|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 Michèle Montas, 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
Three recently appointed Under-Secretaries-General signed a declaration this morning, promising to “exercise in all loyalty, discretion and conscience the functions entrusted to them as international civil servants”. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes; Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe; and Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management Services, Muhammad Shaaban, took their oath of office in a special ceremony in the Secretary-General’s conference room today.
The Secretary-General has decided to appoint Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria as his Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq and Other Political Issues. The appointment is at the Under-Secretary-General level.
Based at Headquarters, the Special Adviser’s role with regard to the International Compact with Iraq will be to ensure coordinated support from the United Nations system to the implementation of commitments made, through the Compact, towards a peaceful, secure and prosperous Iraq.
The Secretary-General values Mr. Gambari’s recent service to the Organization as Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, and he looks forward to working with him in this new capacity.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also appointed Carlos Lopes of Guinea-Bissau as Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), in succession to Marcel Boisard.
Mr. Lopes has been serving since 1 September 2005 as Director for Political Affairs in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.
The Security Council held its first consultations under the South African presidency and adopted the programme of work for the month of March.
Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa will be here at 12:30 p.m. to brief you on that programme.
The UN’s Kosovo Status Envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, today concluded a round of consultations in Vienna, with delegations from Belgrade and Pristina, on his draft status proposal.
Over the last seven days, the delegations held in-depth discussions on all aspects of the proposal but remain diametrically opposed on the future status of Kosovo. Ahtisaari will now review the parties’ positions and prepare a revised proposal, which will be made available to the parties next week. In that regard, he has invited both parties to attend a high-level meeting in Vienna on 10 March. We have a press release on that upstairs.
The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, today toured south Lebanon to assess UN recovery and reconstruction projects begun in the wake of the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah of last August.
Pedersen was briefed on the state of UNIFIL’s operations by the Force Commander, General Claudio Graziano. Then he visited key UNIFIL positions, and later met with the staff of various UN entities operating in the region.
While in Bint Jbeil, Pedersen met with local officials and Members of Parliament to hear their concerns and brief them on the work of the UN in the region. There is a press release upstairs on Pedersen’s visit.
In response to questions, the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea has confirmed that Eritrean authorities recently imposed additional restrictions on the movements of UN peacekeepers in the Mission’s area of responsibility within the temporary security zone between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Mission says that, as a result of the new restrictions, UN peacekeepers’ ability to monitor the ceasefire has been reduced in these areas.
The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti says that UN peacekeepers have completed the first phase of joint operations with the Haitian national police, during which the combined forces gradually took over the strongholds of armed gangs in the Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of Cité Soleil. The operation has successfully restored a secure environment for all local residents, the Mission reports.
As a result of this law-enforcement operation, some 55 presumed gang members were arrested, five kidnap victims were freed and a number of weapons and ammunition were seized. The Mission congratulates local residents for facilitating a number of the arrests using confidential hot-lines to pass on information to UN peacekeepers and Haitian police.
Turning now to Somalia, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that, because of insecurity, the displacement of civilians from Mogadishu has escalated over the past week, bringing the total number of displaced from the city up to nearly 20,000.
Concerns are rising regarding the health and sanitation situation for these displaced Somalis, as available social services, particularly water supply systems, are limited. That is leading to an increase in diarrhoea cases, which the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF are working to address. On the flip side, however, WHO says that the number of malaria cases is decreasing as flood-hit areas are drying out.
Meanwhile, 25 World Food Programme-contracted trucks crossed into Somalia today from Kenya with nearly 800 tons of food aid.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, announced yesterday that more than 5,000 additional Timorese have fled to internally displaced persons camps over the past month, due to recent violence in the capital Dili.
Khare, who also heads the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), added that the violence is now under control and security has remained stable with more UN police patrolling the streets and high-risk areas of gang-related violence.
UNMIT says there are approximately 25,000 to 29,000 people in the camps in Dili and has, over the past month, seen an increase of more than 5,000.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Sunday will address the opening session of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Cairo, focusing on the situation of Iraqi refugees in neighbouring Arab countries and the internally displaced inside Iraq.
He will be highlighting the urgent need for humanitarian solidarity by the international community and seek partnerships with the Arab States in addressing the needs of the Iraqis.
UNHCR will be convening an international conference in Geneva on 17-18 April on Iraqi displacement.
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, will be in New York next week and is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Tuesday, 2 March. We have asked Jan Eliasson to brief you after he briefs Council members.
