28 September 2009
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

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

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


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.


**Press Conference Today


Our guest at the noon briefing today will be B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.  He will brief on peace and security issues during the general debate.  And of course you will have the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly to come before that.


** Myanmar Statement


[The following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General was issued shortly after the noon briefing.


The Secretary-General met this morning with Prime Minister Thein Sein of Myanmar.  The Secretary-General reiterated his clear expectation that Myanmar will respond in a timely manner to the proposals he left with the senior leadership of Myanmar during his visit.  In particular, the Secretary-General made clear that the onus was on the Government to create the necessary conditions for credible and inclusive elections, including the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners, as well as dialogue with all stakeholders.


The Secretary-General reiterates his intention to work through his good offices with the Government and people of Myanmar to address the political, humanitarian and development challenges facing Myanmar, a role which was strongly endorsed again last week at the High-level Meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar.]


**Climate Change


UN negotiations on a comprehensive, effective and fair international climate change deal resumed today in Bangkok.  This is the penultimate round of negotiations ahead of the Copenhagen Conference.


Addressing delegates, Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, warned that there was “no plan B” for failure at Copenhagen.  “If we do not realize plan A, the future will hold us to account for it,” he added.  He said that time was pressing and had almost run out.  But de Boer also said that he believed the pace of the negotiations could and would now match the increasing pace of action seen at the highest level, during the Summit convened last week in New York by the Secretary-General.


The two-week Bangkok climate change talks are being attended by more than 4,000 participants, including Government delegates from 177 countries.  There is more in a press release upstairs.


** Gaza


Tomorrow morning in Geneva, the Human Rights Council will hear a presentation by Justice Richard Goldstone on the report of the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict.  You’ll recall that Goldstone briefed you on that report two weeks ago right here in New York.  Goldstone will be joined by all four members of the mission: Ms. Hina Jilani, Professor Christine Chinkin and Colonel Desmond Travers.  Later in the day, also in Geneva, they will give a press conference.


Also tomorrow, the Human Rights Council will hear a briefing by High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, on her own report on Gaza, as well as statements from Israel and Palestine.  The Human Rights Council will also hold an interactive discussion.  In terms of next steps, there is a draft resolution on Gaza currently before the Human Rights Council.  Action on that text is expected this Thursday or Friday.


**Security Council - Afghanistan


The Security Council has scheduled a briefing tomorrow morning on the work of the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA).  Kai Eide, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, will brief Council members on the work of that mission.  And Mr. Eide intends to speak to you at the Council stakeout following that meeting.


**Security Council - Côte d’Ivoire


We’ve been informed that the Security Council intends to hold a ministerial-level meeting on Côte d’Ivoire tomorrow.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country, Yoon-jin Choi, will be attending the meeting.


Meanwhile, the Mission there (UNOCI) has begun preparations for the delivery of electoral materials across the country.  This morning, it supervised and led the removal of voting equipment from the Abidjan seaport to the warehouses of the Independent Electoral Commission.  This first batch of materials will be distributed in the east and south of the country, with further deliveries for the central region and the capital, Yamoussoukro, expected on 1 October.  The elections are planned for 29 November.


** Darfur


The UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has renewed its appeal for the release of two of its staff members abducted at gunpoint 35 days ago from their homes in West Darfur.  The mission notes that the Sudanese Government is also continuing its efforts to secure their release.


Meanwhile, the mission’s police advisers this weekend led a workshop on community policing in the Duma camp for the internally displaced.  That camp is located in Nyala, in South Darfur.  Close to 100 camp residents took part in the workshop, which sought to prepare volunteers, including religious leaders and some 30 women, to help enforce basic law, human rights and safety rules in the camp.


** Haiti


The UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has condemned the attack against a judge late last week.  Maitre Jean Carves, who worked on many sensitive cases and had recently taken up those involving kidnapping, was shot and wounded in Port-au-Prince last Thursday.  MINUSTAH says it will lend its full support to the Haitian national police to bring to justice the perpetrators of this crime.  There is more in a press release upstairs from the Mission.


** Philippines


The Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that tropical storm Ondoy, which made landfall near Quezon Province in the Philippines, has resulted in 73 deaths and a rising number of missing and injured people.  A state of calamity has been declared in eight regions.


