|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 Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon all.
**Press Conference Today
At 2 p.m. today, there will be a press conference by Martin Scheinin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.
**Sirte Talks Opening
On the Sirte talks, the Darfur Political Talks opened, as planned, over the weekend in Sirte, Libya.
The Secretary-General, in a message read out by his Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, expressed his disappointment that some movement leaders chose to stay away from Sirte.
But he said that, while the doors remain open, if they continue to stay away, there is much they stand to lose. The United Nations and the African Union believe that all Darfurians should be represented, and hope that they will be.
“This will neither be easy nor will it be necessarily quick,” the Secretary-General said. “Painful compromises will need to be made by all sides. However, violence has continued for far too long, and further delays would be dangerous. The situation could rapidly worsen and become even more intractable.”
The senior mediators at the Sirte talks, Jan Eliasson and his African Union counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim, are engaged in substantive preparations with the parties on the way forward for the peace process and on the key issues and the order in which they are to be addressed. They include security, wealth-sharing and power-sharing.
The two envoys met today with the delegations from the Government of Sudan, civil society and international partners, as well as with representatives of the movements present in Sirte. They also plan to meet today with the regional partners represented at the talks. Meanwhile, preparations are being made for a senior-level team to travel back to Sudan to consult with those who are not present in Sirte.
In a press conference yesterday, Eliasson said that there was no interruption to the peace process. He added, “The train has left the station for the road to peace. The question is how many passengers will get on the train.”
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Ashraf Qazi, met today with President Omar al-Bashir, who welcomed him to Sudan and assured him of the fullest cooperation of his Government in the fulfilment of his mandate. Qazi later said that the President welcomed the UN’s role in supporting the Government and the Sudanese people in achieving the objectives of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Qazi also met over the weekend with Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs Ali Karti, who assured him of the desire of the Government of National Unity to maintain good working relations with the UN Mission in Sudan. Qazi added that he intends to visit Juba in the next few days to meet with the First Vice President of Sudan and President of the Government of Southern Sudan Salva Kiir.
** Sudan -- Humanitarian
Also on Sudan, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes has said he’s alarmed by reports of forced relocation from a camp in South Darfur last night – because of both the manner of the relocation and the possibility of such action contributing to more violence.
According to Holmes, security forces were threatening internally displaced persons at the camp with sticks and rubber hoses. Holmes added that, while the UN notes the Sudanese Government’s security concerns in the camps, any relocation must be wholly voluntary. We have more on this in my office.
**SG Statement on Gaza
We have a statement attributable to the spokesperson of the Secretary-General on Gaza.
The Secretary-General reiterates his call for the cessation of indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian militants targeting Israel and strongly condemns these actions. However, he also believes strongly that punitive measures taken by Israel which harm the well-being of the entire population of the Gaza Strip are unacceptable. The limitation of fuel and electricity supplies deepens the humanitarian distress of the 1.4 million residents of Gaza, as does the reduction of the supply of essential commodities and the tightening of restrictions on movement and access. The Secretary-General calls upon Israel to reconsider its actions and for all concerned to protect civilians and to meet their obligations under international law.
**Chief Executive Board
The Secretary-General chaired a meeting of the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) on 26 and 27 October in New York. The CEB, composed of the Executive Heads of all United Nations Specialized Agencies, Funds and Programmes, as well as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, International Atomic Energy Agency and World Trade Organization, committed itself to increasing the coherence of its efforts in meeting critical developmental and management challenges.
Executive Heads pledged their full support to the recently-launched initiative of the Secretary-General in establishing the Africa MDG Steering and Working Groups. The CEB also decided to establish a process for the evaluation of the “One UN” pilot projects, which would yield relevant and timely information from all stakeholders on lessons learned in order to enhance country-level coherence of operational activities for development.
The Board agreed to work expeditiously towards the development of an agreed strategic approach by the UN system to support international commitments to meet the immense challenges presented by climate change.
On management issues, CEB adopted an ambitious programme for the harmonization of UN system business practices in the areas of human resources, information and communication technology, and finance and budget. Initiatives for the harmonization of practices related to procurement and legal matters will be added to the programme in coming months.
The Board discussed the disclosure of information contained in Internal Audit Reports following intensive consultations among the UN system’s internal auditors. It agreed to move toward the development of a common policy for the disclosure of information that would also take into account the particularities among the various organizations. Individual organizations would approach their respective governing bodies in this regard.
With respect to the issue of Ethics within the United Nations, the Secretary-General announced at the meeting of the Board that the United Nations and its Funds and Programmes had agreed to establish a common approach and that his office would shortly issue an administrative bulletin providing further details. Specialized agencies also expressed an interest in the development of a system-wide approach on Ethics.
