|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 spokeswoman for the General Assembly president
The following is a near-verbatim transcript by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General
The Security Council will begin its work in November, under the presidency of Peru, with consultations on Côte d’Ivoire at 4:00 this afternoon, with a view to a formal meeting after that.
That is a continuation of the consultations that took place yesterday afternoon, when Council members discussed a draft resolution sponsored by France on Côte d’Ivoire.
Today’s meeting will be the first one under the presidency of Ambassador Jorge Voto-Bernales of Peru. The Council is then scheduled to hold consultations tomorrow morning on its programme of work for November, and Ambassador Voto-Bernales will talk to you about its work, about the Council’s work, for the month, around 1 p.m. tomorrow here.
** Central African Republic
Today, the United Nations launched a new humanitarian air service in the Central African Republic to help agencies reach up to 1 million people affected by violence in the country’s north.
The inaugural flight left the capital, Bangui, for one of the worst-hit areas of the country, Kaga Bandoro, where fighting has displaced thousands of people in the past three weeks.
The air service, managed by the World Food Programme, consists of a 10-seater plane, and offers daily flights to destinations across the country, depending on the humanitarian needs.
It has been made possible, thanks to a grant of $150,000 from the Central Emergency Fund.
** Côte d’Ivoire
The Secretary-General’s latest report on children and armed conflict in Côte d’Ivoire, covering the period of January 2005 to September 2006, is out on the racks today.
In it, the Secretary-General specifies grave violations perpetrated against children in Cote d’Ivoire –- particularly the killings and maiming of children, rape and other instances of grave sexual violence, and the abduction of and trafficking in children.
The report recommends targeted action and measures against parties and individuals that systematically commit these violations as well as rigorous and timely investigation and prosecution by relevant authorities of such incidents in order to address the prevailing culture of impunity.
And the UN Mission in Georgia today has wrapped up its investigation into reports of a rocket attack in the north-western upper Kodori Valley, where fighting between the Georgian Government and Abkhaz separatists 14 years ago forced nearly 300,000 refugees to flee their homes.
The UN Mission found that, while the rockets’ country of origin could not be determined, they could not have been launched from the Restricted Weapons Zone in Abkhazia, as had been previously reported.
We do have a press release on that upstairs.
**Internet Governance Forum
And, lastly, today in Athens, Greece, the Internet Governance Forum held an interactive discussion on the theme of diversity, addressing the issues of multilingualism and promoting and developing local content on the Internet.
It was noted that some 90 per cent of the 6,000 languages in use worldwide are not in use on the Internet, and that many people were cut off from the Net simply because content was not available in their mother tongues.
We have a press release available on that.
And, that is it for me. So now I’ll take your questions.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I wanted to find out about this ongoing Israeli operation in Palestine…, specifically Gaza, and also about the reports of the exchange of prisoners between Lebanon and Israel. Is this the mechanism the Secretary-General has established? And, is this the same mechanism working in Palestine also? The Israelis seem to be attacking in Gaza to secure release of their solider. We hear they are negotiating with Hizbollah.
Spokesman: On Gaza, the Secretary-General would reiterate his call that the Israeli military operations cease. He has recognized Israel’s security needs, but has repeatedly called on them to avoid any civilian casualties, and he has also called on Palestine militants to cease with their firing of rockets into Israel. On the Lebanon prisoner issue, the facilitator appointed by the Secretary-General is working very hard with both parties in trying to resolve the issue. The statement, the interview given by Sheikh Nasrallah on this is confirmation that that mechanism is in place.
Spokesman: The facilitator appointed by the Secretary-General is dealing with the issue of the Lebanon-Israeli issue. This person is not involved in the issue with Corporal Shalit in Gaza.
Question: So Israel has, in principle, accepted this process?
Spokesman: That was from the start. Yes it was.
Question: Apparently, the Secretary-General had a meeting this morning with the Permanent-Five and on the Hariri investigation. I wanted to ask, first of all, why wasn’t it squawked? Because it wasn’t. And, you didn’t mention it right now. Secondly, what was it about on the Hariri investigation? And third, did it deal with the tribunal of an international character?