At the request of the Philippine authorities, OCHA has dispatched a disaster response adviser to the country.  Other humanitarian staff in the UN country office will operate from the disaster operations centre in the coming days in order to ensure proper coordination with the Government.  UNICEF has released 2,000 non-food-item kits and is assessing the need for further kits and water and sanitation support.  The World Food Programme (WFP) is preparing to assist with food packages.


** Guatemala


In Guatemala, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the effects of the El Niño weather pattern have prolonged the drought, which has caused a reduction in agricultural production, affecting approximately 2.5 million people in 21 municipalities.


The World Food Programme (WFP) will provide food assistance, estimated at some 10,600 metric tons, to some 45,000 families through their “food for work” programme.  WFP has allocated another 200 metric tons of food aid to meet emergency food needs for vulnerable populations in the departments of Baja Verapaz, Zacapa and El Progreso.  Meanwhile, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) intends to strengthen its early warning system for monitoring nutrition in the country.


**Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees


Humanitarian efforts are increasingly put at risk as global conflicts become more complex -- involving State armies, militias and insurgents.  That’s the warning given by Antonio Guterres, the head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), when he addressed the annual session of UNHCR’s Governing Executive Committee in Geneva today.


He said it has become difficult and dangerous to provide humanitarian relief in an environment where the line separating the civilian from the military has become blurred.  Guterres cited the situation in Pakistan earlier this year, when three UNHCR staff members were shot and killed, and one was kidnapped and later released.  He added that such incidents undermined relief operations and humanitarian action in general.  Guterres also criticized some countries that deny access to asylum procedures for refugees.  There are some more details on the UNHCR website.


**Desertification


The high-level segment of the ninth session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification began in Buenos Aires today, and the Secretary-General has a message today encouraging progress in those deliberations.


Expanding deserts suffocate livelihoods and ways of life, he warns.  The more than 2 billion people who live on the world’s drylands are also among the poorest and most vulnerable, and often the least able to cope.  There is only one way forward, he argues: We must strengthen our ability to adapt to a changing climate.  That message is upstairs.


**Sub-Saharan Africa


The outlook for agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa is improving, says the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  It also adds that the recent positive performance is indicating a break with the past.  FAO reminds that a “concerted and purposeful policy action” is required to maintain this momentum.  FAO’s Assistant Director-General welcomes this news and underlines that “agriculture is the backbone of overall growth for the majority of countries in the region and essential for poverty reduction and food security”.  There is a press release upstairs.


** Rwanda


On the justice front, a former Rwandan mayor has pleaded not guilty to genocide charges brought against him by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal for Rwanda.  A fugitive since his June 2001 indictment, Grégoire Ndahimana was arrested in August in North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the course of a joint UN-DRC operation.  He was transferred to the Tribunal last week.  The Tribunal says he helped lure ethnic Tutsis into a church building in the town of Kivumu in April 1994, and then unleashed killing mobs on them.


The Tribunal also heard oral arguments this morning in the appeal case of Protais Zigiranyirazo, who was found guilty of genocide in December 2008.  The accused, a former high-ranking member of parliament, is the brother in law of the late Rwandan President, Juvenal Habyarimana.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


And press conferences tomorrow; the Secretary-General will hold a press conference tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 10.30 a.m. in this room.  After that, at 11.15 a.m., there will be a press conference by Alain Joyandet, Secretary of State for Cooperation and Francophonie of France.  And there will be no noon briefing tomorrow, since there will be a briefing by the Secretary-General.


And this is all I have for you.  Any questions?  Yes.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Do you have any information you can share with us on the Secretary-General’s bilateral meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad?


Spokesperson:  Well, we issued a readout right afterwards.  You can have it upstairs; it’s upstairs.


[The following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General was issued on 25 September 2009: The Secretary-General met this evening with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran and discussed a number of critical issues concerning Iran and the international community.


The Secretary-General expressed his grave concern about its activities related to continued uranium enrichment as demonstrated by the construction of a new uranium enrichment facility in the country.  He emphasized that the burden of proof is on Iran.  The Secretary-General reiterated his call on Iran to fully implement relevant Security Council resolutions as well as fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) towards resolving all outstanding concerns related to its nuclear programme.  In this regard, he noted the recent proposals put forward by Iran and urged it to engage in constructive negotiations as promptly as possible.