The 2005 World Summit Outcome Document urged a scrupulous application of existing standards of conduct and the development of a system-wide code of ethics for all United Nations personnel.
The Secretary-General believes that it is crucially important for the UN system to uphold the highest ethical standards. Since taking office, he has worked to cultivate a culture of ethics, integrity and accountability.
Following discussions over the past several months, the Secretary-General and the UN Funds and Programmes have agreed to establish one ethical code and one system of ethics within which they will all operate. A Secretary-General’s Bulletin on the new system of ethics will be issued shortly.
The Security Council received a briefing in its closed consultations today from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno about the work of the UN Mission in Sudan. Guéhenno had earlier briefed troop contributing countries about the Mission’s work. Its current mandate expires at the end of the month.
Council members also intend to discuss today a draft resolution on the extension of sanctions on Côte d'Ivoire.
On the DR Congo, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo says it has taken note with satisfaction of the surrender of Kibamba Kasereka, leader of the Forces patriotiques Mayi-Mayi, also known as Forces armées populaires de libération (FAPL).
The self-proclaimed “General” Kasereka surrendered to UN peacekeepers with 29 of his men on Saturday morning in the town of Kisharo, in the North Kivu province. The Mission also notes that the surrender is the result of a military operation by the Congolese Army and the strong pressure it placed on Kasereka and his militia. The Mission calls on all remaining illegal armed elements to lay down their weapons and to join the process of integration into the national army.
On Afghanistan, the UN Mission in Afghanistan today called on Afghanistan’s warring factions to allow safe passage and access for humanitarian workers delivering vital aid to Afghanistan’s most vulnerable families before the winter cuts off remote regions of the country. Tom Koenigs, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said that insurgents and criminal gangs have killed or abducted 110 aid workers, and 55 humanitarian aid convoys have been looted, so far this year. Such attacks, he said, are a clear violation of international humanitarian law and must stop.
UN agencies are currently pre-positioning essential food and medicine around the country before the winter weather can prevent access to remote parts of the country. We have more details in a press release upstairs.
The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) today opened the International Conference on Religions and the Dialogue of Cultures, in Cordoba, Spain.
In his message to mark this occasion, the Secretary-General said that in a global environment marked by rising intolerance and cross-cultural tensions, tourism can foster spiritual and cultural respect among peoples and create economic opportunities to benefit disadvantaged populations. He added that this conference has the potential to strengthen the United Nations initiative for an Alliance of Civilizations.
**UNFPA – Gender Radio
A new series of studies commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund warns that the high preference for sons in some parts of Asia will have severe social consequences in the coming years. According to the report, India and China were found to have the most dramatic imbalance between births of boys and girls, followed by Viet Nam and Nepal.
The resulting skewed sex ratios at birth have been noticeable in China for over 15 years, rising to 120 males for every 100 females born in 2005 and as high as 130 in several provinces. UNFPA warns that the growing number of men will be unable to find wives, which may lead to a rise in sexual violence and trafficking of women.
**Connect Africa Summit
The Connect Africa Summit opened today in Kigali, Rwanda. The two-day meeting of public and private organizations is focused on expanding the continent’s information and communication technology infrastructure, especially internet broadband.
In a message delivered by Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang, the Secretary-General stressed that narrowing the digital divide is a key part of global development. Such technologies can empower women and the poor; facilitate the delivery of health services; create business opportunities; and enable young people to act as catalysts for change, he said.
Microsoft and the International Telecommunication Union today launched a joint project to track development in this area, while the World Bank announced it would double its commitment for information technology infrastructure in Africa to $2 billion over the next five years.
**Exhibit Opening Today
Later today at 6 p.m. in the Visitors Gallery, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime; Howard Buffet, President of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation; and Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, wife of the Secretary-General, will open a photography exhibit entitled "Human Trafficking: Images of Vulnerability". We have more information on the opening available upstairs. That is all I have for you today. Thank you. Yes, Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Michèle, the Director-General of IAEA yesterday or over the weekend, made a statement saying basically that Iran does not possess any know how to produce a nuclear device and he also cites the United States for (inaudible) with Tehran and said that can jeopardize the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme. Does the Secretary-General concur with what the Director-General had said?
Spokesperson: Let’s get it straight on what Mr. ElBaradei said on CNN, which is available on the IAEA website. He said that what we are doing right now, through the IAEA and the European Union, is to try and make sure we control the nascent enrichment capability in Iraq and create the conditions for Iran, and the Europeans – particularly the US – to go into negotiations. We are trying to make sure that the future intention of Iran is peaceful, and that’s really what we’re talking about. He repeated that he has urged Iran to suspend enrichment and that he hopes there will be a diplomatic solution to this problem. You can have full access to the statement.
