|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.
I have the statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the International Compact with Iraq.
In accordance with the United Nations mandate on Security Council resolution 1546 (2004) to assist in the reconstruction and recovery of Iraq, the Secretary-General will convene a meeting at United Nations Headquarters this Friday, 16 March, to bring the Government of Iraq and the international community together to review the substantive progress in the development of the International Compact with Iraq. His Excellency Mr. Adel Abdul Mahdi, Vice-President of Iraq, will lead Iraq’s delegation and brief participants. All Member States and representatives of multilateral institutions have been invited to attend.
Together with the Government of Iraq, the United Nations continues to serve as co-chair of the ICI. The Secretary-General recently appointed Ibrahim Gambari to be Special Advisor for the International Compact and to serve as UN co-chair.
The Secretary-General looks forward to the participation of the broader international community at Friday’s meeting to help put Iraq on a credible path toward sustainable development and economic prosperity.
**Jan Egeland Appointment
The Secretary-General is pleased to announce his decision to appoint Jan Egeland of Norway as his Special Adviser, at the Under-Secretary-General level.
With more than 25 years of experience in peace processes and humanitarian operations in conflict zones around the world -- for the United Nations, the Norwegian Government and non-governmental organizations -- Mr. Egeland will be a valuable asset to the Secretary-General on matters relating to the prevention and resolution of conflicts.
This appointment complements existing efforts to bolster UN capacity for peacemaking and good offices, being led by the Department of Political Affairs (DPA). One of Mr. Egeland’s duties will be to coordinate a standby team of technical experts that can be called upon at short notice to assist envoys in peacemaking efforts around the globe. The standby team is currently being developed as an initiative of the recently created Mediation Support Capacity within DPA.
We’ll have shortly for you additional information on the mediation Support Capacity in the Department of Political Affairs in my Office.
The Security Council this morning is discussing the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, during an open meeting, at which Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, gave his first monthly briefing to the Council on the Middle East. Pascoe noted that, after a year of diminishing peace prospects, recent developments, such as the Mecca agreement and the renewed Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, “hold out the potential, if not yet the promise, to begin turning that trend around”.
Pascoe hoped that a new Palestinian Government will take “positions and actions” that demonstrate respect for agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization renouncing terrorism and recognizing Israel's right to exist. He also noted the Quartet’s “wait and see” approach and called on the international community to be engaged with “both firmness and flexibility”.
And we have copies of his remarks upstairs.
After hearing Pascoe’s briefing, Council members moved into the consultation room for a closed meeting on the same topic and other matters. And, this afternoon at 3 p.m., the Council will hold a closed meeting on Côte d’Ivoire, followed by consultations on non-proliferation and other matters.
And the High Representative for Elections in Côte d’Ivoire and the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for that country will both take questions at the Security Council stakeout after briefing the Council. This is expected around 5 p.m. this afternoon.
The Deputy Secretary-General is in Strasbourg today where she is holding a number of bilateral meetings at the European Parliament.
She is scheduled shortly to deliver a speech to the European Parliament on the occasion of the launch of the report: The Partnership between the United Nations and the European Union. We have copies of that speech upstairs.
Tomorrow, she will be in Brussels, where the UN system will make public the first ever comprehensive report on UN-EU cooperation in the area of development and humanitarian aid.
**Human Rights Council
The Human Rights Council in Geneva is holding an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights who presented her report to the Council this afternoon. That report should be available shortly.
Earlier in the day, the Human Rights Council concluded its high-level segment, after hearing statements from 15 dignitaries who raised issues, among other things, pertaining to the universal periodic review and other institution-building measures. Also, Members of the Council adopted without a vote a decision by the President of the Council to convene the fifth session of the Council from 11 to 18 June.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today released the report of its technical mission that recently went to Jerusalem. You’ll recall that UNESCO sent the team following concerns over Israeli excavations on a pathway between the Western Wall and the Al-Haram al-Sharif. The northern wall of that pathway had collapsed in February 2004.
