DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

12 March 2007

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

12 March 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON 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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, Ashraf Kamal.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon all.

** Iraq Statement

First, a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Iraq:

The Secretary-General is encouraged by the discussions held in Baghdad on Saturday in preparation of a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the countries neighbouring Iraq.  He hopes that the positive atmosphere of the meeting, which was attended not only by Iraq’s neighbours, but also by representatives of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, will carry over into the activities of the working groups formed on border security, refugees and internally displaced persons, and fuel imports.

The Secretary-General reiterates the need for countries around the region and for the international community more broadly to play a constructive role in support of a stable, secure and democratic Iraq.

** Zimbabwe Statement

Another statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Zimbabwe:

The Secretary-General is concerned about the detention yesterday of opposition leaders in Zimbabwe, following the break-up of a public meeting by riot police.  He condemns the reported beating of those leaders in police custody.  Such actions violate the basic democratic right of citizens to engage in peaceful assembly.

The Secretary-General urges the Government of Zimbabwe to release the detainees and to guarantee their safety.  He calls on the authorities to allow peaceful assembly and to provide a space for the exercise of legitimate political rights.

** Uganda Statement

Another statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the northern Uganda peace process:

In keeping with his mandate to encourage the peace process in northern Uganda, Joaquim Chissano, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Lord’s Resistance Army-affected areas, has been in the region since late last month carrying on consultations with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leadership and northern Ugandan parties, as well as with concerned regional countries.  Yesterday, he chaired a meeting in Ri-Kwangba, Southern Sudan, with the main parties and participants to the Juba Peace Initiative.  

The Secretary-General is pleased that all parties in attendance, including LRA leader Joseph Kony, reiterated their commitment to peace and stated their readiness to extend the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement to which they are currently bound.  The Secretary-General hopes that the discussions begun yesterday can lead in the near future to a resumption of the Juba peace talks, as those who have taken part in this conflict bear a responsibility to end the suffering in northern Uganda.

The Secretary-General looks forward to further discussions on the situation of the LRA-affected areas when his Special Envoy visits New York later this month to brief the Security Council.

**Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council opened its fourth session this morning in Geneva to debate the promotion and protection of human rights around the world.  Council members watched a video message from the Secretary-General and heard an address by the High Commissioner for Human Rights before starting the high-level segment.

The Secretary-General said the world was watching to see if the Council would live up to its promise.  He hoped that the Council members would work together to promote an objective and universal approach to human rights.  In the weeks and months ahead, this would be put to the test time and again, and acute crises and long-simmering human rights issues would demand scrutiny and remedy, he said.  It was crucial that the Council had the components in place to pass this test.  He said by the first anniversary of the Council in June, the wheels of the Council should be in full motion, including the Universal Periodic Review.

The High Commissioner, Louise Arbour, said poverty and discrimination were both the causes and the consequences of the most egregious violations of human rights and attacks on human dignity.

We have the full text of both their messages upstairs.

** Darfur

On Darfur, the report of the high-level mission on the situation of human rights in Darfur has been made public and is posted on the website of the Human Rights Council.

The report notes that numerous efforts by the international community have not been successful in ending the conflict.  Rebel movements have become increasingly fragmented and abuses have continued.  Even after the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement, war continues and the human rights situation has further deteriorated.

Today, millions are displaced, at least 200,000 are dead and conflict and abuse are spilling over the border into Chad.

Making matters worse, humanitarian space continues to shrink, and humanitarian and human rights actors are increasingly targeted.  Killing of civilians remains widespread, including in large-scale attacks.  Rape and sexual violence are widespread and systematic.  Torture continues.

The mission concludes that the critical needs for improving the situation of human rights in Darfur are numerous and makes a number of specific recommendations for action by the Human Rights Council, the Government, rebel movements and by the international community.

** Sudan

Still on the Sudan, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke on Saturday with President Omer al-Bashir of Sudan.  The Secretary-General informed him of the choice made, in agreement with Chairman Konaré of the African Union, of a UN-AU joint Special Representative and a Deputy Special Representative for the Darfur region, as well as the Force Commander for the joint mission.  You will be informed of the names in due course.

The Secretary-General discussed political and humanitarian aspects of the UN and AU presence in Darfur.  This morning, the Secretary-General informed Security Council President Kumalo of the conversation, and he will discuss Darfur with members of the Council during their lunch on Thursday.

**Kosovo

On Kosovo, regarding the Kosovo status process, Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari on Saturday chaired in Vienna a high-level meeting of delegations from Belgrade and Pristina.  That meeting concluded 14 months of negotiations on Kosovo’s future.

