19 January 2011
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.


** Secretary-General’s Travels


The Secretary-General is heading back to New York from Oman today, where he met with Omani leaders and discussed, among other topics, the forthcoming Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020).


The Secretary-General met with the Sultan of Oman and discussed road safety, and they also talked about Iran and the Middle East.  And he also met with Oman’s Deputy Prime Minister, with whom he discussed Lebanon, the Middle East peace process and Tunisia.


**Tunisia


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said today that more than 100 deaths have occurred so far during the unrest in Tunisia.  She announced that she plans to send an assessment team to Tunisia in the coming days.


Pillay said that she expects her team to gather information about the current and past human rights situation and to come back with a set of concrete proposals for action on issues relating to past abuses, as well as future reforms.


The Secretary-General is fully aware of the statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the planned mission to Tunisia.  And I can tell you he fully supports the initiative.  You’ll recall as well that the Secretary-General has appealed for broad-based consultations in Tunisia to establish an inclusive interim government leading to the holding of timely and credible elections through which the citizens of Tunisia can freely choose their leadership.  The Secretary-General has said United Nations stands ready to provide assistance to the Tunisian people.


Middle East


B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, began the Security Council’s open debate on the Middle East this morning by warning that developments in both the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Lebanon have heightened tensions recently.


On the Israeli-Palestinian track, Mr. Pascoe said, we appreciate and support United States efforts to engage in parallel talks on substance with the parties.  But he added that we are seriously concerned at the continuing lack of progress in the search for a negotiated settlement.  Peace and Palestinian statehood cannot be further delayed.  He noted that the Quartet principals will meet in Munich on 5 February.


Mr. Pascoe noted the dissolution of the coalition Government in Lebanon and said that it is essential for all Lebanese leaders to continue to address the current political situation through dialogue, within the parameters established by the Constitution of Lebanon.  And we have his remarks in my Office.


**C ôte d’Ivoire


Also this morning, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), authorizing the deployment of 2,000 additional military personnel until 30 June of this year, as recommended by the Secretary-General.


And on the ground, the Mission reports that pro-Gbagbo security forces fired shots to scatter demonstrators attempting to strike in Attecoube yesterday.  More shooting could be heard this morning in that neighbourhood, which is near the Mission’s headquarters.  A Mission patrol was dispatched to the area and confirmed that two people were killed and nine were hurt.


I also want to point out that the UN and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have launched an appeal for Liberia asking for $55 million to support refugees and returnees in the country.  That is in addition to the regional appeal for Côte d’Ivoire and four neighbouring countries — Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ghana and Mali — for nearly $33 million, launched yesterday by humanitarian agencies in West Africa.


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that, to date, an estimated 30,000 refugees have fled Côte d’Ivoire, the vast majority of them to Liberia, which is receiving almost 600 new arrivals per day.  UNHCR has reported that the increasing presence of refugees is putting a strain on the Liberian local communities, who are hosting new arrivals with already limited resources.


**Iraq


Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, strongly condemned the terrorist attack yesterday that targeted police recruits in Tikrit and resulted in the killing of dozens of people and injuries to many others.  Mr. Melkert expressed great concern that such acts of violence, including today’s attack, are targeting the Iraqi security forces, who are striving to rebuild the country and protect all Iraqi citizens.  He extends his sincere condolences to the bereaved families and his wishes for the full and speedy recovery for the wounded.


**Afghanistan


The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Afghanistan met yesterday to map out a common strategy on the provision of the agency’s food aid to millions of vulnerable Afghans over the next three years.  The talks sought to strengthen cooperation between WFP and the Government ministries it works with in the South Asian nation.  In Afghanistan, the agency aims to provide life-saving relief and emergency assistance, as well as to help the country improve its overall food security.


**Secretary-General’s Appointment


The Secretary-General has appointed Gana Fofang of Cameroon to serve as his Deputy Special Representative in Guinea-Bissau.  He will also serve as United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] Resident Representative.  Mr. Fofang is currently the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Sao Tome and Principe.  We have more information on Mr. Fofang in my Office.