Spokesman: Yes. The meeting was with the Permanent Representatives of the Permanent-Five… the permanent members of the Security Council. It focused on the tribunal. The Secretary-General wanted to share with them his reflections on where we stand on the elaboration of the legal basis for the tribunal of an international character. This is part of ongoing discussions he has had with a number of the stakeholders on this issue. There have also been other briefings to a number of the elected members of the Security Council, who had expressed an interest in the process. The Secretary-General will submit the draft proposals for the tribunal to the Security Council when he is ready to do so.
Question: When is that?
Spokesman: When he feels he is ready to move forward and submit it to the Security Council, he will do so. The plan is still being elaborated.
Question: And, is he having any sort of discussion with people over in Lebanon?
Spokesman: Of course, that work is being lead by Nicolas Michel, who has been his point man on this issue and, of course, he has had extensive consultations with the Lebanese Government, as well.
Question: To continue with Lebanon, I asked this question yesterday, I didn’t get an answer. Maybe you can, after reflection, help me out here. There are two separate reports. One by Geir Pedersen that totally concentrates on the Israeli flights. One by Terje Roed-Larsen for the Security Council which talked about weapons continuing to come into Israel. Now Israel is making direct linkage…they’re saying that, as long as the weapons embargo is not enforced, we will have to continue flying over Lebanon. How does the Security Council, the Secretary-General, which has lots of different operators in the region, how does he, does he not see any linkage here?
Spokesman: Security Council resolution 1701 called for Lebanon to do its utmost to secure its border. It called for the neighbouring Governments to do what they can and to support 1701 and to stop any arms smuggling that may take place. We hope that, as we move forward, that we will stop seeing this smuggling, which is in violation of the resolutions. But it remains that the over-flights and any violation of the Blue Line is also a violation of the resolution.
Question: Is there any… does the Secretary-General agree with Israel, or does he not agree, that the flow of weapons into Lebanon [inaudible]…
Spokesman: The Secretary-General would never approve of these over-flights, which he considers a violation of the resolution. 1701 is all about Lebanon extending its authority throughout its country, including along its borders. The international community is trying to help them to do that. And, the Secretary-General and his representatives have called for that and also called these over-flights a violation of 1701.
Question: One more question. Pellegrini went and briefed us here and said he saw no weapons coming into Lebanon. Larsen, however, said that he…
Spokesman: What General Pellegrini was referring to was the area that is clearly under the UNIFIL area of responsibility, which is a clearly delineated area. That’s what General Pellegrini was referring to and Mr. Larsen’s report also speaks for itself.
Question: [inaudible] it was very confusing. Pellegrini seemed to be suggesting that this wasn’t an issue. And there is… even beyond the sort of zone of operation, there is a role for the UN Mission in terms of helping with monitoring borders, along the Syrian borders.
Spokesman: It is primarily the responsibility of the Lebanese Government, with assistance of the international community. General Pellegrini, as head of UNIFIL, was speaking to his area of responsibility.
Question: [inaudible] arms smuggling going on in that area.
Spokesman: He spoke for the area under his responsibility.
Question: I was just going to follow up, first of all on whether Mr. Pellegrini read the last report, would be my first question.
Spokesman: The Larsen report is a public document and is shared with all UN entities.
Question: Is there any mechanism internally that the head of the peacekeeping force ought to read the Special Rep’s report about arms smuggling?
Spokesman: There is coordination between all the different arms of the UN currently working on Lebanon.
Question: Could you check into whether Pellegrini’s position has changed since he read the last report? I like to go with my original question if I may. The Kofi Annan Foundation now is open for business, is it?
Spokesman: It is not.
Question: No. It’s been set up.
Spokesman: Discussions are under way, and there may not be an announcement even until after he leaves office.
Question: So he’s not accepting any contributions at this point?
Spokesman: There is no Kofi Annan Foundation.
