|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, all.
On the Sudan, Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, has arrived in Khartoum and is meeting with the senior leadership of the UN Mission in the Sudan. This is the second leg of his trip in the region to discuss steps required to arrive at a durable solution to the situation in Darfur on the basis of the Darfur Peace Agreement.
On Darfur, the UN Mission continues to report attacks there and the UN refugee agency says it remains extremely concerned about the security situation in eastern Chad near the Darfur border, where there are more than 220,000 Darfur refugees and now over 100,000 internally displaced Chadians -– 20,000 of them uprooted within the past three weeks.
While there has been a decrease in fighting between the Chadian army and opposition forces, inter-communal conflict continues in south-eastern parts of the country near the border with Sudan's Darfur region.
Turning to other parts of the Sudan, the UN Mission today congratulated the people of the Sudan on the occasion of the second anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between North and South Sudan. UNMIS reiterated its commitment to assisting the parties to the Agreement and the people of the Sudan in meeting these challenges.
The Security Council this morning heard a briefing in an open meeting on the work done by the European Force (EUFOR) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; that briefing was given by Javier Solana, the European Union’s High Representative for a Common Foreign and Security Policy. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean Marie Guéhenno, who spoke afterwards, told the Council that EUFOR’s work in that country was a rewarding experience, with the presence of the European peacekeepers of great value during the Congolese elections. He added that in Ituri, a new ceasefire has been agreed between the Congolese Armed Forces and the National Integrationist Front following fighting near the town of Fataki in December, although the situation remains tense.
And the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari also addressed the Security Council, telling them that the Congolese elections have resulted in the establishment of the first democratically-elected national institutions in over four decades, and of this we can be justly proud. However, he added, much still remains to be done.
The Council followed its open discussion with consultations on Côte d’Ivoire, to discuss a draft resolution on extending the mandate of the UN Mission in that country. The Council may vote on that resolution tomorrow. Also tomorrow, the Security Council expects to hold consultations on Somalia, as well as on the recent report concerning the work of the UN team that visited Chad and the Central African Republic.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
On the Congo, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reports that the inauguration of the country’s first democratically-elected National Assembly in more than 40 years took place in Kinshasa earlier today in the presence of William Lacy Swing, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and other members of the international community. Meanwhile, the Mission says that an investigative team arrived in the Ituri region on 5 January to look into human rights abuses, including the execution of some 24 civilians near Bunia in late December and the torching of civilian homes near Fataki just last week.
I have a humanitarian update from Somalia for you. The UN is planning to send an assessment team to the Kenya-Somalia border on Thursday. The team will look into the possibility of restarting humanitarian deliveries into Somalia and examine recent population movements in and around the border. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at least 4,700 internally displaced persons at the border have no access to humanitarian aid and are in critical need of food, shelter, medicine and basic supplies. Over the weekend, the World Food Programme distributed food to nearly 19,000 Somali flood survivors.
On Iraq, UNICEF today confirmed that one of its national staff members in Iraq, Janan Jabero, has been killed in Baghdad. Initial reports from local authorities indicate that Mr. Jabero, a 52-year-old Iraqi national, was shot while driving his car in Baghdad. Jabero was described as a brilliant engineer, who had been a key part of UNICEF’s school rehabilitation programme in Iraq since 1999. “His death has cost Iraq’s children a staunch advocate and we deeply mourn his loss,” said Roger Wright, the UNICEF Representative for Iraq.
** Haiti Appointment
The Secretary-General has informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Major General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz of Brazil as Force Commander of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Major General dos Santos Cruz will succeed Lieutenant General José Elito Siqueira Carvalho, also from Brazil.
We have more information on Major General dos Santos Cruz, we have his CV upstairs.
** Sri Lanka
On Sri Lanka, more than 20,000 people have fled fighting and harsh conditions in the eastern Sri Lankan coastal strip of Vaharai in the past three weeks, but despite reaching relative safety they still face many problems and an uncertain future. That is a report from the UN refugee agency. You can read more about this development on the UNHCR website.
A few updates from the World Health Organization (WHO). First, WHO says that, although more than 12 million people each year are bitten by dogs or snakes, or stung by scorpions, the world’s capacity to treat them is inadequate because the appropriate medicines are often unavailable or unaffordable in the countries where they are most needed. In that context, top health experts will meet tomorrow at WHO Headquarters in Geneva to agree on a global five-year action plan to boost production of such medicines in developing countries.
Regarding the recent outbreak of rift valley fever in north-western Kenya, WHO today sent a specialized team to the area, to bolster its presence on the ground and help control the outbreak.
Finally, the head of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, today named Dr. Anarfi Asamoa-Baah of Ghana as the agency’s Deputy Director-General. We have more on those items in my office.
**Secretary-General’s Press Conference
Regarding the Secretary-General’s upcoming press conference, there has been a change, to accommodate your desire for an earlier time. So it will now be held this Thursday at 11 a.m. in Conference Room 1. I know you are happy, Mark.
**Guest at Noon Tomorrow
And also, José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, will be joining us at noon tomorrow to launch the report, “World Economic Situation and Prospects”. We will have embargoed copies of the report’s executive summary and accompanying press release in my office sometime this afternoon, so you should have more information on that before the press briefing tomorrow.
Now that I’ve been here for a week, I’ve noticed that all of you have made different suggestions. I’ve noticed that some of you have come to me about the suggestions, so I’ve decided to put a suggestion box in my office. Feel free to share your inputs with me, you know, whenever you feel like there is something more you would like and there is something that you need to know and that it has not yet been provided.
