|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.
**Statement on Sierra Leone
We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the conduct of the Sierra Leone elections.
The Secretary-General was pleased to learn that polling in Sierra Leone’s presidential and parliamentary elections was successfully conducted on 11 August in a generally peaceful atmosphere, with high voter turnout.
The Secretary-General congratulates the people of Sierra Leone for showing their commitment to the consolidation of peace and democracy in their country, and commends the National Electoral Commission and Sierra Leone’s security agencies for putting in place security and administrative arrangements that facilitated the efficient conduct of the polling process. He also thanks all national and international stakeholders that provided material and technical support to the Electoral Commission, or fielded observers for the elections.
As the counting of ballots continues over the coming days, the Secretary-General urges all Sierra Leoneans to preserve an atmosphere of calm and public order, and to resolve any potential disputes through the established legal channels.
** Sierra Leone
Also on Sierra Leone, the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General, Victor Angelo, also appealed to all -- women, men and youth -- to let the National Electoral Commission and its polling officers do their work. He asked them to keep the same spirit of tolerance that was shown during the campaigns.
Concerning questions raised about the processing of the election results in the districts of Kailahun and Kenema, the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone stresses that the process is being followed exactly as planned and remains within the established procedures.
And you can find Mr. Angelo’s message upstairs in my office.
** Western Sahara
On Western Sahara, on Saturday, as you know, representatives of Morocco and the Frente Polisario concluded a two-day meeting in Manhasset, New York, continuing their discussions under the auspices of the Secretary-General.
Representatives of Algeria and Mauritania were also present at the opening and closing sessions, and were consulted separately during the talks.
Following the conclusion of the meeting, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Peter van Walsum, said that he is pleased that substantive talks were held in which the parties interacted with one another and expressed their views. He added that, at his initiative, the parties heard presentations by United Nations experts on specific issues, such as natural resources and local administration. Confidence-building measures were also proposed for discussions.
The parties acknowledge that the current status quo is unacceptable and that the process of negotiations will continue.
We have the communiqué issued by van Walsum upstairs.
**Statement on Afghanistan
The Secretary-General -– another statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the release of the two hostages in Afghanistan –- the Secretary-General is pleased to note that two hostages from the Republic of Korea have been released in Afghanistan.
He hopes that the remaining Korean, Afghan and German hostages will be released in the coming days.
Security Council -- François Lonseny Fall, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, briefed the Security Council this morning on the recent developments in that country.
You’ll recall that, last week, Ambassador Fall addressed the National Reconciliation Congress in Mogadishu, urging the Transitional Federal Government to invite opposition groups to join the debate.
Still on Somalia, Eric Laroche, the UN Resident and the Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, has strongly condemned the killing of two prominent figures in the Somali independent media within hours of each other on Saturday. He called for decisive action to ensure the freedom and safety of the media.
These are the most recent in a spate of attacks against the media in Somalia, which brings to six the number of journalists killed in the country this year.
Laroche calls on all authorities and other groups throughout the country to respect the right of all to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information through any media. The violent events of the last days show how vulnerable freedom of expression remains in Somalia.
We have a press release upstairs with more details.
On Timor-Leste, UN police in Timor-Leste have arrested more than 30 people in relation to the violence in the eastern part of the country over the past few days. Also, further police investigations are continuing into the violence that has taken place over the past week.
At the same time, the situation in the capital, Dili, and the district of Baucau have been calm over the past few days, and the UN police and international forces continue to maintain a strong presence across the country.
We have a press release from the UN Mission in Timor-Leste upstairs.
The fighting has caused hundreds of people to flee their homes and, today, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) conducted a rapid preliminary assessment by helicopter. The Government of Timor-Leste has provided 5 metric tons of rice to be distributed tomorrow morning, and we are providing air transport and facilitation.
On Liberia, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Alan Doss, called on communities to help prevent violence during the recent opening of a new police station in the New Kru Town Community in Monrovia.
Doss used the opportunity to assure Liberians that security remained the top priority for the UN Mission in Liberia.
We have a press release upstairs with more details.
** Sudan – Humanitarian
On Sudan, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the fourth Darfur emergency food security assessment got under way today in all three states of Sudan’s Darfur region. The UN is supporting the survey, which is led by the Government of Sudan.
Also from OCHA, on the flooding in South Asia, the UN is offering Governments up to $20 million for their response to the heavy monsoon rains there.
We have more information in a press release upstairs.
