27 June 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

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 Ashraf Kamal, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


Good afternoon, all.


**Guest at Noon


The guests at the noon briefing today are Ann Erb Leoncavallo, Speechwriter in the Office of the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and Anika Rahman, President of Americans for UNFPA, who will launch the State of the World Population 2007 report.  Copies of the report are available right here in this room and upstairs at the documents counter.


**Senior Peacekeeping Official to Address Press


I will have a fuller note on the Security Council, but this is just to let you know that Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi will be speaking to you at the stakeout on Darfur following his briefing to the Council.  I’ll let you know when he is available there.


**Quartet Representative


Following discussions among the principals, today the Quartet dealing with the Middle East is announcing the appointment of Tony Blair as the Quartet representative.  Mr. Blair, who is stepping down from office this week, has long demonstrated his commitment on these issues.


As Quartet representative, he will: mobilize international assistance to the Palestinians, working closely with donors and existing coordination bodies; help to identify and secure appropriate international support in addressing the institutional governance needs of the Palestinian state, focusing as a matter of urgency on the rule of law; develop plans to promote Palestinian economic development, including private sector partnerships, building on previously agreed frameworks, especially concerning access and movement; and liaise with other countries as appropriate in support of the agreed Quartet objectives.


Tony Blair will be supported in this work by a small team of experts, based in Jerusalem, to be seconded by partner countries and institutions.


We have a full statement by the Quartet on the appointment.  It is available upstairs.


**Secretary-General’s Travels


The Secretary-General will be on the road again.  He is planning to travel to Europe starting this weekend.  His first stop is Geneva, where he is scheduled to open the High-Level Segment of the Economic and Social Council.


From Geneva, he is expected to travel to Italy, where he will attend in Rome the Conference on the Rule of Law in Afghanistan.  He is then back in Geneva for the Global Compact Leaders Summit.  An official visit to Portugal is to follow.


The next stop is Brussels, where he plans to attend the Global Forum on Migration and Development.  The last leg is an official visit to the United Kingdom.


The Secretary-General is expected to be back in New York on 12 July.


**Security Council


The Security Council this morning heard in closed consultations a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, concerning the timeline for the deployment of the UN-African Union hybrid force in Darfur.  He is also briefing on this week’s enlarged contact group meeting on Darfur.  Mr. Annabi has said he will speak to reporters at the Council stakeout once he is done with those consultations, as I announced earlier.


Also today, the Council will discuss the work of the sanctions committee dealing with Somalia.  The Secretary-General today is meeting with the Prime Minister of Somalia, Ali Mohamed Gedi.  The Prime Minister will brief you in this room tomorrow at 2:15 p.m.


** Lebanon Report


The Secretary-General yesterday afternoon transmitted to the Security Council the report of the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team, which he had established to deal with the monitoring of that country’s borders.


In a letter to the Council President, the Secretary-General said he fully supports the Border Assessment Team’s recommendations.  He will provide further substantive comments in his own report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006); that report is currently being finalized.


The Secretary-General commends the members of the team for their professional work and supports the recommendations they have made in their report.  It is clear that efforts are required from the Lebanese Government, with the support of the international community, to develop a more efficient system for border management in Lebanon. 


The Secretary-General also concurs with the recommendation that Syria should cooperate with the Lebanese authorities, noting that Syria has a shared responsibility in controlling its borders with Lebanon and in implementing resolution 1701 (2006).


** Sudan


On Sudan, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) says it has learned with shock and sadness of the passing early this morning of Presidential adviser Dr. Majzoub al-Khalifa.


UNMIS expresses its heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Majzoub al-Khalifa, who it says was one of the key interlocutors of the mission since its inception.


The mission, in a press release, said that he will be remembered as a tenacious negotiator and a high calibre statesman, and for his contribution to the peaceful resolution of the Darfur conflict through the Abuja peace process and subsequent negotiations in the context of the Addis Ababa conclusions of November last year.


