|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.
**Guest at Noon
We’re very pleased to have with us today as the guest at the noon briefing, Assistant Secretary-General Margareta Wahlström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, who is going to brief you right now on progress made in the “Making Cities Resilient” campaign coordinated by the UN Secretariat for the International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction.
After this briefing then, at 12:30 p.m., we will have Nigel Fisher, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of Haiti, ad interim, who will talk to you by video conference to discuss the six month observance of the 12 January earthquake.
Thank you very much for coming, Ms. Wahlström.
[Press conference by Ms. Wahlström issued separately.]
And in just a few minutes from now, we will have with us appearing via video conference, Nigel Fisher, the Deputy Special Representative and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti, ad interim.
Before that, just a couple of quick things to read out to you.
**Secretary-General’s Statement on Uganda
First of all, I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Uganda.
The Secretary-General strongly condemns the vicious bombings yesterday in Kampala that claimed the lives of dozens of people and left hundreds wounded among Ugandans and other nationalities at establishments where they were watching the World Cup final.
The Secretary-General hopes that the perpetrators of these horrific acts will be brought to justice and prosecuted. He extends his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and the Government of Uganda, and wishes a full and speedy recovery to those who have been injured.
I also have some travels later this week to announce to you.
The Secretary-General will travel to Madrid to attend the first meeting of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Advocacy Group this Friday. Ahead of the MDG Summit that he will convene in September in New York, the Secretary-General will meet with the eminent personalities who make up that Group and its two co-Chairs, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain.
The Secretary-General will then travel to Geneva to attend the Third World Conference of Speakers of Parliament. This global summit, from 19 to 21 July, is convened by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and will focus on democracy, the role of legislative institutions and their relationship with the United Nations.
As you know, today marks the six-month anniversary of the earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the country, Edmond Mulet, spoke at a ceremony at the UN Mission’s logistics base in Port-au-Prince, and we have his speech in the Spokesperson’s Office.
Mulet is now attending a commemorative ceremony at the Palais National, where Hédi Annabi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Haiti who died in the earthquake, will receive posthumous recognition from President René Préval. The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Haiti, Bill Clinton, will also participate in the ceremony and will meet with President Préval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.
Finally, John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, is also in Haiti today. And he will meet with Government officials, Haitian citizens, representatives of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, as well as the donor community. Holmes will take stock of humanitarian efforts in Haiti six months on, and will review the main areas of progress and challenges, including preparedness for the hurricane season.
And after this, in just a few minutes, Nigel Fisher, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, ad interim, and UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, ad interim, is here to give you more details on the situation on the ground.
And also later this afternoon, the Secretary-General will speak at a ceremony at 1 p.m. to mark 15 years since the massacre at Srebrenica. We have available in the Spokesperson’s office embargoed copies of the prepared remarks that he intends to deliver at that occasion.
That’s it from me. Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: This morning we broke the story in Al Arabiya that President [Omer al-] Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on three counts of genocide. I understand, of course, you had dealings with the Sudan, but will this decision by the judges to indict him on three counts of genocide make any difference for the United Nations in its dealings with Sudan, or [does] the decision by the ICC have no bearing on your relations and dealings with Sudan?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, in terms of the relations between us and the Government of Sudan, obviously we do have work that we are designed to do in Sudan, including the work of two separate peacekeeping missions. That work will continue. As for the charges that were reaffirmed today, the Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the nature of the charges against President Omer al-Bashir. He calls on the Government to provide its full support to the work of the International Criminal Court, and to address issues of justice and reconciliation, in accordance with the Rome Statute.
I’d like to note that the ICC is an independent judicial body and the substance of the charges is a judicial matter. And out of respect for the due process of law, we wouldn’t comment on those. But for now, the Secretary-General does reiterate his calls on all parties to the peace process to reach a comprehensive and inclusive agreement, addressing the root causes of the conflict and issues pertaining to justice, compensation and returns.
Question: Farhan, first of all, thank you that you sent me all these mails and everything, and I appreciate that you have given me an explanation on what is the difference between the Media Alert on today’s commemoration on, as you put it here, massacre in Srebrenica. But I can also tell you that there are people that are really concerned that this changing of the words somehow has a more heavy or specific, rather than a light, weight that you put it. Meaning that the Mission of Bosnia sent the invitation on which is clearly mentioned “genocide in Srebrenica”. Just a few minutes ago we witnessed that [the] Security Council had the minute of silence on genocide of Srebrenica. So can you please go a little bit more forward and tell me why it was…?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, first of all, the Secretary-General has yet to say this. So I am speaking only on the basis of a prepared text that has yet to be delivered. With that in mind, please note that what he does intend to say, one of the things he mentions, is that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the other relevant courts have clearly ruled that the crime of genocide occurred in Srebrenica. And certainly we ourselves have reflected that as well. So certainly the Secretary-General is aware of that and the ICTY — which is part of the UN system, a judicial body created, as you know, by the Security Council — has made it very clear and has convicted people for committing genocide at Srebrenica.