**Women Security Officers
The Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General attended, this morning at Headquarters, a ceremony to welcome the first class of 12 female security officers.
This is the first all-female class since the recruitment of the first three female officers in 1975.
Welcoming the recruits to the UN family, the Secretary-General stressed his commitment to gender parity at all levels of the United Nations. “We need to be exemplary and to be the first organization to keep the internationally agreed commitment of having full gender balance,” he said.
Also speaking at the induction ceremony, the Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, said the class was an important signal of the direction in which we must go to achieve the 50-50 gender balance in the staff of the United Nations, as called for by the General Assembly.
She stressed the Secretary-General’s leadership role in this, as well as her own commitment to working towards that goal.
The first all-female class will start their training today.
UNICEF has announced the appointment of two new ambassadors.
South African couturier and humanitarian activist Gavin Rajah has been named a Goodwill Ambassador, and basketball star Manu Ginobili, a triple NBA champion and Olympic medallist, has been appointed UNICEF’s newest Argentina Ambassador.
We have more information in press releases upstairs. This is all I have for you. Thank you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: The rebel leader, Suleiman Jamous, has threatened to turn –- needs an operation -- has threatened to turn himself over to Sudanese jails if the UN doesn’t fly him out, because the UN says it can’t do it now in Darfur, and he wants an answer by Thursday. Is there a yes or no response, or what?
Spokesperson: We don’t have a response yet, but I’ll get that for you.
Question: Is there going to be one by Thursday, one way or another?
Spokesperson: I don’t know yet, but there is concern expressed about this upstairs, and I can tell you there will be a response.
Question: Could you, and I hope I didn’t miss this, could you tell us what happened with the hacking of the UN website yesterday?
Spokesperson: Yes, well we had two attacks that occurred during the day. In the morning -– it started at 9 a.m. in the morning, but we managed to get the services back shortly before 12. A number of sites were attacked -- our own, the Secretary-General’s site, statements in particular, were replaced by a statement made by the hackers. It lasted a few minutes, but we managed to get them off, and change that.
We also had to change our archives and to redo, actually rebuild the whole site. However, measures have been taken for this not to occur anymore. We are very concerned that this happened. Quick action, as I said, was used to prevent damage to our own computer system, and the Department of Public Information is working with the Information Technology Services Division to prevent future occurrences.
Question: Any suspicion of an inside job?
Spokesperson: At this time we are still investigating. We don’t know. It was -– the message was signed by three hackers. Of course, they were all pseudonyms. We can’t really know their names, but these are real people.
Question: Over this UN re-engagement in Iraq. Has the United Nations been given a guarantee by the Iraqi Government about the security of personnel, or any guarantees have been received by the occupying force, by the UN so that it can send its personnel there?
Spokesperson: As the Secretary-General mentioned when he spoke to you on Friday, we’re working on this, and we’re working on the security guarantees before, of course, we deploy the people who should be deployed there.
Question: On Somalia, there’s a report out today by Human Rights Watch, which calls for even the Secretary-General to support additional human rights monitors in Somalia and take other steps. I understand that the Security Council has its own consideration, but the Secretary-General, what’s the Secretariat’s response to the call that they should do more in Somalia and that the human rights violations by the TFG and others…?
Spokesperson: Well, those human rights violations have been a constant concern. I mean, we have talked about it before and this is not the first time they occur. As I read earlier, you know, the UN Representative there spoke about the murder of those two journalists. There are some concerns. Will there be people deployed there in the near future? I don’t know at this point, but I will definitely inquire. The human rights office in Geneva should be able to give us some answers.
Question: And I wanted to ask one question about the building. There was a story in the Washington Post on Saturday about the City of New York seeming to say that even tours would be cancelled if repairs of the building don’t move faster. One thing I want to know is whether the reported violations, whether the UN is going to release it.
Spokesperson: [talkover] Yes?
Question: …the 866 either violations or recommendations. Can we get a copy of the report to see what the violations are?
Spokesperson: Yes, and we can also get you copies of a series of letters which have been exchanged between the UN and the Mayor’s office. To me, it is important to note that the Secretary-General and his team are truly committed to the safety of our staff. They want a safe and secure environment for the staff here and also for the visitors to the UN complex.
And we have made clear that we are going to work -– and we have been working -- with the City of New York on this in a spirit of constructive cooperation. So that has not changed. The last meeting was on 31 July. There was a letter on 9 August written by the Under-Secretary-General for Management, Alicia Bárcena. She wrote New York City Commissioner Margaret Tiven to detail the steps taken so far to improve the UN Headquarters building, even before the Capital Master Plan is started.
