13 October 2008
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

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

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


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


Good afternoon, all.


**Financial-Crisis


We expect a statement this afternoon on the response to the world financial crisis.  A statement from UN Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang was delivered over the weekend to the development and finance committees of the Bretton Woods institutions, meeting in Washington, D.C.


In the statement, available upstairs, the United Nations calls for international cooperation to restore economic growth and to regulate the financial sector.  Concern is expressed for impact of the crisis on poor and developing countries.


The UN statement to the boards of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund points out that the upcoming Financing for Development review, taking place in Doha later this year, offers an important opportunity to address these issues.  You will have more with a statement that we will publish later today.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Alan Doss, says that UN peacekeepers have provided 21 escorts to humanitarian agencies on field mission in North Kivu.  Doss said this in a letter to Médecins Sans Frontières after the organization said that civilians and aid workers were being harassed and abused by both the Government Army and illegal armed groups.  Doss also stressed that he is seeking support from the Security Council to temporarily raise troop levels in North Kivu in order to allow better protection for civilian populations.


The Mission, meanwhile, has confirmed that UN peacekeepers this weekend rescued 13 children under the age 18 from forced recruitment by illegal armed groups in North Kivu.  During that mission, the peacekeepers were fired upon by fighters loyal to General Laurent Nkunda.  The peacekeepers returned fire, wounding one rebel.


** Sudan


On the Sudan, a contingent of 130 officers from the Indonesian Formed Police Unit has arrived in El Fasher aboard a special UN flight from Jakarta, at the start of a one-year tour of duty with the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).


In his welcome address yesterday, the Deputy Police Commissioner noted that the Unit arrived at a crucial time, when their services are especially needed to support the work of the UNAMID police, particularly in providing security to the internally displaced persons throughout the region.


Meanwhile, UNAMID reports that the Deputy Joint Special Representative for Operations and Management, Hocine Medili, travelled to North Darfur today to inspect the readiness of the team site in preparation for the incoming troop’s arrival from Egypt.


The Egyptian Infantry Battalion is expected to join UNAMID at the end of the month.  An Egyptian transport Company is also expected to arrive at the same time and will be based in Nyala, South Darfur.


** Côte d’Ivoire


Some six weeks before the planned presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Yoojin Choi, this weekend toured identification and voter registration centres in Abidjan.  Choi said he wanted to collect first-hand impressions of how preparations for the vote are proceeding.


Noting that some logistical challenges persist, including computer availability at the centres, Choi stressed that solid advances have been achieved overall.  He was confident that the centres would be fully operational by 30 November, which is expected to be Election Day.


** Lebanon


Michael Williams, the newly appointed UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon arrived yesterday in Beirut to take up his functions as the Secretary-General’s main representative in Lebanon.  He will begin his round of meetings with Lebanese officials this week.


In his capacity as Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Williams will be responsible for coordinating the work of the United Nations in Lebanon and representing the Secretary-General on all political aspects of the Organization’s work in the country.  He will also be in charge of following up the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701.


** Cyprus


Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat met this morning in the UN Protected Area of Nicosia.  Speaking to the press after that encounter, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, said that today’s discussion featured resumed negotiations on the issue of the executive -- namely the presidency and the vice-presidency.


This Thursday, the leaders’ representatives and experts will meet under UN auspices to continue the discussion.  The two leaders will then meet again on Wednesday of next week.  We have the full transcript of Downer’s remarks upstairs.


** Afghanistan


Kai Eide, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said over the weekend that the Cabinet changes announced by President Hamid Karzai demonstrates the political determination to implement the agenda set in Paris last June, particularly the strengthening of the Afghan police and agricultural production, with a team that can move those issues forward.  Eide said that he is fully committed to supporting the new Cabinet team and looks forward to working with them over the coming weeks and months.


The Special Representative will brief the Security Council in an open debate on Afghanistan tomorrow morning, and he intends to speak to you at the Council stakeout afterward.


**Ethiopia-Eritrea


In a letter to the Security Council that is out as a document today, the Secretary-General says that, with the termination of the mandate of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, he will no longer provide reports to the Council on the situation between the two countries on a regular basis.


The Secretary-General has, however, transmitted to the Council the final report of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, which says that the Commission has now concluded all administrative matters connected with the termination of its mandate.