We also have the notes from the weekly briefing by the UN Mission in Sudan, which notes a recent upsurge in carjacking, killings, abductions and rape in West Darfur.  That is upstairs.


**Peacebuilding Commission


The Secretary-General today addressed the conclusion of the first session of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, and he congratulated the Commission for its work, and its efforts to help the people of Burundi and Sierra Leone over the past year.


“I am proud to be associated with your first year, and your important achievements,” the Secretary-General said.  He asserted that the Peacebuilding Commission has a long and exciting future in front of it, and said that the entire UN system will continue to offer its full support.  We have his remarks upstairs.


** Central African Republic


Out today as a document is the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Central African Republic and the work of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in that country.  In it, he says that while the country’s economy has seen relative improvement, this year with new World Bank and IMF-backed (International Monetary Fund) poverty-reduction programmes, widespread highway banditry and rebel activities are damaging the prospects for improvement in security and humanitarian conditions.


In the northern parts of the country, where security is most volatile, UN agencies have intensified the protection of the internally displaced and distribution of emergency supplies.  UN agencies have also carried out the voluntary repatriation of close to 10,000 Sudanese refugees and are poised to do the same for Congolese refugees.


Among his recommendations to the Republic’s leadership, the Secretary-General calls for an inclusive political dialogue, pledging UN support to such a dialogue.  He also condemns the continued attacks on humanitarian workers and welcomed the decision of the Heads of State of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community to extend the mandate of its multinational force, deployed there until 31 December.  The African Union and European Union should continue to provide political and financial support to the Force.


**Timor-Leste


The official campaign period for Timor Leste’s parliamentary elections is ending today and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in that country has welcomed its largely peaceful conduct.  Atul Khare said, in a statement available upstairs, that local political parties have acted in the spirit of the Political Party Accord and Code of Conduct signed last month when they made their case to Timorese voters, without resorting to violence or inflammatory language.


The actual voting is expected to take place on Saturday.


**Bird Flu


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that response to avian influenza has significantly improved.  It noted that -- in the last six months -- the deadly H5N1 virus was introduced in some 15 countries, but was rapidly detected and controlled.


The UN Agency, however, warns against complacency.  It stresses that recent outbreaks are a clear reminder that the virus still succeeds in spreading to new countries and that there are still serious concerns with the situations in Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria.  We have a press release on that upstairs.


**UNESCO World Heritage Sites


Three new sites have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list.  The World Heritage Committee –- which is meeting this week in New Zealand -- has decided to inscribe the Atsinanana rainforests in Madagascar for their role in maintaining the country’s biodiversity and protecting the threatened species they support.  Also added to the list are the South China Atsinanana rainforests and Lava Tubes in the Republic of Korea.


You can get details on the sites in a press release from UNESCO available upstairs.


**Press Conference


At 1:30 p.m. today, Carolyn McAskie, Assistant Secretary-General of the Peacebuilding Support Office; Ambassador Gaspar Martins of Angola, outgoing chair of the Peacebuilding Commission; Ambassador Johan Løvald of Norway, Vice-Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission; and the Commission’s incoming chair, will brief you on the first year of the work of the Peacebuilding Commission, as well as provide a look ahead at the Commission’s next steps and challenges.  Copies of the Commission’s report are available in this room.


**Background Briefing Tomorrow


Tomorrow at 11 a.m. in Room 226, there will be a background briefing by UN officials on the Millennium Development Goals Report 2007, to be launched by the Secretary-General on Monday, 2 July, at the high-level segment of ECOSOC in Geneva.


The report presents the latest assessment of progress towards the Goals at the halfway mark to the 2015 deadline, based on statistics from over 20 organizations from within and outside the UN system, including the World Bank and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).


Please note that the background briefing will be embargoed until 2 July, 12 a.m. local time.


