20 July 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

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.


**Guests at Noon


Our guests at noon are Serge Male, UNHCR Representative in Chad, and Chris Ache, UNHCR Representative in the Sudan, who will brief you today on the situation of refugees in eastern Chad and Darfur, as well as provide updates on humanitarian development and challenges in that region.


** Iraq Compact


Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro this morning opened the meeting taking place in Conference Room 4 to review the progress by the Iraqi Government regarding its commitments under the International Compact with Iraq.


She said that the report on Iraq’s progress demonstrates the commitment of the Government of Iraq to the agenda of the Compact and provides a good record of achievements over the past 12 months. The security situation remains the most significant determining factor in the implementation of the Compact, she said, adding that, given the context of relentless violence in Iraq, the progress achieved thus far is remarkable.  We have her remarks upstairs.


Special Representative for Iraq Ashraf Qazi noted that the Government had initiated the great majority of its actions that are obligated under the Compact, although it will take time for them to have their full impact and for this to be visible.  We have more details on today’s event upstairs.


Ibrahim Gambari, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq and Other Political Issues, will talk to you when the meeting wraps up around 1 p.m., along with the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, Sinan Al-Shibibi.


**Secretary-General’s Statement on Democratic Republic of Congo


We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General on the situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.


The Secretary-General is deeply concerned at the deteriorating security situation in the South and North Kivu provinces in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He is particularly troubled by the dire humanitarian consequences, which include internal displacement of some 700,000 persons in the region.


The Secretary-General calls on all key actors to undertake political measures to resolve the crisis, including through the implementation of a comprehensive strategy aimed at ensuring the extension of State authority and the promotion of reconciliation, recovery and development in North and South Kivu.  The Secretary-General urges the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and all concerned to pursue an inclusive dialogue in the Kivus.


The Secretary-General calls on regional and international partners to support efforts to ease tensions in the area.  He encourages the Governments of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda to fully cooperate in addressing the root causes of instability in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the broader region.


We have the statement upstairs in French and English.


**ONUCI


Another statement attributable to the Spokesperson on suspensions of UNOCI contingent.


An internal investigation by the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) has revealed serious allegations of wide-spread sexual exploitation and abuse by a UN military contingent serving in Bouake, Côte d’Ivoire.  A full investigation by OIOS is under way, but due to the serious nature of the allegations, the United Nations has taken the decision to suspend all activities of the contingent and has cantoned the unit within its base.  The United Nations reiterates its zero-tolerance policy towards sexual exploitation and abuse, and stresses its determination to work with our troop- and police-contributing countries to ensure that all UN personnel are held accountable to the highest standards of behaviour.


[This was later issued as a press release from DPKO, not as a Secretary-General statement.]


**Security Council


The Security Council has met this morning and begun consultations to discuss the revised draft resolution concerning Kosovo.  


**Quartet


On the Quartet, the Secretary-General, yesterday evening in Lisbon, met with the other principal members of the Quartet for the Middle East and with newly appointed Quartet representative Tony Blair and, in a press conference afterward, he read out a joint statement on their behalf.  In that statement, the Quartet welcomed President Bush’s 16 July statement renewing US commitment to a negotiated two-State solution, and supported his call for an international meeting in the fall.  The Quartet looks forward to consultations as the meeting is prepared.


The joint statement also said that the Quartet expressed its deep concern over the humanitarian conditions in Gaza and agreed on the importance of continued emergency and humanitarian assistance.  We have the full statement upstairs.


The Secretary-General is on his way back to New York.


** Sudan


The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it had received reports from human rights officers in the Sudan of a marked deterioration in the situation in a village called Bir Dagig in West Darfur.  A number of human rights abuses were said to have been committed in the village, mostly by armed men in military uniform, since 1 July, including abuses, particularly against women and girls.  The Government had initially deployed extra police to the village, only to withdraw them completely in April 2007.


The High Commissioner’s Office said there was concern that this was symptomatic of the inability or unwillingness of the Sudanese Government to protect civilians.  In two visits to the village since 1 July, UN human rights officers had documented forced abductions, beatings and acts of gender-based violence.  Just Wednesday, UN personnel had been on the ground in Bir Dagig, but had had to withdraw due to insecurity in the village.  The High Commissioner urged the Government of Sudan to act immediately on pledges it had made to re-establish a permanent police presence in Bir Dagig and to provide effective protection to the civilians.  She also urged the Government to fulfill its responsibility and its stated commitment to investigate complaints of livestock theft and human rights abuses and to bring to justice in fair trials perpetrators of human rights abuses in Bir Dagig.