Question: The Lebanese Army which is in charge of the border with Syria have denied repeatedly any infiltration of weapons into Lebanon. Yesterday Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah reiterated that there is no weapons coming from Syria. Mr. Larsen based his comments on a rumour from the Lebanese Government and he did not cite any source about this…that there are weapons coming. And without any evidence, without any confirmation from the Lebanese Government, and without any statement from Mr. Siniora or Mr. [inaudible], wherever he is. So you are basing a report on a rumour. And we want clarification about that.
Spokesman: Mr. Larsen did a very thorough work and his report speaks for itself and it worked.
Question: [inaudible]… Someone in the Government told him so. When we asked him “Who told you so? Is it Mr. Siniora or Mr. [inaudible]”, he did not elaborate on that.
Spokesman: As I said, Mr. Larsen did thorough work in his report and his work to the Security Council. And, the report stands, and he is obviously working with the full confidence of the Secretary-General.
Question: I have... Congo and WFP. Does the Secretary have any, or MONUC, have any response to the US sanctions that have been announced against seven individuals in the DRC.
Spokesman: No, not that I’m aware of, but we can check.
Question: And one of them is a militia leader, [inaudible]. Give these announcements of sanctions and given previous MONUC applauding of the incorporation of militias in the Congolese Army, what would be the Secretary’s position of offers to incorporate individuals now on the sanctions list?
Spokesman: These are issues for the Government of the DRC to deal with. What we would expect is for any new members, or any members of the Congolese army, to abide by international human rights standards in their conduct.
Question: The campaign for head of WFP. Do the staff rules, 104, 14 and reg. 4.4, that talk about getting the most qualified and technically competent candidate, do they apply to the selection of this process?
Spokesman: The process is currently ongoing, and obviously we’re looking for the best qualified candidate, and the process will follow all applicable rules.
Question: Could you describe the timeline for the process?
Spokesman: I think within the next two weeks, probably.
Question: My question to you is a simple one in Lebanon. Is there [inaudible] to war? To secure the release of these two soldiers that were taken hostage apparently, reportedly by Hizbollah? Now they’re back to square one. Is there a possibility that another war will break out, if in fact these, if these soldiers are not released?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General is doing all he can to make sure the cessation of hostilities keeps and is built upon to secure lasting peace between Israel and Lebanon.
Question: Do you have any updates on the humanitarian crisis in northern Uganda?
Spokesman: No, I have nothing here with me. But we can check.
Question: [inaudible] visit Ogoniland. Do you have any report of whether they will still visit, given the situation of the country now?
Spokesman: No I do not. We can check after the briefing.
Question: Just a follow-up on Matt’s question. You said the decision for WFP will be made in two weeks.
Spokesman: No, within probably the time frame of two weeks.
Question: Is Ban Ki-moon at all involved?
Spokesman: He’s being consulted on this issue. This was a process that was already under way before the Secretary-General-designate was designated. He’s being consulted on the process.
Question: Recently, there was the commander of the German Navy in south Lebanon was forced to land his helicopter in the Lebanese… in south Lebanon. The Israelis forced him not to fly there. Did you make any representations to the Israelis about that?
Spokesman: Our understanding of that, if we’re talking about the same incident, is that it happened outside of UNIFIL’s area of operations. We understand that the Israelis and the Germans have tightened up their communications procedures. There are obviously lots of forces in rather small area and I think, the better these people can communicate, including through UNIFIL, which has an operations centre at its headquarters.
Question: We’ve had two previous incidents… whereby the Israelis shot at the…
Spokesman: I understand these issues will be worked with between the Israelis and the Germans.
Question: On World Food first. Is there a shortlist and how many people are on the shortlist?
Spokesman: That I am not able to comment on.
Question: You said normal procedure was being followed. Is it not normal procedure to have a shortlist?
Spokesman: The shortlist applies to heads of agencies that need to go through the General Assembly, which is not the procedure on the World Food Programme, which is a joint appointment by the Secretary-General and the head, the Director-General, of the Food and Agricultural Organization, who then submits a name for consultations to the executive board of WFP for approval.
Question: So can you describe for us what the normal procedure is if it’s not the normal procedure?
