|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’ll start off with a statement as soon as the door is closed. Thank you.
“The Secretary-General is working very intensely with Security Council members and key leaders, both here in New York and in capitals, to push for a resolution concerning the situation along the Blue Line.
“He reiterates his call that the fighting must stop to save civilians on both sides from the nightmare they have endured for the past four weeks.
“The Secretary-General believes that it ought to be possible for the Security Council to adopt a resolution by the end of the week.”
Turning now to the situation on the ground, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has received fuel by sea that can now allow the Force to re-supply a number of its Indian battalion positions. A UN convoy began its journey today from the UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura on its way to re-supply those positions, although that effort may be complicated by the heavy fighting in the eastern sector.
The Israeli Defence Forces, meanwhile, have not yet responded to the repeated requests by UNIFIL to reopen the road between Tyre and Beirut by allowing UNIFIL to put up another provisional bridge over the Litani River.
UNIFIL says that a planned humanitarian convoy to distribute food to the villages in the western sector could not proceed in the last four days due to the denial of consent by the IDF. But the UN Mission was able to provide medical assistance to a wounded civilian and relocate him to a Naqoura hospital.
The peacekeeping mission adds that four mortar rounds from the Hizbollah side impacted directly inside a UNIFIL position, in the area of Deir Mimess, yesterday evening, causing extensive material damage but no casualties. Two rockets from an unknown source also impacted directly inside a UNIFIL position in another location yesterday evening.
Meanwhile, the Mission also reports five incidents of firing from the Israeli side close to UN positions.
And the Mission has protested these incidents to both the Israeli and Lebanese authorities.
Meanwhile, Jan Egeland, the head of the humanitarian affairs department here at the United Nations was in Geneva where he gave a press briefing.
He said Lebanon is one of the worst places in the world in terms of humanitarian access. He added that there are more than 200,000 people in the country to whom humanitarian workers have no access. Despite the assurances given by both the Lebanese and Israeli Governments, as well as through messages from Hizbollah, Egeland said the humanitarian convoys have not been working as they were supposed to.
“Hizbollah and the Israelis could give us access in a heartbeat”, he said. “Then we could help the 120,000 people in southern Lebanon”.
Egeland added that the situation globally for humanitarian workers over the last month has been one of the worst ever, in terms of providing assistance to vulnerable populations worldwide and safety and security to humanitarian workers in the field. Dozens of humanitarian field workers have been killed in recent weeks, including the 17 in Sri Lanka and 9 in Darfur.
On Darfur, Egeland said there was more than a 100 per cent increase in violent clashes in the first half of 2006, compared to the first half of last year. “The situation in Darfur was going from really bad to catastrophic”, he said.
And we do have highlights of his press briefing available for you upstairs.
Going back to Lebanon, the UN humanitarian staff in Lebanon today said that 15 trucks carrying relief items left for the eastern town of Baalbek this morning. That convoy includes food aid from the World Food Programme, as well as other assistance from the UN Population Fund and the World Health Organization, among others.
No clearances were received from the Israel Defense Force for a humanitarian aid convoy to travel to Nabatiyeh, in the south.
And the World Food Programme today also voiced concern that without vital supply lines to help an estimated 100,000 people stranded south of the Litani River, aid convoys will remain paralysed.
And we do have more upstairs from the humanitarian agencies.
Meanwhile, back here, the Security Council held consultations on Timor-Leste, during which Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for that country, briefed on a report of the Secretary-General dealing with the future of the international presence in Timor-Leste.
The Council later adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN mission in Iraq.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
Turning to the Congo, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, William Lacy Swing, has called on the Congolese people not to focus solely on the presidential poll, but also to pay attention to parliamentary elections, which will bring in a new National Assembly whose functions will include voting on the budget and approving the President’s choice for Prime Minister.
Swing also pleaded with the Congolese media not to exacerbate social tensions by publishing speculative results of the elections. He said that it was premature to talk about those results, since the ones published by the Independent Electoral Commission so far concern less than 5 per cent of votes cast.
And the Mission in the DRC reports that the official result publication is still expected to be 20 August. And we will update you as we get more information.