We have activated this month a direct notification system, which links the UN with the New York City Fire Department. The equipment is installed, so that part of it is done. By the end of September, we expect to sign a contract for smoke detectors. And I think we have significantly expedited the procurement process to allow these changes to take place. But, as you know, we have to go through procurement for those expenses. And, for instance, the fire code regulations, to really enforce all of the requests we would need about $4 million.
Question: [Inaudible] the Sun first reported this, but I also wanted to know…
Spokesperson: That’s true, he’s right.
Question: The last thing I have on this is whether the report –- the initial report that the City gave to the UN saying there’s 866 things to be fixed. I’m just wondering if that document, either we as the press or people that work here, can see.
Spokesperson: I can ask for you, but I know, since then, a number of improvements have taken place and this continues. As you know, there are, of course, some limitations. It’s very difficult, for instance, to install fire walls when you have a number of Heads of State here for security reasons. They can be only installed afterwards. So that’s one of the…
Question: [talkover] Follow-up on that?
Spokesperson: Yes, sure.
Question: Specifically in the letter, in the Margaret Tiven letter, she mentioned the question of the sprinklers, and she said the pace of installing them is unacceptable. She used the word “unacceptable”. The question is, what did she mean? I mean, is it acceptable that, after such a long time, the New York Fire Department says, you have to put these in, they are still waiting for contracts?
Spokesperson: No, I think it’s a question of, you know, there are a number of other measures that have been taken. For the sprinkler system, it’s going to be an extremely expensive system to install right now, in an old building, which, as you know, is going to be refurbished completely. So it’s…
Question: You’re waiting for a contractor. That means you don’t even know how much money it will cost.
Spokesperson: Well, I think you can have that information. We have an idea of how much it will cost.
Question: An idea, but if you haven’t even picked a contractor, I mean, that’s a long, long process just to pick a contractor.
Spokesperson: Well, you know, considering where we were when that first series of violations was sent to the UN, and where we are right now, I think we have gone a long way. And I think you should consider that also.
Let me ask you. Let me ask you. I can ask the people who are dealing with Mrs. Tiven to come here and explain to you what has been done, and give you the details you want. Yes.
Question: Ms. Bárcena, I think, already tried that at her press conference last week, but the point is, do we know briefly what has been done, because they have been complaining for quite a while. Like in the last year, what has been done? When the Mayor was here he also raised it. In the last year, what has been done, if anything?
Spokesperson: Well, this is why I said if you want more details I can get someone. Yes? I didn’t hear that, I’m sorry.
Question: We keep hearing the same thing all the time, and it doesn’t matter, you know -- we don’t want to know every little detail, just the important things, like sprinklers and smoke detectors, and things that guard the alleged safety of the staff. It doesn’t matter if the Secretary-General is concerned. What has been done?
Spokesperson: Well, I mean, I just gave you examples of what has been done in terms –- now the contacts are direct with the Fire Department. There was equipment installed -- communication equipment -- which allowed us to get in touch immediately with the Fire Department, which did not exist before, and if you need more details on what has been done step by step, you’ll get it. Yes?
Question: Today is supposedly the start of a workshop in Afghanistan on the protection of civilians. Do you have any more details on that, exactly who’s involved or anything else?
Spokesperson: Not yet, not yet. The question was raised this morning, but we don’t have any details on it yet. But we should get that a little later this afternoon.
Question: Michèle, welcome back. The negotiations on Western Sahara in Manhasset this past weekend, even though they touched on substance, as you indicated, were by all accounts inconclusive. What are the plans of the Personal Envoy at this stage? Is he going to report to the Security Council or the Secretary-General? Is he going to travel to the region? Is he going to concentrate on the proposals before the negotiators or is he going to make some suggestions? What are his plans?
Spokesperson: Well, he’s not going to report to the Security Council. In fact, he’s supposed to travel today. But he is certainly going to speak to the Secretary-General. As soon as a conversation takes place, I will let you know what was said during that conversation.
Question: Just to follow-up on the Long Island talks. Again, is there anything -- kind of more detailed briefing -- of what these two sides have been talking about, because very little has been leaked? We want to know how much progress has been made, where the next session is going to be held.