Spokesman: The normal procedure is a series of interviews of candidates who have been submitted by either Governments or NGOs, whose names have come forward to us and who are of interest. And, they are being interviewed.
Question: [inaudible] shortlist…
Spokesman: There is no shortlist that will be made public.
Question: Is there no shortlist of how many people are on the shortlist?
Spokesman: Obviously, in any job selection, there will be, as you get closer to the end, there will be a shorter and shorter list. But it is not a list that will be made public.
Question: Could you somehow explain why the Secretary-General is going to make a five-year appointment, given that he has two months remaining, for the World Food Programme. And also if you’ve seen, it’s our understanding that there’s a shortlist of four. And one of the candidates [inaudible] has circulated a brochure. It’s unclear to me to what parties. Have you seen the brochure? Do you have any idea if it was shown to the interviewers, Mark Malloch Brown, Jan Egeland or to ECOSOC?
Spokesman: I can’t speak for her and who she may have shown it to. I’m not aware it was shown to the Secretary-General. What was your other question?
Question: Can you say why he was going to make a five-year appointment?
Spokesman: This was a process that was ongoing before… which had to be started since Mr. Morris was leaving. It had to begin. It was ongoing when Mr. Ban Ki-moon was designated. Obviously, none of us had a firm date when the new Secretary-General would be appointed. The process was ongoing when he was designated, and he is being consulted on the process.
Question: Isn’t it true that Mr. Morris, of the current WFP, doesn’t his term run into the spring?
Spokesman: He is leaving by the end of the year.
Question: Please forgive me if I duplicate somebody else’s question, having come in very late. I had heard substantially in the press and repeatedly that they were near a deal for Corporal Shalit, the Israeli soldier being held by Hamas. I was given to understand last night that it would be quite some longer time before anything might break, possibly within a month or two, regarding the two Israelis held by Hizbollah up in Lebanon. Do you have any information as to those two people?
Spokesman: On Shalit, it is not an issue in which the United Nations is directly involved. On the issue between Lebanon and Israel, what I said earlier before you came in is that the facilitator named by the Secretary-General is working very hard on this issue with both parties.
Question: Was Ibrahim Gambari on official business in South Korea and, if so, what was that official business?
Spokesman: Yes, I think as we announced repeatedly from this podium, this was part of a trip to Asia that he undertook. He went to Japan, China and the Republic of Korea. As the head of the Political Affairs Department, it is completely normal that he regularly visits different parts of the world, and the trip was on official business.
Question: To reiterate, because I’m confused now, you just said that the making public of shortlists does not apply. Now, explain to whom it does not apply, because the way it was presented when it was first presented as a rule is that, from now on, you’ll have shortlists to all nominations by the Secretary-General. Who does it not apply to?
Spokesman: This is a specific appointment that does not go through the General Assembly, and this is the process that is being followed.
Question: So, let me get this straight. Any appointment that does not go through the General Assembly will not be publicized?
Spokesman: This process is a very competitive process. There is an intensive interview process with a number of candidates, and we are looking for the best qualified candidate, and we expect that announcement to come within two weeks.
Question: [inaudible] the process…
Spokesman: That’s all I …
Question: You announced the process very recently, in which all candidates for jobs, the shortlist will be published. All of a sudden, now you are saying that there’s an exemption to those who do not go through the General Assembly. That’s, I think it’s new. I’ve never heard that before.
Spokesman: Well, that’s what I…
Question: What’s the logic of it? If it’s a good idea, why is not a good idea when it doesn’t go through the General Assembly?
Spokesman: This is a very specific process between the Secretary-General and the head of the Food and Agriculture Organization, and it is being followed with the applicable procedures. Yes, Matthew?
Question: I’m sorry to try it this way. Can you confirm that the shortlist is Sheeran Shiner, Banbury, Fowler and Fust?
Question: This is the first exception you’ve made to the transparency procedure. We’ve had a Chief of Staff appointed, for instance. We’ve had some agency heads, I think, UNICEF or something, which since you announced [inaudible] wasn’t done in the normal way.