I’m happy to take some questions up to when my guests arrive. So, yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yes, Martin, I wanted to ask whether you have any update on the panel, which the Secretary-General formed about the flotilla incident?  And whether we should still expect the report of the panel by February, as originally told?


Spokesperson:  Well, the Panel of Inquiry that the Secretary-General appointed with regard to the flotilla incident of 31 May 2010 has been keeping him abreast of its activities.  As you know, it is essential for the panel to review material provided by both sides, Israel and Turkey, on their own national investigations into this incident.  And I think you're aware that Turkey provided a report on its national investigation in September of last year, and Israel is still waiting for the final version of the report of the commission, the Turkel Committee, which is conducting its national investigation, and Israel is waiting for that report to be handed over.  Mr. [Geoffrey] Palmer, the Chair of the panel, told the Secretary-General that he has been informed by the Israeli side of another delay in the provision of this report, which is disappointing.


The Secretary-General urges Israel, both the Government and the Turkel Committee, to ensure that the report on the flotilla incident is communicated promptly to the Panel of Inquiry.  Obviously the panel needs such elements to be able to proceed speedily with its tasks.  The Secretary-General certainly appreciates the cooperation extended so far by the parties to this process.  He strongly encourages them to continue doing so.  He reiterates his confidence in the members of the panel and their ability to carry out their important mandate.


Question:  A follow-up question please:  I have a small question; as far as I took in my notes, on the one hand, he’s saying that the Israelis did not provide the response so far, and at the same time, he thanks or commends them, both parties, for their cooperation? Turkey did deliver, Israel did not deliver …


Spokesperson:  There is obviously cooperation from both sides.  That’s obvious.  And Israel, the Government authorities, are waiting themselves for the committee to hand over the reports — their own report — so it can then be transmitted to the panel.


Question:  So is there a new deadline now? Originally it was February, but now obviously February …


Spokesperson:  Promptly.  “Promptly” is what we’ve said.  We obviously need to see, for the panel to be able to do its work, the panel needs to have the reports from both sides, and to review that material from both sides.  Promptly.  Yes, George?


Question:  Martin, what was the exact date of this deadline in February?  Was it 1 February or 28 February?  Is it a case of the Israelis just haven’t provided it yet, or have they notified the Secretary-General that it will not be provided by the deadline?


Spokesperson:  What they’ve said is that there is another delay in providing the report.


Question:  What is the exact deadline?


Spokesperson:  I’ll have to find out and tell you.  Yeah.  There is clearly another delay, which is disappointing.  Yeah.  Okay, yes? 


[He later said that the most recent delay was by five days.]


Question:  Do you have an update on the identity of the ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] envoy that will be coming to the UN?


Spokesperson:  Not at the moment, no.  When we do, obviously, we’ll be happy to tell you.  I don’t have an update on that at the moment.  As you know, there was — there have been — ECOWAS envoys who have been in Côte d’Ivoire and, as you know, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria did say that a special envoy would be visiting not just the UN, but some other national capitals.


Question:  Will the UN be meeting with the special envoy or envoys?


Spokesperson:  I don’t know for sure, but I understood it was one person.  We’ll find out. I don’t have the answer for you at the moment.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  First I wanted to ask you about, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there’s this report that the rapes in Fizi — that a Colonel Kibibi [Mutware] of the Congolese army is responsible.  Can you confirm that that’s what the UN report says, and what’s the UN going to do about Mr. Kibibi?  Have they worked with him in the past?  Have they ever provided logistical assistance to him, and what will they do now?


Spokesperson:  Well, what I can tell you is that the Mission (MONUSCO) has called for the removal of the commander and the deputy commander of the unit whose troops were involved in the incident, and has also asked that they be held accountable.


