|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 of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by Secretary-General’s Spokesman
“The Secretary-General was saddened to learn of the death of Jeane Kirkpatrick. Always ardent and often provocative, her commitment to an effective United Nations was clear during her tenure as Permanent Representative and in her later career. The Secretary-General extends his condolences to Ms. Kirkpatrick’s family and others touched by this loss.”
This Sunday is Human Rights Day, and the Secretary-General marked the occasion this morning by addressing an event at the Time Warner Center here in New York, in which he said that the United Nations had often failed to live up to its responsibility to promote human rights worldwide. Noting that he had tried to make human rights central to all of the UN’s work, he said he wasn’t sure how far he had succeeded.
To fix the situation, the Secretary-General offered four suggestions. First, he said, we must give real meaning to the principle of “Responsibility to Protect”. Second, we must put an end to impunity. Third, we need an anti-terrorism strategy that does not merely pay lip service to the defence of human rights, but is built upon it. And fourth, we must move beyond grand statements of principle and work to make human rights a reality in each country.
The Secretary-General placed a particular focus on the need for Governments to do better in protecting the rights of the people of Darfur, asking, “How can an international community, which claims to uphold human rights, allow this horror to continue?” And we have his full remarks upstairs.
The theme for Human Rights Day this year is the fight against poverty as a matter of obligation and not charity. Recognizing that poverty is both a cause and a product of human rights violations, this year's focus emphasizes that today poverty represents one of the gravest human rights challenges in the world.
And I just want to add that the event at the Time Warner Center was sponsored and organized by Human Rights Watch.
The Secretary-General, in response to a question about the so-called hybrid force going to Darfur, noted yesterday that the Abuja Summit of the Africa Union Peace and Security Council had endorsed that approach. He went on to say that the international community has been willing to go into Darfur and that it was the Sudanese authorities who have refused to accept that help.
“We are continuing pressing them and we have asked others with influence to work with them, both from within the global arena and also leaders in the region,” the Secretary-General said. He emphasized that the responsibility to protect Darfur citizens is the responsibility of the Government in Khartoum. In time, he said, they may have to answer collectively and individually for what is happening there.
Meanwhile, the situation in eastern Chad remains extremely volatile, with ongoing military movements, as well as inter-communal tensions, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The agency, UNHCR, says it is working to ensure the basic needs of refugees such as water, food and primary health services are met while continuing the relocation of staff from the three northern locations where people had been moved from. We have more information on the briefing notes from UNHCR.
Meanwhile, back here, the Security Council this morning is holding consultations on Cyprus. Michael Mřller, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus, briefed Council members on the situation there and on the work of the UN peacekeeping force on the island, known as UNFICYP.
Michael Mřller, for those of you who are interested, does intend to speak at the stakeout afterwards. Council members also met this morning with the countries that contribute troops to the peacekeeping mission in Cyprus.
And yesterday afternoon, the Security Council received a briefing in closed consultations on Fiji, by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane. In a statement to the press afterwards, the Ambassador of Qatar, the President of the Security Council for this month, said the Council members “strongly hope” all sides will exercise restraint in the wake of the coup. He added that the Council members were gravely concerned at the turn of events in Fiji and urged a peaceful solution in accordance with the country’s constitution.
The Secretary-General’s latest report on Iraq is out as a document today and it mentions the significant increase in sectarian violence, insurgent and terrorist attacks and criminal activities in the past few months. Civilian casualties, the report says, have reached an all-time high. The Secretary-General warns that the prospects of an all-out civil war and even regional conflict have become much more real. He says that Iraq needs to develop a fully inclusive political process that is focused on bringing all disenfranchised and marginalized communities into the political mainstream. The Iraqi Government must also establish a monopoly on the use of force. And there is a need to cultivate a regional environment that is supportive of Iraq’s transition.
The Secretary-General says it may be worthwhile to consider arrangements that could bring Iraqi political parties together, possibly outside Iraq, with the United Nations playing a facilitating role. He also expresses his pleasure at the UN’s lead role in the development of the International Compact for Iraq.
The Security Council will hold an open debate on Iraq Monday, and Ashraf Qazi, the head of the UN Mission, will brief the Council and will also speak to you at the stakeout afterwards.
Also on Monday, and this time in the afternoon, the Council will discuss the implementation of resolution 1701 concerning Lebanon; and today, a letter from the Secretary-General to the Council providing an update of that resolution’s implementation is out on the racks. In the letter, the Secretary-General says that the military and security situation in UNIFIL’s area of operations has stabilized since September, although the UN force reports air violations by Israel on almost a daily basis. The letter also notes that, since September, there have been 13 instances where UNIFIL came across unauthorized arms or related material in its area of operations, and then informed the Lebanese Army, which took prompt action to confiscate or destroy the materials.