** Côte d’Ivoire
From Côte d’Ivoire, the UN Operation in that country says it’s deeply concerned by recent statements made by certain political leaders, which could set back the peace process.
The Mission adds that these statements are all the more difficult to understand since they come at a critical stage in the implementation of the road map, which had gained fresh impetus after the high-level meeting held on 5 July in Yamoussoukro at the initiative of the Secretary-General.
The Mission is calling on all Ivorian parties to use dialogue to overcome their misunderstandings and differences, and for all actors in the Ivorian crisis to maintain their support for, commitment to and participation in the peace process as there is no other way of achieving a viable and lasting solution to this crisis.
** Sierra Leone
Today in Freetown, in Sierra Leone, the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General, Victor Angelo, will be chairing a stakeholders’ meeting on the planned 2007 elections.
The meeting will bring together local civil society organizations and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as well as representatives of the major donor nations and countries neighbouring Sierra Leone.
Participants in the meeting will discuss the work plan for the elections, including funding requirements, preparations for voter registration and voter education, as well as election security.
Turning now to the situation relating to the Uzbek refugees, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour expressed grave concern at the deportation of four Uzbek refugees and an asylum-seeker by the Kyrgyz Republic, back to Uzbekistan.
The extradition exposes them to a serious risk of being subjected to torture and is in violation of the non-refoulement principle contained in article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Kyrgyz Republic is a party to that Convention.
The High Commissioner calls upon the authorities of the Kyrgyz Republic to refrain from further deportation of refugees and asylum-seekers to countries where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would face imminent risk of grave human rights violations, including torture.
And we have a press release available on that upstairs.
And the Secretary-General has today appointed Yvo de Boer of the Netherlands as the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. And he will succeed the late Joke Waller-Hunter, who passed away a few months ago. Yvo de Boer is currently the Director for International Affairs of the Ministry of housing, Spatial Planning and Environment for the Netherlands.
[Simon Upton of New Zealand, who had been previously announced as one of the short-listed candidates for this post, withdrew his candidature early on in the process.]
And we have his bio upstairs.
Following on the Jay-Z press briefing yesterday, the popular Brazilian soccer star, Ronaldinho, will be here to talk to you in this room at 1 tomorrow when his appointment as a UN spokesperson for Sport for Development and Peace will be formally announced.
And also attending will be Djibril Diallo, the Director of the New York Office for Sports and Development.
And on that note, yes, Sylviane?
**Questions and Answers
Question: It’s on Lebanon. This morning, there was an unscheduled meeting between the Secretary-General, John Bolton and Ambassador de la Sablière, can you tell us who requested the meeting, what was the purpose, and how do you characterize the discussions? And also, what’s the outcome? There was a readout?
Spokesman: The meeting was at the request of the ambassadors who asked to see the Secretary-General. They obviously discussed the situation concerning the resolution, but I think you would have to ask them for more details. This is part of the Secretary-General’s ongoing contacts with Security Council members on the resolution.
Question: Both Ambassadors asked for the meeting?
Spokesman: That’s my understanding.
Question: I just wanted to find out, also, besides this meeting, has the Secretary-General also been in contact either with the American President or Condoleezza Rice about this issue and situation? Also, can you tell me, does the Secretary-General have anything –- Israel has apparently delayed movement into Lebanon? Does the Secretary-General have an opinion as to how it would impact talks?
Spokesman: Obviously, this is the moment for the diplomatic activity, which is extensive and intensive, focused here in New York and a number of capitals. The Secretary-General was on the phone this morning with the Foreign Minister of Israel, with the Prime Minister of Lebanon and the Secretary of State. And as I said, this is really part of his ongoing contacts with the parties involved in this situation.
Question: Did he speak with President Bush at all?
Spokesman: I think we told you, last contact was a few days ago. There have been no contacts since. Laura, and then we’ll go to James and Benny.
Question: Thing about Israel...?
Spokesman: You know, this should be seen as the moment for diplomatic activity. And again, the Secretary-General would reiterate his call for an immediate cessation.
