|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General is currently in London, where this evening he is scheduled to meet with the principals of the Middle East Quartet and hold a joint press conference afterwards. And that is set to begin about an hour from now.
Earlier today, the Secretary-General was in The Hague, in the Netherlands, where he met with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. They discussed UN reform, as well as Afghanistan and the Middle East, and they did answer a few questions from the press afterwards.
The Secretary-General was asked about Afghanistan, and he encouraged Dutch participation in the NATO forces in that country, pointing to the need for success in the international efforts in Afghanistan. “No one can afford to see a destabilized Afghanistan,” he said. And we’re working on the transcript of that press encounter.
While in The Hague, the Secretary-General also spoke and took questions at a United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) global management meeting, which brings together the UNDP resident representatives from around the world. And, as I said, he is now in London.
** Côte d’Ivoire
Yesterday, the Secretary-General issued a statement expressing his concern about the issuance of a Presidential decree concerning the National Assembly in Côte d’Ivoire.
He said the announcement did not appear to be in conformity with the information he received from President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, and from the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire on the outcome of Obasanjo’s visit to Abidjan.
The Secretary-General underlined the need to avoid all unilateral action and he called upon all parties to adhere to the provisions of the latest Security Council resolution on Côte d’Ivoire.
Meanwhile, on the ground, the United Nations mission reports that security officers and representatives of humanitarian organizations have gone to the towns of Guiglo and Duékoue in the west to assess damage caused during the recent attacks.
The Mission also reports that it is concerned with the fate of some 7,000 displaced persons and a similar number of refugees in the west of the country, where United Nations and other agencies have been forced to withdraw. The security of those two vulnerable groups now rests in the hands of the Ivorian security agents. And the Secretary-General’s statement is, of course, available upstairs in both French and English.
From the Sudan, the UN Mission says the security situation in Darfur remains tense, with new incidents reported there over the weekend.
On Saturday, a group of armed men, believed to be from Chad, attacked a Sudanese Army camp in the village of Armakol, not far from El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. Machine guns, artillery and rocket-propelled grenades were reportedly used by the attackers.
Three Sudanese soldiers were reportedly injured and two of the attackers killed. Also, we have reports of some factional clashes yesterday among the Sudan Liberation Army in the Kulbus area of West Darfur.
And while on the topic of Sudan, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called for $40 million support for its agricultural relief and recovery activities in the Sudan in 2006, stressing that humanitarian assistance needs to be coupled with longer-term development aid, to ensure lasting peace in the country.
And from Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Baghdad, condemned the bombings, which were carried out on Sunday, in coordinated sequences, in the vicinity of churches in Baghdad and Kirkuk.
Qazi called the attacks reprehensible, and said they can only make sectarian violence worse. He called on the Iraqi authorities and political leaders to commit themselves to the safety of all places of worship, and preserve the sanctity of all worshipers.
Closer to home, the Security Council today held consultations to consider draft texts of three resolutions that Council members intend to vote on tomorrow.
They concern the extensions of the mandate of two UN peacekeeping forces, one in Georgia and the other in Lebanon; as well as the extension of the panel of experts dealing with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
And from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Francois Lonseny Fall; in a statement issued today he welcomed the announcement that the Transitional Federal Parliament would meet in Baidoa on 26 February. The scheduled meeting would be the first convening of the now 15-month-old Somali parliament to take place inside the country. And we have a press release on that upstairs.
And the Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, today addressed an informal meeting of the General Assembly to discuss the status of the preparations of the Secretary-General’s report to the Member States concerning UN financial rules and regulations.
The Deputy Secretary-General reaffirmed the Secretary-General’s commitment to issue a report, as requested in last September’s Summit Document, by the end of February. An update on the status of the implementation of administrative reforms, meanwhile, will be posted on the United Nations website this afternoon.
And the Office of the President of the General Assembly has asked me to tell you that informal plenary consultations are scheduled for this afternoon and for Wednesday afternoon to discuss the draft Co-Chairs’ texts on ECOSOC reform and on development, respectively.
And regarding the Human Rights Council, the Co-Chairs are working on a new text, which they plan to present to Member States by the end of the week. And this follows bilateral consultations that continued last week, and the two plenary meetings held on Tuesday, 24 January, at which Member States expressed their positions on the bulk of the existing Human Rights Council draft text.
**Press Conference on World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Tomorrow at 1:15 p.m., the Permanent Mission of Oman will be sponsoring a press conference on the World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which will be held in Oman in April 2007.
