28 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.  Welcome to the noon briefing.


**Noon Briefing Guests


My guests today are Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Susana Malcorra, the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support.


And, as I think you can guess, they are here to talk about the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, which is officially tomorrow, 29 May, but it is being celebrated today.


We also have available in my office remarks the Deputy-Secretary-General made at a wreath-laying ceremony this morning.


We have got about half an hour with our guests, and then I can take a couple of questions at the end.  But for now, Mr. Le Roy, the floor is yours.


[Press conference by Alain Le Roy and Susana Malcorra issued separately.]


**Secretary-General at Alliance of Civilizations


I am happy to take any other questions you might have.  I just would briefly remind you, as I said, the Secretary-General is in Rio de Janeiro.  He spoke at the opening of the Alliance of Civilizations Forum.   And in the speech, he said the mission of the Alliance must go deeper still, and he said its aims are among the most important of the twenty-first century.


And following the opening of the Forum, the Secretary-General also met with Brazil’s President [Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva] and with other dignitaries who are attending the event.  And later today the Secretary-General will leave, as I mentioned yesterday, for Malawi and Uganda.


And in Malawi, he will meet the President, he will address Parliament and visit a Millennium Village — that’s Saturday and Sunday.


And then on Monday, the Secretary-General will be in Kampala to attend the Review Conference of the International Criminal Court.


On Tuesday, he will then be in Nice to participate in the France-Africa Summit.


And that’s what I can tell you.  And just very briefly, on Wednesday, much closer to home, the graduation ceremony takes place from the UN International School at 3 p.m. in the General Assembly Hall.


Okay, so other questions?  Yes, Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Any update on the situation in Gaza as far as the troops coming…?


Spokesperson:  Not beyond what we told you yesterday.


Question:  Nothing beyond that?


Spokesperson:  Yeah.


Question:  What about any comment from the Secretary-General on the killing of 45 people [inaudible] in the mosque in Pakistan today?


Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is aware of these attacks and he strongly condemns the attacks in Lahore.  And, as mentioned in media reports, this seems to have claimed the lives of more than 70 people.  And he extends his condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government of Pakistan.  Yeah, Matthew, yeah?


Question:  Martin, I wanted to, on this issue of the Secretary-General’s statement, now 84 days ago, that he will create this group of experts, the President of Sri Lanka has given an interview in which he said I don’t want my internal matters inquired into and has implied that there would be no sort of allowance for, if this panel wanted to go there to look into things.  I’m wondering, has there been any progress on this issue?  Is there any UN response now to the ICG, Interntional Crisis Group, report, it’s like 11 days ago, and you’d said that there would be some… do you have a response?


Spokesperson:  Yes.  Well, first of all on the panel, that’s moving forward as we speak.  And at the moment we are in the process of choosing the panel members — and once that’s been completed we’ll make an announcement.  And the role of the panel, as we’ve mentioned a number of times, is to advise the Secretary-General based on international standards and experiences on the implementation of the commitments the Government of Sri Lanka made in the area of human rights accountability during the visit of the Secretary-General a year ago.  One of the key points here that was emphasized at the time was the importance of the accountability process to address these allegations of violations of interntional humanitarian law committed during the final stages of the conflict.  And the President of Sri Lanka agreed to take measures to address those grievances.  That’s what I can tell you about that.


And on the ICG report, as I think you are well aware, the United Nations and the Secretary-General himself made energetic efforts in the months before the end of the conflict to protect the lives of civilians trapped in the conflict zone and facilitate a speedy and humane end to the conflict in order to save lives.  Unfortunately, none of the appeals and efforts were heeded, and a high number of civilians were killed — and that was clearly unacceptable.  I know that the Secretary-General strongly believes that there should be a serious and credible accountability process for human rights violations alleged to have been committed by both sides to the conflict, and the Secretary-General as I mentioned just now, has been actively pursuing that based on the commitment made by President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa.


Question:  Is… I know, thanks a lot.  I really… That’s at least… On the first part, does that mean the terms of reference have been decided, like you said now for choosing the people?  So, is it that the first stage of the panel selection now has been completed?


Spokesperson:  I think the two things are happening in tandem.


Question:  And on, just on the ICG report, because there were these three, at least three, things they came up with that seem to all be directed at the middle one about ineffectual call for ceasefire.  It also asked or said that there should be an independent inquiry into the UN’s pullout of civilian areas, specifically Kilinochi, and also the funding of what they called internment camps.  Is that… Is your statement in response to those two other points or what is the response to those points?


Spokesperson:  Well, UN staff were only pulled out from certain areas where security conditions became untenable.  But those kinds of decisions are never taken lightly.  We talked about that the other day — the balance that there is…


Question:  [inaudible] I think there are specifically pointing at that one in which no fighting had yet began, the Government said we’re coming in to clean this area out, will the UN leave?  And the UN said okay, we’re leaving.  [inaudible]


Spokesperson:  Well, that may be your understanding.  The UN’s understanding is that the UN staff were pulled out from certain areas when security conditions became untenable.  And with regard to the camps that you have mentioned, our aim obviously, as always, was to help people who needed help while continually pressing for people to be released speedily.  And we set conditions for our aid.  No permanent camps or housing, and we fought hard for — and eventually achieved — freedom of access and freedom of movement for those in the camps.


Question:  And on the two Nambiar questions; the ones about who in UN Headquarters was the intermediary between the Sunday Times and himself, and how his, the assurances that he received from Palitha Kohona and the two Rajapaksas were conveyed back to the LTTE leaders.  Have you been able to get an answer on that?


Spokesperson:  No, I haven’t, no.  All right, any other questions?  All right, thank you very much.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record