24 September 2009
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

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 Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


Good afternoon all.


Thank you for being here because you all actually have so much to cover today.  And of course it was the case also yesterday and the day before!


**Security Council


The Security Council, in a summit meeting this morning presided over by the United States President, adopted resolution 1887 (2009), which, among other things, calls upon the States that are party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to comply fully with all their obligations and fulfil their Treaty commitments.  It also calls upon all States to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).


The Secretary-General spoke at the opening of the meeting, welcoming the first Security Council summit on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.  He said that the need for action on those two fronts is clear.


The Secretary-General stressed that we need new ways to increase transparency and openness regarding the weapons programmes of the recognized nuclear-weapons states.  He added that we must make the best use of the UN's disarmament machinery.  And he encouraged nuclear-weapon States to consider additional measures to enhance security as a way of leading to total elimination.  We have his remarks upstairs.


And I also have the following statement by the Secretary-General on the passage of the resolution:


I welcome the resolution which was adopted by consensus at the Security Council summit meeting on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.  This summit was an historic event that has opened a new chapter in the Council's efforts to address nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  I commend the vision and leadership of [United States] President [Barack] Obama who convened the meeting.


Global nuclear non-proliferation stands at a critical juncture.  Despite some progress, much remains to be done to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.  Against this backdrop, this summit was especially timely.  I had proposed a Security Council summit meeting on nuclear disarmament in my 5-point action plan last year.  I underscore the need to sustain this initiative in the Council and beyond, at the highest possible level. 


I hope that the international community seizes and builds on this momentum towards advancing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, in general, and achieving success at the 2010 NPT Review Conference, in particular.  I will spare no effort to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and achieve success for the sake of global peace and security.


This is a statement by the Secretary-General following the Security Council summit this morning.


**Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty


Earlier this morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the start of the sixth conference to push for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  The Secretary-General called the CTBT “a fundamental building block for a world free of nuclear weapons” and offered his hope that the sixth conference to facilitate its entry into force would be the last one that is needed.


Today, he said, there is new momentum for a world free of nuclear weapons.  There is a new drive for peace.  Yet this momentum is rare.  It must be seized, he argued.


** Pakistan


Right now, the Secretary-General is meeting with a number of world leaders at the Waldorf Astoria for a meeting of the Group of Friends of Democratic Pakistan.  I can see our Pakistani journalists are absent from this room.


The Secretary-General is to tell the Group of Friends that Pakistan bears the burden of one of the major challenges of our times, the spread of violent extremism, with regional implications.  He will stress that the decision of the Government of Pakistan and the Group of Friends to confront it together is undoubtedly the right course, however demanding the struggle ahead may be.


**Quartet


The Secretary-General will be hosting a meeting of the Middle East Quartet at 3 this afternoon in his conference room.


Participants will include United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; United States Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell; Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov; the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union, Javier Solana; and the European Union’s Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.


In addition, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt will represent the European Union Presidency.  And Quartet Representative Tony Blair will also be in attendance.  Immediately following the meeting, we will issue the Quartet’s communiqué.  We will not have a press conference as we usually do because many of the participants are leaving immediately after for Pittsburgh.


**UNRWA


The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is currently observing its sixtieth anniversary.


The Secretary-General just marked the occasion with a speech at UNRWA’s high-level commemoration event, which is taking place right now in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.  He said that, as we pay tribute to UNRWA’s achievements, we must also acknowledge its severe funding shortages.  These persist even as its caseload grows bigger and more complex, he said.


In that regard, the Secretary-General appealed to all partners to ensure that UNRWA’s invaluable work is placed -- once and for all -- on a firm financial foundation.  The Agency’s work is too important for it to suffer budget crisis after budget crisis, he added.  We have his full remarks upstairs.


Meanwhile, the Deputy Secretary-General participated in a ministerial breakfast this morning, also to mark the Agency’s sixtieth anniversary.  During that ceremony, a large banner was unveiled in the Delegates’ Lounge, bearing the words “Peace Starts Here”.  An identical banner is currently displayed on the façade of the General Assembly Building.


And at approximately 1:10 p.m., President [Mahmoud] Abbas, Karen AbuZayd and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre will speak to you at the Security Council stakeout, following today’s high-level event. 


We’ll try to shorten this a bit because I know you’re all waiting for the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly to come here.  What we’ll do; I’ll finish my briefing and then we’ll go to him, and we’ll have a Q and A afterwards.


**Group of Friends on Myanmar


The Secretary-General yesterday convened the second meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar at the level of Foreign Ministers.  Thirteen officials at the foreign ministerial level attended the meeting, demonstrating strong collective interest in Myanmar that reaffirms the broad support for the Secretary-General’s good offices.


