|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 General Assembly President
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.
**Secretary-General in Viet Nam
The Secretary-General spoke at the UN-ASEAN Summit in Hanoi today, and said that the relationship between the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is growing stronger. And he highlighted the work that the two bodies can do together on moving forward with the Millennium Development Goals, human rights, peace and security issues and humanitarian assistance.
On Myanmar, he said that ASEAN and the United Nations agree on the need for a credible democratic transition and national reconciliation, including the holding of free, fair and inclusive elections. He added that the period immediately after 7 November, and the direction Myanmar takes in the post-election era, will be just as important as the election itself. This will be the time for the authorities to signal that they are ready to depart from the status quo. And we have his remarks in my Office.
The Secretary-General also held bilateral meetings on the margins of the Summit with the Prime Ministers of Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, and with several Vietnamese leaders.
In a statement we issued last night from Hanoi, the Secretary-General expressed his deep concern at recent statements and events related to the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
He condemned the incident on Wednesday, 27 October, involving a team of investigators from the Prosecutor’s Office. Such acts of interference and intimidation are unacceptable.
The Secretary-General stressed that it is imperative that the Special Tribunal carry out its work safely and securely. He commends the Lebanese authorities for their swift action in opening an inquiry into the incident. We have the full statement in my Office and also online.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, condemned in the strongest possible terms the summary execution of two young women who had been accused of spying in Beledweyne, Somalia.
Mahiga said: “The public summary execution of these two young women, with no recourse for legal defence protection, is a horrific act which demonstrates the extremists’ complete disregard for human life, particularly of the vulnerable.” He said that those responsible for this appalling crime should be held accountable.
Also on Somalia, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says that hundreds of Somalis are continuing to flee into Kenya following clashes this week between Al-Shabaab and a militia group allied to the Transitional Somali Government, in the Somali border town of Beled Hawo.
The agency is alarmed by the fast-deteriorating humanitarian situation and says that, as of yesterday, more than 7,100 refugees were squatting at the Border Point One site, some 500 metres from the Kenyan-Somali border. UNHCR is urging the Kenyan authorities to allow relocation of these people as soon as possible. There is more information on this in the UNHCR briefing notes in my Office.
The Security Council will hold a formal meeting at 3 this afternoon on post-conflict peacebuilding. That is the last scheduled meeting under Uganda’s Security Council presidency; the United Kingdom will take over the rotating Council presidency on Monday.
Jean Victor Nkolo, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, is here, and will brief after me.
And finally, as you may know, from the close of business today, the Delegates’ Dining Room will stop operating until after the UN Headquarters has been renovated. I know many people would join me in sincerely thanking the staff of the Delegates’ Dining Room for their excellent work and service over many years.
Thank you very much, and I am happy to take questions. Yes, please?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I don’t know if you mentioned this, but the feed upstairs, you can’t hear the volume, so I just want to mention that. But, on MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti], from the tests that they conducted behind that latrine from the Nepalese peacekeeping contingent, you said that there were two additional tests, in addition to the one that they did on Tuesday, I think it was, and that those results are being revealed today. So I was wondering if you had anything on that.
Spokesperson: Not yet. We are expecting those results in the course of the day. But we don’t have them yet. Yes, Khaled?
Question: Yes, Martin, I just want to follow up on the statement issued by the SG yesterday on the Tribunal. And I was wondering how he is going to follow up on that upon his return to New York, or whether he is planning to brief the Council on certain aspects or something?
Spokesperson: Well, first of all, as you know, the Tribunal said that it would be providing a report on the incident that we have been referring to on 27 October to the Secretary-General. So I think he will want to be able to see that for himself. I do understand that the Security Council is interested in this topic, perhaps not surprisingly, but I would leave it for them to say at what point they wish to take this up.
Question: Has he had any contacts with Lebanese officials in an attempt to relatively calm the tensions?
Spokesperson: I think what you have is a very clear statement in which, as I mentioned, in which he commends the Lebanese authorities for their swift action. As you also know, he has a Special Representative on the ground, and that’s another conduit for contacts with the Lebanese authorities. And that can also be done here in New York as well, of course.
Question: Mr. [Terje Roed-]Larsen yesterday, after briefing the Council, he said we are at a crossroads and that the region is facing hurricanes and strong winds, and I was wondering whether the Secretary-General shares this sort of very pessimistic assessment of the situation?