Ahtisaari expressed regret that there was no will from the parties to move away from their previously stated positions and that the potential for negotiations had now been exhausted.

Calling his proposal a “realistic compromise”, Ahtisaari said he would now finalize his proposal and submit it to the Security Council this month.

We have a press release with more information in my Office.

**Afghanistan/Pakistan

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno today wrapped up a visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan with a press conference in Kabul, at which he said that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan is beginning a new phase in the implementation of its mandate.  This phase, Mr. Guéhenno explained, would consist of helping to consolidate what has been achieved under the inter-Afghan Bonn Agreement of December 2001.  It will also see a reinforcement of the Mission’s presence in the provinces and a strengthening of the partnership with the Afghan people.

On Pakistan, Mr. Guéhenno said the main item of discussion at his meeting with President Musharraf was the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan and security management of their joint border.

And we have more in a transcript of Mr. Guéhenno’s press conference upstairs.

** Haiti

On Haiti, The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti this weekend reported a number of law-enforcement and other activities, including the arrests in the Cité Soleil neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, of five presumed members of the Evans criminal gang.

In the area of reconstruction, the Mission reported that the Special Representative, Edmond Mulet, took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a Port-au-Prince high school, recently rehabilitated with UN and US Government funding to host some 5,000 students.  At that event, Mullet said that the strengthening of state institutions, including education facilities, is a crucial part of the UN’s mandate in Haiti.

Also of note is the completion of a tour of judicial infrastructures and meetings with judges and lawyers in Cap Haitien by Principal Deputy Special Representative Luiz Carlos da Costa, as part of a UN initiative to help revive and strengthen the Haitian judicial sector.

** Sri Lanka

UN humanitarian agencies working in Sri Lanka today expressed alarm at the increasing number of people who are being displaced in eastern Sri Lanka as a result of the current escalation in hostilities.

** Cambodia

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed an urgently needed donation by the Government of Dubai, which will now allow WFP to resume key operations in Cambodia that were suspended in January due to lack of funding.

**UNDP/Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

An update on the suspension of UNDP operations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Out of the current nine international staff in Pyongyang (eight UNDP and one UNDP-administered staff), seven, including the Resident Representative, will leave the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by 17 March 2007.

UNDP will leave two international staff members, the Deputy Resident Representative and the Operations Manager, in the DPRK, to complete the suspension and to support the independent external audit.  UNDP is also putting in place measures in Pyongyang for safeguarding of records to ensure that they can be made available to the auditors.

You can have more, available upstairs.  You will have an update from the United Nations Development Programme on the suspension of the operations in the DPRK.

For any of you that would have further questions, David Morrison of UNDP will be available to you after the briefing.  He is back here should you have any additional questions.

**Secretary-General Reports

There are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled for today; but today, out on the racks is the Secretary-General’s quarterly report on Iraq and one report on Côte d’Ivoire.

**Press Conferences on Tuesday

We have three press conferences scheduled for tomorrow for your planning purposes.

At 10:30 a.m., the Ambassador of Georgia to the United Nations, Irakli Alasania will brief you on the situation in Upper Abkhazia.

Then, at 11:15 a.m., the Director of the UN Population Division, Hania Zlotnik will release to you the results of the 2006 Revision World Population Prospects.

And, at 1:15 p.m., the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, François Lonsény Fall, will be here to brief on the situation in that country.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Now that the Kosovo talks, after 14 months, have failed somehow, and one side, Kosovo wants to join the UN and the European Union under an independent flag, and another side doesn’t agree with that, I guess my question was going to be “what now?”, but since you mentioned the Security Council, my question is actually: is the Security Council the only international binding forum to try to solve that stalemate in Kosovo?  

Spokesperson:  At this point, yes.  At this point, the Security Council will receive the report and it will be taking it up next month.  At this point, this is the only one that has initiated action on the Kosovo matter.

Question:  So the talks are definitely closed?

Spokesperson:  They are finished, yes.

Question:  Could you provide us more details on the conversation between Ban Ki-moon and President al-Bashir and whether he would consider the invitation which was reported that Mr. al-Bashir has extended to him to visit Sudan and Darfur himself?  

Spokesperson:  Yes, the invitation was made.  I can confirm that the Secretary-General has agreed in principle to go.  However, no decision has been taken yet on when it will happen.

Question:  What’s the Secretary-General’s take about what he heard from President al-Bashir?  Is he satisfied, not satisfied?  Are we closer to an agreement?

