30 July 2010
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


[A press release on the briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Susana Malcorra and Assistant Secretary-General for Field Support Anthony Banbury is issued separately.]


Just a follow-up on a few items and I can take a couple of questions.


** Middle East


The Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) condemned the attack on Ashkelon earlier today, in which a rocket struck a residential area.  Indiscriminate rocket fire against civilians is completely unacceptable and constitutes a terrorist attack.


UNSCO has called on the de facto authorities in Gaza to ensure that these kinds of actions do not occur.  It urges all parties to exercise restraint and abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention and international law.


** Lebanon


Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, met today with General Michel Aoun, and spoke to reporters afterwards.  He noted that Lebanon will receive both King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, as well as, later today, the Ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa [Al-Thani].


Williams said that the visit of these Arab Heads of State will be enormously important and beneficial for Lebanon’s stability and future.  He expressed his hope that the engagement of Lebanon’s external friends and partners, together with the efforts internally of the country’s political leaders, will play a very important part in resolving the issues that face Lebanon and bring stability for the coming months.  We have a press release with more details.


**Security Council


The Security Council voted unanimously this morning to extend the mandate of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) by 12 months, until 31 July, 2011.


The Council will meet again at 4 this afternoon to hold consultations on Sudan.  This, as you know, is the last scheduled working day of Nigeria’s Security Council Presidency.  On Sunday, the Russian Federation assumes the rotating Council Presidency for the month of August.


In that regard, Vitaly I. Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations and next month’s Security Council President, will provide a briefing to the press on the Council’s programme of work for the month of August, on Tuesday, 3 August, here in this auditorium at 11 a.m.


** Somalia


The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says that dozens of Somali civilians have been killed and many wounded in this week’s escalation of fighting between Government forces and the Al-Shabaab militia in Mogadishu.  Many more have been driven out of their homes by the continuing violence, it adds.


UNHCR says that this week’s escalation underlines the seriousness of its repeated calls on Governments to assess asylum claims from people originating from central and southern Somalia in the broadest possible way.  Where refugee status is not granted, UNHCR is advising Governments to extend complementary forms of international protection, which would allow Somalis legal residence until conditions improve for safe return.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that floods have devastated the Basunkusu area, located in the northern part of the Equateur Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  It says that this natural disaster adds to the already grim humanitarian picture of the province.


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the population is in urgent need of shelter, household goods, clean water, medicines, and food.  It also says there is a significant risk of epidemic diseases.


Also, I can tell you that the Secretary-General was deeply saddened by the capsizing of a boat yesterday in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in which it seems more than 140 people died.  The Secretary-General sends his sincere condolences to the bereaved families and to the people and Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


**Secretary-General’s Statement on Cluster Munitions


You will have seen that the Secretary-General has welcomed the fact that the Convention on Cluster Munitions enters into force on Sunday, 1 August.  He said this new instrument is a major advance for global disarmament and from a humanitarian point of view.  It will help to counter the widespread insecurity and suffering caused by these terrible weapons, particularly among civilians and children.  We have his full statement available online.


**Press Conferences Monday


Just a couple of items for next week.  As you already know, the Secretary-General will be in Japan.  He’ll be returning next weekend.  At 11 a.m. on Monday, here in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium, Thomas Mayr-Harting, Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999) concerning Al-Qaida and the Taliban and Associated Individuals and Entities, along with Richard Barrett, who is Coordinator of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, will present the results of the review of all entries on the Al-Qaida/Taliban list.


As Susana Malcorra mentioned, repeated here, and as I mentioned yesterday, on Wednesday, 4 August, Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, will give a press conference here.  Rather, he will be my guest at the briefing at 12.  So, questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question: Thank you, Martin.  I understand the Delegates’ Dining Room will be closing the doors on 9 August.  This obviously will affect the staff, the guests, the diplomats, as well the personnel of the dining room.  I understand this is a private company.  Have they contacted management?  Have they informed them about the reasons why they are closing?


Spokesperson:  I think they will have been in touch with management, and let’s see if I can find out anything else.


Question:  Two questions; one is about this eviction of the Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, with Mr. Robert Serry asking the Israeli Government to intervene.  Has there been any follow-up on that?  Is the Israeli Government stopping these settlers from evicting these Palestinian families?


Spokesperson:  Let’s check with Robert Serry’s office, but he was fairly clear in what he said.


Question:  Will it come up in the Secretary-General’s conversation with the Israeli Defence Minister?


Spokesperson:  They’ll be talking about a wide range of topics related to Gaza, as I’ve mentioned, and to settlements.


Question:  And on the issue… thank you for that update on the situation in Pakistan.  But since then, what has happened is that about 500 people have died in the floods that have come.  Now, will OCHA raise this, the appeal for the funds, which they said now is 42 per cent funded, or 38 per cent funded?


