|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.
**Guest at Noon
Our guest at the noon briefing today is David Shearer, Head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, who will be briefing you on the situation in the Gaza and the West Bank.
The Deputy Secretary-General will be travelling to Africa and Europe starting this weekend. She plans to represent the Secretary-General at the African Union summit in Accra, Ghana, in early July.
Prior to her participation at the AU summit, she will make an official visit to Austria. While in Vienna, she will address the opening ceremony of the “Seventh Global Forum on Reinventing Government”, hosted by the United Nations.
From Vienna, she is scheduled to go to Guinea-Bissau, in what will be the first ever official visit of a Secretary-General or Deputy Secretary-General since that country joined the Organization in 1974. The purpose of the visit is to reaffirm UN support for the country’s ongoing efforts to consolidate peace, national reconciliation and constitutional governance.
Then, at the AU summit in Accra, the Deputy Secretary-General will address the opening session and hold a number of bilateral meetings.
The last leg of her trip will be Nairobi, where she will address the opening ceremony of the “International Women’s Summit on Women’s Leadership on HIV and AIDS”. She will also meet with Kenyan Government officials and civil society organizations.
The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) continues to report attacks on humanitarian convoys being operated by international NGOs in Darfur.
Meanwhile, the Mission also reports that Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, has concluded today a two-day visit to the capitals of the three Darfur States, Nyala, El Geneina, and El Fasher.
During the visit, he met with UN staff to brief them on the recent agreement on the deployment of a hybrid operation in Darfur, as well as the need to streamline existing UNMIS activities in Darfur and the coordination of UN support to the African Union Mission in Sudan in preparation for the hybrid operation.
He also met with the local government officials of the three Darfur states, and discussed with them the security and humanitarian situation. In addition, he met with AU counterparts in Darfur and discussed with them the AU-UN partnership in reviving the Darfur political process and in implementing the UN support packages and the hybrid operation.
The Security Council today held an open meeting to hear a briefing on the sanctions affecting Iran under resolution 1737 (2006). That briefing was delivered by the chair of the Council’s sanctions committee, Ambassador Johan Verbeke of Belgium.
After the meeting ended, Ambassador Verbeke, who is also the Council President this month, read out a statement saying that Council members welcomed the 17 June talks in Dar es Salaam between the President of Burundi and the leader of the Forces Nationales de Libération (Palipehutu-FNL), and the agreement reached during those talks.
The resumption of the dialogue represents a major milestone on the way to peace consolidation in Burundi, he added.
The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, established to help countries recovering from war avoid a relapse into violence and chaos, yesterday endorsed the framework to engage Burundi, the UN and other international partners to work together to consolidate peace in the African country.
In a statement by its Vice Chair, which we have upstairs, the Commission reiterated its determination to provide unflagging support to Burundi in the consolidation of peace, to secure a future that is free from fear and from want.
**Human Rights Council
Turning to Geneva, the Human Rights Council is expected to resume its organizational meeting tomorrow under its new President, Doru Romulus Costea of Romania. As you know, earlier this week, the Council wrapped up its fifth session with an agreement on its working methods.
In a statement we put out yesterday, the Secretary-General welcomed the Council’s establishment of a strong and meaningful Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which he said holds great promise for opening a new chapter in human rights promotion. He expressed disappointment, however, at the Council’s decision to single out only one specific regional item, given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world. We have copies of his statement upstairs.
Tonight, the Secretary-General will attend the opening of a photo exhibition marking the tenth anniversary of the signing of the General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord in Tajikistan. The Secretary-General is expected to highlight the UN’s role in restoring peace and stability in the country. He is also expected to congratulate the Tajik people on rebuilding their country in the last 10 years. This event will take place at 5:40 p.m. in the Secretariat Lobby.
And this is all I have for you today.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I have a couple of questions. The first one is, regarding the Western Sahara talks that were in Manhasset, was Under-Secretary-General Pascoe there only the first day or was he there the second day as well?
Spokesperson: Only the first day.
Question: He was. OK. And the second thing is, you read out yesterday that the Secretary-General will report to the Security Council before the end of the month on the status and progress of the negotiations. Is he going to brief the Council himself or will it be a report? Do you know?
Spokesperson: I don’t know yet, I don’t know yet, but probably his Special Envoy will be doing it… (talk over) Security Council.
Question: OK. I know a communiqué was issued by his Special Envoy, but does the Secretary-General have any comments about how the talks went over the past few days?
