|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 Enrique Yeves, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon, all.
**Secretary-General in Myanmar
Over the weekend, the Secretary-General paid a two-day visit to Myanmar. He met twice with Senior General Than Shwe and had discussions with other Government officials, including Prime Minister Thein Sein. He also met with leaders of Myanmar’s registered political parties and with the former armed groups that have chosen to observe a ceasefire.
Before leaving the country, he spoke to diplomatic missions, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations in Yangon, saying that neither peace nor development can thrive without democracy and respect for human rights. Myanmar is no exception.
He asked, “How much longer can Myanmar afford to wait for national reconciliation, democratic transition and full respect for human rights?” The cost of delay, he warned, will be counted in wasted lives, lost opportunities and prolonged isolation from the international community.
Speaking to the press in Bangkok after he left Myanmar, the Secretary-General said that he was deeply disappointed that Senior General Than Shwe had refused his request to see Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Allowing a visit, he said, would have been an important symbol of the Government’s willingness to embark on the kind of meaningful engagement that will be essential if the elections in 2010 are to be seen as credible.
He said, “I believe the Government of Myanmar failed to take a unique opportunity to show its commitment to a new era of political openness.” Nonetheless, the Secretary-General added, his visit enabled him to convey the concerns of the international community very frankly and directly to the Government, and he outlined his proposals for progress while he was there. Among those proposals are the release without delay of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners, so that they can be allowed to participate freely in the political process. We have his statement in Yangon and his press remarks upstairs.
**Secretary-General in Geneva
In Geneva, the Secretary-General today spoke at the World Trade Organization’s Global Review of Aid for Trade. He said that the aid for trade initiative has made real progress in the three years since its launch. The April G-20 Summit pledge of $250 billion for trade financing could lead to a significant increase in the $25 billion that aid-for-trade received in 2007, he said.
The Secretary-General also spoke to the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council, and launched a progress report on the Millennium Development Goals. The report warns that major advances in the fight against poverty and hunger have begun to slow or even reverse as a result of the global economic and food crises. Higher food prices last year have reversed the nearly two-decade trend in reducing hunger, while the target for eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005 has already been missed. We have more on the report in a press release upstairs.
The Secretary-General was asked about the situation in Honduras at a press conference this afternoon, and said he was very saddened by the loss of life in the course of the demonstrations there. He said that people should be allowed to express their free will without being intimidated or threatened by physical force. And he reiterated that any unconstitutional change of power is not acceptable.
He was also asked about the recent violence in China’s Xinjiang Province, and he recalled that, for all countries, all differences of opinion must be resolved peacefully through dialogue. Governments concerned also must exercise extreme care and take necessary measures to protect the lives and safety of the civilian population. We have the transcript of that press conference upstairs.
Later today, the Secretary-General will chair a meeting of potential donors to enhance the global response to the H1N1 flu. The gathering this afternoon will focus on meeting the needs of developing countries in the face of H1N1. We must make certain they get what they need, the Secretary-General stressed.
The Secretary-General also met this afternoon with Japan’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Shintaro Ito. They discussed Myanmar, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and public health issues.
In Geneva today, the UN fact-finding mission on the recent Gaza conflict, mandated by the Human Rights Council and led by Justice Richard Goldstone, started its second round of public hearings. The purpose of today’s interviews was to hear from victims, witnesses and experts, from southern Israel and the West Bank. Testimonies were given both in person and by videoconference. Among those who came in person to address the panel were the Mayor of the Israeli town of Ashkelon and the father of missing soldier Gilad Shalit.
Tomorrow, Justice Goldstone and his team plan to hold a press conference in Geneva.
Here in New York, the Security Council has scheduled consultations at 4 this afternoon to discuss non-proliferation and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
In Timor-Leste, the United Nations Police and the Timorese national police jointly carried out an anti-human-trafficking operation, arresting 10 members of an alleged human-trafficking ring in a raid on a bar in the capital, Dili. The United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste says the 10 suspects were arrested on charges of being part of a ring that brought women into the country as sex workers. The suspects are currently in prison, awaiting pre-trial hearing.
Police found 22 women between the ages of 17 and 29 working in the bar. One of them is a minor. They are currently being processed as victims of human trafficking, and are being cared for by the International Organization for Migration and non-governmental organizations.
The UN Police Commissioner, Luis Carrilho, said the successful operation results from information received by the police and joint efforts between UN and Timorese police, and reflects support from the community.
According to a new report from UNAIDS and the World Bank, the global economic crisis is expected to disrupt HIV prevention and treatment programmes in more than 20 countries throughout the world this year.
