|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
** Guinea Statement
Good afternoon. I will start off with a statement on the situation in Guinea.
“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the killings of approximately 10 students during the demonstrations in Guinea on 12 June 2006. He expresses sincere condolences to the families of the victims. He underlines the need for the non-violent resolution of disputes and calls on the authorities to exercise restraint. The Secretary-General also appeals to the various segments of Guinean society to continue to engage in constructive dialogue to address the challenges confronting their country.”
That statement is available, both in French and English, upstairs.
The Secretary-General told the Security Council this morning, speaking at the open meeting on Timor-Leste, that he has been deeply concerned about the evolution of the situation in Timor-Leste since the incidents of last April. The sad events of recent weeks reveal shortcomings not only in the Timorese leadership, he said, but also on the part of the international community in adequately sustaining the country’s nation-building process.
The Secretary-General told the Council that he is asking High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to take the lead in establishing an inquiry commission dealing with the recent events in Timor-Leste, following a request from the Government.
The Secretary-General just spoke to reporters outside the Security Council and said that a larger UN presence would be needed on the ground in Timor-Leste, and an assessment team would have to go there to determine needs. He said he intends to send such an assessment mission shortly, led by his Special Envoy, Ian Martin.
Ian Martin also briefed the Council on his time in Timor and his meetings with the leadership there. He said that the Timorese he had met with expressed a strong consensus that the United Nations should play a major role in ensuring that elections in 2007 will be free and fair.
The Timorese, Martin said, also wanted the United Nations to play a major role regarding support for the Timorese police and for the United Nations to offer its good offices to foster political and community reconciliation.
We have upstairs the Secretary-General’s and Ian Martin’s statements. And Martin also expects to speak to you at the stakeout once the open debate on Timor-Leste, which is still going and will go on this afternoon, concludes. We’ll inform you when he is about to go to the stakeout.
**SG Press Encounter
In his comments to reporters, the Secretary-General voiced concern at an Israeli missile attack which reportedly killed nine people and wounded about 40. He stressed that the use of force must be proportionate, and that Governments have to be careful not to take action in areas where civilians are likely to be put in harm’s way.
At the same time, the Secretary-General also condemned the rocket attacks by Palestinians and noted that he has consistently asked for them to cease. And we will be providing you with a transcript upstairs shortly.
Prior to the meeting on Timor-Leste, the Security Council unanimously adopted three resolutions.
On Liberia, the Council adopted a resolution deciding that arms sanctions shall not apply to weapons and ammunition intended for use by members of the Liberian Government’s police and security forces, who have been trained since the inception of the UN Mission in that country.
The Council also decided to extend the terms of office of 11 judges sitting on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, until 2008.
And the Council extended the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights until the end of this year, and also adopted an accompanying presidential statement.
Council members will have their monthly luncheon with the Secretary-General today.
Yesterday, at the invitation of the Secretary-General, the Presidents of Cameroon and Nigeria met in Manhasset, New York, and signed a definitive agreement settling the long-standing dispute between the two countries over the Bakassi Peninsula.
Speaking after the meeting, the Secretary-General called the agreement historic and said, “The entire process has been creative, low-cost and efficient. Progress has been achieved at a fraction of the cost of comparable undertakings elsewhere. It has demonstrated that -- given political will and appropriate UN support -- countries can work together to settle disputes not only peacefully, but very cost-effectively for themselves and for the international community.”
The two Heads of State and the Secretary-General also agreed on the modalities of Nigeria’s withdrawal from Bakassi in accordance with the International Court of Justice ruling, which has confirmed the sovereignty of Cameroon over the Peninsula.
The Secretary-General said, “Under the agreement, the Nigerian troops will withdraw in 60 days. If it is absolutely necessary, the parties have agreed to allow me to offer a brief extension, but under no circumstances exceeding an additional 30 days.”
And we have upstairs the full text of the agreement signed.
**Democratic Republic Of Congo
A delegation from the Security Council yesterday wrapped up a two-day visit in Kinshasa with a press encounter after meeting with Congolese officials including President Joseph Kabila and his four vice-presidents, as well as with members of civil society and the NGO community.
Jean-Marc de La Sablière, the French representative who led the mission, said that the delegation was satisfied with the state of preparations for the landmark 30 July elections.
Ambassador de La Sablière congratulated the Congolese people on the considerable amount of work completed so far and reaffirmed the Security Council’s and the international community’s commitment to assist them in this task.
He pleaded for respect of the electoral calendar and urged candidates and their supporters to refrain from xenophobic rhetoric. He also condemned violence against journalists in the run-up to the elections, as well as slanderous media attacks on the candidates.
And we do have more information upstairs.
Turning to Sudan, the joint UN and African Union technical assessment mission for UN deployment in Darfur arrived in the region today, where it will meet local regional leaders, representatives of internally displaced persons and the African Union Mission in Darfur.