** Côte d’Ivoire
Also out today is the Secretary-General’s latest report on Côte d'Ivoire, which describes a relatively calm security situation following last month’s adoption of resolution 1721. He says that resolution, which extended the transitional Government for a year, provides a sound framework for relaunching aspects of the peace process that have been stalled since August. The report also notes that Côte d'Ivoire has experienced sporadic clashes unrelated to the resolution and that the humanitarian situation remains a source of concern. He appeals to President Gbagbo and other political leaders to work with Prime Minister Banny in disarmament, identification and the restoration of State authority and also calls for President Gbagbo and Prime Minister Banny to eschew confrontation and maintain a constructive working leadership. Pointing out that this current 12-month extension of the transition process is final, he says the situation brooks no further delay.
And from Timor-Leste, the UN Integrated Mission there reports that UN police, in cooperation with military, army units from New Zealand, have arrested some 17 people on Tuesday this week, in connection with an attack on a police post in the town of Bidau. The suspects appeared in the Dili District Court yesterday and are remanded in custody until the trial happens and the date has now been set.
Also, just on the story we have been following from here, our colleagues at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia say today that, Vojislav Šešelj, a suspect in the Tribunal’s custody, who has refused to eat since 11 November, will now resume taking foodstuffs and receive medical attention.
The Tribunal's doctors commenced an examination of Šešelj in order to determine his condition and what immediate steps are required in order to safeguard his health. Šešelj informed the Tribunal that his decision was made in view of the Appeals Chamber's decision issued earlier today, which granted his appeal against the Trial Chamber's decision to impose stand-by counsel. And we have a press release from the Tribunal upstairs.
**UNDP Viet Nam
And lastly, Kemal Derviş, the head of the UN Development Group and UNDP Administrator, today joined the Government of Viet Nam in announcing that Viet Nam will be the first pilot country in the “One UN” program, which aims to streamline the UN’s work at the national level in order to make it more efficient and responsive. Dervis said the program will also ensure a unity of purpose and coherence in management and operations, while maintaining the distinct identity, agenda and goals of various agencies. We expect a press release from UNDP on that shortly.
And I want to announce a trip that the Secretary-General will be making on Monday. He will be heading to Missouri, where he will speak at the Truman Museum and Library in Independence, to pay homage to the memory of one of the United Nations founders and to deliver his last speech as Secretary-General to an American audience. He will spell out five lessons derived from his ten-year experience at the helm of the United Nations and challenge American leaders of today and tomorrow to live up to Truman's example of enlightened leadership in a multilateral system.
**Press Conference on Monday
And a press conference at 11:15 on Monday: Hans Hoogeveen and Hamidon Ali, Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively, of the UN Forum on Forests, will be here to brief on the work of the expert group drafting a new international agreement to manage the world’s forests.
**Guest on Monday
And Ross Mountain will be our guest at noon. He is the Deputy Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and he will be joining us, as I said, on Monday.
I will now take your questions.
**Questions and Answers
Question: There have been reports on possible renewed fighting in Baidoa, by the Islamic Courts Union, and I was wondering if there is any reaction and possible relation to the resolution passed by the Council.
Spokesman: I don’t have any fresh reporting for you on Somalia. I have not seen any fresh reports as to what spurred this renewed fighting, if, indeed, it has happened. I can’t give you an explanation. Obviously, the situation, as the Secretary-General said yesterday, remains of extreme concern to us and he renews his appeal to the transitional Government and the Islamic Courts to renew their dialogue.
Question: The Secretary-General says that there is a fear of spread regional conflict in Iraq. What does he mean? Which countries?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General has underlined a number of times that one has to deal with a greater Middle East as a whole, and not deal with Iraq in an isolated matter, and Lebanon and Israel and the Palestinian issue… -- to deal with these issues as a whole and, obviously, a further breakdown of the situation in Iraq could very well have consequences beyond the borders of Iraq.
Question: What time is that event on Monday?
Spokesman: 11:30 local time.
Question: And who are the participants again? I am sorry.
Spokesman: It’s Ashraf Qazi and … I am sorry -- which event?
Question: The Iraq…
Spokesman: I am sorry -- Iraq -- it’s Ashraf Qazi, who is briefing the Council on the Secretary-General’s report on Iraq and he will speak at the stakeout afterwards.
Question: So, it’s not a debate, really.
Spokesman: No, I don’t think.
Question: On Somalia, I think there is this town called Bandiradley that… there are now two reports that the Ethiopians are now shelling the town. And also the Ugandan Army spokesman reported as saying the resolution frees Uganda up to send the troops as it’s been wanting to do for a year. It seems almost like the resolution, rather than bring peace, is sort of like blowing a whistle to start a war…
Spokesman: The Secretary-General was fairly clear on that yesterday -- is that he would call on the countries that would be sending troops through IGAD to reach out to all the Somali parties to make sure that everyone in Somalia understands that these troops are there to help the situation and not to go to war with any one Somali faction, and that the arrival of an international force should create opportunities for peace in Somalia and not be the source of new conflicts. So he stressed that it’s very important that those who would be sending troops make sure their mission is clearly understood by everyone in Somalia.
