|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General
This morning the General Assembly decided to admit Montenegro as the United Nations’ 192nd Member State. The Secretary-General, in remarks at a flag-raising ceremony for the new Member, welcomed Montenegro and said that by achieving independence democratically and without violence, Montenegro had demonstrated its political maturity and shown that even the most difficult problems could be resolved peacefully. That was an especially important message given the violent past in the Balkans, he added.
The Secretary-General also said that despite Montenegro’s small size and population, it had a significant role to play in maintaining stability and promoting cooperation in its region. Stating that the United Nations stood ready to support Montenegro, he added that he looked forward to the contributions that Montenegrins would make to the United Nations’ work. We have the full text of that statement upstairs.
The United Nations Office in Timor-Leste says that after a period of relative calm, violence has broken out again in Dili, and it threatens to hamper food distribution to displaced persons’ camps.
At least twenty houses were burned overnight and this morning, and threats have been made to residents in camps for internally displaced persons. The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, Finn Reske-Nielsen, says the conditions in the Dili camps – which are already grim – could rapidly worsen if the violence continues. A camp near Dili airport was cut off from all supplies for several hours today.
On the political front, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Timor-Leste, Ian Martin, continued his meetings with the country’s political leadership as part of his effort to assess a future role for the UN there and lend his good offices in the current political crisis. Mr. Martin, along with the head of the UN Office in Timor-Leste, Sukehiro Hasegawa, met for over an hour with President Xanana Gusmao in the presidential palace.
Martin also met former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, Foreign and Defence Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, and the army commander, Brigadier-General Taur Matan Ruak, while Hasegawa conferred with the Interior Minister.
[Later in the briefing, the Spokesman was handed a statement on Timor-Leste.]
I was just given a statement on Timor-Leste. The Secretary-General calls on the Timorese people to remain calm and to unite during this time of challenge and change. In particular, he urges all political leaders to ensure that any demonstrations by their supporters are peaceful and are conducted in full compliance with the laws of Timor-Leste and in cooperation with international forces. The United Nations will continue to stand with the Timorese people during this difficult period, in cooperation with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Mr. Hasegawa, as well as his Special Envoy, Ian Martin and his team, who are currently in Dili consulting broadly with all stakeholders. The team will return to New York with recommendations on the future role of the United Nations in Timor-Leste.
Following his participation in the Security Council consultations yesterday afternoon on the recently concluded UN-African Union assessment mission to Sudan, the Secretary-General told reporters that he planned to meet with the Sudanese President at the African Union summit this weekend.
He said African leaders at the summit in Banjul, in the Gambia, would also be engaging the Sudanese President on deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur, adding, “I hope the collective pressure will make a difference.”
He also appealed to the Security Council members to bring their collective and individual pressure to bear, not just on the Sudanese Government to cooperate and support the deployment, but also on the rebels that are outside the agreement to sign the Darfur peace agreement, and pressure both parties to implement in good faith what they have agreed to do in Abuja.
Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, who had briefed the Council on his mission, also spoke to reporters. For the immediate strengthening of the African Union mission. He said a pledging conference would take place for that purpose on July 18th in Brussels and that conference would be crucial to the African Union’s continued support.
At 3 this afternoon, the Security Council will hear from Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland, in an open briefing on the protection of civilians and armed conflict. Council members will then continue to discuss that subject in an open debate. Mr. Egeland intends to speak to you at the stake-out afterward, and we also will put out his statement to the Council when the briefing starts.
Earlier today, the Council had been scheduled to hold consultations to consider a draft resolution concerning the murder of four Russian diplomats in Iraq, but those consultations have been postponed.
The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, will be travelling to Cyprus, Greece and Turkey at the beginning of July to assess the political situation in and around Cyprus and to evaluate the prospects for a resumption of political talks aimed at reaching a comprehensive settlement. Mr. Gambari’s mission will be undertaken within the framework of the Secretary-General’s good offices.
He plans to hold meetings with officials in Ankara and Athens from 3 to 5 July and then be on the island of Cyprus from 6 to 9 July. While in Cyprus, Mr. Gambari plans to meet with both H.E. Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos and H.E. Mr. Mehmet Ali Talat. He will then return to New York to brief the Secretary-General on the results of his mission.
A mission from the Electoral Assistance Division of the UN Department for Political Affairs yesterday wrapped up a ten-day visit to Bangladesh, to assess the pre-election environment in that country.
It recommended that several key steps be taken in the days ahead, including creating a level playing field for all candidates and ensuring that the voter list is accurate and inclusive. The mission was deeply troubled by the high level of political violence in Bangladesh, and called for constructive dialogue among the key political parties. We have a press release on that upstairs.
**International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia yesterday issued an arrest warrant against Branko Djeric, a former Prime Minister of Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb-dominated entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Tribunal judges have directed Bosnian authorities to detain and transfer him to in The Hague to face charges of contempt of court for failure to respond to a Court summons.
