|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.
Spokesman for Secretary-General
Good afternoon. I have to warn you: I have no voice, but we will try nonetheless.
I have two statements.
**Statement Attributable to Spokesman on Lebanon
First, on Lebanon:
“The Secretary-General welcomes the national dialogue that began today in Lebanon, and hopes that it will contribute to political stability in the country by addressing critical issues of national concern.
“The Secretary-General congratulates the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament for this crucial and timely initiative and wishes it every success.”
**Statement Attributable to Spokesman on C ôte d’Ivoire
I also have a statement on Côte d’Ivoire:
“The Secretary-General welcomes the meeting between the main Ivorian leaders which was convened by Prime Minister Banny in Yamoussoukro, in Côte d’Ivoire, on 28 February. It constitutes a significant step towards sustained dialogue and building trust among the leaders, which is indispensable to the return of peace and reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire. The meeting enabled the parties to address a number of key issues with a view to moving the peace process forward.
“The Secretary-General encourages the Ivorian leaders to continue this constructive dialogue. He assures the Ivorian parties of the United Nations’ support for the implementation of the recommendations of the Yamoussoukro meeting.”
That statement is available upstairs.
**Human Rights Council
On entering the building this morning, the Secretary-General spoke to reporters about the Human Rights Council, and he asserted, “The stakes are, indeed, very high.” He warned that if we are not careful and we make the wrong moves that unravel the agreement on the Council, we could be placed in a situation where we are left with a Human Rights Commission that we all claim is discredited. He urged Member States, as they try to come to an agreement on this issue, to make sure that “the better must not be the enemy of the good”.
We have a full transcript of his press encounter available upstairs.
From Vienna today, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, welcomed the high-level meeting between the Foreign Ministers of the European Union 3, which are Germany, France and the United Kingdom, as well as the High Representative of the European Union, Mr. Solana, and the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, which is scheduled to take place tomorrow in Vienna.
In a statement, Mr. ElBaradei urged all parties to use this opportunity to create the necessary conditions to return to negotiations. He called on Iran to demonstrate full transparency toward the IAEA to resolve important outstanding issues related to its nuclear programme, and to take all the necessary confidence-building measures. He said that a durable solution can be found only through full transparency on the part of Iran and negotiations with all concerned parties.
We have his statement available upstairs, as well.
And from Iraq, we have a statement from Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, who expressed his deep concern over the increased sectarian violence in that country. He said that hundreds of people are estimated to have lost their lives since the attack on the Shrine of the Two Imams last week. And despite the constructive response by Iraq’s Government, Mr. Qazi said that the situation threatens to further deteriorate. Accordingly, he calls upon all the leaders of Iraq to intensify their efforts to adopt measures to stop the violence and promote national accord, and also appeals to the Iraqi people to act with restraint.
In another press release, issued jointly with UNICEF, Qazi said, “This brutal violence that takes innocent lives, especially those of children, is totally unacceptable.”
That statement is available upstairs. And Mr. Haider, you will be glad to know that Mr. Qazi will be here to present the Secretary-General’s next report on Iraq. I know you are, so rest at ease.
Continuing with the Security Council, it held its first consultations today on the programme of work for the month, to discuss the programme of work. The new Council President, Ambassador César Mayoral of Argentina, just briefed you on that, and so you got the information from him.
** C ôte d’Ivoire
Out on the racks today is the letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council giving the names of five persons to be appointed to the panel of experts on Côte d’Ivoire sanctions.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
And turning to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Mission says it’s received no reports of any civilian casualties in an operation aimed at removing militia members from the town of Tchei, some 60 kilometres south-east of the town of Bunia, in the Ituri district. Meanwhile, UN peacekeepers are continuing their support of national army soldiers involved in the operation. The UN Mission estimates that there are between 700 to 1,000 militia members in the area.
