|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Secretary-General on the Palestinian Elections
Speaking to journalists earlier today in Davos, Switzerland, about the developments in the Palestinian legislative elections, the Secretary-General said that “any group that wishes to participate in the democratic process should ultimately disarm”. He said that there is a “fundamental contradiction” between carrying weapons and participating in a democratic process and sitting in parliament. Referring to Hamas, he added, “I'm sure they are thinking about that too”.
Earlier today, the Secretary-General telephoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to congratulate him and the Palestinian people on the orderly conduct of the elections, which he viewed as an important step towards the achievement of a Palestinian State. He looks forward to the publication of the results of the elections over the coming days. And the Secretary-General will be discussing the elections with his Quartet partners at the meeting they will hold next week in London.
**Secretary-General in Davos
Concerning the rest of his programme in Davos, the Secretary-General is about to address the plenary discussion at the World Economic Forum on the subject “A New Mindset for the United Nations”. The Secretary-General will state that, during his years in office, he has tried to change the mindset that sees international relations as nothing more than relations between States, and the United Nations as little more than a trade union for Governments. “My objective”, he is to say, “has been to persuade both the Member States and my colleagues in the Secretariat that the United Nations needs to engage not only with Governments, but with people.”
The Secretary-General was to speak to a panel of leaders, who were to then discuss the subject, and the panel includes some potential candidates for the Secretary-General’s job. Earlier today, he took part in a workshop on “Taking Action to End Hunger” and he also held a number of bilateral meetings, among them with Nigerian President Obasanjo, as well as President Musharraf of Pakistan.
The Security Council is currently holding consultations on Georgia to discuss the Secretary-General’s recent report on the United Nations Mission in that country. And as you recall the Secretary-General did recommend a six-month extension of that Mission. Those consultations were preceded by a private meeting on Georgia, at which the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Heidi Tagliavini, briefed Council Members.
Then, at 3 this afternoon, the Council will hold consultations on Côte d’Ivoire, and will receive a briefing from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country, Pierre Schori. And Mr. Schori has told us that he will come to the stakeout after his meeting with Council members.
The Deputy Secretary-General, meanwhile, is opening a conference later today at the University of Quebec in Montreal on United Nations reform, and we have embargoed copies of her remarks, which are to be delivered in French, upstairs.
The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) says that yesterday it evacuated seven United Nations staff members based in Sharia, in South Darfur, to Nyala following the fighting between the rebel group Sudan Liberation Army and Government forces. The Mission says that the fighting is ongoing, and there have also been clashes in different parts of Jabal Marra in central Darfur. Meanwhile, regarding yesterday’s helicopter crash, the Mission says that one missing person has been confirmed as dead, and none of the injured passengers needed to be taken to Khartoum for medical treatment.
From Kosovo, Søren Jessen-Petersen, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, attended today’s funeral for Ibrahim Rugova, and paid tribute to the late President’s peaceful effort to build a Kosovo that is democratic, multi-ethnic and free. President Rugova, he said, has left a void behind him, but he has also left a vision to guide Kosovo forward. And we have copies of his address upstairs. Also attending the funeral was the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Status Talks, Martti Ahtisaari.
Turning now to Russia, the World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed urgently for needed funds to resume food rations for thousands of people in Chechnya and Ingushetia who are suffering from bitterly cold winter weather. Two months ago, a lack of funding forced WFP to stop assisting 150,000 people in that region. And we have more information on that upstairs.
And lastly, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria tells us that the Irish musician Bono is joining with the world’s leading companies in creating a new commercial brand called Product RED, to raise money for the Global Fund in its fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. The initiative, which was announced in Davos today, calls for a portion of profits from each RED product sold, to go directly to the Global Fund’s programmes for African women and children.
And that is it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: The Secretary-General spoke to Reuters in Davos and it has been reported widely that he called upon Hamas to disarm. Is that the only call he’s making to Hamas?
Spokesman: I think his comments, which I have just reiterated here, are clear -- that for any group that wishes to participate in the democratic process, it should ultimately disarm.
Question: But besides that, we just heard President Bush at this conference saying they must renounce their commitment to the destruction of Israel. Is that another demand by the United Nations?
Spokesman: Any group that wants to participate in that democratic process should adhere to democratic principles. I should add that the Secretary-General will be speaking to his Quartet partners by phone. They will be having a conference call tonight, at about 3 p.m. local time.
