|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.
Good afternoon, everybody.
**Press Conferences Today
Jean-Victor Nkolo [the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly] will be with us a little later. He will introduce Ion Botnaru, who is the Director of General Assembly and ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] Affairs Division at the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management. Mr. Botnaru will brief you on the rules of procedure for the United Nations Security Council elections. These elections, as you well know, will take place tomorrow morning to fill five seats for a two-year term, beginning in January.
And immediately following our briefing, the UN Office for the Special Adviser on Africa will hold a press conference on the diversification of African economies, with a range of speakers.
Later this week, the Secretary-General will travel to Morocco to address the opening session of the World Policy Conference 2010, on Friday, 15 October, in Marrakesh. The three-day conference, organized by the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), will gather some 140 personalities from Governments, the private sector, academia and the media to discuss global governance issues.
The Secretary-General will also be received by His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, and meet with the UN country team in Rabat.
The Secretary-General will then travel to Strasbourg, in France, where on Tuesday, 19 October, he will address the Council of Europe on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights. Later that day, he will also address the European Parliament in plenary session.
The Secretary-General will meet with the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe and the President of the European Parliament. He will also attend an extraordinary meeting of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and be welcomed officially by the Senator-Mayor of Strasbourg.
**Security Council Mission to Sudan
The Security Council has returned from its mission to the Sudan, where ambassadors visited Juba, El Fasher and Khartoum last week. Speaking to reporters as the Council visited Khartoum on Saturday, United Kingdom Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, one of the leaders of the trip, affirmed that the Security Council has been and remains concerned about conflict in Sudan and the continuing risks to peace and security there.
He said that, during the visit, the Council focused primarily on two main issues: the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and Darfur. He said that the Council has a strong commitment by both parties to fully implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement; that includes the recognition of the need for the referendums to be held on time, to be peaceful, to be credible and for the outcomes to be fully respected. He added that the Council members are deeply concerned about the insecurity and continuing conflicts in Darfur, which has led to significant suffering of the Darfuri people, and internally displaced people in particular. And we have transcripts of that press conference in my office.
The Secretary-General’s Panel on the Referenda in the Sudan began its first visit to the country with a series of high-level meetings today with officials from the Government of Sudan and the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission.
The three-member panel met Sudanese Vice-President Ali Osman Taha, Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti, and senior members of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, which is tasked with organizing the referendums. They also received briefings from UN officials in Sudan and held a meeting later today with representatives of the African Union.
And the African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reports that leaders of the Rizeigat and Fur tribes signed an agreement yesterday in Nyala, South Darfur, committing the two tribes to peaceful coexistence and easing years of ethnic tensions.
Robert Watkins, the Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator in Afghanistan, issued a statement over the weekend expressing great sadness at the death of development worker Linda Norgrove. He said that her death is a tragedy and loss to the people of Afghanistan, whom she served with dedication and passion.
From 2005 to 2008, Linda Norgrove had worked in Afghanistan for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) on biodiversity conservation and road projects, among others.
Watkins condemned her killing and added: “The increasing violence which targets humanitarian and development workers, as well as civilians in Afghanistan, is unacceptable.”
We have his statement in my office, and I can also tell you that the Secretary-General has also expressed his condolences regarding Ms. Norgrove’s death.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
At 11 o’clock tomorrow, in this room, Ms. Zou Xiaoqiau, Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, will hold a press conference.
And then at 11:30, or 1 p.m., depending on the elections for Security Council seats, the Mission of Canada will hold a press conference, with Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon; Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas, Peter Kent; and Ambassador John McNee.
And my guest at noon tomorrow will be Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
So, as I was mentioning at the start, Jean Victor Nkolo is here with Mr. Botnaru. And I am happy to take a few questions before handing over to them.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yes, Martin. You have just announced that Mr. Ban Ki-moon is travelling to Morocco, meeting King Mohammed VI. I was wondering whether he was also planning to bring up the issue of Western Sahara and possible resumption of talks with the King, and maybe whether he plans to stop in Algeria, too.
Spokesperson: As I mentioned, this trip is primarily to attend this World Policy Conference, and the Secretary-General is then being received by the King of Morocco. I think you will be able to find out later what is discussed there.
Question: Martin, does the Secretary-General think China should release Liu Xiaobo from jail?
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has stated his views in his statement already.
Question: So human rights extends only so far as not pissing off an important Member State?
Spokesperson: The statement says what it says. It’s very clear on the need for human rights everywhere, in China…
Question: There is nothing about Liu Xiaobo himself. It doesn’t congratulate him; it doesn’t say anything about his detention.
Spokesperson: The statement is quite clear in what it says. Okay?
Question: Okay, two questions. One, I wondered with regard to the upcoming election in Sudan, if the Secretary-General is encouraging nations not to take sides, so as to encourage an election where it’s not the different powers making an effort to have their choice as the result of the election.
Spokesperson: I think that’s been stated throughout. This is a matter for the people who will be taking part in the vote, and under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, I think that that’s clear. The Secretary-General has made clear in the past his views on what the CPA, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, says and how it’s important for the people to be able to exercise their right to vote.
