13 April 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


Good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome to the noon briefing.


**Guests


Our guests today are Ambassador Peter Wittig, Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission and Permanent Representative of Germany, and he is here to brief you on the work of the Commission.  And he is supported by Eloho Otobo, Director and Deputy Head of the Peacebuilding Support Office here in New York.


So, I am very happy to hand over the floor to the Ambassador.  I know that Jean Victor Nkolo will be briefing you after my part of the briefing, which will be after this part.  So please, Ambassador.  The floor is yours.


[The briefing by Ambassador Witting was issued as a separate press release.]


So I have just a couple more points to go through, and then I am happy to take some questions.  And I know that Jean Victor will also be happy to take questions in just a second.


**Secretary-General at Nuclear Security Summit


The Secretary-General is in Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit, where he will deliver remarks this afternoon laying out his priorities in dealing with the safety of nuclear stockpiles.  Those priorities are preventing nuclear terrorism; securing nuclear fissile materials; strengthening the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency; increasing the engagement of the Security Council; and achieving tandem progress on both nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.


As the Secretary-General told reporters yesterday, he has repeatedly urged the Conference on Disarmament to immediately start negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.  He will consider convening a meeting of the Conference on Disarmament at the Ministerial level during this year’s General Assembly session in September, to spur that effort.


Yesterday, on the margins of the Summit, the Secretary-General met with President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea and with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Today, he has met so far with the European Union President and the Acting President of Nigeria.


**Deputy Secretary-General’s Trip to Haiti


Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro has wrapped up a two-day visit to Haiti and is expected back in New York in a just a few hours.


Yesterday evening, she joined a night patrol at a camp for displaced Haitians, led by UN and Haitian police officers.  During the patrol, she spoke with camp residents about night-time conditions at the sprawling Port-au-Prince facility.  She also spoke with women running informal businesses in the camp, who described their fears of being robbed or sexually assaulted.  She witnessed how the overstretched UN and Haitian police were implementing strategies to provide the widest possible coverage of the camps.


Earlier yesterday, the Deputy Secretary-General visited the town of Leogane, the epicentre of the 12 January earthquake, and delivered remarks three months after the tragedy.  She later met with Haitian parliamentarians and discussed issues of governance and electoral planning in the aftermath of the earthquake.  Before leaving Port-au-Prince for New York this morning, she held meetings with the heads of UN agencies and the Haitian minister for women’s affairs.


**Security Council


Alan Doss, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, briefed the Security Council this morning on the work being done by the UN Mission in that country (MONUC) to protect civilians, assist in the disarmament and demobilization of armed groups and support Government efforts at security sector reform.


Doss said that the humanitarian situation in the Kivus and parts of Orientale Province remains of deep concern, with high levels of sexual violence and attacks on humanitarian workers.  But security has gradually improved in several territories in the Kivus, he added.


He also discussed the effort to determine how to reconfigure and draw down the UN Mission.  The Secretary-General recommends that a first stage of a drawdown should begin before 30 June, with protection of civilians under imminent threat of violence remaining a priority.  Mr. Doss expects to speak to reporters at the Council stakeout following the meeting.


Then at 4:30 at the stakeout, French Ambassador Gerard Araud will brief journalists on the upcoming Security Council trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


** Somalia


The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, expressed dismay today over the continuing plight of Somali civilians in Mogadishu, who remain the principal victims of the fighting in the capital.  He reiterated the call for all parties to the conflict to protect civilian populations against the indiscriminate use of arms, particularly in densely populated areas.


In the most recent round of fighting yesterday, at least 19 people were killed and some 55 wounded.  In the month of March, more than 900 civilians were wounded as a direct result of the conflict.  More than 100 of those injured were children under the age of five. Additionally, more than 30 civilians were killed.


The UN estimates that some 100,000 people have been displaced from and within Mogadishu since the beginning of the year.


**Press Conference Today


At 1:15 p.m. today, Hania Zlotnik, Director of the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, will brief correspondents on the growing burden of non-communicable diseases on health systems and development.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


At 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, David Nabarro, Senior UN System Influenza Coordinator, will brief correspondents on the forthcoming International Ministerial Conference on Animal and Pandemic Influenza, which will take place in Hanoi from 20-21 April.  He will also speak about the annual global progress report on animal and pandemic influenza.


At 3 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, the Secretary-General will hold a press conference to kick off a new global initiative on reproductive, maternal and newborn health.  Participants will include President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania; Vice-President Boediono of Indonesia; Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway; Beverly J. Oda, Canada’s Minister for International Cooperation; and Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organization.


So that is it.  Questions, please?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Martin, do we have any response to the President of Iran’s letter yesterday accusing three NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] countries of supporting terrorism in Iran?


Spokesperson:  As I think we mentioned yesterday, we were able to confirm after the briefing that the Secretary-General has received that letter and the letter is being considered.  We do not have any other comment at the moment, but it is being considered.


Question:  When can we expect any response to that?


Spokesperson:  I cannot tell you when, but it is being actively considered. 


Question:  Sure, a couple of questions on Sudan and something else.  On Sudan, what can you say about these reports of peacekeepers being abducted in Darfur?  This report that four South African peacekeepers have been taken -- is that true and is the UN in contact with those who took them?  Who do you think took them?


Spokesperson:  I can confirm that four UN police officers are missing and UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] is working very closely with the Sudanese authorities to enable and ensure their safe return.


Question:  Also, now that the Sudanese Government has acknowledged some technical problems with the election and has extended the voting… I remember, I went to a background briefing here where it was said that the UN was providing technical assistance.  I understand that the UN, because it is providing technical assistance, is not observing the election or commenting on its fairness.  But what does it say about the UN’s technical assistance that there are these wide-spread technical problems with the election?


