|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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
**Guests at Noon Today
We expect to have some time later in the briefing Serge Brammertz, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and Hassan Jallow, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. And they can brief you after they’ve finished briefing the Security Council, which is what they’re doing right now.
**Secretary-General in Geneva
The Secretary-General marked the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Geneva today, saying that the Declaration embodies groundbreaking principles: the universality of human rights and their indivisibility.
We have come a long way since the Declaration’s adoption, the Secretary-General said. But the reality is that we have not lived up to its vision –- at least not yet. Abject poverty, shameful discrimination and horrific violence continue to plague millions of people. As we mark this milestone, he asserted, we must also acknowledge the savage inhumanity that too many people in our world must endure. There is no time to rest. And we have that speech upstairs.
The Secretary-General also spoke to press in Geneva, and in response to a question, he said that it is necessary and desirable that the United States takes part as a member of the Human Rights Council. He said that he would expect and hope that the next US Administration will seriously and positively consider his call on this matter. He also noted his recent conversations with President Elect Barack Obama and other US officials, saying that he expects the new US Administration to be much more actively engaged with the United Nations on climate change, the Millennium Development Goals and many other major United Nations issues.
The Secretary-General was also asked about his recent meeting in Doha, Qatar, with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
He responded that he had urged Mugabe to honour his commitment to leave his legacy in a positive way. The Secretary-General stressed that President Mugabe should look to the future of his country and his own people, who have been suffering from political turmoil and very serious humanitarian tragedies.
**Secretary-General in Poznan
Also, the Secretary-General, in a press conference in Poznan, Poland, yesterday afternoon, said that there has been progress made at the climate change talks in Poznan, but much more needs to be done. And there must be no backsliding on previous commitments.
He emphasized the need for deep cuts in emissions to stabilize our climate, assistance for developing countries in dealing with mitigation and adaptation, a dramatic increase of the financial and technological resources that can help make this happen, and institutions that can support these efforts. All this must be done and must begin today, and not in 2012, he said.
The Secretary-General said he was heartened to see the United States re-engage actively in global climate discussions, and he looks forward to their leadership on the road to Copenhagen. At the same time, he hopes that the European Union will also take a leadership role, and that, at their current summit meeting, they will be able to agree on a climate and energy package which will have a positive impact as we look ahead to the Copenhagen conference.
Asked whether he would convene another meeting of Heads of State on climate change, the Secretary-General said that he is considering convening a summit-level meeting focused on climate change at the time of the General Assembly in September. And we have that transcript upstairs.
**Statement on Korean Peninsula
I have the following, a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, concerning the Six-Party Talks on the Korean Peninsula.
Regarding the Six-Party Talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, held in Beijing from 8 to 11 December, the Secretary-General notes that despite serious discussions, differences remained unresolved, including on terms of verification of the nuclear activities by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The Secretary-General strongly supports the goal of verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner. In this regard, he appreciates that the parties have reaffirmed this goal and unanimously agreed to advance the Six-Party Talks.
The Secretary-General hopes that the parties will overcome their remaining differences and complete the implementation of the second-phase actions in the near future. The Secretary-General stands ready to assist in any way possible to help towards this end.
I’m expecting a statement shortly condemning the bomb attack that took place in Kirkuk, Iraq, yesterday.
Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, also condemned the Kirkuk attack, and expressed great concern that it seemed to be deliberately designed to provoke revenge attacks and further inflame ethnic tensions. He called on the leaders of all the communities of Kirkuk to demonstrate responsible leadership and to urge restraint by their followers at this difficult time.
“At moments such as these, peace-loving people from all groups in Kirkuk should unite against the forces of cold-blooded mass murder,” he said.
** Iraq Statement
The Secretary-General strongly condemns yesterday’s heinous bomb attack in Kirkuk, which took the lives of so many civilians, including children. No cause can justify such inhumane and indiscriminate violence.
This terrorist attack was particularly troubling because it targeted a meeting to promote dialogue and reconciliation between different communities in the region. The Secretary-General calls on the Iraqi people and their leaders not to be deterred by such acts of provocation, and to continue to work together in a spirit of national reconciliation, in order to ensure a peaceful atmosphere for the holding of next month’s provincial elections.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
We were asked yesterday about the reported massacre in Kiwanja, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, last month. An investigation into the events at Kiwanja is being conducted by the Human Rights Division of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and is expected to be completed in a few weeks.
Forensic analyses have not been possible due to security considerations. The MONUC Human Rights Division is carefully compiling and cross-checking evidence, and has collected testimony from hundreds of individuals. The investigations cover reported violations by the National Congress in Defense of the People, known as the CNDP, as well as by Mai Mai and FDLR militia.