The Secretary-General expressed his continuing concern about the human rights situation in Iran with respect to freedoms of association, assembly and practice of religion.  He underlined the need to uphold due process and transparency in the trials and treatment of post-election and other detainees.  He encouraged Iran to receive United Nations Special Rapporteurs in conformity with the standing invitation issued by the Iranian authorities.


The Secretary-General reiterated his strong rejection of the President’s repeated denials of the Holocaust.] 


Question:  Over the weekend, in these camps in Sri Lanka, some of the people in the camps were shot by the military.  The military said they tried to leave, although it’s a refugee camp and they said that they were trying to get firewood.  Anyway, there has been an incident and I’m wondering whether the UN, given its role in the camps, what it has said about it, what its response is?


Spokesperson:  Okay, I will try to get more information on it today.


Question:  And also, regarding the UN in Somalia, we had a briefing by Mr. Bowden who is the Humanitarian Coordinator, and he seemed to say that Department of Safety and Security is not active throughout -- in the whole of the country given threats by Al-Shabaab.  But just now Sheeran said WFP only uses DSS for its security.  Bowden had also said that they rely on agencies’ own security guards.  Is there a way to find out who is providing security for WFP throughout the country and whether DSS…?


Spokesperson:  Okay, sure, we can find that out from…


Question:  …if not DSS, who is it?


Spokesperson:  Okay, we’ll try to find that out for you.  But you could get it from WFP also.


Correspondent:  It’s just that the two answers are totally inconsistent.  That’s why I’m asking you if…


Spokesperson:  Sure, we’ll try to find out what it is.  Okay, thank you all very much.  Yes.


Question:  Tomorrow’s press conference, is that 10 a.m. or 10:30 a.m.?


Spokesperson:  10 a.m.


Correspondent:  10 a.m., okay.  It says 10:30 a.m.


Spokesperson:  That’s a mistake.  It’s 10 a.m.


Question:  There is a report from the Terra news service of Brazil of an investigation of excessive force by peacekeepers in Haiti.  Have you heard of this?  That a community leader named Frankie said he was captured and then taken by the peacekeepers.  When will the results be known, and what’s the UN’s response to that?


Spokesperson:  Well, there was an investigation conducted -- that’s what I got from MINUSTAH this morning -- there was an investigation conducted by a UN military officer, an UNPOL officer, a special investigator, and a senior human rights officer.  And that investigation team examined carefully all the allegations made by Mr. Maze, and based on all their interviews and the medical reports of two doctors, including x-rays and blood tests, the team concluded that he had neither been beaten nor tortured.  This is what I got from MINUSTAH this morning.  And you know the background.  He was detained by UN peacekeepers during a routine patrol at 4 a.m. in possession of 310 grams of marijuana.  That was on 9 September and in a street near his residence in Cité Soleil.  He was handed over to the Police Nationale and MINUSTAH later learned that he had been released.  That’s what I got from them this morning.


Question:  Does MINUSTAH, I mean are they there in a law-enforcement capacity?  Do they police, you know, I don’t want to say it’s a routine crime, but…?


Spokesperson:  No, it’s a Haitian police thing.  But they do have patrols and they do turn in whoever they arrest to the Haitian police. 


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Good afternoon.  I hope you all had a pleasant weekend, although I’m sure it was pretty short.


So maybe we should start with the meetings that President Treki, the President of the General Assembly had this morning.  This morning, early, he met with H.E. Dr. Ghazi Salah Eddin, the adviser to the President and head of delegation of the Republic of Sudan.  They discussed important questions on the agenda of the sixty-fourth session.  President Treki also met with H.E. Mr. Paul Biya, the President of Cameroon.  President Biya extended his appreciation and expressed his warm congratulations to Dr. Treki upon his election as the President of the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly.  President Biya said that the election of Dr. Treki “is a source of pride for both the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and Africa”.


