|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. Welcome to the briefing and welcome to our visitors here at the briefing today.
Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will be able to brief you after my briefing.
**Press Conference Today
At 12:30 p.m. today, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development; and Amr Nour, the Director of the UN Regional Commissions New York Office, will be here to launch the 2010 ESCAP [Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific] survey.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
And then tomorrow, some press conferences. At 11:15 a.m. tomorrow, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, Vitaly Churkin, will be here to brief you about a concert that will take place on 7 May with the Youth Symphony Orchestra of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
At 12 p.m., John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will be the guest at the noon briefing, and he will be briefing you on his recent travels to Niger and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
And at 1 p.m., the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, will hold a press conference here.
The Secretary-General will speak to a gathering of Parliamentarians about an hour from now to discuss the role of Parliaments in advancing a nuclear disarmament agenda. He will tell the Parliamentarians that he hopes the negotiators at the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference will seize the moment by thinking big, taking risks and aiming for the prize of a nuclear-weapon-free world. We will have those remarks out shortly.
We have already put out his remarks at the event earlier today marking the end of the Second World War. In those remarks, he said it was fitting that we are commemorating the war’s end at a moment when nations are gathered to advance the cause of peace, by working to advance a vision for a nuclear-weapon-free world.
**Secretary-General’s Statement on Nigeria
As you will have seen, we distributed a statement on the death of the President of Nigeria in which we said that the Secretary-General is deeply saddened to learn of the death of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. The Secretary-General said that his death was a great loss for Nigeria and its people.
The Secretary-General, I can tell you, has instructed that the UN flag be flown at half-mast tomorrow as a mark of respect. We expect another statement later today on the swearing in of the new President, Goodluck Jonathan.
[The Spokesperson later added in response to further questions: This is a time of national grief for Nigeria and the Secretary-General has expressed his profound sympathies to the Nigerian people. While saying this, he looks forward to continuing to work closely with the newly sworn in President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, in order to deepen the United Nations’ very constructive cooperation with Nigeria on a wide range of issues facing the region and the world.]
**Occupied Palestinian Territory
Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said today that he was deeply concerned about a fire service report which says that a blaze that took place on Monday at a West Bank mosque was probably arson.
Serry condemned the attacks upon mosques in recent months, as well as violence against Palestinian property and individuals by extremist settlers. He said that it is vital that the Israeli Government imposes the rule of law and that those responsible for such crimes are brought to justice. Extremists from either side must not be allowed to set the agenda and undermine the vital efforts to renew negotiations.
Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, has condemned the attacks that took place yesterday on Government buildings in Zaranj, the capital of the province of Nimroz.
Reports indicated that at least three police officers and a Provincial Council member, Ms. Gul Makai Wakili, were killed and that four civilians and seven police officers were injured in the attack. De Mistura said: “These attacks were a despicable display of violence.” He paid tribute to Gul Makai Wakili, who was committed to working for women’s rights, as well as to all those killed and injured in the attack. We have his statement in my office.
**Millennium Development Goals
The UN Regional Information Centre in Brussels, in partnership with the EU [European Union] Spanish Presidency and some major European newspapers, has launched the European Millennium Development Goals campaign with a web-based competition. The competition is called Ads against Poverty. We have a press release on this with all the details in my office.
I was asked about the allocation of $12 million by the United Nations to Kyrgyzstan. This amount refers to projects already being, or about to be, implemented soon by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Kyrgyzstan in order to help the country’s most vulnerable groups to overcome the current crisis. This is not direct financial support to the interim Government.
In earlier comments, Mr. Miroslav Jenča, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, has said that the United Nations would not provide cash grants to the interim Government. This remains the case.
So, I am happy to take questions.
**Questions and Answers
Question: With reference to that mosque fire thought to be arson, is there any way of telling exactly where they were? There was some very small village mosque whose name does not ring a bell. And do you know, most importantly, have the Israelis made any statement about this — condemning it or saying that they will bring the perpetrators to justice or something to that effect?
Spokesperson: I would refer you to what Mr. Serry has said. I don’t have anything further to add to that. But Mr. Serry has spoken quite clearly about it. [Mr. Serry had said that the incident took place in the village of Lubban al Sharqiyah.]
Question: The UN Foundation yesterday released some information regarding American attitudes towards the United Nations and found that 60 per cent of Americans strongly support the UN and 67 per cent want the UN to concentrate on the question of fighting poverty. Why isn’t anything said about this important development? And what does DPI [Department of Public Information] plan to do to raise awareness about this development?
