Rights Council will begin next Tuesday morning, 11 October. The co-Chairs assisting on that will be Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa and Ambassador Ricardo Arias of Panama. They will strive to reach agreement by the end of the year, in order to provide clarity on the way forward before the Human Rights Commission is scheduled to meet in March.
Although some delegations commented they were still feeling “battle-weary” from the intensive pre-Summit negotiations, in his concluding remarks, the President said he sensed a great deal of energy in the room, which was packed, and he would seek to guide the process forward speedily. He asked delegations to work with a spirit of give and take, to try to deliver results on each issue, and not seek trade-offs cutting across the issues. Although he said that he detected some warning signals on restatements of pre-Summit positions, he urged delegations to have a sense of common responsibility. Calling the negotiations ahead “a historic test of multilateralism”, he cautioned that “we have to prove that multilateralism works. If not, there will be other methods that come forward to ‘solve global problems”.
This afternoon in plenary, the President will open an informal interactive round table, with the participation of over 40 youth delegates, on the theme of “Young people: making commitments matter”. This is a prelude to the plenary meetings tomorrow reviewing the World Programme of Action on Youth at the 10-year mark.
Also, the First, Second, Third and Fourth Committees are all holding their general debates today.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Among the reforms proposed is the appointment of a CEO for the United Nations. Who is dealing with that, the General Assembly President, the Security Council, the Secretary-General, or all of them?
Spokesperson: On the management reform issues, the President is awaiting a proposal by the Secretariat on a number of items that fall under that area.
Question: Will it be the Secretary-General who decides on that?
Spokesperson: I think a proposal is coming from the Secretariat on a whole range of management reform issues, and then they’ll be taken up by the Assembly.
Question: What’s the latest you can tell us on when they’ll be coming?
Spokesman: I’ll try to get you a date after the briefing.
* *** *For information media • not an official record