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

29 May 2007

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

29 May 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 the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

**Guest at Noon

Mr. Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, is our guest at the noon briefing today.

** Darfur

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Darfur:

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the killing on 25 May of a UN officer from Egypt, who was deployed in El Fasher in support of AMIS.  He also deplores the armed hijacking of a UN convoy in El Fasher on 28 May, in which three vehicles were stolen and the passengers robbed.  It is unacceptable that those working to bring stability and life-saving humanitarian assistance to Darfur continue to be targeted.  All parties must urgently adhere to the ceasefire and support the activities of the United Nations and the African Union in this beleaguered region of Sudan.

The Secretary-General urges the Government of Sudan to facilitate the immediate deployment of the heavy support package to AMIS, and agree to the UN-AU hybrid operation without delay.

The Secretary-General urges all stakeholders to support the efforts of Special Envoys Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim.  Lasting peace in Darfur can only be achieved through an inclusive and comprehensive peace process reinforced by a strong peacekeeping presence.”  

We also expect a statement this afternoon, or a little later today, on the massacre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

**Security Council - Darfur

The Security Council has welcomed the transmission of the report of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission on the AU-UN hybrid operation in Darfur. 

In a presidential statement read out on Friday afternoon, the Council noted that the agreement is an important development in the comprehensive approach to the peace process in Darfur, which also includes re-energizing the political process, strengthening the ceasefire and implementing the three-phase approach to peacekeeping, culminating in an African Union-United Nations hybrid operation.

**Peacekeepers’ Day

Today is the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, and from Timor-Leste and Lebanon to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Haiti, UN missions are celebrating this annual landmark.  We have press releases upstairs, describing how various missions are honouring the selfless contributions of Blue Helmets past and present. 

Here at Headquarters, the Secretary-General, just an hour ago, laid a wreath in the Visitor’s Lobby to commemorate the sacrifice of the 100 peacekeepers killed on the job in 2006, and the fallen colleagues of previous years, and also to celebrate the dedication of those serving in UN missions around the world.

After observing a minute of silence, the Secretary-General delivered prepared remarks, in which he said that, while UN peacekeeping is a model of burden-sharing among countries, one should never forget that the brunt of this burden is borne by individuals.

Recalling Friday’s brutal killing of an Egyptian peacekeeper in Sudan; and recalling that former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, Middle East mediator Count Folke Bernadotte and colleagues killed in the bombing of the UN Baghdad headquarters, among others, met their ends while serving on UN peace missions, the Secretary-General said that the UN family is much more determined to honour their selfless dedication and courage by continuing to work for peace and security in the world’s most troubled regions.

With UN deployment at a record high, the Secretary-General vowed to do everything possible to safeguard the security and safety of UN personnel in the field, from advocating robust mandates to ensuring they have the equipment they need to carry them out.

We also have copies of his remarks upstairs in my office, along with information kits and press materials prepared by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations on statistics and the current activities of UN peacekeepers around the world.

**Secretary-General Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed Mr. Francis Deng of Sudan as his new Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, succeeding Mr. Juan Méndez of Argentina.  Mr. Deng is currently Director of the Sudan Peace Support Project based at the United States Institute of Peace.  He served as the Secretary-General’s Representative on Internally Displaced Persons from 1992 to 2004.

We have more information in his bio upstairs.

**Secretary-General’s Departure to Berlin

The Secretary-General is leaving, as you know, tonight for Berlin.  He is looking forward to meeting with the other Quartet principles in Berlin tomorrow.  The Quartet meeting comes at a timely juncture to review recent developments in Gaza and in Israel.  The Secretary-General hopes that this meeting will also be an opportunity to discuss the way ahead for a definition of a political horizon in the Middle East peace process.

**Security Council

Security Council members just completed consultations on the situation in the Middle East, during which they discussed a draft resolution on the establishment of a tribunal of an international character for Lebanon.

This afternoon at 3 o’clock, Council members will reconvene in closed-door consultations to hear a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi on Eritrea and Ethiopia.  After that, they are expected to take up other matters.