Reacting to the findings, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said that any interruption or slowing down in funding would be a disaster for the 4 million people in treatment and the millions more currently being reached by HIV prevention programmes.
The report adds that eight countries are already facing shortages of antiretroviral drugs or other disruptions to AIDS treatment. We have more on that upstairs.
A food standards commission established by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) today issued more than 30 new international standards and guidelines to improve food safety worldwide. For example, the new guidelines address the prevention and reduction of a potentially harmful chemical that is produced during the cooking process of carbohydrate-rich foods like French fries, potato crisps, biscuits and breads. There is more information on that upstairs.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
Tomorrow at 3 p.m. in this room, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), will hold a press conference to launch a report entitled the Threat Assessment of Transnational Trafficking and the Rule of Law in West Africa.
And this is all I have for you. I’ll take a few questions, but Enrique will also come and brief you in a few minutes. Yes, George.
**Questions and Answers
Question: You mentioned, and your e-mails of this morning ‑‑ for which I thank you ‑‑ have mentioned that the Secretary-General regrets he couldn’t meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but he did meet with leaders of all political parties. Forgive me if I don’t remember the name of her political party; did he meet with any other leaders of her party other than herself?
Spokesperson: Yes, he did.
Question: So those party leaders were included in the group of party leaders whom he met?
Spokesperson: Yes. Yes, they were. Yes, Masood?
Question: Michèle, I just want to find out, is there any update on the IDPs in Pakistan? Is there a lull in fighting? There is nothing happening. And what about the flash appeal?
Spokesperson: We don’t have anything new for you today on this. We try everyday to get you something, Masood, but today we don’t have anything new.
[The correspondent was later informed that, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, funding for the humanitarian appeal for internally displaced persons in Pakistan is up to 40 per cent (from 36 per cent), with the food appeal now 60 per cent funded. The Office says that, while some progress is being made on the appeal, it is still inadequate.]
Question: Michèle, I wanted to ask you, have any parties in the Honduran crisis asked the UN to intervene, or the UN is playing a role in the negotiations?
Spokesperson: I think I’ll leave this to Enrique when he comes up for his briefing. Yes, Terek?
Question: Thank you, Michèle. What’s Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s position regarding the announcement made by the African Union in the Libyan city of Sirte last week that the African countries wouldn’t cooperate with the ICC in the indictment case of President [Omer] Bashir? Is Mr. Ban Ki-moon concerned about this firm position of the African Union, and how far do you think this may affect the situation of the Organization in Darfur?
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General’s position about the ICC and its decisions is something that is known, that is public and that has not changed. Of course, the African Union is free to take the resolutions they have taken, of course. We don’t have anything more to say about it.
Question: But does he feel regret, worried about this position of the African Union?
Spokesperson: No, he hasn’t expressed any specific reaction to that. Yes, Margaret?
Question: Michèle, does the Secretary-General have any comment on the violence in China?
Spokesperson: He did, and I read it, and you can get it upstairs. You have the full transcript of his press conference where the question was asked and he answered.
Question: Is there any particular figures about the real number of those who were killed in China? I mean, [inaudible]
Spokesperson: The UN has no independent figures. We don’t.
Question: Another thing, how concerned is the Secretary-General regarding the escalation in the threats between Israel and Iran, and the recent reports that some submarines or one submarine at least crossed the Suez Canal?
Spokesperson: We have absolutely no way to confirm that information. We don’t have anything to say about it because we don’t have the information.
Question: Are there any contacts, for example, with the Russian leader and the American leader at this stage regarding the conference in Moscow?
Spokesperson: No. Not at this point. Not that I know of. Yes, Matthew?
Question: The abduction of two international aid workers in Darfur ‑‑ is it UNAMID or is it OCHA ‑‑ what can they say about that? What’s the… Do they have any idea who’s taken them and what is being done about it?
Spokesperson: Well, as you know, they’re members of an NGO, and that NGO is working very hard to get them released and find out more about who abducted them. From the UN side, what I got was that the Mission is telling me we’re working very closely with the authorities of Sudan and of Ireland and Uganda, and count on the Sudanese to help bring about a quick resolution of this abduction without violence or payment. This is what I got from the Mission earlier today.
Question: And I wanted to ask you, it turns out that in Sri Lanka the Government has been charging NGOs 0.9 per cent of all donations they raise and just put it into Government coffers. I was wondering whether the UN is, one is it aware of that, and whether they think that’s… What do they have to say about the… They say that the only other Government that does it is Myanmar and whether it’s consistent with the UN’s idea of humanitarian practices for Governments to tax donations to NGOs in the country?