**Press Conference Tomorrow


And then our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Anwarul Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, who will launch the Climate Change Report 2007.  Embargoed copies of the report will be available upstairs later today.


This is all I have for you, and in a few minutes we will have Ashraf briefing you.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yesterday at the commemoration of [the Sufi poet] Rumi, the Secretary-General, speaking about the Alliance of Civilizations, said that this was the successor to the Dialogue among Civilizations.  Can we assume that the Dialogue among Civilizations has ceased to exist? 


Spokesperson:  Well, one is a continuation of the other, yes.  I hope that the dialogue is still alive.  It is part of the Alliance.


Question:  But, the Dialogue among Civilizations as a process -- as it has existed –- has it now been replaced by the Alliance of Civilizations?


Spokesperson:  Well, formally, I will check for you, but, obviously it is one line… the same initiative.


[The Spokesperson referred back to the Secretary-General’s comments.]


Question:  I was wondering if there was an update on the 1701 report on Lebanon, and also whether the Secretary-General has any reaction to the new round of Israeli attacks in Gaza today, in which 13 people were killed?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have any reaction on today’s events.  On the 1701 report, as I said earlier, that report is being worked on. It is not ready yet.


Question:  Is it expected today?


Spokesperson:  No. I don’t believe so.


Question:  In the past week in Afghanistan there have been various incidents in which the Coalition force, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) forces and American forces have killed civilians, time and again.  Once in a while, the United Nations issues a statement, but this is a pattern emerging this time.  Coalition forces and NATO forces are there and they have attacked and killed civilians, students and children, and then they say that they are going to investigate, and nothing comes up.  Has the United Nations decided to do an investigation of its own into these killings?  


Spokesperson:  Not that I know of.  But I can tell you that there is great concern about the recent events in Afghanistan.  You have a follow-up?


Question:  Yes.  Is the Secretary-General cognizant of the situation?  Is he going to call for a special investigation?  [ Afghanistan President Hamid] Karzai has condemned it.  In Pakistan, [President Pervez] Musharraf has condemned it, and on and on, yet nobody seems to take notice because there’s something going on in Lebanon and everywhere else… this… in Afghanistan is getting out of hand.


Spokesperson:  As you know, the Secretary-General is attending the conference that is going to take place in Rome about the rule of law in Afghanistan, and I’m sure this subject will be discussed there.


Question:  Is there any Secretary-General reaction to these 10 Palestinians killed by the Israelis today in Gaza?


Spokesperson:  No.  I just answered that.  We do not have a reaction on the recent events.  I just answered that.


Question:  Do you know if Michael Williams, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Middle East, was disappointed that the Security Council did not express its support for [Palestinian President] Abbas and the new emergency Government?  Do they have a statement on that?


Spokesperson:  No they don’t.  They don’t have a statement on that and a I haven’t spoken to Michael Williams, so I don’t know whether there is a reaction.


Question:  Do you think that it would be helpful to have that for the Secretary-General?


Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll ask for you.


Question:  The location of Mr. Blair’s office in Jerusalem -- has this been discussed with the United Nations before establishing that, because this is a disputed area?  It’s still disputed…


Spokesperson:  What I read to you was a joint statement by the Quartet members.  The UN is a part of the Quartet.


Question:  But did Mr. Ban Ki-moon raise the issue that this is disputed land and that it is probably very sensitive to be based in Jerusalem?


Spokesperson:  I don’t know whether he has raised the issue or not.  I said this is a consensus statement.


Question:  On the peacekeeper deaths in Lebanon: Spain has said that their vehicles there don’t have frequency inhibitors that can stop an IED [improvised explosive device] from going off… I guess they said that that they used them in Afghanistan, but they weren’t in use in Lebanon and they named other countries that are not using them in Lebanon… so the question is, why weren’t they in use in Lebanon and, are they now going to be put in?  What role does UNIFIL or the UN play in what protections are in place?