Question: And if Hamas does not respond, we have this whole effort there observing the Mission here at the United Nations… because if they become part of the Palestinian Authority, the majority, how will this affect (inaudible)?
Spokesman: I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves. There obviously will be negotiations going on within the Palestinian Authority on the formation of a new Government and then we’ll have to take it from there.
Question: The Secretary-General at the Davos meeting said that several panellists sitting with him in that room were interested in his position as Secretary-General. Did he have anyone in particular in mind?
Spokesman: Do you mean is he picking a favourite? No. It is thankfully not his decision to appoint his successor.
Question: Do you have the names of the candidates?
Spokesman: I think you can see who the panellists are. Some of them have declared themselves candidates. Others, I would leave it up to you.
Question: What is the degree of the Secretary-General’s concern about the result of the elections in Palestine, and what impact it might have on the progress toward peace, the Road Map, etc.?
Spokesman: I think we have to see how the formation of the new Government progresses and what the new Government looks like. The outcome of the elections is something that he will be discussing with his Quartet partners a bit later on this afternoon.
Question: Let me get this clear. As a member of the Quartet, the Secretary-General does not consider recognition of Israel a threshold condition for participating in any negotiations?
Spokesman: I think the recognition of Israel is without question. We’ve just seen the elections won by a group which also has an armed militia, and has been responsible for terrorist acts, which we have denounced. We need to see what the composition ultimately of the Government will be, and what its policies will be.
Question: The charter on which it ran for the elections…the charter called for the replacement of Israel in an Islamic Palestinian Arab (inaudible) of Palestine. That is not recognition of Israel. My question is (inaudible) is the recognition of Israel a necessary condition for participating according to a member of the Quartet, Kofi Annan. Is it a condition for participating in the (inaudible)?
Spokesman: We would want to see any Government chosen by the Palestinian people to recognize Israel and, of course, to negotiate properly with it.
Question: So it is a condition?
Spokesman: I’ve just answered the question.
Question: Quick question, just following up from yesterday, if you could clarify or talk more about why Kofi Annan thought it was unlikely that there would be a referral of Iran to the United Nations Security Council, and what his calculation is on that?
Spokesman: I have nothing to add to what was said. The matter is being dealt with by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and I have nothing to add to that.
Question: Just another question, is there another movie being filmed here with Benicio del Toro?
Spokesman: There was a movie filmed over the weekend, I believe, which is on the life of Che Guevara. And there were a couple of scenes that were filmed here which I think involved his visit to this building in the early 1960s.
Question: Filmed inside where? The General Assembly?
Spokesman: Parts of the building. I think the Delegates’ Lounge. But that is now over.
Question: (Inaudible) on the Palestinian question, can any Government, whether it be Hamas or anybody else, which forms a majority, be it a democracy or despotic rulers, (inaudible) or otherwise, is any Government allowed to have a security force of their own, of is that also (inaudible)?
Spokesman: Any group that wants to participate in the democratic process should ultimately disarm. We’ve just had the unofficial elections results. We’ll wait to see the official ones. The Secretary-General will be discussing this with his Quartet partners tonight and again on Monday, and no doubt they will come up with a unified position.
Question: In his press conference this morning, President Bush said that he would like to have Mahmoud Abbas continue his position. Is that also the position of the Secretary-General or can we assume that that is the position?
Spokesman: Mr. Abbas was elected by the Palestinian people. They elected him. It is up to them.
Question: Does the Secretary-General consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General has denounced in clear terms every time any organization has done a terrorist act, including when those acts were claimed by Hamas.
Question: But that doesn’t answer my question.
Spokesman: There is no United Nations label that I know of, of a terrorist organization.
Question: The last time there was a movie shot here there was a lot of talk that the movie was being, among other (inaudible), one of the reasons, that we were told, that the movie was allowed, for the first time, to being shot at the United Nations, was because it was going to enhance the image of the United Nations in the world, and it was supposed to be supportive of the United Nations. Does a movie on Che indicate that the United Nations supports Che Guevara?
Spokesman: [Sigh] I don’t know.
Question: In his telephone conversation with President Mahmoud Abbas, did the Secretary-General ask him, say, that he would like him to continue in his office?
Spokesman: I am not aware that that came up in the conversation.
Question: What did they discuss?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General basically congratulated him on the peaceful way the balloting had gone and the campaigning had gone. This is what I have.
* *** *For information media • not an official record