|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.
Let me get started so we can be prompt for the Security Council presidency’s briefing at 12:30. As you know, the Security Council this morning adopted its programme of work for June. And Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico, the President of the Security Council for this month, will brief you here at 12:30 about the work of the Council over the coming month.
The Security Council also adopted a resolution this morning, fixing the date of 9 September 2010 for meetings of the Security Council and the General Assembly, to decide on filling the vacancy at the International Court of Justice following the departure of one of its judges.
**Human Rights Council on Gaza Flotilla
And in Geneva, the Human Rights Council today decided to send an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law resulting from the Israeli attack on a humanitarian aid flotilla bound for Gaza.
The move is part of a resolution adopted by the Council. The Human Rights Council also condemns the attack and calls on Israel to fully cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide information on the whereabouts, status and condition of the detained and injured persons. It demands that Israel release all those detained and facilitate their safe return to their homelands. The Human Rights Council adopted the resolution, by a vote of 32 in favour to 3 against, and 9 abstentions. And I’m sure you can get more on this in the Spokesperson’s office.
Turning to Afghanistan, the Consultative Peace Jirga opened this morning in the capital, Kabul, with 1,600 participants from across the country taking part in the three-day event. The Jirga is intended to develop a common vision about the way forward for bringing peace to Afghanistan.
Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, attended the ceremony, and said: “The Peace Jirga is an important stepping stone in developing the Afghan-led peace process.” He expressed confidence that the results from these discussions will lead to the next steps in a national dialogue to bring peace in Afghanistan.
De Mistura noted violence that had taken place today, but said that, despite the violence, the Jirga continued and participants remained focused on the important discussions taking place there.
And Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, has welcomed the decision announced yesterday by the Federal Supreme Court, certifying the results of the March election in accordance with the Constitution of Iraq. He described it as a crucial step in electing a Government that will shape the country’s future for the next four years.
Melkert encouraged Iraqi leaders to move swiftly and work together to complete the formation of the new Government through an inclusive process.
**Senior Appointment of Special Representative in Cyprus
And I have I have one senior appointment to tell you about. The Secretary-General has appointed Lisa M. Buttenheim of the United States as his Special Representative in Cyprus and Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, known as UNFICYP.
Ms. Buttenheim brings to the position extensive experience with the United Nations in the political and peacekeeping areas. Ms. Buttenheim succeeds Tayé-Brook Zerihoun of Ethiopia, to whom the Secretary-General expresses his appreciation for his dedicated service and exemplary leadership of UNFICYP over the last two years. We have copies of this announcement and Ms. Buttenheim’s bio in the Spokesperson’s office.
And finally, as I have just mentioned, we will have the President of the Security Council here shortly. And a heads-up for tomorrow — this was at the request from one of you — the noon briefing guest will be Marc Scheuer, the Director the Alliance of Civilizations Forum. He will be here to speak to you about the outcome of the Alliance’s third forum, which took place in Rio de Janeiro last week, and which the Secretary-General attended, as you know.
So, that’s what I have for you. Anything for me?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Marie, what does the Secretary-General consider to be his responsibilities insofar as moving ahead with investigating the Gaza flotilla incident, and how does these actions by the Human Rights Council affect his thinking in what he is doing or what his way forward will be?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, first of all, as you know, the Secretary-General has just returned from Africa. He has just touched down a short while ago. And as I mentioned to you yesterday, he began consultations before his departure from Kampala, Uganda, his last stop in Africa, on the way ahead with world leaders, which I named to you yesterday. Today upon his return, he has scheduled a number of meetings with not only his advisers here, but with representatives of Israel, Turkey, the Arab Group and members of the Security Council this afternoon. And this is all, as I mentioned to you again yesterday, discussions on the way ahead. At this point I am not going to have much more than that to tell you, as these discussions are ongoing. As for the Human Rights Council’s decision, that’s precisely what it is. They have taken a decision in a resolution adopted by that Council, and the Secretary-General will continue his discussions on the way forward in person with leaders and by telephone, including a call with [ United States] Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton.
Question: What parts might be available to the press that they speak about?
Deputy Spokesperson: We’ll let you know as soon as I get a definitive word on that.
Question: Has he already called Mrs. Clinton or he is planning to call later?
Deputy Spokesperson: They spoke just before I came to the briefing.
Question: Any readouts?
Deputy Spokesperson: It is part of a series of contacts the Secretary-General is having on the way ahead today.
Question: On the same issue: as he is going into these meetings on this issue, has he requested an assessment from the Secretariat’s own lawyers as to whether Israel’s naval blockade and the commando raid were legal under relevant international laws?
Deputy Spokesperson: James, as the Secretary-General has not even come back to UN Headquarters, I have not even spoken to him, so I have nothing beyond what I am telling you now.
Question: Well, can we get an answer on that?
