|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
**Secretary-General in Switzerland
Good afternoon. The Secretary-General, as you know, is in Switzerland. Today, in fact, he was in the Swiss capital, Bern. At a press encounter in Bern, he was asked about his Special Envoy Kai Eide’s report on Kosovo. The Secretary-General responded that he’s informing the Security Council today that status talks should begin on Kosovo. He added that he intends to appoint a Special Envoy to direct those negotiations. He said that the options for Kosovo’s status could include independence or autonomy, but what’s important, he said, is that these discussions should get under way.
The Secretary-General also urged that joint action be taken on migration issues, in response to a question about the Mediterranean refugees. In addition, he answered questions on Iraq and the International Court of Justice. The transcript is being prepared. We should have it ready for you shortly upstairs in our Office.
He was paying an official visit to Bern, during which he had discussions with Swiss leaders on UN reform, as well as the outcome of the World Summit. They also discussed Kosovo, Iraq, Lebanon, the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Iran, migration and Switzerland’s contributions to UN peacekeeping.
These discussions were held during a meeting with President Samuel Schmid and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey. They also had a working luncheon together.
The Secretary-General is currently back in Geneva. We have upstairs also a transcript from his press remarks made while visiting the World Health Organization’s crisis centre.
**Nobel Peace Prize for IAEA
I now have a statement on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“The Secretary-General is delighted that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2005 has been awarded to the International Atomic Energy Agency and its Director, Mohamed ElBaradei. Since 1957, the IAEA has worked tirelessly and expertly to stem the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to promote the safe and peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Dr. ElBaradei has guided this vital mission with great skill since 1997.
“The Secretary-General congratulates him and the entire staff of the Agency, past and present, on their contributions to global peace. The Prize is a welcome reminder of the acute need to make progress on the issue of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament at a time when weapons of mass destruction continue to pose a grave danger to us all.
“The Secretary-General is also pleased that with this Prize, the IAEA joins the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Labour Organization, UNICEF, UN peacekeepers, Ralph Bunche, Dag Hammarskjöld and the UN itself as Nobel Peace Prize laureates.”
**Nobel Peace Prize for ElBaradei
The head of the IAEA, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, also spoke to reporters in Vienna and said that he felt “gratitude, pride and hope” at sharing the prestigious award with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“Receiving the award strengthens our resolve at a time when we have a hard road ahead of us.” Dr. ElBaradei said he was at home with his wife when he heard the announcement on television. “It came as an absolute surprise to me”, he said. “We were overjoyed by the news.” There’s a press release available upstairs with more information.
** Central America Floods
Turning to the situation in Central America, which we flagged for you yesterday, the UN has now revised its joint inter-agency appeal up to nearly $8 million to meet both the immediate relief and longer-term recovery needs of nearly 170,000 survivors.
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, providing food, shelter, basic hygiene and medical supplies, as well as clean water, for more than 50,000 people who have been displaced by the disaster is the most urgent priority right now. In the medium term, the UN will work to help families who have lost loved ones and homes, as well as livelihoods.
**Deputy Secretary-General in Australia
The Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, is leaving later today for Australia, where she will address the opening session of the Second International Philanthropy Conference in Melbourne on Monday. She will speak on the role of philanthropy in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
While in Melbourne, the Deputy Secretary-General will take part in a round-table discussion at the University of Melbourne on UN reform. She is scheduled to meet with Australian Government officials in Canberra, and she will also deliver a speech in Sydney. The Deputy Secretary-General will be back at Headquarters on Monday, 17 October.
Out on the racks today is the latest report by the Monitoring Group dealing with the Security Council’s arms embargo on Somalia. It says that violations of the embargo have taken a sustained and dramatic upswing over the last several months.
That upswing, the report says, is a manifestation of the highly aggravated political tensions between the Transitional Federal Government and its opponents. It notes arms flows by Yemen to the Government; by Ethiopia to Government militia forces in western Somalia; and by another State in the region, which it declined to identify, to opposition forces, to counter Ethiopia’s support for the Government.
The Monitoring Group recommends that the Security Council consider strengthening its current arms embargo by adopting measures to reduce the financial capacity of local Somali leaders to buy arms. That full report is out on the racks.
We told you last week about a UN team of experts that had gone to north-west Cameroon to assess the stability of a natural dam in that country. We have now been told that the team has found that the dam’s collapse is imminent and that subsequent flooding and toxic gas releases would affect thousands of Cameroonians and Nigerians.
The UN team has put forth a plan that would include pumping toxic water from the deeper levels of the lake, thus reducing the water level by about 20 metres and allowing the dam wall to be removed.
The entire project would cost $15 million. We have a press release upstairs with more information.
Turning to Mauritania, the World Food Programme (WFP) today called for greater international assistance to address worrying levels of malnutrition, particularly in the southern and south-eastern parts of the country.
So far, of the $31 million that WFP has appealed for, it has received only $18 million. Despite its shortfall, WFP has been able to get food to some 400,000 people.
And today, thank God, being Friday, we have the Week Ahead for you. That’s it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: There’s a letter out on the racks today from the Arab Group complaining about de Soto’s briefing to the Security Council. I just wanted to see what the Secretary-General’s reaction was.
Spokesman: We’ve taken note of the letter.
Question: Do you have anything on Cyprus? The reason I’m asking you is because President Papadopoulos said yesterday, and I quote, “The UN Secretary-General will make some moves in the not-too-distant future with regard to the talks.”
Spokesman: There’s been no change in the Secretary-General’s position. We had highlighted that position to you following his meeting with Mr. Papadopoulos when he was here during the World Summit. The Secretary-General said that for the next round of good offices to resume, that timing must be appropriate and it must be well prepared. And the Secretary-General assured that his good offices remained available, that he would stay in touch with both parties. But again, that is a reiteration of something we had told you in mid-September, so there’s been no change.
Question: Sorry for coming in late. In June you’d announced that the Secretary-General had appointed Jerome Ackerman to follow up with a new investigation into Dileep Nair and that it would take 30-45 days to complete. Did we ever get the results of that investigation?
Spokesman: Not that I’m aware of, but I’ll be happy to check.
Question: Because it’s now been, I think, more than 100 days.
Spokesman: I don’t think you need to check your watch, but it has been more than 45 days.
Thank you very much. Pragati?
Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President
This morning, the President of the General Assembly opened the informal consultations on the Peacebuilding Commission, following up on the World Summit outcome. Yesterday, he sent a letter to all Permanent Representatives outlining the issues that needed to be resolved, including: how the Commission would be established and how it would relate to other UN bodies, such as the Security Council, ECOSOC and the General Assembly; how the agenda would be set; and what should be the number and size of the categories from which members of the Organizational Committee are drawn. This letter is posted on the President’s website and we also have copies upstairs. The President is being assisted by his two co-chairs on this issue, the Ambassadors of Denmark and Tanzania.
A parallel letter will be going out to Permanent Representatives today or Monday outlining the key issues for the Human Rights Council, in preparation for Tuesday’s consultations.
All the Main Committees are continuing their work today, in formal or informal meetings.
On Monday morning, the Assembly will hold elections for five non-permanent members of the Security Council. Congo, Ghana and Qatar have been endorsed for the three seats to be filled by African and Asian States, Slovakia has been endorsed for the one seat to be filled by Eastern European States, and both Nicaragua and Peru are candidates for the one seat to be filled by Latin American and Caribbean States. We have a document available upstairs that shows the candidates and their terms. Any questions?
* *** *For information media • not an official record