Spokesperson:  Well, actually, all the equipment used by the contingent is national in origin; that is, the UN does not provide it.  This is the first time in more than 20 years that UNIFIL has faced this kind of terrorist attack.  And I have to add that the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations is constantly engaged with troop contributing countries in discussions on a range of issues such as the rules of engagement and the equipment being used.  But like I said, it is a national issue.


Question:  Is that correct that you said that it’s the first time in 20 years?  Not even the war with Israel?


Spokesperson:  Yes.  That they were targeted [by terrorist].


Correspondent:  They were targeted.  I mean, when four officers close by were killed in this recent incident, they were targeted by Israeli airplanes.


Spokesperson:  Well, I think this is one case where our investigation led to the conclusion that they were targeted.


Question:  I missed the statement of the Quartet, but what’s the Secretary-General’s reaction to reports in the press that some people felt that Mr. Blair is not the right man for the job because of his own record on the Iraq war and the fact that he didn’t manage to do anything when he was in office, so why should he be successful at this?


Spokesperson:  Well, the reaction of the Secretary-General is contained in the statement that I just read.


Question:  I’m sorry, he thinks he could be useful?  He doesn’t have a position about the shortcomings of Mr. Blair?


Spokesperson:  His position is in that statement.


Question:  From what you have read regarding Mr. Blair’s position, it seems, on the surface, that he will be dealing with technical questions; institutions, financial and economic assistance, gathering international support.  Will he be dealing with political questions?


Spokesperson:  Well, you have the full explanation of what his role will be in the statement upstairs.  I read only parts of it, but you have a very long statement concerning exactly what his attributions will be.


Question:  A general question on the Quartet.  As the UN is a member of the Quartet, the Secretary-General always appears together with the Foreign Ministers.  But who does he report back to here at the UN?  Before he goes to a Quartet meeting, who does he consult with -- the General Assembly?  The Security Council? –- to know what the UN position is, or what he is to say there?  Who does he report back to?


Spokesperson:  He has made a point to always report to both the General Assembly and the Security Council on the different Quartet decisions.  But the UN Secretary-General is the one who is one of the principals.


Question:  But who does he consult with before going to a meeting on what position the UN should take?


Spokesperson:  Well, there is a full Secretariat that takes account of Middle East issues.  He has a Special Envoy.  But if you mean by this does he have to consult the Security Council or the General Assembly beforehand, no.


Question:  So he doesn’t consult Member States?


Spokesperson:  No.


Question: Yesterday, the Secretary-General issued a statement of concern about the storms and flood conditions in India and Pakistan.  Do you see the United Nations helping out both these countries again?


Spokesperson:  Well, as I said yesterday, we offered our help.  And we will give it whenever the two countries ask for it.


Question:   India in the past has not asked for it, but Pakistan has, in the case of earthquakes and a tsunami.  So if any country asked for it, you would give them the help?


Spokesperson:  Any country who asks for it, yes.


Question:  You have a press release upstairs from United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) about some retractions… they asked for and got from some newspapers in Sudan about alleged but disproved sexual abuse.  It’s very detailed… it made me wonder about… I guess it was last week or the week before in Liberia there were these allegations that peacekeepers had beaten up journalists and they said they would look into it.  Have they come out with a finding one way or another on that?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have the results of that investigation yet.


Question:  But when they do it, they’ll make it available to…?


Spokesperson:  Yes, yes.


[An update of the UNMIS investigation was later provided.]


Question:  And also, there were these two MONUC ones -– one had to do with gold and guns, and then there was the other more recent… each of those when the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) is done, they will announce it here?


Spokesperson:  Yes.


Question:  Still on the appointment of Mr. Blair: Is his appointment for a particular period of time or is it open-ended?  Will he be receiving a salary?  How much?  Where will the salary come from?


Spokesperson:  I think all those questions can be answered in the press release that is available upstairs.


Correspondent:  No. It does not answer that. It doesn’t say whether he is going to get a salary or not.