In a statement released following the meeting, the Secretary-General highlighted that 2010 will be a critical year for Myanmar, as the first planned election in 20 years must be held in an inclusive and credible manner to advance prospects for stability, democracy and national development.


While stating that the release of some political prisoners last week is a step in the right direction, the Secretary-General stressed that it falls short of the world’s expectations and called for all political prisoners to be released -- including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.


We have the full statement upstairs.


**Secretary-General Statement on Honduras


And we issued the following last night, a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the situation in Honduras.


The Secretary-General has decided to suspend temporarily the technical assistance currently provided by the Organization to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of Honduras.  He does not believe conditions are currently in place for the holding of credible elections that would advance peace and stability.


The United Nations is concerned about the current situation and allegations of human rights violations in Honduras.  We urge adherence to international human rights treaties and conventions ratified by Honduras and respect for the inviolability of Brazil’s diplomatic mission in Tegucigalpa.


The Secretary-General is convinced that an end to the crisis in Honduras requires a consensual agreement and supports regional mediation efforts to that end.  He joins the Organization of American States and regional leaders in calling for an agreement and urges all political actors to redouble efforts to find common ground through peaceful dialogue.  The United Nations stands ready to assist in this process.


**Secretary-General Report on Myanmar


And also released today is the Secretary-General’s report to the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.


In the report, the Secretary-General reiterates that unless three immediate concerns are addressed by the Government of Myanmar, the credibility of its political process will remain in doubt.  [The Spokesperson later added that these three points include the release of all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; the commencement of dialogue between the Government and opposition and ethnic stakeholders; as well as the creation of conditions conducive to credible and legitimate elections.]


You’ll have this in our highlights and in our Office today.


** Somalia


And on Somalia, there was a Contact Group meeting.  I got [a few] questions about that.  “The whole world would pay a heavy price for failure in Somalia.”  That is the warning given by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, during a meeting of the International Contact Group on Somalia.


He said Somalia’s current transitional institutions offer the best opportunity for achieving peace and stability in Somalia since 1991.  He added that it is now critical for the international community to deploy concrete and meaningful assistance to the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, to enable it to consolidate its position. 


**AIDS


UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) say they are optimistic about the results of the largest ever HIV vaccine clinical trial.


Those results, which were announced today, represent a significant scientific advance.  This is the first demonstration that a vaccine can prevent HIV infection in a general adult population.


The two UN agencies congratulate the principal investigators, sponsors and trial volunteers.  But they also note that much more work still has to be done to analyse the trial data and map next steps.


And the rest of this briefing will be in our [daily] highlights.  I’d like to give the floor to my colleague, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, because I know you do have a lot of questions [on the ongoing meetings].


[The Spokesperson resumed her briefing after the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly finished his briefing]


**Secretary-General Travels to Pittsburgh for G-20 Summit


I felt I had to interrupt [my briefing], because I know many of you were interested in what was happening in the General Assembly. 


So, just adding to what I was saying, the Secretary-General will be leaving this afternoon to Pittsburgh for the meeting of the G-20 leaders.  As we mentioned to you last week, the Secretary-General has written to the G-20 leaders gathering in Pittsburgh and asked for their commitment to protect poor countries through the crisis and accelerate action on climate change and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.


More specifically, the Secretary-General in that letter has asked G-20 leaders to first deliver the $1.1 trillion promised in London last April, especially the $50 billion for the poorest countries.


To honour the Gleneagles pledges to increase ODA [official development assistance], the international community should reach $155 billion by next year, with $65 billion for Africa.  And third, accelerate action to achieve the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals].  Fourth, set the stage for significant progress on climate change by establishing a fair financing mechanism to reach the estimated $250 billion a year needed by 2020.


In Pittsburgh, the Secretary-General will update the G-20 in our new Global Impact and Vulnerability System [GIVAS] which will deliver real-time data on the impact of the economic crisis on poor people around the world.  The Secretary-General is returning to Headquarters tomorrow afternoon.


**Press Conferences Today and Tomorrow


And just looking ahead; at 3:30 p.m. today in Conference Room 4 there will be a press conference by President Hugo Chávez Frías of Venezuela.


And we have available in this room and upstairs a full list of press conferences and stakeouts taking place tomorrow.  It’s on the table right there.


I’ll answer your questions, if you have any.  Yes, Matthew.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I wanted to ask you about yesterday’s announcement about suspending technical assistance to the election in Honduras.  I guess it’s a comparative question.  What standard would the UN apply to providing electoral assistance for example, in Myanmar or even in Madagascar?  Can you say a little bit more on why it was suspended at this time and what it would take to get it?  There are countries like Spain that are sending their ambassadors back even the… so are [inaudible] country.  What was the Secretary-General’s reasoning in this and what would it take to resume electoral assistance for an election?


