26 July 2010
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


and the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly

 


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


Good afternoon, everybody.


**Sahel


I have been asked about the killing of a French national in the Sahel.  I can tell you that the Secretary-General strongly condemns the killing of Michel Germaneau, a French national working on humanitarian projects in the Sahel region, a reprehensible act for which Al-Qaida in the Maghreb has claimed responsibility.  The Secretary-General considers this latest incident a strong reminder of the urgent need to defeat terrorism throughout the world and in the Sahel region in particular.


**Al-Arabiya


Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], condemned the attack today targeting the Iraqi station of Al-Arabiya.


She added that journalists must be able to go about their work freely, without fearing for their lives.  And she called on the Iraqi authorities to do everything within their ability to ensure that the perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice.


And I can also assure you that the Secretary-General is aware of this attack and likewise condemns it.


** Cambodia


The Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia today found Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and sentenced him to 35 years of imprisonment.


Kaing Guek Eav was convicted of crimes against humanity, as well as these numerous breaches of the Geneva Conventions.  The Trial Chamber decided that there are significant mitigating factors that mandated the imposition of a finite term of imprisonment rather than one of life imprisonment.  These factors include cooperation with the Chamber, admission of responsibility, limited expressions of remorse, the coercive environment in Democratic Kampuchea, and the potential for rehabilitation.  We have more details in a press release.


**Deputy Secretary-General at African Union Summit


Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro spoke on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at yesterday’s opening of the African Union Summit in Kampala.


In her remarks, she said that the recent terrorist attacks in the Ugandan capital show that the Somali crisis has a direct impact on regional and global security.  She said the world must do more to support the Somalia Transitional Federal Government in its reconciliation efforts and in its fight against extremism.


On the Millennium Development Goals, she noted that progress has been lagging across Africa on maternal and child health.  She also urged an end to violence against women and called for their full participation in society.


** Darfur


The UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) says that leaders of the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) have received threats over their participation in the latest round of peace talks in Doha.  The mission says that individuals claiming to be from the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid faction (SLA‑AW) shot indiscriminately inside the camp during the early hours on Sunday.  One person was wounded, and two suspects were detained by police after a failed assault on a camp leader.  Meanwhile, five camp religious leaders sought refuge at a nearby UNAMID locale.


The mission says it is negotiating with camp leaders and others to prevent an escalation of the situation.  It says that tensions had been rising at the Kalma camp since the latest round of talks concluded last week, with some IDP groups saying they were not fully represented.


** Lebanon


The Under-Secretary-General for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, visited the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) over the past weekend.  Le Roy met with UNIFIL officials in Naqoura, and with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Lebanese Armed Forces Commander General Jean Kahwagi and other senior Lebanese Armed Forces officials, among others, in Beirut.


Le Roy’s trip to Lebanon came as part of regular visits to UN peacekeeping missions, to assess the situation on the ground and to liaise with UN and local officials.  The visit precedes the Security Council’s consideration at the end of August of the extension of UNIFIL’s mandate, as requested by the Lebanese Government.  We have more details on this in a press release.


** Hiroshima Conference


In his message to the Hiroshima Conference for the Total Abolition of Nuclear Weapons by 2020, set to open in Japan on Tuesday, the Secretary-General urges all leaders to intensify efforts towards nuclear abolishment.  He also urges world leaders, especially those of the nuclear-weapon States, to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to see first hand the drastic reality caused by nuclear war.


The Secretary-General stresses the need to work together towards the day when Governments no longer have a choice but to respond to the will of the people for a nuclear-weapon-free world.


He also refers to his own five-point plan, put forward in October 2008, and stresses that the world must build on the momentum generated by the successful outcome of this year’s NPT [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] Review Conference.


**Press Stakeout


There will be a stakeout today at 3:10 in the North Lawn Building.  That’s with the Permanent Representative of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Jorge Valero Briceño.  He will address you at the stakeout on the second floor of the North Lawn Building.  So, that’s what I have for you.  And I also note that Jean Victor Nkolo will be able to brief you on the General Assembly after this.  Please, yes.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Regarding [inaudible] on Afghanistan, is the Secretary-General going to say anything regarding the high casualty among the civilians in the country?


Spokesperson:  Well, what I can tell you is that our human rights [office] in Afghanistan has documented each year the terrible toll in civilians in the Afghan armed conflict.  All sides to the armed conflict have an obligation to avoid civilian casualties and the recent reports of the leaked military documents highlight this human cost still further.  The 2009 United Nations human rights report in Afghanistan on the protection of civilians documented that 67 per cent of civilian casualties were caused by anti-Government elements.  The UN report on the protection of civilians for the first half of 2010 will be published in early August.


