|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
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Good afternoon. Sorry I’m a little late. We were waiting for a couple of statements.
As you know, Charles Taylor was today transferred to The Hague in accordance with an order issued on Monday by the President of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Mr. Taylor was taken by United Nations helicopter from the Special Court compound earlier today and flown to Lungi International Airport in Freetown, where he was transferred to a chartered commercial jet. He departed from Sierra Leone at 9:40 a.m. local time and should be landing shortly in the Netherlands.
Photographs of the transfer will be available shortly on the website of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and there’s a press release on this upstairs.
**Charles Taylor Statement
Then we have a statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on this transfer.
“The Secretary-General welcomes the transfer of the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, to the Netherlands, to stand trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting in The Hague. He wishes to thank all who have made this transfer possible, in particular the Government of the Netherlands for its willingness to host the Special Court for the conduct of Mr. Taylor’s trial, the International Criminal Court for agreeing to the use of its premises by the Special Court and the Government of the United Kingdom for agreeing, subject to Parliamentary approval, to allow Charles Taylor, if convicted, to enter the United Kingdom to serve any sentence that the Special Court might impose.
“The Secretary-General encourages all States to cooperate with the Special Court with respect to Charles Taylor’s trial, in particular by ensuring the evidence and witnesses are made available to the Special Court upon its request. He also recalls his appeal to States to contribute generously to the Special Court’s budget.
“The Secretary-General expresses his determination to work together with the Special Court and relevant States to make the future trial proceedings available and to the people of West Africa in particular. He is confident that Charles Taylor’s trial will mark a further victory in the struggle to end impunity and will contribute to reconciliation in Liberia and the restoration of peace and stability in Liberia and in Sierra Leone.”
** Burundi Statement
We also have a statement attributable to the Spokesman on Burundi today.
“The Secretary-General welcomes the signing of the Agreement of Principles towards Lasting Peace, Security, and Stability in Burundi between the Government of Burundi and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL (Forces Nationales de Libération). He considers the Agreement an important step towards ending the devastating 13-year conflict in that country. The Secretary-General would like to express his sincere appreciation to the South African Facilitation, members of the Regional Peace Initiative for Burundi, and the African Union for their crucial contribution.
“The Secretary-General calls upon the Government of Burundi and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL to build on this positive step and to continue working together towards reaching an early comprehensive agreement, within the framework of the national Constitution. He would like to reiterate the United Nations’ continued commitment and support to the peace process in Burundi.”
**Secretary-General in Paris
The Secretary-General himself today was in Paris, and he attended the inauguration in that city, with President Jacques Chirac, of the new Musée du Quai Branly. The Secretary-General told the gathered dignitaries at the inauguration that the Museum, much like the United Nations, illustrates the universality of the human family.
Earlier this morning, the Secretary-General met with France’s Defence Minister. The two discussed a number of issues related to peacekeeping in Africa, notably the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Chad.
Later in the day, the Secretary-General met with French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, for a working lunch during which they discussed a wide range of issues, including the broader Middle East, the Iranian nuclear issue, Sudan, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire and United Nations reform.
In comments to the press afterwards, the Secretary-General, in answer to a question, expressed concern over the situation in North Korea. He said he hoped that North Korean leaders will listen to what world leaders are saying, adding that they must be careful not to create a situation that is even more complicated on the Korean peninsula.
We expect a transcript of that encounter shortly. The Secretary-General is now back in Geneva.
Here at United Nations Headquarters, after brief consultations on Liberia this morning, the Security Council moved to a formal meeting in which it decided not to renew the sanctions measures that obliged Member States to prevent the import into their territories of all round log and timber products originating in Liberia. The Council will review that decision after 90 days.
The Security Council also voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste until 20 August. The Council also requested the Secretary-General to provide a report on the future role of the United Nations in that country, taking into account the current situation and the need for a strengthened United Nations presence.
The Council is now holding an open meeting on Kosovo, during which it heard a briefing from Søren Jessen-Petersen, the Secretary-General’s departing Special Representative for Kosovo.
Jessen-Petersen said Kosovo was making steady progress and that its leaders had become more dynamic and progressive than ever. He added that, after seven years, Kosovo was ready -– indeed impatient -– to move on, and that it would be risky to keep the province in limbo for much longer. In that context, he called for the Kosovo status process to wrap up sooner rather than later.
