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

20 April 2007

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

20 April 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 Ashraf Kamal, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

**Statement on Mission to Fiji

Good afternoon.  First, a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:

The Secretary-General has dispatched a fact-finding mission to Fiji in response to the Security Council’s concern about the situation and its call for a peaceful resolution and the restoration of democracy. 

The mission’s objective is to gain a first-hand assessment of the situation in Fiji through broad consultations with the interim authorities, representatives of all political parties and civil society.  The mission, which arrives in Fiji on Sunday, will also meet with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the resident diplomatic community.

The mission is being led by Jehangir Khan of the Department of Political Affairs and will include political and electoral experts, as well as representatives from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNDP.  Following its consultations in Fiji, the mission will report its findings and recommendations to the Secretary-General.

**Secretary-General in Switzerland

The Secretary-General last night in Bern attended a joint press conference with the President of Switzerland, in which, in response to a question on Iraq, he said he would be launching the International Compact for Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh on 3 May, together with the Iraqi Prime Minister.

The transcript of that encounter is available upstairs.

This morning, the Secretary-General attended a breakfast with the State Council of Geneva, during which he expressed his appreciation for its commitment to the United Nations by hosting 22 international organizations and more than 35,000 international civil servants and their families.

He later opened his first session of the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) of the UN system.  In the first session of the two-day meeting, the UN leaders discussed how best to coordinate their efforts in Aid for Trade, to enable developing countries to participate fully in the global trading system, and adopted a so-called tool kit to ensure that UN entities facilitate employment and decent work in the course of their operations.  They also discussed system-wide coherence.

The Secretary-General and the CEB move on to a retreat this afternoon.  Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General had also talked to UN staff at the Palais des Nations.

He wraps up his visit to Switzerland on Sunday morning, when he leaves Geneva and travels on to Qatar and Syria.

** Somalia

Unable to cross the city, displaced Somalis are now fleeing north from the capital, Mogadishu, as they seek refuge from the intermittent but intense fighting that has once more gripped the city, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports.

Meanwhile, aid deliveries have also been severely hampered by continued insecurity, including the harassment and detention of aid workers, new bureaucratic regulations imposed by the Transitional Federal Government and lack of access to stocks pre-positioned in the Mogadishu area.

At least 213,000 people have fled Mogadishu since the beginning of February, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, while field reports indicate that the number of displaced may even be as high as 300,000.

UNHCR yesterday started handing out relief supplies to thousands of displaced people in Afgooye, a Somali town some 30 kilometres west of Mogadishu.  That’s despite fresh fighting in Mogadishu and yesterday’s explosion on the main road between Afgooye and the capital, which cut links to the small town.

The Secretary-General’s latest report on Somalia, which is out on the racks, says it is imperative to secure an immediate end to the fighting, through a cessation of hostilities and a commitment to peace by all stakeholders. He adds that using military solutions to stabilize Mogadishu would likely be counterproductive.

** Lebanon

UN Legal Counsel Nicolas Michel has completed his meetings in Lebanon.  Today, he met again with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.  Noting the support of all his interlocutors in Lebanon for the special tribunal for Lebanon, Michel said it is time for the Lebanese parties to demonstrate their support for the establishment of the tribunal.  Such an outcome is possible only if the parties resume their dialogue, he added.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Premier Siniora, Michel voiced his conviction that the preferred outcome would be the early establishment of the special tribunal after agreement among the Lebanese parties. 

Michel, who is leaving Beirut tomorrow, said he hoped that the parties will continue to seek a solution to the impasse and urged them to do so.

** Sudan

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is scheduled to visit Sudan next week, on his second visit to the country.  He will arrive Monday in Khartoum, where he is scheduled to meet senior Government officials and the UN team on the ground.

UNHCR has been asked by the UN system to expand its operations for the internally displaced in Darfur, and Guterres will be looking into this issue during his talks with Sudanese officials.

UNHCR has a press release upstairs with more details on his trip.