Question:  Do you have any information regarding the 45 civilians killed on Friday?


Spokesperson:  Not at the moment, but I do know that my colleagues in Afghanistan are looking into this as well.


Question:  On that same release of documents by Wikileaks, one of the documents describes a plan by the Taliban, assisted, they say, by former Pakistani General Hamid Gul, to take a United Nations staff hostage on the road between Kabul to Jalalabad.  It’s one of the documents that were released.  It’s been highlighted by The Guardian.  Because, what I wonder, since this involves a particular targeting of UN staff by an individual associated in the past, and possibly presently, with the Pakistani army, does the UN have any response to that particular document?


Spokesperson:  Not immediately.  But, as you know, there are a lot of documents and I know that my colleagues in the relevant departments, not least DSS {Department of Safety and Security], will be looking at this.  But I don’t have any comment at the moment.


Question:  Just one more on OIOS?


Spokesperson:  You can, but in just a second, because I know that there are some other people keen to ask questions.  Yes, please.


Question:  Martin, there’s one on Colombia.  Has the UN, until now, been requested by any of the sides to take part in any kind of mediation?  Or has there been any requests, for example, from Colombia, regarding the UN being involved in investigating the allegations of the presence of guerrillas in Venezuelan territory?


Spokesperson:  I’m not aware of any direct request to the United Nations.  You will have seen the Secretary-General’s comments on the diplomatic difficulties that we put out last week.  The Secretary-General and the United Nations more generally — whenever two sides, or more sides, request assistance to help with overcoming difficulties they may have, then that request would be carefully studied.  But I’m not aware of any at the moment.  Yes, Edie?


Question:  Martin, on OIOS, are we going to be expecting an announcement soon, in the coming days, perhaps, maybe today later, on a new head of OIOS?


Spokesperson:  Well, I’ve said repeatedly from here that you can expect an announcement in the coming days — quite soon.  I would anticipate that it will indeed be within the next few days.  I don’t think it will be today.


Question:  There is a name that’s been published already of a Canadian auditor.  Are you confirm… Would you confirm her name?


Spokesperson:  No.  And Edie, I can tell from the tone in your voice that you don’t expect me to.  Clearly, there is a procedure here.  And I think Jean Victor can speak about the General Assembly part of this package if you like, but the part of the package from the Secretary-General is as follows: a name is forwarded to the General Assembly, to the President of the General Assembly.  This is done, obviously, in a confidential fashion, because it’s then for the General Assembly to decide on that nomination.  In those circumstances, I’m not in a position to give a name or to confirm names.  Yes?


Question:  It’s about the process, I wanted to ask this.  Friday evening, I was told by several people that participated that there was a meeting between the Secretary-General and regional groupings.  This name that she’s referring to, Carman Lapointe-Young, was raised.  But the thing I really want to ask you, because there seems some controversy about it, is that, one, did the Secretary-General say he couldn’t find a qualified developing world candidate and, two, does he disagree with some Member States, including Venezuela and Cuba, that the understanding in forming OIOS is that the directorship would alternate between developed and developing world, and does he… this seems to be being raised.  Does he disagree with that?  And if so, is it true that he couldn’t find a qualified developing-world candidate?


Spokesperson:  Well, I will be able to come back to you once we get a little further down the road, I’ll be able to come back to you with more on this.  But what I can say is that, from the conversations so far, there appears to be very strong, overwhelming support for the candidate put forward by the Secretary-General.  But, as I say, we’ll come back to it in more detail at a later stage, I think.  Yes, Nizar?


Question:  I imagine UNESCO has condemned the attack on the press in Baghdad.  Is there any line from UNESCO regarding the equipment stolen from the press and, high seas, in the Malvi Marmara, on the freedom flotilla issue?


Spokesperson:  I would…  Why not ask UNESCO?  I’m sure they would be able to help you.


Question:  [inaudible] to retrieve the sacred matter?


Spokesperson:  Why don’t you have a word with UNESCO and see what they have to say.


Question:  [inaudible] United Nations, UNESCO is part of the United Nations.


Spokesperson:  They deal specifically with press matters, specific cases of the kind that you’re referring to, so I would suggest you have a word with UNESCO.  What I’ve been able to tell you is that UNESCO has indeed condemned the attack, and so has the Secretary-General.  I’m talking about the attack on Al-Arabiya.


Question:  [inaudible] released recently?  They released the equipment…


SpokespersonNizar, as I said, probably the best thing is that you ask UNESCO, okay?  Yes.