On the peacekeeping front, in following up on a meeting the Secretary-General had last Friday with African Union Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré, the UN and AU will be holding consultations in Addis Ababa next week (30 July-2 August) to finalize joint deployment plans, accountability structures and personnel generation for the hybrid operation.


The Secretary-General, meanwhile, has officially welcomed the constructive outcome of the broadly attended meeting in Tripoli aimed at paving the way for comprehensive political negotiations.  The Secretary-General said he was determined to move forward expeditiously with the implementation of the road map for the political process in Darfur, and strongly called on all parties to engage in good faith in forthcoming political negotiations in order to achieve lasting peace and bring this terrible tragedy to an end.


**Ethiopia-Eritrea


The Secretary-General’s latest report on Ethiopia and Eritrea is out on the racks today.  In it, he says that the military situation in the Temporary Security Zone between the two countries remains tense and potentially unstable, with Eritrea maintaining some 400 troops in the Zone and expanding restrictions on the movement of UN peacekeepers within it.   Ethiopia, for its part, has deployed troops along the border, and conducted military training exercises in an area including the surroundings of the disputed village of Badme.  The Secretary-General also notes, with regrets, that no progress has been made in the implementation of the decision of the Boundary Commission.


In conclusion, he appeals to both countries to live up to the various agreements signed between them to end the armed conflict and to implement the decision of the Boundary Commission.  He urges Eritrea to withdraw its troops from the Temporary Security Zone and lift restrictions on UN peacekeepers.  The Secretary-General also recommends an extension of the mandate of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea for an additional 6 months, until January 2008.


** Somalia


Turning to Somalia, the UN refugee agency reports that, this week, for the first time since June, more people left Mogadishu than returned back to the city.  Over 10,000 people fled the city due to ongoing insecurity and sporadic violence.


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also says the restrictions on daily activities for most of the Mogadishu population had severe impact on the livelihoods of the vulnerable population.  OCHA also says that, with the start of the National Reconciliation Conference, the security situation deteriorated.


**Economic and Social Council


The Economic and Social Council this morning in Geneva began consideration of its agenda item on coordination, programme and other questions, under which it reviewed reports of its coordination bodies and reports of the Ad Hoc Advisory Groups on Haiti and Guinea-Bissau.  On Haiti, delegates said there were emergencies in Haiti -- administration, drinking water, unemployment, the lack of infrastructure, among others -- and remedying these would bring Haiti into the situation of other countries in the region where it could benefit from the tourism potential.  The gains that Haiti had made within the past years were modest, but heartening, and it was crucial that impetus towards greater achievement was not slowed.   Haiti’s partners would, in the future, have to make additional efforts to remedy the situation -- there was an urgent need for intervention by the international community.


On Guinea-Bissau, delegates said that the Government continued to face many daunting socio-economic problems, which were summarized in the report.  The challenges experienced by Guinea-Bissau in consolidating the gains made in its post-conflict transition required the full engagement of both the regional and international communities.  The report noted that the challenges faced by Guinea-Bissau should be addressed on an urgent basis to avoid violent conflict.


** Burundi


We also have a humanitarian update on Burundi.  In the last week, 840 Burundian refugees have returned from Tanzania, marking the first repatriation since the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) announced a cash grant programme to promote these returns.  In light of these returns, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says additional homes must be built.  OCHA, along with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is currently working with Government and non-governmental agencies to form a commission on the repatriation and reintegration of Burundian returnees.


** Nepal


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Nepal, Ian Martin, met today with the Maoist Chairman, Prachanda, and they reached agreement to prepare to resume the second stage of registration and verification of Maoist army personnel as soon as possible.  Military representatives will now meet to exchange views on lessons learned from the verification at the first cantonment site in Ilam, and to consider the basis for a possible review of disputed cases.


Also, the Secretary-General has submitted the first report of the UN Electoral Expert Monitoring Team (EEMT), which operates independently from the UN Mission in Nepal.  The team is of the view that the security situation remains the most serious threat to the electoral process.  It recommends that political leaders be encouraged to come to an agreement on security long before the elections, including the signing of appropriate codes of conduct to be widely distributed among party activists.  We have two press releases available upstairs.


**Children and Armed Conflict


The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radikha Coomaraswamy, welcomes the recommendations adopted yesterday by the Security Council working group on the situation of children affected by conflict in Somalia and Uganda.  Concerning Uganda, the Special Representative says the recommendations send a strong message to the Lord’s Resistance Army for the unconditional release of the children used in their ranks.  On Somalia, the working group urged all parties to stop recruiting children and to take measures to demobilize those who have been recruited.  We have a press release also on that upstairs.


