20 August 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 todayís noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson ad interim for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, everyone.


**Middle East Quartet


The Quartet issued a statement today at 11 a.m., and itís on our counter and our website.


United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and US Presidential Envoy George Mitchell also extended an oral invitation to the parties to join in launching direct negotiations on 2 September in Washington.† We are now awaiting the reaction of the parties, which we hope will be positive.† We have no further comments at this time.


**Secretary-General Statement on Pakistan


I have for you a statement by the Secretary-General concerning support for Pakistan, which follows:


Yesterday and today, countries from around the world have come out strongly in solidarity and support for the people of Pakistan. †The Secretary-General says:† I want to thank Governments for pledging more than $200 million to boost relief efforts.† The generosity of countries and individuals will make a real difference in the daily lives of millions of people.


We must keep it up.† This is not just Pakistanís hour of need ó Pakistan is facing weeks, months and years of need.† Now is our chance to turn the tide towards hope and a better day for all of the people of Pakistan.


Thatís a statement attributable to the Secretary-General and thatís available in our Office.


** Pakistan


Late yesterday, the General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for international assistance in support of the Pakistani Governmentís efforts to address the crisis there.† The resolution urged the international community to extend full support and assistance to Pakistanís Government in its efforts to cope with the impacts of the worst rains and floods to hit the country in decades and to meet medium- and long-term needs.


UN agencies have increased their operations and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reinforced its coordination and assessment teams.† The number of people needing aid as of today includes 7 million child victims. †This morning, the United Nations Childrenís Fundís (UNICEFís) Executive Director, Anthony Lake, issued a statement, declaring that the humanitarian tragedy in Pakistan has reached tragic proportions.


Also, the World Food Programme (WFP) says it has now reached 1.2 million people with a one-month ration of food.† WFP says it is facing a constantly shifting picture.† Roads are passable one day and impassable the next.† Helicopters could take off one day and then be grounded the next.† We have press releases with more details.


** Liberia


The Secretary-General says in his latest report on Liberia that the country continues to make significant progress in consolidating its peace and security.† There remain potentially destabilizing factors, however.† These include persistent political and social divides, limited progress on national reconciliation, and the widespread perception that impunity is prevalent.


The Secretary-General also notes that more must be done to boost the Stateís ability to ensure safety and security and administer justice.† While he is encouraged by donorsí indications of financial support for the 2011 elections, the Secretary-General says that more clarity is required to ensure the legitimacy of the vote.


**Week Ahead


We wonít issue a Week Ahead at the United Nations this week.† But just to let you know, next week, the Security Council is scheduled to hold consultations on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and its 1718 Committee on Tuesday.† And then on Wednesday, it is scheduled to hold an open debate on piracy in Somalia.


Thatís it for me.† Yes, Khaled?


**Questions and Answers


Question:† I wanted to go back to the Quartet statement that was issued.† Mr. [Oscar Fernandez-] Taranco ó in his latest briefing to the Security Council, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs ó he called upon Israel to stop the settlement activity in the West Bank and to extend the freeze which exists beyond September.† I was wondering why this language is absent from the Quartet statement.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† I donít really have any comment to make about the statement.† As you know, the statement was agreed to by all the four members of the Quartet.† Thatís to say, the European Union, the Russian Federation, the United States and the United Nations.† And beyond the language of the statement, which speaks for itself, I wouldnít have any further comment.† Obviously, Mr. Fernandez-Tarancoís briefing to the Council and what he said to them also still stands.


Question:† Let me just follow up, please.† I mean, is stopping settlements and extending the freeze a precondition for the talks, from the UN point of view?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Again, the language of the statement speaks for itself and mentions a number of elements, and I would just refer you back to the statement. Yes, Edie.


Question:† Farhan, you said that this was pending the acceptance by Israel and the Palestinians.† Well, theyíve accepted this meeting, so Iím wondering what the Secretary-General is going to be doing to follow up on this statement, whether heís planning any specific activities.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† If we receive the confirmation from the parties of their acceptance --like I said, we were hopeful of their acceptance-- if we receive the confirmation of their acceptance, we do expect to say something more and weíll let you know when that happens.


Question:† Was the UN involved in the drafting of this statement, or is this something done by the United States and then sent to the others to get their approval?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† This is something that was worked out by all four members of the Quartet.


Question:† So you had a contribution in this, as the United Nations?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† This was worked out by all of the four members of the Quartet.


Question:† So why, if the UN has a contribution, why doesnít it have a clear position on settlements?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Look at the language of the statement itself.† Please look at it very carefully and you can see for yourself.† Yes.