Also, the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Mission in Sudan is out as a document and will be discussed by the Security Council next Monday.  In it, the Secretary-General says that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between north and south Sudan has reached a delicate stage, and the parties must devote considerable attention to the verification of the redeployment of their forces.

** Nepal

The Nepal branch of the UN human rights office today released the findings of its investigation into last month’s killings in the town of Gaur.  The 27 individuals, most of them linked to the Communist Party, were killed in a brutal manner, the report says.

The office also says that there can be no doubt that most, if not all, of the killings could have been prevented.  And the incidents highlighted once more the weaknesses of law enforcement agencies, which, aware of the potential for clashes and other violence, were grossly ill-prepared to ensure effective crowd control.

The UN human rights office adds that it is the duty and responsibility of all actors in the peace and electoral process -- and especially the State -- to ensure that the events of 21 March are not repeated.

We have a press release on that upstairs.

A delegation from Nepal, including Government representatives, senior political leaders, members of the Interim Legislature and civil society figures is scheduled to visit United Nations Headquarters in New York from 23 to 25 April.  This is an important visit that affords the delegation and the United Nations a chance to interact at a critical juncture of the peace process in Nepal and the United Nations support for it through UNMIN.

The aim of the visit to New York is to strengthen working relations with the United Nations and international agencies and resource institutions that are supporting Nepal’s peace and transitional justice processes, provided for in the Comprehensive Peace Accord. 

Following the New York visit, the delegation will visit Peru to look at the work of that country’s truth and reconciliation commission.

The United Nations has requested the assistance of the United States authorities in issuing entry visas for the Maoist members of the delegation.

**Security Council – Western Sahara

The Security Council is holding consultations on Western Sahara following a meeting with troop contributors involved with the UN Mission there.  Council members are hearing from Peter van Walsum, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.  We expect that Ambassador van Walsum will speak to you in this room after he is done in the Security Council, at approximately 1 p.m.

**Deputy Secretary-General

The Deputy Secretary-General departs over this weekend on a visit to Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.  She is presently in Geneva.  She will attend an annual meeting with UNDP’s regional management team there on Africa’s development agenda in a reforming UN system.  She will also attend bilateral meetings with Congolese officials on the ground.

The Deputy Secretary-General will also travel to Kinshasa to visit our UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and, while there, she will meet with President Joseph Kabila and other Government officials.  She returns to New York at the end of next week.

** Haiti

Two separate UN missions are currently visiting Haiti.  A group from the Division for the Advancement of Women of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs has been there since Monday to discuss ways to eliminate discrimination against women.  Officials from ECOSOC arrived on Wednesday to assess the post-conflict reconstruction challenges faced by the country.

After yesterday visiting Cité Soleil, where the UN Mission has recently achieved a significant reduction in gang violence, the ECOSOC mission today is in Cap Haitien and Ouanaminthe, in the northern part of the country.

**Measles Campaigns

In one of the fastest responses to a major outbreak of the measles, 16 million children and adults in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have been vaccinated against the disease since early March.

The campaign was organized by the country’s Government, with support from UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

Those agencies are also supporting a massive two-week measles immunization drive in Iraq.  Starting Sunday, some 8,000 vaccinators will fan out across the country.  They’re trying to reach the nearly 4 million Iraqi children between the ages of one and five.  Because of the country’s security situation, many have never received routine immunizations.

We have more information on those two campaigns upstairs.

**Update on OIOS Audit Report

In answer to a question yesterday about the status of the OIOS audit report of 23 February 2007 on the Thessaloniki Centre, I want to clarify that the audit itself has been completed; no further audit work has to be done.  OIOS is currently finalizing the recommendations in light of additional clarifications received from DESA at the meeting of the two departments on 22 March.

These recommendations, once finalized, have to be implemented by DESA.  One recommendation, regarding the closing of the Centre, has already been implemented.  When the recommendations are implemented, the audit process will be complete.

As you know, the implementation of audit recommendations is carried out under the oversight of OIOS itself.  Upon receipt of the recommendations of OIOS, DESA will provide a timeframe within which the recommendations are to be implemented. 

