|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.
** Noon Guest
Good afternoon. My guest today will be Mr. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire and Humanitarian Coordinator for that country, and he will be joining us to brief you on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.
Turning now to the events in Khartoum, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, as well as the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, have just completed their discussions with senior Sudanese officials, including President Bashir and Vice-President Salva Kiir. In press comments made just a short while ago, Mr. Brahimi said he reassured the Ggovernment officials he had spoken to that the UN’s aim was to help them and the people of Darfur successfully implement the Abuja peace accord. He also told them that an eventual UN peacekeeping operation would be conducted with the consent and cooperation of the Government of Sudan and all the parties concerned.
On that basis, Mr. Brahimi said they agreed to a joint assessment mission of the AU and UN which would start wide-ranging discussions in Khartoum. That mission would then proceed on to Darfur to assess the additional needs of the African Union mission currently in Darfur, which needs to be strengthened immediately. They would also assess all the requirements for a possible transition from the African Union to the UN. The team would then return for further talks in Khartoum before reporting back to the Secretary-General and the Chairman of the African Union. Brahimi added that the assessment mission’s activities would be undertaken without prejudging future decisions that the Government of National Unity in Sudan, the African Union and the UN may take on Darfur. And we have the full transcript of Mr. Brahimi’s opening remarks available to you upstairs and we do expect the full transcript of the Q&A to be available a short while later this afternoon.
**Secretary-General in Asia
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General has just arrived in Bangkok to begin the last leg of a trip that has taken him to Vienna, Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing and Hanoi. Shortly before leaving Hanoi the Secretary-General issued a statement expressing his concern over developments in Timor-Leste and announcing his decision to send Ian Martin, the head of the Human Rights Mission in Nepal, to the Timorese capital, Dili, to assess the situation first-hand. And as some of you may remember, Mr. Martin had previously served as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Dili. The Secretary-General then spent the day today telephoning leaders in the region, including Timor-Leste’s President and Prime Minister. He’s also been in touch with authorities in New Zealand and Portugal, as well as the prime ministers of Australia and Malaysia, both of whom have committed to send forces to help restore stability in the island nation. We do have copies of the Secretary-General’s statement upstairs.
Also from the ground in Timor-Leste, the UN Mission has issued a statement condemning an attack on the national police headquarters that resulted in the deaths of nine persons and the wounding of 27 more. The UN Mission said this afternoon that after an hour-long attack at the Dili police headquarters by army elements, UN police and military advisers had negotiated a ceasefire that was agreed on with the condition that the police officers surrender their weapons and leave the headquarters unarmed.
As the unarmed police were being escorted out, army soldiers opened fire on them, killing nine and wounding 27 others, including two UN police officers. UN personnel evacuated the wounded from the site and brought them to the Mission. The critically injured were transferred to Dili National Hospital. The Mission reports that UN personnel were able to rescue some 62 additional Timorese police officers and they are now being sheltered in the UN compound.
Meanwhile, late yesterday evening the Security Council President read out a press statement on Timor-Leste expressing the Council’s deep concern over the deteriorating situation in that country. And regarding Timor-Leste’s request for Portugal, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia to send in troops, the Council expressed its full understanding and said it appreciated the initial favourable responses made by those countries. The Council also adopted a presidential statement on Iraq, welcoming the recent inauguration of that country’s constitutionally elected Government.
From Somalia, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, today condemned the resumption of hostilities in Mogadishu, saying he was deeply disturbed by the cost to the civilian population, the wasting of opportunities to reconcile and reconstruct the country, and the impact of heightened insecurity on UN humanitarian responses in Somalia, especially in light of the country’s ongoing drought. Ambassador Fall recently met in Baidoa with Somalia’s Prime Minister, President and Speaker of the Parliament to discuss efforts by the Transitional Federal Government to bring the warlord-ministers from Mogadishu to Baidoa. Fall has also been working with the international community to establish a durable ceasefire in Mogadishu and to maintain secure access for humanitarian workers in Somalia.
And the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea says that the number of its Eritrean national staff who’ve been detained by Eritrean authorities has now risen to 11 again. The number had dropped to 10 recently, but another staff member was detained on Tuesday. The Mission also says that the military situation in the Temporary Security Zone and adjacent areas is tense with routine troop movements noticed on both the Ethiopian and Eritrean sides. And we do have briefing notes from that mission available to you upstairs.
Some press events to flag for you. In response to your requests, representatives of the indigenous people’s conference that has been going on for the past two weeks downstairs will come up to this room at 2:30 this afternoon to give you an update on their meetings. The speakers will be Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines and Wilton Littlechild of Canada who are members of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. And there will also be a youth representative present.
And tomorrow immediately following the noon briefing, UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman and others will be here to launch a new report by the Global Movement for Children. And at 1:30, David Balton, Chair of the Review Conference on the Agreement relating to Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks will be here as well. And at 3 o’clock, Ambassadors Emyr Jones Parry of the United Kingdom and Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France will hold a press briefing on the Security Council’s mission to Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
That is it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: About this joint assessment team?
Spokesman: I just spoke to my colleagues in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. This is obviously breaking news. We’re working now on the dates on when that mission would go ahead. But they would be comprised of senior UN and AU officials and obviously including military experts.
