29 November 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

 


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


Good afternoon, all.


**Press Conferences Today


Our guest at noon, Nicholas Burnett, Assistant-Director General for Education at UNESCO, will brief you on the 2008 Education for All Global Monitoring Report.  More information on the Report is available upstairs.


At 2 p.m., the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands and the Coalition for the International Criminal Court will sponsor a press conference on multilateral cooperation between the International Criminal Court and States parties during investigations in Darfur, Sudan, and northern Uganda.


**Secretary-General’s Trip


The Secretary-General will participate in the Bali Conference on Climate Change from the 12th to the 14th of December. There, he wants to maximize the prospects for the launch of climate change negotiations.  He feels we need a breakthrough in Bali as a critical first step.  If we are to meet the challenge of global warming, we need a new and comprehensive agreement that all nations can embrace.


We do not expect world leaders to walk away from the Summit with a new global accord to succeed Kyoto.  But the Secretary-General would expect them to agree to an agenda of issues and set a timetable for reaching such an accord before the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.


In Bali, the Secretary-General will meet key Heads of State and Government on the margin of the talks, as well as major players in the climate change field.


On his way to Bali, the Secretary-General will stop for an official visit to Thailand, where he will meet with Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont.  An audience with the King of Thailand is also scheduled.  In Bangkok, the Secretary-General will visit the headquarters of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and meet the UN staff working in the region.


On December 14 and 15, the Secretary-General will visit the United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste.  In Dili, he will meet with Government officials and address the National Parliament.  He will also visit camps for internally displaced people.  From Dili, the Secretary-General will fly to Jakarta on his way back to New York.


The Secretary General has also confirmed his attendance the following Monday, December 17, in Paris of the International Donors Conference for the Palestinian Territories, co-hosted by France, Norway, the European Commission and Tony Blair, as Special Representative for the Quartet.


**UNSCO Appointment


The Secretary-General has informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Robert H. Serry of the Netherlands as the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and his Personal Representative to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority.  In this capacity, Mr. Serry will be the Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Quartet.  The Security Council has been informed of the Secretary-General’s intention, and we await its response.


The appointment of a new Special Coordinator comes at a critical juncture, as the Annapolis conference has created renewed momentum for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  Mr. Serry will play a pivotal role in coordinating all United Nations activities related to the Middle East peace process and in representing the Secretary-General in all arenas involving the parties and the international community.


Mr. Serry brings with him a distinguished career in diplomacy.  We have his bio upstairs.


**United Nations Register of Damage Appointment


The Secretary-General has decided to appoint Mr. Vladimir Goryayev of the Russian Federation as Executive Director of the Office of the United Nations Register of Damage caused by the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


The Office of the UN Register of Damage, based in Vienna, is a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly operating under the administrative authority of the Secretary-General.


Mr. Goryayev currently serves as Director ad interim for the Asia and the Pacific Division in the Department of Political Affairs.  In his new capacity, Mr. Goryayev will be responsible for overseeing and administering the work of the Office of the UN Register of Damage.


**Palestinian Observance


Today is the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Speaking this morning to mark the occasion, the Secretary-General said the process launched at Annapolis must change the lives of Palestinians and secure their independence and freedom.  It must end the occupation and create an independent and viable State of Palestine, at peace with itself and its neighbours, he added.


The Secretary-General also said that indignities, injustices, and fear on both sides make it difficult to build faith in the political process.  But that is exactly what we have to do, he stressed.  We must abandon piecemeal approaches and address all aspects of the conflict.


In conclusion, he said that now that the Palestinian leadership has embarked on a new quest with Israel to end the conflict and secure a better future for their children, “let us show our solidarity with the Palestinian people -- and the Israeli people, too -- by giving our unyielding support to their efforts and not resting until the goal is achieved”.


We have his full remarks upstairs.


** Sri Lanka


We issued a statement yesterday afternoon, which said that the Secretary-General condemned the bomb attacks that occurred in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which had killed and wounded dozens of civilians.  He also expressed his concern about an aerial attack on Tuesday which damaged the office of the United Nations World Food Programme in Kilinochchi.


The Secretary-General appealed for an end to the destructive spiral of violence in Sri Lanka and called on the parties to the conflict to return to the peace process, while making every effort to ensure the protection of civilians.


**Security Council


The Security Council recently began consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Council members will hear from the departing Special Representative of the Secretary-General for that country, William Lacy Swing.


