|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
As we had further questions yesterday on the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) operations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, I’ve asked David Morrison of UNDP to join us this time as the guest at the noon briefing. We have a group of visiting journalists from the Middle East and North Africa attending the briefing today. They are not here yet. We would like to welcome them.
The Security Council is holding consultations, as you know, on Somalia with a briefing by François Lonseny Fall, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for that country. After that, Council members will hold further consultations on other matters. Mr. Fall will be here shortly, at 1:15, to brief you.
And a correction to what we announced yesterday: the Council’s consultations on Côte d’Ivoire have now been scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, with briefings by the High Representative for Elections in Côte d’Ivoire and the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General. And we plan to have these two officials here in Room 226 to brief you. The time for that briefing will be announced later.
On Zimbabwe, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today welcomed the order of Zimbabwe’s High Court that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai be provided immediately with all necessary medical treatment.
Citing shocking reports of police abuse, Arbour said that the intimidation of a peaceful assembly is unacceptable. She also urged the Zimbabwean authorities to ensure an immediate, impartial and comprehensive investigation into the recent events in the country. We have more on that in my office.
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, will be travelling to Eritrea next month. The Special Envoy has a personal invitation from President Isayas Afewerki of Eritrea. The purpose of the visit is to discuss how to best coordinate Eritrean mediation efforts with those of the African Union and United Nations to reenergize the Darfur political process.
Following his scheduled visit to Eritrea from 21-22 March, Jan Eliasson is planning a second joint visit to Sudan with the African Union Envoy for Darfur, Salim Ahmed Salim, before the end of the month.
The Deputy Secretary-General is in Europe this week. Today in Bonn, she attended a meeting with European Union development ministers, and in a speech, the Deputy Secretary-General said she wants to pay special attention to the UN development agenda, and in particular find new ways of working with Governments to attain the Millennium Development Goals.
In addition, she said it will be her responsibility to work with the wide constellation of UN agencies and entities to ensure that the broad UN system can truly deliver as one.
While in Bonn, she met with the UN staff based there and with the Mayor. Her next stop is Strasbourg, where she will visit the European Parliament tomorrow.
On Georgia, the UN received unconfirmed reports that, last Sunday, Georgian Government facilities in the Upper Kodori Valley were attacked from the ground and from the air. The UN takes those reports with the utmost seriousness.
For his part, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Georgia, Jean Arnualt, immediately contacted the Georgian and Abkhaz sides in order to form a joint fact-finding group. The group, which both sides accepted, is tasked with investigating the veracity and the details of the reports. In addition to Georgian and Abkhaz participants, the group includes representatives of the UN Mission and the Commonwealth of Independent States Peacekeeping Force.
This group has already started its work and was able to access the Upper Kodori Valley without any impediments. The joint investigation is currently ongoing. We will share findings as they become available.
Out on the racks is the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Mission in Kosovo.
In it, he says that, after almost eight years of UN administration, Kosovo and its people need clarity on their future. He adds that moving towards a timely conclusion of the Kosovo status process should be a priority for the international community as a whole.
The Secretary-General also says that the use of violence by extremist groups in Kosovo to achieve political objectives cannot be tolerated and should be strongly condemned.
On Burundi, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, was in Burundi today, where she said she was encouraged by the progress made by Burundi’s Government to ensure greater protection for children affected by the conflict there.
We have upstairs a press release on her mission, which also included the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And Ms. Coomaraswamy will be able to tell you more about her trip on Thursday, when she comes to the noon briefing as my guest.
**Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
More than 40,000 civilians have fled fierce fighting in Sri Lanka's east over the past week, pushing to an estimated 127,000 the number of displaced within the affected district of Batticaloa.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres has called for more international cooperation to help thousands of Colombian refugees in Ecuador.
And, the UN refugee agency is urging the Greek authorities to allow the urgent disembarkation and grant access to the asylum system of 16 stowaways found nearly a week ago on a cargo ship docked in the port of Piraeus.
You can read more about these refugee-related developments in today’s UNHCR briefing notes from Geneva.
On Mozambique, the UN and its humanitarian partners yesterday launched a flash appeal for nearly $18 million to help Mozambique respond to the humanitarian needs of flood and cyclone survivors. We have a press release of that in my office.
On climate change, several international meetings are being held this week on climate change-related issues, including a two-day conference that starts today in London on financing clean energy.
Addressing that meeting today were World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and the UN Climate Change Convention’s Executive Secretary, Yvo de Boer.
De Boer said the carbon market created through the Kyoto Protocol, which was designed to tackle climate change, had the potential to expand so as to generate up to $100 billion per year in green investment flow to developing countries. That would go a long way to cover investments in the energy infrastructures of developing countries, he added.
On forests, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched the “State of the World’s Forests 2007” in Rome today.
According to the report, a number of the world’s regions are reversing centuries of deforestation and are now showing an increase in forest area.
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo participated in the launch. We have a press release upstairs with more information.
Tomorrow morning the Secretary-General is scheduled to meet with the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Zipi Livni, and the Israeli Minister of Defense, Mr. Amir Peretz.
Following the meeting, at 8:45 a.m., the Minister of Defence will speak to the press at the second floor stakeout. This is for your advance planning for those of you who might want to be there.
This is all I have for you today. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I have many questions. Do you know? Tomorrow is the Brammertz report. Is Mr. Brammertz in town? Do you know?
Spokesperson: He’s supposed to be here. Yes. I can confirm for you whether he has arrived or not.
Question: About the Norway troops leaving Lebanon, do you have any comment on that?
Spokesperson: No, I don’t have any additional information or any comment on that. No.
Question: Also, Ms. Zipi Livni will be speaking about the implementation of resolution 1701?
