|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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, everyone.
**Guest at Noon
We will shortly have with us as our guest at the noon briefing, Georg Kell, the Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Office, and he is here to brief you on the upcoming 2010 Leaders Summit that will take place in New York. And he will also introduce the Global Compact Annual Review Tenth Anniversary Edition. So that will be right after I give you a little bit of information about the rest of the system.
**Secretary-General on Kyrgyzstan
The Secretary-General spoke by telephone on Saturday with the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, Kanat Saudabayev, who is the Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and they discussed the growing tensions in Kyrgyzstan.
The Secretary-General said he was alarmed by the scale of the clashes, the inter-ethnic nature of the violence, the mounting casualties and the large number of displaced people. The Secretary-General said that the United Nations was urgently assessing humanitarian aid needs. And we put out a full readout on that over the weekend.
**Kyrgyzstan — UN Agencies
Since then, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is preparing to deploy an emergency team and aid to Uzbekistan, where thousands of refugees have gone, fleeing violent clashes in Osh and other cities in south Kyrgyzstan.
According to the Uzbek Government, more than 75,000 refugees have arrived from Kyrgyzstan since last Friday. UNHCR has offered its assistance to Uzbek authorities, who are already dealing with needs of the displaced, and the refugee agency reports that the Uzbekistan Government has welcomed its humanitarian aid.
In addition, UNHCR is also preparing an airlift from its emergency stockpile in Dubai, and this aid will cover the immediate humanitarian needs of some 75,000 people. You can find more on this in a UNHCR press release available online and at the Spokesperson’s Office.
In addition, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has voiced her alarm at the escalating violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. She’s urging local and national authorities “to take swift and decisive action to protect citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origin, and curb the violence”.
And UNICEF has expressed deep concern about the situation of children there, saying it has received distressing reports, including photographs, of children being displaced, traumatized, separated from family members, and even being killed. And you can find more on their reactions at their respective websites.
**Secretary-General in Sierra Leone
The Secretary-General arrived in Sierra Leone earlier today from Benin, on the last stop of his second Africa trip this month. In Freetown today, the Secretary-General will visit the Special Court for Sierra Leone and meet President Ernest Bai Koroma. He will also attend a football match between amputees who survived the country's civil war.
In Benin over the weekend, the Secretary-General held extensive talks with President Boni Yayi, covering Benin's forthcoming election, climate change and the Millennium Development Goals. He also met other political leaders.
Among other things, the Secretary-General visited a seaside site which has been particularly badly affected by coastal erosion. The Secretary-General told reporters the scene was both striking and alarming.
Before flying to Freetown on Monday, he made a televised address in Cotonou to the people of Benin, in which he said that next year's presidential and parliamentary elections would be a test for Benin's well-established democratic tradition.
The Security Council this morning has been discussing Sudan, including Darfur, in an open meeting, which included briefings from the heads of the two peacekeeping missions there — Haile Menkerios and Ibrahim Gambari — as well as from the Joint UN-African Union Mediator for Darfur, Djibril Bassolé.
Menkerios said that Sudan needs to be encouraged and assisted to expand the democratic space opened by the recent elections, and establish a broad-based system of national governance that leads to a more equitable society and durable peace. Gambari briefed on the recent upsurge in fighting in Darfur, which he said has created very serious hindrances to the effective implementation of UNAMID’s [United Nations-African Union Operation in Darfur’s] protection mandate there. And Bassolé provided an update on the Doha negotiations concerning Darfur. Their briefing notes are available at the Spokesperson’s Office, and former South African President Thabo Mbeki also discussed the Darfur mediation.
This afternoon, Council members have scheduled informal interactive dialogues — which are not official Council meetings — to discuss the situation on the Korean peninsula. And at 12.45 p.m., the Council President will speak to you at the stakeout.
** Sri Lanka
The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, will depart New York this evening for a two-day visit to Sri Lanka on 16-17 June, as part of the UN’s continuing attention to post-war challenges facing the country.
