13 December 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.


Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the briefing.


**Climate Change


The Secretary-General will meet with Member States in an informal plenary meeting of the General Assembly this afternoon, to discuss the UN climate change negotiations that concluded over the weekend in Cancún, Mexico.  He will also talk about recent developments in Haiti and Côte d’Ivoire, among other topics.


As the Secretary-General made clear in a statement on Saturday, the climate change talks in Cancún have delivered important success for a world much in need of it.  Governments came together in common cause, for the common good, and agreed on a way forward to meet the defining challenge of our time.


He noted that Governments reached agreement on a package of measures to build a low-carbon, climate-resilient future together.  The outcomes in Cancún have given us important tools.  Now we must use them, and strengthen our efforts in line with the scientific imperative for action.  While there is much work yet to do, the success of the UN conference on climate change in Cancún has set the world on the path to a safer, more prosperous, and sustainable world for all.  The full statement is available online.


** Darfur


An integrated assessment team from the UN-African Union assistance mission in Darfur, UNAMID, travelled today to Khor Abeche village, located 80 kilometres north-east of Nyala, in South Darfur, following attacks carried out on Friday and Saturday by Sudanese Armed Forces on that locality.  The team travelled with food and non-food items provided by several humanitarian actors and will later report on its findings.


The two incidents in the village resulted in two civilians dead and 24 wounded.  Four of the casualties remain at UNAMID’s level 1 clinic in Khor Abeche.  At present, approximately 600 of those affected are in front of UNAMID's team site, where the Mission is providing them with temporary humanitarian assistance.


And today, UNAMID peacekeepers conducted patrols to the village and observed Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi combatants in the general area.  The current security situation in Khor Abeche is improving, but remains tense.


** C ôte d’Ivoire


The UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire, ONUCI, has announced today that it has set up a committee to look into obstacles to the peace process in the country.  The committee is headed by the Chief of the Human Rights Section, Simon Munzu.  Among other things, it will look into obstructions to the work of UNOCI and other international actors.


The committee was established following resolution 1946 (2010), which the Security Council adopted last October.  That resolution calls for an examination of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including access to the media and incitement to hate and violence.


The head of the committee told the press today in Abidjan that teams were already at work to collect the relevant information.  We have a press release in French with more details.


**Deputy Secretary-General


The Deputy Secretary-General will arrive in Lusaka, Zambia, this afternoon, where she will represent the Secretary-General at a special summit being held on 15 December on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Great Lakes Region.


The Deputy Secretary-General will deliver remarks at the Summit, which will be attended by Heads of State from the Great Lakes region.  They are expected to adopt a number of measures to combat the illegal exploitation of natural resources.


The Deputy Secretary-General will hold bilateral meetings with the Zambian Government and other participating delegations.  Asha-Rose Migiro will also meet with United Nations officials based in Lusaka, as well as visit a project being carried out by the United Nations Country Team.


The Deputy Secretary-General will then travel to Conakry, Guinea, to represent the Secretary-General at the inauguration ceremony of Mr. Alpha Condé, the President-elect of Guinea; the ceremony is scheduled to take place on 21 December.  And the Deputy Secretary-General will arrive back in New York on the morning of the twenty-third.


**United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)


Tomorrow’s eight Annual Match against Poverty will include UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors Ronaldo and Zinédine Zidane, among more than 30 international footballers, hosted by the Olympiacos Football Club in Piraeus, Greece.  Proceeds from the match will go in part to support the people of Haiti and Pakistan.  The match will be broadcast live on more than 20 international television networks, including in Haiti and Pakistan.  The Secretary-General sent a message saying we will not forget the people of Haiti and Pakistan in their time of need.  And for more information, please contact the UNDP.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


There will be a press conference at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, here in this Auditorium, hosted by Mr. Ray Chambers, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria, and Margaret Chan, who is Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), via video link from Geneva, to launch the 2010 World Malaria Report.


And then at 1:30 p.m., Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will speak to the press at the stakeout on the second floor of the North Lawn Building.  That will be following the Central Emergency Response Fund pledging conference.


So, that’s what I have for you.  Questions, please?  Yes, Khaled?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I just want to ask whether there is any Quartet meeting upcoming, following the developments concerning the American position.


Spokesperson:  Well, as I said last week, the Secretary-General has made clear that he looks forward to discussing the Middle East peace process and recent developments in a Quartet format.  But certainly no indication of a date at this point.  Once we have something, I would let you know.  I will also check with our colleagues in Jerusalem to see whether they have anything on that.  Yes, Masood?


