|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.
**Guest at Noon Today
Our guest at the noon briefing today will be Stephen Rapp, Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, who will be here shortly to brief on the work of the Special Court and on his meeting with the Security Council yesterday.
**Statement on Indonesia
We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the bombings in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The Secretary-General strongly condemns the bombings in two hotels in Jakarta this morning which have reportedly killed at least nine people.
The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the families of the victims and wishes those injured a speedy recovery. He expresses his solidarity with the Government and people of Indonesia.
The Secretary-General recognizes the steadfast efforts that the Indonesian Government has made in bringing to justice perpetrators of past terrorist acts. He expresses confidence that these new attacks will be investigated with equal resolve and that those responsible will be prosecuted.
Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, this morning briefed the Security Council in its closed consultations on the Secretary-General’s recent report on Sudan and the work of the UN Mission there. We flagged that report yesterday. And Le Roy also discussed the arbitration over Abyei. We expect that Mr. Le Roy will try to speak to you at the stakeout once he has finished in the Council.
Yesterday afternoon, the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) designated five entities, determined two goods and designated five individuals to be subject to the measures imposed in paragraph 8 of resolution 1718 (2006), which concerns the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Committee issued a press release with further details, which is on the racks today.
Speaking of Sudan, which we were doing earlier, the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council on the deployment of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) is out as a document. This report is scheduled to be discussed a week from today.
While outlining the challenges faced by the Mission in the 18 months since the transfer of authority from the African Union Mission in Sudan to UNAMID, the report notes considerable improvement in the quality of the Government’s cooperation with the Mission.
The Secretary-General notes that the number of units on the ground has been steadily increasing and will continue to do so. All pledged units are expected to be in place and fully operational by 31 December 2009, constituting 92 per cent of the Mission’s total authorized strength.
The Secretary-General, however, notes that the situation for the civilians of Darfur continues to be deeply troubling, with 2.6 million internally displaced persons unable to return to their homes and some 4.7 million Darfurians in need of assistance. Meanwhile, banditry and sexual violence continue to plague civilians throughout Darfur.
He concludes by saying that UNAMID represents a unique strategic partnership between the African Union and the United Nations, and he welcomed the AU initiative to establish the High-Level Panel on Darfur and says he looks forward to the report of former President [Thabo] Mbeki, which is expected to contain specific suggested measures to facilitate AU-UN mediation efforts.
He recommends a mandate extension for a further period of 12 months, until 31 July 2010.
On Pakistan, Heraldo Muñoz, the Chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry looking into the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, today said that his team will do its work in a transparent, open-minded and committed manner to ensure that the truth is established.
Ambassador Muñoz addressed the media in Islamabad after the Commission this morning visited the park in Rawalpindi where the former Prime Minister was assassinated. He said the visit to the crime scene was important for him and his team to understand more clearly and fully what happened on the fateful day. At the site, the Commission members were walked through the final events leading to and after the assassination, and received briefings by police officers, including two who were injured during the attack.
Muñoz stressed that responsibility for a criminal investigation, including the possible naming of anyone, or persons, that committed the crime, remains with the Pakistani authorities. We have his remarks upstairs.
The commissioners will conclude their initial working visit this weekend. A team of core staff will remain and be based regularly in Pakistan to carry out the Commission’s activities.
In Côte d’Ivoire, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Choi Young-Jin, called for the immediate publication of an electoral timetable. He said that if the deadlines for each stage of the electoral process were not met, there was a risk that the presidential elections could be delayed.
Choi added that the electoral timetable would increase the transparency of the electoral process and help to plan and carry out the steps that are necessary in the lead-up to the presidential elections, set for 29 November. He also stressed that the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (ONUCI) was ready to assist the Independent Electoral Commission and the relevant authorities in overcoming any challenge on the road to the elections.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
Some 250,000 people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s troubled North and South Kivu provinces will get urgently needed humanitarian aid thanks to a $7 million allocation from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund. Of that $7 million, $4 million will help 43,000 displaced families with basic relief supplies from UNICEF. Another $2.5 million will provide clean water from UNICEF to 250,000 people in areas where water-borne diseases have doubled in the past few months.