Question: Yesterday, in an interview, he said also that this is not helping, undue US pressure on Iran. I’m saying, does the Secretary-General concur with what ElBaradei was saying.
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has expressed, and continues to express, his full confidence in Mr. ElBaradei. Yes, anything else?
Question: Thank you, Michèle. On 1701, there was supposed to be a report released today and what are the reasons of this delay.
Spokesperson: I don’t think there were any specific reasons for the delay. It was just going through the process and I don’t think there is any specific reason for the delay. We have been told that it should be out soon. We don’t know how soon that would be. Of course, we’ll let you know as soon as we get it.
Question: Do you know if tomorrow Mr. Roed-Larsen will brief the Council?
Spokesperson: I don’t know that. I can confirm that for you. Yes, Benny.
[The Spokesperson later added that Mr. Roed-Larsen is expected to brief the Council next month under Indonesia’s presidency, for which a programme of work has not yet been announced.]
Question: On Andrew Toh, I saw over the weekend, this is again to the JPC findings… so far, I haven’t seen the JVC findings… and I want to know is what the Singapore Government is saying about him and about what Andrew Toh is saying about it. Is there any way, since there have been so many references to it, is there any way you can release that?
Spokesperson: Well, it’s an internal process, as you know. I don’t think that the findings are made public.
Correspondent: I mean, there have been so many references to it. It would be prudent, I think, to let us see at least what they say, rather than rely on what people say they’ve said.
Spokesperson: I will convey your concerns.
Question: I wanted to ask… the way you read out about the Chief Executive Board for Coordination on the ethics office… Does this mean that the UN Ethics Office will have jurisdiction over the funds and programmes or not? I thought that was a question…
Spokesperson: What they said is what you heard. They have discussed the system in which there will be one system. However, there are steps and there are internal mechanisms that exist within each of the funds and programmes, that will continue to exist, and that will, of course, be the first recourse of any staff member. There will be that board that will be headed by the head of the Ethics Office, which we mentioned earlier.
Question: But if a staff member of UNDP or WFP approaches the UN Ethics Office and said “I feel like I’ve been retaliated against.” Would they be rebuffed, as took place earlier this year?
Spokesperson: It would have to go first through the process in its own agency and then that would be referred to…
Question: Then it could go… Okay, that’s great. Thank you.
Question: This afternoon, the Secretary-General is meeting with advisor of the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Is it possible to have the subject of this meeting?
Spokesperson: Well, after the meeting we can try to get you a readout.
Question: Who asked for the meeting?
Spokesperson: I don’t have that information. I can get it for you.
[The Spokesperson later informed the reporter that the meeting was a tête-à-tête.]
Question: If Iran answers all of questions to IAEA, do you think that Iran’s file written to the IAEA (inaudible) from the Security Council or not?
Spokesperson: The file it concerns, what Mr. ElBaradei has done, it is a technical assessment, so the file is still open and it is still with the IAEA.
Question: If Iran answers all of question with IAEA, after its debriefing Iran and IAEA, will Iran’s file be written to IAEA or not?
Spokesperson: Well, those are separate files. I mean, if there is a file at the Security Council, it’s a file opened by the Security Council. It has nothing to do with the IAEA file, which is a file open on technical assessment on Iran’s capabilities or Iran’s…
Question: The Security Council claim was that Iran didn’t answer to IAEA questions. But Iran is now prepared to answer to them. If you file it with them, will it be investigated in IAEA or not?
Spokesperson: I don’t understand your question. You’re asking whether the Security Council will take up IAEA’s file?
Question: Must Iran file with them to IAEA? The Security Council must not look over that?
Spokesperson: Well, this is a matter for the Security Council to decide. But the IAEA is continuing. As I said it’s an open file. Okay? Thank you. Yes?
Question: How concerned is Mr. Ban Ki-moon about the boycott of some major groups of the meetings in Sirte about Darfur and if that could impact on the deployment of the UN Mission? Is he concerned by this?
Spokesperson: Well, the talks and the deployment are two separate issues.
Question: But the political is important to the success of the mission.
Spokesperson: Yes, it is indeed and right now we are at the beginning of a process. The United Nations is facilitating the process. You have a team of about 100 people –- a support team that is facilitating the process – talks are, as far as we know, on track. There is a strong presence of civil society, which is one of the things that the UN wanted to have – civil society being, as you know, most of the victims of the conflict, and to us, it’s a process. It will take time. It will take weeks. It will take months, maybe? It’s a process that is ongoing. And what Mr. Eliasson said this weekend and I quoted him is to say they are hoping more will join in the process, but the process is ongoing.
