|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 the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon everyone.
**Press Conference Today
In a short while, at approximately 12:45 p.m., the President of the Security Council for the month of February, Ambassador Peter Burian of Slovakia, will brief you on the Council’s programme of work for February. That’ll be in this room and they’re currently in consultations, but hopefully once they’re done, he will be ready to come here.
**Climate Change Statement
I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, concerning the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The Secretary-General welcomes the important findings of the Working Group 1 contribution of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released today in Paris. The report highlights the scientific consensus regarding the quickening and threatening pace of human-induced climate change. The global response, therefore, needs to move much more rapidly as well, and with more determination.
The Secretary-General congratulates the panel of independent climate scientists and experts, who have deepened our understanding of the changes that are affecting the global environment and the human causes at their root.
Today’s study, and the follow-up reports of the IPCC during 2007, will be critical guides for the UN’s response to anthropogenic climate change, and undoubtedly will assist many other stakeholders in taking actions at the global, national and local levels.
And we have copies of that statement upstairs.
**Secretary-General at Quartet Meeting
The Secretary-General is in Washington today, where he is currently participating in a meeting with the other principal members of the Quartet dealing with the Middle East.
The other senior participants at that meeting are US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, European Union High Representative for a Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, European Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, representing the Presidency of the European Union.
At the end of the meeting, there will be a joint press encounter by the principal members of the Quartet and we will make available to you the Secretary-General’s comments as soon as we have them.
The Secretary-General met earlier this morning separately with Foreign Ministers Lavrov and Steinmeier, and he will attend a working luncheon with Secretary Rice and the other Quartet principals after the meeting ends.
He plans to be in New York this evening to attend the concert by Maestro Ennio Morricone in honour of staff working in the areas of peace and development. That concert, by the way, is sponsored by the Mission of Italy and the UN Staff Council. And by the way, the Secretary-General will have remarks for that event, which we will try to put out with an embargo this afternoon.
**Secretary-General on Monday
The Secretary-General will meet with the Member States informally on Monday morning, at 10 a.m., to talk to them about his restructuring proposals and his recent travels.
Prior to that, at 9, the Secretary-General and the new Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, will attend a meeting of the UN’s senior managers, at which the Deputy Secretary-General will sign a declaration in the presence of the Secretary-General and the other senior officials, to mark her formal induction.
After that, the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General have agreed to a press encounter with you at about 9:40, on their way to the meeting with the Member States, at which the Deputy Secretary-General will be formally introduced to you. We’ll let you know what the venue for that press encounter will be, either later today or early on Monday.
The Security Council is currently holding consultations on its programme of work, Somalia and other matters.
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari briefed the Council on Somalia, emphasizing the importance of political dialogue and inclusiveness in that country. Regarding the African Union’s encouragement of an African force in Somalia, Gambari informed the Council that next week a UN team would discuss operational plans for such a force with the African Union.
We understand that the Council may issue a press statement on Somalia later today. And, like I mentioned earlier, Ambassador Burian of Slovakia will talk to you about the programme of work in this room at about 12:45, and he might also read out that press statement at that time.
Today the UN Special Envoy for the Kosovo Final Status Process, Martti Ahtisaari, presented his status proposal to Belgrade and Pristina. An executive summary of that proposal is now available. The summary of the proposal says that Kosovo shall have the right to negotiate and conclude international agreements, including the right to seek membership in international organizations.
At the same time, the proposal foresees a future international civilian and military presence in Kosovo, to help Kosovo’s authorities to ensure peace and stability, among other things. In addition to the executive summary, we have in our office fact sheets explaining the proposal’s current positions.
The formal ceremony marking the transfer of command of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon took place today between Major General Alain Pellegrini ( France) and his successor, Major General Claudio Graziano ( Italy).
Major General Pellegrini, who has been UNIFIL Force Commander since February 2004, extended his appreciation to colleagues in peacekeeping, the Lebanese Army and to the communities in southern Lebanon. He told them, “I leave with the conviction that we have together laid new foundations for a solid and, I hope, lasting stability.”
Major General Graziano expressed his appreciation to Pellegrini and underscored his own determination to ensure that UNIFIL accomplishes the job with which it is tasked. And we have a press release on that upstairs.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo says it is gravely concerned about by the recent incidents in the Lower Congo province, which have claimed scores of lives and left a great number of people wounded.
The Mission calls for an immediate return to calm and appeals to all involved for an end to the violence. The Mission also urges the Congolese military and police forces to restore order and appeals to the political authorities to work toward a comprehensive solution to the crisis.
The Mission will be sending a multidisciplinary team to the region to assess the security and humanitarian needs of the civilian populations. And we expect an update in the course of the day.