Spokesperson:  It doesn’t answer these...?


Correspondent:  No it does not.


Spokesperson:  In that case, I will ask for you.


[The Spokesperson later said that those issues were to be decided by the Quartet.]


Question:  About the attack on the Spanish battalion in south Lebanon.  There were some press reports today in Lebanon saying that the SLA people [carried out] that attack.  The SLA is the South Lebanese Army, which was the surrogate army of Israel.  Are you investigating or looking into that?


Spokesperson:  UNIFIL is investigating and the Spaniards are investigating.


Question:  I mean… this likelihood that they were the…


Spokesperson:  They are investigating the whole incident.


Question:  When you will be making an announcement on any new appointments in the Secretary-General’s office, which have been expected for…


Spokesperson:  Yes, you’re right.  I think we are expecting them anytime soon.


Question:  Given that the Secretary-General is trying to re-start yet again the Cyprus talks, is he concerned about the revelation today in just-released CIA documents that Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State had pushed Turkey to invade Cyprus and the United States-supported Ankara?  This is now an official US doctrine.  That could complicate matters, since we’re still dealing with the Turkish invasion… the results of that.


Spokesperson:  Well, we don’t have any comments on this at this point.


Question:  The Secretary-General met this morning, I guess, with the Ambassador of Myanmar.  Do we have any idea what was discussed?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have a readout yet, but I’ll get one for you.  Yes Ashraf.  Would you like to come up, please?


Question:  On Somalia, the Prime Minister, I think is meeting the Secretary-General today.  Could we have him at the stakeout or something, maybe?


Spokesperson:  He is coming tomorrow.  I announced it.  He is going to give a briefing tomorrow.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Good afternoon.


**Peacekeeping Reform


The Fifth Committee is scheduled to meet this afternoon to take action on a number of draft resolutions on peacekeeping; among them, one on the Secretary-General’s proposals for strengthening the Organization’s capacity to manage and sustain peacekeeping operations (document A/C.5/61/L.71), otherwise known as the “restructuring of DPKO” euphemistically.


By this draft resolution, the Assembly would establish a Department of Field Support, as well as a post of Under-Secretary-General to head the new Department.  The resolution would also approve support account requirements in the amount of $230,509,900 for the period 1 July 2007-30 June 2008, including 819 continuing and 284 new temporary posts and their related post and non-post requirements.


Because I am sure I’m going to get a lot of questions once they approve the resolution, I’m going to read to you paragraph 58, which was the one that took a long time to work out.  And once this paragraph is adopted in the resolution, the Controller is going to be in the meeting to read a statement, which would explain the Secretariat’s understanding of what this paragraph means.


The paragraph basically says that the Assembly decides to establish the post of Under-Secretary-General for Field Support until 30 June 2008, and that’s the part that the Controller is going to explain. 


Although the post is going to be established for one year in the resolution, the rest of the paragraph says “under the assumption of its continuation, subject to a preliminary review at the second part of its resumed sixty-second session and a comprehensive review at the second part of its resumed sixty-third session that will address, inter alia, the continuation of the post and its level, functions, interaction with other heads of department, relevance, operational efficiency and effectiveness and, taking into account the functions of the Department of Field Support, the necessity to ensure the unity of command, integration of efforts and strengthening of operational capacity at Headquarters and in the field”.


Now if I have not confused you enough by this, the Controller is going to say that it’s the understanding of the Secretariat that the post is going to continue for two years.  And, that is very necessary in order for the Secretariat to be able to fund that post.


It’s a rather long resolution.  It’s about 67 paragraphs, but its very interesting reading.  I recommend it immensely.


Question:  You want us to read it? 


Spokesperson:  Yes, over the weekend, or if you have insomnia.


**Security Council Reform


The Assembly President circulated yesterday evening to Member States the report submitted to her by Ambassadors Heraldo Munoz and Christian Wenawaser of Chile and Liechtenstein, respectively, on the extensive consultations they held over the past month with Member States on Security Council reform.