Spokesperson: First of all, we have obviously seen these findings, which are very interesting and very welcome. They were commissioned by the UN Foundation and I know that the UN Foundation is in the process of briefing in more detail on this. We can obviously then provide a little bit more detail about this. But it is a very welcome UN Foundation initiative, and I think that they will have been speaking out on this quite clearly. And you — like I have too — will have seen the reports and the coverage on this and it is available online, too. It is a very interesting set of findings and people obviously are reading them very carefully.
Question: Yes, Martin, a few questions actually. But first, I would have sworn that by running to the briefing, I saw your twin brother on the bicycle [laughter].
Anyhow, first of all — sorry if I missed it — did the Secretary-General meet with the Foreign Minister of Spain in regard of the presidency of Spain of the European Union? And if he did, does the Secretary-General support the idea of organizing an EU summit in Sarajevo in June next month? So what is the stance for the Secretary-General?
Spokesperson: I will need to check the schedule again. I don’t recall that there is a meeting scheduled, today at least, with the Foreign Minister [Miguel Angel] Moratinos. I have not seen that. Let me check.
Question: In that position it would be very helpful if the Secretary-General exchanged a view about that, since this is going on. And also, did the Secretary-General recently talk to any of the Balkan leaders, presumably from Belgrade or from Pristina in regards to the new development. I would not quote any press reports, since you do not like that, but I am asking this question.
Spokesperson: You are welcome to quote from reports, I am not quite sure what you mean by that. What I can say is that the Secretary-General speaks to various leaders regularly. I cannot recall right now when was the most recent time that the Secretary-General has spoken to Foreign Ministers from Serbia and any other officials. I am not aware of that. I need to look into it.
The reason I say that is because in recent days with many leaders in town — ministers in town and other officials — for the NPT Review Conference in huge number, they have been publicly available. I just do not have the entire list with me right now. I should do that next time.
Question: Since you allowed me, there is a press report indeed. There are some talks, negotiations — secret diplomacy, rather — going on behind closed doors that there is movement to introduce the new resolution on Kosovo and to put aside the old one, the famous [resolution] 1244. What can you say about that?
Spokesperson: First of all, if it is secret, that probably means I do not know about it. Secondly, anything to do with the Security Council, as you know, I do not speak on behalf of the Security Council.
Question: Still, it is a rather broader effort to change the rules…
Spokesperson: If it is anything to do with a Security Council resolution, then that is a matter for the Security Council and I would not be able to comment on that.
Question: Thanks, Martin. I have a building management question which you may not have an immediate answer to, but maybe you can get back to us on it. And an answer might be of interest to your twin brother riding a bicycle [laughter].
As a bicyclist myself coming to the UN every day, I was mystified a few weeks ago when about four bike racks were in the garage area and they mysteriously disappeared. A number of people have raised this issue and they didn’t know what happened. A few days ago, one bike rack appeared down at 46th street outside, but we are all a bit surprised as to why this would happen. Given the Secretary-General’s commitment to making the UN more energy efficient and promoting green lifestyles, why would a decision be made that would seem to discourage the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation?
Spokesperson: For a minute there I thought you were going to say, “given the Secretary-General’s own bicycle”. The only time I seem to see you is when you are just about to head off into the rain on your bicycle, so it is very good to see you here today.
To answer your question, I am not aware of why those changes have been made and I will certainly get an answer for you. I am sure that my colleagues will have heard the question too and can look into it.
[The Spokesperson later informed the correspondent that the bike racks at the garage had been removed due to increased construction activity, with bicycle racks now available in the northeast corner of the Visitors’ Terrace.]
Question: There is an editorial in today’s Daily News — the widest circulation paper in the host city of the UN — praising Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for one specific thing: for “taking the extraordinary step of leaving the chamber before [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad took the podium, in effect joining the walkout by the US, France, Great Britain, and the Netherlands”. I just wanted to know is Ban Ki-moon going to accept this plaudit, or is he going to say that it was not his intention to join those countries in walking out on Mr. Ahmadinejad?
Spokesperson: Very clearly, the answer is that this was normal protocol. I have seen the same reports that you have. This is the way that it works. The Secretary-General was attending that meeting — which is in the UN General Assembly Hall, but it is not a UN gathering, as such. He was not presiding over that meeting, he was one of the speakers, as you know. If you want to put it that way, keynote speaker.
After the Secretary-General spoke, there was about 25 minutes of procedural matters followed then by a speech by the Indonesian Foreign Minister, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, and then followed by the Iranian President. The Secretary-General, as I have mentioned earlier in the week and I mentioned just now, has had a kind of revolving-door schedule of bilateral meetings with various foreign ministers and other dignitaries in town for the Conference and he needed to spend the amount of time that he was able to spend at the opening session, and then move on to the bilateral meetings. And that was the way it was.