** Lebanon

The Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team began its work yesterday in Lebanon.  The Team is tasked with fully evaluating security arrangements along Lebanon’s border with Syria and to do so in close coordination with relevant Lebanese authorities and other bilateral partners already providing border security assistance to Lebanon.

We have more information on that upstairs.

**Occupied Arab Territories

The situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories has worsened dramatically over the past year, according to the International Labour Organization’s annual report.

The ILO found that 7 in 10 households are living below the poverty line.  It says the situation has become especially dire in the past year because of the non-payment of wages for public employees and mounting obstacles to the movement of goods and people.

We have more information in a press release upstairs.

** Iraq

The United Nations, building upon its previous support for the holding of democratic elections in Iraq, today began a week of intensive training for the nine new members of the Independent High Electoral Commission of Iraq (IHEC).

The training, carried out in New Delhi, India, should help the new commissioners to become more knowledgeable in all aspects of the management of electoral processes with transparency and political independence.  It should also provide them with an opportunity to build their working relationship as a commission.  There is a press release with more details upstairs.

** Afghanistan

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has called for all parties fighting in Afghanistan to increase efforts to ensure the protection of innocent civilians.  In particular, the Mission says, all parties shall avoid, by all necessary means, combat in populated areas, which result in higher civilian casualties.

**Northern Uganda

The World Food Programme (WFP) says that gunmen ambushed a WFP convoy in north-eastern Uganda, killing a WFP driver.

Richard Achuka, 41, was shot in the neck and shoulder and died yesterday when the gunmen attacked a convoy of four WFP trucks as they returned from delivering food to schools and other sites.

“WFP condemns this vicious attack on a clearly marked WFP humanitarian convoy in the strongest terms and demands that the killers be pursued and brought to justice,” according to a press release issued by the agency in Kampala, and we have a copy of that press release upstairs.

**United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees - Nepal

The United Nations refugee agency expressed grave concern over the death of one refugee, a minor, and several injured refugees and policemen, during a clash in a refugee camp in the Jhapa District of eastern Nepal on Sunday.  UNHCR is appealing to the refugees to abide by the laws of the country.

**Smoking

The World Health Organization (WHO) is urgently calling on countries to make all indoor public places and workplaces 100 per cent smoke-free.  In new policy recommendations -- timed for World No Tobacco Day, which is Thursday -- WHO stresses that only 100 per cent smoke-free environments can adequately protect from the dangers of second-hand smoke.

WHO estimates that 200,000 workers die each year due to exposure to smoke at work.  And almost half of the world’s children breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke, particularly at home.

We have more information in a press release upstairs.

**Press Conferences

At 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference by Mr. José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, on the launch of the midyear update of the world economic situation and prospects.

At 3 p.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference by Mr. Michael Oppenheimer, the author of the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the upcoming sixtieth DPI/NGO Conference, entitled “Climate Change: How it impacts on all of us”.

What we’ll do is we will not have any questions right now.  We will have them later, afterwards.  We will have Ashraf, then we will have Mr. Guéhenno and then we will pick up the questions afterwards.  If you don’t mind, I don’t want Mr. Guéhenno waiting to long.

[Briefing by General Assembly Spokesperson and Mr. Guéhenno.]

**Questions and Answers

Correspondent:  First of all let me just say, once you start a briefing, you might as well end it, because I’ll start with Mr. Guéhenno’s report and the other things in my mind are now gone…

Spokesperson:  We really didn’t have a choice.  He had to leave at a certain time.

Question:  I understand, but once you start, you should finish it.  That is my observation.  The other thing I want to ask you about is today, there was an article on The New York Times’ front page on the cyber attack and the computer attack on the Republic of Estonia.  Supposedly, the Republic of Estonia was totally paralysed, rendered totally dysfunctional by the attack that came on the computer network.  Now, that basically is not necessarily one country attacking another country physically, but economically, it just rendered this country totally useless.  Does the Secretary-General take note of this and intend to ask Member States to at least have some statute, or does the Security Council take note of this?  If this can happen to a small country, it can be widened into a bigger crisis.

