|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
The 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.
Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
We had announced that today our guest was going to be Major-General Patrick Cammaert, who, as you know, heads the United Nations forces in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Unfortunately, he’s had to cancel this briefing, but we do hope to reschedule it at some point next week. We will let you know.
I have a statement on the announcement of the preliminary results of the elections in Iraq.
“The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) of the preliminary results of the 15 December election. The Secretary-General pays tribute to the courage and determination of the Iraqi people for participating in large numbers in this national election.
Once the final results are announced, the Secretary-General calls upon all Iraqi political parties to come together in a spirit of national reconciliation to form an inclusive and fully representative government that will serve all the Iraqi people.”
“The Secretary-General is pleased that the United Nations has been able to support the IECI in conducting the two national elections as well as the constitutional referendum last year under very challenging circumstances. The United Nations remains fully committed to implementing its mandate under Security Council resolution 1546 (2004) in support of the Iraqi people in their efforts to build a peaceful, prosperous, democratic and united Iraq.”
The Secretary-General will be leaving New York and travelling to Europe this weekend. He will begin his official trip in Switzerland, where he plans to visit the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, as well as the headquarters of the world soccer body, known as FIFA, which is in Zurich, before attending the World Economic Forum in Davos. In Davos, the Secretary-General is scheduled to make remarks at the opening media lunch, on the subject of “The Impact of Sports in the World”. He will also give the speech in Davos at the plenary session, entitled “A New Mindset for the United Nations”.
The Secretary-General will also make a short visit to The Hague, where he is set to attend the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Management Meeting. He then travels to London, where he plans to meet with the principals of the Middle East Quartet. The Secretary-General is also scheduled in London to co-chair, along with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the London Conference on Afghanistan, which the Secretary-General says “is an excellent opportunity to send a signal to the Afghan people that the outside world continues to share their goals as they build a democracy that respects the rights of all”.
Also in London, he will deliver a speech at a meeting in Central Hall, Westminster, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first meetings of the General Assembly and Security Council, which, unless I’m wrong, took place in London.
** Côte d’Ivoire
From Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations Operation on the ground reports the country has returned to a state of relative calm. The Mission says anti-United Nations demonstrators have withdrawn, and roadblocks have now been dismantled. However, the Mission says that state broadcasters continue to send out some messages attacking and criticizing the United Nations and French forces.
On the humanitarian front, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that, except for the town of Guiglo, most agencies have been able to return to work and, in Guiglo, United Nations personnel are apparently under Ivorian protection today. United Nations agencies, as you know, are helping to feed over one million people in Côte d’Ivoire.
The Secretary-General, as he mentioned to you yesterday, calls upon all Ivorian citizens to work with the Government, the President and the Prime Minister to bring about peace in the country. He specifically called on all parties to implement the road map toward elections, drawn up by the 15-member International Working Group.
The Security Council today held consultations this morning on the situation in the Central African Republic, as well as other matters. The Council was briefed by the Secretary-General’s Representative and the Head of the United Nations Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic, General Lamine Cissé.
And also out on the racks today is a report by the Secretary-General to the Security Council on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). In it, the Secretary-General says that the political and security environment in Lebanon continues to be fragile, with Hezbollah attacks across the Blue Line in November being the greatest cause of recent concern.
He also warns that the rocket firing incidents by unidentified armed elements, which took place in August and December, carried significant potential for military escalation. He says he is encouraged by Lebanon’s commitment to hold the perpetrators of such attacks responsible, so as to avoid their recurrence.
Also, the report adds, persistent Israeli air incursions into Lebanese airspace remain a matter of deep concern. The Secretary-General recommends to the Security Council a six-month extension of that force, of UNIFIL, and the Council is scheduled to discuss Lebanon next Wednesday.
Also regarding Lebanon, Serge Brammertz, the new Commissioner for the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC), arrived in Beirut yesterday to assume charge of the Commission. Brammertz spoke briefly to reporters on his arrival, saying that he felt deeply honoured that the Secretary-General had selected him for this assignment. And he added that his priority will remain to assist the Lebanese authorities in their investigation. And we have a full press release from the Commission, which was released in Beirut, available upstairs.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) tells us that they welcome the decision by the Egyptian authorities to release all of the Sudanese women and children who were still being held in detention centres since police broke up a demonstration in Cairo on 30 December. They were among some 2,000 Sudanese who, for three months, held a sit-in close to UNHCR’s office in Cairo. In addition, 87 Sudanese men, most of them from the troubled Darfur region, were also freed. UNHCR had requested their release because it does not support the return of anyone to the war-torn region of Sudan. UNHCR says it will continue to assess the status of the 183 Sudanese men remaining in detention through a proper in-depth legal assessment on whether these people are of concern.
And UNHCR also flags that, once again, people are dying trying to reach Yemen aboard smugglers’ boats crossing the Gulf of Aden from Somalia. The latest deaths underscore the urgency of UNHCR’s earlier appeal for action to stem the flow of desperate people who fall prey to smugglers in their flight from Somalia and Ethiopia. And UNHCR’s briefing notes are available upstairs.