Question: If sending troops to Somalia, apparently, is causing war, would you stop, or would you think of maybe not sending troops?
Spokesman: Just to be clear: the resolution that was passed earlier this week on Somalia calls for the dispatch of troops of IGAD. They will not be blue-helmeted troops -- they are not UN troops. As far as the Secretary-General is concerned, we have no authority, obviously, over those troops. We have not been asked to provide any operational assistance, or to work with them. So, this is a decision of the regional powers. The Secretary-General’s message was that those countries that will be participating should make it clear to all the factions in Somalia that they are there to help and not to go to war with one faction or another.
Question: Also, on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I got an inter-office yesterday -- a confirmation that there are 150 rebels and militia people dead. I didn’t really understand that statement that MONUC is not interested in the body count. It was not clear to me -- I would not want to misinterpret that. What does that mean? The fighting is taking place. There are now reports of seven civilians killed… What is MONUC fixated on?
Spokesman: Well, MONUC is fixated to try to help the Congolese people bring peace to their country. That’s MONUC’s fixation. There were some battles around the town of Sake. Renegade units from the Congolese army attacked the town, tried to attack other towns, as well, they were… After being warned by UN forces that they could face fire if they either attacked UN forces or threatened civilians -- they were warned -- they threatened the lives of civilians, and as is mandated by the Security Council, the UN returned fire and also some fire was returned by the regular forces of the Congolese army. It does appear that there were a number of casualties after that battle and I’m sure we’ll try to get a more exact count of what exactly happened.
Question: Just a clarification. Does the Secretary-General’s statement imply in some way that killing and dismantling of the Christian leadership in Lebanon has anything to do with what is going on in Iraq or between Israel and the Palestinians? Is that what he is talking about?
Spokesman: What he is talking about is that one should view the issues in the Middle East as a greater Middle East and one should take a comprehensive approach in that each of these situations should not be seen in isolation and one should have a regional approach. That’s what he means.
Question: But that’s exactly what I am asking about.
Spokesman: That’s exactly what he means.
Question: But this linkage is very strange, because there is no linkage between what happens in Lebanon and Iraq. The conflict is totally different.
Spokesman: Obviously, each of these areas has particular political tensions and background and history, but to think that violence can be held back by the borders in one country and not spread would be foolish. We have seen in other parts of the world how conflict can spread and conflict does not always recognize national boundaries.
Question: On the Sudan, I think, President Bashir has been quoted as dismissing the [inaudible] and stating that the problems in Darfur are attributable to the National Redemption Front [inaudible} after the Darfur Peace Agreement. And also there is a report that Jan Pronk -- is it true that he is now in the country during his last visit?
Spokesman: Jan Pronk -- something I should have… I believe, if he is not already in the country, he should be soon, but we can double-check on that after the briefing. On the Sudan, again, I think in his statement the Secretary-General was clear yesterday where the responsibility to protect the citizens of the Sudan primarily is in the hands of the Government in Khartoum, which is responsible for protecting its citizens. We have also -– whether it was the Secretary-General or other officials –- called for renewed dialogue between all the factions in Darfur. And we have offered, along with the African Union, to help in this Darfur-Darfur dialogue. It is clear that all the armed factions currently operating have the responsibility to lay down their arms and to enter into a political dialogue, because the only true solution that we will find to the situation in Darfur is a political one.
Question: [inaudible] the material you called personal yesterday -- about Brian Gleeson -- although the reporting on the UNDP will go on. Since that’s said, I wonder if you can get two answers on Mr. Gleeson, since it came up. I don’t think they are personal -- about his activities in connection with the Brussels office of UNDP in July 2005 and also how much European Commission money goes through that office. We’ve gone to their website -- it actually doesn’t exist. It’s sort of an empty space.
Spokesman: On those specific questions about UNDP’s activities, I would ask you to ask them, because I can’t answer them and you have a dialogue with them, and I would encourage you to continue that dialogue.
Question: Since you chose to sort of critique particular articles about the UNDP, I don’t… The reason I am asking you for it is because I’d like to have those two things by Monday. I’ve asked them, as well -- I would just like to…
Spokesman: Well, if you’ve asked them, I am sure they will provide you with an answer in a timely fashion.
Question: What’s hampering Israel’s withdrawal from the northern part of Ghajar in South Lebanon?
Spokesman: Fairly intense discussions on the withdrawal of forces from the northern part of Ghajar are continuing. Obviously, it’s a delicate issue. One has to take into consideration all the factors and UNIFL, as of this week, is very hopeful that they will come to some agreement with the Israelis next week, which will lead to a full and complete withdrawal.
