|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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. I will start with a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on President George Bush’s statement on the Middle East.
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesperson
“The Secretary-General welcomes the statement made by US President George W. Bush on the Middle East peace process. He is encouraged by the President’s renewed commitment to a two-State solution, entailing the creation of a viable and contiguous Palestinian State living side-by-side with a secure Israel. The Secretary-General also welcomes the President’s proposal for an international meeting this autumn. He looks forward to discussing these ideas with his partners in the Quartet in Lisbon on 19 July.” That’s this week.
**Secretary-General in Washington
As you know, the Secretary-General is in Washington, D.C., today, where he will meet shortly with President Bush. As he told you yesterday, he expects to discuss a range of issues, including Darfur, Iraq, the Middle East and climate change. We expect that he will speak to the press after that meeting.
This morning, the Secretary-General had his first meeting with World Bank President Robert Zoellick, with whom he discussed the importance of pursuing the Millennium Development Goals and of paying special attention to Africa. They also talked about Darfur and climate change.
He also met tête-à-tête with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They discussed the work of the Middle East Quartet; both of them will meet again two days from now in Lisbon for the next meeting of the Quartet’s principal members. And the Secretary-General had meetings with members of the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.
And here at UN Headquarters, the Security Council this morning heard a briefing on Afghanistan from Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi. Mr. Annabi discussed recent developments on the ground, as well as the Conference on Justice and the Rule of Law in Afghanistan that took place earlier this month in Rome, which the Secretary-General attended, as you know.
Council members then adopted a presidential statement, in which they welcomed recent international initiatives aimed at enhancing security, stability and development in Afghanistan. The Council reiterated its support for the continuing endeavours by the Afghan Government to further improve the security situation and to continue to address the threat posed by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist groups.
Meanwhile, the United Nations and Afghanistan’s provincial government staff in Bamyan Province joined forces today and donated $10,000 to buy land for a new maternity home, which will be annexed to Bamyan’s main hospital. This new facility will provide essential health care for expectant mothers in Bamyan, reducing the risk of both maternal and child mortality. The home is part of a wider project being implemented by UNICEF, which will see maternity homes being built in five of Afghanistan’s northern provinces. There are more details in a press release upstairs.
And turning to Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, arrived in Khartoum last night with his African Union counterpart, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, from Tripoli, Libya, where they had co-chaired the two-day International Meeting on Darfur.
The Meeting concluded with the adoption of a communiqué which reconfirmed the AU-UN leadership of the political process, in partnership with regional actors. The Tripoli Meeting also marked the conclusion of the first phase of the joint AU-UN road map for the Darfur political process and launched the second phase. The Meeting endorsed in this regard the proposal of the AU and UN Envoys to convene a meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, from 3 to 5 August, with leading personalities of the non-signatory movements, to facilitate the preparations for negotiations. The Meeting concluded that invitations for the new round of negotiations should be issued by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Secretary-General of the United Nations before the end of August 2007.
While in Sudan, Jan Eliasson will meet with senior Government officials in Khartoum; representatives of internally displaced persons and civil society groups; UN agencies and NGOs; as well as the local authorities in Darfur.
** Iraq Compact
And something the Secretary-General had mentioned to you at his press conference yesterday, which we just wanted to give you a heads-up on: on Friday, starting at 10 a.m. in Conference Room 4, there will be a meeting of the International Compact with Iraq, which will give the Government of Iraq an opportunity to present the Mid-Year Progress Report on the implementation of the Compact. That report is now scheduled to be released on Wednesday, 18 July. Member States are invited to participate at the level of permanent representative or above.
The Deputy Secretary-General will deliver the opening statement, and Ibrahim Gambari, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq and Other Political Issues, will also speak.
And on Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, today met with Shiite politician Amar Al-Hakim to convey his respects following the anniversary of the assassination of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer Al-Hakim. In the meeting, Qazi stressed that progress on the political track was an essential component for building security, reconstruction and reconciliation among communities.
Yesterday, Qazi condemned in the strongest terms the car bombings in Kirkuk earlier that day. He described the bombing, which killed and wounded more than 200 civilians, as a deplorable crime aimed at exacerbating tensions further in the city and the governorate. There is a press release from the UN Mission in Iraq with more details.
**OCHA - Humanitarian Appeal
And six months after the launch of the Humanitarian Appeal 2007, only a little more than 40 per cent of the funding requirements have been met. Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes presented the mid-year review of the consolidated appeal for response to the world’s most severe crises at the substantive session of Economic and Social Council meeting in Geneva. He noted that the $1.9 billion raised so far in 2007 marks an improvement over previous years. But funding continues to be delayed and poorly coordinated -- and there remains a $2.5 billion shortfall.
