|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 Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
**Secretary-General on Côte d’Ivoire
The Secretary-General continues to closely monitor the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. As you saw in the statement we issued late last night, he spoke yesterday by telephone with President Alassane Ouattara. He underlined the expectation that, with Laurent Gbagbo now in the hands of the President’s forces, any further bloodshed will be avoided.
The Secretary-General also welcomed President Ouattara’s call for the immediate establishment of a truth and reconciliation committee. He called on all parties to take advantage of this historic opportunity and do their utmost to foster national reconciliation; establish a national unity Government; ensure accountability for the serious human rights violations committed during the post-election conflict; reunify the security forces; disarm the numerous irregular forces that participated in the conflict; re-establish State authority throughout the country; and complete the unfinished aspects of the peace process.
The Secretary-General calls on all parties to work together to put an end to this tragic chapter, which could have been avoided had Laurent Gbagbo respected the will of the people at a far earlier stage.
The United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) is working with the Ouattara Government to ensure that issues of law and order are urgently addressed in Abidjan and elsewhere. UN peacekeepers hold key junctions and sites, and have expanded control into the Abidjan port.
Peacekeepers are patrolling the streets using all available assets and are also focusing on efforts to receive surrendering pro-Gbagbo forces, collecting arms and ammunition, and securing former Gbagbo strong-points.
The UN mission will continue to provide the necessary support to the Ivorian Government in re-establishing law and order to avert the risk of a security vacuum. The mission will continue to execute its mandate to protect civilians and stands ready to support the efforts to address the critical humanitarian situation in the country and the forthcoming domestic and international investigations into human rights violations.
Also on Côte d’Ivoire, the Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) says that its staff in Abidjan is monitoring the situation. It adds that its investigation teams in the west of the country have been reinforced and are continuing to investigate the violence and killings in that area. So far, the team has established that 536 people were killed in the west of the country, in Duékoué, Guiglo, Blolequin and Bangolo, in the past few weeks.
And this morning in Geneva, the President of the Human Rights Council appointed three high-level experts as members of the Commission of Inquiry to investigate the allegations of serious abuses and violations of human rights committed in Côte d’Ivoire. The experts are Vitit Muntarbhorn from Thailand, Suliman Baldo from Sudan, and Reine Alapini Gansou from Benin.
Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that humanitarian staff still need to have access to people in need in Côte d’Ivoire. An eight-member United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team has been deployed to enhance the efficiency of the humanitarian response.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is today starting airlifts to provide food assistance to tens of thousands of internally displaced people in Côte d’Ivoire and Ivorian refugees in neighbouring Liberia.
During a meeting today in New York, the Secretary-General received the members of the Panel of Experts established to advise him on accountability issues with respect to the conflict in Sri Lanka. The panel members delivered their report, and the Secretary-General expressed his sincere appreciation to the distinguished members of the panel for having completed their assignment. He will study the report carefully and will determine his next steps in the coming days. He is also sharing a copy of the report at this time with the Sri Lankan Government as a matter of courtesy before making it public.
The Secretary-General will travel to Doha to participate in the first meeting of the Libya Contact Group, which will take place there tomorrow. As we mentioned earlier, he will be accompanied by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, and by his Special Envoy for Libya, Abdul Ilah Al-Khatib. The Libya Contact Group was established pursuant to the London Conference on Libya of 31 March 2011.
And, as we mentioned earlier, in an effort to coordinate the international response on Libya, the Secretary-General will chair a meeting of concerned international and regional organizations to be held at the League of Arab States headquarters in Cairo on Thursday, 14 April 2011.
**Trip Announcement — Europe
On Friday, the Secretary-General will start a four-country trip that will take him to the Czech Republic, Hungary, Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
While in Prague, he will meet with President Václav Klaus, Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg.