Spokesperson:  I think the situation is more or less the same.  And, as you know, the letter which was sent last Thursday has been translated.  It is going to be translated to the Security Council, probably today or tomorrow, and will be distributed to members of the Council and all further discussions will be with members of the Council.

Question:  Given that Olmert of Israel has admitted that the war in Lebanon was done as (inaudible) planning before the kidnapping of the two soldiers, is Mr. Ban Ki-moon going to make a statement about that?  Is there a reaction from him on it, especially after the destruction of Lebanon as a result of the pretext used?  

Spokesperson:  No, there are no reactions at this point.

Question:  Is he going to visit south Lebanon when he goes to Lebanon?

Spokesperson:  At this point, we are still trying to work out the details of the trip, but we will let you know as soon as we find out.

Question:  Two things: Who is the new UN Special Representative to Darfur?  And the second question is: so if I understand correctly, the Secretary-General is now recusing himself from the Darfur issue and handing the dossier over to the Security Council?

Spokesperson:  No, he is not recusing himself from the Darfur issue.  He’s just following the procedure right now that has been started with the Security Council concerning, as you know, the UN hybrid force to be deployed there.

Question:  So, if he’s not recusing himself, what is his comment on the letter and the essential non-agreement by Sudan to the second phase of deployment?

Spokesperson:  We’ll have a statement on the letter, Mark, as soon as he has finished discussing with the Security Council on this.  He will make his own reaction public.  He’s still very concerned about the issue and very involved in the issue.

Question:  And regarding the Special Representative?

Spokesperson:  The name has not been made public yet, because it has to go to the Security Council first. 

Question:  Does he agree with President Bashir that he has to be an African figure or an international figure?

Spokesperson:  The agreement was already reached between Mr. Konaré and the Secretary-General.  They just informed President al-Bashir of the decision made.

Question:  Aside from this whole idea of the Secretary-General meeting to discuss with the Security Council, does he consider the response acceptable or not?  He’s read the letter.  He knows what’s in it.  Is it acceptable?  Or is this a setback to the whole process in his view?

Spokesperson:  He doesn’t see it as a setback.  He sees that there were some aspects in the letter that were positive ones.  And he wants to see from these positive elements how far we can go.

Question:  He finds this an acceptable response?

Spokesperson:  It is a response.

Question:  Is it an acceptable response in his view?

Spokesperson:  He hasn’t said that.

Question:  Well is it?

Spokesperson:  He hasn’t yet. 

Question:  Well, do you think it is?

Spokesperson:  I told you he will react soon, as soon as he talks to the Security Council.

Question:  Why does he need to go talk to the Security Council before he reacts to this?

Spokesperson:  Because it is an issue that is with the Security Council.  He has already taken some position on Darfur.  But, once the whole issue is in front of the Security Council, he will follow procedures with the Security Council.

Question:  On Zimbabwe, has Ban Ki-moon been in contact with any Zimbabwean officials?  Does he plan to call Mugabe?  And, given what happened over the weekend, is it time now for the UN to take greater involvement in Zimbabwe and perhaps bring the matter back to the Security Council?  Also, what exactly did Ban Ki-moon find acceptable in that letter?

Spokesperson:  I didn’t say that he found it acceptable.  I said he received the letter.  There were some positive elements.  Marie told you what those elements were on Friday.  I would underline the fact that, in principle, President al-Bashir has accepted the agreement signed.  About your other questions Nathan, the first one was about?

Question:  Contact with any Zimbabwean officials, Mugabe.

Spokesperson:  No there has been no contact.  You have that statement which was given today.  There have been no telephone calls and no direct contact with Zimbabwe and Zimbabwean officials over this. 

Question: Any plans to put perhaps more UN involvement, considering the weekend’s developments, and bring it back to the Security Council?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know yet.

Question:  I’m not sure if this question is for you or for the Spokesman for the GA, but the Spokesman for the GA indicates you.  The question is that I’m told that there’s a UN rule, ordinance, law or custom of not hanging any portraits of people other than that of Secretaries-General.  If so, could you find out what it is?  Is it the rule?  Is it the law?  What is it?  And, if so, why was that custom broken by putting the Mandela portrait?  

Spokesperson:  I will inquire for you but I really don’t know.

Question:  Because I’m told that there were attempts in the past to honour world personalities and they were rebuffed because of that law, ordinance or whatever.

Spokesperson:  Well, we can try to find out.

Question:  With regards to Cyprus and the removal of the wall, what is the next step now and, also, how much does the Secretary-General rely on his Special Representative there?  Is he hands-on, the Secretary-General, when it comes to this issue?  Or does he fully rely on Mr. Møller?