Holmes noted that appeals for programmes in Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo have received less than a third of the needed funding. He added that recovery-type humanitarian actions in regions emerging from conflict receive less money than any other sector -- 13 per cent, compared to 62 per cent for the food sector. We have more information upstairs, and there will be a briefing on this subject here, I am told, soon.
**WFP - Somalia
In Somalia, the World Food Programme (WFP) is calling for urgent contributions to avoid breaks in its supply line of food assistance. It says $19.5 million are required by the end of 2007 to feed 1 million people in the country. The WFP says the growing need for food assistance is due to expected crop failures in the coming months. According to revised estimates, a 50 per cent increase will be needed from October to May 2008, compared to what was planned for all of 2007. And there is a press release on that, as well.
And then, from time to time, we keep you updated on the ongoing issues regarding disciplinary matters relating to procurement. Yesterday, two procurement officers were charged following the investigations conducted by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and following testimony in the trial of former UN procurement officer Sanjaya Bahel. The two individuals have been suspended and placed on special leave with pay. The UN disciplinary process is ongoing. Until this process is over, however, no further comments can be made.
And there is a statement upstairs in response to questions that we had on legal proceedings in Bangladesh against the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Sigma Huda.
** Rome Statute
And to flag just two more things for you, this afternoon, Japan is scheduled to deposit an instrument of accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court at 4:30. By this act, Japan will become the 105th State to be bound by the Rome Statute. The Japanese accession will enter into force on 1 October 2007. A ceremony will take place in the Signature Room of the Office of Legal Affairs in S-3200.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
And tomorrow at 1:15 p.m., Les Malezer, Chairperson of the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, will brief you on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
And that’s what I have for you. Any questions for me?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I would like to use this opportunity to express my strongest disappointment with the way how yesterday’s press briefing was handled and how the Spokesperson picked and chose those correspondents who were waiting to ask the Secretary-General. Sitting at this very place in the second row, I was repeatedly bypassed and denied of my right to ask a question. It was especially unacceptable, because the Secretary-General was willing to talk and did talk about the issues that I am following closely. In the last couple of days, I have published several stories for the distinguished European media in Germany and Croatia. And I am very disappointed because of that, and I would like to stress that. Whatever politics or something else is behind that, it is unacceptable. I thank you very much, and for that very reason, I will leave today’s press briefing right now.
Deputy Spokesperson: Your point is noted.
Question: On the issue of whistle-blowers, what’s the policy if somebody turns out to be a genuine whistle-blower and has to deal with the US courts? What’s the policy of reimbursing whistle-blowers’ legal fees? Is there any set policy? Is this something that is applied case by case?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, there is the Secretary-General’s bulletin, as you know, that outlines all the measures taken for whistle-blower protection. I don’t know if that particular issue is addressed there, but if it’s not, we can certainly ask the Ethics Office for you.
Question: It’s not been addressed there, and I would like to know if there is specifics, or whether this is something that is decided.
Deputy Spokesperson: We’ll ask the Ethics Office for you.
Question: I wanted to ask something about Somalia, which didn’t come up yesterday. The Chairman of the Somali Parliament’s Committee on Information is quoted as saying that the UN Special Envoy [François Lonseny] Fall discouraged international and European representatives who were going to attend the reconciliation conference from going to Somalia on Friday. So I am wondering, what is the UN’s response to that. Do you acknowledge that some communication was made by Mr. Fall’s office to other envoys or has…? What is going on with that?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as you know, the Secretary-General issued a statement on Friday, encouraging the successful beginning of this national reconciliation conference. The Secretary-General stressed that this conference is the beginning of the process of rebuilding consensus in Somali society and he expressed the UN’s commitment, so I can’t imagine how his Special Representative would be discouraging anybody from attending such a conference.
Question: But did… Mr. Fall himself didn’t go. So I guess it is one of … I mean, this is a direct quote, maybe he is wrong, but he says, “this was unfortunate that the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General advised representatives of the international community not to participate in the opening ceremony”. Maybe he is wrong. So I guess, your response is that he is wrong.
Deputy Spokesperson: My understanding is that, given the Secretary-General’s stated encouragement of this process, his Special Representative would only try to promote the successful holding of the conference.
Question: Do you know when he is going to go?
Deputy Spokesperson: I understand that… we can confirm later, but that he will be there again on Thursday.