Deputy Spokesperson: I will tell you as soon as I have readouts on these meetings, we’ll try to get them to you; we’ll try to get more as it comes along. But right now, he is working hard behind the scenes, obviously to try to work on the way forward. As we mentioned to you, the Secretary-General was one of the first to issue a very strong statement on this issue. And he has called for an investigation himself. So, obviously he is working very hard on this.
Question: That’s a given, but this is a specific question, and can we get an answer to that? Has he gone to his own lawyers to find out whether or not Israel’s actions were legal or illegal under the relevant international law?
Deputy Spokesperson: Right now, I am telling you all I know about what he is doing and the contacts that he is having.
Question: Right, but can we get an answer to that?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have an answer to that, which is why I am…
Question: Well, can we get one?
Deputy Spokesperson: James, I’m telling you what I know now. Obviously, if I had an answer I would give it to you.
Question: Can you get an answer to that question even if you don’t know now?
Deputy Spokesperson: Of course, I will.
Question: Just another try, about the same, his initial reaction to that statement — what is his reading of the presidential statement, when it says that we take note of the Secretary-General’s statement and we call for… Does this mean that they want him to do an investigation?
Deputy Spokesperson: For that you have to ask the Security Council President, who will come and talk to you shortly.
Question: No, I am asking, the SG, what’s his understanding? What is the understanding of the SG?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, that’s why he is speaking with the various leaders to find out what their understanding is and how he can move forward on this.
Question: I am asking about his understanding, Marie. It’s not what the other leaders think. What does he think personally, what’s his reading, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, of the statement — does it request him to make an investigation?
Deputy Spokesperson: The precise reason why he is having these discussions is to see what kind of role obviously that the Secretariat can play in this matter.
Question: Marie, is there any uptake from yesterday with Robert Serry and the envoys that are there now in terms of the shipments? The future shipments that are going there, the UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] representative was speaking this morning about blockades in Gaza having increased. What is the UN’s position now in terms of what is going to happen?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General, as you know, did designate Mr. Serry and Mr. [Filippo] Grandi to be working very closely with the Quartet and also to facilitate the delivery of the humanitarian goods. And that is precisely what I understand they are doing. My Office right now is trying to get an update on what other humanitarian goods, if any, have gone into Gaza and we hope to get you an update on that as soon as we get that.
Question: Marie, you just said in response to Khaled that the Secretary-General was waiting to hear what the Security Council had to say. The Security Council President made clear in his press conference immediately after the statement was adopted that he expects the Secretary-General to move forward on this investigation. And he said that he viewed the word “impartial” as interchangeable with “independent”. And so, I’m slightly confused at why the Secretary-General feels that he needs to do all of these consultations again if that seems to be the feeling of at least the President of the Security Council.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General, as you know, was not here during the discussions, because he was in Africa. And I think it’s natural that he talks to the members of the Security Council, the Arab Group, the Israeli and the Turkish ambassadors here, before moving forward on this issue. And, as I mentioned, he is looking at precisely what the Secretariat’s role can be in moving this matter forward.
Question: Sure, Marie, one related question and something on Sudan. It’s the Iranian press, the Tehran Times in particular, says that Foreign Minister [Mannouchehr] Motaki spoke with Ban Ki-moon about urging him to pressure the United States to release Iranian nationals. But the paper also says that: “Ban Ki-moon said he was shocked by the Israeli atrocity.” Is that what he said? Can you confirm the call and give a readout on the call with Motaki? And I have a Sudan question I want to ask you.
Deputy Spokesperson: I’m actually waiting for a readout on that call. I did mention to you yesterday that the phone call with Mr. Motaki was one of the several that he had in Kampala before he left. And that was all in the course of the contacts he is having on the way forward on the Gaza issue. But, I know that with the Iranian call, other issues did come up. But as I said, I am waiting for a readout of that and we’ll get it to you as soon as we can.
Question: On Darfur, can I ask you a question? I want to ask you on Darfur. Yesterday I asked you about this attack on the Zalengei IDP camp. And I think you’d said you’d look into it. Now it’s reported that Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari cancelled the trip to the camp due to insecurity. Can you say, what’s the UN going to do if it’s true that Government-affiliated militia are attacking this…?
Deputy Spokesperson: You know what happened? I sent you all the answers to your questions from yesterday right before I came down here that DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] sent. So, if you can look at that, that would be great.
[The Deputy Spokesperson added that the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) could not confirm the reported attack in Zalengei.]
Question: I have one more on ICC [International Criminal Court]. The President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, is reported to have blocked the travel of three human rights activists, including Salim Mahmoud Osman, from going to the ICC conference in Kampala. Is that something that either the Secretary-General or Mr. Gambari or [Haile] Menkerios, given what Ban Ki-moon said about the ICC and the importance of Mr. Bashir turning himself in to The Hague — what follow-up has been made on this blocking of civilians…?
Deputy Spokesperson: This is the first I have heard of it, so we’d have to follow up with the ICC to find out. And I am sure that you can do the same as well.
And now that the Security Council President is here, I think I should turn the floor over to him. So, have a good afternoon. And we’ll see you tomorrow.
* *** *For information media • not an official record