|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.
**Statement on Iran
I will start with a statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the adoption of the Security Council presidential statement on Iran.
The Secretary-General welcomes the spirit of consensus that was demonstrated yesterday by the members of the Security Council in the presidential statement on non-proliferation.
He hopes that Iran will heed the international community’s concerns, as reflected in the Council statement, regarding Iran’s nuclear programme and that it will cooperate fully with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and successive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolutions.
**Security Council Yesterday
In that statement, the Council requested, in 30 days, a report from IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei on the process of compliance by Iran with the steps required by the IAEA Board of Governors. That report would go to the IAEA Board and in parallel to the Security Council for its consideration.
Turning to former Liberian President Charles Taylor, he spent the night in a detention facility in the custody of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Freetown.
The Court, meanwhile, announced that the President of the Special Court made a request to the Government of the Netherlands and the President of the International Criminal Court to facilitate the holding of the trial of Charles Taylor by the Special Court in The Hague.
The Court President’s letter refers to concerns about the stability in the region should Taylor be tried in Freetown.
We have the Court’s press release available in the Spokesman’s Office.
Here, at UN Headquarters, we just issued a statement earlier today by the principals of the Quartet, which brings together the United Nations, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States. They agreed on a statement and the full text is upstairs.
In it, the Quartet welcomed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ call for the new Palestinian Government to commit to a platform of peace. It noted with grave concern that the new Government has not committed to the principles spelled out on 30 January.
The Quartet recalled its view that future assistance to any new Government would be reviewed by donors against that Government’s commitment to those principles and concurred that there inevitably will be an effect on direct assistance to that Government and its ministries.
The Quartet encouraged continued humanitarian assistance to meet the basic needs of the Palestinian people, and it noted in that context the importance of improved movement and access.
The main elements of that statement were read in the Security Council this morning by Tuliameni Kalomoh, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, in an open briefing on the latest developments in the Middle East.
Mr. Kalomoh said that, while the programme of the new Palestinian Government shows signs of evolution from Hamas’ deeply disturbing record and covenant, the Government should, as President Abbas has urged, reassess the position on the Quartet’s principles and President Abbas’ platform of peace, if the aspirations of the Palestinian people for peace and statehood are to enjoy the strong international support that they deserve.
He added that, as we await the formation of a new Israeli Government, the recently expressed interest of both Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Abbas in negotiations should be seriously explored.
And Kalomoh also pointed to the beginning of the national dialogue in Lebanon as a historic and positive development.
And we have his statement to the Council upstairs.
**Secretary-General on Israeli Elections
And the Secretary-General yesterday called Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. And as we told you in a statement issued late yesterday, the Secretary-General congratulated Olmert and the Kadima Party on winning the highest number of seats in yesterday's Israeli general election, and encouraged him, as soon as the Government is formed, to pursue actively the peace process and work for the establishment of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
This is an announcement for this afternoon. At 3 p.m. in Conference Room 4, the Secretary-General will present his report on mandate review to the General Assembly, for the consideration of Member States.
The report is an examination of existing UN mandates, in response to the request from the Member States to provide an update on those mandates. The report highlights areas for further examination and makes some suggestions for consolidating and streamlining some of the UN’s work.
That report will be made available to you as soon as we get it upstairs shortly before 3 p.m. And we’re also expecting to have the Secretary-General’s statement to be delivered at that session.
Turning to Cambodia, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today expressed concern over reports that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had denounced the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for human rights in Cambodia, as well as the UN’s human rights work in the country.
She said, “The different Special Representatives over the years and the staff of my Office in Cambodia, established in 1993, have been mandated by the international community to monitor respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and to cooperate with the Government and civil society in order to ensure that the standards accepted by the Government are observed.”
She added, “I trust that they will continue to receive the full cooperation of the Government.” And we have her statement upstairs.
Ibrahim Gambari, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, meanwhile, is in Khartoum and he told reporters there that he had invited the Foreign Minister of Sudan to visit the United Nations to further discuss the transition from an African Union to a UN force in Darfur.
He praised the role of the African Union in Darfur and stressed that the United Nations, if it were to deploy forces, would build on and complement the good work of the AU to achieve peace, security and stability all over the Sudan.
**Jan Egeland’s East Africa Mission
And Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland arrived in Uganda this morning on the first day of his nine-day mission to East Africa. He is scheduled to meet with the UN country team, including representatives of the World Bank and non-governmental organizations, as well as with the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the country.
He’s also planning to meet with Ugandan government officials and visit a camp for internally displaced persons in northern Uganda, before heading to Sudan, Chad and Kenya.
And today, the Secretary-General is meeting with Mustafa V. Koç, Chairman of the Koç Holding Board of Directors, on the occasion of the company's joining the UN Global Compact.
Koç Holding is Turkey's largest industrial conglomerate, with more than 87,000 employees. It is expected that the group's participation in the Global Compact will foster further growth of the initiative in Turkey and the entire Eastern Mediterranean region.
Just to flag for you that tomorrow morning, here in room 226, at 11:15 a.m., Christine Chanet, Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, will brief on the work of the Committee, following the conclusion of its eighty-sixth session.
And that’s all I have for you. Anything for me?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I had asked you yesterday about Mr. Ibrahim Jaafari. In the United Nations opinion, because you’re involved in the democratic process, is this Jaafari -- should he be included in this democratic process to become the next head of the Iraqi Government or should he be precluded?
Deputy Spokesman: I have nothing to add on the specifics of your question, but just to reiterate that the United Nations and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative is working for, you know, to have the democratic -- as democratic a process be under way in Iraq. And I won’t go into further comments on individuals.
