|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, the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
**Press Conferences Today
Good afternoon, all. Our guests at the noon briefing are Jorge Sampaio, the UN Special Envoy to Stop TB, and Winstone Zulu, an HIV and TB activist, who will brief on the first HIV/TB Global Leaders’ Forum. At 2 p.m., Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS; and Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, will present key findings on the global AIDS response, including updates on progress made and new global estimates of people receiving antiretroviral treatment. And at 3 p.m., Kenneth Kaunda, former President of Zambia; and Pascoal Mocumbi, Former Prime Minister of Mozambique; will be joined by other speakers to brief on the latest report from the Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa, entitled “Securing Our Future”.
**High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS
On the eve of a two-day high-level General Assembly meeting on AIDS, the first ever HIV/Tuberculosis Global Leaders’ Forum is taking place today at Headquarters. The Secretary-General is scheduled to address this afternoon’s meeting in Conference Room 2. Our guest at noon, as I said, is Jorge Sampaio, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Stop TB. He will provide you with more information, of course.
Meanwhile, this morning the Secretary-General took part in the launch of the report of the Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa, entitled “Securing Our Future”. Addressing the high-level panel, he noted that there has been an international movement towards universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support, but that serious challenges remain, including rising prevalence among women and young people. Africa has multiple AIDS epidemics, and one-size-fits-all policies will not work across the region, he said. He stressed the importance of grasping how cultural norms and attitudes increase the risk of infection, enforcing laws to eliminate violence against women and girls and taking action to improve the lives of AIDS orphans. We have more information upstairs for you.
**Statement on Sudan
We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Sudan. The Secretary-General welcomes the agreement reached on 8 June between the National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, in which the parties have agreed on a road map to resolve the Abyei dispute, including through arbitration. The Secretary-General particularly welcomes the commitment of the two parties to allow the UN Mission in Sudan unrestricted access and freedom of movement in the Abyei area.
The Secretary-General assures the parties and the people of Sudan that the United Nations will continue to provide assistance to the tens of thousands of people displaced after fighting broke out in Abyei last month. It also stands ready to assist their return to Abyei, once security arrangements are put in place to enable a safe and dignified return. The Secretary-General congratulates the two parties and urges them to implement this agreement in full to ensure a final resolution of this most serious challenge to Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
**Security Council Mission to Africa
The Security Council delegation travelling in Africa is today in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, where it arrived this morning on the last leg of its 10-day mission. Upon arrival, the delegation, led by Ambassador Michel Kafando of Burkina Faso, received a briefing by Choi Young-Jin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, and other senior officials of the UN peacekeeping mission (ONUCI). Meetings were also conducted with a cross-section of Ivorian civil society, with opposition figure Alassane Ouattara, with the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission and with military officials, including the UN Force Commander and the Chief of Staff of the Ivorian Army. The delegation also met with the team in charge of the logistical preparations for the planned November presidential election and with the Special Representative of the Facilitator of the Ivorian peace process. Right now the delegation is scheduled to meet with President Laurent Gbagbo and we will have a readout of that meeting for you as soon as it is completed.
Before Côte d’Ivoire, the delegation was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it met on Saturday with President Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa. They discussed the reform of the security and judicial sectors, the disarmament and national reconciliation processes, and the implementation of the Goma agreement between the Government and various armed groups. They also touched on continued UN-DRC cooperation, sexual violence and issues related to war crimes investigations by the International Criminal Court.
On Sunday, the delegation visited a UN-run camp for internally displaced persons in the north-eastern town of Goma and held discussions with the displaced persons and with UN humanitarian staff working in the camp. They also met with the Mixed Commission on the Follow-up Mechanism to the Goma Agreement and with representatives of female victims of sexual violence. The Security Council delegation is expected back in New York tomorrow, Tuesday afternoon.
This morning, still on the Security Council, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, the Secretary-General’s new Special Representative for Cyprus, briefed the Security Council in closed consultations on the Secretary-General’s recent report on Cyprus. In that report, you’ll recall, the Secretary-General says that a window of opportunity to finally resolve the Cyprus problem is clearly open. He also recommends a six-month extension of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus, UNFICYP. The Council expects to take up that matter this Friday.
