1 June 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 Vannina Maestracci, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Bonjour.  Welcome to the Noon Briefing.


**Secretary-General in Italy


The Secretary-General is in Rome, Italy, today, where he has already met with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Italy.  The topics discussed included Libya, Somalia, Lebanon, the Middle East, North Africa and nuclear safety.


The Secretary-General is expected to meet with the President shortly and we will provide a readout of all three meetings later today.


He also addressed an international conference on the “inter-ethnic city”.  He noted that we live in a world where, too often, division sells.  But he noted that there is a growing realization that cities and communities do best when everyone has a chance to give their potential.  The Secretary-General called for deepening our commitment to the common values of inclusion and social acceptance, education and understanding.  His full remarks are available in our office.


**Libya


On Libya, a ship carrying World Food Programme (WFP) supplies — enough to feed 25,000 people for one month — arrived in the city of Misrata today.  This is the fourth time that WFP has sent food assistance to Misrata since 7 April.


WFP says it is concerned about food security in Libya, since stocks are being consumed without adequate levels of replenishment.  It has chartered another vessel carrying more food, which is due to reach Misrata in the coming days.  In eastern Libya, WFP has now reached more than 250,000 people — mainly internally displaced persons, foreign migrants and other vulnerable groups.


**Mladić in Court


Ratko Mladić, former commander of the army of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina, will make his initial appearance at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on Friday.  He was transferred to the Tribunal’s custody after having been at large for nearly 16 years.


As you’ll recall, last week, the Secretary-General welcomed his arrest, noting that it sends a powerful message that those who are alleged to have committed crimes against humanity may try to evade justice, but they will, in the end, be held accountable.


**HIV and Young People


Every day, an estimated 2,500 young people are newly infected with HIV, according to a new UN inter-agency global report on HIV prevention.  The report finds that people between the ages of 15 and 24 accounted for more than 40 per cent of new infections among adults over the age of 15 in 2009.


It also says that while HIV prevalence has declined slightly among young people, young women and adolescent girls face a disproportionately high risk of infection due to biological vulnerability, social inequality and exclusion.


**380 Madison Avenue


And in answer to a question yesterday concerning elevators at 380 Madison, we can confirm that there was a town hall meeting yesterday following two incidents involving the elevators in that building.  The meeting aimed to provide updates concerning the elevators and to respond to staff questions and concerns.  A consultant elevator engineer was present to answer questions.  The building management has reassured the United Nations that all elevators are being serviced in compliance with the city code, and are safe to use.  Staff safety remains the paramount concern.


**Umoja


And also yesterday, Martin was also asked about a change in leadership in Umoja.  We understand from the Department of Management that Paul van Essche, Director of the UN's administrative reform initiative, announced that he would not be seeking renewal of his contract, due to expire on 31 August of this year.  No decision has been made concerning his successor.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


And as you know, today is the first day of Gabon’s presidency of the Security Council for June, and at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow, the Ambassador, Nelson Messone, the Permanent Representative of Gabon and President of the Security Council for the month of June, will brief the press on the work of the Council for the month.


And at 1:15 p.m., there will be a joint press conference by UN Energy and the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership.


That’s what I have for you.  Okay, hold on.  Yeah, Masood, yeah?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  On this flotilla statement that the Secretary-General issued on Friday, and also this is the anniversary when the Israelis attacked a Turkish flotilla which was turned back.  But basically what the Secretary-General was saying, he was cautioning against flotillas coming into Gaza giving aid, much-needed aid, to the Gazans, and he was cautioning against that because Israel doesn’t want that to happen.  Now, given all the crossings and [inaudible] and everything and that Gazans are not getting enough aid, even despite the fact that Egypt opened one crossing, and yet they are still not getting enough aid into Gaza, what is the means that the Secretary-General sees that the Gazans should have to address their needs?


Associate Spokesperson:  I mean, I think in…


Question:  I mean, he is cautioning against flotillas coming to Gaza?


Associate Spokesperson:  He also said that he believed that assistance and goods assistance to Gaza should be channelled through legitimate crossings and established channels.  He means that, you know, obviously he wants goods to get to Gaza.  He has been very clear on that.  Mr. Abbadi?