Mr. Swing has informed us that he is willing to speak with reporters at the Council stakeout following those consultations.  Those consultations were preceded by a private meeting among Council members and troop-contributing countries for the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known as MONUC.


**Timor-Leste – Security Council Visit


Over in Timor-Leste, the Security Council mission today travelled to the eastern district of Baucau, where they met with local authorities, political party representatives, and officials from the UN and local police.


Discussions in Baucau focused on the needs of the people in the district and identifying ways in which the international community can continue to assist and support Timor-Leste to strengthen its democracy, security and development.  In meetings with the police, the delegation reiterated the importance of ongoing collaboration between each organization, citing it will be key to future stability in the new nation.


In Dili, they met with political party representatives and members of civil society to hear the views of the wider Timorese community about the work of the United Nations and the future challenges.


**Holmes in Sudan


Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes is in Khartoum today as part of a four-day visit to Sudan that will also take him to Darfur.


Today, he met with the country’s Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Commissioner General of the Humanitarian Aid Commission.  He said he received “clear assurances” that the 2004 Moratorium enabling NGOs to continue operating in Darfur would be extended.  In addition, he also raised the issue of the continuing need for a safer and more conducive environment for humanitarian workers.


Tomorrow, Holmes travels to South Darfur, where he will meet people directly affected by the conflict.


We have more information on that upstairs.


** Somalia


The UN Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, travelled to Baidoa today for talks aimed at furthering the peace process.


The visit provided him with the opportunity to continue his consultations with President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and to meet the new Prime Minister, Nur Hassan Hussein.


After an earlier visit to Mogadishu, this is the second time that Ould Abdallah has been to Somalia since taking office in September this year.


Meanwhile, the Assembly of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted a resolution today appealing directly to the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to take any action it deems necessary to prevent and suppress acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships off the country’s coast.


There is a press release with more details on this resolution.


**Gambari in Cambodia


The Secretary-General’s special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, is in Cambodia, where he met this afternoon with the Deputy Prime Minister, Hor Namhong, who doubles as the Foreign Minister.


There, Gambari delivered a letter from the Secretary-General addressed to Prime Minister Hun Sen, in which the Secretary-General seeks support from the Government of Cambodia for the United Nations efforts in Myanmar.


Gambari also briefed the Foreign Minister on UN efforts in Myanmar, as well as his assessment of the situation in that country.  Gambari said he is grateful for the constructive discussions and feels that good cooperation has been established between the UN and the Government of Cambodia.


**Deputy Secretary-General


Tomorrow, the Deputy Secretary-General is scheduled to chair the second meeting of the Millennium Development Goals Africa Working Group, which is comprised of United Nations, multilateral and regional organizations, as well as international financial institutions.


The meeting will examine proposals to strengthen international mechanisms and commitments to support the MDGs in a number of key areas, notably: infrastructure and trade facilitation; agriculture and food security; education; health; national statistical systems; and improved predictability in aid flows.  The meeting will also examine ways to ensure greater collaboration of these organizations to identify and scale up opportunities to support the MDGs at the country level.


**WFP -- Bangladesh


Turning to Bangladesh, the World Food Programme (WFP) today announced plans to provide long-term food aid to more than two million people left hungry and homeless by Cyclone Sidr.


The initiative, which will take place over the next six months, is aimed at preventing a surge in malnutrition, especially among children.  It will supplement the immediate food assistance that WFP is already providing to the country.  So far, more than 300 tonnes of biscuits and more than 400 tonnes of rice have been delivered by air and land.


Meanwhile, WFP is also appealing for nearly $100 million to help provide food aid to more than 800,000 of Indonesia’s poorest people over the next three years.


We have more information, also, on that upstairs.


**Measles in Africa


The UN goal of cutting measles deaths in Africa by 90 per cent has now been reached, years before the target date, according to UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Foundation, and other partners in the Measles Initiative.


Measles deaths in Africa fell from an estimated 396,000 to 36,000 between 2000 and 2006.


We also have more on that upstairs.


**Srebrenica Ruling


We were asked some questions yesterday and also the day before about a local court ruling in the Netherlands in a case involving the Mothers of Srebrenica, and I had some further information to share with you on that.