Question: And the second question is, I have been asking for a while for the contact person for submissions to the Security Council from private individuals and non-governmental organizations. There is usually a contact person with the Secretariat and you have said you would help me to make contact. I realize it’s been busy here with the opening of the General Assembly, but I would appreciate it if you could follow up on that.
Spokesperson: Sure. I am sure my colleagues can help you with that.
Question: Can you confirm that the international arms embargo against the Ivory Coast has been temporarily lifted to allow Ivory Coast to import anti-riot gear ahead of the elections?
Spokesperson: I am aware of the reports, and I was, before coming here, trying to find out a little bit more about it. I can’t give you anything more. Once I have it, I’ll be happy to provide that for you.
Question: On the weekend, the Israeli Cabinet passed a resolution, a loyalty resolution, requiring everybody to have loyalty before they get citizenship. Is that likely to affect Middle East talks, because the Arabs feel that it is discriminatory against the Arab community?
Spokesperson: Well, we have seen the reporting on this as well, and I am sure you have also seen that this is subject to parliamentary approval. That means that this is something that is still in the works. And so, I don’t have any comment on that at the moment.
Question: A couple of questions on the Sudan and also the Congo. On Sudan, following the Council’s visit to the Abu Shouk internally displaced persons camp, I guess that was on Friday, there have been reports that the people they spoke with had been interrogated by Sudanese authorities, and in some cases, arrested. I am wondering if UNAMID is aware of that or the UN, I mean the UN system more broadly, and what they intend to do about it?
Spokesperson: Let’s find out.
Question: The other, as we left there, some, Mr. [Georg] Charpentier had provided a document that seems to indicate that, in the week before the Council’s visit, a village called Sora in eastern Jebel Marra was “entirely, completely burned down”. I know that Mr. Charpentier briefed the Council members, but none of them on the way back seemed to… this wasn’t mentioned to them. I am wondering what UNIFIL… I heard the very positive upbeat report you gave, what does UNAMID and Mr. Charpentier do when a village is entirely destroyed? Is it an important thing? Is it the kind of thing that they should brief the Council about?
Spokesperson: I am not exactly sure where you are coming from. You mentioned UNIFIL at one point.
Correspondent: Yeah, yeah, I made a mistake there, I am sorry. I meant UNAMID.
Spokesperson: Can you roll back and tell me again, because it is sort of confusing.
Question: Okay. Among documents that Mr. Charpentier provided at the end of the trip…
Spokesperson: To whom?
Question: He gave it into the press bus, saying that this would just verify things that he’d said about things not being a problem in Jebel Marra. But deep in the document, it says that a village named Sora was completely burned down. It doesn’t say whether it was by ground fighting or an aerial attack. But if it’s aerial, it seems it would be the Government. None of the Security Council ambassadors on the way back had been aware of this or had been briefed on this. So, I guess my question, it’s a twofold one, factually it would be is it possible to discover from Mr. Charpentier, whose document this is, whether the village of Sora was destroyed from the air or by ground? And maybe some statement on why, in the briefing that he gave to the Council, this destruction was not raised?
Spokesperson: I am assuming you didn’t raise it with him yourself, because it was passed into the bus, and then you read it after the bus pulled away?
Correspondent: I read it actually on the way back, yes, yes.
Spokesperson: Right. Okay, well let’s relay that back whence you just came. Right.
Question: And then just on Congo. I’ll do this really briefly. Last week there was an interview with [Jean] Bosco Ntaganda — indicted for recruitment of child soldiers and other war crimes — in which he said openly that he is part of the Congolese Army’s action in Walikale, and that that’s some action that the UN provides logistical support to. So, since the UN has in the past claimed that it does not support any action in which he is a commander, how do they respond to him doing this interview in full view of UN peacekeepers and bragging about UN support to him?
Spokesperson: In precisely the same way as we have done before, Matthew.
Question: Meaning what? Saying it’s not true just by…?
Spokesperson: Correct. That we do not deal with him and we would not participate in operations with him.
Question: Is the UN providing logistical support to the attacks, to the attempts to rein in the FDLR [Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda] in Walikale, which he claims to be the commander of?
Spokesperson: As I have said, we would not be dealing with him. Okay?
Question: [inaudible] as I am sure you know, quotes a Western diplomat as saying everyone knows that he commands it. It’s basically that the UN doesn’t want to admit it. So I guess I am just… I am asking you, is it… how is it possible that the UN…?
Spokesperson: You’ve asked me, Matthew, and I have given the answer. So, what’s the next question?
Question: Okay, the next question is does the UN have any comment on the arrest in Paris of Callixte Mbarushimana?
Spokesperson: I know who you mean, and this is an ICC [International Criminal Court] arrest. We’ve seen the same press release or statement that you have on this person…
Question: He worked for the UN; I am wondering what the response…
Spokesperson: We of course know where he worked before, and you also know the full history to that. What I can simply say is that we are aware in the same way that you are — from the media and from their press release — that the International Criminal Court has announced that this man was arrested earlier today in Paris by the French authorities following a sealed ICC arrest warrant. That’s what I can tell you. And I am very happy to handover to Jean Victor and Mr. Botnaru. Okay.
* *** *For information media • not an official record