The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) tells us that tomorrow, the first ever group of internally displaced persons (IDPs) will depart in an organized return from a camp in Khartoum to southern Sudan and South Kordofan. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is escorting the convoy of 300 IDPs. The return process is a joint effort bringing together UNMIS, the IOM, Sudan’s Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan. And we have more details in a press release upstairs.
Also in Sudan, the UN Mission in Sudan, in a press release yesterday, strongly condemned the killing of a member of the Civilian Police of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) who was shot dead by unknown armed men during a hijacking of an AMIS vehicle in North Darfur.
The UN Mission in Sudan urges all parties to fully cooperate with AMIS and to ensure the safety and security of its personnel, and it also requests the release of the AMIS peacekeeper abducted on 10 December 2006 and the handover of all hijacked AMIS vehicles.
The Mission is particularly alarmed at the fact that the killing happened inside a camp for internally displaced persons and urges all concerned to prevent the presence and access of armed individuals to the camps.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has expressed concern that the national stability plan passed by Afghanistan’s lower house of Parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, on 31 January, could lead to past serious human rights violations going unpunished.
The High Commissioner said the plan “will undermine the process towards securing long term peace through re-establishing the rule of law in Afghanistan”. And we have her full statement on this upstairs.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres leaves today on a weeklong mission to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and Syria, aimed at strengthening cooperation between UNHCR and its partners in the four countries and assessing its programmes for hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis in the region.
UNHCR just issued a $60 million appeal to fund its work for Iraqis displaced inside their country, for non-Iraqi refugees in Iraq, and for Iraqis and others who have fled to neighbouring countries. And we have more on Guterres’ trip in UNHCR’s press briefing notes, which are upstairs. And also upstairs, by the way, we have the week ahead for you.
And after I speak, of course, we will have the Spokesman for the General Assembly President, Ashraf Kamal. Before that, do we have any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Just briefly, can you remind me when Ahtisaari’s coming here? When the Security Council meeting on Kosovo begins?
Spokesperson: Well, at this stage, there’s no date set for when the proposal will be transmitted to the Security Council. And it will be up to the Council to decide how it wants to consider it. The first steps are this: that today of course we’ve had the presentation to the parties of the proposal. Now, Mr. Ahtisaari will engage the parties, in the coming weeks, for more discussion and consultations before finalizing the proposal and sending it on to the Secretary-General. As far as that goes, the Secretary-General hopes the two sides will discuss the plan in a serious manner and show responsibility and flexibility in this process. But, as for the dates of when he comes to New York, that will wait until after this next round of consultations takes place.
[The Spokesperson’s Office later announced that Mr. Ahtisaari would be in New York next week and that he would be holding a press conference at Headquarters at 11 on Thursday, 8 February.]
Question: I have some questions. First, Ashraf Qazi visited Syria and then Saudi Arabia. Do you have any readout?
Spokesperson: Yes, in fact, over the last few days we’ve put out press releases from the UN Mission in Iraq on both of those. So if you go upstairs, we can provide you with them. Basically, he did meet with senior officials, including the foreign ministers of both countries, and talked about the recent developments in Iraq and efforts by regional countries to help out. But we have precise press releases on each of those two visits.
Question: One other question: it’s on Brammertz. The speaker of (inaudible) spoke about the future report, Brammertz report, he said that it will have no final charges. Do you have any comment on that?
Spokesperson: I don’t have any comment on the report, while it’s still being worked on by Mr. Brammertz and the members of the inquiry. The next report is expected to come out sometime in the middle of March -- that’s not expected to be a final report, certainly. But in terms of what the content are, I can’t say at this stage.
Question: He was talking about the June report, not the March report.
Spokesperson: The June report is the last one envisioned right now. However, whether it will be final or not, Mr. Brammertz himself spoke to a number of reporters -- I think you were there when he spoke in December. And he mentioned that he did not think that the case could be completed as quickly as June. And so it’s not his expectation that everything will be all wrapped up by then. But he will issue a report by that time, point.
Question: (inaudible) after his meeting with Brammertz…
Spokesperson: I can come back to you, let me spread out the questions.
Question: Do you expect any revision from Mr. [Terje] Roed-Larsen regarding Lebanon since his last report? Because obviously Mr. Pellegrini is saying that, as far as he’s concerned, there’s no indication that there are weapons infiltrated or coming into Lebanon and he’s leaving that. And there is ample evidence that Israel is violating Security Council resolution 1701, regularly, almost every day. Will we have something to hear from Mr. Larsen about that?
Spokesperson: Let’s wait until the next report comes out. That’s not in the coming weeks, but of course, Mr. Roed-Larsen keeps the Security Council periodically updated and we’ll wait for what he has to say then.