And just a reminder, Søren Jessen-Petersen and Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Agim Çeku, will speak to you in this room immediately after the Council meeting, which should be shortly.
Turning to Timor-Leste, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Timor-Leste, Sukehiro Hasegawa, has welcomed the issuance by the Timorese Prosecutor-General’s office of an arrest warrant against former Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato for alleged distribution of arms to a civilian group.
Hasegawa said the independence of the judiciary branch is key to re-asserting the rule of law, and the action taken is a clear sign that the Timorese are carrying out their constitutionally mandated tasks.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Timor-Leste, Finn Reske-Nielsen, said that a pledge of $3 million has been received from Australia, bringing the total pledged so far to over $13 million. Last week’s UN flash appeal appealed for some $19 million.
Aid agencies said that food distribution continues to reach the camps in Dili, averaging more than 25 tons a day.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
The report by the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is available on the racks today.
In it, he notes that grave violations of children’s rights are continuing with impunity. These violations –- which have been reported in Katanga, Ituri and North Kivu Provinces -– include the recruitment and use of children in armed forces and groups, abduction, sexual violence, killing, maiming, and attacks on schools.
The Secretary-General strongly urges all stakeholders to take all necessary actions for the complete and unconditional release of children still present in the armed forces of the DRC and in armed groups operating in that country.
He also says that he will send his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to the DRC in the near future to draw attention to the problem.
We hope to have the Special Representative here to brief you following the presentation of this report to the Security Council next week.
Today is World Refugee Day, and the Secretary-General has issued a message, saying that, for the thousands of people forced to flee their homes each year, escaping with their lives and a few belongings is often just the start of a long struggle.
Noting that more than half of the people cared for by the United Nations refugee agency have spent more than five years in exile, the Secretary-General says that today should serve as a reminder of our responsibility to help keep hope alive for those who need it -- the millions of refugees and those displaced who are still far from home.
We have the full text of his message upstairs.
Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, is in Liberia today, where he is marking World Refugee Day by meeting refugees returning from Sierra Leone.
There’s more on that upstairs as well and, as I mentioned, we should have the Special Representative for Kosovo and the Prime Minister of Kosovo here in this room shortly after the Security Council briefing.
Tomorrow we have the ambassador of Sri Lanka, who is the President-designate of the 2006 small arms Review Conference, to brief on the Conference, which will take place here at Headquarters from the 26th of June until the 7th of July.
We also have Pragati Pascale here for the General Assembly to brief you. That’s it for me.
Questions and Answers
Question: Is there any update on the Ashraf Qazi report on the investigation into him? Where do things stand with that?
Deputy Spokesman: I have nothing new, but let me look into it immediately after the briefing. [The reporter was later informed that the report has not been finalized yet.]
Question: Can I just make a quick -– just one more thing? Can I make a request that we get Inga-Britt Ahlenius down here to brief us on Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) matters? She’d said she would be available. It’s just been eight months since we’ve had her. It would be nice to get her up on the podium again.
Deputy Spokesman: We can certainly make the request, but you can also press her office independently, as well, on that.
Question: Mark Malloch Brown was quoted as saying that, for the sake of the Americans, Guantánamo should be closed. Does Mark Malloch Brown see his job to be the United Nations kibitzer for all things United States politics?
Deputy Spokesman: As you know, Mark Malloch Brown is not at United Nations Headquarters. He is on the road and travelling, so I’ve only seen the press reports of the remarks that you are referring to, so I cannot confirm his exact words, but if they were along the lines of -– regarding Guantánamo, which is what you were referring to -– then there’s no departure from the remarks on that subject of the Secretary-General.
Question: There’s no departure in advising the United States that it’s bad for the United States?
Deputy Spokesman: As I said, I cannot confirm the remarks that have been reported in the press, but I can tell you that whatever he said on the subject has been said by the Secretary-General repeatedly.
Question: How was Charles Taylor escorted to the airport in the United Nations helicopter? Was he handcuffed, and did he have the presence of United Nations personnel?
Deputy Spokesman: I’m sure that there will be more details on that coming out, and we just mentioned to you that you can watch the whole transfer on their website, so why don’t we go do that afterwards and you can see for yourself.
Question: The North Korean crisis, I know, is coming to a head at this point in time. The Secretary-General had a representative called Maurice Strong, who left here under strange circumstances. Has the Secretary-General since then decided to appoint anybody in place of Mr. Strong to represent the United Nations in any such talks or to talk with North Korea about this issue?