The Mission has also called for prompt actions to ensure that all the perpetrators are brought to justice.  The Mission has advised us that their understanding is that 10 Congolese Armed Forces soldiers have been detained in Fizi in connection with the incidents.  Two others, who are Majors, have fled from the area.  The Mission has been informed by the Governor of South Kivu that the soldiers will be tried in a court which is to be set up in Fizi and that he expects the proceedings to start next week.  The Mission understands that the commander of the troops at the time of incident has not been arrested.


Question:  Right.  So Kibibi was out of the region?  He’s saying that he wasn’t there when these rapes took place.  But you’re calling for his removal — I’m just trying to be sure who it is that you’re saying…


Spokesperson:  The Mission called for the removal of the commander and deputy commander of the unit whose troops were involved in the incident.  Yeah.


Question:  Also I wanted to ask you, I’ve been meaning to do this for some time, there was a long article in the New Yorker about Sri Lanka, one paragraph of which particularly jumped out at me.  And it describes these Tamil Tiger leaders seeking to surrender, and it describes a satellite phone link by the UN Special Envoy to Sri Lanka, Anne Marie Colvin, correspondent of the Sunday Times of London, and the people that ended up surrendering after these conversations were shot and killed.  So Colvin says — I’m sorry, but I’m almost finished — Colvin says, “This was not a case of the chaos of battle, this was a negotiated surrender.  Promises were made and they were broken.”  But I wonder, since there were only two people that were involved in these negotiations, one of whom was Vijay Nambiar, what is Mr. Nambiar’s version of these events?  If the other — she seems to be saying that the promises were broken by the Government and they shot and killed these individuals.  What’s Mr. Nambiar’s position at long last on this thing, in which he’s described as having been involved in negotiating the surrender?


Spokesperson:  I’m pretty sure that Mr. Nambiar has addressed this before, but let me check.


Question:  He did an interview with Al Jazeera in which he said, maybe the Tamil Tigers shot them.  But his co-negotiator seems to be taking quite a different tack, and I just wonder…


Spokesperson:  Be careful how you…


Question:  …characterize what he said?


Spokesperson:  No, the roles or the titles that you’re giving people.  But anyway, let me check.  Further questions?  Yes, Khaled?


Question:  Again, the French Ambassador today, when I asked him this question before, referred again to the initiative on Lebanon concerning a contact group, and my question, Martin, actually — does the Secretary-General support the idea in itself?  Does he think it’s useful right now to have an international contact group for Lebanon to work on calming the situation, or he prefers to leave this job to other regional Powers, for example?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think I’ve mentioned to you before that we’ve seen the statement from the Elysee that says that the Secretary-General of the United Nations is being kept informed.  And we’ll be happy to understand more about this initiative and then we’ll be able to get back to you with some more details about that.


Question:  But you don’t think there is an urgent need for such a contact group right now, as a Secretary-General office?


Spokesperson:  I think you know the Secretary-General and others within the United Nations are keenly aware of what’s happening on the ground in Lebanon.  They keep a close eye on it, as I just mentioned a little earlier, in Oman and indeed with other regional leaders.  Just in the last couple of days, the Secretary-General has been discussing Lebanon and other topics.  So I can see that my guests have arrived, I’ll just take one more question.  Yes, Evelyn?


Question:  How long will it take the troops to come to Côte d’Ivoire?  Are they being pulled from Liberia or do they have to be recruited, which usually takes six months or whatever?


Spokesperson:  Given the timeline on this, which is until 30 June, time is of the essence.  I know that my colleagues in the Department for Peacekeeping Operations and the Department for Field Support are actively working on this with troop-contributing countries.  I’m sure if they have further details on the timeline, that they will be able to let you know.  Okay…


Question:  Just one more question, Martin, if I could…


Spokesperson:  We have our guests here, I’m happy to take the question afterwards.


Question:  It’s on this very topic.


Spokesperson:  Matthew, I’m very happy to take the question from you afterwards.  After the briefing.  Okay?  I’m very happy to do that.  But please — I see that our guests are here, both Mr. Deng and Mr. Luck.


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For information media • not an official record