Meanwhile, mobile multidisciplinary teams from the UN Mission -– including human rights, civil affairs and child protection officers –- have been in place in Kiwanja for most of the past four weeks. These teams are co-located with UN peacekeepers, and have been facilitating relations between the MONUC military personnel and the civilian population.
In Nairobi, the Mediators for the talks between the Congolese Government and the CNDP, in consultation with the parties, have decided to adjourn and resume the direct talks on 17 December; that’s because of Kenya’s Independence Day celebrations between now and then.
Before the talks adjourned, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, Olusegun Obasanjo, said that he was pleased to note that they are making steady progress towards agreement on the ground rules for substantive discussions.
The two Mediators also dispatched a high-level delegation yesterday to meet with CNDP Chairman Laurent Nkunda in North Kivu, in order to clarify some of the outstanding issues that had slowed progress to date. The team has reported positive reaction.
The Security Council is currently hearing from the Presidents and Prosecutors of the two UN tribunals, dealing with the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, about the tribunals’ efforts to complete their caseloads. And as I mentioned, the two Prosecutors, Serge Brammertz, and Hassan Jallow of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, will be the guests at today’s briefing. If they’re delayed in the Council, they’ll still come to speak to you in this room as soon as they can, so please stick around for that.
Earlier today, the Council adopted several resolutions. It renewed the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights by six months, until the end of June 2009. It extended the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) by six months, until 15 June 2009. And it decided that the Secretary-General may appoint, within existing resources, additional ad litem -– or short-term –- judges upon the request of the President of the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, in order to complete existing or additional trials.
Then, this afternoon, at 3, the Council will hold an open meeting, followed by consultations, to consider the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT).
** Chad and Central African Republic
That report is out as a document today, and it includes an update on the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ efforts to garner support among potential troop- and police-contributing countries for the Mission’s initial concept of operations and for the Security Council-mandated deployment. To date, 16 countries have indicated a willingness to contribute to the force. At least one country says it’s willing to meet the Mission’s helicopter needs.
The Secretary-General says that it is crucial that there be no security vacuum when the European Force (EUFOR) withdraws in March next year. He also lists a number of benchmarks for an eventual withdrawal of the Mission itself. These include the voluntary return and resettlement in secure conditions of a critical mass of internally displaced persons, the demilitarization of refugee and internally displaced persons camps, the ability of local authorities to provide security and enforce the law.
On Sudan, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, deplored a violent incident that took place today in Abyei, in southern Sudan, which led to one death and several injuries among members of Sudan’s Joint Integrated Unit and Joint Integrated Police Unit.
Qazi called on all parties and Abyei residents to remain calm. He strongly urged the parties to take all necessary measures to avoid any further outbreaks of violence and to ensure that today’s unfortunate incident does not impede the peaceful implementation of the Abyei road map. And we have a press release on this upstairs.
** Côte d’Ivoire
Real progress has been made in identifying the population and registering voters in Côte d’Ivoire, said Edmond Mulet, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. Mulet, who is wrapping up a working visit to the country, listed among the signs of tangible progress the disappearance of the zone of confidence. He also noted that the two former warring forces are now working together on security issues along with the UN and Licorne forces. Even so, much remains to be done.
Mulet also encouraged donors to continue to provide support to the peace process and to streamline their efforts in the maintenance of peace in Côte d’Ivoire. And we have copies of his remarks upstairs.
On Zimbabwe, further to the comments that the Secretary-General made in Geneva today, Zimbabwe is battling with a raging cholera outbreak and the effects of collapsing social services, and UNICEF has appealed for $17.5 million to boost its 120-day emergency response in that country.
Already, UNICEF has been providing IV fluids, drips, tents and beds for cholera treatment centres. UNICEF is also trucking 470,000 litres of water per day, drilling boreholes, and distributing water purification tools to more than 3.5 million Zimbabweans.
In addition, UNICEF has brought in logisticians and borehole drilling experts, as well as emergency specialists to work in the sectors of water, sanitation, health, education, child protection and nutrition.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) says the current cholera outbreak is the most serious ever registered in Zimbabwe. There are now 16,700 cases of cholera in the country, with 792 deaths. To control the outbreak, WHO says it needs $6 million. We have more information on that upstairs.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that some 47 per cent of Haitian families displaced by the recent natural disasters on the island remain unable to return to their homes and are still living with host families. Those in collective shelters continue to receive assistance, including some 5,000 shelter kits being handed out to some 2,000 families in the Gonaives area.