And that is it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I have a question about Ivory Coast. The statement by Marie yesterday said that it didn’t appear to be in conformity with what President Obasanjo purported to the Secretary-General that had been agreed, but doesn’t say what it was that had been agreed. I just noticed that out on the racks today is a note from Ivory Coast saying that the Group agreed that the International Working Group does not have the authority to dissolve the National Assembly, and didn’t dissolve the National Assembly.
Spokesman: I don’t believe that was the opinion expressed by the President of Nigeria to the Secretary-General.
Question: Could you enlighten us as to what the Secretary-General and the President of Nigeria (inaudible)?
Spokesman: The important thing is to follow, not only the Security Council resolutions, but the authority of the International Working Group. But we could try to get you a bit more information, maybe after the briefing.
Question: I just wondered, it just seemed weird to say that it wasn’t in conformity, but never say what it was that they said.
Question: Has the UN come up with any policy as regard to how to pay monies to the Palestinian Authority, now that the Palestinian Authority will most likely be controlled by Hamas? And also, what is the policy on that, as it will be related to the Quartet by (inaudible) or has been related to the Quartet?
Spokesman: One of the issues the Quartet will be discussing is the issue of aid to the Palestinian Authority. So I don’t want to get ahead of the discussions, which will take place in about an hour.
Question: But there is also money that comes directly from the United Nations. There are all sorts of Palestinian projects (inaudible).
Spokesman: Of course. The United Nations, through a number of its agencies, funds and programmes, has mandated activities of assistance to the Palestinian Authority. Those, as I said, are funded often from voluntary contributions. But the issue of how the aid will be handled is something that is under discussion in the Quartet. So I don’t want to get ahead of it.
Question: A couple of things on this, other than the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), what are the mandated activities?
Spokesman: Well, UNRWA in itself is more self-contained in terms of running its schools and aid programmes, but the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for one and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), but especially UNDP, have a number of programmes that, for years now, have been dealing with and assisting different Palestinian authorities and municipalities. But you should check with them. They can give you a longer list of what they’re doing.
Question: In what sense are they mandated?
Spokesman: From their executive boards and they’re funded from voluntary contributions.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any view, though, about what Secretary Rice said, which is described as sort of a US review, the threat to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, which I think could include, if they chose, UNRWA. Is he saying or making a statement that no, they shouldn’t allow this, at least until they’ve played it out?
Spokesman: As I said, the UN has a long history of assistance to the Palestinian people. That assistance will continue. But the larger issue of the aid and how that will go to the Palestinian Authority is something that is being discussed in the Quartet and will be discussed soon.
Question: A few months ago, UNDP itself reversed a decision to transfer money to a Palestinian organization, because that Palestinian organization, according to one newspaper, was linked directly to Hamas. So, there is clear policy already on the books at UNDP of not transferring money to, I guess, organizations that refinance their organization.
Spokesman: As I said, the UN would, of course, not support or give aid to an organization that supports terror. The Palestinian Government is currently being formed. We have to see what shape that Government takes. And on the issue of aid to the Palestinian Authority, and how that proceeds, as I said, that is something that is currently being discussed.
Question: Can you please tell us about this Human Rights Council? How far have negotiations gone, and why is the text now being reconsidered?
Spokesman: I think you’d have to address that question to… Somebody from the General Assembly President’s Office is back there, and she can answer your question afterwards.
Question: Now, can you also tell us about the question that I asked on Friday about outsourcing of the United Nations?
Spokesman: I have been meaning to get something. I will have something for you this afternoon. I apologize.
Question: And also do you have any update on the date for Mukhtar Mai to come to the United Nations?
Spokesman: No, we were going to contact the NGO Virtue International, which had sponsored her. And I will see if I can get an update, if we do have a date and when she’s coming back here.
Question: Does the Secretary-General believe that the international community should continue to support the Palestinian people and aid them?
Spokesman: The United Nations has a long history of supporting the Palestinian people in humanitarian programmes and that will no doubt continue. But, as I said, the exact way how aid is transferred to the Palestinian Authority is something that will be discussed in the Quartet meeting.
Question: Will the next President of the Security Council be holding a press conference in room 226 after the Programme of Work is adopted, presumably on Thursday?
Spokesman: I think you would have to check with the office of that President. But if I can get an answer before you get one, I will be happy to give it to you.
Question: Any plans for the next movie to be shot at the United Nations? Can you tell us what it is?
Spokesman: Your life’s story Benny.
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