6 July 2006
Spokesman's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.  We’ll try to start on time for a change.


** Middle East


The Secretary-General, here and from Accra, Ghana, where he is, issued a statement yesterday afternoon on the Middle East.  And, in it, he warned that the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians is dangerous and could be explosive.  The Secretary-General urged all concerned to step back from the brink.


And, in that statement, the Secretary-General reminded the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority of their obligations under international humanitarian law, regarding protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, and also repeated his call for the immediate release of Corporal Gilad Shalit.  And the full text of that statement is available and online.


**Human Rights Council


On a related subject, this morning in Geneva, the Human Rights Council decided to urgently send the Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, on a fact-finding mission to that area.


According to the resolution -- which was adopted by a vote of 29 in favour to 11 against, with 5 abstentions -- the Council, among other things, demanded that Israel end its military operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and expressed grave concern at the detrimental impact of the current Israeli military operation on the deteriorating humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people.  We have a press release and that resolution upstairs.


** Iraq


Turning to Iraq, upon the invitation of the Government of Iraq, Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown is visiting Baghdad, yesterday and today.  He held consultations with the Iraqi Government regarding its initiative for a new partnership with the international community -- called the International Compact for Iraq.


The purpose of the Compact is to achieve a national vision for Iraq, which aims to consolidate peace and pursue political, economic and social development over the next five years.  And, during his visit, the Deputy Secretary-General met with the Iraqi President and Vice-Presidents, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, and a host of key Iraqi political leaders and members of the international donor community.


Discussions focused on the Government of Iraq’s establishment of a preparatory group, which it will co-chair with the United Nations.  This Group will assist with preparations for the Compact, and will be strongly supported by the World Bank, in coordination with the International Monetary Fund and other regional financial institutions.  It will also include key members of the international donor community.  The Preparatory Group will report directly to the Deputy Prime Minister, Barham Saleh, and the Deputy Secretary-General.  And there’s more in a press release upstairs.  It’s a joint press release, issued by the Government of Iraq and the United Nations.


**Security Council


And here at UN Headquarters, as you have been following, the Security Council held an open meeting on the visit last month by the Security Council to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  And that meeting began with a briefing by the leader of that mission, French Ambassador de La Sablière.


And then the Council went into closed consultations on the Middle East, and Council members received a draft resolution introduced by Qatar.  The Security Council President told you at the stakeout that the talks on a draft resolution concerning the DPRK were continuing at the experts’ level, and that experts would also be meeting on the draft resolution on the Middle East this afternoon.


**Secretary-General in Côte d’Ivoire


And, as I mentioned at the beginning of the briefing, the Secretary-General is in Accra, Ghana today.


And just to flag to you that we put out a transcript earlier today of a press conference he had on his last leg before going to Accra, in Côte d’Ivoire, where he had a mini-summit of Ivorian and African leaders concerning the implementation of that country’s road map.  And he said that the meeting had been very constructive, adding that the participants agreed to meet again on the margins of the General Assembly in September.  Anyway, I just would like to flag for you the transcript on the highlights of that summit.


**Cameroon/Nigeria


Turning to Nigeria, the fourth extraordinary meeting of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission took place in Abuja today, in the presence of Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa.


The meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, was convened to prepare reports for the follow-up committee on the implementation of the agreement between Cameroon and Nigeria on the Bakassi peninsula, which is scheduled to meet on 10 July in Geneva.  We were asked about this at the noon briefing yesterday.  The follow-up committee was established by the 12 June Greentree Agreement between the two countries, which was brokered by the Secretary-General.  And we expect to have more on the Abuja meeting later today.


**Timor-Leste


And turning to Timor-Leste, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Sukehiro Hasegawa, and Special Envoy Ian Martin -- the UN’s two top officials in that country -- met today with a group of rebel soldiers who had surrendered automatic weapons yesterday.  They urged the soldiers to press their case in a peaceful, non-violent manner.


And, earlier in the day, Hasegawa and others took part in a meeting chaired by coordinating Minister Jose Ramos-Horta to come up with a method of allowing the internally displaced persons to safely return to their homes and remain in a secure environment.