The Secretary-General will then travel to Budapest, where he will hold talks with President Pál Schmitt, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Foreign Minister János Martonyi. He will also give a public address on challenges ahead for the United Nations at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
In Ukraine, the Secretary-General will participate in the “Kiev Summit on Safe and Innovative Use of Nuclear Energy”. The Secretary-General has stressed the need to reassess the international emergency response framework and the nuclear safety regime. It is expected that the Kiev Summit will serve as a useful forum in this regard. During his stay, he will visit Chernobyl with the President of Ukraine. He will also meet with President Victor Yanukovych and Foreign Minister Konstyantyn Gryshchenko.
The last stop on the Secretary-General’s trip will be in Moscow, where he will hold talks with President Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as well as other officials. While in Moscow, he will pay a visit to Patriarch Kirill I, Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
**Palestinian Authority Report
A UN report on progress by the Palestinian Authority in building institutions assesses that, “in six areas where the UN is most engaged, Government functions are now sufficient for a functioning Government of a state”.
The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, whose office prepared the report, today commended what President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have achieved. He said that this is a decisive period, as we approach the September 2011 target for the Palestinian Authority’s institutions to be ready for statehood.
The report reviews developments in six key areas where the UN is most engaged and able to assess progress. In each sector, the report provides a detailed assessment of progress to date in light of strong Palestinian reform efforts and donor engagement. And we have a press release with more details.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, is chairing a two-day High-Level Consultative Meeting on Somalia today in Nairobi. In his opening remarks, Mr. Mahiga said that the meeting marks the start of consultations toward the end of Somalia’s transitional period. And so he deplored the absence in Nairobi of members of Somalia’s Executive Branch. Mr. Mahiga stressed that the UN’s role is to facilitate dialogue among the Somali parties. We have copies of Mr. Mahiga’s remarks in the Spokesperson’s Office.
The Security Council held consultations this morning on women, peace and security. Council members heard from [Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women — UN Women] Michelle Bachelet about the establishment of UN Women and about its work.
In terms of press conferences, at 3:30 p.m. today, there will be a press conference by Jan Egeland, Director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. You will recall that he was former Under Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator in the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). He will launch a new report commissioned by OCHA, entitled “To Stay and Deliver”.
Then tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference by Henri Djombo, Minister of Sustainable Development, Forestry and Environment of the Republic of the Congo, who will speak about an upcoming summit meeting in Brazzaville, at the end of May.
And following tomorrow’s noon briefing, at approximately 12:30 p.m., there will be a briefing by Joseph Deiss, the President of the General Assembly, to update correspondents on the work of the General Assembly.
That’s it for me.
**Questions and Answers
Question: On Libya, the Foreign Minister of France has said that NATO is not doing enough to protect civilians, in particular, by not hitting [Muammar Al‑]Qadhafi’s heavy weapons. Does the Secretary-General think that NATO is doing enough to protect civilians in Libya?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we are aware that NATO will itself have a meeting in the coming days. What the Secretary-General is going to try to do is see whether other groups — the regional and international organizations, including the League of Arab States, the African Union, the European Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the United Nations — can cooperate in efforts to help resolve the situation in Libya adequately. And that is where he is focused. He has no particular comment on the military operations on the ground. As you know, a number of countries have been trying to help implement the relevant Security Council resolutions, 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011), and he encourages countries to continue doing that.
Question: Is the Secretary-General planning to make the Sri Lanka report public or does he still need to make a decision about that? And, if so, do you have some idea when he might do that?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: As far as that goes, yes, I believe the intention is to make the report public. As I’ve just said, he is sharing a copy of the report at this time with the Sri Lankan Government, as a matter of courtesy before making it public. So, yes, we do intend to make it public. I don’t have a precise date for when that will be, but I expect to be able to tell you something, hopefully, fairly soon.
Question: A follow-up please? The Secretary-General said in December, as well as in January, that his panel could travel to Sri Lanka, and he thanked President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa for his flexibility in that regard. Can you say whether they did travel or not, and if they did not, why, and were they in fact blocked?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t want to prejudge the language of the actual Panel of Experts. As I said, I expect that we will be able to make the information that the Panel gathered public to you, and then you will be able to see for yourself what happened over the course of their work.
