|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.
**Climate Change Financing
At 2:30 today, at the second floor stakeout in the North Lawn Building, the Secretary-General will hold a press encounter, accompanied by the two co-Chairs of his Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway. They will discuss the recent meeting that they had with the 21 principals of the Group.
Yesterday, several Group members met with Member States, civil society and private sector representatives. They had a fruitful exchange, and they’ll talk to you about it at the press encounter.
Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, briefed the Security Council this morning on the situation in that region.
He warned of the threat posed by the food crisis in the region, particularly in Niger. But he also noted signs of progress, including the peaceful first round of elections held last month in Guinea. He asked for international support in holding the second round of those elections, saying that stable and democratic governance in Guinea will help the region.
The Council is discussing the work of the UN Office in West Africa, as well as Liberia sanctions, in closed consultations. Once consultations have ended, Mr. Djinnit intends to talk to reporters at the Council stakeout, and that’s at about 12:30 p.m.
** Middle East
We have available in the Spokesperson’s Office a statement by Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, on the situation in Jerusalem. Serry says he continues to follow with concern developments in East Jerusalem and continuing tensions in the city. The approval of new units in the settlement of Pisgat Zeev, in violation of Israel’s Road Map commitments, is wrong. He is also concerned at reports of house demolitions today. Serry’s office is monitoring closely the fate of four members of the Palestinian Legislative Council who face the threat of expulsion from the city.
At the current juncture, he says, it is essential for all parties to respect international law, refrain from provocative actions, and take positive steps to build confidence and create an environment conducive to successful negotiations.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
Some 20,000 people were displaced from their homes last week in the North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). And this is due to a resumption of armed hostilities between the Ugandan Army and the armed opposition group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
OCHA is concerned that the latest fighting has mainly affected civilians in the Beni territory of North Kivu, a once relatively peaceful area with some 100,000 displaced persons.
A total of 1.85 million people remain displaced by continuing instability in eastern DRC, according to OCHA estimates.
The Secretary-General, in remarks yesterday, paid homage to the thousands of men and boys who were slaughtered at Srebrenica, the largest atrocity on European soil since the founding of the United Nations.
“We recognize the burden of families and loved ones who carry the memories and pain with each step,” the Secretary-General said. “And, we vow, together, never again to allow such an atrocity to happen at any time, in any place.”
He added that, until all those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes face charges and are judged, our quest for justice, and the path towards healing, will remain incomplete. And his full remarks are online.
A new report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS, outlines a radically simplified HIV treatment platform — called Treatment 2.0 — that could decrease the number of AIDS-related deaths drastically, and could also greatly reduce the number of new HIV infections.
Launched in Geneva today ahead of the eighteenth International AIDS Conference in Vienna, the report says that the new platform could also bring down treatment costs, make treatment regimens simpler and smarter, reduce the burden on health systems and improve the quality of life for people living with HIV.
Modelling suggests that, compared with current treatment approaches, Treatment 2.0 could avert an additional 10 million deaths by 2025.
Speaking at the launch today, the UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, stressed that innovation in the AIDS response can save more lives. We have more on this in a press release available from the Spokesperson’s Office and on the UNAIDS website.
And like I said, we expect Said Djinnit to come to the stakeout once the consultations on West Africa have ended. And then at 2:30 p.m., you will have a press encounter at the second floor of the North Lawn Building with the Secretary-General and the co-Chairs of the panel on financing regarding climate change, that’s to say the Prime Ministers of Norway and Ethiopia.
Are there any questions for me? Yes.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Mr. Djinnit, the Special Representative on West Africa, as you indicated, spoke to the Council about the food crisis in the region. From what you know, did he make any specific proposals to avert the food crisis there and famine?
Associate Spokesperson: No, but he specifically in particular talked about the large number of hungry people in Niger, and he did implore the international community to do what’s required to deal with the food crisis, as well as the repercussions that such widespread hunger could have on society in Niger and throughout West Africa. And of course you can talk to him at the stakeout as well.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have anything to say on the abduction of Mr. [Shahram] Amiri by the Saudi authorities, and handing over to Americans now appearing in the Pakistani Mission in Washington?
Associate Spokesperson: No, we don’t have any comment on that. And as you know, there are some differing and contradictory reports on that. So I don’t have any comment for you on that, no.
Question: How about the treatment of pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia every year? Many of them report abductions, some are jailed, tortured every year; we have a large number of people complaining about that.
Associate Spokesperson: Certainly, we hope that everyone who is making the religious pilgrimage can do so peacefully. Beyond that, though, we don’t have any particular comment. I don’t know whether Navanethem Pillay’s office is dealing with that or not.