Spokesperson: I’ll try to get more information on this. As far as I know, this is not the case for the UN. Maybe this is the case for NGOs, but I have to get more information before I can answer you, of course.
Okay, thank you all very much, and I am sure you’re all waiting to hear from Enrique.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Good afternoon to everybody. I have only a couple of small things.
This morning, as you probably know, the General Assembly approved the proposal by the Secretary-General to extend the appointment of the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Mr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, for another term of four years, beginning on 1 September 2009 and ending on 31 August 2013.
And as you also know by now, we had a pretty busy weekend here on the Honduras crisis. The President of the General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, is today in Managua (Nicaragua) after he accompanied the President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, in his attempt to return to Tegucigalpa yesterday.
President d’Escoto was together with President Zelaya in the plane that departed yesterday, Sunday, from Washington and tried unsuccessfully to land in Tegucigalpa. President d’Escoto is due to return as soon as possible, probably tomorrow, and then inform the General Assembly on the events over the weekend.
And this is all I have for you, unless you have any questions. George.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Enrique, do I take it from your description that President d’Escoto was on the plane with President Zelaya but that neither President [Rafael] Correa [of Ecuador] nor President [Cristina] Fernandez de Kirchner [of Argentina] were on the plane as they had desired to be?
Spokesperson: Well, if you have followed the news over the weekend I think that was quite clear. But let me recap…
Question: I followed the news, but the media in the United States don’t cover this very much.
Spokesperson: Okay, let me then recap for you. Yesterday, Sunday, in the morning several foreign ministers and some presidents decided that they were going to support the arrival of President Zelaya to Tegucigalpa. They had two small planes. In one plane only fit around 12 people and it was decided that President Zelaya would go with his advisers, the Foreign Minister of Honduras and President Miguel d’Escoto, and they would try to land in Tegucigalpa. At the same time, the other plane, which was the plane of the President of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, which is also not very big ‑‑ I think it is also around 15 or 20 people can fit on it ‑‑ decided to carry the rest of the presidents and the Secretary-General of OAS, the Organization of American States. And in that second plane they went to El Salvador to follow the situation, that is, the developments. And then, as you know, the plane tried unsuccessfully to land; the airstrip was blocked and then the plane went from Honduras ‑‑ from Tegucigalpa without landing ‑‑ first to Managua, to a very quick refill of fuel, and then immediately back to El Salvador, where they all met again, all the parties, and they held a press conference last night at around…
Question: In El Salvador?
Spokesperson: …in El Salvador, at around midnight, and they stayed there. President d’Escoto returned today to Nicaragua this morning, and he is now there waiting to return to New York as soon as possible.
Question: And [inaudible] President Correa and President Fernandez de Kirchner?
Spokesperson: That I am not sure because it is a large group, so you have to ask the Missions. I speak for the President of the General Assembly.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Spokesperson: My pleasure. Yes, Khaled.
Question: I just have a couple of questions. Was there another airport in Honduras for the President, the ousted President, and Mr. d’Escoto to land, and is there a plan for a second attempt?
Spokesperson: I understand from the news from yesterday and the interviews with the people that in Honduras all the airports were blocked by the Army and they couldn’t land anywhere else. And it is not clear what are their plans right now. They are discussing among themselves and I understand that President Zelaya has an important meeting tomorrow in Washington with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and I assume after that they will review the situation and see what they are going to do. Matthew.
Question: Can you say a little bit more about the plane that Mr. Zelaya and Mr. d’Escoto were on? Whose plane is it, who is paying for the plane, who is paying for President d’Escoto’s return, you know, all this flying around? And I did want to ask you whether the Office of the President of the General Assembly is subject to the jurisdiction of the Board of Auditors and OIOS; if that’s your understanding?
Spokesperson: Okay, on the first question, the plane I think has been widely reported as well in the media. That plane is from the Venezuelan Government, and they put it at the disposal of Mr. Zelaya in case he wanted to use it in his efforts to return to Tegucigalpa. And, it is, as I said, a small plane and the President of Honduras decided who goes in that plane. As for the return from Nicaragua, it will be paid obviously from the President’s budget, I assume if he comes in a regular flight. I am not sure what is the situation now with those planes, as I said, because they have two planes. They have also the plane from the Government of Argentina. And as for your second question, yes, of course, everything is audited by the internal and external auditors, like anything else, and the UN.
Question: Are you aware of any of the parties asking the UN, besides President d’Escoto, to be part of the negotiations or asking, you know… I know that the OAS is, you know, working on this, but is there any role for the UN there?