[The Associate Spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General continues to emphasize the need for a durable solution that ensures that all legitimate crossings into Gaza are open and operate as envisaged in Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) so that people and goods can move freely and securely.]


Question:  Thank you.  The French Government, through Alain Juppé, the Foreign Minister, is calling for an international conference on the Middle East in Paris this month to try to restart the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis.  What does the Secretary-General think of these efforts?


Associate Spokesperson:  I believe the Secretary-General is supportive of any efforts to resume the peace process in the Middle East.  Matthew?


Question:  I am glad you are here.  I wanted to know, and maybe you have this or not, the Secretary-General met with the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan yesterday and how… anyway, what I want to say, I wanted to know whether you can confirm that the issue of Nagorny Karabakh, the disputed territory, came up and whether the Secretary-General raised any issues concerning the arrest of protesters in Azerbaijan at this meeting?


Associate Spokesperson:  Okay, I’ll try to get you a readout on that. 


[The Associate Spokesperson later said that the Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister discussed the status of the Nagorny Karabakh peace process.  The Secretary-General encouraged the parties to support confidence-building measures proposed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairs to ease tensions on the ground.]


Question:  And can you also… do you know if MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] has any response to reports of a USAID-commissioned study that has radically, at least from their point of view, reduced the number of both deaths and homeless in Haiti?  Does MINUSTAH contest those findings?  What do they think of this study?


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, I think it would be more the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) than with MINUSTAH.  But that’s a leaked report right now, so we won’t comment on it.  And also, just to bring you back to that, the death toll is something that was always according to the national authorities, it wasn’t the UN doing it, it was the Haitian Government doing it.


Question:  But I think [inaudible] what they’re saying is that the number of displaced is a UN number, and I mean, I am not… I don’t know which side is right, but I just wonder what the UN’s displacement number is.  And also just one other thing on that, is whether these evictions that were done by the Mayor of Delmas, are they totally stopped?  Did he commit to the UN not to continue them?


Associate Spokesperson:  Right.  I think Nigel Fisher is having a press conference right now in Port-au-Prince.  So there might be, obviously, things coming out of that on those issues.  But on the forced evictions you mention in Delmas, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs hasn’t been able to confirm those for us.  They’re reported right now.  But just, you know, as a general rule, it is the primary responsibility of the State to protect IDPs [internally displaced persons] as per international human rights law, and also the guiding principle on internal displacement.


Question:  Excuse me…?


Associate SpokespersonOui.


Question:  Just a follow-up to the Gaza thing that I am saying, but you cut me short.  I just want to ask you, what is the mechanism that the Secretary-General foresees that which will be acceptable to powers that be to allow aid into Gaza, given that the… given that Israel is very reluctant to allow any flotilla or any other goods coming through any third party without clearance from it?  And it has been going on for a very long time?


Associate Spokesperson:  I am confused if you are talking about the flotilla or the opening of the…


Correspondent:  Flotilla, flotilla is only because all the other crossings are closed.


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, there was…


Question:  [inaudible]


Associate Spokesperson:  …or the Egyptian decision to basically get traffic through the Rafah crossing, I am just confused, sorry, this is my first time so… [laughter]


Correspondent:  I know, I am sorry.


Associate Spokesperson:  It’s okay.


Question:  The Egyptian decision to open the crossings…


Associate Spokesperson:  Right.


Question:  …was only for the civilians, not for any aid transports coming in.  So it is not going to have a substantive effect on the population inside.


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, I think all efforts, and the liberalization of traffic of persons through the Rafah crossing is also, you know, an important step.  I’ll check if I can get anything else from the Secretary-General on this.  Okay?


Question:  Okay.  Do you have any…?


Associate Spokesperson:  Hold on, please.  Thanks.  Yeah?


Question:  [inaudible] Afghanistan say about the killings of these civilians as Mr. [Hamid] Karzai has been protesting to the Americans about this attack… and so forth?  Yesterday we asked…


Associate Spokesperson:  …Martin, I remember, and I’ll check with UNAMA [United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan] if we have anything to say on Mr. Karzai’s decision and the air strikes.  Anything else?  Giampaolo, hi.


Question:  Do you know when is going to be ready the readout of the meeting between Secretary-General and the President, the Premier Berlusconi, and the Italian President today? 


Associate Spokesperson:  When is it going to be…?


Question:  Our time, yes?