According to the report, a large number of Member States have expressed the view that the President of the General Assembly has established favourable conditions to advance towards a process of negotiations among Member States, and that, instead of further consultations, the next stage should consist of negotiations.  The report emphasizes that an agreement on an intergovernmental negotiating process may be the only way to move forward on this issue. 


I’m now quoting:  “The consultations have reaffirmed that at this stage of the process, the positions of the major interest groups from the past are unlikely to be fully realized… and at present, there is considerable interest in and openness to the transitional or intermediary approach,” according to the report.


“The intermediary approach entails the creation of a category of membership not currently provided for under the Charter,” the report adds, and “within an intermediary approach … a review must be mandatory and take place after a specified number of years following the entry into force of Charter amendments related to Security Council reform.”


The President concurs with the view that, in order to move the process forward, the next stage should consist of intergovernmental negotiations, and she will convene an informal open-ended meeting on 19 July.


We have circulated the report, and more copies are also available upstairs.


**Peacebuilding Commission


The President also addressed this morning the final meeting of the first year of the Peacebuilding Commission, and said that: “Over the past year, the Commission has undertaken its sensitive tasks with seriousness and perseverance.  It has firmly established itself as an important new intergovernmental body with a membership that reflects key UN bodies and stakeholders.”


**Rumi


And last but not least, she addressed last night a special event celebrating the eight-hundredth anniversary of Rumi’s birth.  The event was organized by the Permanent Missionsof Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan.  And part of her statement said that:  “The Sufi culture founded by Rumi liberates religion from rigid readings; it encourages thinking especially at a time when Islam is synonymous, for some, with extremism and terrorism; and, when rising suspicion among peoples of all cultures and religions is the name of the days.”


Any questions?


Question: On this Security Council report asking to go for negotiations straightaway, could you ask the Ambassadors who authored the report to give us a briefing..?


Spokesperson: You mean Liechtenstein and Chile?


Question: Yes.  Could they give us a briefing -- especially since they are saying that there is a basis for negotiations already.


Spokesperson: Well, if you are asking me to ask them if they will give a briefing, I could. But I doubt very much that they would say anything more than you could see in the report, so read the report.


Question:  Okay, well, my question to them -– or you -– is did they find enough grounds for them to call for negotiations immediately?


Spokesperson:  What they are saying is that there is very strong support for the intermediary approach.  They must have based themselves on what they have heard from Member States.  Now it’s up to Member States to decide whether they want to proceed to negotiations or not.


Question: Back to DPKO.  Two things: Can you say whether, in these 67 paragraphs, the proposal to move procurement to the Department of Field Support--is in, or did it drop out during the negotiations?


Spokesperson: No.  It was not moved.


Question:  So it’s not in?


Spokesperson:  No, actually there is a paragraph on establishing a Chief of Procurement at a D-1 level, but it’s in Central Support Services (in the Department of Management); it’s not in DFS (Department of Field Support).


Question:  And do you know when that draft… I mean, can you say anything about…


Spokesperson: No.


Question:  And on the USG: Can you characterize the status of discussions of who it might be, or what country this person might come from?


Spokesperson:  No, no there was nothing about that.


Comment:  Well, you were right. It’s more confusing than ever, what you have read regarding the reform of DPKO.


Spokesperson:  I do my best.


Question:  On Security Council reform.  The President intends to gather an intergovernmental meeting, but the open-ended working group is an intergovernmental meeting.  What is happening to that body?


Spokesperson:  I don’t understand.


Question:  She wants to have an intergovernmental meeting…


Spokesperson:  Yes.  It’s the same group.  It’s the open-ended intergovernmental group, which is basically all Member States.


Question:  So it’s no other group?


Spokesperson: No.  No.  We have enough trouble with one, God knows.  Okay? Thank you so much.


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