The mission noted that no work is being conducted inside the Al-Haram al-Sharif, nor may the nature of the works underway be reported, at this stage, as constituting a threat to the stability of the Western Wall or the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
At the same time, however, while recognizing that the archaeological works under way are being carried out according to professional standards, the mission recommended that the Government of Israel be asked to immediately stop the excavations, given that they were already sufficient for the purpose of assessing the structural conditions of the pathway.
The mission also noted that, since the project concerns different religious and cultural communities, it is of the utmost importance that there be dialogue and communication between all concerned parties, including the Jordanian Government, which Israel has recognized as having a supervisory role on the Al-Haram al-Sharif. The whole report is available upstairs.
The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti has warmly welcomed the arrest yesterday of gang leader Evans Lejeune, also known as Evens Ti Kouto, by a special squad of the Haitian National Police. The UN Mission also congratulates the Haitian population for its support of this operation.
After eluding several sweeps by joint UN-Haitian police teams in the Cité Soleil neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, Evens was arrested in the southern town of Les Cayes and transferred, with logistical support from UN peacekeepers, to a detention centre in the capital.
The United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) in a statement expressed concern over recent media reports quoting Maoist Chairman Prachanda, as saying that the Communist Party of Nepal retains weapons and combatants outside the cantonment sites.
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Nepal, Ian Martin, today raised the issue with the Maoist leadership. Although they maintain that the reports are incorrect, UNMIN will continue to seek further clarification from the Maoist leadership. The press statements are available upstairs.
On Timor-Leste, the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) reports that some 22 instances of violence broke out in the capital, Dili, over the past 24 hours. Some were targeted at UN police and UN vehicles. The situation is now stable, but tense. Disturbances and thefts from WFP warehouses also continued and three people were arrested.
The situation in Same, meanwhile, is returning to normal. UN and Timor local police are conducting joint patrols in the town and efforts by the International Security Forces (ISF) to apprehend Maj. Reinado are continuing elsewhere.
** Sri Lanka
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes today urged all parties of the Sri Lanka conflict, to grant access to UN humanitarian agencies so that they can operate in frontline areas to help the civilians trapped in the crossfire.
In a meeting with the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Holmes also reiterated the UN’s readiness to support the government of Sri Lanka, to heighten efforts to respond to the growing needs of Internally Displaced People in the conflict-ridden East.
**World Food Programme
The World Food Programme (WFP) is appealing for nearly $2 million so that it can provide additional assistance to the poorest of the more than 1 million Iraqi refugees who have fled to Syria to escape escalating violence in their home country. We have a press release on that upstairs.
**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
On the DPRK, UNICEF and the World Health Organization today launched an immunization campaign aimed at combating a major outbreak of the measles in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Some 3,500 people have been diagnosed with the disease since November. During the first phase of the campaign, more than 6 million children between the ages of six months and 15 years will receive the vaccine. During the second part, which begins next month, some 10 million people between the ages of 16 and 45 will be vaccinated.
UNICEF and WHO are providing the vaccine, while the Government of the DPRK is providing the health workers to administer it and cover the campaign’s operating costs. We have a press release on that upstairs.
**Guest at Noon Briefing Tomorrow
And finally, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, will be the guest at the noon briefing tomorrow. Ms. Coomaraswamy will brief you on her recent visit to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
This is all I have for you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I just wanted to find out from you what was so important for the Israeli Foreign Minister to come here at 8 a.m. and hold this meeting with the Secretary-General. It must have been extraordinary circumstances. Can you give us any details about that? And did the Secretary-General in speaking with the Israeli Foreign Minister talk to him about the exchange of prisoners, between Lebanon and the Israelis, and the Palestinian prisoners which are being held by Israel? Did that factor into the conversation at all? And the other thing, Ms. Livni did not come to the stakeout for long enough to take questions from the correspondents.