The visit will focus on issues covered in the joint statement issued by the Secretary-General and President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa in May 2009, including political reconciliation, the return and resettlement of internally displaced people, and human rights. Pascoe will meet President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa, other senior Government officials, representatives of opposition and minority parties, including Tamil leaders, as well as civil society and media representatives. In addition, he will hold consultations with the Resident Coordinator and the UN country team in Sri Lanka.
Over the weekend, Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, gave a press conference to discuss the need to keep up the momentum since the recent peace jirga. He added that the aim was for reconciliation, which could only take place through constructive inclusion.
The bottom line, he said, is that the momentum on the peace jirga, which was a success, needs to be maintained. And the way to maintain it is to have constant incremental signals that move in the direction of dialogue, leading up to the Kabul conference this summer. And the transcript of his press conference is available in the Spokesperson’s Office.
** Gaza – Human Rights Council
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, announced today the membership of a committee of three independent experts, which was mandated by the Human Rights Council to monitor Israeli and Palestinian investigations into the serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that were reported by the UN Fact Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone.
The three experts who have agreed to form the committee are Professor Christian Tomuschat (who is also the Chair), Justice Mary McGowan Davis and Mr. Param Cumaraswamy. And we have a press release with their biographical details.
**Press Conferences Today
Like I said, Georg Kell, the Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Office, is our guest today, and he will brief you shortly on the upcoming 2010 Leaders Summit and the Global Compact Annual Review tenth Anniversary Edition.
And at 2 p.m., here in the Library Auditorium, there will be a press conference on the "informal interactive hearings" of the General Assembly. The special two-day session is part of the official preparatory process for the September Summit on the Millennium Development Goals. Speakers — representing non-governmental organizations, business and local authorities — will present their views on how to accelerate progress on the Millennium Development Goals.
And then at 11 a.m. tomorrow, here in the Library Auditorium, the Permanent Representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ambassador Sin Son Ho, will hold a press conference on the current situation in the Korean peninsula.
That’s it from me.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I was just wondering why you don’t have a reaction to the Israeli panel, the decision to form a panel, after all these statements, considering that the Secretary-General is directly involved in this matter, I mean.
Associate Spokesperson: I am glad you asked; I have a reaction. The Secretary-General takes note of the Israeli announcement on their inquiry. A thorough Israeli investigation is important and could fit with the Secretary-General's proposal, which would fully meet the international community's expectation for a credible and impartial investigation. His proposal for an international inquiry remains on the table and he hopes for a positive Israeli response. So that’s what I have to say by way of reaction.
Question: So does this mean he is satisfied with the Israeli investigation or he is still going to press, as I understand, for an international …?
Associate Spokesperson: What he is suggesting is that this is not contradictory to his own efforts. At the same time, his proposal remains on the table, and he continues to hope for a positive Israeli response to that proposal.
Question: Sorry to follow up. Is he following up on his own proposal or is he still…?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes, he is continuing to follow up. As far as we are aware, the door remains open for that.
Question: And what’s the latest on that, on his efforts to follow up on his own proposals?
Associate Spokesperson: Just that the consultations continue. We believe that the door remains open for that.
Question: A follow-up to Khaled’s question. When the Secretary-General says “it could fit”, could you put a little bit more light whether he really thinks it fits or it “could” fit? And what he think that would be appropriate; for example, to add his own names, some of his names to that Commission also?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General continues to believe that his own proposal for an international inquiry remains on the table; it remains on offer. He believes that it’s a good proposal and he hopes that it will be picked up.
Question: But what about the names? Excuse me, does the Secretary-General think that it would make sense if the Israelis picked up the names for the Commission and they are investigating what has happened – just let me finish, please -- does the Secretary-General thinks that would have make sense that he have, for example, two or three names picked by the Turkish side?
Associate Spokesperson: In this case, the Secretary-General’s proposal has been for a separate international inquiry. And it remains that. He is not talking about inclusion into an Israeli inquiry.
Question: Farhan, you said that the Secretary-General proposed an international — is this an official proposal? Because yesterday in an interview, in a televised interview, the US Ambassador to the UN said that there is no official proposal for the Secretary-General. Plus, do you believe that the Secretary-General has a mandate from the Security Council? Does the Security Council statement say anything about the role for the Secretary-General?
