26 January 2010
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 Martin Nesirky, 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


**Guest at Noon Briefing


Good afternoon, everybody.


Our guests at this noon briefing today are John Holmes, who, as you know, is the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and the Emergency Relief Coordinator, and we also have with us today Jordan Ryan, who is the Assistant Administrator and Director for the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery at UNDP.  And they are here to brief you on Haiti.


So I’ll hand over without further ado, except to mention that Jean Victor will brief you at the end of our briefing on the General Assembly.


[Briefing on Haiti issued separately.]


I just have a couple more things and I am very happy to take other questions, by all means.


**Secretary-General’s Stakeout Tomorrow


The Secretary-General will speak to reporters at the stakeout, and it will be at the second floor location in the new North Lawn Building.  And that will be at 2:45 p.m. tomorrow.  And as you know, that is before the Secretary-General departs to London for [the Conference on Afghanistan].


Question:  Tomorrow?


Spokesperson:  I said tomorrow.  At 2:45 p.m. in the North Lawn Building on the second floor.


**Holocaust Commemoration


At 6 p.m. today, the Secretary-General will speak at the opening of an exhibit at the Visitors’ Lobby on the Auschwitz-Birkenau blueprints.  And that exhibit was curated and produced by Yad Vashem, and is part of our remembrance of the Holocaust this year.


Tomorrow, as you know, is Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the theme of this year’s commemoration at UN offices around the world is “The Legacy of Survival”.  And we will have a message from the Secretary-General concerning all the people ‑‑ most of them Jews, but also including groups like the Roma and Sinti ‑‑ who suffered the horrors of the ghettos and Nazi death camps, yet somehow survived.


**Yemen


As I told you earlier, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe will lead the UN delegation at the high-level meeting to be held on Yemen tomorrow in London.


From the UN’s perspective, this meeting is an opportunity for the international community and the Government of Yemen to have a focused discussion on how they can jointly address the many pressing problems and challenges facing the country and their underlying causes, and that includes economic, developmental and humanitarian issues.  Sustained international support will be necessary to ensure the prosperity, security and stability of Yemen and the region as a whole.


And we hope this will be the initiation of a long-term process of cooperation between the Government of Yemen and the relevant regional and international partners.  The United Nations is ready to take part in these efforts, with emphasis on providing support and cooperation in the areas of highest priority to the Yemeni Government and people.


**Security Council


As you know, the Security Council this morning held consultations on Sudan, to receive a briefing from the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).


In his report, which we flagged last week, the Secretary-General says that the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement have made important breakthroughs, allowing them to move beyond several obstacles.  Even so, he warned, a return to armed conflict remains a very real possibility.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


Thousands of civilians have had to flee their homes in the North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that it has registered more than 15,500 newly displaced persons since mid‑December.  Those displaced are fleeing the negative repercussions of a Government military campaign against Rwandan rebels, as well as widespread banditry.  And this latest wave of displacement has brought to more than 116,000 the population of North Kivu residents living in 47 camps run by UNHCR across the region.


**Somalia


And on Somalia, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, has condemned yesterday’s deadly attack by insurgents on a Mogadishu hospital.  According to media reports, the assault on the medical centre, which is run by African Union peacekeepers, killed half a dozen people.  Ould-Abdallah says that this is the second attack on the hospital, which treats an estimated 3,200 Somalis a month.  And we have the full statement in my office.


I’m happy to take any questions.  I think we probably have about five minutes or so for questions.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you very much.  I wanted to ask yesterday:  where does the SG’s stand concerning the Goldstone report?  Is he planning to present an official report to the General Assembly on the basis of their resolution by 4 February or early February?


Spokesperson:  5 February, in fact, and that is what was stated in the General Assembly resolution that was passed, as you know, in November, and that set a three-month time scale for this, and it’s certainly the intention of the Secretary-General to report at that point.


Question:  To report what, exactly?


Spokesperson:  To report on precisely what the findings are so far.  There are a couple of points.  Firstly, that the Israeli Government and the Palestinian side were asked in this General Assembly resolution to carry out credible, independent investigations into the allegations and into the findings of the Goldstone report.  And this is something that the Secretary-General himself has also called for.  And so the second point is that, by the 29th of this month, there should be a response from the Israeli Government and the Palestinian side on what has been done in the meantime.  And it will be based on those responses that the Secretary-General will then be reporting to the General Assembly by 5 February.


Question:  And you expect a response from Hamas, too?  I mean, when you say the Palestinian side, you expect the government in Gaza to send an official something to the Secretary-General or the Palestinian Authority?


Spokesperson:  The General Assembly resolution was very clear, and a response would be expected in line with that.  And then it’s a question of ensuring that that information is collated so that the Secretary-General can report in good time, as anticipated in the resolution.  The General Assembly resolution was clear on what it asked for, and you’ll see what the response will be.  And the Secretary-General will be able to report on that.