From Nepal, two bombs were thrown at a World Food Programme (WFP) office in eastern Nepal this morning. No casualties were reported, and no major damage to the office building appears to have taken place. The UN strongly condemns the attack, which violates international humanitarian law. UN offices in the town of Damak, where the bombs exploded, will remain closed pending an investigation. And WFP, as well as the UNHCR is present in that town, where it tends to the needs of more than 105,000 Bhutanese refugees.
** Great Lakes
The heads of three UN humanitarian agencies today urged the international community to help end the suffering of millions of refugees, displaced persons and returnees in the Great Lakes region of Africa. After a six-day trip to the DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo], Burundi and Rwanda the heads of UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the UNHCR said political progress has been made in the area, but it must be matched with a new commitment to help the people who they described as forgotten in the rest of the world.
And today the Secretary-General has decided to establish a small Secretariat in Geneva to assist in the convening of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The Secretary-General, as you will recall, was asked by the World Summit on the Information Society, held in Tunis in November, to convene such a Forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue.
Nitin Desai, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, held consultations in February in Geneva aimed at reaching a common understanding on how the Forum should function. Those discussions produced a consensus that the Forum should have a strong development orientation. It was also felt that the Forum should be open and inclusive, and allow for the participation of all interested stakeholders with proven expertise and experience in Internet-related matters.
The Secretariat will be headed by Mr. Markus Kummer, who has been the Executive Coordinator of the Secretariat of the Working Group on Internet Governance, which was established by the Secretary-General at the request of the first phase of the Information Summit in Geneva in 2003. The first meeting of the Forum is expected to take place later this year in Athens.
On a separate issue, the Secretary-General has also decided to ask Mr. Desai to consult informally on how to start a process aimed at enhancing cooperation on international public policy issues related to the Internet. And the Summit has requested the Secretary-General to start such a process.
We have just received confirmation from Somalia that an international staff member working for the UN Children’s Fund, who was abducted yesterday in Somalia, has been released. The staff member was abducted yesterday on the outskirts of Afmadow, 110 kilometres north-west of Kismayo in the Lower Juba region. He was released a few hours ago and is reported to be in good health. We are grateful for the help provided to us by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia in securing his release.
And the latest report by UNMOVIC [United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission] on its activities has gone to the Security Council and is out as a document. The report details the Commission’s work over the past three months, including the meeting by its College of Commissioners that convened in New York last month. And the Commission has also begun an internal review of its substantive records to identify any issues if those records are eventually to be transferred to the UN archives.
And lastly, Klaus Toepfer, the head of the UN Office in Nairobi, today expressed “alarm and concern” over a raid on the offices of the Standard newspaper in Nairobi and its sister television station, KTN. Several editions of the paper were burnt, and the offices of KTN were vandalized, and the station was temporarily silenced. Toepfer said the UN calls upon the Kenyan Government to clarify the circumstances surrounding today’s events at the Standard Group, and to take appropriate action against those responsible, including legal action, if necessary.
And we have a similar statement as well from the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Mr. Matsuura.
That’s it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Welcome back. You said recently, when you still had a voice, that UN sees the whole matter of the anti-Semitic incident closed, but I see now reports on the wire that it’s reopened. So could you clarify where we are?
Spokesman: I think I said that I was not aware of any further action. I spoke to our colleagues in the Department of Security today. They have told me all the allegations of this type have been fully investigated. They have now opened up an investigation with OHRM to make sure that everything -- every rumour or every allegation -- has been fully investigated. Part of the issue, too, was that the staff member who was the recipient of the offensive drawings was not fully satisfied with the way things had been handled and what the situation is, so we want to bring light on this as much as possible. An environment where anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, any sort of racism or hatred is not tolerated here at the UN. And as I’ve mentioned to you, there will be sensitivity training for all the members of the Department of Safety and Security and that will start with the head of that Department. Sir David Veness has said he will be the first one to do it.
Question: [inaudible] that training?