**Harry Potter


And on a lighter note, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) is also joining Potter-mania, as millions of copies of the seventh and final Harry Potter novel will go on sale 21 July.  UPU -- the primary forum of cooperation between Posts -- says that never before in the history of the postal service will postmen and women the world over have delivered so many identical books on the same day.  And we have a press release upstairs, which explains how postal services in different countries have prepared for this.


**Week Ahead


We also have for you the Week Ahead.  I will just flag that on Monday, you have the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women marking its twenty-fifth anniversary.  On Tuesday, our gues at the noon briefing will be John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.  He will brief you on humanitarian crises in southern Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere.  And then, the General Assembly will hold a plenary meeting to elect the 21 Vice-Presidents of its sixty-second session and to appoint members of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU).  And then on Thursday, the Secretary-General will be travelling to San Francisco from 26-27 July for the sixty-second anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, and he will be meeting with the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to discuss climate change issues.


This is all I have for you.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  On Iraq; today, the American Ambassador made the case that the United Nations should get involved more than ever before and that a new envoy has to be appointed.  Do you have any idea who will be the new envoy and how much of United Nations involvement does the Secretary-General see?


Spokesperson: On who the next appointee will be, I don’t know.  We don’t have that information yet.  As you know, Mr. Qazi’s mandate expires on 7 August.  As the Secretary-General himself has said when he was in Washington, the United Nations wants to do what it can to help Iraq.  What he has said at the same time, however, is that any broader role would have to be in accordance with the wishes of the Iraqi Government and people, and also very carefully weighted against the security implications for UN staff.  This is what he said repeatedly.  The Security Council will be looking at the renewal of UNAMI’s mandate next month, and we expect this kind of issue to be discussed thoroughly at that time by the Security Council. I think I should underline also that the United Nations already plays an important role and, if you have been following the meeting still going on of the Compact with Iraq, then you realize that there are things being done by the UN on the ground.


Question:  I am very interested to know the comments of Mr. Ban Ki-moon on the move of holding parliamentary and presidential elections in the Palestinian Territory.  How far does he believe such a step could aggravate or resolve the internal Palestinian crisis?


Spokesperson:  We don’t have a specific reaction to that at this point. However, you know what the position of the Secretary-General has been: He talked about the fact that there should not be two separate territories, Gaza and the West Bank.  He has been saying that there should be joint discussions for one Palestinian State.  The elections are part of the whole governance issue, and I am sure that the Secretary-General would support the elections.


Question:  Does he support drawing the Hamas also in the negotiations process to hold the elections?


Spokesperson:  Well, we don’t have any reaction at this point on those specific issues.


Question:  There is some talk about the readiness of the Israeli forces to invade the Gaza Strip to kick out Hamas.  What is the comment of Mr. Ban Ki-moon?


Spokesperson: Those are reports he is not commenting on at this point.  We are not commenting on reports from the press.


Correspondent:  This could happen in a week or two.


Spokesperson:  Well, this is what you are saying – -- might know more than we do at this point.


Question:  On Kosovo, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, after meeting with Ban Ki-moon, was quoted saying he hopes the Secretary-General will assist in resolving it under international law and the parties’ consensus.  So I guess, they discussed it. Is there any response by Ban Ki-moon?  Is he just as strong in a sense that the Ahtisaari plan should be followed, even if there is no consensus?


Spokesperson: Well, right now the whole process is in the Security Council.  The Secretary-General will not intervene in this right now.  This is a matter for the Security Council to resolve.  The Secretary-General has already expressed his views, he has already submitted a report, his Special Representative, Mr. Ahtisaari, has spoken at the Council, so now the process is unfolding in the Security Council.


Question:  It seems that the sponsors of the resolution have said that the process is no longer in the Security Council, that they are going to try it through the Contact Group.  So I just wonder if that is going to change anything in terms of Secretary-General maybe becoming more involved in trying to…


Spokesperson:  I cannot speak on it at this time -- what the Secretary-General will do on this issue.  I can say, though, that he is concerned about it.  He has been talking about Kosovo over and over again in the last few weeks, and he is very aware of what is happening and he has expressed his views on it.


Question:  There was this letter by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to Ban Ki-moon about something in Japan, where they claim that the general association of Korean residents of Japan had some problem in Japan.  They say that they wrote to Ban Ki-moon and asked for his assistance.  Has he gotten the letter, has he responded to it?


Spokesperson:  I am not aware of it.


[The Spokesperson later confirmed receipt of the letter.]


Then we’ll have our guests today, Mr. Serge Male, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Chad, and Chris Ache, UNHCR Representative in the Sudan, and they will brief you on the situation of refugees in eastern Chad and Darfur.


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For information media • not an official record