Deputy Spokesman: No, the subject has not come up; however, as you know, he has recently taken a rather extensive tour through Asia and East Asia, including on the current Korean peninsula, and his message for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks and the way to resolve this problem through negotiation is the position that he repeated all along. In regards to who is in the lead on this, it is the Department of Political Affairs.
Question: Oh, I see, but the thing is, has anybody been nominated to...?
Deputy Spokesman: No.
Question: Also, can you also tell me something –- has the Secretary-General decided to appoint any special representative to Timor-Leste? Maybe I missed it, SRSG to Timor-Leste?
Deputy Spokesman: He has a representative on the ground. Mr. Hasegawa is his representative on the ground. He did dispatch Ian Martin to make an assessment for him and, as you know, he will be going back again for further assessment now that the Council has requested the Secretary-General to come back with further recommendations, but he does have a representative on the ground.
Question: As regards this investigation on the various things that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) was doing, especially in case of Mr. Qazi and also Mr. Pronk, who refused to cooperate with OIOS, and he came here, I believe, he had been strongly asked to cooperate with OIOS and not interfere with its work. Has that matter been resolved?
Deputy Spokesman: I have nothing further on that matter than what we’ve already said from here, but let me get back to you if there’s anything more to add. [She later informed the correspondent that the outstanding issues between Mr. Pronk and the OIOS were resolved in a way that allows auditors to do their job as needed in the field mission.]
Question: I’d like to know if you have more information regarding how Charles Taylor fared in detention. Did he have access to medical doctors? Did he have access to his lawyers and family? That’s number one, and two, I want to know what is the follow-up committee of Bakassi? When are they going to resume their meetings, and when is the United Nations going to appoint the two representatives that will serve the United Nations interest on this committee?
Deputy Spokesman: As you know, their agreement just came last week. The details of the committee, we can look into that for you but, as you know, this is a matter between those two countries, but we can certainly look into that for you. Your first question was regarding Charles Taylor?
[He was later told that the Secretary-General and Cameroon and Nigeria and a witness State would have to establish a follow-up committee on the implementation of the agreement. The committee would issue a report soon.]
Question: Yes, Charles Taylor. Do you have any information regarding how he fared in detention? Did he have access to doctors, to his family and lawyers?
Deputy Spokesman: I think you’d probably better direct those questions to the Court in Sierra Leone, but if you come to our office, we can also try to place that call for you and find out more details, and again their website will contain further information shortly, I am told. [The reporter was later informed that Taylor would have scheduled family visits twice weekly, as well as unfettered access to lawyers and medical care.]
Question: The Sudanese State news agency has quoted the president of Sudan as saying as long as he’s in power, there will be no United Nations troops or personnel in Darfur. I don’t know if the Secretary-General has any response to that. Any reaction?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, first of all, as you know, we don’t conduct diplomacy through the press, so what you’ve seen we’ve seen as well, but you also know that the Secretary-General has dispatched Jean-Marie Guéhenno, his top peacekeeping official there. They are in the process of doing this assessment. The Security Council mission from the United Nations was also recently there. There is a lot of momentum in this process going on now, so let’s wait until we hear back from Jean-Marie Guéhenno because when he does come back, as you know, he will be writing the report to the Security Council as requested for recommendations for the follow-up to what’s going to happen next.
[Shortly after the briefing, the Spokesman’s office announced that it had received a brief statement by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, in response to remarks made by the Sudanese President in the press earlier in the day. In the statement, Mr. Pronk said that the joint assessment team currently in Sudan, led by Jean-Marie Guéhenno, would hold a press conference before leaving the country, and that they requested a meeting with the President.]
Question: And just two follow-ups on Democratic Republic of Congo. One was -– yesterday Farhan said that there will be a response to this British television documentary about the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) participating in the destruction of villages and whatnot. Do you have any better sense now of when that response will be?
Deputy Spokesman: No, I don’t, but let me follow up for you when I get upstairs. [The reporter was later told that the examination of this incident by MONUC was continuing.]
Question: Also, those peacekeepers, is there any indication –- the seven peacekeepers that have been hostage now since May 28th -– any movement?
Deputy Spokesman: Nothing that I’m able to report to you, but that we hope for their early release. That’s all I can say for the time being.
Question: Two quick things. The latest logistical information on the teams going to Somalia, the security team and the humanitarian. When do they leave? Who’s in the unit? When are they back? Where are they going? Has the team been adjusted based on...?