The delegation, which is being led by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, is starting its meetings in El Fasher and will visit other locations in Darfur as well.
Before arriving in Darfur, Guéhenno held wide-ranging consultations in Khartoum, and these included government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, and local and international NGOs.
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari arrived in Tajikistan today at the start of a four-day visit to Central Asia. The visit will focus on reviewing UN cooperation with the Central Asian countries as they work together to address challenges such as extremism, organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking.
In Tajikistan, Gambari will meet with senior officials to discuss ongoing efforts to consolidate peace in that country, including the work of the UN Peacebuilding Office in Tajikistan. He will then travel to Kazakhstan to attend the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, which is a forum for regional cooperation.
The Secretary-General’s latest report on Kosovo is out on the racks today. In it, he says he is pleased that the political process to determine the future status of Kosovo is under way. Much, however, remains to be done to ensure substantial progress. There needs to be flexibility, generosity and a spirit of compromise, he says.
The Secretary-General also says that, despite the stable security situation there, he remains concerned about incidents of violence, whatever the source, directed against people and religious sites. Violence will affect the future status process, and must not be tolerated by any part of Kosovo society.
After meeting local authorities in Hargeisa in Somaliland on 9 June to assess UN assistance to the region, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, François Lonseny Fall, yesterday chaired a meeting in Nairobi, during which the Mayor of Mogadishu and the Governor of the Somali region of Banadir briefed members of the international community on the political, humanitarian and security situation in their respective localities.
The Somali officials sought emergency assistance for their crisis-affected populations, and members of the international community indicated their support for assistance to be delivered through the Somali Transitional Federal Government.
Today, Mr. Fall is meeting with Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi in Nairobi. Prior to his trip to New York, he will stop in Addis Ababa to meet with the African Union. Mr. Fall is expected to brief the Council on Monday, and we will, of course, also ask him to speak to you.
And that is it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: On the squawks we got about the Security Council lunch, whose decision was that about shepherding reporters into some back room for a briefing rather than being out front, where they have been...?
Spokesman: Shepherding reporters into a back room is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. (laughter) It is a safety issue, which I can brief you on now or we can do it later, but the safety people have told us it is a fire hazard to have that many reporters in front of the elevators. We’ve been in discussions with them for the last three months. Every time, they threaten to shut down the stakeout if we put it there, and this time we had to move it. It is moved into a room that is right adjacent to where the Council will have its lunch. So in a way, it limits the ambassadors’ ability to escape your microphone.
Question: So, just to get that straight: the safety people are saying it’s a fire hazard that 15 journalists are waiting outside the elevator, but the building doesn’t even have sprinklers?
Spokesman: I think it was more than... Nick, we can talk about this at length right now or we can go on about it later. Basically, it is a fire hazard. There were more than 15 journalists last time. There are other events going on in the [Delegates] Dining Room. Unfortunately, the Security Council lunch is not the only event, and it creates a bottleneck, and the safety people told us we can’t have it there.
Question: Just as a quick follow-up. Masood has a quick follow-up.
Spokesman: Are you asking Masood’s question?
Question: No, but I’m just wondering if the safety people consider it a safety issue that fire trucks can’t even get up to the main building of the UN because...
Spokesman: Yes, it is a safety issue, and that is why we would very much like to see the Capital Master Plan get under way, so the first responders of the City of New York can help us safely in case of fire and that we could all escape this building.
Question: You wish. But at least UNCA should have been informed about this. There have been umpteen meetings and so forth with Gary and everybody, and you, and nobody even bothered to let us know that this is festering and coming to a head.
Spokesman: The other option is to put the stakeout down here in front of the Security Council lunch. We have been told clearly by Safety and Security that we can no longer have it in front of the elevators. This used to be a rather informal stakeout. Over the last four months, we’ve encouraged UNTV to be there. It’s become more formal; there are more people. And it’s a fire hazard issue. But I’m sure we’ll talk to you guys between now and the moment that the ambassadors have coffee and we can resolve this in a constructive way.
Question: Okay, but at least in the spirit of constructiveness ... (inaudible)
Spokesman: I am the embodiment of the spirit of constructivity. Let’s move on.
Question: The agreement between Nigeria and Cameroon on the Bakassi conflict calls for a follow-up committee, composed of representatives from Nigeria and Cameroon, and the UN, and also of the witness States. Who are the witness States?
Spokesman: The witness States were France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States, and their representatives were all present at the signing ceremony yesterday.
Question: One of the commissions established by the UN Staff Union has a report out which basically says that the United Nations is in breach of its own human rights standards because of the unfair way it treats its own employees. And it urged the Organization to become more accountable by appointing independent judges ... (inaudible) who are whistle-blowers on corruption in the UN. Can you comment on that?