Question: [inaudible] near Ghajar. Did you find any tunnels near that area?
Spokesman: I have no information on the existence or non-existence of tunnels.
Question: On Shebaa Farms, I understand that the Secretary-General is optimistic?
Spokesman: I would urge you to read the report he sent to the Council, in which he says he is working on this issue. There is nothing new.
Question: Just one last thing. Since you always say, like, they are being so responsive, so take it to them. A simple thing about an audit that they refer to of the Russian Federation office of the UNDP –- I’ve been waiting a week for it. A document clearly exists. I just wanted to clarify. This thing in Brussels –- I haven’t even asked them and actually, I am not going to do it, because they think that once I’ve asked, nothing can be written until they respond, but they feel no duty to respond in a timely fashion. That’s why I asked you…
Spokesman: You know, we spent a lot of time discussing this yesterday. I don’t want to drag this on. I take objection with your characterization of the way they respond to you. You ask some questions -– they give you answers. Maybe it’s not always in the time frame you want -– maybe it’s longer, maybe it’s shorter, but you ask some questions –- they provide you with answers.
Question: [inaudible] respond -– they say I should have waited for them to respond.
Spokesman: You know, as I said, we spent a long time on this yesterday, I think…
Spokesman: The only thing that I would say is you are right: we did have a prolonged exchange yesterday on this issue. I don’t want to speak further about it in the briefing room. My office door is always open to you and I am happy to discuss it further.
Thank you all. On that note, happy Friday and happy Gail.
Briefing by Spokeswoman for General Assembly President
The General Assembly this morning is holding a commemorative meeting to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the operations of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The [Vice-]President of the Assembly, Ambassador Mirjana Mladineo of Croatia, opening the meeting with a statement on behalf of President Sheika Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa, paid a special welcome to the children who had come to observe the day. She told them they had a special role and responsibility in the commemorative event because they were representing children all over the world.
Noting that the Millennium Development Goals would not be achieved unless the fundamental rights of children were realized, the President paid tribute to the achievements of the dedicated staff at UNICEF who have served the Organization and the children “so well” over the past 60 years. In particular, she paid tribute to those who had lost their lives in the line of duty, “working in difficult conditions in the field”. She said the sixtieth anniversary was a time to “remind ourselves that we have much more to accomplish before we can say that we live in a world fit for children”. She called on Member States to deliver on the promises they made in the General Assembly Hall, most recently in 2002, to the children of the world. There are 10 speakers inscribed to address the Assembly at this commemorative meeting, with the final speaker being the Executive Director of UNICEF, Anne Veneman.
The Assembly will then resume its consideration of the item oceans and the law of the sea to hear the final four speakers on its list and some seven speakers after the vote, as well as a right of reply, on the omnibus resolution on oceans and law of the sea. The vote on sustainable fisheries will take place at a later date.
On Thursday the Assembly heard from 30 speakers on the item oceans and law of the sea. Throughout the day-long debate, speakers expressed serious concern about the rapid depletion of fish stocks and that little was being done to reverse this trend. They called for worldwide adherence to the Convention on the Law of the Sea and for, among other things, new marine reserves, better management to prevent overfishing and tighter control on pollution. A global process to monitor and assess the state of the marine environment, they said, was urgently needed. A major issue identified by many speakers was bottom trawling and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, which were identified as the most destructive fishing practices and a real threat to vulnerable marine ecosystems.
Meanwhile, the Second Committee is meeting today on the remainder of the 12 resolutions on its agenda, while the Fifth Committee will hold informal consultations on, among other things, human resources management and the programme budget.
Just to give you a heads up for next week, next Monday there will be a joint debate on Security Council reform and the report of the Security Council to the General Assembly. Of course, on the 14th, we flag for you the administration of the oath of office of the Secretary-General-designate and on Friday the 15t, the resumed tenth emergency special session on the register of damages by Israel’s construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. On Monday, don’t forget that we will have a background briefing for you in this room on some of the items before the Fifth Committee, including the scale of assessments, and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President will brief on ECOSOC reform and other ECOSOC matters on the 15th at 11 a.m., so a number of things to flag for you for next week.
Questions and Answers
Question: I have a question on the fact-finding commission which the latest General Assembly resolution asked for to send to Palestine, to Beit Hanoun. You were just mentioning the Fifth Committee and they were involved in this business of the fact-finding commission, so I was wondering whether there was any update on that?
Spokeswoman: I will find out for you.
Question: But it’s different from the one of the Human Rights Council, which they are sending.
Spokeswoman: Yes, I remember that, that was different. What you areasking meto check on is where they are at on that particular fact-finding mission at this point in time?
Anything else? Thank you.
* *** *For information media • not an official record