Deputy Spokesman: I think you’re referring to the Special Representative’s remarks yesterday at the briefing. He referred to an assessment mission by DSS, which is –- it’s a security assessment and, as you know, we do not go into details about security assessments. There are routine security assessments going on all the time. If staff have been evacuated, they need to do another assessment to ensure conditions before staff can go back in. They do assessments when humanitarian missions or assistance can be resumed, et cetera, so there are a number of routine cases in which these are going on, but on this specific one, I’m sorry, I can’t comment further.
Question: And the humanitarian mission?
Deputy Spokesman: The humanitarian mission. Let me see if I can find out if and when that will be going, but that is...
Question: One or both of these teams will have to talk to the Islamic militias for the purposes of the trip?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, again, on the security front, I can’t get into details of that. Let’s get somebody from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to give us an update on the humanitarian assessment mission, if that’s taking place, and I’ll get back to you on that.
[The correspondent was told that a humanitarian mission had not yet been scheduled.]
Question: My other point was going to be -– maybe it was made yesterday -– I think it would be a good idea if the candidate for the post of Secretary-General, Mr. [Shashi] Tharoor, appeared here for a news conference.
Deputy Spokesman: Why don’t you suggest that directly to him? He is currently on annual leave, but I understand he is reading his e-mails.
Question: In his capacity as candidate or as Department of Public Information...?
Question: Just one small thing. You do conduct diplomacy through the press all the time. To suggest you don’t conduct diplomacy through the press is manifestly ... it’s just on this occasion you chose not to answer that question regarding Sudan. Just a small thing. On Korea, I just wondered whether there was any independent analysis -– just to follow up Massoud’s point –- in the United Nations on what would actually help the situation. Is the United Nations or any United Nations officials in the Department of Political Affairs or Kofi Annan reaching out to the Korean leadership? Does the Korean leadership, for example, is it looking for direct talks with the United States? Is it jealous of what Iran got, and is Korea trying to get that? Is there any kind of analysis that you guys have got of this situation, and how seriously are you taking it?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, obviously very seriously. The Secretary-General just a short while ago said that he is very concerned, that the United Nations supports the Six-Party Talks, and that he appealed to the North Korean leaders to listen to what the world leaders are saying. He said that they must be careful not to create a situation that is even more complicated on the Korean peninsula, which he was just visiting just last month, as you know, and repeatedly was again urging for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks, and I think that his position on the matter of nuclear non-proliferation, whether in that region or any other region in the world, is very well known.
Question: But are there any plans for any contacts between North Korea and United Nations officials?
Deputy Spokesman: Not that I know of. Not directly. No.
Question: Does the United Nations think that it would be helpful for the United States to hold direct talks with North Korea?
Deputy Spokesman: I have not asked him that question. Let me ask.
Question: Just to follow up on the Sudan thing. You talk about the press. Actually, it was Sudan’s State media this was reported on, so it basically is kind of what Bashir said. It seems to me that he said “recolonization”, and we’ve heard (inaudible) several times. The Security Council came back, we’ve got Guéhenno’s team in there, and yet Bashir was still saying any troops, international troops, would be a recolonization, it would be an invasion. What else can the United Nations do, apart for waiting for Guéhenno? He’s already been rebuffed once or twice. What is your continuing message to President Bashir?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, I think the Secretary-General has repeatedly said that there is a need to improve the protection of the victims, of the people in Darfur. For that end, he has first and foremost appealed for the need to improve the capacity of the African Union force on the ground. He has constantly been supporting a donors’ conference to further equip and enable that force in Darfur. He has said that there is a need in the possible transition to a United Nations force. He has been on the phone, as you know. He’s talked to the President. As you know, Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi was there. He did win the accord of the Sudanese to let in this assessment team, which is currently in the middle of carrying out its work. Let’s wait until Guéhenno’s team comes back and see what he has to say. He has a mandate to come back and report to the Security Council with recommendations.
Question: So why isn’t it a [inaudible] in your understanding?
Deputy Spokesman: You were talking about a press report, and I’ve seen that press report, okay? We can see if Guéhenno’s team has an interim comment to make on this matter, but short of that, I think we have to wait for him to wrap up his discussions and his assessment on the ground.
Question: One separate thing. Is the Secretary-General going to visit the World Cup while he’s in Europe?
Deputy Spokesman: We have not announced any visits upcoming, but if...
Question: Is he going to watch Ghana play?