**United Nations Development Programme
The United Nations Development Programme will launch its first Asia-Pacific Human Development Report tomorrow in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The report puts forward an eight-point agenda to help Governments make trade more beneficial for the poor. Its recommendations include renewed focus on agriculture and rural development and strategies for combating “jobless growth.” We have embargoed copies of that report available upstairs as well as more information.
That is it for me, any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Apart from Mr. Papadopoulos, Mr. Talat and Mr. Gambari, do you with whom he’s going to meet in Athens? In Ankara?
Spokesman: I don’t have the details yet but I would assume it would be the foreign ministers on both sides. If that’s not the case, I will get back to you.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any opinion on the recent Israeli incursions into Gaza?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General has been following this situation very closely. I think yesterday he spoke to urge restraint on all parties. He was on the phone with a number of regional leaders, including President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, President Assad of Syria and he will be speaking in a short while to the Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert. After that phone call we should be able to tell you a bit more about the Secretary-General’s position on all of this. We will either have a statement or the Secretary-General may come down to the stake-out and speak to you on this.
Question: The remarks he made yesterday...
Spokesman: I understand he’s following the situation very closely. He’s obviously very concerned about the humanitarian impact of any operations. He has repeatedly called for the release of the kidnapped soldier, but as I said to you, he’s continuing his consultations with people on the phone and we hope to have a bit more to say to you, around, right after 1:00.
Question: Regarding the humanitarian situation with the 1.3 million residents of Gaza who don’t have any electricity or water, is there going to be any sort of separate, aside from what the Secretary-General says, is he going to mobilize the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or any sort of humanitarian…?
Spokesman: Well the United Nations humanitarian agencies are already extremely present in those areas in Gaza and no doubt they are doing their utmost to try and alleviate the situation.
Question: Well since this is like, an uber emergency, are they adding anybody?
Spokesman: We’ll check with the humanitarian side.
Question: Monday I asked if there were any specific reasons why the press weren’t allowed to the Global Compact meetings. Do you have the latest information?
Spokesman: I believe an answer was provided to you and, if it wasn’t, I apologize. If I recall, what we were told by the Global Compact officials was this was their first organizational meeting and they wanted to deal with some administrative things amongst themselves. A press release will be put out explaining what happened at the board meeting, but I know they are committed to doing things in as much a transparent way as possible.
Question: Yesterday was also a meeting of the Frederick Ebert Foundation on financing and development. Is there any way to get some more information about what actually was happening? It was in Conference Room 1 and it went for half a day.
Spokesman: It’s the first I’ve heard of it but we can see if we can put you in touch with the organizers after the briefing.
Question: Is it possible to bring someone...?
Spokesman: It’s the first I’ve heard of the conference, but I’d be happy to see what we can do.
Question: On the Global Compact, I think either they or you said that members would be available for interviews. For the record I asked yesterday to interview Mr. Mark Moody Stewart, so I don’t know if that’s going to take place. They said they might be leaving. I’ve got two questions on Uganda. One is pretty straightforward. The BBC did a breakfast interview with Joseph Kony, and he denied that the Lord’s Resistance Army ever abducted children, so I don’t know if the Secretary-General has any response to these denials. But perhaps more importantly, if the BBC can have breakfast with Joseph Kony, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, if there’s some explanation why MONUC, or anyone else can’t arrest Mr. Kony?
Spokesman: First all, MONUC’s resources are extremely stretched, they have done what they can but there are other situations that also need to be dealt with, that are directly in line with MONUC’s mandate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but I know MONUC is committed to doing what it can in that area. As far as a response, I don’t think we’ll respond directly, except to say the humanitarian crisis in northern Uganda is well known. I don’t know if you were here yesterday or two days ago. You had a full briefing from Ms. Coomaraswamy, who had just come back from northern Uganda, so it is clearly a crisis and a number of people are in indictment by the International Criminal Court and the Secretary-General has repeatedly been clear that impunity should not stand and people who are charged should face justice.
Question: This is about eastern Uganda. Yesterday the United Nations Development Programme confirmed it has suspended programmes in eastern Uganda in light of human rights abuse by the Government of Uganda in the disarmament of a tribe called the Karamajong. Has the spokesman to UNDP cc’d you on this? I’m sure you get a lot of messages but this is my question: given that this United Nations agency has suspended operations in that part of the country on disarmament, one: does the Secretary-General have any comments about either the abuses or the stopping of UNDP operations? Two: and this is more of a set-up, UNDP says that, although they stopped operations, that they have no way to know when abuses take place, that there would be others in the United Nations system. I guess this is a question you may or may not know now, whether also the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights or any other United Nations agency, is present in that part of the country and is able to verify these things? And I think, most importantly, maybe you will speak to this now, what can be done to ensure that United Nations or UNDP funds do not run parallel with or assist abuses by Governments in forcible disarmament?