Spokesman: I don’t believe, I think you are wrong on UNICEF, and on internal staff appointments, whether it’s Chief of Staff or Under-Secretaries-General. Those are the Secretary-General’s to make.
[The Spokesman later clarified that, although shortlists had been provided for UNDP, UNHCR, and OIOS, none had been provided for UNICEF.]
Question: When the [inaudible] was first announced, it was as if all high-level posts would go through this transparency process…
Spokesman: This would be a…
Question: Now you’ve whittled it down to just a handful of high-level posts that require General Assembly approval. Is that the current state of this rule or what?
Spokesman: It is not a whittling down, but that’s what it applies to. Thank you.
Question: Why was it not announced as that when it was announced then, if it’s…?
Spokesman: This is where it stands. Thank you. Evelyn, yes?
Question: On Mr. Gambari’s trip, is he also going to Burma, coming back in between?
Spokesman: He is back, and he will be going to Myanmar later this month.
Question: So that this isn’t combined with the trip to see Ban Ki-moon, is it?
Spokesman: It’s a separate trip. Mr. Gambari’s back here in the United States, or at least he was as of yesterday.
Question: Is there a reason why he decided to come all the way back from Asia, rather than just going directly to Myanmar?
Spokesman: They’re separate trips. We’re a global Organization. Senior officials travel all the time.
Question: It’s wasteful of money to come all the way back.
Spokesman: There’s other business he needs to attend to as Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.
Spokesman: I do not have to justify every meeting on the agenda of senior officials.
Spokesman: Well, I think that is your perception. It is the wrong one.
Question: What was the business?
Spokesman: If you had paid attention to the briefings, we’ve announced it here a number of times. It had to do with a number of political issues, including the situation in the Korean Peninsula. It is absolutely normal for the head of the Political Affairs Department to visit a number of countries throughout the year. Thank you.
Question: Was it his first visit to the Republic of Korea?
Spokesman: I will have to check. I very much doubt it. Thank you very much.
Briefing by Spokeswoman for President of General Assembly
Good afternoon, everyone. On matters to do with the General Assembly, the vote in the General Assembly to elect a candidate from the Latin American and Caribbean region for a non-permanent seat on the 2007-2008 Security Council is expected to continue at 3:00 this afternoon. On Tuesday, after six ballots, the final round [the 47th] ended with 101 votes in favour of Guatemala, 78 in favour of Venezuela, with 7 States abstaining. Barbados, Ecuador and Uruguay each received one vote in the unrestricted round of balloting, but the 122 votes needed for a majority remained elusive.
The General Assembly Plenary is scheduled to meet tomorrow morning to elect 18 members of the Economic and Social Council for a three-year term.
The declared candidates are as follows: Algeria, Cape Verde, Malawi, Somalia, the Sudan (for five seats designated for African States); Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, the Philippines (for four seats designated for Asian States); Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania (for two seats designated for Eastern European States); Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, El Salvador (for three seats designated for Latin American and Caribbean States); and Canada, Luxembourg, Netherlands, the United States (for four seats designated for Western European and other States).
The required majority for election is two thirds of the votes of those present and voting.
In news of the work of the Committees, the Host Country Committee met yesterday and adopted its annual report reaffirming the Headquarters Agreement and the provisions of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. The report, among other things, notes the importance of privileges and immunities and emphasizes the need to negotiate solutions to problems that might arise in this regard.
Since entry visas were something that we looked at the beginning, I thought I would mention what they said on that. Concerning entry visas, the Committee anticipated that the host country would enhance its efforts to ensure timely issuance to representatives of Member States, noting that a number of delegations had requested a shorter waiting period. With respect to travel regulations for personnel of certain missions and Secretariat staff of certain nationalities, some restrictions had been removed in the past year. The Committee continues to urge the host country to eliminate the remaining ones, as soon as possible. The report is contained in document [A/AC.154/2006/CRP].
