|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.
Good afternoon. I will start off with a statement on Darfur.
**Secretary-General on Darfur
“The Secretary-General is seriously concerned by the major escalation of violence in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur, particularly the heavy fighting in the Golo and Shearia areas that has forced humanitarian agencies to evacuate. He condemns the attack by Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) forces on Golo, and calls on all parties to immediately stop all hostility.
“He reiterates his call on the parties to the conflict in the strongest terms to respect their agreements and the provisions of international humanitarian law. A lasting solution to this conflict can only be found through a negotiated settlement.”
And that statement is available upstairs.
**Human Rights in Sudan
Also on Sudan, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today released a report on the Sudan. It says that the efforts to improve the human rights situation there have fallen short of commitments made following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement a year ago. The report points to the initiatives that have been superficially and inadequately implemented, and says that in Darfur, in particular, positive political measures have been overshadowed by an ineffective judiciary, an ongoing conflict, and widespread human rights abuses. We have a press release on that report upstairs and the full report is available on the Human Rights Office’s website.
Today, as you know, is the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. This morning there was a Holocaust memorial ceremony and a lecture in the General Assembly hall, which was filled to capacity. The Secretary-General addressed the large gathering with a video message. He told the audience that there can be no reversing of the unique tragedy of the Holocaust. “It must be remembered, with shame and horror, for as long as human memory continues”, he said. He went on to add that remembering is a necessary rebuke to those who say the Holocaust never happened or has been exaggerated. The Secretary-General said, “Holocaust denial is the work of bigots. We must reject their false claims whenever, wherever and by whomever they are made.” And the full text of that message is available upstairs.
Other speakers today included Under-Secretary-General for Public Information Shashi Tharoor, Holocaust survivor Gerda Klein, and Professor Yehuda Bauer of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. Earlier in the day in Zurich, Switzerland, the Secretary-General and Nane Annan marked the day by meeting with Auschwitz survivors, ranging from the ages of 82 to 91, as well as a group of young members affiliated with the International Auschwitz Committee. In comments to the press afterwards, the Secretary-General said in the world we live in today we should be vigilant in trying to ensure that what happened is never repeated and that the young people should heed that message.
**Secretary-General in Switzerland
And the Secretary-General, as you know, was in Davos earlier today where he met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to review a proposal and plan of action the Turkish Prime Minister put forward. The Secretary-General has undertaken to study that plan. The Secretary-General and the Prime Minister also reviewed the outcome of the Palestinian elections. They agreed that the will of the Palestinian people expressed in the January 25 elections must be respected and that the international community must help Israelis and Palestinians move forward.
Earlier today, before leaving Davos, the Secretary-General also met with United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Michael Douglas, as well as Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie, as well as with actor Brad Pitt. And that was last night.
The Security Council is currently holding a formal meeting on the Great Lakes Region, which is being presided over by the Tanzanian Foreign Minister and featuring the participation of 13 other foreign ministers, as well as a number of other senior officials.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, Ibrahima Fall, will brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s report on the international conference for the Great Lakes region. The Security Council also may vote on a resolution on the Great Lakes region at the end of today’s meeting.
Yesterday, the Council heard a briefing on the unrest in Côte d’Ivoire from the head of that Mission, Pierre Schori. In comments made to you afterward, Mr. Schori said that United Nations activities are still being carried out, but called the situation on the ground “outrageous” and “inadmissible”.
In the course of his mission to Lebanon, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel paid a series of calls to the country’s political leadership, including the President, the Speaker of the Parliament, the Prime Minister, as well as the Foreign Minister of Lebanon. He also had a substantive working session chaired by the Minister of Justice, Charles Rizk, which included the Prosecutor General and other senior members of the Lebanese judiciary. Michel expressed his great appreciation for the positive and constructive atmosphere of the discussions. He said he was encouraged by the broad commitment demonstrated to move ahead in the coming days and weeks.
** Middle East Quartet
Yesterday evening, the Middle East Quartet, which, as you know, includes the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union, as well as the United Nations, issued a statement following a conference call that was held last night by the principal members of that Quartet. In that statement, the Quartet called on all parties to respect the results of the election and the outcome of the Palestinian constitutional process so that it may unfold in an atmosphere of calm and security.
The Quartet reiterated its view that there is a fundamental contradiction between armed groups and militia activities and the building of a democratic State. A two-State solution to the conflict requires all participants in the democratic process to renounce violence and terror and to accept Israel’s right to exist and to disarm, as outlined by the “Road Map”.
The full Quartet statement was made available upstairs last night. The Secretary-General, as you know, and the other principal members of the Quartet will meet to discuss these matters further next Monday, in London.
Turning to the situation in Uganda, the United Nations refugee agency today said that it has moved more than 1,100 Congolese refugees to two refugee settlements at a safe distance from the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The refugees arrived in Uganda last week after fleeing fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The agency says that, in total, around 20,000 Congolese crossed the border into Uganda last week. And we have more on that Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) operation available upstairs.
And today being Friday we have the “Week Ahead” for you to help you plan your work week.
That is it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: How did Mr. Annan characterize the Turkish proposal?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General, as I said, has undertaken to study the plan, consult other key players and contact the Prime Minister to decide what the next steps should be and how to proceed. So, right now this is really a situation of us studying the plan and then getting back to the Prime Minister.
Question: How long is Mr. Nicolas Michel staying in Lebanon?
Spokesman: He will stay for a few more days.
Question: When he gets back, can we meet him or is he coming to brief us?
Spokesman: We will definitely ask him if he’d be willing to come down and meet with you. We’d be happy to do that.
Question: There are the management reforms going on and so forth. But I believe that at this point in time in the United Nations there are several consultants working on several plans as to how to outsource various United Nations departments, including the language department and so forth. I believe one gentleman called Mr. Paul Epstein is looking at the language department and so forth. So, all of the departments are up for outsourcing. If that is the case, how many departments will be allowed to be outsourced? Everything is up for outsourcing, I believe. Do you have any idea?
Spokesman: If I’m not mistaken, I think Mr. [Under-Secretary-General for Management Christopher] Burnham gave you some details on that question. I don’t know the answers to your questions off the top of my head but we could try and get them for you.
Question: Yes, because if that’s the case then there is going to be no United Nations. Basically it will just be outsourced.
Spokesman: I don’t think that will be the case.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any comment with regard to President Carter’s comments yesterday saying that if the United States cuts off direct aid to the Palestinian Authority that the United States should use that money and give it directly to the United Nations for Palestinian civil society?
Spokesman: No, I haven’t seen those comments so no reaction.
Question: Basically, Israel has stopped about $100 million from going to the Palestinians at this point.
Spokesman: I think that one of the issues that the Quartet will discuss is exactly how to work with both Israelis and Palestinians to find a way forward following the results of the Palestinian elections.
Question: Is there any way we can hear from United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) about how they’re going to approach this delicate situation as well?
Spokesman: Sure, we can ask if they could come bring somebody down here.
Question: (Inaudible) was yesterday’s conference call held by telephone, since some of the primary members (inaudible)?
Spokesman: It was a conference call.
Question: Just telephone?
Spokesman: Telephone conference call. That’s correct.
Question: So, all primary members attended?
Spokesman: That’s correct. It was a principals’ level. The Secretary of State, the Russian Foreign Minister and Mr. Solana and the Presidency of the European Union, which escapes me, this half of the year.
Question: The United States is involved in this statement?
Spokesman: This is a statement approved by all members of the Quartet.
* *** *For information media • not an official record