Question: Do you have any news, and I have two questions, the first one is do you have any news on when the Security Council will adopt a resolution on Taylor’s transfer to The Hague?
Deputy Spokesman: That would be up to the Security Council. I just --
Deputy Spokesman: You’d have to ask the Security Council President. The Court just announced a short while ago that it had sent a letter to The Hague and to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Correspondent: No, but it has already done that yesterday, because the ICC announced it also.
Another thing, I know it’s not your fault, but the Security Council agenda, which you then announce to the press or Gary Fowlie’s team puts on a media outlook, is to getting to be the height of obfuscation. The important meeting on Iran yesterday was announced as non-proliferation. The one on Lebanon Tribunal was totally unintelligible. And I realize this is what the Security Council agenda has. But that too should be changed. It could be very non-political. But it sounds like something out of a legal book from the nineteenth century. And at minimum, the media should not have to make a phone call to double check in the height of a deadline or trying to put a daybook out in the evening. Is this Iran? Is this the Tribunal? Is this what? You know.
And if one wants to be heard here, outside of a small group of diplomats and they don’t know what they’re talking about either half the time pursuant to letter number 553 of the Secretary-General. So I’m just making a plea to anyone who hears this to kindly change this.
Deputy Spokesman: I’m sure your point is noted and recorded.
Question: On the Human Rights Council, do you have a deadline for the candidates for the Human Rights Council?
Deputy Spokesman: You’d probably have to check with Geneva. But I can look into that for you. And Pragati Pascale, the GA President’s Spokesperson, may also be able to fill us in on that.
Question: It has to be sometime in April, I guess?
Deputy Spokesman: Well the election is in May.
Correspondent: The election is in May.
[The Spokesman’s Office later announced that there is no deadline for the submission of candidates to the Human Rights Council.]
Question: For the past few months, I’ve been asking questions about the drought in East Africa and the threatening famine, and the World Food Programme has issued several alerts. And now we’re beginning to see babies dying out of this problem of this situation. Has the time come for the Secretary-General at his level to issue an appeal to the international community to come to help before a crisis develops further?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, he, as you know, the heads of a number of agencies were dispatched to the region to draw attention and to mobilize efforts in that regard. I can try to find out where that effort stands and what next is being planned. [The Deputy Spokesman later added that a regional appeal for the Horn of Africa drought would be launched on 7 April.]
Question: Two questions if I may. Yesterday, I asked you if the Secretary-General endorsed the statements by Yash Ghai that drew that reaction from Hun Sen. Does he or does he not?
Deputy Spokesman: Today’s statement, what I have for you as of now is Louise Arbour’s reaction.
Correspondent: Right, but what about the Secretary-General [inaudible] –
Deputy Spokesman: I’m still waiting to see if there’s something more to add to that. I’ll get back to you after the noon briefing on that.
Correspondent: Right. It sounds like he’s running shy of endorsing it then.
Deputy Spokesman: That’s your interpretation. I repeated, yesterday, I think, from this podium I reiterated the past remarks that the Secretary-General has made on this matter. As for the specific statement and –-
Correspondent: If my boss didn’t stand up for me for two days, I’d be getting a bit worried.
Deputy Spokesman: I told you that he does support the work of his envoy. As for his specific comment on this case, I’m actually waiting for something, so if I can get back to you. [The Deputy Spokesman later announced that the Secretary-General stands by the Special Representative as he tries to carry out the mandate given to him by the international community to promote and protect human rights in Cambodia. The Secretary-General believes the Special Representative is doing his job in good faith, with integrity, independence and expertise.]
Question: One other question on the whole Charles Taylor choreography. How long has the UN been involved in planning this bizarre, you know, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Hague -- how long has the UN been involved in discussions with Governments in the region getting this choreography sorted out?
Deputy Spokesman: As the Secretary-General told you yesterday, the UN has offered technical assistance in the matter and, as I mentioned at the beginning of the briefing, that the Special Court has now written to The Hague and to the ICC.
Question: Right, but how long has the UN been in discussions with various Governments in the region and in Europe and all the rest to try and plan, put together, this particular order of events, which is then flown into disarray by the escape of Taylor? How much UN discussion with UN officials, with the Governments has been taking place over the past week?
Deputy Spokesman: Let me see if I can find that information out for you.
Question: You mentioned this meeting of the Secretary-General with the Chairman of Koç Enterprise -– the Turkish company joining the Global Compact. This may not be specific to that company, but is any company, when it joins the Global Compact, can they meet with the Secretary-General? What’s the procedure -- who meets with him?
And the second one would be, is this gentleman going to take questions or wouldn’t there be a thought that if a corporation comes to stand in front of the blue tarpaulin and say “I subscribe to these principles”, might they take questions on their records?
Deputy Spokesman: Let me contact the Global Compact Office to see if this gentleman is available, or you can call up to Georg Kell’s office to see if he can be made available.
The Secretary-General makes it a point to meet with a wide range of people and groups and companies whenever he has a chance to do that, whether it’s in New York or when he travels abroad. The specific criteria of why he met with this gentleman today, again, I’ll ask the Global Compact office and I’ll come back to you. [The Deputy Spokesman later added that the Secretary-General met with Mr. Koç because of the significance of his company’s commitment to Turkey as a whole and the broader region. Also, Koç has deep partnerships with UN agencies in the areas of health and education.]
Question: The Secretary-General is scheduled this afternoon to present what is termed “mandate review” to the General Assembly. Can you clarify what that entails?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, I just mentioned to you that this is a report that, and together with a list of mandates, that he was requested to submit at the request of Member States. And we will be making that available to you early this afternoon or before 3:00 when the report is presented.
Any other questions? If not, have a good afternoon.
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