** Cyprus


And, on Cyprus, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, is continuing his trip to Cyprus, where he met today with Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos and with the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat.


Mr. Gambari told reporters there that the meetings were very good, and will help him to prepare his report to the Secretary-General, which he will write upon his return to New York.  That report will contain recommendations on how best to move closer to the possible relaunching of political discussions and a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.


Mr. Gambari will remain on the island until Sunday morning, and has follow-up meetings planned with each of the two leaders, beginning tomorrow.


** Indonesia


And finally, according to a new study conducted by the World Food Programme and the Indonesian Government, many people in Indonesia do not get enough to eat, significant numbers of the country’s children are underweight and infant mortality continues to be a problem.  And we have a press release on that study -- called the “Nutrition Map of Indonesia”.  And that’s upstairs in the Spokesman’s Office.


**Treaty Signing


And at Headquarters today, China, Singapore and Sri Lanka signed the UN Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts.  The Convention aims to improve legal certainty and commercial predictability where electronic communications are used in international contracts.  And we expect to have more on this in a press release upstairs.


**Guest Tomorrow


And tomorrow, we will have the President of the Small Arms Review Conference, Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam of Sri Lanka, who will be joining us at noon tomorrow to update us on the work of the Conference, which is scheduled to end tomorrow afternoon.


And I think that’s all I have for you. Any questions for me? Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  This is one question that I’m going to repeat again.  Has the Secretary-General decided to appoint anybody as his Envoy in North Korea?  Because, since Mr. Maurice Strong decided to abdicate, there has been no appointment, and now this question is coming up again and again.


Deputy Spokesman:  On that, what I can say is the Secretary-General appoints Special Envoys whenever he feels that there is space to conduct successful good offices work.  And, up until this moment, we have not seen that space.  So, for the moment, the answer is no.


Question:  Also, Israel has established some sort of a buffer zone in Gaza.  And the United Nations had earlier, also when they established such a buffer zone, strongly opposed the move of Israel.  Does he stand by that position again?


Deputy Spokesman:  Specifically on this issue, right now I can only refer you to the statement that the Secretary-General made last night, in which he called for calm on both sides.


Question:  But, on this buffer zone, you don’t have a position that it should not be established, because it is basically amounting to annexation of a territory?


Deputy Spokesman:  He has not commented specifically on that issue.  I know he also recognizes that the Security Council has also taken up in consultations the latest developments on the Middle East.  But, I have nothing specific on the latest movements reported.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Has the Secretary-General had anything to say on the North Korean missiles?  I may have missed it or what he said in Ghana.  What has he said on the matter?


Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary-General has repeatedly called for the resumption of the six-party talks in regards to the DPRK, and in terms of the incident over the weekend, I mean the 4th of July.  He has deferred comment, as the Security Council is focused on the matter… is seized of the matter.


Question:  And, one other thing, the Secretary-General’s report on resolution 1663 that Uganda was released.  I guess it was distributed Monday to the Security Council?


Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, what happens frequently is that a report, before it’s issued as a document, may be circulated to members of the Security Council.  And that’s why sometimes you see leaked reports out.  But, I think the report that you are referring to is not out as a document yet.  When it is out, it will be on the racks, and then we can comment on that officially.  But, right now, it’s still not out officially.


Question:  We got a copy. The reason why I ask the question is that it’s somewhat pressing on the matter of Joseph Kony of the LRA.  On the 4th of July it was announced that the President of Uganda has offered him full amnesty to negotiate.  And he’s blamed that -- the President of Uganda -- has said that’s because the UN or the ICC has failed to capture Joseph Kony.  So, I was reading the report, and in it the Secretary-General says that MONUC or UNMIS are otherwise occupied, but it also says there should be no impunity.  So, I guess I am wondering whether, given the speed at which events are moving, whether the Secretary-General, having issued this report and now it having been followed by an offer of amnesty by the President of Uganda, whether there’s a reaction either from him in Ghana or from the Secretariat or from someone?


Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I think the position hasn’t changed. The UN’s position on this issue has not changed.  The report will be out, I believe, very shortly.  You are free to quote from the report, which reflects what the Secretary-General’s thinking is on this matter.


So, if there are no other questions, have a good afternoon.


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