Question: Shouldn’t there be an investigation on how safe it is to go to pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia if you are not a Wahabi?
Associate Spokesperson: At this stage, I am not aware of any investigation under way. Certainly, you can ask with Ms. Pillay’s Office in Geneva whether they have been trying to do anything.
Question: Since the announcement on Thursday, and aside from simply working with the Nigerian Government, what immediate initiatives have been taken to control the outbreak of lead poisoning in Nigeria?
Associate Spokesperson: I believe we did comment last week about the outbreak of lead poisoning, and the World Health Organization (WHO) talked about the work that it was doing to investigate this. Beyond what we reported to you last week, I don’t have anything new to say about that. But clearly they’ll be doing the investigation and they’ll provide further information once they have it. Certainly, they are very concerned about the signs that the levels of lead are much higher than levels that are determined to be safe.
Question: I have a couple of questions, but first I want to ask about Sudan. The Government has said that it’s driven the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels out of what it called their new stronghold. I’m wondering whether the UN, with its many peacekeepers, is able to confirm this clash and what’s happening between the Government and JEM, whether fighting continues in Darfur?
Associate Spokesperson: I don’t have any update on that from UNAMID, but certainly we’ll check with UNAMID whether they have anything on the latest fighting there.
[After the briefing, the Associate Spokesperson said that UNAMID has received as-yet unconfirmed reports of clashes between Government forces and the Justice and Equality Movement in North Darfur. Verification missions are planned to confirm these reports.]
Question: It’s also been, also on Sudan, it’s been said that Japan has announced that it considered giving helicopters for UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] in south Sudan for the referendum. But then it said that there [are] not enough support services for them to give their helicopters. I wanted to know, if they are not giving them, who is going to give them, and is UNMIS, does it have enough helicopters to carry out its functions during the upcoming referendum?
Associate Spokesperson: I think UNMIS has been trying to get as many assets in place prior to the December referendum. And certainly those efforts would continue. I wouldn’t comment on any specific offer by a specific Member State. But certainly our Department for Field Support is in touch with a number of countries to make sure that we have the assets we need by the time of the referendum.
Question: Farhan, I asked you yesterday on the record if there is any meeting, any meetings were held between Daniel Bellemare during his visit the week before last with officials from the Legal or Political Departments. Did you find any…?
Associate Spokesperson: I haven’t found out so far. I did enquire with the Special Tribunal, and I haven’t received a reply from them. I can check with offices here, but that response necessarily will be piecemeal. I actually wanted to find out from the Tribunal themselves whether they had a record of the…
Correspondent: Yeah, I read your e-mail to me. I was really, to be honest, with all due respect to you, surprised because the meetings, if they took place here, why would we ask them for a schedule? I don’t want the name of every person he met with. I wanted to know if he met with a high official from the Legal Department or Political Department, and they are here in this building.
Associate Spokesperson: Okay, I’ll check with those two departments. Necessarily that would be piecemeal if I didn’t get their schedule. But if that’s all you want to find, I’ll just check with those two.
Correspondent: Schedules are not always accurate. I mean, they might have a schedule, he might not have kept it. All I want is if he met with [Patricia] O’Brien or somebody from DPA [Department of Political Affairs].
Associate Spokesperson: Sure. I’ll ask those departments. [The Associate Spokesperson later informed the correspondent that Mr. Bellemare had not met with Patricia O’Brien.]
Question: Is there any update on the financing of the Lebanese Tribunal, Special Tribunal for Lebanon?
Associate Spokesperson: I don’t have that from them, but I can ask the Tribunal as long as we’re asking them a bunch of questions.
Question: Is there any assessment that the Secretary-General has done on the situation in Kashmir, on which I had asked you about yesterday — that he’s monitoring the situation, that there is no comment from you as yet?
Associate Spokesperson: That is as much as I have to say on that. We don’t have any further comment on the latest situation beyond what I said.
Correspondent: This thing has been going on for the last 15 days and about 15 people have been killed in this unrest.
Associate Spokesperson: Yes, yes, we’re studying that matter, but I don’t have anything further to say beyond what we’ve already said.
Question: What about this reaction to the Israeli Government’s decision to absolve the soldiers on this attack on the flotilla or in the case of Gaza? Any reaction to that? Yesterday I had asked this.
Associate Spokesperson: Well, as far as that goes, as I think I pointed out to you yesterday, the Secretary-General did speak by phone yesterday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and they did discuss the proposal for an international inquiry. And as you know, that proposal remains on the table.