In the Fifth Committee, discussions on Tuesday centred on the need for long-overdue renovations of the Secretary-General’s residence, which is expected to be completed in nine months, from January to September 2007, at a cost of some $4.5 million. Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the issue, a representative of the Secretariat -- that’s the Programme Planning and Budget Division -- noted that the ageing of the building and the obsolescence of the mechanical, plumbing, heating and cooling systems had resulted in malfunctions which required increasingly frequent emergency repairs. The proposed renovations would include the replacement of critical building equipment systems, as well as refurbishing of the public areas used to entertain high-level dignitaries and Heads of State and the upgrading of security installations.
In the Sixth Committee, meanwhile, delegates welcomed a suggestion by the International Law Commission of holding a meeting with United Nations experts in the field of human rights, including representatives of monitoring bodies to discuss the issue of reservations to human rights treaties. The Committee did so as it continued its consideration of the International Law Commission’s report.
And, as you know, the President of the General Assembly is not here, but an intervention was made on her behalf at a luncheon today at the “Women Who Make a Difference” awards luncheon. It’s called Women Who Make a Difference and, at that luncheon, remarks will be made on behalf of the President of the General Assembly at the luncheon, which is organized by a Non-Governmental Committee on the status of women. The President of the General Assembly, in her message, says that she is very proud to be the first woman from an Arab background to hold this position and her hope is that in the coming years, women will increasingly assume positions of leadership at the United Nations and in other multilateral organizations. She says this will only happen if women leaders of today consciously pave the way for future generations. She also uses the opportunity to flag the fact that she intends to convene a thematic debate in February on the issue of gender.
On the General Assembly plenary meeting this afternoon, I had hoped somebody would come in to give me a heads-up on whether or not it will take place, because there have been strong indications that it may not take place, but we have no official confirmation. So as yet I cannot confirm. I know a lot of you have heard the same thing that I have heard, but I’m still waiting for an official confirmation as to whether we will have the meeting this afternoon or not.
It was later announced that, upon the request of Guatemala and Venezuela, the Assembly plenary meeting, which had been scheduled for the afternoon to elect a Member State to fill the remaining vacant seat on the Security Council, was being suspended. Voting is scheduled to take place on the morning of 7 November.
Questions and Answers
Question: I don’t want to say I’ve even heard rumours. What I was going to ask you about, even wave at you, was the media alert for this afternoon’s meeting, in which there is no mention of voting on the Group of Latin America and Caribbean countries seat. Is that also indicative of something?
Spokeswoman: I think it’s indicative of the fact that we’re not sure. That’s why the media alert probably took it off. At the moment because they feel there is nothing official, General Assembly Affairs are still flagging it as a meeting that may take place this afternoon at 3:00. As soon as we hear anything, we will squawk it to you to let you know whether or not it’s happening. As you know, the Foreign Ministers are here and they’re talking at the moment.
Question: On the Host Country Committee, do you know, is it possible to find out whether Russia did in fact make a filing about the United States Embassy in Moscow not allowing somebody they call the Foreign Minister of Abkhazia to come in, in connection with a Security Council meeting? This is something that had come up. It had been said by the Russian Ambassador that they were going to make a filing. I’ve been just trying to find out from the Host Country Committee whether such a filing has been made.
Spokeswoman: We can check for you. If you remember, there was a meeting about three or four weeks ago, at which most of the concerns were raised by missions who had issues.
Question: This incident happened after that meeting and I just wanted to see if they actually filed it or not. It also said that Somalia is standing for a seat in one of the items that you read out right before you got to the work of the committees, and I’m sorry -- I guess…
Spokeswoman: That’s for the Economic and Social Council.
Question: Correct. Who’s going to decide who fills that seat, given the turmoil in the country?
Spokeswoman: That’s a good question. That I will have to check for you.
Question: Is there any provision…
Spokeswoman: They’re running. I mean, they would not have declared their candidacy if they weren’t running.
Question: If there were a change of control of the country during the candidacy, the candidacy would still stand under the name of the country?
Spokeswoman: I think that is an “if” question. I think we’d cross that bridge if we came to that, but I think at the moment, they are running; they are a bona fide candidate.
Question: I guess if there’s some way to figure out who [inaudible] referring to.
Spokeswoman: Okay, fine. Anything else? Thank you very much and stay tuned for what’s happening in the Assembly this afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record