|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.
**Guests at Noon
The guests at today’s briefing are Mr. Richard Weingarten, Executive Secretary, UN Capital Development Fund Executive Secretary, and Ms. Donna Childs, Senior Policy Advisor, UN Advisors Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors. They will brief you on the best practices for expanding access to finance for the poor.
**Statement on Democratic Republic of Congo
The following is a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the massacre committed in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), during the night of 26-27 May:
The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) reports that 19 civilians, including children and women, have died as a result of unprovoked attacks on the villages of Nyabuluze and Mhungu in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, during the night of 26-27 May. The attacks were reportedly carried out by elements of the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and Rasta militiamen. A third attack, on the village of Chihamba, was prevented in the early morning hours of 27 May by the intervention of a MONUC patrol. Media reports that 12 more abductees were also killed remain unconfirmed.
“The Secretary-General condemns these attacks in the strongest possible terms. This latest atrocity underscores once again the need to resolve the problem of armed Congolese and foreign militia operating in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and for the Government and the international community to work together in creating professional security forces capable of defending the security and human rights of the people of the Democratic Republic. He calls upon the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to bring to justice those responsible for such outrages.”
**OCHA - Democratic Republic of Congo
On Monday, a rapid response team, including members of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and UNICEF, travelled to Kaniola to assess the situation there following the massacre. They found widespread panic and significant population displacements that extend far beyond the immediate area where the massacres took place.
They say that there is an urgent need for medical supplies and equipment to respond to the needs of the injured.
**Secretary-General in Berlin
The Secretary-General has arrived in Berlin to attend a Quartet meeting on the Middle East. Shortly after arrival, he held a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In a press encounter, the Secretary-General described the situation on the ground in the Middle East as “extremely volatile” and he said he would discuss this matter with his Quartet colleagues to facilitate the peace process in the Middle East, and to also prevent reoccurrences of such fighting in the field.
He went on to say: “We need a concerted and common cooperation on the part of the international community to help both parties -- particularly Arabs and Israelis, and more importantly between Palestinians and Israelis, so that they can live with a vision of two States living in peace and security.”
Around 1 p.m. New York time, the Secretary-General will join his Quartet partners for a meeting. He is expected to read out the communiqué at a joint press conference afterwards. We’ll have more on that for you later.
The Secretary-General and Chancellor Merkel had a wide-ranging discussion on a number of issues, including the situation in the Middle East. He briefed the Chancellor on his ongoing intensive diplomatic work dealing with the situation in Darfur. He outlined his efforts to ensure an effective political process, increased humanitarian efforts and the deployment of a hybrid UN/AU force in Darfur. The Chancellor also discussed with the Secretary-General the latest preparations for the G-8 summit, including in particular the discussions on climate change.
The Security Council this morning met in the consultation room to discuss Timor-Leste and heard a briefing by Atul Khare, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for that country, who briefed them on the recent elections and the challenges ahead. After that, Council members discussed other matters. Upon adjournment, the President of the Council read a press statement, in which the Security Council expressed grave concern at the breakdown of the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the resulting increase in violence. And we have copies of that statement upstairs.
This afternoon at 3 o’clock, the Council will reconvene in the Chamber to take up the situation in the Middle East and vote on a draft resolution establishing a tribunal of an international character for Lebanon.
Soon after the vote, Council members will hold consultations on Burundi, Haiti and other matters. Briefing them on Haiti will be Edmund Mullet, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for that country.
And correspondents wishing to speak with SRSG Mullet or SRSG Khare should contact my Office to arrange a meeting.
** Central African Republic
Some 1,500 Sudanese refugees have sought refuge in a single town in the Central African Republic after they say Sudanese Government and armed militias attacked their town two weeks ago.
That’s according to several UN agencies, who have just completed an assessment mission to the town of Sam Ouandja, in north-eastern Central African Republic. The agencies say the number of refugees continues to grow. The majority of them are women and children, who have travelled the 200 kilometres between the two towns on foot.
The World Food Programme is providing a one-month initial food ration for the refugees currently there. The UN refugee agency and UNICEF are providing non-food relief items.
Campaigning for Timor-Leste’s 30 June legislative elections started early yesterday.
Meanwhile, the head of the UN Mission in Timor-Leste has welcomed the signing of a political accord by the country’s 16 political parties.
They are promising that next month’s elections will be free and fair, and that they will continue to respect the democratic process after the elections.
The United Nations refugee agency is extremely concerned over Tuesday’s violent confrontation between marching refugees and Indian police on the Mechi Bridge that divides Nepal and India.
UNHCR, in a statement today, expressed sadness over the death of one refugee and several injured in that clash, which occurred while thousands of refugees from camps in eastern Nepal marched to exercise their right of return to their home country.
While acknowledging the increasing frustration of the refugees about the lack of progress on repatriation, UNHCR appeals to all refugees to return to their respective camps and to refrain from violence and the use of force.
**Deputy Secretary-General Graduation Speech
This afternoon at 3 p.m. in the General Assembly Hall, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro is scheduled to deliver the commencement address for the UN International School’s Class of 2007.
The 112 graduates in this year’s class represent 43 nationalities and speak 39 languages as their mother tongues.