**Upcoming Press Conferences

Just a look ahead at press conferences on Monday:  at 10 a.m. in Room 226, there will be a press conference on the “Next Steps towards an Arms Trade Treaty”. Briefing will be by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Jorge Urbina, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica; Kirsti Lintonen, Permanent Representative of Finland; and Joseph Dube from the Control Arms Campaign.  There will also be a video message from Oscar-winning actress Dame Helen Mirren.

The guest at the noon briefing will be Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, who will brief on her recent mission to Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

We also have the “Week Ahead” for you.  It will be in my office.

That’s all I have.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Regarding Mr. Michel in Lebanon, what we understand is that he requested from Mr. Siniora to send another letter to the Security Council asking for chapter VII.  Can you confirm this please?

Spokesperson:  No, I cannot.  We spoke to his office this morning and this was not mentioned.  We will try to get Mr. Michel when he’s back here to talk directly to you.

Question:  He tries to have the same distance from all parties but by publicly supporting Siniora, and he said that he represents the real Government of Lebanon, isn’t he taking sides here… because Siniora’s Government is a party to the dispute in Lebanon.

Spokesperson:  I have no comment on this.

Question:  You said what is supposed to be discussed by the Security Council on Sudan next Monday?  Also, when is the Secretary-General supposed to receive the final results of the investigation on the painted aircraft in Sudan?

Spokesperson:  That I don’t know yet.  That is being carried out by the team on the ground, so we should know a little more about it next week.

Question:  What did you say is on Monday?

Spokesperson:  I said on Monday… about the press conference?

Question:  Something within the Security Council that you mentioned?

Spokesperson:  The Security Council meeting… I can check that for you again.  You can sit with me afterwards.  I’ll get the information for you.

Question:  I’m just wondering with regard to the Deputy Secretary-General’s visit… I’m still not entirely sure what her job is.  What is it that she does, that she focuses on?

Spokesperson:  She has a number of management responsibilities.  She was the one who really oversaw the whole report on system-wide coherence.  I have asked her, and she has accepted, to come to you; this will be her first press conference with you.

Question:  You said something about development.  So she’s the head of development?

Spokesperson:  She’s not the head of development.  She’s working on development issues, yes. 

Question:  And management?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  But what’s the difference between her role and the Secretary-General’s role on management?  Because the Secretary-General’s been driving a lot of the management change.  So that’s why I’m trying to understand.  And then you’ve also got a head of management.  So I’m trying to understand what her role is.

Spokesperson:  They all work together.  They work together on this.  The system-wide coherence –- she works specifically on that issue for all of the last two weeks.  As I said, she’s coming back here next week and we’ve asked her, and she has agreed to come and talk to you. 

Question:  When the Secretary-General saw the Pope, he said that he will appoint a High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations.  Will he or she be an Italian?  What criteria will be followed?  And finally, what will happen to the old Dialogue of Civilizations?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t have that information yet.  I know they did discuss the Alliance of Civilizations.  As for whether the person will be Italian, I don’t have that information at this point.  

Question:  And criteria?

Spokesperson:  We’ll try to find out for you what the exact criteria is.

Question:  Yesterday, the Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. Lavrov, was quoted as saying that the Ahtisaari Plan is dead, and he was then quoted as saying that he compared the Ahtisaari Plan with Annan’s Plan on Cyprus.  First of all, what’s going on with Annan’s Plan on Cyprus?  Is it dead?  Do you share that opinion?  And do you share this opinion of high international officials that Mr. Ahtisaari’s plan on Kosovo is dead?

Spokesperson:  Well, we’re not sharing the opinion of anybody at this point.  As you know, the whole issue is in front of the Security Council and you are going to be able to ask questions later on today about the issue.

Any other questions?  Ashraf.

Briefing by Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly

The five facilitators on Security Council reform (the ambassadors of Tunisia, Cyprus, Croatia, Chile and the Netherlands) met with the President of the Assembly yesterday afternoon and presented to her the report on the intensive consultations they conducted with Member States over the past three months.