**Kosovo


The International Court of Justice has now received the General Assembly’s request for an advisory opinion on whether Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence is in line with international law.  The Secretary-General transmitted the request to the Court in a letter dated 9 October 2008.  Unlike judgements handed down in contentious proceedings between States, the Court’s advisory opinions are not binding.  We have more on that upstairs.


**Drugs


A new agreement between the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and INTERPOL sets the stage for the establishment of the world’s first training centre devoted to education, research and training to prevent and combat corruption.


The International Anti-Corruption Academy, to be located in Laxenburg, just outside of Vienna, will develop curricula and training tools, as well as conduct training courses and anti-corruption education.  Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of UNODC, says that the Academy will strengthen efforts to prevent, measure and fight corruption.


**United Nations Population Fund


The Secretary-General’s first ever report on fistula is to be presented this week to the General Assembly.  According to the report, Campaign to End Fistula, launched by the UN Population Found (UNFPA) in 2003, has seen a fourfold increase in the number of countries it serves -- from 12 in 2003 to over 45 today.


The report outlines efforts to end fistula, a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged labour without prompt medical intervention, and help achieve Millennium Development Goal 5, which deals with maternal health.


At least 2 million women in Africa, Asia and the Arab region are living with fistula.  The UNFPA’s campaign has supported treatment for over 7,800 women.  We have more information in a press release upstairs.


And this is all I have for you today.  Your questions.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  On Afghanistan, the Afghan Government Foreign Minister has said that the Afghan Government and the Taliban had peace talks in Saudi Arabia last month.  Does the UN know about it and what is the official position on peace talks with the Taliban?


Spokesperson:  On talks with the Taliban?  I can get more on that for you.


Question:  On Friday, the Congolese Ambassador, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sent a request to the Security Council that General Karake be removed from his position as the Deputy Head of UNAMID.  I just wondered if the Secretary-General was aware of this, and if there is any change that he might reconsider his decision to extend his appointment for another period given the controversy; having been indicted by a Spanish court for war crimes.


Spokesperson:  As you know, the controversy has been here for a while, and we have expressed our position on it.  So, we don’t have anything new on that.  (inaudible)


[The Spokesperson later clarified that General Karenzi Karake’s assignment has not yet been extended.  She also added that the United Nations has considered this joint United Nations-African Union appointment very carefully.  The United Nations has a solemn obligation to protect the people of Darfur through the full and timely deployment of UNAMID, and the Deputy Force Commander has played an important role in the process, she said.]


Question:  There are reports that Sudan has arrested and put into custody Ali Kushayb one of the two indictees of the International Criminal Court.  One, does the UN know if that’s true, and whether it does or not, would that be viewed as positive step as of now?


Spokesperson:  Well, for the time being, those are press reports.  We don’t have any confirmation on that; we haven’t been formally informed of that situation, so, we have no comment on it at this time.


Question:  Also, maybe I missed it on my way down, and if I did, I apologize.  This decision by the United States to take North Korea off the list of State sponsors of terrorism.  Does Ban Ki-moon think that’s a good thing?


Spokesperson:  Well, we’re going to have a statement also on North Korea a little later today.  So, you should have that within the next few minutes.


Question:  And then, just logistically, there are some reports that this 15 October conference in Geneva about South Ossetia and Abkhazia; there was a lot of (inaudible) things that this was going to be this big solution.  Now there are some reports that Ban Ki-moon either might not attend or it’s not a high enough level.  Is he still going to attend?


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General is still going there.  He is going to meet with his counterparts at the OSCE; with Mr. Javier Solana; and of course with Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.  He is going to meet with them the day before; which is tomorrow, Tuesday.  In terms of the actual meeting itself, it has been stated that it was a technical meeting and that technical meeting is still taking place.  Mr. Johan Verbeke will represent the Secretary-General at that meeting.


Question:  Does the UN know if any representatives of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are going to participate in the meeting?


Spokesperson:  We don’t know at this point.


Question:  And finally, one last thing.  There are these reports that Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste has asked the UN to stop its inquiry into violence committed in the past in Timor-Leste.  Are you aware of… I don’t know, the reports don’t say where the request was made.  Was it made to the Secretariat?


Spokesperson:  As far as I know, there was no official request.  Thank you so much all.  And we won’t have a briefing from Enrique.  So, that’s all we have today, thank you.


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For information media • not an official record