Spokesperson: I don’t what the agenda of the meeting is. But you can ask that at the stakeout tomorrow.
Question: I wanted to know exactly what time it is, at 8:45 in the morning?
Question: That early?
Spokesperson: Well, actually they scheduled it, we did not. I just wanted to announce it to you for your own planning purposes.
Question: (inaudible) on the Secretary- General (inaudible).
Spokesperson: I don’t know yet.
Spokesperson: I will find out for you what the agenda is. It was upon request by the Israeli officials.
Question: It’s very, very important that we know if something is happening.
Question: First, do I understand correctly that the Israeli officials will be coming to the stakeout at roughly 9:15, 9:30 or so, in the normal course of events?
Spokesperson: About 9:15, I would assume. Yes.
Question: Is it going to be both of them? Is it going to be both of them, Ms. Livni as well as Mr. Peretz?
Spokesperson: No, just the Minister of Defence will be at the stakeout.
Question: Also, I want to pick up on one thing and one part of one sentence that you said about Georgia. That the Government forces were attacked in the North Kodori Valley, I think you said, by Abkhaz forces by land and air. Forgive me, maybe I’m naïve.
Spokesperson: I didn’t say by what forces. I said the UN received unconfirmed reports that last Sunday Georgian Government facilities in the Upper Kodori Valley were attacked from the ground and from the air. I’m saying that the UN is investigating.
Question: So it would be reasonable to assume that somewhere in the Kodori valley are some forces hostile to the central Government of Georgia, Tbilisi, and they’ve now got an air force?
Spokesperson: All we can say is that the UN is investigating those stories. Those stories were reported.
Question: Is there any previous evidence that indicates that anybody up there might have an air force or am I being naïve about this?
Spokesperson: George, I cannot answer you as long as I don’t have any result of the investigation. All I can tell you is that an investigation was launched on these reports.
Question: It seems to me that it is something into which the investigation should look. There’s an air force on this planet which none of us knew about.
Spokesperson: We did say that the UN is taking these reports very seriously.
Question: Do you have any update on Cyprus (inaudible)?
Spokesperson: No. On Cyprus I do not have anything new from what I said earlier.
Question: Is the Secretary-General going to raise with Ms. Livni and Mr. … about the war, why was it launched against Lebanon last July?
Spokesperson: As I just said, I don’t have the agenda of the meeting yet.
Question: He should raise it. Shouldn’t he?
Spokesperson: That’s your opinion, of course. But I’m in no position to transmit individual opinions. I think there is an agenda and I’ll find out for you what that agenda is.
Question: Regarding climate change, I saw in the agenda today, it says the Secretary-General is going to meet Professor Jeffrey Sachs. Now regarding your announcement from Friday that the Secretary-General is pushing for participation at the Bali meeting in December, the question is that the Bali meeting, as it is now, is on the level of environmental ministers because that’s what usually happens at those meetings. The whole idea of having the summit is take this out from the realm of environment ministers to economic ministers like people who are meeting today in London. Is the Secretary-General trying to elevate the Bali meeting as a substitute to the Summit by actually calling for the countries to send not environment ministers only, but people that can in effect take decisions, which means economic ministers and higher than that?
Spokesperson: The only thing I can tell you is that I don’t have the exact agenda but Mr. Sachs is going to discuss several issues with the Secretary-General on development.
Question: I mean for the Bali sake?
Spokesperson: I know, but you talked about the Jeffrey Sachs meeting.
Question: Because I think it’s connected.
Spokesperson: I do not have an answer for you because I don’t know. There are several issues to be discussed with Mr. Sachs. As you know, Mr. Sachs has been actively meeting with the Secretary-General on those issues.
Question: Two rule of law questions. In the news, there are protests in Pakistan of the President arresting or of taking the Chief Judge and putting him out. I’m wondering if the Secretariat or anyone in the UN system is monitoring it or has anything to say about it?
Spokesperson: I’m sure the High Commissioner for Human Rights is following these issues. I don’t have any statements on that.
Question: Also, there seems to be a trend. In Uganda, yesterday you said you praised the LRA talks. There’s quite an uproar about suspects in court being by the military after having been found not guilty. So I’m wondering is there a Special Rapporteur who covers breakdowns and rule of law in court systems?
Spokesperson: We have a High Commissioner for Human Rights. Her office follows all those issues.
Question: Yesterday, you spoke about Zimbabwe, which is all to your credit, and so did she. So who decides when you speak and when only she speaks?
Spokesperson: I think she’s a very powerful voice.
I’m going to stop here because first we have Ashraf to brief you on the General Assembly and then we have Mr. Morrison to brief you on UNDP issues.
Briefing by the Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly
**Secretariat Restructuring Proposals
As announced yesterday, informal consultations of the General Assembly plenary were held yesterday afternoon on the Secretary-General's proposal to realign the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, while consultations on the realignment of the Department of Disarmament Affairs were held on Friday. The President intends to hold a meeting on Thursday, with the hope, barring of course any unforeseen circumstances, that the two framework resolutions on DPKO and DDA will be adopted.
I am so happy that I can tell you something that you did not know before. Let me stress that this is subject to ironing out a few kinks, but she has every hope that everybody will be on board and that the two framework resolutions will be adopted on Thursday.
**Security Council Reform
On Security Council reform, there will be an interactive panel discussion this afternoon.
And Benny had a very important question yesterday about the Nelson Mandela portrait. Actually it’s not a portrait. It’s a work of art and that’s why it got in there.
**Questions and Answers
Question: What did you say?
Spokesperson: It’s a work of art. It’s not a portrait. It’s just like any of the works of art that we have all over the UN complex.
* *** *For information media • not an official record