21 May 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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.  It looks like everybody is enjoying this beautiful summer New York day.


**Secretary-General in Turkey


The Secretary-General arrived in Istanbul this morning for bilateral talks with Turkish leaders and to attend a major international conference on Somalia.  About now, the Secretary-General is meeting with President Abdullah Gül.  And he will also be meeting Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu later.  He’ll then be having an official dinner with the Foreign Minister and the President of Somalia.


And earlier in the day, the Secretary-General delivered a speech at Boğaziçi University.  He said Turkey was leading by example with dynamic diplomacy and UN involvement.  He said Turkey was also well placed to do even more through the G-20, its non-permanent Security Council membership and the Alliance of Civilizations.  We have copies of his full remarks upstairs and they have been posted on our website.


And tomorrow, the Secretary-General will take part in the Somalia conference.  And his embargoed remarks are available in the Spokesperson’s Office.


**Somalia


Also on Somalia, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has issued new eligibility guidelines on the protection needs of Somali asylum seekers.  The agency has also notified donors of its concerns over the worsening situation in the country.  It is appealing to all States to uphold their obligations under international agreements with regard to non-refoulement of asylum seekers.  It says that asylum seekers from central and southern Somalia must only be repatriated on a strictly voluntary basis.


UNHCR regrets that, despite new eligibility guidelines, more than 100 Somalis have been deported from Saudi Arabia in recent weeks.


**Cyprus


There are three reports of the Secretary-General out as documents today. 


There’s one on his mission of good offices in Cyprus.  The report covers the period from late November last year to the end of April this year, and in it, the Secretary-General says that considerable progress was made in the peace talks during that time period.  The Secretary-General goes on to say that a solution is well within reach, although time is not on the side of a settlement — he noted that he shares the two sides’ previously expressed strong hope that they’d conclude the negotiations by the end of 2010 and that he’ll be closely monitoring the progress made in the negotiations over the coming months.


**Iraq


The Secretary-General’s latest report on the work of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) is out today as a document.  And in it, he says that the national elections for the Council of Representatives demonstrated Iraqis’ resolve to exercise their democratic rights.  He notes with satisfaction the planning and holding of the vote and the valuable technical assistance and expert advice provided by the United Nations to the competent Iraqi authorities.


**Children and Armed Conflict


And finally, the third report is the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict.  For the first time the report includes a list of the most persistent violators for recruiting and using children — those who have been in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s report for at least five years.


The Secretary-General encourages the Security Council to consider more vigorous measures against these persistent violators and to consider including child recruitment and use in the mandates of all its sanctions committees.  The report also lists State and non-State parties to conflict who have killed, maimed, raped and used sexual violence against children.


**Malawi


And in Geneva, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, says today that the prosecution and sentencing to 14 years in prison and hard labour of a Malawian gay couple, is “blatantly discriminatory” and sets an alarming precedent in the region.  The High Commissioner called for the conviction to be repealed and for penal codes criminalizing homosexuality to be reformed in countries where they still exist.


She also noted a marked deterioration in official and public attitudes in Malawi, not just towards individuals perceived as being homosexual, but also towards organizations that speak out about sexual orientation and related issues, including ones doing vital work to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS.


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) adds that the criminalization of individuals based on their sexual orientation threatens public health gains in the AIDS response.  It says that criminalizing sexual behaviour drives people who engage in same-sex relations underground and hampers HIV-related programmes aimed at addressing their needs.


**Earlier Questions


And we have The Week Ahead for you.  But before that, just a couple of answers to questions asked earlier this week.


In response to one question about who in the UN system will be attending the inauguration of Omer Al-Bashir next week.  Attending will be the Secretary-General’s Special Representatives in Sudan, Haile Menkerios and Ibrahim Gambari, who are the senior UN officials on the ground, and as such they interact with the host Government regularly on operational issues to ensure that their missions are able to function effectively and to address areas of mutual concern.


The other question was about the enforcement of the new administrative instruction on road and driving safety.  The administrative instruction entered into force on 19 May.  It provides the following, and I quote: “Failure to comply with the provisions of this instruction and all other United Nations Secretariat administrative issuances concerning the driving of UN vehicles, including, but not limited to, the involvement in an accident or violations of local traffic laws, may lead to the institution of disciplinary proceedings against the staff member(s) concerned.”