Question: There was one press report about the Accreditation Committee -- the Committee that allows organizations to become of service -- rejecting a leading Canadian lesbian and gay group. Does the Secretary-General have any position on that? Does he consider it appropriate that lesbian and gay groups not be allowed to have observer status at the UN?
Spokesperson: Those are in some ways two separate issues. One is the organizations that are arranged and led by Member States and then the other issue is an issue of rights. Of course, we believe in human rights for all people. At the same time, you have to remember that these committees are committees of Member States and it’s up to the Member States how to decide on their proceedings. And we have no comment on the proceedings of Member States.
Question: Will the Secretary-General be carrying any concrete proposals or suggestions for the meeting of the Quartet?
Spokesperson: Yes, he is. He of course brings the views of the United Nations into the discussions that are going on as we speak. What will be said, let’s wait about an hour. I think that around 1, 1:15, I expect that there will be a joint press conference by the Members of the Quartet and they may issue a communiqué at that point and we’ll see what the proposals they’ve agreed to are at that stage.
Question: On Lebanon, the Lebanese Government several weeks ago put out a statement on a lot of arms coming into the country and I’m curious why UNIFIL didn’t mention it. It jibes with what Mr. Roed-Larsen has (inaudible) at doing…
Spokesperson: Well, you have to remember -- what UNIFIL is talking about is activities that are happening within its area of operations. So when General Pellegrini comments on not seeing any infiltration of arms, he is specifically seeing, talking about the activities that UNIFIL itself has been able to observe in its own area of operations. In other areas, there may be activities, and certainly, this is information that Mr. Roed-Larsen has conveyed to the Security Council. At the same time, Mr. Roed-Larsen made it clear that he didn’t have the hard evidence, but he has heard these reports.
Question: Mr. Roed-Larsen did not mention anything about the build-up of new militias, like Geagea, Jumblatt, and Hariri’s militias in Lebanon. Also, obviously, they have weapons and they have shown their weapons and used them.
Spokesperson: Well, let’s see what Mr. Roed-Larsen has to say in the future on this matter. Now, Sylviane, you had further questions right?
Question: I wanted to know if Lebanon will be on the issue of this Quartet meeting today?
Spokesperson: I don’t know. I believe the focus is in fact on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This is what the discussions are. We can see afterwards, when they issue their communiqué, whether they touched on Lebanon as well.
Question: In the Central African Republic, former President Patasse has said that he should be included in the discussions with President Bozize that are being overseen by Lamine Cissé. So that…
Spokesperson: General Lamine Cissé. We have two in our system.
Question: I understand. The CAR Cissé. Does BONUCA [the United Nations Peace-Building Office in the Central African Republic] or Mr. Cissé feel that Mr. Patasse should be included? And what has the UN system done for the north-west part of Central African Republic, where there was a humanitarian mission that found widespread abuses? We’ve heard nothing back since.
Spokesperson: Well, in terms of their opinions about President Patasse, we’ll have to check with the office. So I’ll try and check back with the UN Peacebuilding Office. As you know, by the way, General Cissé did provide an update to the Security Council just a little over a week ago about the activities that they’ve been undertaking, so I would refer you to that briefing.
Question: There’s also this report that Ethiopia (inaudible) said that it’s stopped, they thwarted a bomb plan by Eritrea, just before the AU Summit, that Mr. Ban attended. Although I know that you’re tempted not to comment on security, since this charge makes Eritrea look bad, can you confirm, was the UN system informed by Ethiopia of any threat on Mr. Ban during his visit?
Spokesperson: I cannot confirm that and I think you’d be best placed asking the question of the respective authorities in Ethiopia and in Eritrea.
Question: You said that the Secretary-General does not want to comment on the proceedings of Member States, but past Secretaries-General have routinely commented on the behaviour of Member States. What’s the difference?
Spokesperson: That’s a philosophical question, which I don’t think I can really get into.
Question: Ban Ki-moon is supporting the expansion of the Security Council. Will he be supporting a permanent member for the Islamic countries on the Security Council?
Spokesperson: He supported the idea of an expansion for the Security Council. As for the specifics, those are still being worked out by Member States and he’s encouraging them to proceed in those discussions to see whether we can have a larger and more representative Security Council.
Question: Do you expect announcements on USGs [Under-Secretaries-General] next week? Like Mr. Pascoe and others?
Spokesperson: Well, as for the names, I don’t know any names right now.
Question: USG names?
Spokesperson: There may be, but I don’t have any solid information on that. At this stage, while the discussions go on with Member States about restructuring, it’s difficult to say when we will have some announcements. We may have some announcements in the coming days, but I don’t have anything solid to give you on that just yet.
Question: On the International Tribunal, do you have anything about the new initiative between Iran and Saudi Arabia?
Spokesperson: On the International Tribunal? No, this is something that they are proposing to the parties. Obviously, we’ll see how the parties react.