Many of you have come to us with reports of rats lounging around in our cafeteria and eels playfully frolicking in puddles in our basement. Well, as you know, there are nearly 100 million rats in New York City, meaning that there are 12 rats for every New Yorker.
Rest assured, I can tell you that rodents are not a particular problem here at the UN. And exterminators do visit our kitchens every week and are on standby to address any specific problems that may arise. As for eels, we honestly have no idea where that rumour started. Perhaps by the rats?
**Today’s Press Conferences/Special Events
Immediately following this briefing, the current President of the Security Council, Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa, will brief you on the Council’s upcoming work programme for the month of March.
At 1.30 p.m., there will be a briefing here by Mr. Marwan Hamadeh, Minister of Telecommunications of Lebanon, and Mr. Walid Jumblatt, Member of the Lebanese Parliament.
At 1.15 p.m., CBS News anchor Katie Couric will moderate a special event in the ECOSOC Chamber entitled “Girls Speak Out”, at which six girls from around the world will share their experiences that motivated them to become activists. The girls include a former child soldier from DRC, a former child labourer from Nepal, a young woman fighting sex trafficking in Thailand, an AIDS activist from Zambia, a disability activist from Armenia, and a youth activist from Jordan. This will be televised on in-house channels 56 & 17 and webcast. Several of the girls will also be giving a press briefing at 3 p.m. right here in Room 226.
**Press Conferences on Monday
At 10.30 a.m., the Mission of Georgia to the United Nations will hold a press conference. At 11.15 a.m., John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will hold his first press briefing in his new post.
Our guest at the noon briefing will be Alicia Bárcena, Under-Secretary-General for Management and, lastly, at 1 p.m., the Mission of Belarus will be sponsoring a press conference here on human trafficking. And we have the Week Ahead upstairs. Thank you very much.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I have a few questions. The first one is, when you announced the Gambari post, you were talking about the International Compact of Iraq and other issues. What are the other issues and do they pertain to a regional… is it within the Arab world? Or might he do something also in Africa or Latin America?
Spokesperson: It will be everywhere. There are special assignments that will be given to him as we go along and as need arises.
Question: OK. And the other issue was on Eritrea. You were talking about additional restrictions imposed by the Eritrean. Have there been any phone calls by the Secretary-General to the Eritrean Government? Do you know if the Security Council is going to get involved at this stage? How is this being treated by the UN in the field right now?
Spokesperson: In the field, there have been consultations between the UN, represented by the Mission’s Deputy SRSG and the Force Commander and the Eritrean Commissioner for the Coordination of the Peacekeeping Mission. The Eritrean Commissioner said he was looking into the matter, but there has been no follow-up to date. As far as I know, the Secretary-General has not placed any calls to Eritrea.
Question: Will he be…?
Spokesperson: I will let you know as soon as I find out.
Question: Yesterday, I asked you a question about the SG meeting with the families of the Israeli soldiers -- does he have any plan also to meet with the Palestinian prisoners and Palestinian families whose relatives are incarcerated in Israel? And similarly, I had asked you about these people in CIA jails…
Spokesperson: As far as I know, the meeting that took place with the families of the Israeli prisoners was a meeting requested by them and, as far as I know, there have been no requests from the families of Palestinian detainees.
Question: T here have been no such requests. But, if there were to be such requests, he would consider meeting with them?
Question: Mr. Gambari was responsible for Cyprus, as you know. Is he going to continue dealing with the issue?
Spokesperson: Most probably, yes. But I don’t know at this point. As I said, for the time being, his special assignment is the Compact with Iraq and we will have more as time goes by.
Question: It’s a new USG position right?
Spokesperson: Yes, it’s a new USG position.
Question: New post?
Question: I wanted to ask about Chad. This decision by the Government basically to reject peacekeepers, peacekeeping forces other than civilians. What’s the Secretary-General’s response and what’s the plan to try to implement what’s been his suggestion to send in a larger force?
Spokesperson: As you know, this is in the hands of the Security Council right now. The Secretary-General is waiting for the Security Council to have an answer on that.
Question: I’m sorry, on UNDP and the UNDP representative from the Gambia that came; I asked to speak with the person. I asked the UNDP, and they said that it’s impossible to ask this expelled representative questions. And I’m wondering, have they met with the Secretary-General and what’s the… you said that they were going to be in New York and sort of plan to either get them back in or appoint another resident rep… what’s the thinking?
Spokesperson: I’ll get more on that for you, because I don’t have additional information.
[The Spokesperson later added that the resident representative had been asked to come to New York for consultations with senior staff, and she was doing just that.]