Meanwhile, the UN Mission (MINUSTAH) is dispatching a humanitarian fact-finding mission to the western region of Cazale, where conditions are reportedly dismal.
And so far, donor countries have funded 48 per cent of the $104.8 million requested in the September 2008 flash appeal for Haiti.
** Middle East Quartet
The Secretary-General will be hosting a meeting of the Middle East Quartet in his conference room this Monday, 15 December, at 3 in the afternoon.
Attending will be US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, European Union High Representative Javier Solana and European Commissioner for External Relations Bettina Ferrero-Waldner. As of now, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, on behalf of the European Union Presidency, and Quartet Envoy Tony Blair are scheduled to participate by video-link.
Following the meeting, at 4 p.m., there will be a press conference featuring the principals in Conference Room 4.
After that, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., in Conference Room 8, the Secretary-General will meet with Quartet members and a number of Arab Foreign Ministers. There will be a stakeout set up outside that room in case any of the Foreign Ministers wish to speak to you after the discussion.
Meanwhile, also on the Middle East, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) reports that a total of 54 truckloads of goods, including 11 containing humanitarian supplies, were allowed into Gaza today. But the fuel pipelines did not open.
A booklet on human rights that is aimed at building human rights awareness among Timor-Leste Defence Force members was distributed today in Dili. At the opening of the Seminar, President Ramos-Horta, in his capacity as Supreme Commander of the Defence Force, formally received the booklet.
Developed by the Ministry of Defence with the assistance of the United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste, the portable guide on human rights is available in Tetun, Portuguese and English, and will be distributed the all members of the current 700-member Force.
The booklet addresses such issues as the role of armed forces in a democratic State, accountability for members of the armed forces, and provides an introduction to basic human rights.
We were asked yesterday about how much money we are looking for to strengthen UN security worldwide. We do not want to give a dollar figure at this stage, but I would like to point out that we need greater analytical capacity in the field, more security advisers in the field, a greater surge capacity to deal with crises and greater resources to promote staff safety, including an Aviation Safety Unit. Proposals are under consideration at present in the budgetary mechanism.
Wrapping up her five-day visit to the Philippines, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, today announced that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will enter into an action plan with the United Nations to stop the recruitment and use of children, and ensure that they are separated from their ranks and return to civilian life.
**Guest at Noon on Monday
Ms. Coomaraswamy will be the guest at the noon briefing next Monday, and she will brief on her recent trips to Nepal and the Philippines at that time.
**The Week Ahead at the United Nations
Also in terms of next week’s events, you just saw Maestro Daniel Barenboim, the UN Messenger of Peace, in this room a few minutes ago. And at 7 p.m. in the General Assembly Hall next Monday, Maestro Daniel Barenboim and members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will perform a concert to commemorate Human Rights Day, which was formally observed on 10 December.
Also, I mentioned the Quartet proceedings that the Secretary-General will convene on Monday. And then on Wednesday, 17 December, at 11 a.m. in this room, the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will hold his year-end press conference.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo Report
Lastly, I wanted to let you know about a report by the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Copies of the final report of that Group will be made available to the press in the Spokesman’s Office shortly. A press conference has been scheduled with the Coordinator of the Group of Experts, Mr. Jason Stearns, which will take place in this room, S-226, at 5 p.m. this afternoon. The report will be made available on the website of the 1533 Committee, which is the Sanctions Committee dealing with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and that will be available in all languages.
So again, 5 p.m. in this room for the press briefing by Mr. Stearns, and we should have copies of the report available in the Spokesperson’s Office shortly.
Do I have any questions? Yes, Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I just want to know, there was a report in, I think the New York Post picked up by ABC that a United Nations security guard was probably sacked or was being disciplined because he and some of his colleagues were watching pornographic movies on their UN computer. Can you verify that?
Associate Spokesperson: In terms of verification, the process of investigating this matter is still going on, so I can’t verify specific details at this stage. However, I can say that, for this case, we have suspended the staff member in question without pay for an initial period of three months or until the conclusion of disciplinary proceedings, whichever is earlier. While the staff member may challenge that situation, we believe that the grounds are strong enough in this case to warrant that action. Meanwhile, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) has looked into this issue, and we’re awaiting a response to OIOS’s findings from the staff member in question.
Question: I just wanted to find out about this; you talked about this Middle East Quartet meeting. Mr. Blair is supposed to be speaking from video?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes.
Question: Why isn’t Mr. Blair making himself available to the Quartet? He’s being paid a lot of money, and he has... but he is making himself as sparse as possible. I mean, to come here to the United Nations, what is his (inaudible)?