Question: One other thing that didn’t come up yesterday. The Secretary-General made a statement about how things are run, you know, and not to insult all UN staff and take quotes in the corridor. So I just wanted to ask one factual thing, if you could give us a list of people -- whether they be volunteers or not paid by the UN, or whether they be on staff or on sabbatical from missions to the UN, or foreign ministries of Member States -- that have access to the 38th Floor and are assisting in the work of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. He made a big point of saying -- in response to, I think, Mr. Abbadi’s question about his editorials -- saying, people have attacked me and sort of the composition of his team. I know that on Friday you put out a list, so I guess this is a formal request to know of the range of people that are described, who either work on the 38th Floor, or has routine access to the 38th Floor.
Deputy Spokesperson: As you yourself just mentioned, we announced the line-up of all the senior advisers of the Secretary-General on the 38th Floor and those of the advisers who are the closest and have the most access to the Secretary-General on the 38th Floor.
Question: So you are saying that the list… as I have heard, there is this thing called “the morning meeting”. Are these the individuals that attend it? [inaudible] I want to make sure that we have a complete picture.
Deputy Spokesperson: What you are asking is, who is the Secretary-General’s most senior advisers? We announced that on Friday, and we provided you with the list, their nationalities and their ranking. These are the staff members, who have open access to the 38th Floor, because most of them actually have offices on the 38th Floor. There are other people who see the Secretary-General and are senior advisers on an as-needed basis, as any other senior official in any other Government. And there is also the senior officials of the Secretariat and UN agencies, who, obviously, provide an important advisory role to the Secretary-General.
Question: The G-77 has written a letter to the Secretary-General, expressing deep concern over the abolition of the post of Special Adviser for Africa -- something that we have touched upon yesterday, also. But now I know they have written a letter, also expressing concern that UNCTAD’s Liaison Officer has been put under the charge of the High Representative of the Secretary-General on Least Developed Countries. And in the letter that has been sent, according to my understanding, the G-77 has told the Secretary-General that this is the prerogative of the UNGA to change any structure at all, especially the legislative mandate of this. And they also said that the UNGA should be taken into confidence for this [inaudible]. Has the Secretary-General received that letter and replied to it, as yet?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t know if the Secretary-General has seen the letter. I was told of the press report that you referred to. But, on that, I would have to refer you directly to the Secretary-General’s comments yesterday, in which he does outline, quite in detail, his thinking about how he intends to go about maximizing what this Organization can do for Africa. And I think he outlined that quite clearly. Specifically about how the African Group views this issue, I just wanted to draw your attention to the fact that the African Group, I am told, is meeting tomorrow on this issue. So I think we don’t have anything to say before they meet. In the meantime, the Secretary-General, the Deputy Secretary-General and the senior advisers are in constant close consultations with African and other Member States on this issue.
Question: The Secretary-General praised President Bush’s initiative, calling for an international conference on the Middle East. Even though we don’t know when or where it would take place, there are indications that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will chair this conference. This is a very important step in trying to bring stability to the Middle East. Because of that, would the Secretary-General consider changing the representation to this conference -- even though it is too early at this stage -- and appoint some new faces to attend this conference?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think you are way ahead of the curve here, Mr. Abbadi. I think this is the first reaction. President Bush’s announcement was made yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General welcomed the initiative, and he will be meeting with President Bush in half an hour. Let’s see if we find out more about what evolves there. But as the statement said and as I mentioned earlier, they will have an opportunity to speak in more detail on this when the Quartet meets in Lisbon on the 19th.
Question: It seems the Security Council ambassadors are saying that there is going to be a Kosovo resolution in blue soon. And it doesn’t appear that it is going to have Russia’s backing. I was just wondering about the Secretary-General’s position on that. What would he like the next steps to be, should this resolution fail to be passed?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think, for the moment, while the Security Council is still discussing this, I will refer you to the Secretary-General’s comments at the press conference, because he commented a number of times on this issue.
Question: I will just fall back to Masood’s question: the same press reports that say that the Secretary-General has, I guess, conveyed to the G-77 that to make the merger that he described yesterday, he has to go through the ACABQ? Is that true?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing further than what I just answered on this question.
Question: But he said yesterday -- and I guess, follow-up has been allowed -- he said that if you look at how the office has been managed during the last few years, there may be a better way to use the resources. Is it fair to read it as criticism of the management of either Legwaila or Gambari, who managed the office?
Deputy Spokesperson: I’ve said what I had to say on this subject.
Question: The latest reports indicate that the United States has expressed its willingness to have Iran… discuss with them the violence in Iraq. Does the Secretary-General support this effort?
Deputy Spokesperson: Specifically, I don’t know which exact initiative you are referring to, but the Secretary-General has welcomed and encouraged all regional participation in trying to bring stability, peace and reconstruction to Iraq.
There are no other questions for me? Have a good afternoon.
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For information media • not an official record