Spokesman: If you’re referring to the briefing you’ll be getting on the internal justice system at the UN, it has been clear from the Secretary-General’s point of view that the current system of administrative justice at the UN has serious shortcomings, particularly in its slowness, and needs to be modernized and made more professional. Staff surveys that we have done have shown this. That is why, at the urging of the General Assembly, he appointed a panel, which is currently wrapping up its work, which will look at the way the internal justice system is handled within the Organization, and make recommendations to make it more efficient, to make it better and to make it more accountable. And that, twinned with the whistle-blower policy and the Ethics Office, is part of the Secretary-General’s reform effort to make the administration more efficient.
Question: Part of the criticism in that report was laid on the Secretary-General for not leading by example, in which there were cases cited in which the [Administrative] Tribunal had made recommendations that the Secretary-General didn’t follow through with. Can we get some sort of comment about how the Secretary-General, on the one hand, is pushing for reform and pushing for changes to try to correct problems that are cited in this report, whereas in reality, he’s not following his own message, it seems.
Spokesman: We have not seen the report, which will be unveiled, I believe, to you before it is shared with management. The Secretary-General, as the system is laid out, follows the internal judicial system as it is set up. It offers him options to go with the recommendations of certain committees or not to go, and he’s exercised that right. But the overall situation is that the system, as it is now, doesn’t really reflect the needs of the staff or management. No one is happy with it. That’s why he’s very keen on making it better.
Question: I think the central criticism in the report was not necessarily the slowness, as you characterized it ... (inaudible), but it was more about transparency and the way this whole system is never transparent to those beyond the people who make the decisions. One of the suggestions, for instance, was to create a ... what’s it called ... like the federal government has, the FBI has...
Spokesman: I think I can answer your question ... when earlier this year, the Secretary-General, following a General Assembly resolution, appointed the panel... I will read to you the press release which we made available to you. “The panel will also propose a new model for resolving staff grievances that is independent, transparent, effective, efficient, and adequately resourced so that it ensures managerial accountability.” That’s what we’re aiming for.
Question: In your summation, what is the obstacle? I mean, this is a problem that we’ve heard about. I was just speaking with a colleague and this whole issue of staff upset and concerned about the way this is handled is not a new thing. This has been an endemic thing for more than 20 years. Why is it so slow now that it’s more energized to push things through and reform things? What’s the impediment?
Spokesman: I don’t think there is an impediment. There is no impediment. The panel was appointed in February. We should have its conclusions soon. We want to see this new system and new proposals up and running as quickly as possible, which will, of course, also demand some decisions by the Member States.
Question: Yesterday, Jan Egeland, in his briefing about East Timor, mentioned some kind of programme to work with the Lord’s Resistance Army at the level below the five indictees, to try to reintegrate them into society or show them they could go back to school. He said, “I’m working on something toward that effect.” So I wanted to know if you knew anything about it, if it’s a UN programme or, if not, then we can have some kind of briefing on the UN’s position on, and dealings with or plans to deal with, the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Spokesman: I’ll talk to Mr. Egeland and see if we can get any more on what he said.
Question: Also, Mark Malloch Brown, on his schedule yesterday, after the Senator who came down and gave us a briefing, there was a Congressman from Arizona. Do you have any... I asked Farhan yesterday if that had been set up prior to the speech or was about the building. Do you have any idea what this meeting was about?
Spokesman: I will get you an answer on that.
[The Spokesman later said that the appointment with Congressman Jim Colbe had been scheduled prior to the Deputy Secretary-General’s on United States/United Nations relations. The meeting was to discuss budgetary matters.]
Question: And one last thing you may not have an answer to, but at least ... the peacekeepers in Ituri, is there any update?
Spokesman: No, unfortunately, we have not. The efforts to secure their release are continuing.
Question: As you know, the question of what actually killed that family on the Gaza beach is under dispute now. Does the UN, which has a lot of people on the ground, have any opinion, one way or the other?
Spokesman: No, I think I would refer you back to the statement made by the Secretary-General a few minutes ago.
Question: The Secretary-General was supposed to have met Ambassador Brahimi this morning. Was that about reporting on Sudan, and is the Secretary-General satisfied with the implementation of the accord?
Spokesman: So far, so good, in terms of what Mr. Brahimi and Mr. Annabi secured from the Sudanese Government. Mr. Guéhenno’s mission is going according to plan, but we’ll try to get you a bit more detail on the meeting.
Question: The statement you read out from Kofi Annan didn’t, maybe I misheard it, but I didn’t hear anything that acknowledged that there is an investigation under way in the Gaza Strip.
Spokesman: There is no UN investigation going on in the Gaza Strip.
Question: No, but who’s responsible for the explosion is still under question in some quarters.
Spokesman: The Secretary-General addressed that. Take a look at the transcript. He addressed that.
Thank you very much.
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