Spokesperson:  I think he will rely for the time being on his Representative there.

Question:  And what is the next step now that the wall has been removed?

Spokesperson:  That I don’t know at this point.  But I will ask for you.

Question:  Just to clarify some points on Sudan.  You say that the letter from al-Bashir has been translated, including the annex.  And it is being circulated or it has been?

Spokesperson:  It is being circulated.  It has been sent today.  It was translated this weekend.  It is being transmitted today.  It has been received by the Security Council President.  It has not been circulated yet to the members of the Council.

Question:  It’s being sent by the means the letter was sent originally?

Spokesperson:  No, it’s being sent by direct route.

Question:  The Secretary-General has already selected his envoy for the Darfur issue and he has already informed Mr. al-Bashir of whom that is?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  And when does he expect to inform the Council?

Spokesperson:  Thursday they are talking about Darfur.

Question:  So you’re going to just sort of keep it under wraps until then?

Spokesperson:  Yes.  Sorry about this.  And there is also a Deputy Special Representative whose name was given too.  It was a joint decision by the AU and the UN.

Question:  What exact responsibilities or portfolio, what will this team do that is different and what is being done with that?

Spokesperson:  We will get that for you and more information on the details and what exactly the mission will be and how they will proceed with it.  We will have that for you.  Betsy.

Question:  On the North Korea update you gave and on the audits, I’m definitely glad that we’ll speak to Mr. Morrison afterwards.  But this is for you, as the Spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon.  Is the UN-administered staff, Timo Pakkala, the Resident Representative leaving; and, if so, who is going to be Ban Ki-moon’s Representative in Pyongyang now that he leaves?  And, also on the audit, we’ve seen a memo from the Board of Auditors to four agencies -- UNDP, UNOPS, UNFPA and UNICEF -- saying that the audit starts today and runs for two weeks.  How can it only be two weeks?  How can it be done with the document still in Pyongyang?  Has there been any response to Ban Ki-moon’s 28 February letter?   

Spokesperson:  I think you should direct all those questions to UNDP.  We’ve already answered as much as we could.

Question:  There are three other agencies.  That’s why I’m directing it to you.  I don’t think he can answer for UNFPA or anybody.

Spokesperson:  Well, the process is continuing.  I told you that the other day.  It’s starting with UNDP.  And it’s going to continue for other agencies.

Question:  But why is WFP not on the list, but UNICEF is?  Who do we ask that?  Obviously it’s not UNDP. 

Spokesperson:  I can find out for you from the Board of Auditors how they are going to proceed and what is going to be the next audit.

Question:  Is Timo Pakkala leaving?  Who is the Resident Rep or Resident Coordinator?  Who is going to represent the UN?

Spokesperson:  This is a question to be answered by UNDP.

Question:  On Cyprus issues again, after the demolition of the wall, do you have any indication if the 8 July agreement will soon be implemented? 

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything additional to say about Cyprus.  I don’t have any special, new comments from what we gave on Friday.  So we’ll let you know about the rest of the process.

Question:  President Chirac of France has decided not to run for another mandate.  However, he said he will work afterwards for world peace.  Does the Secretary-General have a comment?  And does he think that President Chirac can play such a role in the international community?

Spokesperson:  I cannot answer this question at this point.

Question:  Is the Secretary-General disappointed that President al-Bashir, in his letter, doesn’t fully accept the heavy package, but calls for more talks on it?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think that, at this point, he is ready to comment on the content of the letter.

Question:  With regard to the naming of the Special Representative, has the Secretary-General informed members of the Security Council yet as to the name of the Special Representative?

Spokesperson:  He’s doing so this week.

Question:  So he informed President al-Bashir on Saturday, but waited several more days to inform members of the Security Council?  Is that correct in terms of procedure here?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check for you whether he informed the President of the Council before that.  I’ll check for you on that, on the process.

Question:  Getting back to the press conference tomorrow, Georgians are coming back again.  They were there last week, last Monday.  I know that the actual Permanent Representative didn’t show up.  He sent his Deputy Representative.  Why is that?  Is it because he wants to show his face this time around or has there been any development?  Is it still on Abkhazia or they’ll be briefing us on something else?

Spokesperson:  Well, I have no more to add to what I said earlier.

Anything else?  Ok, Ashraf.

Briefing by the Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly

Good afternoon.  I will be very short and I hope you follow my example.

