|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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
As you know, the Secretary-General did return from Paris last night, and he should be coming to the building shortly.
And here, about Security Council matters, Argentina has assumed the rotating Presidency of the Security Council for the month of March, replacing the United States. And Ambassador Mayoral of Argentina is holding bilateral talks with other Council members on the programme of work for this month, and the Security Council is expected to hold consultations tomorrow to discuss that programme. After those consultations end, Ambassador Mayoral is expected to talk to you here in this room, likely around 1 p.m., about the Security Council’s activities during this month.
** Côte d’Ivoire
Turning to Côte d’Ivoire, the UN Mission there today welcomed what it called a successful meeting yesterday of the main political and military leaders of that divided country. The Mission said the meeting -- the first on Ivorian soil since the 2002 civil war -- was an indication of the presence of the political will needed to advance the peace process. It was a significant step on the road to national reconciliation, the Mission says, and we have that statement upstairs.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1,000 Government troops, supported by 300 UN peacekeepers, have been involved in fighting in the country’s eastern district of Ituri. They have been fighting for the past six days to dislodge militia members from the town of Tchei, some 60 kilometres south-east of the town of Bunia. The militia members are said to have been looting and enslaving locals in the area. The peacekeepers are from the Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Moroccan contingents, and they have been receiving air support from the UN Mission’s gunships. There have been no reports of casualties among the peacekeepers.
And the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known as UNRWA, welcomed a donation of $76 million to the Agency’s annual budget that was announced yesterday by the European Commission. Commissioner-General Karen Abu Zayd said that the contribution will enable UNRWA to continue to deliver critically needed humanitarian services to Palestine refugees without interruption.
We have a press release upstairs with more information. Also, we have a humanitarian update on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, provided by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
And, according to OCHA, in one week, the United Nations will formally launch the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which will provide aid workers with sufficient funding to jump-start lifesaving relief operations. So far, 19 Member States have pledged a total of $188 million to the Fund. And we have an embargoed press release on that in the Spokesman’s office
We also have a statement upstairs from Deputy Tsunami Envoy, Eric Schwartz. In it, he says Governments and people, throughout the tsunami-affected region, have much to be proud of. At the same time, however, while officials in the region have taken a number of actions to address the human rights of survivors, much more should be done to safeguard basic rights and meaningfully engage local communities in the decision-making process.
And finally, as you know, the post of Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme will become vacant on 1 April 2006, at the end of the tenure of Klaus Töpfer. Under the new senior recruitment procedures, which were established at the beginning of 2005, the Secretary-General has decided on a short list of candidates for the post. And that list is available in the Spokesman’s Office.
[The Deputy Spokesman later announced the names of the five candidates: Børge Brende (Norway), Former Minister of Environment and former Minister of Trade and Industry; Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Echandi (Costa Rica), Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica; Shafqat Kakakhel (Pakistan), Deputy Executive Director, UNEP; Rajendra K. Pachauri (India), Director-General, The Energy and Resource Institute; and Achim Steiner (Germany), Director-General of The World Conservation Union.]
**Management Reform Report
And I think I had one more announcement, which was last week, we had mentioned that the Secretary-General’s management reform report would be presented to Member States, I believe we said tomorrow, this week. At the General Assembly President’s request, the Secretary-General will now be presenting that report on Tuesday, next Tuesday, morning.
And that’s all I have for you. Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I have two questions, one on Congo, how many people did the peacekeepers kill? Also, I was just wondering, are there any plans being considered by the United Nations to protect people in Chad?
Deputy Spokesman: I am sorry -- could you repeat the second question? My mind wandered.
Question: Are there any plans to protect civilians being killed in Chad?
Deputy Spokesman: On that question, I think the UNHCR High Commissioner has been very vocal about the concerns that he has about the regionalization of that conflict. Yesterday, for the first time, we reported that there were refugees coming in from Chad. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, yesterday, was asked that question here, whether he was in touch with the Chadian authorities, and I think his answer was that his focus was mainly in Sudan. So at this point, I don’t have an immediate answer on the kind of engagement. I know there is concern and I’m sure the regional dimension will come into play when the Security Council raises or discusses, takes up Sudan in coming weeks.
Question: Just again on Chad, does the United Nations think that civilians whose lives are being wrecked in Chad, should also receive some kind of protection, without the use of words like “regional dimension”? I was just wondering -- a very simple question: should these people be protected?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, the responsibility to protect is for all citizens, in all parts of the world. And the United Nations system, that is the High Commissioner for Refugees, has the mandate to protect civilians, to protect asylum seekers from… and protect civilians when they are not given that kind of protection in their own country.
Question: And Congo?
Deputy Spokesman: In Congo, let me look into that. The only thing that I have here is what I read to you, but it’s a question I will ask DPKO.
[After the briefing, the Spokesman’s Office informed correspondents that according to the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it was unable to provide any details for now, because of ongoing operations on the ground.]
Question: Can you elaborate further on the reason for the delay in the Secretary-General’s management report, and specifically if it is tied to the delay in action on the Human Rights Council?
Deputy Spokesman: No, I cannot. The only announcement that I have is that it has been postponed until Tuesday, I believe Tuesday morning. Any more details I’ll have on that, I’ll let you know as soon as I have them.
Question: Is the Secretary-General going to stop and talk on his way to see General Assembly President, or on his way back upstairs?
Deputy Spokesman: We’ll have to ask him, because he, as you know, he came back pretty late last night, and this appointment was just recently confirmed. So when he comes in, we’ll ask him.
Question: I just wanted to ask you two things: do you have any comment on the targeted killing of the Palestinian leader by the Israeli?
Deputy Spokesman: I have no specific statement on that today. I can only refer you to the Secretary-General’s previous comments on targeted killings.
Question: Another thing is, what is the mechanism -- when Israel stops the payments on behalf of the Palestinians, how is it able to do that and not deliver it to the Palestinians? What is the agreement, which entitles Israel to stop such payments?
Deputy Spokesman: You would have to ask the Israelis that. I mean, we just, as you saw, read a statement from UNRWA on humanitarian aid. And as for the continued assistance to the Palestinians, I refer you to the recent Quartet statement
Question: But this is the money that belongs to the Palestinians, collected on behalf of the Palestinians. It’s not aid money -- it’s not an issue that it’s coming from what source.
Deputy Spokesman: If there is more I can elaborate on that, let me find out, and I’ll get back to you after the briefing.
Question: The people who were encouraged to speak to the Southern District prosecutors by Mr. Annan, is the UN going to provide them with legal representation?
Deputy Spokesman: I have nothing further than what I had on that subject, but I could find out for you.
Question: Did you find out anything about Nair?
Deputy Spokesman: I think we responded to you yesterday.
Question: Any latest information regarding the recent meeting of the Alliance for Civilization?
Deputy Spokesman: We gave you an account of the Secretary-General’s visit there over the weekend. I think we have more materials, so please check with our Office.
There are no other questions? Have a good afternoon, thank you.
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