2 February 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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.


Briefing by the Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


Good afternoon.


**Security Council


I’m going to try and be out of here as quick as humanly possible, because, as you know, Ambassador Gérard Araud of France, the Council President, will be here in the next few minutes to talk to you.  And the Security Council this morning adopted its programme of work for February.  So, he will talk to you about that.


**Statement on Sudan


Right now, I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General concerning Sudan.


In order to clarify erroneous reports about remarks attributed to the Secretary-General concerning Sudan, the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General would like to reaffirm the Secretary-General’s position, which is in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the United Nations mandate in Sudan.


The Secretary-General made clear that the United Nations would work to support the parties in their efforts to “make unity attractive”, as well as the exercise by the people of Southern Sudan of their right to self-determination in a referendum.  In this connection, he made clear that that the United Nations would work to avoid any potential negative consequences following next year’s referendum.


Any suggestion that the United Nations may have taken a position that may prejudge the outcome of such a referendum is incorrect.


**Statement on Western Sahara


I have another statement attributable to the Spokesperson concerning Western Sahara.


The Secretary-General is pleased that the parties have agreed to the proposal made by his Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, that the next set of informal talks on Western Sahara be held on 10-11 February.  The meeting will take place in Westchester County and will be based on the guidance provided by Security Council resolution 1871 (2009) and earlier resolutions.  He encourages the parties to make further progress and urges focused and productive discussions.


** Haiti Update


Concerning Haiti, I just wanted to inform you that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the provision of shelter remains an urgent need for hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Port-au-Prince, Leogane and Jacmel.


The delivery of shelter materials is being speeded up, which will improve shelter conditions in the short term.  However, with the rainy season approaching in April, followed by the hurricane season a few months later, planning for durable transitional shelter to house people for at least two years must go hand in hand with the emergency efforts, according to OCHA.


Also, the World Food Programme (WFP) says it has now reached around 850,000 people since the earthquake struck – more than 200,000 have been reached through the new distribution system in the past 48 hours.


** Somalia -- UNHCR on New Displacements


On Somalia, more than 250 Somalis have been killed, and a similar number got injured, in January alone, as a result of sharply escalating violence.  This is according to [information by local sources given to] the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).  And we have more in notes in the Spokesperson’s Office.


**Climate Change


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has received submissions of national pledges to cut and limit greenhouse gases by 2020 from 55 countries.  These countries account for 78 per cent of global emissions from energy use.  Yvo de Boer, the Executive Secretary of the Convention, said that this represents an important strengthening of the UN climate change talks and that he saw these pledges as clear signals of willingness to move negotiations towards a successful conclusion.  And you can find that information on the UNFCCC’s website.


**Secretary-General Stakeout


Last, the Secretary-General is on his way back from his week-long trip to London, Addis Ababa and Nicosia.  He intends to brief the Security Council about his trip tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m.  Then, when he has finished his briefing to the Council, he intends to speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout, tentatively at 4:30 p.m.


And with that, I believe I shall get off the stage.  The Security Council President is here.  Thanks very much.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Any questions afterwards?


Associate Spokesperson:  I’ll try.


[Briefing by Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, Security Council President for February, issued separately]


Associate Spokesperson:  I know I had to cut short my part of the briefing, so that we can have our guest.  So, at this stage, if there are any questions for me?


Question:  Has Bill Clinton been announced as coordinator in Haiti for the national relief efforts?


Associate Spokesperson:  No, I can’t confirm that at this stage.  We might have something more to say about these reports in the coming days.  But I don’t have anything for you on that today.


Question:  You read the statement clarifying or calling inaccurate media accounts of the Secretary-General’s statements on Sudan.  And there seems to be, this was in a radio interview with RFI, AFP, it’s been reported elsewhere, that, essentially what he said, are you saying that he didn’t say that, or upon reflection…?


Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, exactly.  It’s not simply upon reflection.  There was a misquote.  If you look at AFP on the wire today, they have actually run a correction to the story, where they make it clear that what he talked about was in fact the work that the UN would do to avoid any potential negative consequences that would follow any possible vote in the referendum.  He did not use the quotes that were attributed to him.  So, look to the wires, you will have that; and the basic point, as I said in the statement just now, was that any suggestion that the UN may have taken a position that might prejudge the outcome of the referendum is incorrect.  He did not say that.


Question:  What he said, though in his speech, in the speech that he gave, the written speech that is on you guys’ website, he said that Sudan should make unity attractive.  I mean, there are people that protested at UNMIS [the United Nations Mission in the Sudan], saying that this is taking sides.  It’s not?


Associate Spokesperson:  That is not.  If you look at the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the language he was using is language taken from the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  In other words, in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, it talks about the parties’ efforts to make unity attractive.  He was recalling the language of the Peace Agreement itself.  So, what we are doing, our actions on the ground, are in line with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.


Question:  But if he was misquoted by AFP and RFI, can we get, is the UN going to put out its own actual tape, version of what he said, just so we can…?


Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, certainly, I can share that with anyone who cares to have that.  But, yes.  And in fact, if you look at the AFP story on the wires right now, they are going with the transcribed correct quote in English of what he said.


Question:  Can you tell us whether the panel, any of the panel members of the Benazir Bhutto commission of the United Nations, have furthered their investigations or information that they wanted to collect for their inquiry?


Associate Spokesperson:  Certainly.  We continue to check with the commission dealing with the Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, and they’ve told us that they’re continuing to receive cooperation as they go about their work.  As you know, their mandate had been extended by several months.  And once they have completed their work, we’ll certainly try to make them available to you.


Question:  Any idea of when their report will come out?


Associate Spokesperson:  At this stage, as you know, they had a three-month extension, so their current extension lasts to the end of March.


Question:  Earlier in January it was said that no, they have not gone as yet.


Associate Spokesperson:  I’ll try…  As you know, they’ve tried not to give detailed updates about the people that they have been interviewing and the work that they have done.  That’s to preserve the sort of work that they are doing.  But, we’ll try to provide you with some further information as we can.


Question:  Also on Sudan, the Government of Khartoum has said that UNAMID [the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] has sided with JEM [the Justice and Equality Movement] by not reporting the theft of UNAMID vehicles for use by the rebels.  I understand that UNAMID said that they have reported them.  Can we say, where have they, to whom or where did they report the theft of the vehicles?  And can you confirm, they say a half dozen, how many vehicles have been stolen and what timeframe from UNAMID?


Associate Spokesperson:  You might need to check with UNAMID about the precise numbers of vehicles.  As far as this goes, UNAMID is categorically rejecting the accusations that were made.  The UNAMID mission never collaborated in any way described with any of the parties to the conflict.  And this will not detract UNAMID from its responsibility and obligation to be an honest broker in the peace process.


It is regrettable that an occasional act of banditry has been used to level an attack on the integrity of the mission.  However, this will not affect the good working relationship that UNAMID has established with all levels of the civilian and military leadership of Sudan.


And like I said, please contact UNAMID for the precise numbers of vehicles stolen.  There have been acts of banditry, and we have reported them.


Question:  Farhan, just to follow up.  Yesterday, Mr. [Edmond] Mulet said things were stable in Haiti, the security situation.  Today, we saw reports about armed gangs attacking a food convoy, and I saw one quote, wire report, that said that the mission said that the situation is stable, but volatile, I believe, but I couldn’t find that quote on the MINUSTAH website.  So, what I’m asking is, has the situation changed?  Is there any concern?


Associate Spokesperson:  The situation is as Mr. Mulet reported to you yesterday, which is to say, we’ve received a lot of cooperation during food deliveries.  There is calm, as he described it, in many neighbourhoods and areas of Port-au-Prince that have been difficult in the past.  And yet, as you know, there are many different causes for volatility, including, as you are aware, the fact that many gang members were able to escape following the collapse of the prison.  So, there are things that MINUSTAH is keeping an eye out for.  But, by and large, we’ve been able to continue with aid deliveries, and we continue to receive a large amount of cooperation.  There are still scattered problems and signs of volatility that we’re on the lookout for.


