30 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 again. We will start our noon briefing now, which was postponed, as you know, so Mr. [Sergio] Duarte could speak to you.


**Secretary-General’s Statement on Afghanistan


We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Peter Galbraith, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan).


The Secretary-General has decided to recall Mr. Peter Galbraith from Afghanistan and to end his appointment as the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for UNAMA.


He expresses his thanks to Mr. Galbraith for his hard work and professional dedication.  The Secretary-General recognizes Mr. Galbraith’s important contributions to the work of the Mission and throughout his distinguished career as an international civil servant.  The Secretary-General has made this decision in the best interest of the Mission.


He reaffirms his full support for his Special Representative, Kai Eide.


** Afghanistan


The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan expressed dismay at yet another roadside blast, which took place yesterday in the province of Kandahar.  The explosion resulted in the death of a high number of civilians, including women and children, as they travelled by bus to Kandahar city.  The Mission appealed to those carrying out these attacks to bring an immediate end to these brutal, senseless actions, which result in the loss of innocent civilian lives.  We have the full statement upstairs.


**Secretary-General’s Statement on the Pacific


We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General on the earthquakes and tsunami in the Pacific.


The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the loss of life, injury and destruction of property due to the earthquake and tsunami that hit Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga on 29 September 2009.  The Secretary-General is also closely following the impact of the earthquake that occurred near western Sumatra today.  He extends his condolences to the families of those who have been killed, injured or rendered homeless.


The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is deploying an emergency team to Samoa.  The United Nations stands ready to provide assistance as required and is already mobilizing to do so.


**Security Council


The Security Council, chaired this morning by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, unanimously approved a resolution demanding that all parties to armed conflict immediately take appropriate measures to protect civilians, including women and children, from all forms of sexual violence.


Among other things, the resolution requests that the Secretary-General appoint a Special Representative to provide coherent and strategic leadership in order to address sexual violence in armed conflict.  And it calls upon the Secretary-General to identify and take appropriate measures to deploy rapidly a team of experts to situations of particular concern with respect to sexual violence in armed conflict.


The Secretary-General said that, with its resolution today, the Security Council has sent a call to action, which is an ambitious platform for intensifying the struggle against sexual violence.  He said that he is fully committed to ensuring that the provisions of the resolution are implemented, in partnership with all relevant stakeholders.  And he added that he will continue to ensure effective follow-up by the UN system.  We must all do our part to fight and end discrimination against women and girls, the Secretary-General added.  We have his full speech upstairs.


The Council has now gone into consultations, as you know, on West Africa.  Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios is briefing on Guinea.


** Guinea


On Guinea, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called for an independent inquiry into reports of summary executions and other human rights violations by Guinea’s security forces during their crackdown on an opposition rally Monday in Conakry.  Pillay notes that while Guinean authorities have pledged to carry out their own inquiry, it is essential that any such inquiry is both independent and impartial.  “Monday’s bloodbath must not become part of the fabric of impunity that has enveloped Guinea for decades,” she said.  There’s more in a press release upstairs.


** Darfur


On Darfur, the UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has confirmed the arrival in El Fasher of 130 Egyptian police officers.  They will help improve the mission’s patrol capacity in communities around El Fasher, with a particular focus on camps for the internally displaced.  Today’s deployment brings to 1,675 the number of policemen in the mission’s formed police units.  That means more than 65 per cent of the authorized 2,660 formed police unit members have now deployed and are working to protect civilians in Darfur.


** Côte d’Ivoire


The latest report of the Secretary-General on Côte d’Ivoire is now available.  In it, the Secretary-General says that after the completion of the identification and voter registration operation, the main challenge now is for the concerned national institutions to complete the electoral process in earnest and organize open, free, fair and transparent elections.


He adds that this requires the preparation of the final electoral list through a transparent and credible process.  The publication of the provisional electoral list, as well as the process of resolving any disputes emanating from that list, will be a critical test of the success of the identification and voter registration process, he says.


The Secretary-General also notes that, if not managed properly and transparently, the electoral process could become a source of instability.  In this regard, he encourages the Ivorian leaders to maintain their commitment to the spirit of mutual accommodation, reconciliation and inclusiveness in the post-electoral period.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


In his latest report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Secretary-General says that progress has been uneven in the stabilization of the eastern provinces.  Some armed groups maintain elements outside of the national army integration process, while others have entirely backed out of it and at times joined the Rwandan Hutu rebel group FDLR (Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda) in fighting Government forces.  This, he says, is in part to blame on perceived delays in the implementation of the March agreements.