Question: And now that they’ve agreed, I know there are some names that have been floating about.
Spokesman: On who would lead the mission? No, I’m not able to. I’d like to do that as soon as I can but I’m not able to at this point.
Question: A point of clarification. Today is Africa Day. The Secretary-General had a message and it only reflects sub-Saharan Africa, so is it only based on sub-Saharan Africa or does it include north Africa?
Spokesman: Africa Day is Africa Day. It covers the whole continent. The focus of the Secretary-General’s messages on these days changes from year to year. I’m not sure if the day is today or tomorrow but I will check.
Question: Okay, it’s just that he didn’t mention anything about Western Sahara.
Spokesman: No, the focus changes from year to year.
Question: Can you tell us more about what the assessment team will actually do?
Spokesman: The team that will go will do a number of things. One, they will obviously look at the situation on the ground, which will help our planning for an eventual handover from the African Union to the United Nations. It will also work with the AU to see what their immediate needs are in order for that mission to be strengthened. A peacekeeping assessment mission looks at, among other things, logistics, transport, access to water, all sorts of those little details that make possible the deployment of a peacekeeping force.
Question: Will they go everywhere in Darfur?
Spokesman: Looking exactly at what Mr. Brahimi said, they will first go to Khartoum, have discussions with the Government and then move on to Darfur. My indication is that Darfur means Darfur and they will go where they need to go.
Question: What’s happening to the report on the Lord’s Resistance Army that was due before the end of April?
Spokesman: It’s overdue. I will check for you.
Question: On that, there’s a report that South Sudan is trying to mediate between Joseph Kony and Uganda. Is that acknowledging that he’s in South Sudan? Does the Secretary-General think that’s useful? Should South Sudan arrest him?
Spokesman: I’ll get some guidance on that and get back to you.
Question: The assessment team again. Is it just purely logistical with no investigative arm, no humanitarian assessment arm?
Spokesman: It is a peacekeeping assessment team so it will have all the experts that are needed. Obviously once we have a fuller list of exactly who will be on the team, it will have the people it will need to conduct its work, which is to see what the situation on the ground is for an eventual taking over from the AU to the UN and assess what the immediate needs are for the African Union force in order to strengthen them.
Question: Will there be a humanitarian component?
Spokesman: I would not be surprised if there was a humanitarian element in terms of dealing with humanitarian access but again, I don’t want to prejudge who will be on the mission at this point.
Question: I’m just trying to compare it to other assessment teams.
Spokesman: As I said, once we have more details exactly on the different components of the team we’ll share them with you.
Question: Once Mr. Brahimi returns from Sudan, would he be willing to hold a press conference?
Spokesman: I’m not sure he’ll be coming here. He may brief the Secretary-General on the phone. Mr. Annabi will surely come back and maybe he’ll have to carry the messages. But whoever comes back, we’ll see if we can get them to speak to you.
Question: So we have a request in to speak with them.
Spokesman: As soon as we know something we’ll let you know.
Qusetion: Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Olmert has now said he’s going to draw a unilateral border because, obviously, Hamas is unacceptable to them. Now, is that vision of a unilateral border the Quartet’s vision for a two-State solution?
Spokesman: I would refer you back to the Quartet’s statement which reflects the latest on the Secretary-General’s position on the need for a negotiated solution and to hold off on any actions that may prejudge the final outcome.
Question: One more thing on Sudan. The delay in sending an assessment team was seen as delaying the putting of an actual peacekeeping force on the ground. Can you estimate by how much time this development will shorten the time needed to get troops on the ground?
Spokesman: This is an important step for us in putting a force on the ground. Often the longest time frame for putting a force together is the force-generation, us getting the hard commitments and getting troops and logistical help from those who have the capabilities. I think, as Mr. Guéhenno said, the Peacekeeping Department has already had some informal contacts with countries that may be in a position to give. Once we have the assessment done, the Council has agreed on a concept of operation for the force and what will shorten the time frame for the deployment of the force will be how quickly Member States with the capabilities will be able to share them with us.
Question: So will this development help?
Spokesman: It’ll help in the sense that it will enable us to come up with hard options for the Security Council to consider, so yes, it will help.
Question: I just read the remarks from Brahimi and there seems to be no indication of regret that there has been a lack of agreement on the part of Khartoum to even go to the African Union position, which is the possibility of a UN force. The UN must be disappointed there’s been no movement on that.
Spokesman: We’re not disappointed in today’s developments. This is an important step in the planning process for an eventual UN takeover, and as Mr. Brahimi says, the decision to allow this assessment team through is done without prejudging whatever decisions will need to be taken by the UN, the African Union and the Government of National Unity.
Question: There’s a report of UN police using tear gas in Kosovo. Defence lawyers for Serb defendants have brought this up. Mr. Jessen-Peterson has said something. But it seems like something that should be -- does the UN have a position? Let me think how to phrase this.
Spokesman: You think of how to phrase it and I’ll think of an answer. How’s that? I’ll check for you right after the briefing and on that note, I’ll leave you in the hands of the Secretary-General’s Deputy Representative in Côte d’Ivoire, who’s here to talk to you about Côte d’Ivoire.
* *** *For information media • not an official record