Today at 3 p.m., there will be a press conference by Michael Oppenheimer, lead author of the Fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on the upcoming sixtieth DPI/NGO Conference entitled: “Climate Change: How it impacts us all”.
This is all I have for you today. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Can you confirm that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon received a letter from Australian Senator Lyn Allison, who asked him to investigate Moroccan human rights abuses by the Moroccan Government against Saharawi peaceful protesters over the past two weeks?
Spokesperson: I’ll check that for you.
Question: The massacre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) apparently was committed by elements of the Hutu, and the UN Mission had launched an investigation into the massacre. Has this investigation been completed or is it continuing?
Spokesperson: It is still ongoing. Right now, you have the investigating team going over there. As you know, MONUC is also establishing two additional mobile operational bases in the area, is increasing its patrolling activities also in the area. A humanitarian assessment team composed of personnel from UNICEF, OCHA, MONUC and the International Rescue Committee was dispatched to the area on 28 May. Further, a MONUC mission comprised of personnel from its human rights, child protection, civil affairs and disarmament and demobilization sections has been dispatched also to the area. The joint team could not reach the affected villages, because the local population was hostile towards the MONUC envoys.
I think we will have more on that a little later on and I have also [more] information for you upstairs on what happened during that night.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to this report that was issued by the UN the other day that two thirds of the people in the Occupied Territory are jobless and that some of the aid that is supposed to be coming is not coming to them and that the Israelis have not released the funds to the Palestinians.
Spokesperson: Well, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has had such reports over and over again. It is not a new fact. It is a new report, but it is about facts that have already been dealt with and discussed.
Question: Has there been any reaction from the Secretary-General at all? This is a consistent…
Spokesperson: This is a consistent problem, yes.
Question: Does the Secretary-General support calls by some campaigners for the boycott of the Beijing Olympics because of its support for the Khartoum Government?
Spokesperson: Not that I know of.
Question: So that’s a “no”? He does not support them?
Spokesperson: No he does not. At this point, no. He does not.
Question: On Kosovo, there are these quotes from Martti Ahtisaari, one is that, if Russia was to veto independence for Kosovo, that would “weaken the UN”. Another quote of his is: “It will be independent one way or another, so they should just vote for it.” I wonder, I know that he backs up the plan, but are these the Secretariat’s positions? What are these positions being said by Martti Ahtisaari. Does the UN stand behind those?
Spokesperson: Yes, the UN stands behind the plan that Martti Ahtisaari presented to the Security Council, and that plan is, right now, as you know, in front of the Security Council.
Question: No, no, I am not asking about the plan, I am asking about quotes from Mr. Ahtisaari, very much saying, for example, that, if Russia voted in a certain way in the Security Council, it would weaken the UN. Is that a Secretariat comment?
Spokesperson: It is a comment by Mr. Ahtisaari, to be attributed to Mr. Ahtisaari.
Question: No, I want to ask you another question. About UNDP and the audit of North Korea, can you give us any update? I mean is it going to be either given to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) this week? Is Mr. Morrison going to come? Is there anything you can say on the timing and how information about it will be disseminated?
Spokesperson: At this point, we only know that it hasn’t reached the ACABQ yet. As soon as it reaches the ACABQ, we will have an answer for you.
Question: There are more and more reports coming from Lebanon, independent reports, saying that Saudi terrorists and other Arab terrorists [inaudible] have been financed by the Lebanese Government and by the Hariri group in Lebanon. Are you doing anything to investigate these allegations?
Spokesperson: No, we do not comment on these allegations and we are not doing any special investigations on that.
Question: But this is on the campaign against terrorism, and if we find someone who is financing and helping, isn’t that [inaudible] making some investigation about? Especially that many foreign reporters working in [inaudible] and have established that there is a link between these groups and the Hariri group and that they have been financed over many months.
Spokesperson: Well, the UN is not involved at this point.
Question: But isn’t that a part of the counter-terrorism campaign?
Spokesperson: Well, this is your comment. I am saying that the UN is not involved at this point.
Question: With regards the peacekeeping reform process. The ACABQ is meant to come out in the next couple of days, isn’t it?
Spokesperson: And then the report will go to the Fifth Committee.
Question: Right. Now, diplomats are saying that, short of some miracle, it is not going to happen during the current session of the Fifth Committee and may have to go to some special session, or extending the current session, or something like that. Is Mr. Ban preparing some kind of all out charm offensive or some big intervention to try to save this reform from driving itself in the sand?
Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General and his advisers are strongly engaged right now in making sure that the plan will be…
Question: Can you explain a little bit about precisely who’s doing what?
Spokesperson: At this point, I don’t have the details, but I can get them for you.
[The spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General’s senior advisers were strongly engaged on that front, meeting with key members and consulting broadly.]
Question: Because, according to the reports we are getting, there is no such major engagement, so it would be helpful to get some sense of what exactly is being done.
Spokesperson: Yes, I’ll let you know about this.
Question: The Foreign Minister of Egypt, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, has sent urgent messages to the foreign ministers of the Quartet, and presumably to the United Nations. Have you received such a letter?
Spokesperson: Not that I know of. Anyway, if it has been received by the Secretary-General, and if it is discussed at the Quartet meeting, we will let you know.
Okay, thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record