The challenges facing a return to peace in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo are formidable, and there remain very real risks to the peace consolidation process.  Among them are the continued gross abuses of human rights by armed groups and the impact on civilians of the Government’s military operations against Rwandan Hutu rebels.


**Treaty Event


A total of 64 Member States participated in this year’s Treaty Event, which ended yesterday.  The UN Office of Legal Affairs says that it has been the highest level of Member State participation since the 2005 World Summit.  Additionally, it represents an increase by 20 in the number of participants, compared to last year.  Together, the participating Member States took a total of 103 treaty actions relating to 37 treaties.  The actions also taken include 57 signatures and 43 ratifications.  There’s more in a press release upstairs.


** Pakistan


On Pakistan, since some of you asked, the Commissioners of the UN Commission of Inquiry looking into the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto completed their second visit to Pakistan.  During their stay, the Commissioners held meetings with a range of Pakistani citizens, diverse political party leaders and Government officials, and also gathered additional materials relevant to the inquiry.  Staff members of the Commission will be staying in Pakistan to conduct further inquiry.


** Haiti


The UN Special Envoy for Haiti, Bill Clinton, will be in Haiti tomorrow and Friday.  He will travel with a high-level trade delegation as part of his larger effort to encourage private sector investment in the country.


During his visit, the Special Envoy will also meet with President René Préval, Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis and deliver a keynote address to the Inter-American Development Bank.  Clinton will be accompanied by the Deputy Special Envoy, Paul Farmer.


**HIV/AIDS


On HIV/AIDS, more than 4 million people in low- and middle-income countries were receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2008 -- a 36 per cent increase in one year.  That’s according to a new report released today by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).  The report also highlights gains in HIV testing and counselling and in the prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child.


Despite this progress in the global HIV/AIDS response, more still needs to be done, said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.  She stressed that at least 5 million people living with HIV still do not have access to life-prolonging treatment and care.  Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, added that all indications point to the number of people needing treatment rising dramatically over the next few years.


There is more in a press release upstairs.


**Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)


According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the poorest regions with the highest levels of chronic hunger are likely to be among the worst affected by climate change by 2050.  Many developing countries, particularly Africa, could become increasingly dependent on food imports, as climate change is expected to affect agriculture and forestry systems.  The world’s population is projected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050.  There is a press release upstairs.


**Secretary-General’s Trip


And the Secretary-General leaves later today on a mission to Sweden, Denmark and Geneva, which, as he told you yesterday, will have a focus on climate change.  He begins the mission in Stockholm, where tomorrow he plans to meet with the Prime Minister and deliver a lecture at Uppsala University, in which he will pay tribute to Sweden’s wide-ranging contributions to the United Nations and call for Swedish leadership -- both unto itself and as current President of the European Union -- on climate change and the global economic financial crisis.


And this is all I have for you.  I want to remind you also that there is a press conference here in 226 at 3:30 p.m. from Rudy Salles, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, to brief following his meetings with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and senior United Nations officials.  It’s at 3:30 p.m. in this room.  And that’s all I have for you.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Michèle.  Your statement on Peter Galbraith said that he was recalled in the best interests of the Mission.  Can you elaborate on that?  What reasons was Mr. Galbraith given for this dismissal?


Spokesperson:  Well, I cannot add any more to this.  I think the statement is explicit.


Question:  Can I just follow up on that?


Spokesperson:  Yes, sure.


Question:  Mr. Galbraith was openly critical of [Afghan President] Hamid Karzai and suggested a recount of the ballots.  Is there any concern at the UN that his dismissal will be seen as a victory for Karzai at all?


Spokesperson:  I will not comment on this.


[The Spokesperson later reiterated that the Secretary-General is determined to ensure that every step is taken so that we can have a result that is regarded as legitimate, credible and acceptable by the Afghan people.]


Question:  Maybe you can comment on this, Michèle.  When is his contract actually ending?


Spokesperson:  I think he has a few more months to go, if I understand correctly.  Let me check for you when his contract ends.  All I have is that he has a fixed-term contract.  But, of course, I can get the exact date for you, but, as you know, it is within the Secretary-General’s discretion to terminate the appointment of Mr. Galbraith according to the staff rules and regulations.  And ordinarily he would be entitled to 30 days’ written notice and the Secretary-General can certainly pay Mr. Galbraith in lieu of such notice, in order that he may be separated immediately.


Question:  Are we to understand that he is not going to go back at all to Afghanistan?


Spokesperson:  Yes, he is going back of course to finish, wind up his work, and he’s right after that leaving Afghanistan.


