|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.
Good afternoon. Joining me today will be Peter Sutherland, who is the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Migration, and José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, who will talk to you about the issue of migration.
**Secretary-General Press Encounter
In a press encounter a bit earlier today, following the election of the next General Assembly President, the Secretary-General was asked about the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. He said that it was a relief that such a heinous and dangerous man is no longer around. He said he thinks Iraqis will all be relieved that he is gone.
The Secretary-General said that he had been monitoring closely the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue, and was pleased that it seems to be moving forward. He said “I think we are off to a reasonably good start”, adding that he hopes this time it will lead to serious negotiations where all parties are at the table.
He also urged Member States to come together not only on reform and strengthening the United Nations, but also to overcome the debate over the budget. And he said that Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown’s recent speech should be read in the right spirit, on the need for the United Nations and the United States to support each other. And we have that transcript upstairs.
From Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, today welcomed the completion of the Iraqi Government. Qazi expressed his hope that the Government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will now be able to move forward in tackling its many challenges.
He reiterated the readiness of the United Nations to assist in building the capacity of the new Administration to deliver basic services, including a human rights protection system, to the people of Iraq. He also said the United Nations stood ready to promote peaceful political dialogue and national reconciliation, in accordance with its mandate.
And also on Iraq, the Secretary-General’s latest report on that country is out today. In it, he says that it is encouraging that Iraq’s political leaders can rise to the challenge and engage in a spirit of compromise to form an inclusive and democratic Government, despite the overall circumstances.
However, he warns, the need for sustained inter-communal dialogue and confidence-building measures remains as urgent as ever. Unless a strong positive dynamic towards national reconciliation is generated soon, there is danger of increased polarisation and sectarian strife. And that report to the Council is out on the racks.
The UN Security Council delegation led by UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry travelled to Juba, in Southern Sudan today. The Council members met with Sudan’s First Vice-President, Riek Machar, and the President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, and other senior officials in that area. Discussions focused on the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of Sudan and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Ambassador Jones Parry held a joint press conference with Salva Kiir, during which many questions focused on the LRA and reported planned talks between an LRA delegation and the Government of Uganda, facilitated by the government of Southern Sudan.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, is expected to travel to Hargeisa tomorrow to discuss UN assistance for Somaliland with Somaliland leader Dahir Riyala Kahin and other local authorities. Among the issues to be discussed is the UN’s continued support for humanitarian and development activities in that region of Somalia.
Ambassador Fall will be accompanied by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Eric Laroche. He is expected here in New York on 19 June, that is Mr. Fall, to brief the Security Council, and we will, of course, ask him to come to speak to you as well.
Council Members who remain here in New York are holding consultations on the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission for Iraq this morning. Council members heard from the Acting Executive Chairman, Demetrius Perricos, about the Commission’s recent report.
Under other matters, Council members are also to receive a briefing on the latest developments in Somalia from Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Tuliameni Kalomoh.
And from Timor-Leste, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Sukehiro Hasegawa, today conferred with Timorese President Xanana Gusmão on political and humanitarian efforts aimed at helping the country out of its current crisis. And we will provide you with an update from that meeting, as soon as we get one from Timor-Leste.
Meanwhile, UNICEF reports that it will launch a measles vaccination campaign and distribute vitamins to displaced children living in camps in and around Dili. The agency has also begun a psychological and social support programme for the displaced, some of whom have been living in crude tents since late April.
UNICEF is also working to build latrines and organize garbage collection in those camps. And we do have more in a press release from UNICEF upstairs.
**United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, today praised the rescue of 22 people whose vessel had sunk in the Aegean Sea. And that rescue was done by the crew of a Dutch-registered cruise ship.
The ship was on its way from the Greek city of Piraeus to the Turkish port of Kusadasi on Tuesday, when crew members spotted several people in the waters off the Greek island of Samos. The ship was able to rescue a total of 22 people from various countries, including Somalia and Iraq. And we have a press release on that upstairs as well.
**Information and Communication Technology
A couple of other things to flag for you. Today, Craig Barrett of Intel Corporation will serve as the first Chairman of the Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Development -- a new initiative of the Secretary-General to promote effective use of ICT for development.
The Global Alliance will hold its inaugural meeting on 19 and 20 June in Kuala Lumpur. The Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown, will inaugurate the Alliance on behalf of the UN.