Spokesperson: Well, we don’t have the date or a place for the next session yet. What we know is that they are talking, and they have decided to keep on talking. That’s really what we can say, which is, I think, a positive thing. Since they haven’t spoken for so long, I think the first meeting that was held in Manhasset was a good step. Now there was another one taken. Obviously there was no breakthrough. Of course not. And I think it’s going to take a while.
Question: [Inaudible] I know you were not there, but we received promises that we were going to get some facilities to cover these talks by the Deputy Spokesman. You were away and, as usual, the journalists ended up being stranded on the street for two days, without any access at all, and I just hope that, if this will ever happen again, that you treat us a little bit better if possible.
Spokesperson: Well, yes, thanks for telling me that, but I can tell you that the parties themselves don’t want the press to be present. So I think that’s one essential problem. Yes, Mark?
Question: Just back to this cyber…
Spokesperson: Welcome back.
Question: Thank you. Just back to this cyber attack. There’s a certain amount of sort of crowing on various hackers’ sites, that the UN uses pretty antiquated technology and that’s how they’re able to use this fairly simple technique to get it. And a lot of surprise expressed that such an international organization laid itself so wide open to an obvious attack. Are there any plans to sort of redo the system on which you base your website?
Spokesperson: Yes, definitely. I think one of the dangers is, of course, that, you know, the fact that we could post information so fast and so readily might be hampered by that. But of course there will some measures taken.
Question: Did you also talk to UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme)? Because the UNEP site in Paris was attacked as well.
Spokesperson: Yes, they also attacked the ECOSOC site. They also attacked the CyberSchoolBus site, so there were a number of sites attacked at the same time.
Question: And just on slightly similar things, like security, is it true that UNDP has hired cyber security experts to try to track who has been leaking information to journalists.
Spokesperson: That I don’t know. That I don’t know. I can check. Sure. Pardon me?
Question: Follow-up on that? Are any of the internal systems, have they been compromised in any way, you know, the financial systems?
Spokesperson: No, no.
Question: You know that for a fact?
Spokesperson: Yes. We know that for a fact. We know exactly which sites were attacked…
Question: Only the public ones?
Spokesperson: Only the public ones were attacked. Yes.
Question: All of the people were Sudanese? All of them?
Spokesperson: We have no idea what they were. Those are the names -– pseudonyms -- that were used. We don’t know what they are. Why are you assuming they are Sudanese?
Question: I thought everybody knew these were people representing themselves as Turks. A Turkish website, right?
Spokesperson: No, only one of them claimed to be Turkish. We don’t have yet the information, the results, of… right now, what we are doing is just protecting our sites.
Question: Are you investigating this as UN, or are you hiring in any kind of national cyber security helpers or any private companies, or something like that?
Spokesperson: Well, for the time being it’s being investigated within the house.
Question: And why were you using such an antiquated, leaky system?
Spokesperson: Well, essentially, because the UN, like the building, you know, we are improving slowly, and it takes some time.
Spokesperson: Exactly. The start of it.
Question: One other thing on this cyber thing. Are you looking at this more as a nasty prank, or is this a form of cyber terrorism? And as follow-up, what is the UN doing about the issue of cyber terrorism, since one of the things the UN looks into is counter-terrorism efforts? And then I have a couple of UNDP questions.
Spokesperson: Yes, the cyber terrorism is an issue that has been discussed for a while in the house. Is this seen as cyber terrorism? I don’t know. I think it was seen more like a prank. And this was done before to other sites. The UN is not the only site, I mean, the same hackers have gone to other sites in different places. And, in fact, when you go through the names, you see the number of sites that they have invaded in the last few years –- few months. It’s not just the UN.
Question: You said the same hackers have gone into other sites. Does that mean you have identified them and know who they are?
Spokesperson: No, they just have their pseudonyms.
Correspondent: The same pseudonyms.
Spokesperson: The same pseudonyms -- people using the same pseudonyms. Are they the same people? I don’t know. Yes?
Question: There was a report that what was posted on the Secretary-General’s site was criticism of Mideast policy and the United States. Can you confirm that?
Question: You’re agreeing [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: I’m not saying I’m agreeing, I can simply confirm that was what happened. Yes Jonathan?
Question: The other question?
Correspondent: [talkover] …cyber issues, cyber analogies…
Spokesperson: I think the cyber is probably quite a…
Correspondent: A little cyber rattle. [Laughter]
Spokesperson: Yes, a little cyber rattle.