Spokesperson: I would say that the Secretary-General’s report, which Mr. Larsen was presenting to the Security Council on resolution 1559 (2004), speaks for itself. Yes, further questions? Yes?
Question: A follow-up to the peacekeeping in Haiti. The UN is quite concerned about the losses in Haiti, definitely. But the allegations [that] sewage from the military camp could be the possible cause of cholera outbreak seems quite ridiculous, as none of the Nepal peacekeepers has been cholera-positive and the UN has also made clear that tests of samples from the military camp were negative.
Spokesperson: So what is your question?
Question: So, at this point, does the UN feel these kinds of allegations are absurd or just take it as a general matter?
Spokesperson: Well, as I said yesterday, we take this issue very seriously. This is an outbreak of cholera in a country; in any country, this is something that is clearly a matter of concern, not just for the local authorities, and that’s why we take this very seriously. As I said, you mentioned about the tests on the Nepalese soldiers that were conducted, as I mentioned, and none of them is cholera-positive. The tests that are being done on, that were conducted, as I told you yesterday, on the 26th and 27th, those test results are expected later today. And that’s what I can tell you. But, of course, where lives are being lost and people are sick, we take that very seriously. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, Martin. I want to ask about Guinea, Sudan and again bedbugs. But first I want to ask about this, about the trip through Asia of Ban Ki-moon. Although I know he has left Cambodia, there have been reports, primarily in The Guardian, but also elsewhere, that, beyond the one protester that was beaten that we spoke about yesterday, that there is a camp called Prey Speu which is funded by UN money, and which it said that “undesirables”, homeless and drug users, suffered alleged drug treatment, but without any court order, people have been removed and are tortured and, according to The Guardian, raped — all this funded by UN money. I am assuming that the UN has seen this report, and I wonder what the response is, given that Ban Ki-moon was just there. Did he raise this? Did he raise this issue of violent drug treatment that was raised by the Special Rapporteur on health?
Spokesperson: First of all, I know that both UNICEF and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, her Office, I know they would be very happy to answer your questions on this topic, this Guardian story. And the other reports are, as I understand it, picking up the Guardian story. But, just to be very clear on one aspect, it’s an extrapolation from funding to a ministry, and not direct funding to a specific institution. But for more details, I know that both UNICEF and the Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights would be able to help you further.
[UNICEF later said that it does not work directly with the Prey Speu centre, nor does it provide any funding to Prey Speu, and is confident that none of its funding goes to this centre.]
Question: And just, separate and apart from that one facility, this question that was raised in the report, Special Rapporteur’s report, and I know that Human Rights Watch wrote an open letter to the Secretary-General before the trip saying that the issue of “violent anti-drug treatment”, of which this is a part, but which is a larger thing, should be raised by the Secretary-General in both Cambodia and Viet Nam. So I wanted, you’d said that it would, there would be incremental reports what was raised. Did this issue arise in either of the two countries, now that he has left both of them?
Spokesperson: What was the second one?
Question: Viet Nam and Cambodia.
Spokesperson: Well, he is still in Viet Nam. He is still in Viet Nam. He leaves Viet Nam tomorrow.
Question: How about in Cambodia? Can you get [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: In Cambodia, as you know, we gave you a readout on what he did there. We’ve spoken about the important role of the human rights office there. If I have anything further, then I will be happy it to give it to you.
Question: On this, maybe you’ll have a statement on this, on the fleeing of the Peul ethnic group in Guinea in the run-up to the elections. Have you seen… I know that Mr. [Said] Djinnit has made statement that he was glad of the rescheduling, but there is now this report of 1,800 of the Peul ethnic group basically forced to flee violence in the run-up to the election. I’m wondering, is that something…? Does Mr. Djinnit or the UN have any comment on this? Does it impact on the elections?
Spokesperson: There may be something more specific in a little while. I will ask my colleagues. But you rather selectively quoted from what Mr. Djinnit said. As you know, he also called for there to be the right conditions for elections to take place, and not simply that it was good that they were going to take place.
[The Spokesperson later added that Mr. Djinnit was informed that the United Nations team will conduct a joint assessment mission next week and does not wish to comment for now. Mr. Djinnit, however, reiterates his call to the two candidates, and other Guinean leaders concerned, to do everything to defuse tension and create conditions conducive for a peaceful ballot.]