Our Office for Legal Affairs is trying to obtain a copy of the Dutch lower court’s ruling to determine whether it deals with the issue of immunity, as had been reported in the media.  We have received information from the Netherlands mission to the UN that the media depiction might not be accurate, and the ruling this week may not have to do with a determination of the immunity issue.  That issue may be decided on 12 December.


In any case, I’ll have further information for you once the ruling has been studied by our Legal Department, once they receive it.


**Death of Mohamad Ghazzawi


Then sad news.  I am sorry to announce the death of Mohamad Ghazzawi, a former member of UNCA, who worked here since he was first accredited to the United Nations in 1994.


Mr. Ghazzawi was affiliated with the Jordan News Agency.


I would like to join all my colleagues in extending our deepest condolences to his family.  We will miss him and remember him.


That’s all I have for you.  Thank you.  Yes, Masood.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Michèle, on Pakistan, I would like to… now that General Pervez Musharraf has taken off the uniform to become a civilian President, but still, in Pakistan, the emergency continues.  The civil society is still under siege, and that most of the press is under draconian laws and most of the TV channels are still not being allowed to function.  And in the past, I think, the statement you issued last Monday… What does the Secretary-General, at this point in time, see, and what is it he asks Pakistan to do?


Spokesperson:  He has no further comments on that.  As you know, he has been following that situation very closely.  You mentioned a statement he already issued on the situation.  He has no further statement on that today.  Yes, Silviane.


Question:  Thank you, Michèle.  I have two questions.  The first one is how much Mr. Ban Ki-moon is following, right now, the election in Lebanon, with maybe Mr. Michel Suleiman coming… who will be, maybe, the winner.  How did he get in touch with Prime Minister [Fouad] Siniora, or, can you update us on this issue?  The second issue is, when is the 1701 going to be discussed at the Security Council?  It was planned for today and it seems has been postponed or not.  Can you please confirm?


Spokesperson:  For 1701, I will check for you when it will be discussed in the Council.  [The spokesperson later told the reporter that it will be up to the Council’s incoming President for the month of December to discuss with Council members the date for the next such discussions.]  Your first question concerning the elections, you asked me how much the Secretary-General is following the issue.  He is following the issue and, as you know, we have our Special Representative in Lebanon informing the Secretary-General on a regular basis on the evolution of the situation.


Question:  Did he speak with Mr. Siniora or…


Spokesperson:  No, he has not spoken to Mr. Siniora in the last few days.


Question:  …last week.


Spokesperson:  Okay.  Yes, Matthew.


Question:  Sure, Michèle.  Is… does the Secretary-General have any comment on moves in Nigeria to now call into question the handover of the Bakassi [peninsula] to Cameroon?  Has he… is he following that and what’s his view on it?


Spokesperson:  As you know, the agreement was signed under the auspices of the UN.  I don’t have any additional information on it.  I do know that this is something that has been discussed within the Secretariat.  I’ll let you know when we have further news on that.  [The Spokesperson later added that a meeting of the Mixed Commission, which brings together the UN, Nigeria and Cameroon, is scheduled for 7 December.]


Question:  Thanks.  There’s a report by the WWF environmental group saying that up to one in five of the, you know, UN-approved carbon projects under the Clean Development Mechanism are, in fact… increase emissions.  So, it’s sort of a… and I’m wondering, given the Secretary-General’s interest in these issues, what’s his response?  Does he disagree with that study?  What does he intend to do to, I guess, either improve the credibility of it… ?


Spokesperson:  I have to say that this kind of criticism of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is not new.  It is important and relevant and it’s worth, of course, studying.  As for the report’s assertion that one in five of the projects would have happened anyway, carbon finance is a new field and not an exact science, so it is impossible to say what would or would not have happened.  New systems are constantly being improved over time.  In addition, the rules about CDM projects are decided by the Conference of Parties, the 175 countries, as you know, who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, not the UN, per se.  So this is really all I can say on this.  As for concern that the offset projects are generally not promoting sustainable development, if I’m quoting right, this is exactly why the UN Development Programme created the MDG carbon facility.  It was to focus on projects that offset carbon, but also provide other MDG-related benefits.  Yes, Masood.


Question:  Is the Secretary-General following the situation along the Turkish-Iraqi border, because Turkey has been telling the people that the Kurds are about to leave and that it will… attack?  Is there… has he studied the… has he talked with Turkey… ?


Spokesperson:  No, he has not.  He has been informed of the situation, of course, by his political department, but we have no further statements on that.