Question:† On the subject of the General Assembly meeting thatís going to be wrapping up today on Pakistan, is there going to be somebody from the UN, like John Holmes [Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator], or somebody, whoís going to come out at the end and actually give us some indication of the totals of whatís been pledged and have some official UN comment on the outcome of this meeting?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Iíll see whether we can provide any updated information on pledges by the end of the day.† I donít know whether you heard it, but we did just now issue a statement by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in which he thanked the Governments for the pledges of more than $200 million, and so thatís the figure that he gave just now.


Question:† Could I follow up on that?† Thatís $200 million more since yesterday, when there was somewhat over half of the $459 million aid appeal that had been pledged.† That since yesterday, thereís been $200 million plus more?†


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† I would need to check that. I believe so, but first I would need to check that.† But beyond that, I would like to point out that the amounts we were talking about in terms of our $459 million response plan ó that is our own plan.† This money that we were just talking about that was pledged by Governments would include bilateral assistance, in other words, money that would not go into our own response plan.


Question:† So what would be helpful, I think, to follow up on what Edieís saying, is if we could know at the end of the day where we are in terms of the UN aid appeal and then if we can separate out whatís going bilaterally and how much of the aid appeal has actually been met.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Yes, weíll try to get you some numbers by the end of the day on that, yes.† Yes, Matthew?


Question:† On Pakistan, maybe these are related questions, but, I mean, Jean-Maurice Ripert, the Special Envoy to Pakistan, was obviously around yesterday.† He went into the General Assembly, he came out, various reporters asked him to speak.† He said it would really be up to Ban Ki-moon to speak and not him.† Iím just wondering, is he still in town? Is there some ability, given his role, to hear from him?


And, I have just one kind of specific question that came up after the briefing yesterday, which is that, it seems like these two regions, at least the two Waziristans, North and South, are basically blockaded by the Government, i.e. UNÖ Iíd like confirmation that the UN canít get into the areas and that also that in the case of South Waziristan, all of the produce and stuff that they grow canít be exported and therefore they have no income.† And what Mr. Ripert, or Mr. [Martin] Mogwanja [United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan], what the UNís comment is on the Governmentís treatment of these two Waziristans.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Well, you already heard from Mr. Mogwanja just yesterday, he was the guest at the briefing.† Above and beyond that, the main problem in accessibility has to do, as I just pointed out, with the problems that are prohibiting travel throughout the flood-affected regions ó that is to say, many roads are washed out.† Itís difficult to tell from day to day where you can go by helicopter as well.† Thatís our main problem there.


Question:† You seem to be referring to areas of Pakistan that the Government says because there are security operations taking place, the UN and its international staff of the UN canít access it.† I just wanted to, having now heard from the region that this Waziristan area is basically blockaded ó that people can neither enter nor exit except in military convoys, that what the UNís been doing about it soÖ?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Itís always the case, when weíre delivering humanitarian aid, that we have to do so under secure conditions, and we always have to work with whoever is on the ground to make sure that there are secure conditions that would allow us to both bring in the aid and to distribute it without any threat, upon the people who are receiving it. †Thatís a standard process.† I wouldnít have any comment about the security situation in Waziristan.† I would leave any comment on that to the Government of Pakistan itself.


Question:† But isnít it just possible to know from the UNís perspective, since it has a Special Envoy on humanitarian issues and has a humanitarian coordinator, whether the UN has humanitarian access, thatís the phrase thatís used in Sudan and elsewhere, to the two Waziristans.† Is that, just a yes or no answer, either now or later this afternoon, is that possible?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Like I said, for right now, I would say that itís for the Government there to talk about what the security conditions in the country are.† From our standpoint, what weíre trying to do is get aid wherever possible, and the main constraint on that really has to do with the flooding itself and the accessibility of areas due to the floods.


Question:† I guess I just donít understand, because I hear OCHA [the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs], you know, rightly so from my point of view, but whatever you think of it, talking about humanitarian access in many countries and saying when they canít get into a place due to a Government restriction that this is a bad thing and they speak against it.† Iím a little mystified why in the case of Pakistan ó not just you, but even Mr. Mogwanja would say ó itís entirely up to the Government, they decide.† Does the UN have access to the Waziristans?† Thatís my main question.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† At this stage, I donít have any problems with access to report to you.† The problems with access that weíve had are, like I said, stemming from the actual circumstances of the flooding.† Beyond that, I donít have anything.† Yes?


