|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.
The Security Council this morning is holding a formal meeting at the ministerial level to discuss children and armed conflict. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative dealing with children and armed conflict, discussed the progress made on that issue recently, including the naming and shaming of violators, which she said has persuaded parties to cease this reprehensible behaviour and should deter others from future offences.
Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Atul Khare told the Council what the UN is doing to protect children in the conflict zones where peacekeepers are present, including its deployment of child protection advisers in nine peacekeeping missions. And Hilde Johnson of UNICEF detailed how the Security Council’s resolutions on children and armed conflict are making a real difference in children’s lives. We have their statements in the Spokesperson’s Office.
And Radhika Coomaraswamy and Hilde Johnson will be the guests at today’s briefing to tell you more about today’s debate. I believe they may be at the Security Council stakeout right now, and they should be coming here fairly soon.
**Secretary-General on Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan
During a brief airport stop-over in London on his way back to New York, the Secretary-General spoke by telephone today with President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan to discuss the crisis in Kyrgyzstan and the plight of ethnic Uzbeks. The Secretary-General told the President that he highly appreciated Uzbekistan’s constructive efforts in addressing the alarming humanitarian situation in Kyrgyzstan, particularly in opening the border for refugees and providing for their care despite limited resources.
The Secretary-General thanked President Karimov for granting the UN Resident Coordinator in Tashkent access to refugee camps to be able to assess needs. He said the United Nations would mobilize all necessary assistance in close coordination between relevant UN agencies and regional Governments. He said it was necessary to provide aid to all affected people in southern Kyrgyzstan and those seeking refuge in Uzbekistan.
The Secretary-General has been in touch with key leaders in the region, and he will consult with key members of the Security Council now that he is back in New York.
And on the humanitarian front, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that security in Osh and Jalal-Abad is stabilizing, but sporadic violence continues in other parts of southern Kyrgyzstan. There is a critical need for food, water, shelter and protection for internally displaced persons, as well as for health care for the injured and protection for people trapped in their homes due to insecurity.
Meanwhile, an emergency airlift began early today by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to Uzbekistan, carrying aid for tens of thousands of people fleeing the recent violence in Kyrgyzstan — with the first two flights landing in Andijan several hours ago.
The two cargo planes brought in 800 lightweight tents, plastic sheeting for emergency shelter, blankets and sleeping mats to meet the growing shelter needs of refugees. According to Uzbek authorities, more than 75,000 refugees have sought safety in Uzbekistan since last Friday.
In close coordination with Uzbek authorities, the tents will be rushed to the country’s east. Today’s flights are the first of six that will deliver more than 240 tons of emergency relief items by the end of this week.
The first members of a UNHCR emergency team are in Tashkent and Andijan, and are working with the Government on planning and distribution of UNHCR assistance. And we have more on this in a press release available from the Spokesperson’s Office.
The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, began a two-day visit to Sri Lanka today as part of the UN’s continuing attention to post-war challenges facing the country. He held meetings in Colombo with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other senior Government officials, and was scheduled to meet later in the evening with the Leader of the Opposition.
Pascoe also visited areas around Mullaitivu town in the north, close to where the last battles of the conflict were waged in May 2009, and where people who fled their homes during the armed conflict are today being resettled with assistance from the Government, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations. He was briefed on progress as well as difficulties in the resettlement process in the district, which is home today to a resettled population of more than 40,000. And we have a press release with more details in the Spokesperson’s Office.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced the voluntary surrender of Darfur rebel leaders Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus. Both men are responding to ICC summonses to appear, issued under seal in August 2009. The seals were removed today.
They are facing three counts of war crimes in connection with a September 2007 attack on African Union peacekeepers in Haskanita, in North Darfur, in which 12 peacekeepers were killed and 8 were gravely wounded. The two rebel leaders are alleged to have led the assault by a coalition of splinter groups from the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has welcomed the formation of the new national Government, which it notes will shoulder the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the final year of the interim period. The Mission also encouraged the parties to the Agreement to facilitate the timely establishment of referendum commissions on Southern Sudan and Abyei. It also pledged continued UN support to the process.