Question:  How does the Secretary-General view the latest announcement from Iran yesterday, that they’re willing to go back to… they’re informing the IAEA that they’re willing to go back to the talks with regard to the rich uranium swap?


Spokesperson:  Well, firstly, this would be a matter, as I understand it, for the Vienna Group, and so let’s wait to see what they have to say.  But more generally, the Secretary-General has consistently said that it’s important to return to dialogue, to talk about this, to try to deal with this through talks.  Therefore, the Secretary-General would be keen to see that happen.  But let’s wait to see what the Vienna Group has to say about this.  Yes, George?


Question:  On the basic theme of new people coming in, when does Ms. Amos take up her position at OCHA, and when thereafter might we have a kind of an introductory briefing with her?


Spokesperson:  Let’s find out.  I’m sure that my colleague, Stephanie Bunker, will be able to help us with that.  Yes, James?


[The Spokesperson later confirmed that Valerie Amos is expected to take up her post on 1 September 2010.]


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  The Secretary-General’s report on the Goldstone, has he submitted it to the General Assembly?


Spokesperson:  He has submitted a note which tells the members of the General Assembly two things; one, that he has received the three submissions from Israel, from the Palestinian Authority and from Switzerland.  His own report that will look at those three submissions will be sent once the translations have been done, for the simple reasons that at least one of the submissions was very long indeed, and needs to be translated into at least the working languages.  This may take some time.  Once those translations have been completed, the submissions, plus the Secretary-General’s assessment, whatever form that takes, will be submitted further.


Question:  Do you have a date on that?


Spokesperson:  I think this depends on the intrepid work of the translation service.


Question:  One quick follow-up.  Mr. [Riyad] Mansour, the Palestinian Ambassador, says that the Israeli response, or the document that was submitted to the Secretariat, he said it was just flung on a desk in the Secretariat, and that it wasn’t a report, it was tailored to answer the requirements spelled out by the General Assembly.  Is Mr. Ban, is the Secretary-General, is he viewing the report that was submitted by the Israelis as a response to Goldstone?


Spokesperson:  We received by the deadline submissions from Israel, from the Palestinians and from Switzerland, and I think I’ll leave it at that.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  I’m going to ask about Kyrgyzstan and Darfur.  On Kyrgyzstan, the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative, Kimo Kiljunen, he said there’s going to be an investigation conducted by his organ… by a commission, international commission, of the violence in southern Kyrgyzstan.  And he also said that the United Nations would be involved in the commission.  So, I wanted to know, is that the case?  What will be the United Nations role in an international investigation of the causes of violence in southern Kyrgyzstan?


Spokesperson:  Let me find out.  Just a general point, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is not the same thing as the OSCE itself, as I’m sure you understand.  So we would need to see precisely what the composition, the intended composition, would be.  But the other more general point is that we’ve said already that there should be an independent investigation into the events that took place in Osh and Jalalabad and in the south of Kyrgyzstan.  So let me get back to you on that, okay?


Question:  In Darfur…?


Spokesperson:  Darfur, yes.


Question:  The report that you made about the IDP camp violence in Kalma camp and the Abdul Wahid, there’s some… I mean, it had been… Bernard Kouchner said that Abdul Wahid el-Nur is now going to participate in the Doha round.  There was a big announcement to that effect.  The report that you’re giving out seems to imply that maybe they’re not imply… they’re not going to participate in Doha… or just… I just am wondering, given the UN’s role in the Doha process, through Bassolé and otherwise, is it the UN’s understanding that long-time, non-participant Abdul Wahid el-Nur is now going to participate in the Doha process or not?


Spokesperson:  Let me check on that, okay?  Let me check.  Alright.  Yes, Nizar?


Question:  [inaudible] visit to Lebanon.  Did they discuss the issue of the Israeli attack on a UNIFIL position in south Lebanon over the weekend?


Spokesperson:  I’m aware of reports of a stand-off, if you like, not involving a UNIFIL position, but a UNIFIL position observed something.  But let me find out more about that, okay?


Question:  There were reports that there was firing from an Israeli side on a UNIFIL position.


Spokesperson:  As I say, I’m aware of other reports and that’s why I want to be careful, because I would like to know the full details before coming back to you.


Question:  Does the Secretariat have anything to do with the leaks from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on the indictment, possible indictment, in the coming autumn?  These leaks were reported by Israeli high officials and by the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri.  Can we have some details about this, and why an indictment would be leaked first, months before the Secretary-General…?