Question:  Also about his trip, I wanted to ask about the reports that, while he was in Cyprus, four of the Greek Cypriot parties, European parties, the Greens and two acronyms, DEKO and EDEK, boycotted his reception.  They say because he met with Ali Talat at the presidential office in the break-away region.  Where did he meet with Mr. Talat and what’s his response to the boycott by these important parties in Cyprus?


Associate Spokesperson:  As for Cyprus, I would leave it, as you know, the Secretary-General is on his way back from Cyprus.  He will brief the Security Council about this and his other travels tomorrow at 3 p.m., and he will meet with you after that at approximately 4:30 p.m. at the Security Council stakeout.  So, I’ll leave it for him to comment, in large part.  The basic point is he met with each of the leaders individually -- both Mr. [Mehmet Ali] Talat and Mr. [Dimitris] Christofias -- and with the two of them together.  And, as you are aware, we put out his comments following his joint meeting with that.  But all of his meetings took place in Cyprus.


Question:  Is there a response by the UN to Guinea’s national commission on the incidents of September?  They have cleared [Moussa] Dadis Camara, and said that he had no role whatsoever in the events in the stadium and only his number two did.  Does the UN have any response to that?


Associate Spokesperson:  The UN’s assertions of what happened is done by the work of our independent commission that went to Guinea and, as you know, the Secretary-General has transmitted that report on, both to the Government of Guinea and also to relevant regional bodies and other bodies, including ECOWAS and the Security Council.  And it’s for them to follow up on the assertions made by that particular panel.


And with that, I bid you a good afternoon.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Good afternoon.


**Security Council Reform


So we have four items today.  We’ll start with the Security Council reform.


On 1 February, the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, met with H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan, in his capacity as Chair of the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform.  Ambassador Tanin briefed President Treki on the latest round of negotiations held on 19 and 20 January.  President Treki reiterated his support for a transparent process driven by Member States to ensure progress in this area.


**World Financial and Economic Crisis


On the world financial and economic crisis, President Treki met with the representatives of Norway and Zambia, the two co-facilitators for the working group on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and discussed with them the process for the follow-up on the United Nations conference and its outcome.


**UNRWA students from Gaza Strip meet with President Treki


Yesterday, President Treki received a group of 15 students of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  The students from the Gaza Strip, all born in 1995, were accompanied by three teachers.


Travelling to the United States as part of UNRWA’s human rights education programme in the Gaza Strip, the outstanding students also visited Atlanta and Washington, D.C.  After their meeting with Dr. Treki, some of the students stated that the visit was of major significance to them, as it offered a unique and memorable opportunity to interact with a senior United Nations official and learn more about the work of the General Assembly in promoting human rights, peace and justice.


**System-Wide Coherence


Our final item today is on system-wide coherence.  The first informal consultations of the plenary on system-wide coherence will be held on Thursday, 4 February, at 10 a.m. in Conference Room 1.  The report of the Secretary-General: Follow-up to General Assembly resolution 63/311 on system-wide coherence related to operational activities for development (document A/64/589), and the report of the Secretary-General: Comprehensive proposal for the composite entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women (document A/64/588), are now available in all official languages.


You may want to know that the office of the President of the General Assembly has launched a page for system-wide coherence containing these documents, as well as other reports and resolutions on the same subject.


Any questions?  Yes, Dr. Abbadi.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  [inaudible] reforms of the Security Council, has the representative of Afghanistan brought to the attention of the President of the General Assembly any particular area of progress?  And what is the future schedule for the negotiations?


Spokesperson:  Well, the President of the General Assembly was briefed by Ambassador Tanin on progress achieved so far.  I may not want to go into the details of that because this is very much something that is still being discussed.  But what is clear is that all Member States have also been informed by Ambassador Tanin, and the discussions of the 19th and 20th really took advantage of all possible input.  So this is still a work that is continuing.  And it is too early to say yet what the outcome will be.  But, the President remains very much engaged for this very important reform.