The report reflects all current positions on the issue of Council reform and explores new ideas on moving forward, most notably the possibility of a transitional approach to reform in all its aspects –- including the categories of membership, the veto and expansion and size of the Council. 

“A significant number of Member States tend to agree that their ideal solution may not be possible at this stage, and believe that it may be more reasonable to consider the best possible substantial solution for now,” the report states.

It continues: “A transitional approach assumes an intermediate arrangement and should have as an integral component a mandatory review to take place at a predetermined date.” The text also suggests that the next stage of discussions on the issue could include an agreement on a negotiating process.

The President of the Assembly considers this report an important contribution and is transmitting it to Member States this afternoon, stating: “I share the facilitators’ view that there is a path forward that Members States can build on, taking advantage of the current momentum.”

We will make copies of the report available as soon as we can -- very soon after 1 p.m.

And she also received a letter from the G-4 yesterday after the meeting in Brasilia, expressing basically the same sentiment -- that there’s a feeling that negotiations should start as soon as possible.

That’s all I have.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  What exactly is the transitional approach?  Can you specify what its components are?

Spokesperson:  By transitional approach, what I think the report means is that everybody has now come to realize that the best and ideal solution may not be on the table at the moment.  So the best thing is to seek something more realistic and see where we can deal with an expansion perhaps in the size, along with working methods, and at the same time have a mandatory review date for that transitional arrangement, so that everybody who still has a position that they want to see come to fruition can hope that this will be done when they review the transitional arrangements.

Question:  That all sounds very vague.  Does it imply, for example, that Japan will be in as a veto Power and nobody else?

Spokesperson:  No, I don’t think the transitional arrangement deals with the veto power.  I think the veto power is one of the more controversial issues, one of the more complicated issues.  If you like, the more complicated issues are set aside for the moment for a future point when they can review them and review the transitional arrangement. 

Question:  Does it mean that now the conclusions are that reform of the Security Council is not possible at this stage?

Spokesperson:  No, not at all.  This is exactly what the report says.  The notions that the facilitators provide are basically a summation of the position of Member States.  And the facilitators feel that there’s enough momentum and that everybody is becoming more realistic about what could be possible and, therefore, these ideas should be explored by Member States.

Question:  In other words, you mean they’re unwilling to do anything at this stage?

Spokesperson:  I didn’t say that.

Question:  I mean… that’s what we understand.

Spokesperson:  I will repeat what I said.  I did not say that there’s nothing to do at this stage.  I said there are positive ideas in the report, and I quoted some parts of the report.  Again, it’s up to Member States.  If the facilitators have actually conveyed the actual feeling of Member States, then there is room for addressing and considering these proposals, and that would lead, hopefully, to negotiations.

Question:  As far as I understand, the facilitators are of the opinion that the time is not right yet for ideal approaches of reform?

Spokesperson:  Exactly. 

Question:  Did they explain why?

Spokesperson:  The ideal approach would be that every country gets exactly what it wants, which we know is a bit difficult.  If you move from idealism to realism, then things could be a little more possible.

Question:  Is the General Assembly President going to, at the same time, make a suggestion that members of the Assembly start at a particular date to start talking about possible transitional arrangements?

Spokesperson:  Well, the way she’ll be looking at it is… give the Member States a few days to digest the report and then hold a meeting and ask them whether they feel that this is the right thing to do right now.

Question:  I’m wondering… the SG’s away and his Deputy’s away.  By some strange coincidence, the very first time out of New York, the SG and the Deputy in the same country… who is the boss now at the UN?

Spokesperson:  Michèle just left so I wouldn’t know… the SG leaves somebody.  If the Deputy’s not here, she deputizes somebody to be Officer-in-Charge, but I don’t know who.

Question:  So maybe the SG’s trying to show the world that this august body can be run without my presence here and even my Deputy…

Spokesperson:  No, I don’t think we can say that.  It’s just a coincidence that they both have…

Question:  And the GA President is also about to leave too?

Spokesperson:  No.  She’s here.

* *** *

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