Question:  A follow up on Khaled’s question.  So, on this freeze, the certain freeze which the Secretary-General spoke with Ehud Barak and so forth, there is no progress at all on that?  And what about in Gaza — the crossings that have been there?  Is there an understanding between the Israeli Government at all to allow more shipments coming in now?


Spokesperson:  Well, a number of things.  One is that last week during the conversation with the Defence Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, the Secretary-General did say that there had been a positive development, which was that exports were now being allowed out.  And this is something that is to be welcomed.  In addition, the Secretary-General made clear that access still needs to be improved because it is a two-way street; it’s not just exports that need to come out, but for goods and people to be allowed to move in both directions.  So, that’s still a work in progress, and certainly something that the Secretary-General feels quite strongly about.  There needs to be improved access.


As for the question of settlements, I think the Secretary-General’s view on this has been stated many times.  It’s as reflected by the Quartet; namely that really, it’s for Israel to fulfil its Road Map obligations to freeze all settlement activity.  But what the Secretary-General has also said is that he believes it is more important than ever to promote a negotiated end-game for a two-State solution.  And this is, as I say, something that he would look forward to seeing discussed in a Quartet format in the days to come.


Question:  And, I think it was last Thursday, Navi Pillay, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, stressed concern about persecution of Mr. Julian Assange, and she, in a statement, which said she said she noted that he may be, he is perhaps being, persecuted by countries and so forth because they disagree with what he has done, and maybe his rights to free speech are being taken and so forth.  And she said that the courts should be allowed to determine as to what should be the predicament of Mr. Assange in the future.  So does the Secretary-General agree with what Ms. Navi Pillay says about Mr. Julian Assange’s overall predicament at this time?


Spokesperson:  Well, as we have said before, there is a clear division of labour.  And Ms. Pillay is the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and she obviously was speaking in that capacity.  So, other questions?  Yes, Catherine?


Question:  Yeah, I wondering, on Côte d'Ivoire, has the Secretary-General had any contacts at all with either [Laurent] Gbagbo or [Alassane] Ouattara, and has he ever called any of them?  And also, does he support… there were sanctions just adopted by the European Union, targeted sanctions against people who are… I can’t find the word in English right now, but who hinder the peace process.  Does he support also the adoption of such sanctions?


Spokesperson:  Well, the first point is that the Secretary-General has been speaking to regional leaders and the heads of regional organizations, including over this weekend, on Côte d'Ivoire.  He, like other people, has not been able to speak to Mr. Gbagbo.  The Special Representative in Côte d'Ivoire of the Secretary-General, Choi Young-jin, continues to seek to reach out to Mr. Gbagbo’s entourage, as well as to him personally.  But a conversation with Mr. Gbagbo himself has not taken place.  That doesn’t mean, as I said, that there haven’t been contacts with other people within his team.


As for the EU (European Union) measures that have been announced, I don’t have any particular comment on that.  I would simply say that what the Secretary-General has made clear, and so has the Security Council, is that the will of the Ivorian people needs to be listened to and adhered to.  And that’s where I would leave it for now.


Question:  Okay.  And what, with regards to the Mission here, is it business as usual; has there been any contacts made with the people from the Mission here, or…?


Spokesperson:  The Mission?  You mean the Mission of Côte d'Ivoire?


Correspondent:  Yes.


Spokesperson:  I don’t have any specific information on contacts here.  There may well be operational contacts simply because of the position on the ground, which as you know is calm, but does remain tense.  But the main contacts are taking place in Abidjan through the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Choi Young-jin.  Yes, please?  You might need to come down a little bit for the microphone.  Let’s see if it works.


Question:  Can I ask you a little bit about tomorrow’s first round of intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform?  What are the focuses this time, to help converge a variety of recommendations shown in the previous report?


Spokesperson:  Well, three things:  One, I would certainly suggest that you could have a word with the presidency of the Security Council, and also with the Permanent Representative of Afghanistan, who is leading these talks on Security Council reform.  The second is that the Secretary-General has consistently said that Security Council reform is necessary and everybody recognizes that; that the Security Council needs to reflect the realities of today.  And the third thing is that, of course, the scope, the nature, the depth, the breadth of any reform — all of these matters need to be decided by the Member States.  And as you say, they are scheduled to meet.  The Secretary-General has been encouraged by the accelerated pace of discussions and would certainly look forward to seeing that those talks gather even greater pace.  Okay.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I want to ask, I guess a follow-up on Côte d'Ivoire, and then Kosovo, Sri Lanka and Sudan.  In Côte d'Ivoire, there are reports right now that Gbagbo’s forces have blocked the roads to the Gulf Hotel and on the other side are obviously the Forces Nouvelles, says the UN.  I wonder if you can confirm that, what’s the state of… around that hotel, and also, what are the rules of engagement?  For the UN forces, are they going to try to open those roads, or are they going to wait?  What’s happening and what’s the UNs orders there?