Associate Spokesperson: No, but the Security Council’s presidential statement does call for an investigation that would be prompt, would be credible and would be transparent. And the Secretary-General believes he has a proposal that meets those criteria.
Question: Wait, wait, is this an official proposal that he made to both sides?
Associate Spokesperson: It’s a proposal that continues to develop through conversations with a range of parties. A final proposal has not been made, no.
Question: You say that you believe, or the Secretary-General believes, the door remains open. Why does he believe that? What makes him think that? And what makes him think that this announcement by the Israeli Government is not a closing of that door? I think it’s been perceived pretty widely that this is Israel’s answer to what he is planning to do.
Associate Spokesperson: We’ve been in touch with a number of interlocutors on the various sides, including on the Israeli side. And the impression we had received from them is that they have not rejected the Secretary-General’s proposal. And we continue to believe that as of right now.
Question: Let me just follow up on that, because the Israelis themselves announced this, don’t you think that in fact they will not cooperate with the United Nations in future?
Associate Spokesperson: That’s not what they have said in our discussions that we have had with them. For example, Mr. Pascoe met recently with the Foreign Minister, discussed recently with the Foreign Minister of Israel, Mr. [Avigdor] Lieberman. And so we do believe that our proposal remains on the table; the Secretary-General’s.
Question: A follow-up on that, and a connection. [Israeli President Shimon] Peres was in South Korea last week, and supposedly a piece of the model for this is the Cheonan investigation there that is being brought to the Security Council today, and there’s two pieces of the question on that: one, there is an NGO, the People in Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, that has seriously critiqued both the methodology and the content of the statement released by South Korea about the Cheonan. And they have submitted that to the Security Council, to the President of the Security Council. This is under a lot of criticism from the Government in South Korea, and there [are] threats of putting charges on them for critiquing the forms, the fact that it was told, not transparent, you don’t know who was on it, you don’t know who approved it…
Associate Spokesperson: And your question is?
Question: So my question is that, one, I wondered if the Secretary-General is aware of the People in Solidarity for Participatory Democracy criticism of the Cheonan investigation, because that would give him a basis to understand what’s the problem with that form which Israel is basing this on. So do you know if he is aware of that or anything?
Associate Spokesperson: I’m not aware whether he knows of this specific proposal. He has been monitoring developments concerning the Cheonan, and he has received quite a range of information. And in addition, as I said earlier, the Security Council will have an informal interactive dialogue on the situation in the Korean peninsula this afternoon.
Question: [inaudible] one is that these people are under they may be charged by the Government for submitting something to the Security Council. Is that, would the Secretary-General agree that they should be charged by the South Korean Government?
Associate Spokesperson: I wouldn’t want to speculate on what may or may not happen.
Question: Okay, the second is how can people testify if it’s an Israeli — the people who are on the ship, there [are] 600 people; in order to do an investigation, don’t they need to hear their testimony, and what protection can there be if this is in Israel’s hands?
Associate Spokesperson: Like I said at the start, we continue to work on behalf of our own proposal.
Question: Farhan, I just want to follow up on that. How does the SG believe this could be a fair investigation if they are not going to listen to the Turkish side? And also, if the two Europeans are only going to be observers, how does this fit with any sense of a credible, transparent or impartial investigation?
Associate Spokesperson: Ultimately, the Secretary-General believes that there should be a thorough accounting by Israel, and he said so at the start of this. And any effort towards having that thorough accounting is a positive one. At the same time, you are absolutely right; what the Security Council has called for is a thorough, impartial, credible and prompt investigation. And he believes that the sort of proposals he has been discussing would meet those criteria.
Question: Does he think this inquiry would be transparent, credible and impartial, as the Security Council presidential statement believes? A direct answer, yes or no?
Associate Spokesperson: I think at this stage, the most that we can say on that is that what we are hopeful for is that our own proposals -- that it could be useful if taken in conformity with our own proposals for an international inquiry. And so we remain hopeful for a positive Israeli response to that proposal.
Question: You keep referring to “our proposal, our own proposals”; could you tell us what is that proposal?
Associate Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has been discussing a proposal for an investigation that would have credible international involvement. I can’t give you the details of that right now because, simply put, it is developing in our discussions that we’ve had with the various parties.