Question: Well, he sounds very optimistic when he said that this process was on the track, even though major political players are not…
Spokesperson: Well, no one expected this to be easy. It’s going to be difficult, a difficult process. All the actors, including the Secretary-General himself, when he was announcing the talks, he was very cautious about, the fact that it is a slow process. It’s a process that will take time. These are negotiations between parties. The UN is facilitating. That is what we are doing.
Question: ElBaradei also said in the interview about the bombing of Syria by Israel, that that was bypassing the due process that the IAEA provides. Does the Secretary-General have any response to that? Because also, that’s an act that the Secretary-General could take to the Security Council to be looked at and acted on if he felt it was appropriate. So I wonder is he’s had some comment about ElBaradei’s statement about bypassing the machinery, and if he would do anything about that.
Spokesperson: No, he doesn’t have any comments on this, as I said about that media report. As far as I know, the Secretary-General has not really gotten into that issue. If that issue is to be brought to the Security Council, it has to be brought by the people concerned and, essentially, by Syria. And as you know, there was a letter written to the Security Council, by Syria, that did not imply and ask for any specific action. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Earlier there had been this controversy about whether the UN is still soliciting peacekeepers from Fiji, given the military coup. There is a report that now Fiji is sending additional peacekeepers to UNMIS. So I wanted to know if that indicates… If these are additional troops and that the previously stated policy was off?
Spokesperson: No, as far as we know, there has been no change in policy. We are having no new troops and we can also confirm that we have received information of criminal allegations against a number of individuals scheduled to be deployed in Iraq as part of the regular rotations of the Fiji guard company. And, as per in UN policy and procedures, in close cooperation with the Fijian government in that regard, seven individuals were prevented from leaving the country and will not be part of the UN deployment. That’s what I know right now and the issue now rests with the Fijian authorities.
Question: Just before we began here, there was here Manfred Nowak, the special rapporteur on torture for the UN system. He said that he would like to, but apparently has not, spoken with DPKO about the relationship between torture countries that contribute peacekeepers and taking peacekeepers. So he sort of said there’s an open call. Is there some way to find out… Is DPKO aware of, of, the UN expert’s visit? His position was, for example, Nepal, that torture took place and that DPKO should be much more cautious or should not accept peacekeepers from countries where he finds torture.
Spokesperson: You know how the system works. The Special Rapporteur reports to the Human Rights Council. So those are two different channels. He can make his opinion known, of course, to the Human Rights Council and he can ask the question you asked. These are not the regular channels.
Question: If I missed it, did you mention anything on Chad and the situation with the hostages in Chad, since UNICEF was somehow mentioned in the news report. I know you don’t like to…
Spokesperson: You mean the hostages… You are talking about the children?
Correspondent: Right. You did not address that issue?
Spokesperson: No, I did not, I did not. We talked about it last time and we can have more on that for you.
[The Spokesperson later referred the reporter to remarks she made at Friday’s noon briefing, in which she flagged that UNICEF is ensuring that the children’s needs are being met and that what happened in this case was both “illegal and totally irresponsible”.]
Question: Is ElBaradei here today?
Spokesperson: Yes, he is.
Question: He’ll have a press conference?
Spokesperson: No, he will not. He has a very tight schedule, so we tried to have him for you, but it will not be possible. He has a very, very tight schedule. Janos?
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Good afternoon. A couple of quick things for you.
**General Assembly President
First, the General Assembly President. The President of the General Assembly is in Washington -- where he just met Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and will also met National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. With the Secretary of State the President discussed US-UN relations as well as some of the key priorities the General Assembly President has for this session, namely the Millennium Development Goals, HIV/AIDS as well as UN Reform. That’s about all I have on those talks.
The General Assembly is meeting in plenary for the full day to discuss the annual report of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The report was introduced by the Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei. The Assembly is also expected to take action on a draft resolution on the report of the IAEA (A/62/L5) in which Member States are expected to take note of the IAEA report. And let me just also flag for you that the Director-General had a speech, as I mentioned, introducing the report and in that speech he also talked about Iran – there’s a good one page about that. It’s a 12-page speech and one page of that is on Iran if you’re interested. There are about 25 speakers scheduled to speak on that subject, meaning the IAEA report, and that means that the whole meeting will probably go into the afternoon.