Question: On the Secretary-General’s schedule today is a meeting with Thoraya Obaid of UNFPA at 6? I wonder what the purpose of the meeting is and if internal audits -- which he’s called for a bunch of programmes -- is on the agenda?
Spokesperson: Well, as far as that goes, the Secretary-General meets periodically with all the senior officials in the system including the heads of the agencies, so that’s nothing unusual. So, it’ll be a standard briefing about recent developments. In terms of questions about audits, I’d urge you to talk to my colleague, Mr. Dungus at UNFPA, and he can give you whatever information they have on that.
Question: While the national strife is happening, taking place, in Gaza, do you think its right for some countries to send weapons to one party in order to increase the struggle or the conflict inside?
Spokesperson: Let’s first see all of these issues, including things like the violence in Gaza, are presumably issues that are being discussed right now, in Washington, among the Quartet principals. And first, let’s see what the Quartet, as a group, have to say about any of these issues.
Question: Before lots of new internal or external audits, I wondered if there was a response by the UN to the oil-for-food audit, recommendations, because I thought there were systemic issues. So is there, was there a written response…?
Spokesperson: Yes, there has been … that could be a briefing in and of itself. But yes, the last Volcker reports came out in September and October of 2005. Since then, in the roughly year and a half, we have done quite a bit of follow-up, trying to make sure that some of the failings identified have been dealt with. And that includes through such work as the ongoing work by, for example, our procurement taskforce, through work strengthening whistleblower protection, through the work of the newly created Ethics Office and through tightening up rules on such topics as financial disclosures. So there’s been a considerable amount of follow-up. We can talk about this much later if you want details, because there’s quite a lot.
If that’s it, then I’d welcome Ashraf Kamal to the podium. Thanks very much. And then after that, like I said, around 12:45 we will have Ambassador Burian of Slovakia talk to you about the programme of work.
Thanks very much.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly
Good afternoon, this is very short.
The President of the General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa, addressed this morning the Paris Conference for Global Ecological Governance, hosted by the Government of France. “We need clear objectives and strong global ecological governance, which is still lacking today,” the President stated. “In the face of the numerous challenges posed by environmental degradation, the time to act is now … At stake are the credibility of our multilateral system and the future of humanity.” The full text of the statement is available upstairs.
As Farhan mentioned, the Secretary-General will meet with Member States at an informal meeting of the Assembly at 10 a.m. on Monday, the 5th of February. There will be a plenary meeting on the Peacebuilding Commission, 10 a.m., on Tuesday, 6 February, in the General Assembly Hall, to discuss progress achieved in the work of the Commission.
An informal (closed) meeting of the Assembly’s Open-Ended Working Group on Security Council reform is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday, 8 February.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Will the President of the GA -– is she up to any kind of talks on the possibility of a summit on climate change in September?
Spokesperson: I haven’t discussed this with her, but it’s part of her thoughts. It’s not a summit, but she wants to make the environment part of the priority programme and one of her commitments, so that may come up. As soon as I discuss this with her, I’ll get back to you.
Question: What does part of priority programme mean? Because it’s normally about a hundred thousand priorities?
Spokesperson: Maybe in the top 10,000. No, I’m just kidding. It’s one of the major questions for her.
Question: The question is to you about the real focus on this thing and trying to get people to come together and create a post-2012 framework or not.
Spokesperson: Okay. You want an inclusive process that will lead you to something. Just having a summit where people will come and talk and nothing will happen is not going to lead to anything. So, you have to lay the groundwork and that’s part of the commitment that she’s showing by going to Paris in order to have something tangible in hand. And you have all heard scientists speak today and nobody’s accusing anybody of taking any sides. These are scientists. What they’re saying is that it’s very likely this global warming was caused by humans. Therefore, you would want to lay the groundwork for something a little more substantive. But, let’s take it in stride. I will talk to her and see if this if what she has in mind.
Question: There are indications that some members of the European Union would be bringing the issue of the death penalty to the General Assembly, with a view to adopting a resolution thereon. Would the President of the General Assembly welcome such a move?
Spokesperson: I’ll have to check with her before I speak on her behalf on that.
Question: (inaudible) the World Summit on Information Society, and they were very important events for the UN. I guess I would like to understand what the process is of following up on that, and if there could be some presentation about that?
Question: Here, or some press conference. I just wondered where that’s all gone now and what happens from there.
Spokesperson: Okay, you want an update of the previous events. I’ll look into it and get back to you with more exact information, if there’s anything in the works.
Question: Did the Secretary-General consult with the President of the General Assembly prior to going to Washington on the issue of the Quartet?
Spokesperson: They always consult. I don’t know if he consulted specifically on the Quartet, but I can find out for you.
* *** *For information media • not an official record