Associate Spokesperson:  I think it’s going to be, it’s — what time is it?  I think, we’re hoping soon.  He is meeting with the President right now, I believe, and I think the readout will be the three meetings together — Foreign Minister, Prime Minister and President — it will all be together.  Yes?


[The following readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with Italian leaders was later issued:


The Secretary-General met in Rome today with Giorgio Napolitano, President of Italy; Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy; and with Franco Frattini, Foreign Minister of Italy.


At each meeting, the Secretary-General congratulated his interlocutors and the Italian people on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Italian unification.


He also reiterated his condemnation of the attack last week in Lebanon on Italian peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), and renewed his sincere sympathies to those wounded and their families, as well as to all Italians.


The Secretary-General said he hoped Italy would maintain its current level of support to UNIFIL, since the Italian contingent and the mission as a whole are making a significant contribution towards stability and peace in Lebanon and the wider region.


The Secretary-General thanked the leaders for Italy’s strong support for international efforts on Libya and Somalia.


President Napolitano and the Secretary-General exchanged views on developments in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly the situation in Libya, and the Middle East peace process.  They also discussed the question of migrants, which the Secretary-General had also outlined at length in his speech at today’s International Conference on the Inter-Ethnic City.  The Secretary-General said it was important that human rights of migrants should be protected, regardless of their status.


The Secretary-General expressed his appreciation for Italy’s close relationship with the United Nations, and its strong support for United Nations institutions based in Italy, as well as for its contributions to peacekeeping and development.


The Secretary-General and Prime Minister Berlusconi had an in-depth exchange on a number of topics, including the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as nuclear safety and support for Somalia.


On reforms in the Middle East and North Africa, the Secretary-General underscored the importance of including women in dialogue.  He said he remained troubled by violence in Syria and Yemen.  He noted announcements by Syria on an amnesty and in Bahrain on political dialogue, and said the key was implementation.


The Secretary-General and Foreign Minister Frattini discussed Libya, Somalia and Lebanon.  The Secretary-General outlined the work of his Special Envoy and thanked the Foreign Minister for Italy’s role in hosting a Contact Group meeting on Libya.  The Foreign Minister briefed the Secretary-General on his trip on Tuesday to Benghazi.  On Somalia, the Secretary-General was particularly appreciative of Italy’s support for training Somali security forces.]


Question:  Today, Bahrain declared lifting the martial law.  However, at the same time, they arrested new leaders of the opposition and they are suppressing the peaceful demonstrations as we speak even today.  One human rights activist who was released today said that he was subjected to beating in jail, and he was threatened with rape.  Does the Secretary-General have any new message to Bahraini rulers and to the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] troops who are helping in this suppression?


Associate Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General was briefed on this, of course, this morning by Martin, who is travelling with him.  I just want to reiterate the fact that he is also, he is very concerned about the violence going on in Bahrain.  I think we’re going to have a statement soon on the situation there.  So, that will be available for you.  That’s it?  Thank you.  Oh, what, what?  [laughter]


[The following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Bahrain was later issued:


The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement of the lifting of the state of national safety in Bahrain today, as well as the call made by King Hamad Bin Isa al-Khalifa for a national dialogue to begin on 1 July.


The Secretary-General hopes that such a dialogue will be genuine and meaningful and lead to an inclusive reform process aimed at meeting the political, economic and social aspirations of all Bahraini people.  In this regard, he appeals to all national stakeholders to work constructively towards creating a conducive environment for such a dialogue to take place.


The Secretary-General also reiterates his call on the Bahraini authorities and the security forces in Bahrain to act in accordance with relevant international norms and standards with regard to human rights and fundamental freedoms.]


Question:  No, this is, it’s a pretty softball one.  I just wonder if anyone at the UN is tracking these mutinies in Burkina Faso where the army has been for several months rebelling against the Government.  There is just now a recent outbreak of shooting in the main town, and I just wonder, does the Secretary-General have, you know, I don’t know… is there… Burkina Faso is a big contributor of peacekeepers, a big player in peace initiatives in Africa — has there been any statement at any point by the UN about this ongoing turmoil in Burkina Faso?


Associate Spokesperson:  I know the Department of Political Affairs is following and, of course, I will check with them if they have anything to say on that.  Thanks.  Bye, have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record