Question:  I have one further question on that.


Spokesperson:  Yes, sure.


Question:  When will the new Representative of the Secretary-General issue his report on Iraq?


Spokesperson:  That I would have to check with our Mission.


Question:  Would it be coming here soon, very soon?


Spokesperson:  Not that I know of, but I’ll check for you when it will be coming out.  [The Spokesperson later informed the reporter that the next quarterly report is scheduled to come out in mid-January.]


Question:  Thank you.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Good afternoon.  Good to see you all.  A couple of quick things.  Some relate also to the things that Michèle has mentioned already.


**General Assembly President


Let me start with the activities of the President.  The President of the General Assembly also addressed the special meeting in observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  Let me just quote a couple of things from his speech.


The President said that the outcome of the Annapolis conference offered a great opportunity for a permanent two-State solution.  However, the prerequisite for success required a resolute commitment to boldly follow words with deeds.  He also went on to say that the only way to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace was through continuous dialogue and compromise, and a resolute commitment to achieve a permanent solution.


He said that both Israelis and Palestinians were going to have to be honest with their own people about the price of peace.  This would require difficult choices and sacrifice from both sides as part of a shared vision for a better future.


He said the stakes were high, but the alternatives were worse, and he called on all Member States to make every effort to support the peace process.


He also said that the General Assembly had repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to support a two-State solution -- Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders -– as the most viable solution.


He also referred to the activities of the Quartet Representative, Tony Blair, and said that Tony Blair had proposed concrete measures to strengthen Palestinian institutions and rehabilitate the economy.  He noted that the Paris Conference in December offered an important opportunity to fund these proposals and lay the foundation for a viable Palestinian State, and, in that context, he urged the international community to offer its full financial, technical and political support to make these reforms a reality; and to help alleviate the humanitarian suffering of the Palestinian people.


The full text of his speech will be available for you upstairs and it will be on the website of the President.


**General Assembly Plenary


As regards the activity of the Assembly, in the afternoon the Assembly will have a plenary session that will take up the agenda item:  the “Question of Palestine”, which is traditionally an item on the plenary taken up on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  There are close to 30 speakers inscribed on the speakers’ list, so that means that this item will spill over into tomorrow.  On Friday, the Assembly will continue to discuss Middle East-related issues.  In fact, it will take up the item of the “Situation in the Middle East”.  As regards these two items, the Assembly will have before it relevant reports of the Secretary-General and the report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.


In the context of these two items, the Assembly is expected to take action on a number of related draft resolutions which are available for you on the racks.  In fact, we’re talking about six related draft texts.


**Main Committees


A very quick run down on the Committees.


The Third Committee finished its work yesterday by taking action on the remaining drafts it had before it.  All in all, it has 63 adopted texts that it will send to the plenary for further action.  I know that you have been interested in knowing when exactly the plenary will take up the issues that were on the agenda of the Third Committee -- especially topics like the moratorium on the death penalty and also the various draft resolutions concerning the specific human rights situations in various countries.  I don’t have a date for you yet.  What happens is that the Third Committee, now that it has concluded its work, will submit a report to the plenary.  It is that report that is going to be taken up by the plenary.  My educated guess is that it will be sometime in the middle of December or a little bit after that.


Apart from the Third, as you know, the First, Fourth and Sixth Committees have also finished.


From these, what we know at the moment is that it is only the First Committee, with its 52 draft proposed texts, where we have a date for the Assembly to deal with these.  That will be on 5 December.


One other thing that I want you to note, as we switch into the plenary meetings that will look into the various draft texts coming out of the Committee workings, is that the plenary is going to take action on all of the proposed draft texts except the ones that have programme budget implications.  Those need to be taken up first by the Fifth Committee, and when the Fifth Committee pronounces itself on those budgetary implications, then those texts will go to the plenary for action.


As regards what is still left, the Second Committee is still to finish its work.  It’s not meeting today, at least not in a meeting format, but only in consultations.


The Fifth Committee, of course, is in action.  It is in full meeting, but it is in a closed, informal consultation format and has two topics.  In the morning, it was discussing the issue of “Administration of Justice” and in the afternoon, it is looking at the proposed budget for UNAMID.


That’s where I stop.  Any questions?  That’s a first!  Great!  Thank you very much.  All the best.


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For information media • not an official record