|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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon. Jean Victor Nkolo, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly is here to brief you on the work of the General Assembly following my briefing.
**Statement on Kyrgyzstan
I will start with a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Kyrgyzstan, which we issued just a while ago.
The Secretary-General is shocked by the reported deaths and injuries that have occurred today in Kyrgyzstan. He once again calls on all concerned to show restraint. He urgently appeals for dialogue and calm to avoid further bloodshed. The Secretary-General is following the situation closely.
The Secretary-General wrapped up his visit to Central Asia on today, with talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and other officials. He also met UN staff based in Astana.
In his meeting with the President, the Secretary-General discussed nuclear disarmament, cooperation among Central Asian countries over water resources, the global economy, Afghanistan, human rights and Kazakhstan’s chairmanship this year of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
He told reporters afterward that they had paid special attention to the region’s management of energy and water. The Secretary-General said, “We have a collective responsibility, both the international community as well as the region’s leaders, to deal with these urgent issues before tensions get worse.”
The Secretary-General is now en route to Vienna for talks with Austrian leaders, a meeting with the Chief Executives Board (CEB) bringing together the top UN officials, and a speech to the OSCE’s Permanent Council.
The Secretary-General today marked the sixteenth commemoration of the start of the genocide in Rwanda with a message paying tribute to the memory of more than 800,000 innocent people who lost their lives. He once more affirmed that the United Nations is fully committed to securing justice for the victims of genocide and to preventing future atrocities.
The Secretary-General said that he was encouraged by the General Assembly's response to his report on implementing the Responsibility to Protect. He said that the international community stands firm and in solidarity against genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.
There will be an official ceremony today in observance of the genocide in the ECOSOC Chamber of the North Lawn Building, starting at 5:15pm. The ceremony will feature music performed by young Rwandans and international musicians, and the Deputy Secretary-General will be among the speakers.
The ceremony will be followed by a film screening of As We Forgive, a documentary about the power and pain of reconciliation in Rwanda. That screening will be followed by a discussion with the film's director and a genocide survivor, to be moderated by Ed Luck, the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect. So that begins at 5:15pm in the ECOSOC Chamber of the North Lawn Building.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
And according to our Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), it says that life is returning to normal in the town of Mbandaka, in Equateur Province, days after deadly clashes between UN-backed Congolese troops and insurgents left several people killed. Yesterday, the Mission’s Force Commander, General Babacar Gaye, visited the area to take stock of the situation. And you can read more about that upstairs.
Meanwhile, Alan Doss, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has condemned the assassination by unknown gunmen on 5 April of a Congolese journalist working for the national broadcaster, RTCN. The killing took place in the town of Beni. Doss has called on the authorities to make every effort to find the culprits and prosecute them with the full force of the law.
Still on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Mission has released new figures on the repatriation of former Rwandan rebels to their country of origin. Between January and March, 312 former rebels and their 375 dependents were sent back to Rwanda. In total, The UN has helped repatriate some 2500 former rebels since January 2009.
**DPI Press Conference
My last announcement for you before Jean Victor is that tomorrow the Department of Public Information will hold a press conference immediately following the noon briefing to announce a new initiative called “Spirit”. This new initiative, developed in partnership with Columbia University, will use the internet and social networks to connect individuals all over the world to allow them to contribute their time, skill, and expertise to peace building initiatives.
And that is what I have for you. Anything for me? Matthew.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sure. In the run-up to the elections in Sudan, there are reports that one of the opposition candidates, who is now boycotting the elections, has said that the UN was supposed to transport ballot boxes, and that visas for the UN’s pilots for the planes have been denied by the Government of Sudan. The European Union observers say that they may pull out of the country due to a lack of safety. So I have two questions -- one, can you confirm that the visas were denied and, if so, what is the UN going to do about that? And two, what is the UN and UNMIS’s [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] role in providing safety to election observers, albeit not UN but European Union elections observers?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well on the European Union, the question about the European Union observers is a press report, so I do not have confirmation on that. And your first question about…
Question: …the denial of visas to pilots for the UN.
Deputy Spokesperson: …visas, I have not received anything on the visa situation, so I am going to have to ask DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] to look into that for you.