Associate Spokesperson: First of all, making himself available by video link is participating in the meeting. He will participate in all activities of the meeting. He will just not be physically present in New York. That’s a standard feature of meetings. We try to schedule meetings whenever they are convenient for all people to be in the same venue at the same time. If that’s not possible physically, we try to make the appropriate arrangements by video link, and that’s what we’re doing in this case. Yes, Tarek?
Question: Just to follow up to this question. Who are the Arab Foreign Ministers coming to attend this conference, this Quartet meeting?
Associate Spokesperson: As far as that goes, some of the arrangements are still being made. So I don’t have any names officially to give out to you just now. But if you come upstairs after this meeting, we can provide you with a few additional details. Khaled?
Question: I mean, it’s supposed to be a meeting between Arab Foreign Ministers and the Quartet; that’s the sign originally?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes, and you may have missed this, but I mentioned that at the start that there will be a meeting in Conference Room 8 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: The media has already announced that there will be the Foreign Ministers of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Will that be the case?
Associate Spokesperson: Like I said, because the arrangements are still being worked out, I don’t want to give out all the names just yet. We do have some additional details upstairs, so we can provide that for you after this. Matthew?
Question: First, it’s a follow-up on this Tony Blair question. Since he represents the UN, can you confirm that he was asked to brief the Security Council in this month and he declined to do so?
Associate Spokesperson: I think, for that, the best thing to do is to talk to the President of the Security Council; they’re the ones in charge of the arrangements for the Security Council.
Question: But as a representative of the UN, he sent a letter saying “I won’t come…” (interrupted).
Associate Spokesperson: He is not just a representative of the UN. He, as you know, is a representative of the entire Quartet, so we don’t speak directly for Mr. Blair. But he has an office, and we can give you the contact number for his office. But certainly the best place to go for information about this is the Presidency of the Security Council.
Question: I have several questions. Firstly, the UNDOF Force, is that still composed of -- I know it dates back to the Waldheim period –- of Austrians, Peruvians and Nepalese? Or is that (interrupted)?
Associate Spokesperson: No, no, no. Some of that composition of Member States has rotated in and out. We have upstairs a breakdown of the current composition of the Force, and it’s also available on the web, if you want.
Question: Also, with regard to the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, do I get correctly from your description that you do not have, with the humanitarian aid for the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, some of the kinds of action problems you had last year with Myanmar where they weren’t letting UN people there?
Associate Spokesperson: We don’t have the same sort of problems of getting aid in. At the same time, I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of comments the Secretary-General made in his press briefing in Geneva earlier today, which is available upstairs. What he said is, and I quote: “With the spread of cholera in Zimbabwe and the surrounding region, I am deeply disturbed at the deteriorating humanitarian situation there, for which the leadership of Zimbabwe cannot evade responsibility. I have also stressed the need for justice in the aftermath of grave breaches of international humanitarian law.” And the full transcript is available upstairs.
Question: Also you mentioned that 11 of the 54 trucks that were allowed into Gaza were for humanitarian purposes. Forgive me, what is there that’s worth 43 trucks that could not be called humanitarian? I mean, are they just supplies that don’t qualify; is there some kind of definition of supplies that don’t qualify as humanitarian aid?
Associate Spokesperson: There are any number of goods that may be commercial because they don’t qualify as immediate humanitarian aid. But in any case, like I said, we confirmed the arrival of 11 trucks containing humanitarian supplies; in other words, direct humanitarian goods.
Question: Were they UN trucks in particular or is that why…(inaudible)?
Associate Spokesperson: Not all the trucks that come in are UN trucks. I am not aware what the breakdown of UN trucks versus non-UN trucks are. We could get that for you after.
Question: (Inaudible) President Sarkozy of France and the European Union has now formally, I guess, rejected Mr. Ban’s request for a bridging force. Can you confirm that that has been the position taken by the UN? If so, what’s the response by the Secretariat?
Associate Spokesperson: I can’t confirm that. We are still awaiting a formal response, and at this stage, we would have to confirm what that formal response is before making any further comment.
Question: To follow up on this issue that Masood brought up; the OIOS investigation and the use of UN computers for viewing pornography. Can you confirm that there is a wider investigation; is this the only person that was being looked at or is there an ongoing investigation?
Associate Spokesperson: This is all that I can say about this. Like I said, OIOS is looking into this case, and that is what I can say in terms of details.
Question: First, with regard to that the fuel pipeline didn’t open; what are the implications of that in terms of how much fuel they have and what will happen?