In addition, $500,000 will bolster the World Health Organization’s efforts to make basic health care accessible to 170,000 people, including 3,200 children under the age of 5. The allocation will also pay for health kits to be used in 10 clinics. We have more on that upstairs.
The Cyprus leaders met today under UN auspices in Nicosia. The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, spoke to the press afterwards. He noted that the leaders mainly discussed the issue of security. Next week, he added, the leaders will continue to discuss security. But they will also talk about governance and power-sharing ‑‑ including the issue of aliens, immigration, asylum and citizenship.
In response to a question, Downer noted that Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat had given olive branches to Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias as a gift today. We have the full transcript upstairs.
On Nepal, the United Nations Mission in Nepal and the UN country team welcome the decision by the Government of Nepal and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist to formally launch the discharge and rehabilitation process for the 4,008 Maoist army personnel, including 2,973 minors, who were disqualified during the verification process.
Today’s launch marks a significant milestone in the peace process. It will be important that the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist cooperates with the Government to ensure the successful completion of the discharge and rehabilitation programme.
[At this point, the Spokesperson informed correspondents that Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations was expected at the Security Council stakeout momentarily, and those who wished to go there were free to do so.]
The UN is encouraged that the agreement recognizes the importance of compliance with international standards, in line with Security Council resolution 1612 on children and armed conflict. The agreement commits to following a discharge and rehabilitation process that will allow the disqualified personnel to choose freely between a range of rehabilitation assistance packages.
The UN’s Economic Commission for Europe is implementing a new international treaty on pollution that is set to enter into force this October. This treaty requires organizations to submit an annual report on how much pollution they release into the environment or transfer to other facilities. This information will be available on a public register online and will help identify the biggest polluters in communities across Europe.
The internal document, or “non-paper”, on a renewed partnership agenda for peacekeeping will be released to Member States today. The non-paper, entitled “A New Partnership Agenda: Charting a New Horizon for UN Peacekeeping”, was prepared to support a reinvigorated dialogue with the aim of forging a peacekeeping policy agenda that reflects the perspectives of all stakeholders.
A hard copy of the non-paper will be made available later this afternoon, and starting tomorrow you can also get more information on the process and obtain copies of the report online. A peacekeeping official will provide a background brief to interested members of the media next week. And of course, we’ll let you know when that will be.
The Secretary-General tomorrow will attend an event marking the ninety-first birthday of former South African President Nelson Mandela; that’s at 3 p.m. in Grand Central Station. Among other things, he will sign a Volunteer Scroll to pledge 67 minutes of volunteer work to honour Nelson Mandela. And upstairs today, we have a message from the Secretary-General calling Mandela “a living embodiment of the highest values of the United Nations”.
To this day he works tirelessly for peace and human dignity throughout the world, the Secretary-General says. His engagement in the fight against AIDS broke new ground against stigma. Above all, the Secretary-General says, he has shown the difference one person can make in the face of injustice, conflict, poverty and disease.
**The Week Ahead at the United Nations
On “The Week Ahead at the United Nations”, it’s upstairs, the full document. But I would just like to flag that Monday, the Security Council will hold consultations on the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN).
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women will hold its forty-fourth session until 7 August, in New York. So it’s starting on Monday. At 2:15 p.m. Monday, also in Room S-226, there will be a press conference by Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
On Tuesday next week, John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will give a midyear review of 2009 humanitarian appeals.
And this is really all I have for you. The full document is upstairs. And we’ll welcome our guests in a few minutes. And I will just take two or three questions. Yes, Masood.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Michèle, just one question on this mandate of the UN Commission investigating Benazir Bhutto; because Mr. Muñoz again and again emphasized, I mean, the narrowness of the mandate that the Commission has. Now, was this Commission only undertaken to pacify the Pakistan Government? Because if that was the case, I mean, so much money is being spent for these people to go there to do something that can be done on the Internet, on the blogs.
Spokesperson: I’m not quite sure it can be done on the Internet and on the blogs, Masood, frankly.