Question: But what is the, I guess we are really coming right up to the election, what is the UN’s assessment? You are having more and more opposition parties saying they are going to boycott it. More and more outside observers say it is, you know, I do not want to characterize it, but say that it is not credible. What is the UN, given its presence on the ground, what is its view?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, while we respect the right of candidates and political parties to reach their own decisions, we continue to encourage all Sudanese political actors to recognize the importance of dialogue, for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
As you know, one of the prime facets of the CPA is the opening of democratic space in Sudan, so that the people and the wide variety of political forces in the country can represent and participate in the process of decision-making. Therefore elections are an important step, designed to revive the democratic institutions and processes, so we encourage the Government of National Unity, the Government of Southern Sudan, and the National Elections Commission to ensure that the elections credibly reflect the will of the Sudanese people.
And, as you know, the UN Mission on the ground is there with a mandate to assist the Government and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) by providing technical and logistical support in order to enable timely conduct of the elections and in advising and encouraging the Commission, the Government and all parties to address concerns that may jeopardize their credibility.
Okay? Yes, in the back.
Question: Some people asked about the Congo. In the last five years, as many as 6 million Congolese have died, whereas in Rwanda it is commemorating the death of about 800,000. Why isn’t there some attention to the genocide happening throughout Africa, especially the Congo? It’s like, the UN Genocide Convention is being totally ignored. Is there some body that is keeping an eye out on these developments?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well maybe you can today attend this event and talk to Ed Luck who is our Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect and engage him in that discussion. Okay? Evelyn.
Question: Marie, is there any more news on the stakeout and access around the Security Council?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think there are discussions under way this morning, and there will be more this afternoon and hopefully we will get an early resolution on this subject. Okay? Matthew.
Question: Sure. A couple more questions. One, there is a report by the think tank at the University of Toronto, reported on BBC, about alleged hacking from within China of both the Dalai Lama and his supporters. And also, it says that a UN computer system, I believe ESCAP [Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific] but maybe another one, was compromised by these China-based hackers. Are you aware of the report? Can you confirm, or will you look into and confirm, that a UN system was compromised in this way?
Deputy Spokesperson: I am aware of the press reports, but I have not heard anything from our agencies confirming what you have just said.
Question: Do you think they are going to? It seems like this is widely enough circulated that it… Do you think they will actually come out and say “this happened to us” or “this did not happen to us” or will they just grin and bear it?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, if I have not heard right now I cannot really predict what will happen, so I think that maybe if you know which agencies are cited, you can approach their press people and I am sure they will get back to you.
Question: And I also wanted to ask, President Lee [Myung-bak] of [the Republic of] Korea, in light of the ship that sank, has said that he is seeking or has obtained UN expertise to investigate the causes of the sinking of the ship. Has [the Republic of] Korea asked for UN help?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing on that. If that is a press report, I have not seen that yet. Okay? Yes, Erol.
Question: Marie, in light of the Secretary-General’s new report on Kosovo. I have not read it; it is too new. Is the Secretary-General satisfied with the progress in Kosovo? And it is obvious that the last time a Secretary-General went to the region of the Western Balkans, it was Mr. Kofi Annan in 2000, so almost ten years ago. The Secretary-General is travelling everywhere. Is he planning to go to the region sometime? Does he have an invitation?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing on any imminent trip to the region by the Secretary-General. And as for his views on Kosovo, as you mentioned, the latest Secretary-General’s report has just gone to Security Council, so it is not yet out as a document. So, I will withhold comment until that report comes out. Okay?
With that, Jean Victor will talk to you about the General Assembly. Have a good afternoon.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
**Official travel of President Treki to the Middle East
The President of the General Assembly, His Excellency Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, paid an official visit to Damascus, Syria, from 5-7 April. At the invitation of the Yemeni Government, Dr. Treki will visit Sana'a, Yemen, from 7 to 10 April. Thereafter, he will visit Kuwait City, Kuwait (1O–12); and Manama, Bahrain (12-14).
In Syria, President Treki met with President Bashar al-Assad; Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa; and Foreign Minister Walid al Muallem. He also visited the Headquarter of the Arab Parliament at the invitation of the Parliament’s Secretary-General.