Spokesperson: As you know, the meeting was held this morning. The time, Masood, I think it was just a scheduling thing. There was no special urgency to the meeting. From the readout I got, it was a good and productive meeting. They discussed a wide range of issues, including Lebanon and the upcoming report on 1701, Iran, the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. And he also informed them of his upcoming trip to the Middle East. The Secretary-General reaffirmed that promoting dialogue and peace in the Middle East region was one of his top priorities. This is what was discussed.
Question: (inaudible) Palestinian issues (inaudible)?
Spokesperson: I don’t have any specifics.
Question: On Jan Egeland, when does he take over his new post? And you have told us what he will do as a Special Adviser. But what is his exact title?
Spokesperson: Special Adviser. That is his exact title.
Question: Doing what?
Spokesperson: What he will be doing is essentially working to set up that standby team of experts to support peace envoys. We don’t have any assigned role in any particular country at this point. But it is first to set up this working group.
Question: When does he take office?
Spokesperson: I will get that detail for you soon.
Question: Jan Egeland will be dealing essentially with peace and security issues and conflict. How is he going to coordinate his work with DPA?
Spokesperson: There’s going to be a working group set up within DPA. So he’s going to work closely with DPA of course.
Question: Regarding the Secretary-General, this morning he had a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Israel. Following up to Masood’s question, did the Secretary-General have any discussion or any strategic planning to make Israel end its nuclear weapon facility and join the NPT?
Spokesperson: I don’t have the details on that. I gave you what I had. And this is all I can say at this point. About Masood’s question on the stakeout, I have nothing to do with the stakeout. And the stakeout was organized by the Israeli authorities.
Question: But I am not asking about the stakeout. I am asking about since you mentioned that the Foreign Minister discussed the Iran issue, the Iranian peaceful nuclear weapon programme. Did the Secretary-General discuss, as I’ve asked this question repeatedly and repeatedly in the past. I asked Annan and also I asked Ban Ki-moon before. Is he trying to come up with planning? He is the Secretary-General. Is he coming up with planning to make Israel join the NPT? It’s very simple.
Spokesperson: I don’t have the specifics on that. I cannot tell you whether there is a strategy plan. There is definitely a position of the Secretary-General on nuclear proliferation.
Question: Did he mention anything to the Foreign Minister of Israel about this issue?
Spokesperson: I do not have that information.
Question: A quick question on the Iraq Compact Group. I know that you told us you’re expecting a statement. Can at least we have an initial list of participants of that meeting and what’s expected out of it. And then just quickly on the Israeli Defence Minister, we were told in the squawk today that we go down for the stakeout. And then the Israeli Defence Minister simply spoke to the Israeli reporters in Hebrew. And we ended up getting nothing. It was also organized by the Spokesman’s Office.
Spokesperson: No, it was not. It was asked for by the Israeli Mission. We don’t have anything to do whenever a Member State has a stakeout. This is something that is the responsibility of each individual country, of course. Your other question about the Iraq Compact, as you know it is starting tomorrow. We’ll have definitely additional information for you. As you know, we don’t have the exact list yet. But, I know there are quite a few delegations. I think about 40 of them have already arrived. And I will have a definite list for you tomorrow. And we’re trying to get someone to come and brief you on it. As you know, Mr. Gambari is in charge of the process. So we’ll ask if he can come or if someone else within the department can come and brief you with the specifics. And the statement will be out shortly.
Question: About the implementation of 1701, did the Secretary-General discuss with Ms. Livni or Amir Peretz why they are not abiding by 1701, since they keep flying over Lebanon? They have yet to withdraw from Al-Ghajar. And there are many posts which they still occupy. Did the Secretary-General raise that with them?
Spokesperson: I told you everything I know about that meeting. I gave you exactly what I had in terms of the readout from the person who was there. I was not there personally. And I told you what they discussed, the topics, as we usually do for any official meeting of the Secretary-General we always tell you what the topics were. We cannot tell you what the other party said.
Question: But these are the people who are concerned in this. And obviously the Secretary-General, before going to the Middle East, should have raised this with them.
Spokesperson: I don’t know whether he did or not.
