11 March 2010
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


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


So, good afternoon, everybody.


As you know, we have with us today John Holmes, who is the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.  We have about half an hour.  He is available to brief you on his recent visit to the Middle East.


So, please, I’ll give the floor to you straight away, to save time.


[Briefing by Under-Secretary-General Holmes issued separately]


Okay, just very briefly, a few points and, of course, I’m happy to take questions.


**Violence against Women


The Secretary-General addressed a Panel on Violence against Women this morning and in his remarks he said that women’s empowerment is central to all of the Millennium Development Goals.  Freedom from fear and violence is a precondition for this empowerment.  He said the United Nations must have the resources it needs to pursue this goal with the urgency it deserves.  The Secretary-General urged Member States to press ahead and establish a strengthened UN gender entity.


This Panel was part of the fifty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, and we have copies of his remarks available from my office.


**Security Council


Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy briefed the Security Council this morning on Sudan.  He discussed with Council members the preparations for the April elections in that country.


**Secretary-General Appointment


The Secretary-General has appointed Major General Luiz Guilherme Paul Cruz of Brazil as Force Commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  Major General Paul Cruz will be replacing the outgoing Force Commander, Major General Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto, who is also from Brazil. 


The Secretary-General appreciates Major General Floriano Peixoto’s performance while serving in MINUSTAH, where his dedication, professionalism and leadership greatly contributed to the United Nations stabilization efforts in Haiti.  And we have more information on the new Force Commander in my office.


**Côte d’Ivoire


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Côte d'Ivoire, Choi Young-Jin, has just completed a meeting in Abidjan with the new President of the Independent Electoral Commission.  Choi outlined to the new head of the Commission the assistance that the UN mission will provide to his institution in the run-up to the elections.


In recent days, Choi has met with a number of party leaders, including President Laurent Gbagbo and key opposition figures.  We have a statement from the mission in Côte d’Ivoire (ONUCI) with more details on that.


**Goodwill Ambassador


And UNICEF [the United Nations Children's Fund] has announced today that Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi will be its newest Goodwill Ambassador.  And for those of you who aren’t soccer fans, Mr. Messi plays for FC Barçelona and is the current FIFA World Player of the Year.  UNICEF says Messi will work on a series of events to highlight the challenges faced by vulnerable children around the world and supporting children’s rights.


And continuing on this sports and goodwill theme, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has named [Indian] cricket star Sachin Tendulkar as a Goodwill Ambassador.  Mr. Tendulkar is the first player to score 10,000 runs in one-day international cricket matches.  And you can find more on these appointments online at the UNICEF and UNEP websites.


So, questions?  Please.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  [asked during John Holmes’ briefing] Mr. Holmes, on the new settlements in East Jerusalem, is the UN’s message the same or does it follow what [United States Vice-President] Joe Biden said in terms of asking for those settlements to cease while negotiations are taking place?  And part two of that question, in your discussions with Israeli officials, did you ask on behalf of OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] for the settlements to cease due to the humanitarian situation for those families being evicted?


[Following Under-Secretary-General Holmes’ answer, the Spokesperson added the following]:


Spokesperson:  Just to come back to your point about the settlements.  The Secretary-General shares the deep frustrations of the Palestinian leadership and of Arab League members at the Israeli announcement of new settlement units in East Jerusalem.  And as you know, the Secretary-General and members of the international community, including the United States, have condemned this announcement. As John [Holmes] has just mentioned, settlements are illegal, and their expansion violates the Road Map.


The United Nations has registered its protest with the Israeli Government.  And we are also in contact with the Palestinian leadership and are counselling them to continue to engage in efforts to convene indirect negotiations.  The United Nations is active on the ground and is coordinating with international partners in the lead-up to the Quartet meeting in Moscow.


Question:  The Secretary-General had the visit of the Israeli Deputy [Prime] Minister Silvan Shalom a few days ago, and the Deputy [Prime] Minister -- I guess he is the Vice Premier, whatever -- he said that he had asked the Secretary-General to do certain things with the Security Council with regard to Iran.  And meanwhile, Israel has [resolution] 1860 outstanding, and the border crossings are closed.  So I wondered, from the Secretary-General’s perspective about this meeting, I thought there is a section of the [United Nations] Charter that says that the Secretary-General is not allowed to act in the interests of other countries, as he has to be independent.  And yet, here is a country that comes to him -- doesn’t respond in any way to something like the 1860 and the border crossing being closed but asks him to go to the Security Council to bring something about another country, and to punish another country.  And I just wondered what the Secretary-General’s feelings are?  Or what his response was to the Israeli official, because we couldn’t hear that from the Israeli official?


Spokesperson:  Well, look, the Secretary-General meets many officials, ministers and other Government officials from any number of countries.  And when those ministers or other officials come, the Secretary-General is in listening mode.  It’s not for him to dictate what those ministers or other officials tell him.  I am not going to go into details of precisely how the Secretary-General responded in this particular case.  Just a couple of points:  one is that any action in the Security Council, that rests with the Security Council.  And the second point is just to reinforce that the Secretary-General believes that it is important to listen to many people, from wherever they may be, to understand their point of view.  This is not the same thing as always sharing that view.  But it’s being able to listen, to be able to be an honest broker between parties, which he is currently doing with regard to the Middle East.


Question:  But why doesn’t he speak to officials from Hamas, as they are the elected officials?  Is there -- he can speak with Israel, Israeli officials, with this resolution against Israel that’s not responded to in any way.


Spokesperson:  Well, Rhonda, you know very well that the Secretary-General speaks with the Palestinian Authority.  Other questions?


Question:  Thank you.  As you know, this morning there was a big earthquake again in Chile.  Do you have any information about the current situation after today’s earthquake?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have any further update.  It may have been that John did, but I don’t have any further updates.  Certainly we’re aware of the reports about an earthquake taking place, in fact during the inauguration ceremony, as I understand it.  But I don’t have any further details at the moment.  If we do, we can come back to you.  [He later provided information from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which reported that there were four aftershocks today, the strongest measuring 7.2 on the Richter Scale.  ECLAC said it received no reports of major damage in Santiago, but damage was reported in Rancagua.  No fatalities had been reported yet, it added.]



Question:  Is there a readout of the meeting that he had with Silvan Shalom?  Can we get…?


Spokesperson:  Let me see.  Anything else?  Okay.  Thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record