Question:† Farhan, just another question as a follow-up to the Secretary-Generalís speech yesterday.† In his speech, he said that the flooding was worse than the tsunami, the Haiti earthquake, I believe the Kashmir earthquake and Cyclone Nargis combined.† Do you think you could get us the statistics on what that statement was based?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Yes, I can do that.† Obviously, weíre not saying that itís worse in every way.† What weíre talking about is in terms of amount of area of land affected and number of people affected, that the numbers that weíre dealing with are larger in this case.† I can show you what the numbers are.† As you know, the Secretary-General just yesterday said the numbers of people affected in Pakistan are between 15 million and 20 million, and that is larger than the numbers for those other three, and Iíll show you what the numbers are.† You can come back over. I can show you what the numbers are.† Yes?


[The Acting Deputy Spokesperson later said that the floods had affected more people (15.4 million) than the Haiti earthquake (3 million), South Asia earthquake (3.5 million), tsunami (5 million) combined. †But, he added, that does not at all mean that this is more than the other three in terms of average impact and needs, total damage, total needs, funding required, etcetera.]


Question:† The Israeli Prime Minister just issued a statement saying that he accepted the invitation by the United States to attend the meeting, like Edie was saying, but he made no mention of the call by the Quartet.† Does this make any difference?† He said he was responding to the United States invitation.† He did not say the Quartet invitation.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Like I said, once we are aware, once we have confirmation of the acceptances by the parties, we do expect to have a further statement.


Question:† Does it make a difference?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† I donít have that statement. I wonít have any comment just yet. †Like I said, once we have confirmation from both parties, then at that point we would have something further to say, yes.† Yes?


Question:† A Pakistan meeting-related question and then something about France.† Catherine Ashton of the EU has said that she did not come to the General Assembly meeting on Pakistan because itís called a procedural glitch.† She said that because the EU is not yet allowed to speak in its own name, she didnít come, but she said that she had a conversation with Ban Ki-moon on this very topic.† In a telephone conversation, quote:† ďI told Mr. Ban that I would have represented the EU myself, but the fact that the appropriate speaking rights are not yet in placeĒ, etcetera.† So Iím just wondering, when did this call take place, was anything else discussed between Catherine Ashton and Ban Ki-moon?† Can we get a readout of the call?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† In fact, we will provide a readout, just now.† We will put it out on our counter once this is done.


[The Acting Deputy Spokesperson later provided the readout of the meeting between the Secretary-General and Baroness Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union.]


Question:† Okay, very good.† And also, thereís been this pretty well-publicized and somewhat controversial expulsion of Roma people from France, in which President [Nicolas] Sarkozy has ordered the expulsion of some hundred, beginning a hundred and several rounds of people to be flown to Romania.† Iím just wondering, I understand that France is a major player here in the UN, but has there been any statement by the Secretariat, or any UN system person on this expulsion of a disfavoured group from France?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Well, this is something that weíre aware of. †Certainly weíve been monitoring the situation, as have our human rights colleagues.† If we have anything to say, weíll certainly let you know.† Yes?


Question:† Have the UNIFIL in fact concluded their investigation regarding the clash between the Lebanese army and the Israeli forces?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† No, itís not concluded yet.† Once itís concluded the findings will be shared with the parties.


Question:† Like a week ago, you said that it would take a few days to conclude it.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† This is about a few days later, and at this stage, itís still not complete.† Okay?


Question:† On this issue of Cambodiaís request, or seeming letter, to the Secretary-General, to mediate the border dispute with Thailand, a newspaper in the region has said that ďUN chief offers to mediate in Thai-Cambodia disputeĒÖ


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Yes, thatís not accurate.† What I said is the following, and Iíll repeat it here:† ďThe Secretary-General hopes that Cambodia and Thailand will resolve the dispute along their border amicably through dialogue.† He stands ready to help the parties.Ē† And thatís the sum total of what we have to say.


Question:† Okay, that makes sense.† And then, actually on that topic, and I understand that they put in a request to you, but given itís a sort of a ó whatís the procedure for reporters here to ask to receive when media guidance or response on a topic like international peace and security is put out, to sort of be on record theyíd like to receive it?† For example, the Kashmir statement, or now thereís this one, whatís the procedure to say weíre interested in threats to international peace and securityÖ.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† If you ask us the question, weíll try to get you an answer.


Question:† Okay, so for example, I donít know if youíve received any questions about Chechnya or Guantanamo Bay or Tibet ó we could go down the line ó but, can we be on record that if you send out answers to those topics, weíd like to get them?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:† Frankly, many days it feels like you actually do go down the line, and we try and follow up on all of them.† Thanks very much.


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For information media • not an official record