The United Nations Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, former United States President Bill Clinton, has issued a statement to mark the anniversary of the Hyogo Framework, a key international strategy for natural disaster reduction.
He says that disaster risk awareness education should be incorporated into school curricula; communities should be informed about potential hazards; and new construction must adhere to safer building-standards. And the full statement is available upstairs.
At 2:45 p.m. this afternoon, Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz will be here to brief you and answer your questions.
And lastly,you know we don’t like to play favourites here and tell you which TV shows we actually watch besides the West Wing and Desperate Housewives, but we’d like to make an exception just this once. Tomorrow, as you know, will be the last broadcast of what has really been a unique show, a show that many of you appeared on, one that provided an open forum for UN issues to be debated in a lively, yet diplomatic, manner. The show was also a required stop for any visiting senior UN envoy returning from mission. So, after 12 years on the air, it looks like CNN is allowing its own Diplomatic License to lapse. The Secretary-General wants to congratulate Richard and Liz, and all the others who worked on the show for the last 12 years for a great run. So congratulations to them.
And today being the last day of the week, we have “The Week Ahead” to help you plan your next week. And that is it for me.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Damascus filed a complaint to the United Nations yesterday against Mr. Mehlis on his comments against Syria. He said that Syria is responsible for the murder. Is there any reaction from the Secretary-General, and how can we get the letter?
Spokesman: The last I checked, we had not received the letter. But I will check after the briefing to see if that letter has been received.
[The Spokesman later told the journalist that the letter had still not been received.]
Question: As you say the Secretary-General will be travelling to London to attend a meeting of the Middle East Quartet. At this point in time, the Middle East peace process has again stalled. It’s at a standstill. What is it that the Secretary-General foresees in the future?
Spokesman: We are at a crucial moment in the process, with elections scheduled to be held, being organized both by the Palestinian Authority and in Israel, and we very much hope that, once these elections have passed, it will give a new impetus to the process.
Question: Will the Secretariat be distributing the (inaudible) report on Timor-Leste after the Secretary-General receives it this afternoon?
Spokesman: We do plan to receive it. The Secretary-General is getting it this afternoon. Since it is the report of the East Timorese, I would encourage you to ask them if they will release it. But I will see what our position is.
Question: On Haiti, these demonstrations against the United Nations personnel and so forth, what the Secretary-General has been protesting about, and so forth, has the United Nations taken some sort of review as to what sparked all this unrest in Haiti and against the United Nations, and what is it that is making it continue?
Spokesman: I think there has been clearly a campaign against the Mission and against the Head of the Mission. You would have to ask those responsible as to what their motives are. Again, this is a very delicate time as we approach the elections, and we would want to see in Haiti a climate which would allow for these elections to be conducted in a fair and calm way.
Question: What makes them think that the United Nations is partisan in this particular election?
Spokesman: I can’t answer what their motives are.
Thank you very much.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
This morning the informal consultations of the plenary on the Human Rights Council met to hear a statement from the General Assembly President and remarks by the two Co-Chairs, the Ambassadors of Panama and South Africa. They reported on the past week of intensive bilateral consultations and their suggestions for the way forward. The President said that significant progress has been made, and it was widely felt among delegations that the fruit is now ripe. National positions are well known, and it is time to find formulas for consensus. The President and Ambassador Kumalo will be travelling on official business next week, but Ambassador Arias will hold additional bilaterals during the week and consultations of the plenary on Tuesday, 24 January. The Co-Chairs intend to present a new text around the 1st or 2nd of February, and the following week, at another round of intensive plenary negotiations, the text can hopefully be finalized.
The President stressed that, even based on what is already agreed, the proposed Council represents a significant improvement from the existing Commission, in establishing a universal periodic review, in mandating more frequent meetings that will allow more serious and genuine discussion, and in emphasizing that a spirit of cooperation and dialogue must be the basis for the Council’s work. After the meeting, the President and the Co-Chairs spoke at the stakeout, and those comments will be re-broadcast by UNTV later today.
The President is right now participating, along with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, at an informal round table, organized by the Mission of Pakistan, to review the United Nations response to the recent earthquake in that country. The President remarked that, “It is our common task not only to fund the emergency relief operations, but also to ensure that the level of international support is maintained over a longer period of time, until the disaster-struck areas have been rehabilitated and the affected people have been able to start rebuilding their lives”. And we have the text of his statement upstairs.
Tomorrow, Saturday, the Assembly President has been invited to speak about Holocaust Remembrance Day as part of the Shabbat service at Park East Synagogue in Manhattan. And that is a curtain-raiser to several events next week observing Holocaust Remembrance Day. Press are welcome at tomorrow’s event, but there are restrictions on photographing or recording the service. And we have more information upstairs.
Next week the President will be travelling in Europe. On Monday he will be in Strasbourg, where he will speak to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which is holding a debate on the role of parliamentarians in the United Nations. On Tuesday and Wednesday, he will be visiting Vienna, where he will meet with the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna, Antonio Maria Costa; with the Federal President of Austria, Heinz Fischer; and with other senior United Nations and diplomatic officials based in Vienna. Later in the week, he will be travelling to Sweden, where he will be receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Uppsala.
Thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record