Spokesperson: No, not at this point. As you know, you saw the communiqué. The talks really were about meeting and about planning to go on with the talks. So I think that was the important part of it. There is no Secretary-General reaction on something that is at the very beginning of the process.
Question: [Inaudible] former US President Carter in Dublin, the day before yesterday, had commented on these recent events in the occupied territories, wherein he said, he observed that the disenfranchisement of Hamas, which won the election legitimately, and coupled with Mr. de Soto’s report, which said that, at this point in time, the Palestinians are being treated unfairly. What does the Secretary-General believe, that the violence in the Occupied Territory will recede, especially when a person like President Carter, who is responsible for bringing peace between Israel and Egypt, makes such a bold, such a statement?
Spokesperson: Well, I cannot comment on Mr. Carter’s statement, as you can imagine, I can only tell you that the Secretary-General has expressed his concern about the situation extensively in the last four or five days. He’s constantly on the phone with actors in the region and with members or principals of the Quartet on what to do and how the situation is evolving. So this is a matter of concern. This is a matter of continued consultations. So that’s all I really can tell you.
Question: [Inaudible] saying that Hamas, which was basically legitimately elected, maybe it has not recognized Israel, but if you totally sideline it, it will not bring about peace in the region, no matter what you do.
Spokesperson: Well it is an opinion which we listen to.
Question: Sorry, Michèle, for going back to the Western Sahara issue, I mean, can we at least get a briefing from Mr. van Walsum, which you said you would look into…?
Spokesperson: No, at this point, I don’t think so.
Question: Do you know where the talks are heading? And then also, this was probably a UN-sponsored event, as you know, I was among the people stranded on the front for two days, and I was just wondering if you could provide us with better conditions in case the talks are held again.
Spokesperson: Well, we have asked that, and they are taking this into consideration of making it… [talk over]
Correspondent: …entry inside the building, instead of being left on the sidewalk. You know, it’s not a top secret issue and we’re looking just for…
Spokesperson: Well, it’s a sensitive issue, because they are at the beginning of negotiations, and difficult ones, as you can imagine. So we have asked them to create a more, let’s say “media friendly” atmosphere next time, and we’ll try. We’ll try.
Question: When was the last time Secretary-General Ban talked to Prime Minister Blair?
Spokesperson: Last time he talked to Mr. Blair. I cannot recall recent calls.
Question: Is he in favour of Blair becoming a central player in the Quartet?
Spokesperson: Well, I have to say that the issue was raised with the Secretary-General during different conversations with some Quartet principals. The issue is still under discussion.
Question: So it was raised by the US, is that fair to say?
Question: In the Administration or in his meetings yesterday with congressional leaders?
Spokesperson: No, not with congressional leaders. He had a phone call this morning with Secretary Rice. This is something being discussed that will be decided by the Quartet principals.
Any other questions? Yes?
Question: On the Secretary-General’s trip to D.C. Can you say, did topics other than peacekeeping and raising the US contribution come up? For example, did this General Assembly report on the accountability of transparency in UN agencies, did that arise? UNDP, North Korea? Can you give us…?
Spokesperson: No, it was mostly… what was discussed was what I told you. They discussed Darfur. They discussed Kosovo. They discussed UN reforms extensively. They discussed US-UN relationships, and the purpose of the trip was to reinforce, let’s say, the relationship with different members of Congress and build that relationship.
Question: There’s a press release from UNMIL about the alleged roughing up of journalists in Liberia. It says something like, it’s true that Liberians are guaranteed rights, the rights of other people, citizens, must not be infringed on. Can you somehow elaborate what… it seems like the allegation is that UNMIL troops forced journalists to delete photos from their camera. So it’s hard to understand what this paragraph is referring to.
Spokesperson: Well, this paragraph -– you read it -– it’s UNMIL’s reaction to it. They acknowledged that the incidents took place, but they are saying what you’re reading.
Spokesperson: I have nothing to elaborate on this.
Question: [talk over] referring to. Were the journalists somehow, did…?
Spokesperson: The allegations were that the journalists had been beaten up by the forces that were there -- UNMIL forces, UNMIL troops.
Question: They’re referring to, when they say “infringing” rights, they’re referring to themselves? They are no forces, not to the journalists.
Correspondent: OK. No problem.
Spokesperson: Well, [inaudible] other peaceful citizens. Because there were also clashes that occurred. OK?
Mr. Shearer. Thank you for being here. Please come here.
* *** *For information media • not an official record