**The Week Ahead at the United Nations


And as I mentioned, we do have The Week Ahead for you for your planning purposes for next week.


On Monday, at 11 a.m. here, the Secretary-General will be holding his monthly press conference.  So there will be no noon briefing that day.


And on Tuesday, at 12:30, also here, there will be a press conference on the launch of several media campaigns to combat violations of children’s rights.  And then the Secretary-General will be making opening remarks at a pledging conference for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.  That’s in the Economic and Social Council Chamber on that same Tuesday.


And on Thursday, 27 May, the Secretary-General will be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he will deliver a speech at the opening of the Alliance of Civilizations Forum opening there.


Under-Secretaries-General Alain Le Roy and Susana Malcorra will be the guests at the noon briefing on Friday, 28 May, to mark the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, and all of you know that also that day is the day when the NPT [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] Review Conference ends.


So, that’s what I have for you.  Anything for me?  Evelyn?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  [inaudible] can you please tell people to keep it light on Thursday and Friday, because most people have to wind up being [inaudible] and not come to press conferences.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay.  Did you have a question, Erol?


Question:  Yes, I did.  Sorry.  Okay, yes, first of all, it’s Monday, the press conference of the Secretary-General?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, 11 a.m.


Question:  Okay.  So, it’s going to be a hectic day, because we have everything, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the Security Council.  Anyhow, just for the record, I wanted to thank [you] for the response of Ari regarding the letters sent from Mr. Hasan Muhan, which, and for the record to put his name is Hasan, H-A-S-A-N without double-S, and his last name is not Muhanovic, but rather Nuhanovic, N-U-H-A-O-V-I-C.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay.


Question:  And that’s it.  And I would like somebody to check with the right name, because I had got the obviously misspelled name, whether it is true that there is not any of his letters on the record, or [inaudible].


Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay.  I am sure Ari is listening and I am sure he will get back to you as warranted.


Question:  And also…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.


Question: …a question.  Do we have, do you have anything on the letter from the smaller entity Republika Serbska to the members of the Security Council?  I know I will ask them today, but do you have anything?  Did they send any letter regarding the High Rep… critique of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not aware, but you can ask the documents counter to see if they have received anything.  Matthew, your two questions at the end of the week, yes?


Question:  Sure, Marie.  There are… JEM has said that, in increased fighting in South Darfur, some few hundred people have been killed.  It seems like these numbers are getting higher and higher.  Is UNAMID, can they confirm that?  What are they doing about this increased fighting in Darfur?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think you had the Secretary-General’s statement expressing concern about the situation there yesterday.  You also had Mr. Gambari briefing the Security Council yesterday on the situation…


Question:  [inaudible] today?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I realize that, but it is an ongoing situation that is of concern, which Mr. Gambari did mention in his briefing, which is available to you.  And he was also available at the stakeout for you.


Question:  Okay.  I guess my only question is just sort of what, I mean for example, with [inaudible] it took like almost a month for the UN, for UNAMID to get out of the area.  Is there any attempt by UNAMID to actually get to these areas to ascertain what’s happening to civilians?  The Government is saying that JEM is using civilians as human shields, that’s specifically what I would like to know.


Deputy Spokesperson:  I am sure that our peacekeepers try to get wherever they can when they need to.  Yes?


Question:  I wanted to, there is also, there is UNMIL, the head of civil affairs of UNMIL, [inaudible] is quoted as saying that he wanted to run for President of Sierra Leone.  I’m wondering what the rules are of a current, an active getting paid UN staff, DPKO staff member saying openly that he wants to run for the presidency of a neighbouring country, and what UNMIL is going to, or DPKO is going to do about this.


Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to take your question because this is the first that I have heard of this.


Question:  And finally, Burundi has thrown out, or has taken steps to throw out, a Human Rights Watch researcher, saying that it’s somehow destabilizing to have human rights reported in the run-up to the election.  I wonder if the UN, particularly, like [inaudible] and whatever the office there is, are they going to try, do they have any statement about that?  Are they concerned about that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  This is the first I hear of that too.  So I will have to take that question, as well.  Okay?  On that note, okay, have a good weekend.  See you on Monday.


There will be no noon briefing on Monday, just again for the record, as the Secretary-General will be giving his press conference at 11. Okay, thank you.


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For information media • not an official record