Question: I think it’s Thursday.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, I asked about this. On the Ghana-United States match, unfortunately he’s going to be in the air travelling back, so I’ll have to find out, get a way for the pilot to get him the scores or something.
Question: You just have to patch it to the airplane.
Question: Does he have any opinion on the controversy regarding Ghana and waving an Israeli flag?
Deputy Spokesman: Can I (inaudible)?
Question: I picked up on the third floor about a meeting in Almaty, where you have a statement here. Do you have anything more, because it’s an 18-State meeting? It seems to be a big meeting. Do you have additional information?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, come up to my office and we’ll try to find more for you. I don’t have anything right now with me. If we’re done, we’ll turn to Pragati.
Question: Can I ask one more question actually? On management reform and the debate, does the Secretariat have a sense of a bottom line in terms of what would be acceptable to the Secretariat in terms of a mandate for management reform that could make this place work more effectively?
Deputy Spokesman: Let me look into that. I don’t have an up-to-date readout right now on where that management reform debate is, so let me look into that and I’ll get back to you.
[The correspondent was later told that the Secretary-General has outlined a comprehensive set of reforms in his reports to the Membership. He wants the Membership to act on as much as possible, as soon as possible. It is up to Member States to decide what the “bottom line” will be.]
Question: Marie, did the Secretary-General have any reaction to the murder of the kidnapped American soldiers in Iraq?
Question: Not yet. He spoke to the press today and we’ll have a transcript shortly, but that was not one of the questions he answered. Thank you.
Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President
Good afternoon. General Assembly President Jan Eliasson will return late this afternoon to Headquarters from Geneva, where he opened the first meeting of the Human Rights Council yesterday. He intends to focus on the management reform and budget processes for the next two weeks.
The Fifth Committee met this morning to consider the expenditure authorization for the budget. A report from the Secretary-General, which came out yesterday on the racks, states that it is the view of the Secretary-General that the time has now come to request that authorization be granted for expenditure above the cap set last December. A report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions has provided additional financial information.
Today the controller, Warren Sach, introduced the Secretary-General’s report in the Committee, stating that the current expenditure pattern showed that the last dollar available would be spent before the middle of July, but even prior to that, United Nations activities would suffer disruption if further authorization for expenditure was not granted.
South Africa, speaking for the Group of 77, made a statement calling for the lifting of the spending cap. Copies of that statement are available at the documents counter.
Austria, speaking for the European Union, said that it felt that the consultations needed a little more time, a view supported in statements by Japan and the United States. The Chairman proposed that he would consult with delegations and would update the Committee this Friday. It was an open meeting, so a press release summarizing that meeting will be coming out later today.
Today is World Refugee Day, as Marie said, and the Assembly President has issued a statement that “this is an opportunity for the world not only to honour the courage and determination of refugees but also to send a clear message that their plight has not been forgotten”. We have copies of that statement upstairs.
Questions and Answers
Question: I think Mr. Eliasson gets back today, right?
Question: Can you tell me what his schedule is in terms of, first of all, putting together some type of compromise package on this management reform budget cap-lifting deal and what meetings he intends to have over the next few days with various parties to this debate?
Spokesperson: His office has been working even while he’s been away the past week on the whole management reform and budget process. I’m not sure exactly what meetings he has scheduled. I can check into it, but he’s setting aside the next couple of weeks to focus on this intensively.
Question: Next couple of weeks? Friday was, as far as I understand ... this morning it was agreed that on Friday, they would meet again on this, right?
Question: But he thinks that this is going to be a debate that goes on for two weeks and doesn’t end on Friday, is that...?
Spokesperson: I wouldn’t draw that conclusion. In his schedule, he had set aside these two weeks.
Question: Is there a proposal that he’s put together?
Spokesperson: Not a concrete proposal. They’re working in consultation with many delegations.
Question: Is there a document that -- delegations say that he’s putting together some kind of compromise proposal, so is there any piece of paper that he’s been writing or working on?
Spokesperson: Not that I’m aware of. His office has been talking to delegations, and I believe the European Union stated this morning that they also wanted the Assembly President to return and to...
Question: Does he take it upon himself to become the mediator for this?
Spokesperson: I think he intends to be very involved in the process.
Question: How many candidates are now officially on the official list for the post of Secretary-General, and do we have the biographies of those candidates?
Spokesperson: I think such a list is developed by the Security Council, if I’m not mistaken. Is this a trick question?
Thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record