Question: Can you give us an update of where things are… OIOS has been investigating the financial unit of UNDP. This has been going on for some time now. Do we have any update on where that is? Apparently, there’s been a dispute over jurisdiction. Can you tell us if that’s settled, or if it’s not settled? And where does the Secretary-General stand in terms of that investigation and looking into financial issues of that unit?
Spokesperson: OK. I’ll look into that for you. I don’t have that information at this point.
[The Spokesperson later said informed the correspondent that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) does not have a specific mandate to investigate the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), but it has the ability, under a memorandum of agreement with UNDP, to undertake services for UNDP at its request. In this particular case, OIOS is trying to obtain information from a complainant to see whether the complainant's reasons for not reporting information to UNDP are justified. Until OIOS receives that information and can determine whether the complainant's reasons are valid, it is not proceeding to deal with the particulars of the case.]
Question: OK. In terms of the jurisdiction of the newly appointed… is he called the “Ethics Commissioner”? Is that what the post is called?
Question: How does that person step into various issues of investigations? How much access does he have to ongoing investigations? Can, he for instance, step into the middle of the OIOS investigations into the UN’s financial unit and have a say in that, or is that something out of his jurisdiction? How does the Secretary-General foresee his role?
Spokesperson: I’ll try to find out also for you how he intervenes and when he can intervene. I know that the OIOS process is a process that… he could intervene probably at the early stage and at a later stage, but I don’t think he can interfere during the actual investigation. But I can find out for you what his exact role is and when he can intervene.
Question: One follow-up on that. There’s supposed to be a 45-day time period for him to rule on the UNDP whistle blower’s complaint that he’d been retaliated against. That’s now long past. It’s been what, 70-75 days? Can you find out from him when he is going to rule on it, and what the hold up has been?
Spokesperson: Sure. I’ll find out for you.
[The Spokesperson later reminded the correspondent that there had been an announcement that the Ethics Office had asked for more time and had informed the complainant accordingly.]
Question: And a follow-up on the follow-up. Can you find out the jurisdiction on that as well?
Spokesperson: Yes, that’s what Jonathan asked…
Question: No. But UNDP, because it is independently financed, has in the past complained -- at least in one case -- that the Ethic’s Commissioner doesn’t have jurisdiction over UNDP.
Spokesperson: Sure. Sure. I’ll ask that.
Question: Have you received any response from Holland about the Special Tribunal on Former Minister Hariri?
Spokesperson: No, we don’t have any response yet.
Question: Why the delay, do you think?
Spokesperson: I don’t know. I don’t know.
Question: I’m confused about this hacker. How sure are you that he is a Turk?
Spokesperson: Well, we are not sure that he’s a Turk.
Question: You said he was Turkish.
Spokesperson: No. I didn’t say that. I said that he claimed to be.
Question: What is the essence of that claim? If he hacked the United Nations…
Spokesperson: Well, he is on the site claiming to be. We don’t know. I said earlier…
Question: Let me finish please. If he is claiming that, it would be so stupid, giving his name and identity, because hacking is a very important… criminal act. A very serious act… (talkover)
Spokesperson: We are not releasing any names…
Question: So it could be Japanese or Mexican or something?
Spokesperson: Yes, of course, of course. And the only thing we have in terms of identification is pseudonyms. I mentioned that earlier. We don’t have names.
Question: You don’t need to name him as a Turk.
Spokesperson: I didn’t name him as a Turk. I answered a question saying that one of them claimed to be.
Question: Can I get back to the Capital Master Plan? Aren’t they delayed? Weren’t they supposed to start building in June or July? I mean, basically, nothing has happened…
Spokesperson: No it was not June or July…
Question: I thought there was some action to begin in June or July?
Spokesperson: Well, they selected a construction manager. That you already have, okay. They are starting to work on the actual implementation. It initially was supposed to be December, but it has been postponed and we are trying to find out exactly when they are to be starting.
Question: The Under-Secretary-General for Management last year said that, in October, you were supposed to have a ground-breaking ceremony and that never happened. And then it kept on being postponed.
Spokesperson: OK, well, we’ll have an update on both the Capital Master Plan and an update on the building safety codes at the same time.