** Greece and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy on the talks between Greece and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Matthew Nimetz, will be meeting with representatives of the two Parties in New York this week, with a formal meeting to be held at the United Nations on Thursday, 12 June. Representing Greece will be Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis and representing The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be Ambassador Nikola Dimitrov.
On Somalia, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that security in various parts of Somalia, particularly the south, remains precarious. Incidents of carjacking targeting humanitarian aid organizations are on the increase along the Afgooye-Mogadishu road, hindering efforts to deliver aid to 300,000 internally displaced persons who have fled from violence in Mogadishu. Some 22 humanitarian vehicles have been hijacked in Somalia so far in 2008.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme has managed to secure six ships to transport 40,000 metric tons of food aid from the Kenyan port of Mombasa to Mogadishu. The Dutch naval mission to escort vessels along the pirate-infested Somali coastline ends on 22 June, and WFP is urgently seeking other navies to provide escort.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
Relative stability in the border province of South Kivu is encouraging Congolese refugees to return home, but some face problems once they get back, especially over land. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says land is at the heart of many disputes and confrontation between returnees and those who never fled. UNHCR, in a bid to ease the reintegration process and avert conflict over land, has been working with its partners to promote dialogue and mediation in the areas of return, and has conducted a comprehensive review on the issue of land disputes in major return zones. You can read more about this on the refugee agency’s website.
**Human Rights Council
On the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Council began the second phase of its Universal Periodic Review process today. The Council has started considering the outcome of the reviews for States who have already had their human rights records examined under this new mechanism. This week the Council will consider the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review’s Working Group review of the 32 States who underwent reviews during its first and second session, which took place in April and May. Today, five country reviews were adopted, for Bahrain, Ecuador, Tunisia, Morocco and Finland. There is more information in the press summaries from Geneva.
The United Nations expressed its sorrow at the killing of two BBC journalists over the weekend, with reporters being murdered in Afghanistan and Somalia. In Somalia, the UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator expressed today shock and disappointment that Nasteh Dahir Farah was brutally murdered by unknown gunmen in Kismayo on Saturday. Mr. Farah has been working for the BBC and the Associated Press. With nine journalists killed in 2007-2008, Somalia is the second most dangerous country in the world for the media to work. Also, the UN Mission in Afghanistan said today that it was saddened to learn of the death yesterday of Abdul Samad Rohani, a BBC journalist working in Helmand Province. We have more details upstairs.
Miroslav Jenca, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia (UNRCCA), arrived in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, over the weekend to take up his duties and to have consultations with authorities around the region over the coming weeks. The UN Regional Centre was established at the initiative of the UN and all five Central Asian Governments. Its mandate is to assist them in peacefully and cooperatively managing an array of common challenges and threats, including terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime and environmental degradation.
And this is all I have for you. Do you have any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: The Secretary-General is meeting with Lakhdar Brahimi this afternoon, on the Investigative Panel investigating the 11 December bombings. Do you know when we’ll receive an update from Brahimi?
Spokesperson: As you know, the Secretary-General is expecting to receive the report from the Independent Panel this afternoon and he’s meeting with the Panel this afternoon. As you know, this is a report that is of the utmost importance to the Secretary-General. Mr. Brahimi would be willing to talk to the press after, of course, the Secretary-General has seen the report and has decided on the follow-up and on when to make the report public. But he has agreed to come and talk to you.
Question: And will the Secretary-General make a decision on whether the UN will probe Bhutto’s assassination?
Spokesperson: At this point I don’t have an answer for you on that.
Question: And my last question, will the Secretary-General respond to the letter you have received from the Iranian UN Ambassador?
Spokesperson: That letter is still being studied.
Question: A human rights NGO called Avaz took an ad in The Economist, I believe, advertising for a Human Rights Commissioner because they claim that the process by which the Secretary-General is picking out the Commissioner is not transparent and, therefore, they put it up in a newspaper, saying applicants may apply to the Secretary-General. Will the Secretary-General consider applications coming through them?