Associate Spokesperson: The implications are that, whenever the fuel pipelines are not opened, there have been very sharp and often lengthy power cuts in Gaza. And so, any continued lack of access or opening of the fuel pipelines implies future cuts during the day.
Question: I was told by Michèle that the Secretary-General would make a speech about what was going to be done with regard to the human rights and the celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and he’d make that speech in Geneva, and it was, I thought, with regard to the statement about humanitarian, about human rights and the war on terrorism and how the human rights would… (inaudible)
Associate Spokesperson: That speech is, in fact, upstairs. I know a number of you came in after the briefing started, but I did mention that at the start of the briefing. Yes, he did deliver that speech in Geneva this morning.
Question: (Inaudible)...because there is the issue of the listing and delisting and the fact that there is no due process for all the names of the people who end up on this list by the Security Council, and whether that’s one of the issues, and then whether there would be some briefing about that next week, because I thought that was mentioned.
Associate Spokesperson: No, that’s not one of the topics that was specifically mentioned. But I would refer you to his speech which talks very extensively about a list of human rights issues. Khaled?
Question: If I might move to Somalia, please. Burundi and Uganda, according to Ethiopia, have decided to pull their peacekeeping forces from Somalia by the end of this month, as far as I understand, as well as the Ethiopians themselves. I was wondering whether the Secretary-General is involved in any contacts with these two African countries to delay that step of pulling those troops from Somalia.
Associate Spokesperson: In terms of that, the Secretary-General has urged all countries to make sure that there is no security vacuum in Somalia, and he continues to do so. And in terms of the international process dealing with Somalia, I would like to point out that next week -- I believe it’s scheduled for Tuesday -- the Security Council does expect to have a fairly senior level meeting to discuss matters of Somalia. But we continue to urge support for AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia.
Question: But no particular or specific contacts with the Governments of those two countries, Uganda and Burundi (inaudible)?
Associate Spokesperson: I am not aware of specific contacts. Yes?
Question: (Inaudible) Do you have any comment on that?
Associate Spokesperson: I don’t, but you may be aware that the Secretary-General has commented about this deployment in the past and has discussed how helpful it has been. We put out a statement to that effect a few months back, and we continue to maintain that sentiment today. Yes?
Question: (Inaudible) statement in the General Assembly plenary yesterday afternoon that seemed to require a response from the Secretary-General. One is the representative of Pakistan spoke on a resolution and asked what the status is of the UN system making common premises, putting all UN operations as had been recommended by one of the… or as relates to safety, and there was sort of no answer (inaudible). Do you know or can you say what the status is of the UN bringing its premises together in that country?
Associate Spokesperson: I don’t have an update on that. I believe that the efforts are made across the board to try and concentrate UN operations under common premises, but I don’t have any progress report on that particular country.
Question: (Inaudible) the delegate of China at the end of the session raised with some energy that China had sought to be a co-sponsor of the resolution, had its name in, wasn’t down. He said that DGACM should answer for why countries that sought to sponsor resolutions were not listed, and so…
Associate Spokesperson: I don’t think I’d have a comment on basic procedural questions.
Question: It’s really not a procedural question because there have been increasingly; also a delegate of Turkey said they were listed as a sponsor on a resolution that they didn’t sponsor. So, questions seem to be arising about DGACM and how it’s being run. So, I am wondering, as I asked before, can we get Shaaban Shaaban or another, somebody from DGACM, to just finally describe how that agency is being run?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, we’ll certainly see whether they’re interested in coming around. I’m sorry, Enrique is not going to be here today, but you can also ask your questions about General Assembly matters over to him, of course.
Question: In terms of the Secretariat, they were saying, the Chinese delegate specifically said DGACM, what’s going on? So I think that’s the Secretariat, right?
Associate Spokesperson: That is the Secretariat, but it certainly deals with issues having to do with in General Assembly bodies. Yes?
Question: Mr. Ahtisaari, who as you know mediated several conflicts (inaudible), Nobel Peace Prize winner, said that the new US Administration should make the Middle East a priority. Does the Secretary-General share that view?
Associate Spokesperson: The Secretary-General, as you know, has worked with the present US Administration in the context of the Quartet, and he has made it clear that whatever cannot be accomplished by this Administration’s end, he expects the incoming US Administration to take up. And the Secretary-General, by the way does have some comments in his press conference today about his hopes for continued and strengthened cooperation with the US Administration on a range of issues.
And with that, I will leave you for a bit. Our guests are still not here, but stick around. We’ll squawk once they’re ready to come into this room.
* *** *For information media • not an official record