President Treki and President Assad discussed the outcome of Arab Summit that took place in Sirte, Libya, as well as the situation in the Middle East and the role the United Nations and its General Assembly should play in this regard. President Treki thanked Syria for its active role in the General Assembly, and its chairmanship of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in New York. Both sides reaffirmed the need to achieve reconciliation between the Palestinian factions. Dr. Treki and President Assad exchanged views on the issue of disarmament and non-proliferation in light of the upcoming international meetings, including the General Assembly thematic debate scheduled to be held on 19 April, as well as the review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty on 3 May 2010. President Treki extended an invitation to President Assad to attend the MDG Summit scheduled in September 2010.
Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa and Dr. Treki discussed the issue of Middle East in the context of the Arab Summit. Furthermore, they discussed the initiatives of the President of the General Assembly to hold thematic debates on the issues of disarmament, dialogue among civilizations, peacekeeping and the Middle East.
In his meeting with the Foreign Minister, President Treki extended an invitation to H.E. Walid al Muallem to attend the upcoming thematic debate on the Middle East. The Foreign Minister commended President Treki for his role in the revitalization of the General Assembly and the reform of the Security Council and reiterated the Arab Summit's position on the expansion of the Security Council.
That is what I have for you today. Any questions? Yes.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I just wanted to get an update perhaps on Security Council reform, whether Ambassador [Zahir] Tanin has completed or has a timeline for completing the proposed document that would sum up the various positions of the Member States that would be the working document of the fifth round of negotiations?
Spokesperson: I think what we can do is contact Dr. Tanin on your behalf and ask the Ambassador if hewould like to come and brief you and give you an update on his work so far.
Question: Okay. And is there any sort of timetable for the fifth round to begin?
Spokesperson: Well, he gave you, last time he briefed you, a timetable on the gathering of all input from Member States and regional groups. That has now been completed. I think he is at a stage where maybe he would like to brief you, but we will ask him. Yes, one second. Matthew.
Question: Okay, sure. I have two questions. One is I have seen this letter for the President of the General Assembly about this informal meeting on international maritime piracy in May. I wanted to know, yesterday the Russian delegation put out a Security Council draft resolution about Somali piracy, and how it should be prosecuted. I am wondering if your office or the PGA’s office has had any interaction with Russia about their proposal? And also, what more can you say about… what does the PGA hope to have? Is this limited to Somalia? Is it somehow wider? What is this GA informal meeting on international maritime piracy seeking to accomplish?
Spokesperson: International maritime piracy is a worldwide problem. It is not limited to Somalia even if Somalia, as we all know, is a very serious and very topical case. We have experts in our office who may be able to further brief you on that.
Question: Are there any hotspots you think they will be looking at beyond Somalia?
Spokesperson: Well, there is Somalia. They are going to meet with countries that do shipping business in areas of the world where piracy is a concern, obviously. But I will put you in touch with our colleagues working on that very specific and technical subject and they will probably give you more knowledge and more information on that.
Question: Ok. And also I wanted to ask, there has been this development in the last few days in the Security Council, beyond the press issue that Evelyn referred to, that seem to have said that Member States that are not members of the Council should no longer be inside the sort of suite of rooms, but rather should be outside, essentially in the hallway. I know that your office has been copied on a letter from UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association] about pushing the press back, but I wonder, one, if the PGA’s office has any thoughts on these changes by the Security Council that not only make it more difficult for the press to cover the Council, but also seem to put non-Council member Member States at a further remove from the action? What does the President of the General Assembly have to say about that?
Spokesperson: We have indeed received a copy of the letter that was sent by UNCA and the letter itself, in its last paragraph, specifically states that it is the Secretary-General’s responsibility to manage the building, and the letter has been addressed to the Security Council. So, for the time being, I would very much like to leave this to both the Council and the Secretariat. And I will only add that there are several possibilities for UNCA to make representations and to discuss matters of interest to you, to the correspondents accredited here, as they have done in the past. And this comes out in all kinds of meetings and proceedings. So, for the time being, we do not have a specific position. This is a matter for the Secretariat and for the Security Council to address.
Question: Just a follow up, I guess maybe I veered off into the press issue. I am asking actually about the rights of members of the General Assembly that are not members of the Security Council. It was said after the first consultation of this month that they should not be out in the “quiet room” where non-Council members can track what is happening in consultations or speak to Council members when they come out; that they should be moved outside and should be basically under the stairs. I am just wondering, forget the press for a moment, whether as President of the General Assembly representing Member States that are not members of the Council, whether that is of any concern to Dr. Treki?