Question: But, meanwhile, while we wait for the Capital Master Plan to begin -- which you say it hasn’t begun -- we have all kinds of construction on the building that the Capital Master Plan will make sort of moot. First of all, they’re putting a whole new garden out in front, and I don’t know how that’s going to be affected by a whole lot of construction. Secondly, they just put on our floor a beautiful wonderful new TV that displays only old still pictures [laughter]. That’s very expensive. They had to make a big hole in the wall there. I assume that that will be made moot by the Capital Master Plan…
Spokesperson: Sure it will be moot, but…
Question: So why are we putting all this money into things that are going to be mitigated by the Capital Master Plan?
Spokesperson: Now, I’m going to ask you to be logical. You said earlier, “why can’t they build all those things they are being asked to build or install” and, at the same time, you’re asking why are they putting all those things up…
Question: I object to that. Please. There’s a difference between… until this thing happened… there’s a difference between putting some sprinklers on the wall to make sure that if there’s a fire we’re not burned until the UN starts the Capital Master Plan, which, even by the most optimistic estimates, is going to last at least a decade. There’s a difference between that and putting up a TV that just displays stills and does nothing for nobody and costs a lot of money.
Spokesperson: Well, that money was used so you could be better informed of all the… because those are not old pictures. Some of them are archive pictures, but most of them are recent pictures, so you can have them faster. If you have an objection to this, Benny… then you have access to information… because that was supposed to be the essential idea behind that.
[The Spokesperson later informed the correspondent that the Department of Public Information received a donation of three monitors from Samsung, including the one being referring to. The other two are next to the staff cafeteria and in the public lobby. The monitor on the third floor will replace the photo boards, incurring manpower savings, since they will now be programmed automatically and we will not have to have someone print, caption and manually post each picture that appears. The monitor will not just be used for "old" pictures. It will show daily news photos taken at the Secretariat, as well as some photos from our historical collection and some videos, as well. Samsung also contributed the cost of installation and it should be noted that, under the present plan, the third floor will not be renovated until the last phase of the Capital Master Plan -- possibly in 2012-2013 -- so the investment is well worth it.]
Question: I just want to second what my colleague from Al-Jazeera said about Western Sahara. If there’s any briefing, we’d really appreciate it. According to the propaganda, the propaganda so far, the talks look like they’ve been a total failure, and we really have to be convinced that they’re not. The fact that they’re talking, just like Kosovo, does not mean there’s a solution.
Spokesperson: I’m not saying there is a solution.
Correspondent: I’m just saying that, so far, they look like a total failure…
Spokesperson: I did tell you that there will not be a briefing to the Security Council as far as I know. [talkover] There will be no public briefing either.
Question: On that question -- Western Sahara -- there are indications that the next round of negotiations will be in Europe and will take place between October and November. Are these UN suggestions, or is it the parties that opted for those?
Spokesperson: I don’t know whose suggestions they were, but there is no agreement yet on the date or the place. I do know that the dates you are talking about were discussed -- October-November.
Question: Europe was also discussed?
Spokesperson: Pardon me?
Question: Europe was also discussed?
Spokesperson: I don’t know about that. I do know about the fact that they discussed a possible meeting in about two months.
Correspondent: The Polisario people told us that they want Europe. They basically told us when we were standing outside that “we want the next meeting to be held in Europe”, so it must have been discussed one way or the other.
Spokesperson: OK. You have inside details.
Question: You’re telling us that Europe has not been discussed at all, and they are telling us that they did discuss it and they requested officially for the next meeting to be held in Europe because… you know… for whatever their reasons are.
Spokesperson: Well, if they told you, it’s because it was discussed.
Question: Well, can we find out where in Europe? [Laughs]
Spokesperson: It hasn’t been agreed upon yet. How can you find out if it hasn’t been agreed upon yet by the parties?
Question: Are you sure?
Spokesperson: Yes, I’m sure that they have not agreed on a place yet. Whether it is in general in Europe? Yes, of course. But a specific place, a specific date? No. There has been no such decision taken.
Question: Is the Secretary-General concerned about the prolonged situation regarding Western Sahara? There seems to be no solution on the horizon. Is he concerned about possible tension and violence in the area if a solution is not found?
Spokesperson: Well, of course, this had been a constant part of the equation, that there could be violence. But this situation has at least arrived at a point where at least the parties are talking. It might not seem like much, but it is a step.
Question: Another thing. Some time ago, UN cartographers finished their exercise on delineating Shebaa Farms, as far as I understand. What’s happened to that?
Spokesperson: Well, did you have an update on Shebaa Farms recently?
Question: Well, where are we now? The UN still hasn’t released its results, so…
Spokesperson: I’ll find out for you where we are with the Shebaa Farms.
Thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record