Spokesperson:  Yes, well, let’s first give you a little background.  The electoral assistance project in Honduras was established in November 2007 for support in the lead-up to the general election planned for November 2009.  So the implementation began in September 2008.  It was way before the events that occurred in Honduras after that.  The type of the assistance that is being provided, you know, it is assistance in training polling station staff, it’s assistance, for instance, on gender issues, an internal quick count project -- things of that sort.  And they had already set up 41 polling stations; staffers, they had been hired, trained, they had been deployed.  And so, all this has been put on hold.  It’s a case by case issue, you know.  In the specific case [of Honduras], as I said, it went back way back in November 2008.  Why was it interrupted? I gave you the reason [earlier] in the statement we have.


Question:  [inaudible] for example, Myanmar, it’s a military Government that’s setting up to have an election that many people say is not credible.  But it seems that the UN is going to provide assistance.  So I wanted to know what standard it is that the UN provides electoral assistance under.


Spokesperson:  I think the best thing I can do for you is invite people from the electoral [Assistance Division of the Department of Political Affairs]; people who help on electoral issues to come here and talk to you.  I think then they can give you [more accurate answers]…


Question:  [inaudible] standard in the Secretary-General, who were they that made the decision to suspend this aid?  Was it just the Secretary General’s decision…?


Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General made that decision on recommendations from his political department.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.


Question:  You indicated that the Secretary-General is coming back to Headquarters tomorrow from Pittsburgh.  Is the reason… is it because the Group of 20’s meeting extends to tomorrow?  Or does it finish today?


Spokesperson:  No, it extends until tomorrow.  And actually the Secretary-General is coming back early because he has so many bilaterals scheduled, and he has some bilaterals scheduled for tomorrow evening.  Yes. 


Question:  If you remember, when UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] and other agencies and programmes set up their own ethics office and whistleblower protections, it was said that if… that people could appeal, that they have to do that first but then they can appeal.  Is that true of even the decision by UNDP for example to determine, to deem somebody a whistleblower or not?  Can that be appealed to Mr. Benson?


Spokesperson:  I can check that for you, but you can also address your question to UNDP, you know, to see what the setup [is]…


Question:  Is there any update on that…?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have an update on that.


Question:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  But you can certainly get the answer from the Ethics Office itself.


Question:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  Thank you all so much.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Thank you so much, Michèle.  Good afternoon to all.


Let me start with some of the meetings that the President of the General Assembly had yesterday.


He met with H.E. Dr. Danilo Turk, President of Slovenia.  Separately, he met with H.E. Mr. Cristian Diaconescu, Foreign Minister of Romania, and his delegation.  He also met with H.E. Mr. Victor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine.  He also met with H.E. Mr. Ahmed Abou Gheit, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt.  Dr. Treki also met with H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajcak, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic.


Another meeting with H.E. Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Holy See’s Secretary for relations with States.  Dr. Treki also met with H.E. Ms. Aurelia Frick, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Principality of Liechtenstein.


On the same day, Dr. Treki also joined other world leaders at a lunch hosted by the United Nations Secretary-General. Later in the evening, he attended a reception hosted by the President of the United States and Mrs. Obama at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art on the occasion of the sixty-fourth session of the United Nations General Assembly.


Earlier this morning, President Treki met with His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi, the President of the Union of the Comoros. President Sambi was accompanied by Mr. Ahmed Ben said Jaffar, Minister of External Relations and Cooperation of the Union of the Comoros, as well as other senior officials.


Last, but not least, as we speak Dr. Treki is meeting for the second time this morning with Representatives of the Southern African Development Community. The SADC delegation included the organization’s Troika.  SADC Troika is made of South Africa, Swaziland and Angola. Earlier in the day, President Treki met with Mr. Andry Rajoelina, of Madagascar.  Since these are meetings that are ongoing and continue, we’ll certainly keep you posted on developments in the next briefings.


If you have questions.  Yes.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  A question in French, please.


Spokesperson:  Yes.