Question: So the praise of the Daily News is — in this one case at least — unmerited?
Spokesperson: In this one case it is misdirected. We are happy to take praise when it is properly placed.
Question: Can we expect a letter to the editor?
Spokesperson: [laughter] Do you want to help me write it?
Question: Moving on, I wanted to ask you about Haiti. There is a story in Haiti that President [René] Préval has said that he will extend his term if an election is not held. There is discussion of a bill. Some in the Parliament there said it was unconstitutional. I am just wondering, given the centrality of the UN in Haiti, whether there is any response from MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] to what should happen on that, and also what support, if any, MINUSTAH would be giving to the Haitian elections?
Spokesperson: First of all, my understanding from the press reports that I have seen is that it is not the President himself saying, “I want to extend the term,” but that parliamentarians have suggested that. In the circumstances, I understand it from reading the reports that the election cannot be held as scheduled. So I will check with MINUSTAH on whether they have anything further to say on it. As to whether MINUSTAH or the UN writ large would provide support, MINUSTAH has in the past helped to provide the kind of logistical support that you might imagine, and it is dependent on receiving a request from the Government. And I am sure that it would be looked at swiftly and in the right way.
Question: Just to clarify, I thought that too at first: that the Parliament was extending him. Then his Chief of Staff is quoted saying, “he must be extended”, and this opposition party called the Struggling Peoples’ Organization Party has said, “He is trying to make himself President for life like François and Jean-Claude Duvalier.” So there does seem to be some controversy. That is why I am wondering.
Spokesperson: Let’s find out. My reading of it was slightly different, but let’s find out.
Question: To follow up on this Iranian thing which Matthew has referred, the Iranian President at his press conference also said something to the effect that he believed that the Secretary-General’s strong remarks against Iran might have been prompted by the fact that the United Nations is located in New York and the host country of the United States. Do you have any response to that?
Spokesperson: This again is clearly not the case. The Secretary-General spoke very clearly — unequivocally — in that meeting and he has repeated it elsewhere, that the onus is on Iran firstly to comply with Security Council resolutions and secondly to dispel the mistrust that there is in the international community about the nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. This the Secretary-General has stated elsewhere and not just in the United Nations and the fact that the United Nations Headquarters is located in New York in this matter is immaterial.
Okay, I can take one more question and then we will need to move on to Jean Victor.
Question: In commemorating the end of World War II, this was not the end for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe — particularly Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, who suffered 50 years of occupation. Why doesn’t the UN address all those who suffered and not only the crimes of Nazism but the crimes of totalitarian regimes, when referring to World War II?
Spokesperson: I think if you read the remarks of the Secretary-General very carefully — I have his remarks right here again — the focus here is very much on the human costs of World War II, which was enormous and remembering the past so that we can build a better future. His focus was very much on the confluence of events that today, in the UN at least — because that is the day that this special unanimously agreed session is being held — are commemorating the end of the Second World War in Europe.
But it is also coming at a time when there is, as we have just been talking about, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, which is very much focused on the future. And I think that is the way the Secretary-General views it.
I am going to hand it over to Jean Victor because then there is a press conference following at 12:30 as I understand it. Thank you.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
**President of Nigeria
The President of the General Assembly, H.E. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, has learned with shock and deep sadness about the death of H.E. Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is a great loss for Nigeria. President Yar’Adua was a remarkable man of peace who leaves a memorable impact on his country and world affairs.
On behalf of all Member States and on his own behalf, the President of the General Assembly expresses his heartfelt condolences to Alhadji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s bereaved family and to the people and Government of Nigeria.
Today, maybe later in the afternoon or at least by the noon briefing tomorrow we will get you more details on the continuing visit of President Treki to Pakistan. And we will try to wrap up both the visit to India and the visit to Pakistan by tomorrow. As we speak, President Treki is in Pakistan.
**Questions and Answers
Question: While in Pakistan, particularly, is he going to be meeting with the President and the Prime Minister?
Spokesperson: The Prime Minster. We will get more details by this afternoon. Just had a few problems of communication and by this afternoon I will probably put out a statement.
Question: And also, what about this one ambassador giving some sort of a briefing on the Security Council — on the negotiations of the Security Council reform?
Spokesperson: The reports have been submitted and we hope that Ambassador [Zahir] Tanin will respond positively to your request. I will come back to you on that hopefully by tomorrow or early next week.
No further questions? Again, for all those young and friendly people who have visited us, thank you very much. Grazie. Bye-bye.
* *** *For information media • not an official record