Having mentioned “broad convergence of views” between Cameroon and the objectives of the sixty-fourth session, whether on issues of peace and security, climate change or development, President Biya said that the delegation of Cameroon will provide support to the President of the General Assembly.  The President of the General Assembly noted the important role that the Cameroon President plays in conflict resolution and stability in the subregion of Central Africa.  He asked President Biya to continue his efforts in finding solutions and reconciliation between various parties, particularly in the context of subregional tensions, such as the conflict between Chad and Sudan, the situation in Darfur or the situation in the Central African Republic.  “Your role is very important”, Dr. Treki told President Biya. 


President Biya said that his country will continue its contribution to peace efforts in Africa.  In this regard, he recalled that Cameroon contingents are deployed in various UN peacekeeping operations on the African continent, particularly in the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 


President Biya also invited Dr. Treki to make an official visit to Cameroon in his capacity as President of the General Assembly.  Dr. Treki thanked President Biya and promised that he will travel to Cameroon before the end of his mandate.


Concluding the meeting, President Treki said that he hoped that “2010 will indeed be the year of peace in Africa”.


This is basically what we have for you today.  Do you have any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  [First six questions were on Madagascar, in French]


Spokesperson: [Answers to first six questions, given in French]


Question:  I think what people don’t understand about what happened with Madagascar is, can any speaker be challenged?  Can a regional group call a vote on any speaker and say, “we won’t let you speak”?  What, in this instance, how does this not create a precedent, that any speaker, or is it…?  If you’re saying he could speak, but by a vote he could be rejected, can this happen to any speaker in the rest of, you know, this general debate?


Spokesperson:  No, what happened, Matthew, is that a Member State raised a procedural objection on behalf of Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.  And that Member State was the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr. Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, and he was speaking on behalf of the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC).  In this particular instance, what Dr. Treki did was only to follow the rules and procedures of the General Assembly.  That’s all he did, and he did so in abiding by the legal advice that he had received from the Legal Counsel of the United Nations.  So it is not that Madagascar was challenged per se, it is that a procedural objection was raised, which therefore barred Madagascar from speaking after a vote of 23 against was passed.  It was based on a procedural objection, and what Dr. Treki did was only to abide by the rules and procedures of the General Assembly, in accordance with the legal advice that he had received from the United Nations Legal Office.


Question:  Did Madagascar pay all its financial contributions to the UN first?  And second, what happened…? I don’t think you really answered Matthew’s question.  Is it possible that one subregional organization or one country made a motion to say, “okay we won’t allow this particular country to speak because”…? Actually, okay, let me just rephrase my question.  Did Madagascar pay its financial contribution, first?  And second, does the UN recognize States or regimes?


Spokesperson:  First and foremost, I’ll check for you what is the status of Madagascar’s payment of its own contributions.  But I don’t think that this can be linked to that.  Secondly, what we’re saying here is that what led to Andry Rajoelina not speaking was a procedural objection raised by a Member State, and that rules and procedures of the General Assembly were followed.  It has to be recalled, however, that this whole situation just developed very recently.  It is on 24 September that SADC countries approached the General Assembly, with Ministers for Foreign Affairs from SADC raising an objection to Andry Rajoelina taking the floor.  And Mr. Treki, as President of the General Assembly, sought the legal advice from the United Nations Legal Office.  He implemented rules and procedures in line with this advice.  So we have to limit what happened to the specifics here.  It was a question of a Member State abiding by the rules and raising a procedural objection.  But Dr. Treki had no other choice but to allow that Member State to speak.  And in so doing, a procedural objection by a Member State was raised.  Dr. Treki only followed the rules.


Question:  Can you double-check… I know African Union recognizes regimes, SADC as well, but here at the UN, does the UN recognize States or regimes?  Because we know that SADC said Madagascar is no longer among the SADC countries because Rajoelina overthrew an elected President from power.  But what happened… it’s like the UN says, “okay, we’re not recognizing the regime of Andry Rajoelina”, but what’s happened to Madagascar itself as a State?


Spokesperson:  I don’t think the question of Madagascar as a Member State is at issue here.  What happened was that the representative, not of a regime, not of a regional group, but the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo tabled a motion based on Article 71 of the rules and procedures, and calling Member States to vote against a ruling that was made in line with the legal advice received.  I think we have to really limit and clarify this matter on this specific point.  There are specific rules and procedures that had to be implemented, and it is only in line with rules and procedures that what took place happened.  Any other question?


Thank you very much.  Good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record