Question:  The new President of Honduras will take his oath of office tomorrow.  Mr. [José Manuel] Zelaya said he is going to leave the country and then he agreed with the elections then.  Which is the position now from the Secretary-General, because until now he was supporting the resolution approved by the General Assembly?  As things change, we would like to know if he’s going to make a kind of a statement saying, giving support to the new President, or he is going to wait?


Spokesperson:  As you mentioned, this was a subject within the General Assembly, and there was a clear understanding there and nothing has changed in that respect as far as the Secretary-General is concerned.  If there is change in what the General Assembly has to say about it, then that’s clearly something that the Secretary-General will need to take into account.


Question:  There are some news reports in Cyprus today that the SG is going to visit the island on 31 January, and he will be meeting the leaders on 1 February.  Can you confirm these reports, and do you have an update on his visits?


Spokesperson: No, I can’t confirm that report.  As I’ve said from here on more than one occasion, the Secretary-General is certainly ready and willing to visit Cyprus at an appropriate time, and I think you just need to stay tuned.


Question:  Can I follow up on that?


Spokesperson:  By all means.


Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any plans to travel to the Middle East at all any time soon?


Spokesperson:  To the Middle East?  I am not aware of any plans to visit the Middle East any time soon.  If that changes, I’ll let you know.


Question:  There are reports that India, at the level of Prime Minister, has expressed dissatisfaction with this 31 January deadline, or even now soft deadline for the Copenhagen filings.  That is, that he’s taken issue with some letter that was received by Mr. Ban.  I’m wondering whether what is the UN’s position…I’ve heard this phrase “soft deadline” now, but how many countries have signed up?  What did they make of objections such as that of India?  Closer to home, the unit of Mr. [Janos] Pasztor, I understood was going to be in the new building, and then it was said there is no space for him there.  They are upstairs in a generally empty, otherwise relatively empty, Headquarters.  Where is that unit going, and what would you say to those who say it shows a kind of a seeming lack of attention to, at least that unit, if not to the issue?


Spokesperson:  On the second point, I’ll ask Janos and get back to you.  On the first, we’re aware that there is a letter from the Prime Minister of India we’ve not yet received.  Once we have received it, we will be able to respond to it.


Question:  Martin, yesterday I had asked you the same question, but Mr. Holbrooke seemed to indicate yesterday afternoon that he agrees that the formula basically presented by Mr. Kai Eide on Afghanistan, that talks should be held between moderate Taliban and coalition forces over there and so forth.  But is the Secretary-General, when he goes to Washington, will he be carrying that proposal of his SRSG over there?


Spokesperson:  As I mentioned to you yesterday, it’s clear that the Special Representative, Mr. Eide, will have been working very hard.  He has been working very hard in the run-up to this conference, and clearly has ideas.  I know that the Secretary-General is preparing very actively himself for this conference and indeed he’s meeting his senior advisers pretty much as we speak.  And so, therefore, I cannot really give you much more than that, except to say that we would expect to see, it’s likely that there would be some kind of declaration issued at the end of the conference and that that would include commitments both from the international community and also from the Government of Afghanistan.


And, clearly the whole point of this, it’s a major conference.  There will be 60 countries and organizations attending.  It is co-hosted by the United Nations, the UK Government and the Government of Afghanistan.  And the whole point is trying to secure political commitments, and that is something that is crucial for the future of Afghanistan, in addition to everything else that’s been going on.  And it’s a way to bring to bear both the military and civilian resources that are on the ground and are still needed so that there can be an Afghan-led political strategy that’s focusing on reform.


Question:  Will there be an effort for rapprochement with the moderate Taliban?


Spokesperson:  I think that remains to be seen, and we need to see what comes out of the meeting.  But I, like you, have seen the various reports; different people saying different things.  I think it is understandable that in the run-up to a major conference like this, there will be various ideas that are out there in the public domain.  There may well be other ideas that are not in the public domain.  I think we need to see how it pans out in London.


Question:  You indicate that the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Lynn Pascoe, will be heading to Yemen at the head of a delegation from various sectors to study the multiple problems of Yemen.  Who initiated this proposal?  Was it coming from Yemen?


Spokesperson:  That’s not what I said.  I said that he’s going to London, not to Yemen.  There is a conference in London on Yemen, and Mr. Pascoe is representing the Secretary-General at that conference.


Question:  It’s reported that the inquiry into the murder of Benazir Bhutto has hit a brick wall, that the Government has refused access to senior generals, and that it sort of stymies the whole inquiry set in motion by Ban Ki-moon.  Have you heard that?  Is that the case?


Spokesperson:  There was a question along those lines some time ago, and I gave an answer to the effect that to our knowledge there has been no barrier put in the way of the Commission.  If this is a fresh report that you’re referring to, then we’ll need to look into it.