Question: Can you give us an update on that?
Spokesperson: I will not have additional information. The readout I gave you is what you’ll get.
Question: If there is a discussion as important as this, before going to the Middle East, he doesn’t discuss all the violations of the Israelis with the Israelis who came here to his office.
Spokesperson: I don’t know whether he did or not, Nasrif. I said that they discussed 1701. I do not have the details.
Question: Can you ask him?
Spokesperson: I already answered your question, I think.
Question: I don’t think this is a good answer. If he did not ask them, why (inaudible).
Spokesperson: They discussed 1701. I don’t know what the specifics were.
Question: I really don’t want to give you a hard time, but I was going to ask you if Mr. Ahtisaari is going to come soon or not, but I also wonder whether this Secretary-General is clearly for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East?
Spokesperson: I can specifically direct the question on the Middle East for you with him. I will ask him.
Question: And whether Mr. Ahtisaari is coming soon with a proposal on Kosovo?
Spokesperson: I think that we expect, if not Mr. Ahtisaari, than one of his assistants shortly, this week probably.
Question: Do you know if there is going to be voting in the Security Council on Kosovo or if there is only going to be some kind of presentation?
Spokesperson: How the Security Council will react to the presentation of the report, what they will decide to do is up to the Security Council, as you know. I cannot answer that question for you.
Question: I asked before about, since you brought up the Iraq Compact Group, where do we stand as far as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq, is he staying? Is there going to be a new person instead of him?
Spokesperson: We’ll find out soon. But Mr. Qazi is here and he’s going to participate in the meeting tomorrow.
Question: And how long is his contract for?
Spokesperson: I don’t have that information. I can try to find out for you.
Question: Two questions: One, on the Congo, there are reports now of 10,000 people displaced on the border of the Congo and Rwanda, and fighting. Is MONUC in the area? What’s MONUC’s position on 10,000 people displaced in eastern Congo?
Spokesperson: We’ll try to get more for you from MONUC. And did you go to the website?
Question: Yes. I did. But all they do is run a Reuters piece. But there’s no statement about whether MONUC is actually still policing eastern Congo or whether it’s trying to.
Spokesperson: It is still policing eastern Congo. Yes, definitely.
Question: Thanks for yesterday having Mr. Morrison answer questions with you. On a number of points he said we have to wait for the audit or you have to ask the auditors. So I wanted to know two things. One, when the audit is done, is it going to be made public?
Spokesperson: I assume so. I can only ask. I’ll ask the auditors.
Question: I guess since Ban Ki-moon called for it. That’s why I’m asking. But I understand, maybe you’ll answer it. Many people have said ask the auditors various things. So I asked this Mr. (inaudible) who Mr. (inaudible) told me to ask. And he’s responded today and said he’s not authorized to speak to the press. So I’m wondering, since I kind of hit a dead end. So my question would be either whether can Ban Ki-moon authorize someone to speak to the press? Just on simple questions.
Spokesperson: He won’t speak until the report is done, until they are finished with their investigation.
Question: Which is when?
Spokesperson: I don’t know. You have a 90 day (inaudible).
Question: Mr. Morrison said yesterday that it was postponed for a week, but he wouldn’t say why it was postponed. Ask the auditors. So I asked the auditors and they say we are not authorized to speak to the press. But it’s a simple question. It’s not asking to pre-judge the audit or anything. I think it only helps the UN to say “here’s why we postponed it for a week.” I don’t need to get into commentary. I guess I want to ask you who can speak for the auditors?
Spokesperson: I will ask you who has the right to speak on their behalf?
Question: Is the United Nations or Mr. Ban Ki-moon planning to increase the presence of the United Nations in Iraq or that would be one of the issues discussed?
Spokesperson: The reason why, as you know, the UN presence in Iraq is conditioned by security questions. No matter what the will is, we have to take into account security reasons and environment.
Question: So there are no plans for any?
Spokesperson: As far as I know not immediately.