Question: Steph, I just wanted to ask you. Because at the top of the briefing you said that there are fuel convoys that are going to fuel the UNIFIL positions. Because the UNIFIL press release, which is from this morning, and I know you –-
Spokesman: This is updated. Since then, a ship was able to dock in Naqoura and offload a number of supplies for UNIFIL, which is then being transported -- which we’re trying to transport by road to some of the forward positions.
Question: Right, then you also said later in the briefing is that there was no IDF okay for WFP convoys to travel south. Are they...?
Spokesman: Well, this has to –- they’re coming from different ways. Part of them are coming south from Beirut. We’re obviously -- UNIFIL is working closely with the IDF to get the necessary assurances of safety for its convoys to re-supply the troops. But the WFP ones, I think, were trying to come north from Beirut across the Litani River, which is a different route. Yes, James?
Question: The Secretary-General has spoken to the Lebanese Prime Minister today was that?
Spokesman: Yes, he did.
Question: Can you tell us whether he thinks the Lebanese Prime Minister is willing to accept the latest proposals by the US and the French?
Spokesman: No, I can’t go into the details.
Question: Can you characterize that conversation?
Spokesman: No, the only way to characterize the conversation is part of the intense discussions the Secretary-General has had.
Question: The last contact with President Assad of Syria was yesterday or was there one today?
Spokesman: No, there was none today. I’d have to check the phone logs.
Question: Just one follow-up question if I may. What is the Secretary-General doing tonight? Does he have any plans for tonight? Is he meeting any Security Council ministers tonight for instance?
Spokesman: I’m not briefed on his evening programme, but he remains focused on the work relating to the resolution and he may very well have more meetings as the day goes on. Yes, Benny?
Question: From your briefing, I assume that the Secretary-General is aware that the Security Council is seized of the question of Lebanon and Israel?
Spokesman: That’s correct.
Question: Article 12 of the UN Charter says that if the Security Council is seized of a certain matter, the General Assembly should not deal with it, and the Secretary-General should inform the General Assembly that the Security Council is seized of the matter. Now, there’s an emergency session tomorrow of an organ of the General Assembly, which is the jewel of Kofi Annan’s reform, the Human Rights Council, about this. Has the Secretary-General informed the Human Rights Council that the Security Council is seized of this matter?
Spokesman: I will have to get an opinion from the Legal Office before I answer that question. I think in terms of the general situation regarding violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, the Secretary-General believes that the seriousness of the situation has affected civilians on both sides and that the approach should be to look at what has happened on both sides. Yes?
Question: And follow-up, has the Secretary-General received the letter from the Anti-Defamation League in the same vein as an ad that was in today’s New York Times that says that basically he has not -- has been one-sided [inaudible] –-
Spokesman: I’m not aware that the letter has been received, but I think the tone of the ad is misplaced and people should read his statements in full and see that the Secretary-General has expressed condemnation for the death of all civilians. Yes?
Question: One more follow-up, on the last phone call with Assad, has Assad told him something to the effect that the last version of the resolution was unacceptable and [talkover].
Spokesman: I’m not able to characterize the tone of that conversation. Joe?
Question: I have two questions. On the meeting today, are these meetings between the ambassadors and the Secretary-General to inform the Secretary-General what the status of the negotiations are, or are they seeking input from him, some ideas that he might have to break the deadlock or to ask him to make phone calls like [inaudible] to get on the phone to the Syrian leader, that kind of thing?
Spokesman: You know, the Security Council members and the two co-drafters are in the lead of writing that resolution and they are keeping the Secretary-General informed. Through his phone calls, the Secretary-General has been pushing his global message, which was the one I referred to in the beginning. But I’m not going to go and characterize and go into the details of exactly all the conversations and discussions that are going on.
Question: Is it his own initiative to make these calls or is he being asked to represent [inaudible]?
Spokesman: No, this is, some of these calls he receives and other calls he makes at his initiative.
Question: The United States is not speaking to Syria, so are they using the Secretary-General...?
Spokesman: I’m not going into that level of detail. Yes?