Spokesman: I know you’ve had a dialogue and sometimes a volatile dialogue with UNDP and they’re tried to provide you with as many answers as possible. I don’t have all the details. On the human rights issue, and we can check with the office of human rights if they are in that part of Uganda. On the misuse of funds, we would expect, obviously, United Nations agencies to monitor that funds were not being misused, but I can’t speak to the detail of that specific case at this point.
Question: I guess and this will be my last one on that. I understand, you read what they send you. I guess I’m asking for something beyond UNDP. UNDP doesn’t seem to... it seems to be a one off for them, whereas it seems to be a larger problem. So maybe if you consider whether the Secretary-General will have a statement on it.
Question: The Secretary-General is meeting later this afternoon with the co-chairs of the Alliance of Civilizations. Would they be able to give a press conference for an interview?
Spokesman: Yes, in fact I apologize for not announcing it. They will be available at the stake-out around 3 to come down, both the Spanish member and the Turkish member of the Alliance. Both will be available at the stake-out around 3 and we’ll announce it before they come down.
Question: They will be willing to give an interview or a press conference?
Spokesman: Well I think the stake-out will be their press encounter. But we’ll be happy to see if they’ll do an interview with you.
Question: I just want to bring it on record, a lot of journalists over here are having problems with their mail. Actually, in the last two or three days, people are saying they received mail ten days late, three weeks late, and sometimes some of the cards they were supposed to receive a month ago are all bunched in and given to them. So I want to put it on record something needs to be done about this mail situation which is really pathetic at this point in time.
Spokesman: Ok, we’ll talk to Gary’s unit. Thank you very much. Oh, and Pragati is here, I’m sorry, I’m always trying to run away so I forget about the General Assembly.
Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President
This morning the General Assembly admitted the Republic of Montenegro as the 192nd Member State of the United Nations. In his statement, Assembly President Jan Eliasson welcomed Montenegro to the United Nations and said that, in demonstrating its adherence to democratic values and principles and rule of law, Montenegro has set an important example. He expressed his confidence that Montenegro will strive for good neighbourly relations and strong regional cooperation in the Western Balkans, thus promoting stability in an area struck by conflict in the recent past.
This afternoon at 3 p.m., the Fifth Committee will hold an open meeting where the first item for consideration is the draft decision authorizing expenditure of the remaining funds appropriated in the biennial budget. The Assembly President and his office have continued to be intensively engaged in assisting the Chairman to build a consensus on the lifting of the spending cap, and he remains hopeful that action can be taken by consensus.
Also in the Fifth Committee this afternoon, the Controller will present the latest report of the Secretary-General, on procurement reform.
We have arranged for UN Television to provide live coverage of the Fifth Committee this afternoon, and a stake-out will be set up outside Conference Room 3, to help you get delegation comments.
On development issues, following small group meetings yesterday, the Assembly President and the co-chairs for this issue, the Ambassadors of Belgium and Mali, will present a revised text tomorrow morning on development issues, following up on decisions taken at the 2005 World Summit. The broad strokes of an agreement have been worked out, but some extra time was needed for groups to consult their membership – so that meeting was moved to tomorrow morning.
On other issues, late yesterday the General Assembly President sent a letter to Member States advising them that, in response to requests from a number of delegations, he intends to once again convene a plenary meeting to address the important issue of Security Council reform. That meeting will take place on Thursday, 20 July. Yes?
Question: What is the assessment for Montenegro and have all the administrative things started, now since they’re officially the 192nd member?
Spokesperson: I’d have to check on that, I’m not sure if that decision has been made. I know the committee on contributions is meeting currently. We’ll check on whether that’s been done.
Question: On the development issues, does that include also the meeting yesterday in conference room one of the previous Ebert foundation meeting and plans for development?
Spokesperson: I think it’s a separate process. This is the culmination of a long process in the General Assembly, consultations following up on decisions taken at the World Summit last year. I’m not familiar with the Friedrich Ebert event. That’s not an intergovernmental process, I believe.
Question: So this is basically on the Global Compact?
Spokesperson: No, not the global compact.
Question: Are you on track as far as the lifting of the cap is concerned ... the budget is concerned?
Spokesperson: Well there’s a lot of discussion going on.
Question: Is it adopted by consensus, does the president still expect it to be adopted by consensus?
Spokesperson: The president is hopeful that it will be adopted by consensus. There are various other scenarios that could take place.
Question: You mentioned a meeting coming soon on the reforms of the Security Council. Are there any new developments in this aspect?
Spokesperson: Well that meeting was requested by some delegations, including the G-4 delegations, so it was at the request of Member States who wanted to hold additional discussions. It is basically a series of addresses where member States might make their positions known. So, it’s to continue the discussion.
Question: Is it possible, if G-4 is coming, then the so-called united consensus is also coming, (inaudible).
Spokesperson: Well, you know in the GA, the word debate means a series of statements, so that’s what it will be. Thank you very much.
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