Question: A question on the Kuznetsov trial. It seems that the -- the trial of Vladimir Kuznetsov against the US -- it seems that that case could well be thrown out in his favour. If that is the case, what will his standing be as a former UN employee? Will he be welcome back into the fold?
Spokesperson: That I really don’t know. I have to find out for you what will happen. But it’s a hypothetical question. As you know, we respect the court process and we are waiting for the judicial process to follow its course.
Question: One other question on a different subject. A while ago, we were told that the Under-Secretary-General for OIOS would be meeting with Secretary-General Ban, talking about the case of the former WMO [World Meteorological Organization] whistleblower, Maria Veiga. Can you tell me if that’s happened yet?
Spokesperson: No, not yet.
Question: Michèle, can we expect a briefing from Mr. Eliasson after he briefs the Council on Tuesday?
Spokesperson: Yes. We have asked. So we hope to have a briefing after he briefs the Security Council.
Question: I just wanted to know if there’s been any change on the status of whether the Secretary-General will be meeting with the North Korean delegation while they’re in New York?
Spokesperson: As far as I know, he is not.
Question: Can the UN in any way help on this issue of disappeared tourists on the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea? Because you have quite a lot of troops in the area, I just wondered if the UN had been asked for any help, or was in any way involved on this issue?
Spokesperson: No, as far as I know, no. But, as you know, there were, as I said earlier, there were in the field, there were talks between the Commissioner on the Eritrean side in charge of the UN Missions and the UN Deputy SRSG. But that was about UN personnel being stopped from circulating.
Question: I’m wondering whether there is any report on attempts by Timor-Leste to cross the border with Indonesia due to the violence -- what is the assessment at the border?
Spokesperson: We can get more for you. We have a full press release upstairs about Timor-Leste. You are invited to come and see it.
Question: We were, we being Fox News, were shown some documents, showing that [WMO] Secretary-General Jarraud is refusing to allow Ms. Veiga use of the internal appeal system and additionally not allowing her access to documents for her… needed to prosecute her appeal. Would it be possible to look into that or have any got any comment on that at the moment?
Spokesperson: No I don’t have any comment on that, but we can look further into this. But, I think you should address your questions to them essentially. Any other questions? Ashraf.
Briefing by the Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly
**Administration of Justice
The Sixth Committee will meet in a resumed session from the 12th to the 23rd of March to discuss the proposed reforms for the internal justice system. Yesterday, Member States were briefed by the Secretariat on the views of the Secretary-General regarding the proposals of the Redesign Panel on the UN system of administration of justice (A/61/205).
The ACABQ is looking into this same subject today and a report on it is expected next week.
**Secretariat restructuring proposals
Informal consultations of the General Assembly plenary on the Secretary-General’s proposal to realign the Department of Disarmament Affairs were held on Wednesday morning, and are scheduled again for this afternoon, to consider a revised draft framework resolution. Consultations on the realignment of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations are scheduled for this coming Monday in the afternoon.
**Informal thematic debate
Next week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the 6th and 7th of March, the General Assembly will hold an informal thematic debate on gender equality and the empowerment of women. The programme will consist of a debate in the Assembly Hall on this overall theme, as well as two panel discussions, one on women and decision making, and the second on the empowerment of women, including microfinance. Details are available upstairs, and also on the GA website.
In connection with the thematic debate, we will have a press conference, on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., by two panellists: Ms. Mary Robinson, President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative (former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Ireland) and Ms. Beatriz Paredes Rangel, President of Mexico’s political party Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).
**Questions and Answers
Spokesperson: Tuesday, yes. 12:30. Yes, Laura?
Question: I wanted to ask you about the ACABQ meeting to discuss the possibility of a peacekeeping force for Chad. Do you know when that is going to take place?
Question: And after that, it does go to the Committee then? After that meeting it does?
Question: But you don’t know when?
Spokesperson: No, I don’t know when it is. Matthew?
Question: The Staff Council had said that they were going to try and meet with the President of the General Assembly about the make-up of the Pension Board, about whether having more representatives of staff, rather than just one third, that they put out a document to that effect. I don’t know whether they met with her.
Spokesperson: I can check if they have met with her. But, if they have, I wasn’t aware of it. On the Pension Fund?
Correspondent: Yes, on the Pension Board. Right now, one third of the representatives are staff members, but it should be more. They want to go 50-50, for what it’s worth.
Spokesperson: I’ll check for you. That’s it? Thank you.
* *** *For information media • not an official record