Question: A follow-up on Kashmir. Has the Secretary-General been in touch with any Indian official or leader on the situation in Kashmir?
Associate Spokesperson: I am not aware that there have been any discussions about the Kashmir situation at a high level. At the Secretary-General’s level, no.
Question: On this Libyan ship carrying aid to Gaza, the Israelis have threatened that ship; it has to change course or it will be attacked. Is the United Nations concerned about the safety of the people on the ship and the delivery of the aid? And is the blockade legal?
Associate Spokesperson: First off, on the question of ships coming in, we’ve already made clear, and can repeat again today, our concerns about ships going in — that we want to avoid the recurrence of the sort of incident that happened with the flotilla at the end of May. What we have said is that there are a number of avenues by which aid can get into Gaza. Certainly we, the UN, have been doing what we can to get aid into Gaza without incident, and we’ll continue to do so, and we’re encouraging all the people who want to provide humanitarian assistance to Gaza to use the existing avenues — which include land routes and the various crossing points.
Question: Are you excluding the sea route?
Associate Spokesperson: Even with aid by sea, the UN has tried to do what we can to bring the aid in. But as you know, what we’ve tried to do is to call on all sides to avoid any provocations.
Question: You consider that the going of the ship is a provocation? Do they have any weapons on board? Has anybody verified this?
Associate Spokesperson: What we’re trying to do is avoid a repeat of the sort of incident that we had at the end of May, and there are, as I have said, any number of ways to get aid into Gaza, and we certainly will do our part to make sure that aid gets there.
Question: But don’t you consider the blockade itself a provocation and a challenge to the whole community, international community, who has called repeatedly in statements and resolutions…?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes. And the Quartet has made its views known, and I would simply refer you back to the statements by the Quartet on that matter.
Question: I wanted to… couple of things on Sri Lanka. One, I wanted to know if you could confirm that UN staff have been told to not put UN flags on their vehicles or wear clothing with any UN insignia. And also whether, you’d said yesterday you’d check with Mr. [Neil] Buhne whether he can give a briefing while he is here. Is that going to be possible, and when does the Panel in fact convene for the first time? Mr. [Marzuki] Darusman had said the third week of July; I’m not sure if that means this week or next.
Associate Spokesperson: As far as that goes, on the Panel, yes, we do expect them to meet sometime in New York in the coming weeks. I don’t have a concrete date for you just yet. On Mr. Buhne, we did ask him and I don’t believe he will be available for a briefing.
Question: You’d said his time is coming to an end. What does that mean? His service for the UN or in Sri Lanka? That was the statement that you used yesterday. You said he was arriving yesterday but his time was finishing.
Associate Spokesperson: In Sri Lanka. You saw our statement last week in which we said that he had been recalled. So that’s the point. He’s been recalled, and now he is here in New York for consultations with UN officials.
Question: So that’s over? He is not going back at all?
Associate Spokesperson: Not that I am aware, no.
Question: Who is taking his place?
Associate Spokesperson: That would remain to be determined.
Question: I want to ask also about MassiveGood, because you’d sent a response, and I appreciated that. But I just wanted to know, it seems that $22 million from UNITAID, run by Mr. Philippe Douste-Blazy, was transferred to a private foundation known as the Millennium Foundation. First, I want to know if… That was part of the initial question to you, you said that some $200,000 has been raised through this MassiveGood, but to many people $22 million to raise $200,000 doesn’t seem like a very good deal or use of funds that are meant to combat AIDS and other diseases.
Associate Spokesperson: Well, on that, I have the language on the MassiveGood which we did share with you. Beyond that, I think we do have some further language that was from the Millennium Foundation itself. And we’ll make that available to you.
Question: Thank you. As you know, the United Nations has on its agenda an item called “Sport for peace”. Has the Secretary-General sent a note of congratulations to the Prime Minister of Spain, [José Luis Rodriguez] Zapatero, following his team’s victory in the World Cup?
Associate Spokesperson: The United Nations does not give congratulatory messages regarding sporting events. However, the Secretary-General will be in Spain later this week, as we announced yesterday, and I am sure it will be a festive atmosphere there, and he will partake in that atmosphere.
Correspondent: You didn’t, it didn’t seem like you answered the question about whether the UN has informed its staff to not put UN decals on their vehicles or wear UN clothes. That’s a report from Sri Lanka that that has gone out and I’ve heard…
Associate Spokesperson: I am not aware of that, and Security has not informed me of anything of that sort. I’ll check, but certainly it’s nothing I am aware of.
And with that, I wish you a good afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record