Question:  [inaudible]


Spokesperson:  I think that Ambassador Tanin is taking stock of the latest developments and very soon, I think in the next few days, we will know exactly when the next meeting will take place.  Yes.


Question:  This is supposed to be a transparent process, why can’t we know the details of what progress has been achieved so far?


Spokesperson:  Simply because of the nature of the discussions that are taking place.  I think there is a lot of sharing of information among Member States, and the various positions that Member States and regional groups hold.  A transparent process doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will be acquainted with the minute details, otherwise this can very easily really affect the negotiations.  It’s not a very easy subject, as you realize.  It’s a very sensitive issue, but a very important one.  Yes.


Question:  I just want to clarify.  Ambassador Tanin is the point man for General Assembly President in this [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  Well, he is the Chair of this process on Security Council reform.


Question:  The Chair of the Security Council reform, right?


Spokesperson:  Yeah.  Yeah.


Question:  I see.  So, he is also Chair of this…


Spokesperson:  Intergovernmental process.


Question:  Okay. This system-wide coherence is the same that was tasked by the former Secretary-General Kofi Annan and then…?


Spokesperson:  It has been, it is the continuation of what was started, indeed.  Yes.


Question:  [inaudible] in the report due for the General Assembly.  Do you have some information when that’s due to the General Assembly?  Will there be a meeting of the General Assembly about it?  I saw something referring to Friday that there might be something.  But is there any plan?


Spokesperson:  No, Friday really is the deadline for the Secretary-General to report back to the General Assembly.  And there is really nothing new to add to what we said last time we discussed this issue on this podium.  We’re still waiting for the Secretary-General to report back the General Assembly, and we’ll take it from there.


Question:  Will there be a formal meeting for the report back with the General Assembly, or what form will this take?


Spokesperson:  That is not certain.  There could be a meeting, there could be no meeting.  There could be something else.  It’s very difficult to know.  We will still have to wait for the report to come in, and for consultations to take place before a decision is taken on the next steps.  Yes.


Question:  [inaudible] and because of the transparency, as we were told, it would be interesting for us to know where they have issues, you know.  What are the issues and they’re having stop or slow in process?  I mean, that would be transparency…


Spokesperson:  I hear you.  Maybe I will, therefore, like to check with our office to see if we can invite Ambassador Tanin to brief you.  I think this question has already, was already raised some time late last year.  And we will take it up.  We’ll see if he can organize a briefing.  Yes.


Question:  [inaudible] humanitarian efforts in the communities?


Spokesperson:  I think that is a question to put to the Secretariat, not the General Assembly.  My colleagues will be coming here soon to brief you.  I think Farhan will probably be on his way very soon, if he is not already in.  Yes, Matthew.


Question:  The African Union Peace and Security Council has in its most recent meeting adopted various measures to bar coup leaders or undemocratic change leaders from speaking before the AU, but they’ve also said that Jean Ping is asking that the UN General Assembly not seat undemocratically installed leaders.  I wanted to know whether… Has the President received this communication?  What does he think of, as the President of the General Assembly, what does he think of these new measures to bar coup leaders from speaking in the upcoming general debate in September?


Spokesperson:  The President of the General Assembly is yet to receive formal communication on this subject.  I think if and when he will receive this communication on this very specific subject, then we will ask the President if he has a specific view.  He may have, or he may not have a view on that.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.


Question:  [inaudible] or also of the regional organizations?


Spokesperson:  Well, the whole system-wide coherence approach impacts all kinds of entities and programmes of the United Nations, starting with gender equality and the empowerment of women in the resolutions that I quoted.  So, it really, it comprehends a lot of stakeholders and agencies, because for a system to be coherent, you really need to take on board all the players.


No further questions?  Thank you very much.  I wish you a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record