** Middle East
And turning now to activities of the Department of Public Information (DPI). DPI, in cooperation with Russia’s Foreign Ministry, today began a two-day International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, the fourteenth time this annual, General Assembly-mandated seminar has taken place.
In a message delivered to the seminar, the Secretary-General says the UN’s overarching goal remains lasting peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. For this to be achieved, the message says, the parties must deal with each other face to face. And we have copies of that message upstairs.
**Talk Radio Day at the United Nations
And lastly, today, for the first time, over 11 American radio hosts from across the country will be broadcasting shows, both local and nationally syndicated, live from UN Headquarters. The hosts will be interviewing UN officials, to offer millions of listeners from across America first-hand accounts about the work of the UN. With assistance provided by the Department of Public Information, the UN Foundation has partnered with Talker’s Magazine and Talk Radio News Service to represent “Talk Radio Day” at the United Nations, and that’s all day today. If you’re interested in hearing more about this, you may contact the UN Foundation and we have their number available for you upstairs.
**Secretary-General’s meeting with Serbian President
The Secretary-General met today with Boris Tadic of Serbia. They discussed Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbian cooperation with the ICTY [International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia] and President Tadic also expressed his appreciation for the technical assistance provided to Serbia by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
And that is it for me, so I will take your questions if you have any.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Steph, what is effective use of ICT and how will the Secretary-General seek to promote it?
Spokesman: This is an offshoot of the Summit that took place in Tunis on information technology. And this is an effort to bring together all the stakeholders in the information technology world, which means both Governments, companies and NGOs, to name a few.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any comment about the hospitalization of former Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim in Austria?
Spokesman: We’re obviously watching this situation very closely, concerning his health.
Question: First of all I assume that Rush Limbaugh is not on the talk radio…
Spokesman: We have quite a few of them. We can make that list available. That list will be available to you.
Question: Secondly, following up on yesterday’s events, is the Secretary-General concerned that the response to Mark Malloch Brown’s speech in the United States was exactly along party lines, with one newspaper citing Democrat Chris Dodd praising the speech, and another newspaper citing Senator Coleman and Congressman Hyde against the speech? Is he concerned that this is going to be exactly along party lines in America?
Spokesman: I don’t want to dwell on this speech too much. The Secretary-General spoke to you earlier. The message is clear, that the speech should be read in the right spirit. And it is a call for greater US involvement in the UN, and for the need for that support. So, I’ll leave it at that.
Question: Thank you for getting the Secretary-General down there and organizing that. But, he didn’t answer a few follow-up questions, one of which is why was Fox singled out and why didn’t he repudiate singling out of Fox News? And Rush Limbaugh, I guess we can throw that into that same basket. Why was that left unaddressed? And also, he didn’t really answer the question about how he is going to resolve things with Ambassador Bolton, who is outraged by this. And Mr. Bolton’s strong words still stand.
Spokesman: I think he did resolve that issue by saying that he has no problem with Ambassador Bolton. And Ambassador Bolton has his work to do and the Secretary-General has his work to do. As for the analysis of the speech, I spoke about it at length yesterday. You had the opportunity to speak with the Deputy Secretary-General. The message, again, is read the speech in the right spirit and that is it.
Question: In the Secretary-General’s statement today, he also said that he does not foresee any major financial crisis at this point in time, and that he’s asking Member States to come together. But, in the past, we have seen that, whenever a financial crisis has arisen, the United Nations uses the staff pension fund to fund the salaries and so on and so forth for a limited period of time, until such time as the money starts coming in. Will that be done again this time?
Spokesman: Obviously we’re watching the debate over the budget very carefully. Here, again, the message is for the Member States to approach this in a calm and reflective manner, with the long-term interests of the Organization at heart. And we obviously will take whatever measures we need to take to make sure this Organization continues to function.
Question: Does the Secretary-General or the UN in general share Abu Masab Al-Zarqawi’s belief, or his claim, of responsibility for the Canal Hotel bombing?
Spokesman: We, like you, have seen those claims made in public. The full investigation, which is being done by the US FBI and the Iraqi authorities, into the Canal bombing, is still continuing. We are being briefed by those who are continuing that investigation. So, we really only have those public comments to go by.
Yes, go ahead?
Question: On Kosovo, is Søren Jessen-Petersen -- I think his term runs out at the end of the month -- is he staying on, or not staying on?
Spokesman: I have no information on that, at this point.