Thank you very much.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Thank you very much, Martin.  Good afternoon.


Following his official visit to London last week, the President of the General Assembly,His Excellency Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, is pleased that Queen Elizabeth II will address the General Assembly on 6 July.  On behalf of all the Member States of the United Nations, the President looks forward to welcoming Her Majesty the Queen on that occasion.


The President of the General Assembly believes that the Queen’s visit to the United Nations will be a strong expression of support for the world body, and hopes that Her Majesty’s appearance at the General Assembly will provide a tremendous boost in advancing the important agenda of the Assembly for the sixty-fourth session.


That’s what I have for you today.  Questions?  Yes.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I have a question.  Last Tuesday there was supposed to be a meeting of the Security Council reform body, and there was also supposed to be a letter to them or something?  And I wondered, did the meeting happen, and what’s going on with Security Council reform in governmental negotiations?


Spokesperson:  It is a continuing process.  I will check specifically about the meeting and the letter because several things might have happened last week in this regard.  But I can come back to you on that.


Question:  And can you let us know about this letter?  Because I looked online and I didn’t see it.  In the past such things have been online.


Spokesperson:  Sure, I will do.  Yes.


Question:  Thank you, Jean Victor, thank you.  Just again, the same question about the Goldstone session.  Can you just give, like, give us a heads-up on what are the preparations?  What do you expect?  What will the General Assembly do on that day, 5 February right now?


Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, a resolution of the General Assembly speaks for itself.  And a date and a deadline havebeen set, 5 February.  So we have to wait that the Secretary-General reports back.  There is not much we can really add between now and then, and we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there.


Question:  [inaudible]…are you saying that there will be a session, a special session on 5 February?  A session, and then what, like the SG will come…? Can you just give us what will happen on 5 February?


Spokesperson:  I cannot tell you what will happen on 5 February.  It couldwell be that the report will come earlier than that, and I can’t look into the future.  What I can tell you for sure is that we just have to go back to what the resolution has set forth, and that’s all we can do for the time being.


Question:  [inaudible]…for example, countries will speak or just like, I mean…?


Spokesperson:  Even that is not certain.  What is certain is what the resolution calls for, for the time being.  And between now and then, a lot can happen.  The General Assembly can still be seized of this matter one way or another, but we really have to remain within the framework of what was set, and clearly established, as adoptedby the General Assembly on this issue.  Yes.


Question:  [inaudible]…at what level would the President of the General Assembly like the Assembly to meet?


Spokesperson:  Well, the Queen will address the General Assembly in her capacity as the Head of State of several Member States.  So it is exactly like when a Head of State addresses the General Assembly.  So in this case the protocol will be the same, but we’re still working on this important occasion which was only announced very recently.  So I’m sure that as soon as possible, and when we have them, we’ll provide details.  Yes.


Question:  There have been some news reports that there are some countries that are not so happy that the US military is involved in Haiti as strongly as it is, and that there was some question that maybe there would be an effort to have something brought up about this in the General Assembly.  I wonder if you’ve gotten any expression of anything from any nation, and if there are any questions being raised about this, and if it might be discussed in the near future?


Spokesperson:  I heard some of these reports and I read them in the press.  But you will recall that last week the President of the General Assembly convened an important emergency plenary of the General Assembly, discussing the question of Haiti, and all Member States were free to express themselves on the question.  You may want to go back into the record and check what every Member State said, and I do not recall anything that was particularly aggravating.  I think that the whole international community is united and really geared to support Haiti in this very tragic moment.  Yes.


Question:  Just again to go back to Queen Elizabeth.  Why 6 July?  Is there any particular reason, that day, or I mean, is it a special session for something?  Did she invite herself or was she invited?  I mean, was she invited?  I mean, some background.


Spokesperson:  We’re still working on the details.  I hope to bring some background to you.  We will tell you more very shortly.  Sometimes, on this date, it could simply be a matter of scheduling and availability of a very senior personality like the Queen.  So I don’t want to read more into that for the time being.  But, we’ll provide more details, and you may also want to check with the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom to get maybe a bit more details.  But from our side…[interrupted]…


Question:  Did she request to come and speak or you invited her?  I mean, like, can this be clear, please?


Spokesperson:  I really do not want to go into these details now.  What I can tell you for sure is that this was announced in London, and …[interrupted]


Question:  [inaudible]…


Spokesperson:  Well, we do not go into these details when Heads of State come to speak at the General Assembly, usually.  I understand that, for the Queen, it’s a very special occasion.  I agree, but I promise that we will bring you more background and answer that specific question very shortly.  For the time being, we’re very pleased with the announcement.  But we’ll bring you more background, and we’ll tell you if there was an invitation or an expression of Her Majesty’s willingness to come and address the Assembly.  But what is important is that she is coming here, and she will address Member States on 6 July.


Thank you, and good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record