Spokesperson: As you know, we have from time to time our own General Assembly stakeout and our proceedings have remained unchanged. I hear you, but what I… I am trying to avoid… I am not going to address the specific issue here. On the General Assembly, I will put your question to the President and we will try to see if he has a position on that.
Question: Just to be clear, it is not about the… I mean, he is free to talk about the press. I am saying him as an advocate for Member States that are not… it is sort of a Security Council reform or Security Council issue of, what is the access of the countries that he is, you know, representing this year losing access?
Spokesperson: Matthew, let us see if and when Member States react to this situation and then we will come back to you. I think it is a bit difficult to just give an ad hoc response to an issue that may demand a bit more introspection. It is a Secretariat and Security Council issue. Yes.
Question: Yes, since Matthew’s second question actually was my question, let me just reaffirm one specific position, which is emphasizing Member States, because one of the main issues of Security Council reform is transparency, meaning access to non-Member States of the Security Council to the information, exchanging views, etc, etc. So probably I will share with my colleague that we are also interested to see as the press how the office of the PGA is reacting to that specific mention in the letter. That is number one. Number two, very concrete, is if Dr. Treki was invited to the Rio summit for the Alliance of Civilizations by the end of May and if he is intending to go?
Spokesperson: On your first question, again we will see if and when Member States react to this issue. And, as Marie said a while ago, and I can’t speak for her or repeat what she said, but it must be recalled that this is being discussed as we speak. So, maybe let us give it a bit more time. But, on the reaction from Member States, we will see if they react and we will let you know. And we will also see if the President of the General Assembly has, or does not have, a specific reaction or position on this.
Yes on the Rio meeting, the President has been invited, and I think he will be attending. Masood.
Question: I just wanted to ask about the Security Council reform process. In your opinion of Ambassador Tanin, is this process going anywhere or is it just still stalled where it is?
Spokesperson: I do not think it is stalled at all. I think Ambassador Tanin gave a very detailed and in-depth briefing last time and since then he has been working on the contributions that he received from Member States and regional groups. And I think he is making progress, if I may say respectfully, and we should just give him the time to go through what he is doing and to brief you. I do not think the process is stalled. Nobody ever said that this process would be easy or fast, but this having been said, I think Ambassador Tanin is doing what he has to do and we will contact him and ask him to brief you on the latest.
Question: [inaudible]… it was still going back and forth. We have this proposal, we have that proposal; they have 20 seats, 10 seats and so forth. But that has not changed. There is no concrete proposal [inaudible] one party or another.
Spokesperson: That is your own assessment. Knowing what Ambassador Tanin said at this podium, I would not say that it has not changed. We first have to get the details of what the contributions were, which I do not have in front of me right now. But what is clear is that work is being done and that it is being done very seriously and very thoroughly. So let us give it time. It is a complex process. There are all kinds of interests and all kinds of positions and Ambassador Tanin also told you about what his role is and what his role is not. So let us leave it there, and we will ask him if he can come and brief you. Yes, Matthew.
Question: I just wanted to ask one more thing. You said that the President of the General Assembly is going to Yemen from 7-10 April, right?
Spokesperson: He arrived in Yemen. He is already there.
Question: Okay. So I wanted to know, I mean I guess, obviously there was just a… there has been a conflict there this year and most recently Human Rights Watch has asked for a UN inquiry into possible war crimes on both sides, between the Houthi rebels and the central Government. I am wondering if Dr. Treki, does he… is this one of the issues that he is going to be looking at when he is there? What does he think of this call for… I mean, the place that he is visiting is, Human Rights Watch says, a “possible locus of war crimes” in the very recent past. What can he say about that, and what does he intend to accomplish while he is there on this topic?
Spokesperson: President Treki will be discussing issues that are very important on the agenda of the General Assembly when he meets with the officials that he will be visiting. But let us wait to have a readout from the meetings taking place today and tomorrow, and we will come back to you and see if that has been raised. But, I will certainly mention that, to see if that has been addressed. Thank you.
No further questions? Good afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record