Spokesperson:  Well, as I said earlier, the Mission reports the situation at the Gulf Hotel remains tense.  Armed elements from both camps were observed reinforcing positions.  And the Mission continues to provide security around the Hotel.  Obviously, we don’t talk about operational matters, but I would certainly stress that the Special Representative has said that the peacekeepers in his mission are under orders to protect Mr. Ouattara’s administration in accordance with the Mission’s mandate.


Question:  Does it now view Mr. Ouattara as the representative of the host country there?  Is that… does that… if they were to consult with a leader in Côte d'Ivoire and before taking action, would it be with Mr. Ouattara?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think you have seen what the Security Council said, or the African Union said, what ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] has said and what the Special Representative of the Secretary-General has said, and what the Secretary-General himself has said.  I think that’s fairly clear.  And the Mission is under orders to protect Mr. Ouattara’s administration; and that’s in accordance with the mandate that the Mission has.


Question:  On Kosovo, there are these… there was the election over the weekend, there is a lot of allegations of fraud back and forth.  One, does the UN have any comment?  And two, what has been the UNs role if any?  In the northern part, there are allegations that gunmen were telling ethnic Serbs not to vote.  Is the UN aware of that, and do they have any comment on those reports?


Spokesperson:  Well, the UN hasn’t been directly involved in these elections.  And the UN takes note that the elections in Kosovo were held yesterday in a largely peaceful manner.  And the UN looks forward to continuing to work constructively with Kosovo’s authorities in the period ahead.


Question:  Okay, so they really don’t have any role of confirming or not that gunmen told people not to vote?


Spokesperson:  No.  No, no.  If I get more information, of course, I would let you know.  But this is I think what we have.


Question:  Sure.  This may seem like a strange one, but it’s… over the week, or, I guess, probably on Friday, in Sri Lanka, the President had a cabinet meeting of ministers, issued a directive that henceforth the national anthem will only be in Sinhala, and that previous allowance of it also being in Tamil would now be eliminated since… so, I just wondered, in light of that May 2009 statement that Ban Ki-moon issued with the President, does he view this as consistent with that statement, the idea that, with the war being over, that it would now be, not just a single language, but that many Tamils are pretty upset about this?  Is there any comment from the Secretariat?


Spokesperson:  Well, we’re certainly aware of the report, but I don’t have any comment at the moment.  If that changes, then we’ll let you know.


Question:  And then, just on Sudan, I saw the comments by Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari.  There are these, there is various, Minni Minawi, the fighting is based on Minni Minawi saying the Darfur Peace Agreement is entirely over and that it’s now war.  There is also a report by Thabo Mbeki, really kind of dissing, I guess you would say, [Djibril] Bassolé’s attempt saying that, it was his report, Mbeki’s report to the AU [African Union], says that while the AU-UN Joint Chief Mediator has made an effort, his efforts to date have [been] consultative, selective and ad hoc.  This has had the unfortunate result, very critical.  I don’t know if Bassolé has any, I am sure he is aware of the report, but on behalf of the UN, or as the UN, is there any response to this pretty, devastating critique of this AU-UN Darfur peace initiative?


Spokesperson:  Well, nobody is saying that this peace initiative is easy, and Mr. Bassolé is working extremely hard with others to try to push things and pull things forward.  I don’t have any immediate comment on the report that you refer to…


Question:  Meaning?


Spokesperson:  Meaning the AU report that you mentioned.  And on the reports on Minni Menawi and the Darfur Peace Agreement, I think I’ll probably have something a little bit later in the day on that.  But I don’t have anything right now.  All right, other questions?  Yes, Masood?


Question:  No, I just want to know, since this issue of Palestinian and the settlers and so forth is in focus these days, but there seems to be a total apathy towards the about 9,000 or so Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.  And once in a while the Secretary-General will appeal.  When Mr. Ehud Barak came in last week, he and the Secretary-General discussed the imprisonment of one Israeli soldier, but they did not discuss that, when or where, when Israel will release these 9,000 Palestinian prisoners languishing in its jails.


Spokesperson:  Well, as you well know, Masood, the Secretary-General has repeatedly called for the release of those held in Israeli prisons or detention, meaning Palestinians, as you mentioned.  But he has also consistently called for the release of Corporal [Gilad] Shalit.  He has done both publicly and repeatedly.  Okay?


Question:  In the spirit of the good will of the New Year, will he again appeal to the Israelis to release some prisoners at least?


Spokesperson:  Well, I did it just then.  Okay, so, all right, have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record