**C ôte d’Ivoire
The UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire (ONUCI) says that an event marking the start of demobilization and cantonment of 600 former combatants took place yesterday in the northern rebel-held town of Korhogo. The 600 former combatants, who the mission says will join the national army at a later date, are among a group of 1,200 former fighters expected to disarm and enter cantonment under a process monitored by the UN and other parties. The event was attended by Abou Moussa, the Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for Côte d'Ivoire, who pledged further UN support to the process.
**Deputy Secretary-General in Viet Nam
Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro spoke earlier today at the High-Level Conference on “Delivering as One”, which is being held in Hanoi, Viet Nam. In her remarks, she stressed that “Delivering as One” is the centrepiece of reforms for system-wide coherence on UN operational activities.
Launched in 2007, “Delivering as One” is now nearing the end of its phase of exploration and study, she noted. And we hope to get her remarks for the Spokesperson’s Office.
Like I said, just in a few minutes from now we should have with us Radhika Coomaraswamy, who is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and Hilde Johnson, the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF.
And tomorrow, our guest at the noon briefing will be Helen Clark, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), who will be joined by the Permanent Representatives of the United Kingdom and the Dominican Republic, who are, respectively, Sir Mark Lyall Grant and Federico Alberto Cuello Camilo. They will be here to brief you on UNDP’s most recent report, entitled “What will it take to achieve the Millennium Development Goals: An international assessment”.
That’s all from me.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Two questions on Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan on this readout of the Secretary-General’s call with Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan. Am I misreading it? Did he ask that the border be opened so that people there that still are facing violence are able to cross or did he not?
Associate Spokesperson: Just to read back the readout, which we just got, he said that he highly appreciated Uzbekistan’s constructive efforts in addressing the alarming humanitarian situation in Kyrgyzstan, particularly in opening the border for refugees and providing for their care despite limited resources.
Question: Why did they report that it was open at first and then it was closed? Is it open or closed?
Associate Spokesperson: As we’ve said in the last couple of days, there were contradictory reports on this. We’ve been getting information on UNHCR, and like I said, the Secretary-General just earlier today spoke with President Karimov and this is the readout that I have.
Question: [inaudible] what about this report that this crisis was deliberately triggered off, that report by the United Nations?
Associate Spokesperson: This is from comments that were made by my counterpart at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville. I’d just refer you back to Mr. Colville’s remarks, where he talked about identifying five specific incidents of attacks a few days ago. And that’s part of the public record that we have in our briefing notes from there. Yes?
Question: Also on Kyrgyzstan, Mr. [Miroslav] Jenča has said that the referendum, taken the Government side, that the referendum should go forward on 27 June. The International Crisis Group and others have said that it shouldn’t. And I guess my question is, with this number of people displaced and shooting still going on, what would the UN say to those who say that an ethnic minority that’s being targeted here won’t be able to vote in the referendum, thereby rendering it less than legitimate?
Associate Spokesperson: As far as that goes, yes, Mr. Jenča does believe that the referendum needs to go ahead. Our Electoral Affairs Division also is supportive of this. We realize the challenges, given the level of displacement, but the Electoral Division is in touch with the relevant electoral bodies in Kyrgyzstan and we’re trying to see what alternatives can be done to make sure that people exercise their right to vote.
Question: Do you believe that the 100,000 Kyrgyz citizens now in Uzbekistani camps should be allowed to vote in the election?
Associate Spokesperson: We believe that all steps should be taken to make sure that all of the Kyrgyz population can vote. The question, you’re right, there is a very strong logistical challenge at this stage, and we’ll have to see how that can be resolved. But our electoral people are in touch with the relevant authorities in Kyrgyzstan on this.