That’s all for this. Thank you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: The head of the UN Climate Secretariat, Yvo de Boer, said in Paris last week that he wanted Ban Ki-moon to call a summit of world Governments to decide on the next steps on climate change and global warming, and I am wondering what he thinks of that.
Spokesperson: Well, I have discussed the issue with him and he says he thinks it is a very important issue, and he is definitely putting climate change on the top of his agenda.
Question: And the summit -– his idea for a world summit?
Spokesperson: He hasn’t said yet whether or not he would be for a summit. I don’t have the specifics on it yet.
Question: Since the Secretary-General said last week that he did not want foreign forces in Somalia, I am wondering if he has any comment on the US bombing that has taken place –- well, if he had any comment on that.
Spokesperson: We are trying to get more information on the military action in southern Somalia, including through the Office in Nairobi of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Somalia. For now, we do not have any information, beyond what has been reported in the media. Notwithstanding the motives for this reported military action, the Secretary-General is concerned about the new dimension this kind of action could introduce to the conflict and the possible escalation of hostilities that may result. He is also concerned about the impact this will have on the civilian population in southern Somalia and regrets the reported loss of civilian lives. And I would like to say that, regarding the latest strikes, the humanitarian operations were suspended in that area and international staff was evacuated, when the recent fighting started prior to Christmas, as you remember. Currently, humanitarian operations have not resumed and there are no international humanitarian staffers in that area.
Question: Just with regards to understanding international law here –- does dropping bombs constitute a violation of an arms embargo? I am not sure how that works under international law. And does –- from the UN’s understanding of Security Council resolution 1725 and previous resolutions -- is intervention by the US legal?
Spokesperson: Well, as you know, the Security Council is supposed to discuss Somalia tomorrow, so you should definitely have more about this tomorrow.
Question: I mean, I think the Secretariat also has a view on actions as to whether they are legal according to Security Council resolutions, or not. Would it be possible to get some kind of clarification on that?
Spokesperson: Yes, we are trying to get clarification on that.
Question: We heard a lot during Mr. Ban’s predecessor’s time about extrajudicial killing. [Inaudible] discussed extrajudicial killing?
Spokesperson: Well, this has not come up yet, but what is your specific question about that?
Question: Whether this falls within that category that was constantly denounced by the United Nations in the past of killing terrorist leaders, as the Americans call them, without taking them to trial, which was called extrajudicial killing. It was constantly denounced in the case of Israel by Mr. Annan and others. The question is, does this fall within the same category?
Spokesperson: I will enquire about the answer that the Secretary-General would have on this issue, but the UN position stands on this.
Question: What’s the status of all the Special Representatives? Do they fall within the same category as ASGs and USGs who have to tend their resignations? How is this transition going to be handled?
Spokesperson: Well, as I mentioned yesterday, only 60 people received –- actually, 58 people received the letters, and most of them are from Headquarters. The missions in the field are not touched by this request. I think, this is a second step –- reviewing the missions at a later date.
Question: Because you were asked at that time on the dollar-a-year people -– where are they at?
Spokesperson: Same answer as for the heads of missions.
Question: Also to the climate change question. Mr. De Boer, the head of UNFCC, has also announced that next week he is coming to New York. Now, the question is, will the Secretary-General himself meet with him, because he left the meeting with the Secretary-General open in his announcement?
Spokesperson: OK, I will check on this for you, whether he will meet the Secretary-General, but I believe so.
[The Spokesperson later added that, because the Secretary-General was highly interested in the issue of climate change, he did plan to meet with a number of officials on that topic.]
Question: The Secretary-General yesterday put out a statement on Myanmar, and it appears today that the United States is going to introduce a resolution in the Security Council. Does the Secretary-General have any plans to send Mr. Gambari or any other envoy back to Myanmar to discuss the latest situation with the Government?
Spokesperson: We don’t have anything further on this issue, you know, further to the statement I read yesterday.
Question: Still on this Somalia gunship –- is there any communication between either Ethiopia or the United States and the UN system in terms of coordinating to not actually injure humanitarian workers? Do you know if the UN system has received any prior notice?
Spokesperson: Not that I know of.
Question: Could you find that out?
[The Spokesperson later reiterated that, prior to the recent fighting, humanitarian workers had been evacuated from the conflict area.]
Question: And also, in the last two days, there has been a somewhat similar incident in China, where China said that it killed alleged terrorists in Xinjiang province, and there seems to be lots of scepticism whether the people, in fact, were terrorists, or not. So I guess, I want to ask the same question, whether the UN system has anything to say about that and whether that would constitute extrajudicial killings, as well.
Spokesperson: OK, I will further investigate this issue on extrajudicial killings for you.
Question: There have been these protests in Nepal of UNHCR for reducing the benefit to urban refugees. Does the Secretary-General have any response to these?
Spokesperson: No, I think, you should talk to UNHCR, so they can explain why they had to diminish the amount of food aid they were giving. There are specific reasons for this and you can get in touch directly with them.
Question: One last question. This is about one of the dollar-a-year individuals. I think, you said that Iqbal Riza did not get a letter, because his mandate -– or someone in your office said that his mandate… Is his mandate with the UN finished? Is he still a dollar-a-year guy? Or did it end with the Alliance of Civilizations?
Spokesperson: I’ll check on that. I know you brought this question up.
Question: And there seems to be some report that he is still in the building. So if he can explain…
Spokesperson: I can find out for you. Yes.
[The Spokesperson later added that Iqbal Riza was still a dollar-a-year employee.]
Thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record