Question:  [In French]


Spokesperson:  [In French]


Question:  [In French]


Spokesperson:  [In French]. Thank you, Michèle.  I’d like to summarize, following Karim’s question on Madagascar for colleagues who are not familiar with the French.  I’d just like to say that, as we’re speaking, the President of the General Assembly  is meeting, for the second time this day, a delegation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) after he had met once this morning, Mr. Andry Rajoelina from Madagascar.  Since these discussions are ongoing, there is very little really that I can add.  I just want to say that everything will be done and President Treki is determined to ensure that everything is done in line with the Credentials Committee, and in line with the General Assembly proceedings.  It is not yet clear whether we’re discussing about Mr. Rajoelina as a representative of a Member State, or whether we’re discussing about a specific Member State.  It remains technically possible that the Credentials Committee may submit specific recommendations to the General Assembly and that these recommendations can be either accepted or refuted.  Anyway, the General Assembly will take whatever decision the General Assembly believes it has to take.  In the meantime, the discussions are still ongoing, so there is very little, and I think that in the next briefings we’ll be able to provide more information.  Matthew.


Question:  In the speech yesterday by Colonel Qadhafi, there were two things that I wanted to ask.  One was that he analogized the General Assembly to Hyde Park where people speak without effect.  I wanted to know if President Treki has any… given that he is now the head of the General Assembly, what he thinks of that.  And also the speech mentioned a number of what seems to be host country violations.  Co-pilot wasn’t let in; the President said his doctor couldn’t travel.  I mean, Colonel Qadhafi was saying things that basically would violate the agreement between the US and the UN.  Do you have any update on complaints actually filed with the Host Country Committee?


Spokesperson:  I haven’t heard about these complaints yet -- if there are complaints. But what I’d like to say, Matthew, is that if there are specific questions pertaining to the welcoming of Colonel Qadhafi by the host country, you may want to ask the host country, because these arrangements are really finalized and facilitated by the host country.  Now, coming to the reaction that Dr. Treki might or might not have following a speech made by a Member State, President Treki is the President of the General Assembly, this community of nations that is composed of 192 countries, and all Heads of State and Government and Heads of delegation present statements.  So I don’t think it can be expected from Dr. Treki to make specific comments or pronouncement on a specific speech or specific dimension.


Question:  Can you confirm to us how he introduced Colonel Qadhafi before his speech?  What honorific he used.


Spokesperson:  I’ll have to go back to the tape and check, because I think he was speaking in Arabic.  But I’ll check that and we’ll go back to the verbatim and come back to you on that.  Yes.


Question:  [inaudible] follow-up on that.  Does President Treki have any plans to follow up on Colonel Qadhafi’s proposals regarding moving powers from the Security Council to the General Assembly, in effect making the Security Council the executive arm of the General Assembly, it’s more along the path that I think his predecessor Miguel d'Escoto had been pursuing to make the Security Council more inclusive?  This proposal is even more radical in [inaudible] power from the Security Council and in effect thus making it an implementation arm.  Is there anything that you’re aware of on the President Treki’s agenda of thinking that would pursue that?


Spokesperson:  I hear you.  I’d only like to refer you to the opening statement that Dr. Treki made on 15 September and on his statement on 23 September.  Clearly there is no mystery in reiterating that Dr. Treki firmly believes in the need to revitalize the United Nations and to reform the Security Council.  I think there is a consensus that this reform is long overdue, but this discussion must proceed.  However, Dr. Treki will deal with propositions and suggestions from any and all Member States, just like he will do from any other States making statements or suggestions.  Not necessarily dealing with suggestions from a specific country.  He is a consensus-builder and he has to build consensus among 192 Member States, not really following one specific Member State or another.  The question of the revitalization of the Organization and the reform of the United Nations Security Council is indeed very central to Dr. Treki’s set of objectives.  That is absolutely clear.  Yes, sir.


Question:  [inaudible] that the President of the Assembly had meetings with representatives at the foreign minister’s level.  Does he have any plans to meet any Heads of State?


Spokesperson:  Not that I know yet.  But clearly, President Treki is working very hard to continue to reach a solution and build consensus on this issue, and I’m sure that if Dr. Treki believes that he needs to meet officials at a higher level than he has done so far, he will definitely do so.  Oui.


Question:  [In French on Madagascar]


Spokesperson:  [In French] 


Question:  [Follow-up in French]


Spokesperson:  [In French] Any other question?  Yes.


Question:  [In French]


Spokesperson:  [In French]


Question:  Could you translate the essence of that?


Spokesperson:  Yes, the question was about the whereabouts of the Libyan leader and why…


Question:  No, not the whereabouts.  Why was he not at the Security Council summit session this morning?


Spokesperson:  Why he was not at the Security Council summit session this morning?  My response was that this is a matter that regards the Security Council, not the General Assembly, whose President I speak on behalf of.  And also on the questions regarding Colonel Al-Qadhafi, I think this question has to be addressed to the Permanent Mission of Libya.  Thank you.  Back to Michèle.


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