Question: It is a proposal? Because you keep referring to it as the ultimate solution to the thing…
Associate Spokesperson: Yes, yes, it is.
Question: But could you tell us what it is? If it is the ultimate solution, we may as well know what it is.
Associate Spokesperson: I can’t give you the final details because it is not a final proposal yet.
Question: So, it’s not a final proposal?
Associate Spokesperson: It’s not a final proposal. Yes.
Question: I just wanted — this composition of this panel announcement, Navi Pillay, to monitor the Israeli and the Palestinian investigations. Will that…
Associate Spokesperson: Not into the flotilla, mind you. This is into the follow up to Justice Goldstone.
Question: No, no, I understand. Let me finish my question. Will there be a similar sort of a panel appointed now in this investigation that Israel, at this point in time, is trying to conduct, and then the Turkish can do it also? That can also be done?
Associate Spokesperson: That would be in the hands of the Human Rights Council. We’d have to see what decision they take on that.
Question: Just a clarification. So what was this Goldstone development, exactly? And secondly, which Korea is giving the press conference tomorrow?
Associate Spokesperson: Tomorrow morning, you will have a press briefing from the Ambassador of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and his name is Sin Son Ho. And that will be at 11 a.m. in this room. What was your other question?
Question: What was this Goldstone report?
Associate Spokesperson: There is a press release on this. Navi Pillay announced the three members of a panel that would follow up on the Israeli-Palestinian investigations, activities following up to Justice Goldstone’s recommendations.
Question: [inaudible] kind of commission to be set up. And what if Turkey doesn’t accept? I’m sure they won’t accept the Israeli investigation. So will there be two other investigations and Turkey will decide to do its own investigation? So, do you think the Secretary-General will come up with a concrete idea?
Associate Spokesperson: I do think that the Secretary-General believes that in order to satisfy the expectations by all the various parties, there needs to be an initiative, an investigation that could take into account all their various concerns. So that’s why he has been talking to all of the parties and trying to develop a proposal based on that.
Question: I would just like to make sure I understand the total galaxy of investigations that are current. There is an investigative committee just appointed by the Israelis, which the Secretary-General may recognize and with which he may cooperate. And then there is a not directly related investigative commission appointed by Judge Pillay relative to the Goldstone report?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes.
Question: But this is not in recognition of the call from the Human Rights Council for an independent investigation of the flotilla affair?
Associate Spokesperson: Exactly.
Question: So there has been no particular action on that call of the Human Rights Council for that separate investigation? There may be in the future?
Associate Spokesperson: Not at this point, no.
Question: Sure. I want to ask about Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka and New York City. On Kyrgyzstan, can you say what Mr. [Miroslav] Jenca and his Regional Centre, what steps they have taken since the last round of violence? And also, whether the Secretary-General or anyone has any comment on Uzbekistan now closing its border to ethnic Uzbeks seeking to flee Kyrgyzstan?
Associate Spokesperson: I don’t have any latest update. I believe on the situation on the Uzbek border, we did talk just now about the efforts that the UNHCR is doing. And like I said just before you entered, UNHCR offered its assistance to Uzbek authorities, who are already dealing with the needs of the displaced, and there are reports that the Uzbekistan Government has welcomed its humanitarian aid. So, that’s the latest update we have on the situation there.
Regarding Mr. Miroslav Jenca, he is talking to various parties on the ground, and he is doing what he can to help restore calm. I don’t have any particular update on his meetings, but he has been meeting widely, and certainly, he has been keeping the Secretary-General updated regularly about his work.
Question: May I ask also about Mr. Pascoe’s visit to Sri Lanka? I think it was last week, you said you’re on the verge or just about to name this group of experts to look into alleged war crimes at the end of the conflict. Is this related in any way to Mr. Pascoe’s visit? Is he going to run names by the Rajapaksa Government? When will that panel be named, since it was announced on 5 March?
Associate Spokesperson: I expect the panel will be named shortly, in the coming days. As for the decision on the panel, the decisions on establishing the panel have already been made. The Secretary-General is moving ahead with his Panel of Experts, and we’ve been going through a careful process of selection. And the Government of Sri Lanka has been informed of the Secretary-General’s plan.