**Secretariat Restructuring Proposals

Informal consultations of the General Assembly plenary on the Secretary-General’s proposal to realign the Department of Disarmament Affairs were held on Friday.  There’s a new text of elements for a draft framework resolution and copies are available upstairs.

Consultations on the realignment of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations are scheduled for this afternoon.  The facilitators for this track also circulated late last week the first draft elements for a framework resolution.  Copies are available upstairs as well.

**Security Council Reform

On Security Council reform, tomorrow afternoon, the Assembly’s open-ended working group on reform of the Security Council will hold an informal interactive panel discussion (closed meeting) with the five facilitators (the Ambassadors of Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Netherlands and Tunisia) on all five themes under discussion (size of an enlarged Council; regional representation; the veto; working methods of the Council and its relationship with the Assembly; and categories of membership).

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Are we going to be able somehow to understand what they are talking with these facilitators?  Is there a written report prepared that could be shared?

Spokesperson:  No, I don’t think there’s a written report prepared.  This is why they’re having the panel discussion tomorrow, to try and see how far they went in the first round and see where they can go from there.

Question:  They are not talking from the top of their minds?

Spokesperson:  No, they have notes about where people supported a point and where people objected to a point.  Where a majority of countries supported one subject and where there’s still wide diversions in another element.  And this is why they’re having this panel tomorrow.  Once they conclude with the panel, we may have something more concrete. 

Question:  So we go and ask some of those facilitators?

Spokesperson:  I just named the facilitators.

Question:  On the report on the Redesign Panel on the administration of justice, there seems to be a lot this week.  It’s in the Fifth Committee, the Sixth Committee, ACABQ; what’s the timeline for it actually being considered by the full Assembly, and did the President meet with Mrs. Bárcena or anyone else on this topic? 

Spokesperson:  If I’m not mistaken, she was supposed to meet with her either today or tomorrow for a briefing on how far they went.  However, once the ACABQ is finished with the Redesign Panel and they have already submitted the report it goes directly to the Fifth Committee.  The Fifth Committee schedules one or more sessions, the time it needs to meet and discuss the recommendations in the report of the ACABQ and, once they’re done with that, they refer it to the Assembly.

Question:  Does the Sixth have any (inaudible)?

Spokesperson:  If there are legal elements that have to be changed in the draft resolution, then that has to be dealt with in the Sixth.  But, eventually, it all ends up in the Fifth because, as you know, this has financial implications.  When the Sixth is done with the legal elements, they refer that part to the Fifth and, eventually, the Assembly will discuss everything in the consolidated report.

Question:  Are there any legal implications? 

Spokesperson:  I’m sure if you’re recommending a change of the whole internal justice system at the UN there are definitely legal implications.

Question:  Has the GA issued any statements with regards to Mr. Kuznetsov, the former UN official from Russia?

Spokesperson:  We read a brief statement from this podium on Thursday in answer to a question related to the case.  The text is available in the transcript of that day’s briefing.

Question:  I just wanted to find out as to this particular panel on reform of the Security Council.

Spokesperson:  As you know, the consultations were done in five parallel tracks.  And this is one way of getting all the five facilitators to talk and see where they are because you can’t just play up two of the elements and leave three out.  This is the only way that you can discuss all the elements at the same time.  So that’s where the panel comes in.

Question:  The objective is what?

Spokesperson:  The objective is to round up everything, get all of the facilitators together at the same time to see if enough progress was made to either issue a report or go into another round of consultations.  That’s why they have gotten all the five facilitators together. 

Question:  Then that predicates as to whether there will be further talks?

Spokesperson:  It depends on what happens tomorrow.  It depends on if more talks are needed, if more consultations are needed or if they’re ready to come up with something, if they’re very optimistic.

[The facilitators are expected to submit to the President, at the end of March, reports on the result of their consultations, on the basis of which the President will present to Member States a consolidated text.]

Question:  The President of the General Assembly has travelled several times abroad to meet officials to discuss important issues.  She has been holding a number of consultations for the past two months at Headquarters.  Would she be willing to meet with the press to give some kind of progress report at this stage?

Spokesperson:  I’ll ask her, but, if we are giving regular briefings on everything that she does, she might feel that is not needed.  But I’ll ask her if she’s interested in this.  For your information, on the General Assembly website we have given all the details of her recent trip to Italy and Germany, the officials that she met with, what exactly happened in these meetings; and you can consult that.

Question:  What I meant is that we would like to ask some questions.  Would she be willing to meet with the press?

Spokesperson:  I’ll ask her.

Question:  Do you know the answer to the portrait legislation?

Spokesperson:  No.

Thank you.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.