Spokesman: We are still in discussions to see, which is the best programme we could have to conduct such sensitivity training.
Question: Could you say a little bit more about what the proposals are for low-level mediation on Cyprus issue? Would it be possible to arrange a briefing for us with Political Affairs on what exactly is happening on the Cyprus issue?
Spokesman: We will see if we can get someone to talk to you. I think, just referring back to what the Secretary-General had said is that he was happy to note that both communities have agreed to a number of bi-communal discussions on a series of issues. And what the Secretary-General is looking at is to see that the parties are able to close the gap and that we see some concrete actions on the ground. And we will be helping the parties as much as possible with these efforts.
Question: And could you explain what that means? I don’t really understand what you just said.
Spokesman: First of all, the list is still being elaborated, but these are more discussions on issues, which are really aimed at bettering the everyday life of the members of both communities. They are more technical discussions, but they are very important.
Question: It is still not very clear what you’re saying. Will it be possible to have a briefing?
Spokesman: We’ll see if we can get you somebody.
Question: Is it true that Secretary-General is going to be announcing appointment of Mr. Vinjay Nambiar, the former Indian Ambassador over here, to replace Louise Fréchette, or in his Office in the capacity of senior adviser?
Spokesman: I’m not aware of his being appointed to any post in the Secretariat. As for filling the Deputy Secretary-General’s functions, as we’ve said repeatedly that it would be done from existing resources on the 38th floor.
Question: The Indian Minister has...
Spokesman: I know, I’ve seen what they’ve said -- I have no...
Question: [inaudible] reports that it’s been done.
Spokesman: I will check again.
Question: On another question, about this US-Indian nuclear deal, has the Secretary-General himself welcomed the deal?
Spokesman: I have nothing from the Secretary-General, but the Director of the IAEA himself has welcomed the deal.
Question: I just wanted to ask you about a press release that you have out, and also that you mentioned today that UN leaders have urged a new effort to end the suffering in the Great Lakes region. I’m just trying to understand the whole thing, because it sounds that what they’re asking for is more money or money to help the IDPs [internally displaced persons] and refugees, but it also sounds that it clashes with the Peacebuilding Commission. Because the real work of the Commission will be in country-specific committees and this is exactly what this press release says, but there is no mention of the Peacebuilding Commission, so I’m wondering: are they trying to ... if the World Food Programme, UNHCR and UNICEF are trying to set up something like apart from the Peacebuilding Commission?
Spokesman: We’ll try to get some answers right after the briefing.
Question: Do you have any more details on the UNICEF worker who was released? Why he was taken? Any comment on...?
Spokesman: No, at this point, all we know is that he was released, and we are very thankful that he was released.
Question: The Argentinean Ambassador today announced that he has co-opted a Brazilian diplomat, who will now work also in the Argentinean Mission and now sit in the Security Council? Is this a precedent? Do you know if this has happened before?
Spokesman: You know, obviously, the missions are free to bring in whomever they want. I will check, but I do not believe that it’s the first time, and I think we’ve seen this kind of arrangements before.
Question: You said that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it’s a joint operation, with UN providing support?
Question: It seems that it’s been reported that there’s been like a mutiny of the Congolese troops and that operation has been called off. And I guess there are things coming out of MONUC [United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] in Kinshasa, but what would that mean for future collaboration?
Spokesman: My understanding is that this is a separate ... that there had been some elements of the Congolese army, which had complained of the way they were being treated by the Congolese army. These were people that were newly integrated. A number of officers of the Congolese army took refuge in the UN camp, and we are told that UN peacekeepers were able to diffuse this situation, but we’ll see if I can get you some more details on that.
Question: You see, there was some talk about a helicopter being fired at. Have you heard that?
Spokesman: I will check for you on that.
[The Spokesman later added that one or two shots were fired today at a UN helicopter carrying Congolese officers sent to address the problem, when the helicopter was close to landing. The aircraft was not hit and there were no casualties of any sort resulting from the base or helicopter incidents.]