Question: Actually, if you can clear this: why this is in the Media Alert, as the invitation for commemoration on massacre in Srebrenica, when the Bosnian Mission…?
Associate Spokesperson: That’s simply a formal title that they’ve also used in the past. But we’re certainly aware of the existence of genocide, as the judicial rulings have made clear.
Question: On Srebrenica, how seriously does the United Nations take the cases that can be brought by victims of the families in Srebrenica, alleging that the United Nations failed to protect them from the massacres by the Serb forces?
Associate Spokesperson: We take the suffering of all of the victims of Srebrenica very seriously. Again, I would just refer you to the Secretary-General’s remarks, which will be delivered shortly.
Question: Farhan, there is a report out by the Israelis that the incident, rather, the attack on Gaza by the Israeli military, was very poorly planned. Does the Secretary-General have any response to that?
Associate Spokesperson: He does not. I would like to inform you, though, that the Secretary-General did speak by telephone earlier today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and they did discuss the proposal for an inquiry. I don’t have anything further to share with you on that at this stage.
Question: And another thing I wanted to ask you. For the last two weeks, as you know, I have been asking this question. In India, there are riots going on in occupied Kashmir. Does the Secretary-General notice that? Has he any reaction to this at all?
Associate Spokesperson: He does, indeed, notice this, and at this stage what we’re doing is we’re monitoring the situation. And we’re trying to get as much information as we can about what’s going on, on the ground there, both through UNMOGIP [United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan] and through other sources.
Question: On Nepal and Sri Lanka: In Nepal, the acting Prime Minister, as well as others, have been very critical of UNMIN [United Nations Mission in Nepal] for, they say, interfering in the statute-writing plan and communicating in ways outside of what they call normal diplomatic channels. Is the Secretariat aware of this? And does it acknowledge that issues exist? And what is it going to do to change or to try to assuage the Nepalese authorities?
Associate Spokesperson: On this, the UN Mission in Nepal is acting clearly within its mandate and consistently with calls by the Security Council for the parties to take advantage of the UN Mission in Nepal’s expertise and readiness to support the peace process, in order to facilitate the completion of its tasks. The issue dealt with in the non-paper containing the timeline, which is the issue I believe that you’re referring to, is based on consultations by UNMIN, which has been consulting with the main parties in Nepal for some time, and those consultations have taken place with the full knowledge of the Government of Nepal. This is not something new. The ideas it has shared with the parties are part of that discussion and are intended to facilitate advance thinking and planning of the implementation of integration and rehabilitation of former Maoist combatants once political decisions are made by the parties. The completion of UNMIN’s arms monitoring mandate, in large part, is contingent on the parties agreeing on a plan to address the future of the Maoist army personnel.
Question: And I wanted to ask on Sri Lanka. I wanted to ask you this: it’s been reported and alleged in Sri Lanka that the statement that the Secretariat, or your office, issued on Friday was somehow negotiated with Sri Lanka with an eye towards ending the two-day hunger strike of Wimal Weerawansa. I just wanted to know, did the UN speak with any parties outside the UN before issuing that statement on Friday, in terms of the wording?
Associate Spokesperson: No. In terms of the wording, the wording of that is in line with the wording of all of our previous statements. If you look at what the statement on Friday said, it’s a reiteration of points that we had made in the past. And that was made basically in discussions with the Resident Coordinator, Neil Buhne, who had believed that such a thing would be helpful.
Question: Is Mr. Buhne in town, and can he give a briefing?
Associate Spokesperson: He is, I think, arriving today. I don’t know; he is finishing up his time, so I don’t know whether he will be available for a briefing, but we can check.
Question: We have known it last week that Daniel Bellemare, the Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal on Lebanon, was here the week before last, and he actually met with several ambassadors of the Security Council. This was confirmed to me personally on Friday by the French Ambassador, who met with him. Now, my question is: did he meet with any officials of the United Nations, and if so what was the read out of that meeting with the Secretary-General or [Patricia] O’Brien, and why weren’t we informed of his visit if he did come to the United Nations?
Associate Spokesperson: I’ll try to get some details about whether he had any meetings. I am not sure that he did with the Secretary-General, who, as you know, has himself been travelling rather extensively.
Question: No, but will you tell us if he met with Patricia O’Brien, please?
Associate Spokesperson: I’ll certainly check and see who it was that he met with.
Question: If he did, why weren’t we informed of such a visit? Why is this so secret?
Associate Spokesperson: Different officials come here periodically from time to time for meetings and consultations. That happens across the board. Not all of them necessarily brief the Security Council or have any big public meetings. Wait a second. Is Nigel Fisher ready? Oh, great. Excellent. And he is right here with us. So yes, we’ll check up on that.
And now, without further ado, let me turn to Nigel Fisher. Thank you for making yourself available here today. So without further ado, here is the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, ad interim, and UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, ad interim, Nigel Fisher. Thank you very much. Mr. Fisher.
[Press conference by Mr. Fisher issued separately.]
* *** *For information media • not an official record