Question: Mr. Jenča, from his statement that it must go forward, it seems like he thought that it’s been resolved, or is he saying that it should go forward if it’s resolved or…?
Associate Spokesperson: He believes that, at this current stage, there is a series of options, all which have their difficulties and their problems. And the best way forward is to continue with the referendum, and try to address all the various challenges that have been caused by this displacement.
Question: Yes, Farhan, there was a report that Amre Moussa of the Arab League visited Gaza recently, and apparently he did it with the knowledge of the United Nations. Has he shared any information with the Secretary-General on his visit to Gaza?
Associate Spokesperson: I am not aware that the Secretary-General has been in contact with Amre Moussa in the last two or three days, but I’ll check.
Question: Yeah, but his visit was done with the coordination of the United Nations or not?
Associate Spokesperson: No, no, he, of course, is the head of the League of Arab States, and he went in that capacity. But certainly, I’ll see whether the Secretary-General or his key officials have been in touch with Amre Moussa since the visit. Yes?
Question: When is the Secretary-General coming back?
Associate Spokesperson: The Secretary-General is, in fact, he’s arrived back in New York already. He’s not back at UN Headquarters right now, but he does have some work that he will be doing. We expect him back at Headquarters tomorrow.
Question: I just wanted to, about this North Korean Ambassador’s press conference yesterday, in which there was the implied threat that, at some point in time, if the North Korean position was not taken into consideration, they, in fact, there might be some sort of military action in the South. Did the Secretary-General make a… Is he going to respond to that threat at all?
Associate Spokesperson: We don’t have any comment to make about yesterday’s press briefing. Certainly we’re aware of the points that were made there. Yes?
Question: Just earlier this morning the Permanent Representative of Bolivia stated his and other developing countries’ opposition to the process that took place in Bonn on climate change or the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]. And he’d said that, although the meeting between President [Evo] Morales and the Secretary-General had seemed positive, and many things were said, they were very surprised by how skewed or stilted towards the Copenhagen, what was done in Copenhagen and developed countries’ views the two drafts that came out in Bonn were, and he said that Mr. Ban should get more involved. I wonder, what is the Secretary-General’s… how close is he following, and what does he say to those who say the developing countries are being divided and conquered and ignored in the Bonn process?
Associate Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has been very keenly aware of the concerns of developing countries, and indeed of all the various countries involved in the process. That’s why he’s reached out to so many leaders, including the President of Bolivia, to see that we can build a strong consensus on climate change. And he’s certainly doing what he can to build on the results of what happened in Copenhagen so that the subsequent meetings, including in Mexico, will strengthen the results of the Copenhagen Conference.
Question: What’s his involvement, just in this one example, after meeting with President Morales and, according to the Perm Rep, saying many positive and encouraging things, what further steps did he take? Did he have any involvement in the way in which the two drafts came out of Bonn, because…?
Associate Spokesperson: I think you’re aware of how the negotiations proceeded, and there were different negotiations that were handled by different groups and different blocs of nations. But certainly, the Secretary-General is doing what he can with the results that were agreed to, and these were results that were agreed to by Member States, and he’s doing what he can to strengthen this, to make sure that the various concerns that have been brought on board — which he’s been listening to assiduously ever since the Copenhagen Conference —that those can be dealt with as we go onto the road towards Mexico. Yes?
Question: Farhan, on Amre Moussa’s visit to Gaza, if you get any information about what he shared with the Secretary-General or the United Nations, will you be able to update us on that?
Associate Spokesperson: Sure. Sure, we’ll do that. And are there any further questions?
Question: Do you have Radhika Coomaraswamy coming here now?
Associate Spokesperson: Yeah, yeah, I believe she is. She’s not here right now, so, with your indulgence, I guess we can halt this portion and then let’s keep the room up, and when she comes in, we’ll squawk that she is also available. But, yes, Radhika Coomaraswamy and Hilde Johnson should be here hopefully fairly soon. And until they’re back, have a good afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record