Question: I also want to ask you this, because it’s important, from this podium, I don’t know if it was only Martin or if it was you as well, it was said that there was no meeting in March when the Attorney General of Sri Lanka came, no meeting… there was a meeting with the Secretary-General, but no meeting with the Panel.
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: No, no, Matthew; you’re mischaracterizing. He said that the Secretary-General met with the Panel. He said that he did not comment on what the Panel did.
Question: I saw the briefing. So are you confirming now that there was a meeting between the Attorney General…
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Matthew, I saw the exact same briefing. Like I said, the work of the Panel will be detailed in the report and you can see for yourself what they’ve done.
Question: But this is important, though. Can you say for yourself that the meeting took place? I mean, we can go over the transcript, but it seemed pretty clear that this meeting was not disclosed.
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Go over the transcript. I remember this. You tried to put some words into his mouth, in which you said he denied there was a meeting, and which he explicitly did not [deny].
Question: I want to ask you about the continuing situation in Gaza. Israel keeps attacking inside Gaza all the time with its air force. While it has complained about the rocket attacks coming from there, but the attacks going on inside Gaza by the Israeli air force… has the Secretary-General taken note of it? Has he talked to the Israeli authorities? I remember that he expressed concern, but what…?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, the Secretary-General did issue a statement, in which, among other things, beyond condemning the rocket attacks coming from Gaza into Israel, he also called for maximum restraint. I would refer to the language of that statement, which we put out at the end of last week.
Question: But the thing is, that was a long time ago. The attacks are still continuing…
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: And his sentiments still hold. He continues to want there to be no rocket attacks coming from Gaza, and he continues to urge all the parties for maximum restraint.
Question: You have just mentioned that the Secretary-General does not comment on the military operations, but regarding Libya, would he be able to comment on and does he consider a step forward this meeting between the African Union and Colonel Qadhafi? What is his position? And also, what is the Secretary-General’s position on the question on the request of the Arab League to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have any particular comment on the no-fly zone remarks made by Arab League officials. Regarding the question of what is going on in Libya, the sort of proposals that you’re mentioning are precisely the sort of things we expect would be discussed in the coming days, first at the Doha meeting, and then after that, at the meeting in Cairo. So the Secretary-General will deal with those issues over the coming two days.
Question: Is there any particular reason that the Secretary-General doesn’t want to go forward with his statements in that regard? Is it because of these meetings, or he just doesn’t have a…?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: The discussions that are going to take place, first in Doha and then in Cairo, are expected to advance forward in terms of how the international community as a whole deals with issues involving the political process and the humanitarian process and others in Libya. So we’ll build on what the results of those meetings are. But first, of course, we have to hold those meetings and see what the results are.
Question: In view of the aggressive actions taken by the United Nations in Ivory Coast, and in support of NATO troops in Libya, experts are speculating that the Secretary-General is taking that aggressive action because he is going to announce his candidature for Secretary-General again. Is that the reason for all these actions and meetings?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Those aren’t related issues. Masood, the point is that the actions that were taken on the ground were in response to what actually happened on the ground. In both Côte d’Ivoire and Libya, you had actions that were taken by parties that put people in harm’s way, and the response by the UN was as result of having to deal with the situations in both cases.
Question: On Côte d’Ivoire, do you know where Gbagbo physically is at this moment?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: He is no longer in the Golf Hotel. UNOCI has helped to move him to another place in Côte d’Ivoire where he will be secure. UNOCI is working with the Ivorian authorities to ensure that he continues to be safe.
Question: A follow-up: is he in Abidjan?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: No.
Question: He is not in Abidjan?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I believe not. Not at this stage, no.
Question: Are there UNOCI people with him?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, UNOCI will continue to use some of its resources to ensure his protection and safety, in line with his requests and our mandate.