SpokespersonNizar, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon works in its own self-contained way and when they have an indictment to announce, they will announce it.


Question:  But this leak was done by the Prime Minister of Lebanon. and if we expect the highest standards of justice from this Tribunal, which is set up by the United Nations, is the highest standard to leak indictments before the Secretary-General announces them?


Spokesperson:  As I say, an official announcement would come from the Special Tribunal.  And I actually resent you pointing the finger at the United Nations.  It’s not like that at all.  The Special Tribunal for Lebanon will make an announcement when it’s ready to do so on any indictment, okay, Nizar?  Any other questions?


Question:  I asked you about [inaudible].


Spokesperson:  The tone of the question is what I resent.  Yes please, Matthew.


Question:  Sure, Nizar, are you done?


Spokesperson:  Yes, he is done, yes.


Question:  What I wanted to know, there were these reports over the weekend of the FDLR trying to hijack a plane near Goma, and taking hostage of an Indian pilot.  Now, I understand it wasn’t a UN plane, it was some kind of a mining plane, but I just wonder if the UN or MONUSCO has any awareness of this, and I guess, what’s going to happen next?


Spokesperson:  We’ll have to ask DPKO about that.  I’m not aware of that report.


Question:  And I just want to… and don’t… I’m going to try and have my tone be all that it should be on this question.  It goes back to the Ahlenius memo.  And there’ve been a variety of reports, I may just be focusing on one, but for some reason, this one seemed more significant to me than others.  This writer, James Traub, right, who wrote the book, the biography of Kofi Annan — he’s written a lot about the UN — generally is perceived as very pro-UN, pro-multilateral process, has written a piece called “Goodnight Ban Ki-moon”, basically saying, for a variety of reasons, including Sri Lanka, including the Ahlenius memo, that he believes the Secretary-General should not seek a second term.  Or, as he puts it, the Obama Administration can’t accomplish its multilateral goals with Ban Ki-moon as the Secretary-General.  So, I’m not… I’m just asking you about this report.  I’m not expressing any opinion about it, but I’m wondering what is, and I’m sure there is one, what is the Secretariat’s, kind of, response to this seeming turn in opinion of a heretofore very pro-UN, and even pro-Ban Ki-moon, UN pundit?


Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t think we need to comment on every individual piece.  But I would say that it’s, essentially, this is a rehash.  A lot of what’s in that piece, we’ve seen before.  There’s not a lot of new material in there, I have to say.  What I’d also say is that the Chef de Cabinet has written a letter to staff, spelling out quite a lot of points in relation to the end-of-assignment report by the outgoing head of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, and we’d be happy to make that letter to staff available to journalists — and we will be doing so after this briefing.


Question:  I, you know… there does seem to be some… I don’t want to focus on the Traub thing so much as to say…


Spokesperson:  Neither do I, because it’s, as I say, it’s a rehash.


Question:  But I just want to ask one more question on this, and it’s… I’ve seen the letter of Mr. Nambiar to OIOS staff, saying that we’re taking the Ahlenius memo seriously, but it has a lot of inaccuracies.  But it seemed, again…


Spokesperson:  This is to all staff.  All staff.  Not to OIOS staff.  It’s to all staff in the United Nations.


Question:  It seemed, again, to sort of sidestep the critique in Ahlenius, and certainly in this Traub piece and others, sort of about the more substantive.  Not the internal, or anti-corruption, or hiring rules, but sort of, what’s being accomplished on Myanmar, Darfur… and I don’t… maybe the letter to the staff is not the appropriate place for…


Spokesperson:  Actually, it’s quite the reverse, Matthew.  The important thing here is that, when you have an end-of-assignment report that takes, that presents — or rather misrepresents — any number of topics, and introduces any number of inaccuracies, they need to be addressed very clearly.  They are being, and they will continue to be addressed very clearly.  Just to come back to Edie’s question about the announcement that will be forthcoming on a new head of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, this is a crucial appointment, because there is a huge amount of work to be done in the Office of Internal Oversight Services, and not least, for example, to fill many vacancies.  So, there’s plenty to be done, there’s plenty to be done. 


As for the substantive points you mentioned, the whole point is that there are many substantive points within this 50-page report that need to be responded to.  Some of them have been; others will be in due course.  The more general point is, anybody can see, and I’ve said this — this time last week already I was saying it — that the Secretary-General’s record on dealing with any number of topics — whether it’s standing in front of a still smouldering warehouse in Gaza, whether it’s visiting Haiti five days after the earthquake, whether it’s visiting Darfur refugee camps, whether it’s helping to bring people together at the Copenhagen climate negotiations in December — just a cursory look at his record shows that he has achieved a huge amount.  And nobody’s saying there is not a long way to go on many topics, not least Darfur, or Sudan more generally.  But it’s not, really, for the head of Internal Oversight Services to look at the general picture, but to point to specifics and those are the specifics that we will address. 


