|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICEs OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, Ashraf Kamal.
Briefing by Associate Spokesperson
**Secretary-General in Paris
The Secretary-General in Paris today spoke at the international donor conference on reconstruction in Lebanon, and he urged the international community to respond favourably and generously to the package presented by the Lebanese Government. He said that rarely has the United Nations witnessed such a quick transition from the emergency phase to development work.
The Secretary-General also called on Lebanon’s neighbours to fully respect its unity, independence and sovereignty. And he urged all parties and communities within Lebanon to engage in meaningful dialogue, and to avoid any recourse to violence and intimidation. Copies of that speech are upstairs.
In the morning, the Secretary-General met with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who briefed him on the situation in the country and conveyed his appreciation of the UN’s involvement in Lebanon. The Secretary-General reaffirmed the UN’s long-standing commitment to Lebanon, and they discussed the political and economic situation and the implementation of resolution 1701.
The Secretary-General also met with a number of foreign ministers bilaterally, including those from Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. He was also scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. A short while ago, he participated in a joint press conference, and we’ll try to get what he said there later this afternoon.
Earlier in the morning, the Secretary-General met with his Special Envoy for the Future Status Process for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, who discussed his plans for presenting his proposal on Kosovo’s status in the coming weeks.
The office of the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for Lebanon reports that, over the past few hours, there have been a number of clashes happening in Beirut and south of Beirut. These included reports of clashes between students at Beirut Arab University. The army immediately deployed there, but there are reports of deaths, the Personal Representative’s office says.
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari told the Security Council in an open briefing this morning that the past month has seen heightened levels of instability and suffering in the Middle East, combined with a renewed sense of international urgency to find a political way ahead.
He said that both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have been working hard to try to ease tensions and move towards a resumption of political dialogue. Meanwhile, efforts by Egypt are continuing for the release of Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit, but they have yet to yield results.
On Lebanon, Gambari said that a tense calm returned to Beirut yesterday following the decision by the opposition to suspend its strike. However, he warned, the events that took place in the country on Tuesday showed how easily political tensions can spill over into violence, and the United Nations remains in contact with all parties, encouraging an early return to dialogue.
Gambari told the Council that “it is clear that none of us can afford another year like 2006.” He said that the Secretary-General views next week’s Quartet meeting as an important opportunity to chart a way forward to re-energise the peace process. We have that speech upstairs.
The Council has followed its open meeting with closed consultations, also on the Middle East.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, will be visiting Sudan from tomorrow until 1 February, upon the invitation of the Sudanese Government. She will be accompanied by Rima Salah, UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director.
Coomaraswamy’s objective is to get a firsthand look at the situation on the ground, in order to see how she and all stakeholders can ensure greater protection for children affected by the conflict. In addition to Khartoum, she’ll visit Darfur and southern Sudan and we have a press release on that upstairs.
**OCHA -– Burundi/Peru
The UN has carried out an assessment mission in Peru, following recent flooding there. In one flood-hit province, UNICEF is working to provide chlorine kits and water reservoirs.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is also concerned about recent floods in western Burundi. The World Food Programme (WFP) is trying to help flood survivors there with food aid, but says that it does not have enough food to help all those in need.
The International Labour Organization today released its annual report on global employment trends. According to the report, the number of people unemployed worldwide remained at a historic high in 2006 despite strong global economic growth. And we have more on that upstairs.
I know a number of you are interested in UNDP’s Executive Board meetings that have been taking place downstairs this morning.
Carsten Stauer, the President of the UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board, and Ad Melkert, Associate Administrator of UNDP, will take your questions at the Security Council stakeout this afternoon on decisions taken by the Board. The precise time will be announced once we have a clearer idea of when the session will end, but we expect it to be happening fairly soon.
**Guest at Noon Briefing Tomorrow
Mr. Warren Sach, the UN Controller, will be the guest at the briefing tomorrow. He will brief you on the external auditing of UN agencies, funds and programmes.
And after I’m done here, Ashraf Kamal, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will also talk to you. Before that, if there are any questions for me.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I wonder whether this investigation that was announced from the eight countries with the auditors, external auditors from eight countries on the UNDP, will extend to the programme that was recently, a few years ago, done on Srebrenica, with a huge donors conference here in New York.
Associate Spokesperson: Well, they’ll have to determine what projects they look at first. The initial project that they’re looking at, the programmes that they’re looking at, are the ones involving North Korea over the next three months span. After that, they will look at a number of potential other cases, but those will also concentrate on cases where there have been any sort of problems having to do with such things as the hiring of local staff. But they’ll look at a list of criteria and then determine where to take their investigation next.
Question: As a follow-up, what would be the highest criteria for that? Who would suggest or who would indicate that certain programmes should be investigated or audited?