Question: Unrelated. UNIFIL, they keep statistics, I assume. Can you tell us from them how many rockets were fired from Hizbollah positions into Israel from 2000 when the withdrawal began to the beginning of hostilities now? Is that something they might have?
Spokesman: We can check. I mean they do monitor and, regularly over the past four, five or six years they’ve put out press releases with these things. So, we can see if they have some sort of global numbers. Yes, Mr. Pincas?
Question: I have an observation here –-
Spokesman: I hope, I’d like to restrict this briefing to questions. So, if you have a question, please.
Question: It’s a very serious question. It’s difference in information given to us here and information that’s given in Geneva. Now I’m reading from the 8 August United Nations Information Service Geneva document, which you distribute here. Now, in this document, the draft resolution that was presented here on Saturday is described as a French resolution, a French draft. We were told that this was an America-French draft. Which is the fact?
The second question deals with the finances. On finances, the appeal for Lebanon produced $41 million -– that’s the Lebanon flash appeal –- which represents 26 per cent of what was appealed. In addition, $28 million was given to the World Food Programme, but...
Spokesman: Are you trying to get numbers? We can –- no, listen, Mr. Pincas. No, I understand. Mr. Pincas, we will get you numbers from OCHA on the Lebanon Appeal. I can’t comment in detail on what you’re reading. If there’s a discrepancy, we apologize for it, but I will get you those financial numbers.
Question: That’s not my question here. My question is that $337 million was pledged by the oil-exporting countries. This information wasn’t given to us. My question is, for what purpose was that, because this is outside what is being described as humanitarian aid. This is a serious question.
Spokesman: I will try and get an answer to your question about the information flow between here and Geneva.
Question: What was the draft from Saturday? Was it French or was it American?
Spokesman: I think you would have to speak to the members of the Council.
Spokesman: You will have to speak to the members of the Council. We are not the sponsors of the resolution. You will have to speak to them.
Question: Two questions. First, the UNIFIL position that was hit. Do you know how many UNIFIL people were stuck there and where they were at the time of...?
Spokesman: The one that was hit today by Hizbollah?
Question: The Deir Mimess.
Spokesman: Yeah, I don’t have those details with me but we can find out right afterwards.
Question: The second thing about the oil spill in Lebanon. The two UN experts dispatched to Syria, part of the plan was that they were going to take samples to figure out what kind of oil we’re dealing with. Do you have any idea when those results are due?
Spokesman: No. But we can check with UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme) after the briefing. Yes, Matthew?
Question: At yesterday’s Council session on West Africa peace stabilization, the Secretary-General spoke of the competing needs of reconciliation and of strengthening the rule of law. Afterwards, I asked the Ghanaian Foreign Minister of the offer of immunity to Joseph Kony, whose been indicted by the ICC (the International Criminal Court). So, I’m wondering if you can expand on his comment and on his view of the offer of amnesty despite an indictment for war crimes of Joseph Kony and more generally, the relation between reconciliation and the rule of law and lack of impunity.
Spokesman: Well, I think the matter of the indictment by the ICC is for them to comment. You know, the Secretary-General and the UN System as a whole do not condone impunity and have always believed that justice must be served without delay. But, there are, these indictments stand and the parties that are signatories to the ICC have to ensure that the indictees are arrested and handed over to the Tribunal.
In parallel to that, there are obviously, in different circumstances, reconciliation efforts need to be drawn up based on the situation in each country. And I think each post-war situation calls often for different solutions, obviously drawn up by the peoples themselves, by the Governments and the people involved themselves, and with the help of the international system. It’s part of the peacebuilding process. It’s one of the issues the Peacebuilding Commission would obviously deal with.
Question: Thank you for that. The Foreign Minister of Ghana also yesterday indicated that, in response to questions about the Charles Taylor trial, that, in the future, it’s his view, and he said of many on the continent, that such trials should take place in Africa and not elsewhere. I don’t know if the Secretary-General has a view on that.
Spokesman: Each case is different. The Secretary-General had made his views known on Charles Taylor, as had a number of leaders in the region. I think the important fact is that Mr. Taylor is in custody and will face justice.
On that note, thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record