Question: Sorry, another follow-up. Has he been moved to the north of the country, to Ouattara’s stomping grounds, so to speak?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t think I would have any comment on that at this stage.
Question: Can you translate better what UNOCI is doing to protect Gbagbo? Exactly, I mean physically. Are they there with him? A mile away?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: There are some security people there with him and will continue to be with him.
Question: They know where he is but you can’t tell us?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t know whether I can at this stage, no.
[The Acting Deputy Spokesperson later issued a clarification, saying that, contrary to earlier information, Laurent Gbagbo remains at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan.]
Question: Once again on the Secretary-General and Gaza: does the Secretary-General think a no-fly zone over Gaza would be useful?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Ultimately, questions of issues like no-fly zones are issues for the relevant bodies within the United Nations, such as the Security Council, to consider. It would be a matter ultimately for the Security Council member States.
Question: Did he talk with anybody regarding this issue? Did he address this issue with any of his senior advisors?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I’m not aware of that, no.
Question: On Mr. Gbagbo, is his family with him? His wife? Son? Are they in the same location together?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I believe he is accompanied by his wife. I’m not sure about his family as a whole.
Question: On Cambodia, UN funding and then Sri Lanka. On Cambodia, there is a lot of controversy about the UN-backed Court [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia] there. Some are saying that the President told Ban Ki-moon that there should be no more prosecutions and that the Court should be wound down. And advocates are saying that the UN hasn’t spoken up in defence of the Court’s mandate. Does the Secretary-General have a view on whether this Court should go on in a non-politicized fashion, or, as many say, should be moving to dismiss future cases beyond those it has?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General fully supports the work of the Extraordinary Chambers in Cambodia, and he believes that it is up, ultimately, to the senior officials of the Extraordinary Chambers to proceed with their work as they see fit.
Question: Also, this $38 billion cut that’s slated to be voted on in United States Congress later this week includes a $377 million cut in the United States contribution to the UN. Is that something that the UN, whether the Department of Management or otherwise, has made plans about? What will the UN do with that cut, slated to be voted on this week?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: As you are well aware, we don’t comment on legislative procedures that continue to be under way. This involves the legislative proceedings of a Member State. We will continue to follow what they are doing as it proceeds, but I wouldn’t comment on it while it’s still under way.
Question: And on Sri Lanka, I wanted to ask you this: You said that now the Secretary-General will consider what to do with the report, but since there have been both allegations and an ICC [International Criminal Court] filing, not naming Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar as the target, but mentioning his role in the surrender and killings at the end of it, will the Chief of Staff play any role in the Secretary-General’s consideration on what to do on the Panel, or will he be recused from it?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I think that that’s a legally specious question. You yourself just pointed out that he is not named as a target, so it’s not a question of recusal. Anyone can be mentioned in…
Question: Are you now… that filing has been filed, and the filers have gotten confirmation of filing with the ICC. So, I wonder, can we get an explanation from the Chief of Staff? What is his comment on the description of his role in that filing?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Like I said, right now, the next step is for the Secretary-General, which is to say the Secretary-General himself, to consider what the next steps are for this report. And as I anticipate, we do expect to provide that report sometime fairly soon.
Question: About this issue of Private Bradley Manning and one of the Human Rights Council’s special mandates… a Special Rapporteur wanted an interview with him and has been denied an interview. Has the Secretary-General spoken to anybody in the United States Administration to allow such an interview to take place at all?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: As you know, the rapporteurs are independent experts. We don’t have any comment on their particular work, nor do we offer any particular position on the work that they do.
Question: The report on Western Sahara will be issued in the next few days; the report of the Secretary-General, that is. Will it have any link to the so-called “non-status paper” that is on the Internet?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: What appeared on the Internet is a draft, nothing more, nothing less. You’ll be able to see the final report for yourself once it is finalized. That should happen fairly soon.
And with that, have a good afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record