Question: I think there was a story in Crain’s Business New York, saying that the UN is in negotiations with the City’s Economic Development Corporation to possibly get the playgrounds just to the south of the UN in exchange for ceding land next to the river. I am sure you’ve seen the story. It says that — I guess [Michael] Adlerstein, I am not sure who is doing it — someone has undertaken a study for the UN of its real estate needs. What’s your comment on that story and the quotes in it?
Associate Spokesperson: On that, the United Nations is at this point not formally involved in the process led by the Host City, the City of New York, and the United Nations Development Corporation to pursue plans for the construction of a new building to be occupied by the United Nations on the grounds of Robert Moses Park, which is to say, on the opposite side of 42nd Street. The United Nations is, however, interested in finding a long-term solution for its needs for affordable and consolidated office space in the vicinity of its Headquarters compound.
Question: The story said you might build a high skyscraper on the North Lawn -- is that, can you take, is that a possibility? Is that being considered?
Associate Spokesperson: I can’t confirm that yet. I’ll have two more questions before I get to Mr. Kell then.
Question: Is the promenade that is currently used by us to get to the North Lawn Building, is that — that is obviously UN-owned land, or UN-leased land or whatever?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes.
Question: Is it even possible within the UN rules to cede that? What needs to be done? Should there be a Fifth Committee meeting on that? What should be done?
Associate Spokesperson: I wouldn’t know the procedure on doing that. That’s a fairly hypothetical situation.
Question: Thank you, Farhan. On Gaza, am I right in thinking that the Goldstone report is coming back to the SG, and that the General Assembly delayed decision on it for another five months, and the SG must report back to them as to whether or not Hamas and Israel have their own criminal investigations into the findings of the report? Question two is specifically on the Gaza flotilla raid. Last week, Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, outlined his own requirements for an investigation into the incident. But because he spoke on it, does that mean, in UN parlance, the death of 9 people aboard the boat are classed as extrajudicial killings?
Associate Spokesperson: I would not suggest that in lieu of an investigation at this stage. Mr. Alston is expressing his views as an independent expert, and his views do not necessarily reflect those of the Secretary-General.
Question: The Goldstone question?
Associate Spokesperson: What was that question, again?
Question: It goes back to the SG, and he is going to report back to the GA beginning of next month, is that right?
Associate Spokesperson: I believe that is what he was scheduled to do, yes.
Question: Do we have a date for the report, or anything?
Associate Spokesperson: No, it’s being worked on.
Question: This Commission that the Secretary-General is going to appoint, the work is still going on, that commission that he is going to appoint, independent of Israel and Turkey?
Associate Spokesperson: The work is still going on to see what kind of proposal can be accepted by all the parties, yes.
Question: One last question on the Gaza issue. In case Israel continues to refuse the proposal or what you refer to as the proposal by the SG, what will be his next move? He’ll go back to the Security Council and tell them, “I cannot establish an independent commission” — how will this end?
Associate Spokesperson: We will cross that bridge when we come to it. At this stage, we remain hopeful for a positive Israeli response.
Question: Could this go on forever — what does that mean?
Associate Spokesperson: The Council wanted action that would be prompt. So, yes, we will try to do it very promptly. Can we get to our guest? Okay, last question, and then we’ll get to Mr. Kell. Yes.
Question: I’ve been listening to your answers. I haven’t heard any word about Turkey or Turks. But the SG is welcoming the Israeli proposal for the investigation team, and the reason that it will be credible for any report or any investigation committee minus the Turks, which is nine people were killed in the international waters were Turks. There is no word – I haven’t heard about the Turks or Turkey.
Associate Spokesperson: No, I believe in response to a question from one of your colleagues earlier, I had mentioned that we wanted a proposal that would be acceptable to all sides. That includes, clearly includes, Turkey. You know they certainly are the ones who had suffered several deaths, and we want to make sure that any initiative, any investigation, would be satisfactory to Turkey, to Israel and to the international community as a whole. And that is what we continue to work on.
And with that, please, Mr. Kell.
* *** *For information media • not an official record