Spokesperson:  Well, it was not just at a background briefing that you heard that the UN is providing technical assistance.  I think that it has been said many times from here. 


The UN welcomes the National Election Commission's decision to extend the voting period. This would allow the Commission to overcome the various technical difficulties encountered in the first two days of the voting.


And the UN also hopes that, precisely because there is now this extension by two days, it will enable more Sudanese voters to cast their vote, especially in areas and constituencies where the technical errors caused delays to the voting process or where voters have been unable to determine which polling centre they are registered in.


As we have said, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) is providing technical assistance and logistical support to the National Election Commission, upon request from the Commission, and will continue to do so, within the Mission’s capability. And I think that is an important point -- within the capability of the Mission.  This is in order to assist the Commission in coping with the remaining technical problems and the logistical challenges.


So this is, precisely, providing assistance.  It is down to the Commission, if you like, the National Election Commission, to deliver.  The UN Mission in Sudan has been providing technical and logistical support to allow the Commission to deliver.  Clearly, there have been huge challenges, which we have talked about here and have been talked about a lot obviously in Sudan, too.


Question:  One thing I want to understand is this usage of technical problems, technical assistance.  It seems like one of the problems is like ballots that have the wrong names on them, ballots that have the wrong party symbol attached to names.  I am just sort of wondering: what did the UN’s technical assistance consist of?  Were they supposed to look at these ballots that were going to be mass distributed to make sure that they did not have the wrong party affiliations next to the names?  What was the technical assistance? If these problems took place, I am struggling to understand what…


Spokesperson:  There were all kinds of layers of assistance that was provided.  But I think that the most important point here is that the assistance is provided to the Commission, and it is the Commission that then delivers.  It is not for the UN to scrutinize every individual ballot slip in advance of them being distributed, for example.  It is providing the technical know-how -- how do you conduct an election, how do you put in place the materials that are required.  It is then down to the Commission to carry it out.  And clearly, no one is suggesting that this was going to be easy, given the hiatus between this election and the previous one.  Okay, other questions?


Question:  Can I ask, just very briefly?


Spokesperson:  Very briefly, and then we will hand over to Jean Victor, who has been sitting here extremely patiently.


Question:  Extremely briefly.  It is said that it has now been reported that Rosa Otunbayeva, in meeting with Jan Kubis, made some request for a UN tribunal to try the previous President, or still President or whoever he is.  Can you confirm that that request was made?  And what is -- given the UN’s role in tribunals in Cambodia and elsewhere, is that something that the UN Secretariat would consider doing?


Spokesperson:  As I said here yesterday, and I think I need to say it again today, Jan Kubis is on the ground.  He has been meeting people from various different camps, if you like, as constitutional authorities and political groups of relevance to this crisis that there obviously is on the ground in Kyrgyzstan.  Mr. Kubis will be coming here to New York to brief the Secretary-General on Thursday, and after that, we will be able to talk more about what was or was not requested of the United Nations.  Until then, I don’t think it is appropriate to talk about that.


Question:  Purely factually, does the Joint Mediator [for Darfur], Djibril Bassolé… is he paid by the UN and who speaks for him?  Does he have a separate spokesperson or are you, in a sense, his spokesperson?  Or is DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] his spokesperson?  To whom would I direct questions to Mr. Bassolé in his UN capacity?


Spokesperson:  Let me find out.  Alright.  Okay, thank you.  Jean Victor, please.


Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President


Good afternoon.


**President Treki official visit to Kingdom of Bahrain


Today, the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, commenced his official visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain, with a meeting with His Royal Highness ‎Khalifa ibn Salman Al Khalifah, the Prime Minister of Bahrain.


The discussions focused on the situation in the Middle East, including the Arab-Israeli conflict.  They voiced serious concern regarding the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, and the political stalemate between the parties to the conflict.  They also discussed the outcome of the recently held Arab Summit in Sirte, Libya.  They underscored the necessity of achieving swift reconciliation between the Palestinian factions.  The President and His Royal Highness exchanged views on the situation in Iraq in the wake of the recent elections that took place there, and expressed the hope that national unity and reconciliation would be achieved.


President Treki briefed His Royal Highness the Prime Minister on the priorities of the General Assembly, including the preparations of the High Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals in September 2010.  Dr. Treki reaffirmed the need for strong Arab participation in the meeting.  He invited the Kingdom of Bahrain to participate in the upcoming thematic debates in the General Assembly that will address issues of disarmament and non-proliferation, peacekeeping, dialogue among civilizations, as well as on the situation in the Middle East.  They reaffirmed the call for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.


The President of the General Assembly also held bilateral talks with Sheikh Mohammad bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, Deputy Prime Minister for Ministerial Committees.  The talks focused on the challenges facing the international community and the Arab World.


President Treki is scheduled to meet His Majesty Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain, tomorrow, 14 April 2010.


**Tribute to Lech Kaczynski


I have an announcement.  A tribute to the late President of Poland, His Excellency Lech Kaczynski, will be held at the beginning of the General Assembly plenary meeting on Thursday, 15 April at 10 a.m.


Thank you.  Questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Were you able to find out what exactly the President of the General Assembly said about a nuclear free Middle East and Israel in his comments?  What I asked yesterday?


Spokesperson:  I will check specifically about the comment that he is alleged to have made after meeting President [Bashar Al-]Asad of Syria.  But, I would presume that this comment, if there were any, will be in the line of what I have just stated regarding support for a nuclear-free Middle East.


Question:  Right.  I mean, I will send you these articles, so you can see. 


Spokesperson:  Please.  Please do.


Thank you very much, and have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record