Spokesperson:  I know that my colleagues in OCHA did provide you with an update.  And you’re quite right, as they pointed out, there’s still a long way to go.  Let me find out whether this is being actively advertised, if you like.  But I do know, I’ve discussed this, this morning with the Secretary-General.  He’s extremely distressed at the casualties, the number of people who have died in the floods.  And he’s expressed his condolences and his hopes that people will be able to return to normal as soon as possible.


Question:  Is there a statement on this?


Spokesperson:  I’m telling you now.


Question: A question on Iran.  I believe it was back in April that President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad had sent a letter, and I believe there was a video on the Rigi terrorist organization group, and their alleged involvement with some security organizations.  I was wondering if there was any follow-up, any official response from the Secretary-General on that?


Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge.  Let me find out if there’s anything else.


Question:  Martin, I actually have, rather than new material, there are a couple things this week that you’d said you would find out, and I wanted to ask whether you have.  One is, what is the UN’s role in any possible investigation into the causes of violence in southern Kyrgyzstan?


Spokesperson:  As I mentioned to you, that is a work in progress amongst different international organizations.  It is being actively looked at, and I know that my colleagues in the Department of Political Affairs are keeping a close eye and talking to their colleagues, as is Mr. Jenča, the Special Representative for Central Asia, Miroslav Jenča.  No firm words yet.  But, as I’ve said to you before, this is an area where we have been very closely watching.  And not just watching, but involved in bringing people together, monitoring and reporting what’s been happening, and we’ve done that quite clearly, from here and from elsewhere.


Question: So when the Parliamentary Assembly… the Finnish man whose name I can’t pronounce of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] said that the UN will be involved, and this investigation will take place, that’s not the case?


Spokesperson: As I said, it’s a work in progress.  This doesn’t just involve the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.  There are other players, not least the Government of Kyrgyzstan.  So this needs to be discussed to look at the finer points.


Question:  There was this question, the seeming split in the Ban Ki-moon team, so to speak, about JEM [Justice and Equality Movement] in Sudan and whether this… this UNICEF/Children in Armed Conflict SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General], that deals with JEM is a good thing or not.  Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari said maybe it’s not necessary and that maybe the UN’s focus should be on getting the JEM to Doha, and obviously UNICEF and Mr. Ban’s representative on children in armed conflict feel it’s a good thing.  So, you’d said it’s a good… what is the UN’s priority in trying to deal with JEM?


Spokesperson:  I said it’s a good question, but I think I have a good answer and that is that I don’t think Mr. Gambari was contradicting Ms. [Radhika] Coomaraswamy, or putting himself up against the agreement that was reached, which is kind of an operational agreement.  I don’t think that that is a fair way to characterize it.  I will provide you with a more detailed response.


Question:  But let me just say… they say they don’t have child soldiers, why have an agreement?  I mean, that’s where I remember him saying on camera at the stakeout.


Spokesperson:  Well, as I say, I don’t think he’s putting himself up against, in fact I know he’s not putting himself up against, UNICEF or Ms. Coomaraswamy.  I don’t think it would be correct to try to split them there.  They all have a role to play.  There are different roles to play in different contexts.  He has made it clear what he believes, that it’s important to be present on the ground.  It’s important for UNICEF to do the work that it’s doing.  I don’t think that there’s necessarily a contradiction here and I can give you a more detailed response in the usual way.  [He later clarified that Mr. Gambari had said that all initiatives likely to support the peace process are welcome, obviously including JEM's respect for children's rights and UNICEF's and Coomaraswamy's work, but ultimately it is the mediators who should do all they can to get JEM to Doha.]


Question:  Can I ask one new thing?


Spokesperson:  Sure.


Question:  It’s more of just a political question to see if there’s any comment by the UN.  The former Minister of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is in Myanmar for a four-day meeting.  Various countries have expressed some concerns about reports of sharing of nuclear technology and about what the meeting’s about.  I’m wondering whether, whoever in the UN is in charge of the Myanmar portfolio, the good offices, or the team or whatever it is, do they share those concerns?  Are they monitoring those talks?  What do they think of this?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, clearly we have seen reports about that apparent visit — reports.  Media reports, the same as you have.  And, as I’ve said from here before, there are people keeping a constant eye on Myanmar.  Not just within the Secretariat here, but equally importantly, as in other cases of other countries, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  They’ve been quite clear about that themselves.


Question:  They have their close eye… can they confirm, in fact, that the visit is taking place?   Myanmar hasn’t confirmed it, but it’s been widely…


Spokesperson:  We have seen the media reports, the same as you have.  Okay? Thank you very much.  Have a good weekend.


Question:  Will there be a readout on the Secretary-General’s meeting with the Israeli Defence Minister?


Spokesperson:  Absolutely.  Yes.


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For information media • not an official record