Spokesperson: Well the role of the UN is very clear. It was decided on Thursday at the General Assembly, it was voted a resolution ‑‑ a very strong resolution ‑‑ by the 192 Member States ‑‑ saying that the UN ‑‑ that is the international community ‑‑ only recognizes President Zelaya as the legal constitutional President of Honduras. And that’s why President d’Escoto was with him in the plane following his mandate as the President of the General Assembly because that is the framework where we have very strongly said that the international community and the UN is not recognizing anybody else coming after a coup d’état.
Question: [inaudible] on Honduras. Does this mean that if the stalemate goes on for much longer that for the General Assembly or any other large meeting, the new government would not recognized?
Spokesperson: Well, that is the situation right now. Not only the General Assembly, I mean all the countries in Latin America, in the OAS, have expressed that. And as you know, several countries like the Europeans have withdrawn their ambassadors and said very clearly, both unilaterally and collectively here at the UN, that nobody is recognizing any other president than the legally constitutional President of Honduras, President Zelaya.
Question: Okay. And one other follow-up: what about the status of the Honduran ambassador here?
Spokesperson: What about what?
Question: The Honduran ambassador. Is he…?
Spokesperson: He is the same ambassador. We have Mr. [Jorge Arturo] Reina [Idiaquez] and he has been the one dealing and coordinating with the UN in the last few days.
Question: Where does he get his mandate from?
Spokesperson: Say that again.
Question: The Ambassador from Honduras here, where does he get his mandates from? The Government there or [interrupted]?
Spokesperson: He gets the mandate from President Zelaya.
Question: Has there been any indication that the new Government wants to send another ambassador to the UN?
Spokesperson: Not that we’re aware of.
Question: Enrique, I know I am getting a couple of [inaudible] ahead of myself. Do I understand, may I assume, therefore, that should the new Government send a delegation representing it, seeking to be seated at the General Assembly, that delegation will not be seated?
Spokesperson: Well, this is a hypothetical question and we will have to deal if such a situation arises. However, as I said, let me be very clear: for the United Nations the only Government that is recognized right now is the one of President Zelaya and in order to make that sure, it has been supported by a General Assembly resolution, which is the number you have there approved on 1 July. Eva.
Question: If they send an ambassador for the UN what are you going to do?
Spokesperson: Again, Eva, this is a hypothetical question. We are working right now with one President called President Zelaya and the Ambassador we’re dealing with is the Ambassador that was named by President Zelaya and he has been the contact for the UN. Matthew.
Question: Enrique, I just wanted to ask this, I’d have asked Tuesday when they had the proceedings of Mr. d’Escoto. He sort of praised all the speeches that were given, but he said that one delegation had been somewhat ambiguous. Do you remember that? I don’t know if he was referring to Peru or to whom.
Spokesperson: I don’t remember that.
Question: He specifically congratulated Ambassador [Rosemary] DiCarlo of the United States and then said that one delegation was ambiguous. Maybe you can find out what he had in his mind?
Spokesperson: Honestly, I don’t remember, we had so many things, but let me find out for you.
Question: Sorry because I do not understand this. You said the only Government recognized is the Government of the President, right? But since the Government is already there at home in Honduras do you mean that the President has already formed another Government or what?
Spokesperson: No. I know it’s a very peculiar situation because we have not had anything like this in the past at the UN, as I recall. But it’s important to understand the main elements. And the main element, as you know, is that we have a democratically elected Government in Honduras headed by President Zelaya, who was the subject of a coup d’état last week. Nobody in the international community, absolutely nobody in the international community, recognizes the Government that has come up as a result of a violent coup d’état. So the international community, either independently or collectively, whether at the UN, whether in the Organization of American States ‑‑ in Latin America, all the American States ‑‑ have said that they do not recognize any other government than the democratically elected Government of President Zelaya. So this is the situation. In the UN we have a Permanent Representative that was named by President Zelaya and that has been our focal point, our main contact of the representative of the only Government that is recognized by the United Nations. Matthew.
Question: I think that Mr. Micheletti, whatever you want to call him, has said that he is willing to come and negotiate with the OAS. Does President d’Escoto, either personally or in his capacity under the resolution, think that’s a good step or not a good step?
Spokesperson: I don’t have any comments on that particular issue. I haven’t talked to the President on this issue, but as you know, on the case of the American States, the Secretary-General had a mandate from the Organization to go and talk to them ‑‑ not to negotiate, but to talk to them and try to let them understand what the situation is and what were going to be the repercussions which happened on Saturday and Sunday when they met urgently and decided to suspend Honduras from the organization. But he had a mandate on that. President d’Escoto doesn’t have a mandate to negotiate among other things because the General Assembly resolution, if you read it, is very clear. It’s calling for the return immediately of President Zelaya.
Thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record