Spokesperson: I don’t know. At this point it could be the same applications he already has. We don’t know at this point. As you know, the Secretary-General has been giving a lot of importance to this process and, as my office mentioned to you, he launched the process in March, sending letters to every Permanent Mission of Member States, and he has been systematically going through applications on this subject. So saying that the actual process is not transparent, I don’t think it’s quite correct.
Question: The question is, will he consider applications that come from outside rather than from Missions and will we know a little more about the way this process is taking place?
Spokesperson: We’ll certainly tell you more about it when we get closer to a decision. The applications of other people will be considered. I’m sure the Secretary-General wants as open a process as he possibly can have.
Question: The negotiations between Macedonia and Greece for the name of Macedonia are going for quite some time. How often does the Secretary-General receive a report and in what form, written or oral, from his Special Representative, Ambassador Nimetz? And does the Secretary-General have any position on the newest and very obvious support from the French President Sarkozy to the Greeks in regard to the name dispute?
Spokesperson: He has entrusted his Special Envoy with dealing with that issue and he will get a report from him in time.
Question: How often does he get a report?
Spokesperson: I don’t know at this time. I know it is on a regular basis, I can’t tell you how often.
Question: And what about the Sarkozy going on the one side rather than being fair and balanced?
Spokesperson: You should ask Mr. Sarkozy that question.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any opinion on that?
Spokesperson: No, he does not.
Question: Over the weekend, an Israeli Minister issued a threat, saying that Israel would have no option but to attack Iran. And given the situation as it stands now, the escalation of oil prices, does the Secretary-General have any reaction to that statement by the Israeli Minister?
Spokesperson: At this point, no. As I said, this is a hypothetical situation. And I said that on Friday, if I remember correctly.
Question: On the same subject, in the past when a minister made statements against Israel, he was criticized by the Secretary-General openly. Why is he not making any statement in this respect?
Spokesperson: He’s not going to react to every statement that’s made.
Question: But this statement was so strong that the oil markets jumped by more than $14 a barrel, adversely affecting the poverty situation all over the world. This is a very serious matter.
Spokesperson: It is a very serious matter and the Secretary-General is following it.
Question: I asked about this last Friday and we haven’t received any reply since then.
Spokesperson: No, we don’t have anything on that at this point.
Question: Will you have something tomorrow?
Spokesperson: I don’t know.
Question: Was Mr. Ban Ki-moon informed about the kidnapping attempt of Minister Ahmad Harun and one of the suspects that should be delivered to the ICC? Was he informed about it when it happened last year and what was his reaction when it was announced last week?
Spokesperson: I don’t have a reaction on that, either. Was he informed of it? I’m sure he’s informed on a regular basis.
Question: He was informed of it when it happened last year, right?
Spokesperson: I can only assume so but I can find out more definitely for you.
Question: Following up on President Sarkozy, the Secretary-General and he are going to meet this week. Are they going to discuss the nomination of a peacekeeping chief?
Spokesperson: I don’t have the agenda of their talks yet. They will be meeting, of course, in Paris, when the Secretary-General goes to Paris.
Question: Does the Secretary-General agree that DPKO should be led by a French person?
Spokesperson: I don’t have a reaction on that. You’ll find out when the Secretary-General decides on who will be the head of DPKO.
Question: Are there applicants? Should we take out an ad?
Spokesperson: There are a lot of applicants, a number of names.
Question: The applicants don’t go through Galaxy, do they? They go through word of mouth or recommendations.
Spokesperson: Usually, yes. They go through different channels, not through the regular Galaxy process.
Question: And how it really looks like, Michèle? Somebody comes to Secretary-General, asking to have nice coffee with him saying, you know, I have a friend. You know? Can we have a story on that?
Spokesperson: Of how the process goes on? It works differently depending on the type of post we’re talking about. If you want, I’ll get you a story about that, how the process goes.
Question: Can you buy an ad on this in the New York Sun?
Spokesperson: How much does the New York Sun charge? Okay, I thank you. Our guests have arrived.
For information media • not an official record