Prior to taking up the IAEA report the Assembly held a minute of silence in honour of the memory of Mr. Ruediger von Wechmar who was the President of the 35th session of the General Assembly and who passed away on 17 October. And to flag something for tomorrow morning: the Assembly is expected to take action on a draft resolution on the “Necessity of ending the economic commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. I mentioned that a couple of times, I’ll mention it again: the document number again is A/62/L.1
Main committees are in action today. The First Committee is continuing today its thematic discussions on conventional weapons and as mentioned, but I’ll mention it again: in the course of this week, the First Committee is expected to take action on all draft resolutions that it has on issues related to disarmament.
The Second Committee is looking at issues related to sustainable development.
The Third Committee continues its discussion and hearings and presentations by Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts and also let me flag something for you in the afternoon: it is going to take up in the afternoon something that you have all been interested in and that’s the human rights situation in Myanmar and there’s a report of the Secretary-General out on that. That’s A/62/498 and that’s going to be introduced by Mr. Lynn Pascoe the Under Secretary-General for the Department of Political Affairs. And this is in relation to the resolution that the General Assembly had in the past session. That was 61/232, which called for the continuation of the Secretary-General’s Good Offices and it was on the basis of which Mr. Gambari is doing his mediation effort. That might be interesting for you to listen to.
Fourth Committee continues its discussion on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. And will talk about the effects of atomic radiation in the afternoon.
The Fifth Committee has taken up its agenda item on programme planning.
And the Sixth Committee is beginning its discussion the report of the International Law Commission.
That’s the very quick rundown. And any questions if you have. Erol?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yes, Janos, it’s not usual if I can start with that, that, the Secretary, I mean the President of the General Assembly’s going, at least, if I remember right at least the last few years, that he is going the White House and then the State Department. If we can know, who initiated that? Who is travelling? Who was attending the President during those meetings? And were other topics, besides those that you have mentioned, included or are included on the agenda.
Spokesperson: Those are the only topics that I know of that were included in the agenda and the visit is part of a broader set of visits that the President is involved in as regards meeting with a variety of different Member States, including the Permanent Members of the Security Council with the intention of focusing -- and this is what basically, the main elements of the talks are focusing -- on the priority issues of the sixty-second session, which as you all know are the following five: climate change, counterterrorism, financing for development, MDGs and UN reform. It’s within that context that this visit is taking place. He’s only travelling with one member from his team, so it’s a small scale travel. Matthew?
Question: I guess it’s on reform – the fifth of your items. This meeting of the Chief Executive Boards held Friday and Saturday where they discussed things like whether the Ethics Office would have jurisdiction over the funds of programs. Does the GA or the GA President’s Office have… Given that that office was created by a GA Resolution… Do you… Did the GA have any input, report back from or was able to participate in the Chief Executive Board?
Spokesperson: If you remember, many times when you ask this question that we talked about this and we mentioned that there’s that standing General Assembly resolution, which talks about the urging of the Secretary General to make the Code of Ethics system-wide. And, and it was mentioned that they were basically looking at a variety of different options and one of the options was to work with funds and programmes and obviously this is what has happened at the CEB. Now, the President, at the moment, has no readout, no clear report on what was suggested. But, we do know that the Secretary General and the President have met on a number of occasions in the past – and they had at least three meetings that I know of – and the ethics issue was discussed in all of these meetings. It’s an important issue for both of them. So I’m very sure that the next time the two of them will meet, this is going to be on their agenda and the President is going to get a full brief as to what has exactly been decided. But, at the moment, I cannot comment on the CEB decision because we just don’t have the readout – at least not in a formal manner. Yes?
Question: I think it’s on Wednesday afternoon, they’re going to take up a new agenda item about the peace and security and reunification of the Korean peninsula?
SG Spokesperson: That is correct, yes. The plenary on Wednesday afternoon is going to take up the action on that draft resolution. I mean take up the item, which includes a draft resolution presented to the plenary, so action is going to be taken on that draft resolution. I’m not sure as to how many speakers or what they will address. I have a feeling that the representatives of the two Koreas will definitely speak, since it’s a jointly sponsored item and draft resolution, so they will definitely make a speech. Apart from them, who else, I do not know which other Member States may wish to take the floor.
Question: Is it likely to be 3 pm or later if it’s the afternoon session?
GA Spokesperson: If it’s the afternoon session it’s going to be 3 o’clock. And, as I said, depending on the number of speakers whether they want to speak before there is action taken on the item or afterwards explaining the their stand on it -- we’ll see how it goes -- it can be a full afternoon session.
If no questions, thank you very much and see you tomorrow.
* *** *For information media • not an official record