Question: And one thing, just to get it out of the way, you mentioned that the Security Council meeting on South Sudan. There’s a report by our own Evelyn Leopold of Reuters, that not Joseph Kony, but Vincent Otti, who has also been indicted by the International Criminal Court, will be attending for the LRA. Do you have any sense, should he be arrested? Should South Sudan arrest him?
Spokesman: I’ll have to check up on those press reports at this point.
Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: The Secretary-General was supposed to have met yesterday with the President and the Vice-Presidents of the staff union? What was the subject of discussion and were there any conclusions?
Spokesman: I will see if I can get you a read-out of that meeting.
Yes, all the way in the back, you have a question?
Question: Yes, two things. Firstly, you mentioned that there’s a Middle East Seminar co-sponsored by the UN and the Russian Government. Just where and for whom is that being held? And also, you mentioned yesterday that Ian Martin and Foreign Minister, also Defence Minister, Ramos Horta of Timor-Leste will be coming here to brief the Secretary-General this week and to brief the Security Council some time next week. Do you have any more details on that, and will they also be briefing us?
Spokesman: Yes, we’ve asked that at least Mr. Martin speak to you. I believe Mr. Martin is scheduled to maybe brief the Secretary-General tomorrow, and it is on the Security Council’s calendar for next week. You can look at the calendar, which is public. Off the top of my head I think it’s Tuesday.
Question: The seminar?
Spokesman: The seminar is being held in Moscow.
Question: Who has registered for that seminar, exactly? Is Israel represented there?
Spokesman: There are a number of, I think 12 or 13, Israeli participants at that seminar, which is, as you know, mandated by the General Assembly to the Department of Public Information to organize on a yearly basis.
Question: Is the Israeli Government participating?
Spokesman: We can give you the list of participants. I do not believe the Government is participating, but, obviously, it is something….
Question: Is the Government boycotting it?
Spokesman: I think that’s a question you would have to ask them. We would have welcomed their official participation.
Question: On Monday, I asked you about Iraq’s Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi calling for the United Nations to conduct its investigation into the killing of the Iraqi civilians. And you said you would…
Spokesman: We have not received any official requests, to my knowledge, on that, from the Iraqis.
Question: The Secretary-General’s statement about Zarqawi, obviously, is not going to make Zarqawi devotees particularly pleased. Is there anything being done in terms of extra security at the United Nations in the wake of Mr. Zarqawi’s demise?
Spokesman: As you know, we would not discuss security issues from this podium.
Question: The Seminar in Moscow, are there any Palestinian journalists, as well? And, a follow up, is this a Middle East peace initiative of any kind?
Spokesman: This is mandated by the General Assembly to the Department of Public Information to organize a seminar every year. And, I do believe that there are obviously Palestinian journalists present, as there are Israeli journalists present.
Question: In past years, the Seminar, which, as you say, is mandated by the General Assembly, was titled “as demanded by the General Assembly, the Seminar on the Palestinian question…” How did it change its title?
Spokesman: The resolution as it’s written, I think, allows the Department of Public Information to choose the exact title of the Seminar.
Question: One follow-up on the LRA and one on the captured peacekeepers. Ms. Leopold quotes South Sudan government sources. If it checks out, will the Secretary-General have some comment on whether…?
Spokesman: I’ll read the wire copy and we’ll see what we can say.
Question: Ok, and on the peacekeepers, there are, again, reports that they are still in captivity, correct?
Spokesman: Our efforts to secure their release continue.
Question: There are going to be reports that the UN has actually seen them? That they are OK?
Spokesman: This is a very sensitive issue. Seven of these peacekeepers are still being held. All I can say is that the efforts to secure their release continues.
Question: Has Secretary-General Annan had any contact with any Iranian officials since the delivery of the European Union offer?
Spokesman: He spoke to the Iranian Foreign Minister.
Spokesman: I believe yesterday.
Question: Can we get a read-out on that?
Spokesman: The read-out is the same message the Secretary-General delivered to the President, which is encouraging Iran to consider this package fully, to give it its full consideration.
Question: Can we get a list of who the participants are in this conference in Moscow?
Question: And perhaps there has been some outrage by certain Governments or organizations on the handling of it?
Spokesman: Sure, it’s a very public event. We will give you as much information as you need on it.
On that note, I will invite our two guests, Mr. Sutherland and Mr. Ocampo, to join me here.
* *** *