Thank you very much, and I will leave you to Pragati.
Spokesperson for General Assembly President
On the Human Rights Council, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson is encouraged by the European Union’s position on the Council, as announced last night, and he is grateful for the EU’s support. He is continuing to hold consultations as he receives responses from Member States. And as he stated yesterday, he is hoping to move to a decision as soon as possible, keeping in mind that the Commission on Human Rights is scheduled to begin its session on 13 March.
On other matters, the Ad Hoc Committee on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism has been continuing closed consultations this week on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism and the proposal for a conference on terrorism. At its final meeting tomorrow morning, which is an open meeting, the Chair, Ambassador Perrera of Sri Lanka, will present the Chairman’s summary of that session.
This afternoon, President Eliasson will be holding a meeting with the current President of the Security Council, Ambassador César Mayoral of Argentina, and the President of the Economic and Social Council, Ambassador Ali Hachani of Tunisia. The President is hoping to regularize such meetings, which have been an ad hoc practice up till now, as part of efforts to intensify cooperation between the principal organs of the UN.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Just to get a sense of where we are on the Human Rights Council. How many countries still have to give their response -– the percentage or a number? Of those who have responded, apart from the United States, how many have questions about the text? And when do we expect all the responses to come in?
Spokesperson: I believe, the OIC [Organization of the Islamic Conference] has given a positive reaction, but I don’t have a statement from them, so you should check with them. Other regional groups have given only informal responses.
Question: So, no regional group has given a formal response yet?
Spokesperson: Well, the EU [European Union] did last night, and I think the OIC has given a formal response, but not in writing. Otherwise, they are just informal [from individual Member States from different regions].
Question: Is there a dateline -- has President Eliasson said: “I need all this by Friday, otherwise you get more homework”?
Spokesperson: I don’t think this is such a formal process, but everyone is aware of the time line.
Question: But do you have any countries, formally or informally, other than the United States, that have objections to the text?
Spokesperson: I can’t say that. I don’t really know their positions and it’s not for me to state country positions, anyway.
Question: If the Human Rights Council negotiations are reopened, what are the ramifications for other reforms, like the management reform and so forth? Will they be also delayed?
Spokesperson: The management reform session is scheduled for Tuesday, so that’s continuing, and they are not linked.
Question: But the vote for adoption -- will that be delayed also if this thing becomes contentious?
Spokesperson: I think the process on the management reform report is expected to take some time. The Secretariat is presenting the report on Tuesday, but then there will be consideration. It’s quite a lengthy report, I believe. I mean, it involves many issues, so it will take some time to consider it.
Question: When will the decision be taken as to [inaudible] next week?
Spokesperson: Well, the President does not want to be very specific about the time line, but if he says he wants to...if he is hoping to take action before the Commission meets, that basically allows next week. So no date has been set, but he is hoping for action next week.
Question: I mean, he has stated he does not want to reopen negotiations -– that’s right?
Spokesperson: He has stated that many Member States have advised him that it would be unwise to reopen the text, that it would... Many amendments would come from all sides and yesterday, I think, at the stakeout, he used the expression “Pandora’s box”. That many Member States are saying it would be a Pandora’s box if it would be reopened.
Question: If this went to a vote, it would require two thirds, or... How would it work exactly?
Spokesperson: I’d have to check on that. I think it’s a simple majority, but I’m not sure.
Question: So, this is not a treaty amendment?
Spokesperson: I’m not sure -– I’d have to check.
Question: Could you also check if this becomes a [inaudible] is going to become an organ of the General Assembly -- would that then have Charter implications?
Spokesperson: OK, I’ll check on that.
Question: Is there any other kind of body, which is a part of the General Assembly, which some Members take part in and others don’t? Is there any kind of precedent within the United Nations?
Spokesperson: I can’t think of anything offhand, but I can ask about that.
Okay, thanks very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record