Question:  Je voulais seulement savoir parce qu’on lit effectivement la déclaration qui a été envoyé mais il n’y a aucune raison pour expliquer pourquoi...


Spokesperson:  La raison, c’est pour le bien de la mission. Le Secrétaire général a évidemment le droit d’agir en fonction de ce qu’il considère être l’intérêt de la mission elle-même.


Question:  Mais en quoi le travail de M. Galbraith ne conrrespondait pas au bien de la mission?


Spokesperson:  Je ne ferai pas de commentaires là-dessus.


Question:  My question is about disaster.  You said a rescue team will be sent to Samoa.  And when will the team go, and what kind of people, or how many people, and what will they do in Samoa?  And what’s your idea about the aid action by the UN to the areas hit by disasters?  I mean not only Tonga and Samoa, but also Indonesia or the Philippines?


Spokesperson:  You can get more from OCHA.  From what I gather, they are right now assessing the extent of the damage so as to bring help as soon as possible.  And they have different, of course, groups that are involved; there are different programmes and funds involved in the effort. 


[The Spokesperson later added that the United Nations is concerned that there is the potential for both short- and long-term food shortages in both Samoa and Tonga.  There is also a reported shortage of medical staff.  It is likely that a shortage of medical equipment and supplies will arise.  UNICEF [United Nations Children's Fund] is reviewing its pre-positioned relief items in Suva, Fiji, and focusing on pre-identified gaps for support in the water, sanitation and hygiene sectors.]


Question:  Michèle, still on Galbraith’s case.  Will the Secretary-General expect to soon appoint a new Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan?


Spokesperson:  Well, this is not the case yet.  I’ll inform you when it happens.


Question:  I have a couple of questions.  One was on the unrest in Guinea.  What’s been the role of the UN’s Office of West Africa and Said Djinnit?  How often will they go in there before this happened, and has Mr. Djinnit gone there… I guess is he the one to brief the Council?  People don’t understand what the role of that Office in West Africa is in regard to Guinea.


Spokesperson:  Well, we can get more for you on this.  What I can tell you is that you probably read the SG’s [Secretary-General’s] statement two days… the day before yesterday, on Guinea, we issued two nights ago.  And this was pretty explicit about our position on what is happening now in Guinea.  In terms of actually being engaged in the country, I think you can get more information, and you will get some from the briefing taking place right now.


[The Spokesperson later added that, as a member of the International Contact Group on Guinea, the Special Representative for West Africa and head of the United Nations Office for West Africa, Said Djinnit, represents the United Nations in the Group.  She said he had undertaken a number of visits to Guinea, both in his capacity as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and as a member of the Contact Group.  She also noted that the International Contact Group has been insisting on the early return to constitutional order in Guinea and the non-participation of members of the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) in the forthcoming elections, consistent with an earlier commitment that the military junta had given to the international community.]


Question:  Okay.  And I wanted to ask you about a couple of these countries, some countries that met with the Secretary-General during the GA [General Assembly] have since said publicly what was discussed.  One was this meeting that he had with [Russian Foreign Minister] Sergey Lavrov.  Apparently one of the things discussed was the future of the UN… or a future, if there is one, for the UN Mission in Abkhazia.  Can you say anything?  Is there a kind of a UN side-readout on what was discussed?


Spokesperson:  Yes, we certainly have that upstairs.  We’ll try to find it for you.  The exact date is in the Secretary-General’s appointments.


Question:  I’m just saying the Russians have said their point of view of what was said.  It seems like the other one was…


Spokesperson:  Sure, you can have this from my office.  We give you all the readouts we have.


Question:  Okay.  Some have said that in replacing Mr. [Rodolphe] Adada in UNAMID, that there are some 22 candidates.  Is there any way you can you give us some idea how many?  And also that the Foreign Minister as well as the Permanent Representative of Tanzania are both in the mix?  Is there some…?


Spokesperson:  I will not comment on an ongoing process.  I will not.


Question:  How about a finished process?  Can you say how many… The ACABQ [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions] has recently named a new Executive Secretary.  Some on ACABQ have said that the process was flawed, that the person who came in first wasn’t given a job, and someone else was.  Is there… Do you have…?


Spokesperson:  I will not comment on ACABQ, what ACABQ says.


Question:  But isn’t it the Secretary-General who chooses the head of ACABQ?  I mean, the Executive Secretary, excuse me?


Spokesperson:  No, I’m sorry.  This is a General Assembly matter.  ACABQ is a General Assembly matter.


Question:  I’m talking about the staffing of it.