Question: It would be very helpful or something also on this International Compact with Iraq. I still just don’t have the vaguest idea what it is and no one seems to be able to say. And it’s slightly surreal.
Spokesperson: I’m trying to get you a briefing tomorrow.
Question: There’s a meeting of 40 people coming here
Spokesperson: Or more.
Question: And we don’t know who they are or what they’re doing or what they’re talking about.
Spokesperson: They are representatives of Member States essentially.
Question: But no one seems to know what anybody’s doing. It’s bizarre.
Spokesperson: We’ll try to get a list of the participants for you. And, as I said, we’re also trying to get you a briefing on that.
Question: We don’t know who the figures are who are showing up, if it’s like the regular ambassadors or some top-level officials.
Spokesperson: I’ll find out for you.
Question: With regards to the Bashir letter, does the Secretary-General have anything else to say or is his public comment still basically that it contains positive elements?
Spokesperson: As I said yesterday he is meeting with the Security Council tomorrow, Thursday. And you can have a stakeout after the lunch at the Security Council, what they are going to discuss that issue. The stakeout will take place, by the way, right here on the second floor because security has told us we cannot accommodate people where we used to go after the Security Council briefing.
Question: This morning the Secretary-General met with two high-level officials, two Ministers from Morocco on the question of Sahara. Is there a readout?
Spokesperson: No, not yet. I can try to find out for you what was said.
Question: I was asking whether there is a date set yet for the expected visit of the Secretary-General to Darfur. And how far do you think such a visit can be delayed by the UN report on human rights in Darfur and also how it can be affected by Bashir’s letter? Another question, regarding the Arab Summit in Saudi Arabia and the Secretary-General is going to have a tour in the region. What are the main issues or the main points he’s going to discuss with the leaders who he’s going to meet? He’s going to Egypt, Beirut, the Palestinian Territory and finally Syria and Iraq.
Spokesperson: We’ll have more on that trip very soon, on the objectives, on what is expected, where the stopovers will be and who he’s going to meet very shortly. Not today. I don’t have it with me today. And your first question about Darfur, the Secretary-General has not set a date.
Question: Michèle, can I request one thing from the Secretary-General since I raised the question probably more than 20 times in the past. Can you request from the Secretary-General at least what is he going to do or what’s going to be in the Israeli case? How is he going to deal with the problem of the Israeli nuclear activities? And that’s my question. I don’t want to really repeat this question over and over. My only request is for the Secretary-General, what is he going to do about that?
Spokesperson: I will transmit your questions.
Question: Michèle, I wanted to ask you about 1701. Apparently, I believe that the report is coming out this month, but that the Secretariat asked for a delay in briefing the Security Council until next month. Why did they request a delay?
Spokesperson: I don’t know what the reasons were for the delay. But I do know that it’s a just question of time. It should come very shortly. It won’t be examined by the Security Council until next month. But the report should be coming shortly.
Question: But the report is still this week?
Question: About the Iraq Compact Group, I’m glad that Mark asked that question, because I thought I was the only one who didn’t know. That was just before, but now it becomes more pertinent. There are moves in the US Congress to maybe cut off funding. It has to come up, I would imagine, in a meeting. If the US troops and you just said that the UN presence is dependent on security. If they leave, how will that impact the UN’s presence there? It will help or hurt obviously. Do you think that will be an issue discussed and does the Secretary-General have any views on that yet?
Spokesperson: I don’t have any views on that at this point and it’s kind of a hypothetical questions. It’s not the case yet. It’s just not a reality.
Question: But they’ve prepared for it continuously, didn’t they?
Spokesperson: Sure they did, but it doesn’t have to be a public stance.
Question: Michèle, there are indications that the Quartet would meet with a number of Arab countries before the end of this month. Do you know which Arab countries would be participating in this meeting?
Spokesperson: I don’t think a Quartet meeting has been fixed yet. They haven’t really set a date or a place yet. All we know is that it is going to be in an Arab country.
Question: At the risk of piling on here. I think this is something that’s always bothered me. I don’t understand what the word “compact” means in this compact. I mean compact car is small. I don’t understand what the word “compact” means here.