Question: Okay. I wanted to ask about, on Sudan this issue of the… I learned yesterday, maybe I was supposed to have known it before, but that the three-person panel of the Secretary-General for the South Sudan referendum is in fact paid by UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan]. So I’m just seeking a comment, since it’s been said that this panel is entirely independent from UNMIS — I have directed questions to UNMIS and they have said we can’t answer for the panel; it is totally independent. How is that consistent with them actually being paid from UNMIS and why is that? What can you say about their independence if they are in fact paid by the entity that they are supposed to be independent from?
Spokesperson: Because it is a question of the financing, the funding. It’s the money to pay people and to provide for the logistics and so one. At the end of the day, it’s through the United Nations via the Department of Political Affairs that this is being handled. And ultimately, it is the United Nations that is paying. These people have been appointed by the Secretary-General to carry out the role in an independent manner from the Mission, and it is entirely possible for them to do that.
Correspondent: This was what Ashraf Issa, the Spokesman of UNMIS, wrote to me: “The SG’s Panel is a totally independent Panel from UNMIS.” In most places, if you are actually paid by something, you’re not independent from it. Not that to say that somehow biased, it’s just difficult to square the two.
Spokesperson: Well, I think you understand that it’s a payment mechanism, and for people to be able to be paid. And I think it’s as simple as that, Matthew.
Question: Does DPA not have, because I know that they have special…?
Spokesperson: Matthew, what’s your next question?
Question: Okay, all right. And this is just on bugs and maybe it will be simple enough. I just wanted to know, I know that yesterday, a request was received from the journalists here through UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association] to have the dog sniffer go to the second floor and also here. I wanted to know, when is that going to take place? And also some have questioned why, for example, the third floor, the Department of Management, was checked and the second floor wasn’t checked? Was it really…? Was it not clear that people who work on the second floor wanted to be checked…?
Spokesperson: Well, I think you heard what I said yesterday that it’s being done based on requests. A request has now been received from those on the second floor and as soon as a dog becomes available, I am sure that he will be sniffing. Next question. Any other questions? All right, Jean Victor.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Bon après-midi, good afternoon.
**Official Visit of the President of the General Assembly to Japan
On the last day of his official visit to Japan, the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Joseph Deiss, returned to Tokyo today from Hiroshima. In the morning, President Deiss visited the Japanese Parliament, where he had meetings with the Speaker and Vice-Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President and Vice-President of the House of Councillors and with a group of parliamentarians led by the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Topics discussed included the President’s programme in Japan and his visit to Hiroshima in particular, disarmament and non-proliferation, the biodiversity meeting in Nagoya, the follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals high-level plenary meeting, disaster risk reduction, the need to address global challenges with global governance and Security Council reform. President Deiss expressed his appreciation for the strong commitment and contribution of Japan to the United Nations.
The President of the General Assembly also had a press conference at the National Press Club and visited the United Nations University, where he delivered a speech on reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in global governance. In a meeting with members of the United Nations country team, he was briefed on the activities of the various United Nations entities in Japan. He concluded his official visit to Japan with a dinner hosted by the Rector of the United Nations University, the highest-ranking United Nations official in Asia.
I would like to highlight some specific messages of President Deiss in Japan.
On biodiversity, biodiversity is life. The whole ecosystem is closely interconnected, so with the loss of biodiversity the very foundation of human life becomes threatened. The consequences are even more serious for the poorest. Many biodiversity-rich areas are in developing countries and their people are particularly dependent on agriculture, fishing and forestry for their subsistence. Biodiversity is critical for efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
On disarmament, the President of the General Assembly repeatedly welcomed the leadership of Japan and the United Nations Secretary-General on this issue. President Deiss shares the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Disarmament is among the most important and noble goals of the United Nations. It is a vital contribution to promoting peace, security and prosperity for humanity and building a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.
Following your questions yesterday on global governance, the G-20, disarmament and other subjects, we disseminated shortly after the noon briefing, as promised, all the statements and speeches delivered by the President of the General Assembly in Japan. I hope you received these statements. Questions?
Well, if you have no questions, I would like to wish you a pleasant weekend and a bright afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record