Associate Spokesperson: The decisions at the first phase will be taken by the external board of auditors and by the way, some of the details are the sort of thing that you can receive tomorrow, when Mr. Sach is the guest at the noon briefing.
Question: Did the Secretary-General meet with Siniora today?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes, you may have missed that. What I had said is that he had met with Siniora, who had briefed him on the situation in Lebanon and conveyed his appreciation of the UN’s involvement there. The Secretary-General reaffirmed the UN’s long-standing commitment to Lebanon and the two of them also discussed the political situation, the economic situation, and the implementation of resolution 1701.
Question: Did they discuss the armament going into Lebanon from Syria?
Associate Spokesperson: Like I said, they discussed a range of political and economic topics. I don’t have anymore precise details to give you than that.
Question: My question is if you could arrange for somebody from the African Union to come and speak to us so we can understand what they expect from the Addis Ababa meeting. The reason for my question is that I found out the title of that meeting is science, technology and research for Africa’s development and that meeting will be launching a series of books on climate and society. And these are topics we really have no chance yet to hear from. Could you bring us somebody here?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes, we’ll see whether they’re interested in coming. But I’ll try to get in touch with them whether they are willing to do this. You’re right, there will be quite a lot of focus on climate change and we’ll see if anyone from their side wants to talk to you.
Question: As a follow-up to my question to the Spokesperson, a statement attributed to Ban Ki-moon said that he had indicated the validity of the Kashmir UN resolutions –- do you have a text of it, when he said it, where he said it? And do you have the invitation from the Azad Kashmir Government?
Associate Spokesperson: No, I looked for that. I’m not aware that…as you know he’s been Secretary-General for about a little over three weeks now and there’s nothing in our files over this time that indicates any comments on Kashmir.
Question: You did see the website? You did see the story?
Associate Spokesperson: Like I said, what we were looking at were his statements and his off-the-cuff comments and there was no reference to Kashmir over the last few weeks, no. And if that’s it, I welcome Mr. Kamal to take the stage. Thanks.
Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President
The President of the General Assembly Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa sent a letter yesterday to all Permanent Representatives and Observers to the UN confirming that the first meeting of the Assembly’s Open-ended Working Group on Security Council reform will take place on Thursday, 8 February 2007.
The President is proposing that deliberations start on the following key issues: the size of an enlarged Security Council; categories of membership; regional representation; the veto; the working methods of the Council; and the relationship between the Council and the Assembly. The President will soon communicate to Member States the names of five Facilitators. She expects them to report back to her on the result of their work by the end of March 2007.
We have copies of the President’s letter upstairs for you.
The President started today informal consultations with various delegations on the issue, including a meeting this morning with the Permanent Representative of Pakistan, who is also Chairman of the Group of 77. She also met with the Permanent Representative of China. This afternoon she will meet with the representative of Cuba, who is the Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, among others.
There was one question on Beit Hanoun yesterday. There was a letter sent by the Secretary-General on 21 December clarifying the situation. And that’s all I have for you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Let me also follow up with you the question I just asked the Spokesperson. Does the General Assembly, especially now with the President going to the meeting in Paris 2-3 February, where the climate change, IPCC report will be made public. Now, as I just asked, the African Union is starting to look into the disasters created in Africa because of climate change that may have led perhaps to some of the conflicts. Now does the General Assembly expect to pick up those topics here?
Spokesperson: Which topics? The topics that the African Union is looking at?
Question: To bring here the African Union, to have them say what they are going to talk about in Addis Ababa, because that’s why they are meeting. They are meeting there because of climate change. That’s not what we understood until now. I just happened to find this out by an email, which I received last night. And that email came from Africa. Now that’s what they are looking into. Can we hear something more about this?
Spokesperson: I’m sure it could be integrated somewhere -- we have a standing item about the cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations. I’m sure that would be included somewhere. We can’t discuss the environment in a vacuum. But anything specific, not yet. Until the African Union meets and they reach an outcome and they want to integrate that as part of the UN work, no, we haven’t had anything yet.
Question: Regarding what you said about Beit Hanoun, the letter you mentioned, I have a letter dated 21 December by the Secretary-General, and he mentions specifically a letter sent to the Israeli and Palestinian mission on 1 December and 5 December. Do you have copies of those -- could those be made available?
Spokesperson: No, I don’t have copies of those. You’ll have to check with the Spokesman’s Office about that.
Question: And one further thing -- isn’t the fact that it hasn’t been implemented -- the vote was 156 against 7. Is this sort of a way of sidetracking the resolution?
Spokesperson: Well, it goes back to the General Assembly. It’s up to the General Assembly to follow up on it.
Question: When will there be a follow-up?
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t know. If there is a follow-up, it has to be requested by Member States of the General Assembly. Thanks.
* *** *For information media • not an official record