Spokesperson:  About the staffing itself…


Question:  Yes?


Spokesperson:  I can check that, of course.


Correspondent:  All right.


Spokesperson:  Yes.


Question:  A question about the resolution that was passed in the Security Council.  It calls for the appointment of a high-level UN person to look at these issues, women, peace and security.  Does the UN have a timeline as to when this person will be appointed and who it might be?


Question:  Well, as you know, we don’t know yet.  We don’t have a timeline on this.  Of course, the SG considers this as a very important issue.  But, as you know, at the same time, we’re going through the process of implementing the decision that was taken by the General Assembly of having a USG [Under-Secretary-General] dealing with all women matters and having that one department.  That has nothing to do with what was asked by the Security Council, which will also be, of course, examined, and I am sure the Secretary-General will try to make a decision as soon as possible.


Question:  Do you have any comment on the EU [European Union] report today on the Russian-Georgian war, where they essentially blame Georgia for starting the conflict?


Spokesperson:  No, I do not comment on the EU report.


Question:  You have no comment on a major war of last year?


Spokesperson:  Well, we comment when there is… the actual General Assembly, the Secretary-General, the Secretariat, the UN is involved in one issue.  In this specific case it is a report by a regional organization.  I do not comment on a report by a regional organization.  That’s all.  Thank you, all.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Thank you, Michèle, and good afternoon to all of you.  Maybe I should start with the most recent statement issued by the President of the General Assembly.


On 29 September 2009, the President of the General Assembly, Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, received Mr. Alexandre Cécé Loua, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Head of the Delegation of the Republic of Guinea, to the sixty-fourth session.


President Treki and the Guinean Minister for Foreign Affairs discussed important issues on the agenda of the sixty-fourth session.  Mr. Loua also briefed Dr Treki on the situation in Guinea following the disturbances that claimed many lives and casualties on 28 September during demonstration in the capital, Conakry.


Following the meeting, the President of the General Assembly issued the following statement:  The President of the General Assembly is shocked by and deplores the loss of lives and the high number of casualties that occurred.  He extends his prayers and condolences to the families of the victims.  The President of the General Assembly calls on all concerned for the restoration of calm and urges national authorities to ensure peace and stability and the rule of law.


We didn’t have the opportunity to brief you on this yesterday because there was no noon briefing.  So let me just remind you that on 28 September President Treki received Professor Vincenzo Scotti, the Italian Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.  They discussed important issues on the agenda of the sixty-fourth session.


Yesterday on 29 September, Dr. Treki received Mahkdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister of Pakistan.  The Pakistani Foreign Minister was accompanied by Abdullah Hussain Haroon, the Permanent Representative, Mr. Munawar Saeed Bhatti, the Additional Secretary for the United Nations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Farukh Amil, the Deputy Permanent Representative, and other officials. 


This morning, I would like to add, Dr Treki had other meetings.  He met with Mr. Yousef bin al-Alawi bin Abdullah, the Foreign Minister of Oman.  They discussed important matters on the agenda of the sixty-fourth session.  Yesterday Dr. Treki had already met the French Minister for Cooperation, Mr. Alain Joyandet.  They discussed important issues on the agenda of the sixty-fourth session. 


Earlier today, Dr. Treki met with Ambassador William Lacy Swing, the Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).  Ambassador Swing was accompanied by Mr. Luca Dall’Oglio, IOM’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations.  In addition to the development of cooperation with the United Nations, and regional and other organizations, President Treki and Ambassador Swing discussed relevant issues on the agenda of the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly, such as international migration and the growing awareness of its importance.  In 1992, observer status was granted to IOM by the United Nations.


I would also like to recall that, yesterday, Dr. Treki received Dr Srgjan Kerim, the [former] President of the sixty-second session of the UN General Assembly and currently Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Climate Change. 


That’s all I have for you today.  Do you have any questions?  No questions?  Yes, Matthew.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I wanted to ask again about the Host Country Committee.  I notice now that there is a meeting set up of it, but it says that the meeting is closed.  Is there some way to get… since these involve complaints, these would involve complaints by Member States about the treatment of their diplomats by the United States, is there some way to get either an agenda of that meeting or a statement from you why that meeting is not open to the press?


Spokesperson:  Well, I cannot presume what will happen in a closed meeting, but I’ll certainly check for you and if I manage to find something, I’ll definitely come back to you on that.  Yes, sir.


Question:  Does the President anticipate giving another press conference?


Spokesperson:  I’ll definitely ask him.  If so, I will certainly submit this to him.  Thank you very much and have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record