Jean Victor, over to you.  Thanks.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly


Good afternoon and welcome to our visitors.


**Sixty-Fifth General Assembly Session


Correspondents have been inquiring about the calendar for the coming session of the General Assembly and other matters.  Please note that the opening of the sixty-fifth session will take place on 14 September.  The first meeting of the General Committee to consider the inclusion of items in the sixty-fifth session is scheduled for 15 September.  On 17 September, the second plenary will consider the recommendations from the General Committee.


The General Assembly has decided to convene a high-level plenary meeting on 20 to 22 September with the primary objective to accelerate progress towards all the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  On 22 September, a high-level meeting on biodiversity will also take place.  At the General Assembly, the general debate will take place from 23 to 30 September.  The list of speakers will be shared with correspondents in due course.  From 24 to 25 September, a high-level review on small island developing States is scheduled to take place.  That’s what I have for you on the coming sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly.  If you have any questions, yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  The Secretary-General is meant to report back to the General Assembly today on the Goldstone Report.  Mr. Nesirsky just said there were delays because of translation of the document.  How does the GA President feel about this?


Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t think I can add much to what my colleague Martin told you.  It’s a procedural and a technical matter.  When all that is processed — and it takes some time to be processed and to be translated into the two official working languages — then we will take it to the next step.  For the time being, it still is exactly where Martin told you that it is at.  So we have to take it in stride.


Question:  What is the next step?  I mean, you get the report at some point — and then what does the GA do?


Spokesperson:  The next step is that it will be issued as an official document, and then we’ll take it from there.


Question:  So it doesn’t definitely go to a meeting and it doesn’t definitely go to a vote?


Spokesperson:  It first has to be issued as an official document.  That is the next step.  Yes, Matthew.


Question:  I wanted to ask you — it may have started before — there have been these meetings of a group to revitalize the General Assembly.  They’ve been meeting in Conference Room 8; they’ve been meeting in the North Lawn Building.  And they have a draft which would seem to require that in the future, maybe for a second term for the current Secretary-General or for thereafter, that the General Assembly wants more than one candidate presented and wants to itself consider the candidates before the Security Council does its straw polls.  What’s the status?  Do you think that that’ll be brought to a vote during the current General Assembly?


Spokesperson:  Well, I’ve just given you a layout of what is in store in terms of the calendar of the next session.  The next session is not really that far.  We are talking about mid-September here.  So we’ll really have to see between now and then what can be achieved.  And, as you know, there are still some processes that are being dealt with, including the Secretary-General’s report and other matters, such as the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) appointment.  That is a very important subject.  I think that we’ve got to wait until the President of the General Assembly comes back and we’ll take it from there.  He is due back in the next few days and we will take it to him and we will see what comes up, and I can report on that.


Question:  And on this question of choosing the next head of OIOS, it sounds like basically just a name is going to be given to the GA for, you know, acclamation.  I’ve definitely heard some rumblings from the developing States that it should be a developing-world person.  Do you anticipate, is there a procedure, for actually having a recorded vote, or is it usually just done — and is it the GA President’s position that this OIOS was supposed to alternate between the developed and the developing world, as many of the Member States are saying?


Spokesperson:  Matthew, as you are well aware, I don’t work on what I hear or whether there will be this or that.  The President of the General Assembly doesn’t have a position on a process that has not been formally submitted to him yet. But I don’t think that you can make that presumption that there will be an acclamation or otherwise.  We just have to wait that the process runs it course.  For the time being, we haven’t really reached that bridge yet, so you have to give it the time that it deserves.


Question:  I wasn’t asking whether he favours this particular Canadian candidate or not.  It seems to be a question of “what are the powers of the General Assembly?”  Does it just take a name and vote on it?  Or does it ask for other names?  Is there a procedure where Member States can say “why weren’t the others on the short list selected”?  These are questions about the process, not about his views of the candidates.


Spokesperson:  Member States will address this matter with their own independence and serenity, when it is presented to them.  This hasn’t happened yet and we cannot presume or preclude anything.


Question:  You’ll tell us when you get the name?


Spokesperson:  Absolutely.  When we get the name formally, I will let you know.  Are there any other questions?  In that case, I wish you a good afternoon.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record