Spokesperson: All I can say is it was an initiative, as you know, of the Government of Iraq. They wanted a new partnership with the international community, which as you know, started in July 2006.
Spokesperson: It’s an initiative.
Question: So it’s not like an acronym for (inaudible).
Spokesperson: No. It’s not an acronym for anything.
Question: Is it different from the compact in Afghanistan?
Spokesperson: I don’t know whether there’s any link between the two, but the words mean the same. It was a request from the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr. Maliki, that the Secretary-General host this meeting that is taking place tomorrow in New York. And the meeting offers an opportunity to involve the larger international community in a discussion on how best to support the Government of Iraq and the framework of that Compact. And the Government of Iraq is expected to formally present the group with a document at the meeting and will brief participants on the latest development of the implementation of commitments made under the Compact so far. And as I said, all Member States have been invited to participate in the meeting. I don’t know exactly who will be there and I will find out for you very soon.
Question: Does the Secretary-General totally exclude the possibility of visiting Sudan during this tour, considering that he’s going to be in the region anyway by the end of this month? Is it totally out of the question?
Spokesperson: That he goes to Sudan?
Question: That he goes to Sudan while being in the region.
Spokesperson: No. It’s not going to be on this trip.
Question: Michèle, one more Darfur question. Sudan is trying to block the consideration of that human rights report by the Human Rights Council in Geneva. So I understand that’s in Geneva. But they’ve said it shouldn’t even be considered by the Human Rights Council because the Indonesian Ambassador had dropped out for various reasons. So, I’m wondering, does the Secretary-General believe that that report should be considered by the Human Rights Council, which is a major UN reform brought about recently? Should the Council consider that report or not?
Spokesperson: It is a matter for the Human Rights Council.
Question: If not Darfur, could the Secretary-General make a side trip to Iran during the Middle East trip?
Spokesperson: For this trip, no.
Question: Following up again on the same question regarding the Israeli Prime Minister, I know you don’t have specifics, but could you ask whether the Secretary-General took up with the Israeli Defence Minister some of the attacks made in Israel to attack Iran?
Spokesperson: I will forward your questions.
Question: I’m wondering Michèle if I can pin you down, because there are different interpretations of the letter and the annex of Bashir. Some delegations think it means the UN should rework its proposal, that the door hasn’t been shut. Other delegations obviously think the door has been shut and that action has to be taken. Yesterday, Ambassador Kumalo said the Secretary-General indicated to him that there were certain things that he thought were agreed upon that were no longer agreed upon. Does he believe that this was a reject of phase II?
Spokesperson: At this point he would rather not comment on it because he wants to first meet with the Security Council on this. Then he will talk to you tomorrow.
Question: Can you confirm what Kumalo said that the Secretary-General said?
Spokesperson: Well, you can confirm this with…
Question: No, but can you confirm that the Secretary-General indeed said to Kumalo, because Kumalo said it? He said that the Secretary-General…
Spokesperson: I assume that Mr. Kumalo stands by his statement.
Question: But some people interpret things differently. Did the Secretary-General indeed say, as Kumalo reported to us, that he saw the letter as -- I’m paraphrasing - “reneging on previous agreements”?
Spokesperson: May I suggest that you ask the Secretary-General tomorrow directly.
Question: Michèle, what are the intentions regarding the conclusions and results of the Iraq Compact. Will they be submitted to the General Assembly?
Spokesperson: No. I don’t think so. It’s an initiative of the Government of Iraq and we are giving a support role in this in getting the Government of Iraq together with the international community. So it has nothing to do with the General Assembly.
Question: Are we going to be briefing by the Secretary-General tomorrow?
Spokesperson: No. I said there would be a stakeout that the Secretary-General would give after he meets with the Security Council.
Question: What time?
Spokesperson: I have no idea. The lunch is at 1 p.m.
Question: At 3, usually it’s around 3.
* *** *For information media • not an official record