Question: No, because [inaudible] come forward and give it permission, because it’s so narrow. All you’re saying is that you’re going to collect the facts and give them to you. What you’re saying is that we cannot determine who is responsible nor can we prosecute. Prosecute, I can understand but, you know, to at least ascertain where is the responsibility going. They can’t even say that, right?
Spokesperson: Well, they can certainly give indications of what they have found. That could be part of their fact-finding mission. They cannot accuse specifically one person, which is a domain that is for the Pakistani authorities to rule on.
Question: So I just wanted to figure out this: the certain narrow mandate‑‑
Spokesperson: You have the full terms of reference upstairs. As you say, it is a limited mandate.
Question: I know. But I just wanted to find out, was it just done to pacify the Pakistani Government, who were pushing for the investigation no matter what?
Spokesperson: I don’t think it was to pacify; it’s for the sake of justice. I don’t think it was to pacify the Pakistanis. Of course, the Pakistanis asked the Secretary-General to undertake that Commission, to set up that Commission of Inquiry, which the Secretary-General did after, as you know, a tremendous amount of discussions between the different parties. So it was set up for the sake of justice. And I think it is going to achieve that. It’s not something you can learn on the Internet.
Correspondent: Okay, thank you, Michèle.
Spokesperson: Yes, Matthew?
Question: I wanted to ask about Somalia. There are reports that the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is meeting with Al-Shabaab about providing services in certain parts of the country. I mean, is it the UN’s position? I mean, I understand, I mean. I guess they meet with anyone, but given that there was a briefing here about Al-Shabaab being put on the 1267 terrorism watch list, does the UN meet with Al-Shabaab?
Spokesperson: I don’t know. We always say that there are situations on the ground when we need to help civilian populations for specific purposes, when we would talk to a number of groups on the ground. You asked the same question, I think, about Gaza. The determination is done on the ground on how much is needed to talk to some groups when civilian populations, their health or safety, is at stake.
Question: Okay, I guess I just wanted confirmation.
Spokesperson: I don’t have that. I cannot give you that confirmation. You can only get it from WFP.
Question: Okay. And I also wanted to ask, I heard that Patricia O’Brien recently went to Kenya to look into the issue of Somali piracy.
Spokesperson: Yes, she did.
Question: What was the outcome of her trip, or can we get her to give a briefing on that topic?
Spokesperson: I don’t think so yet because it is still a work in progress. It is what she was asked to do, to set up a legal framework for something that is already happening. As you know, pirates are being arrested on the high seas and most of them brought to Kenya or to other countries in the region. And there has to be some form of burden-sharing in terms of not only judging the people who are brought to the courts, not only in Kenya, but elsewhere. And the issue of burden-sharing among the different countries around the area is one of the issues that is being discussed. She cannot brief you because this is an ongoing discussion.
Question: Yeah, for example, Mr. Le Roy visited the mission, everything is ongoing but he gives a briefing --
Spokesperson: No, but that’s different, because this implies agreement by Member States on a regional basis. So there has to be‑‑ of course, she will come, and she has told me she is willing to come and brief you on anything that is done. And in the case of this, this is just a request that the Secretary-General sent her to do. The Secretary-General asked her to go there and meet with the legal authorities in Kenya to discuss that legal framework. And she also consulted with other regional groups and regional entities. Yes, I’ll just go to Pat first.
Question: Yes, back to the Bhutto question, I wasn’t clear, the initial invitation to have this Commission and this investigation came from the Pakistani Government or…?
Spokesperson: Yes, the request came from them, yes.
Question: I just want to find out, the Secretary-General, is he meeting with the President of France today, at the luncheon?
Spokesperson: Yes, he is.
Question: Do we have, what you call, a readout?
Spokesperson: Well, I hope to get a readout for you later today, yes. But the luncheon has not happened yet. They don’t eat that early. [laughter] Thank you. I’d like to welcome our guest. As I said, our guest today is Stephen Rapp, who is Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
[The Spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General and the French President discussed climate change, the financial crisis, international governance matters, and regional issues such as Darfur, Somalia, Iran and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.]
* *** *For information media • not an official record