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any answer or a statement on that.  All I can say is that it certainly is of concern to anyone living in this modern age that this type of thing happens every day in fact.  Today it was Estonia, but you have constantly this type of attack on different industrial complexes and different entities, so it is a matter of concern.

Question:  [inaudible] getting water, paying parking tickets, everything was on [inaudible] this small place.

Spokesperson:  Well, it is up to the Member States now to bring this up to the attention of either the General Assembly or the Security Council.  As you said, it is an attack on a country.

Question:  It is going to be 1 June on Friday, and I just wanted to get an update on where the UN is on organizing the talks between the Frente Polisario and the Kingdom of Morocco.

Spokesperson:  We’ll get an update for you on this.  We gave you an update last week, but we don’t have anything new today, but I’ll try to get more for you to see if anything is moving.

Question:  There was an op-ed written by the Secretary-General, and by the way did the new Communications Director help facilitate space for the Secretary-General…?

Spokesperson:  What was your question?

Question:  The question is: he praised “soft power” and he brought as examples his negotiations with Bashar al-Assad and Bashir.  My question is, does this new drive in the Security Council for sanctions fall within the concept of soft power, or is that like harder power or what are we talking about here?

Spokesperson:  This is something that the Security Council is considering.  As you know, the Secretary-General’s approach is different…

Correspondent:  …he supported this as an extension of his soft power on negotiations.

Spokesperson:  He has asked, as you know, for more diplomatic space in some cases, where he wanted to have a little more time to be effective in terms of his contacts and his relationship with different Heads of State or leaders in different troubled areas of the world.  So, his diplomatic approach, he has put it forward.  The Security Council is free to discuss and take decisions on any matter that concerned them.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General’s position has been, since he started, to try to engage people, regional leaders in the case of conflict in the Middle East, engage different actors in the political field, to make a difference.  To him, a political solution is the most important thing, to solve, you know, conflicts.

Question:  We understand Guido Bertucci becomes eligible for early retirement in July, is that correct?

Spokesperson:  I can check that, I don’t have the date with me, I don’t have the exact information.  I can check on that.

Question:  I was just wondering, I assume that all the missions will have some events today on the International Day of Peacekeepers.  Are we expecting any readouts of the statements of the Special Representatives?

Spokesperson:  Well, you have upstairs quite a few things coming from the missions with different events happening there, so you can have more information at my office.

Question:  On the staffing process, on Friday, didn’t you say that it would be early this week?  Do you have any idea when you are going to make, I guess, this series of announcements?

Spokesperson:  Do you mean the staffing on the 38th floor?  I expected it today, we’ll probably have it tomorrow.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

**United Nations Peacekeepers Day

In a message on the occasion of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, the Assembly President underlines: “United Nations operations do more than just silence the guns; they help to foster a culture of sustainable peace in countries that had been devastated by conflict, some for decades.  On this International Day of Peacekeepers, let us pledge to continue our work to achieve lasting security and live up to the goal set by the United Nations Charter: ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’.”

**South-South Cooperation

Addressing the GA High-Level Committee on South-South Cooperation this morning, the Assembly President emphasized: “Just as donors must fulfil their commitments, the stronger developing economies have an obligation to champion the needs of the most vulnerable developing countries: the least developed countries, the landlocked developing countries and small island developing States.”

“In the future, maybe the foreign exchange reserves,” the President says, “that have accumulated in many developing countries could be used to stimulate development in other countries of the South.”

**Visit to Austria

The Assembly President will travel to Austria this evening to visit the UN Office in Vienna and meet UN officials.  She will also take part in an international conference organized by the Foreign Ministry of Austria, on the theme “Women Leaders -- Networking for Peace and Security in the Middle East”.

**Thematic Debate on Climate Change

Following a request by the Permanent Representatives of the Philippines and Germany, on behalf of the ASEAN New York Committee and the European Union, respectively, the President informed Member States last week that she would convene a thematic debate of the Assembly in the second half of July on “Climate Change as a Global Challenge”.  She will be assisted in the preparations for this debate by Ambassadors Claude Heller and Peter Maurer of Mexico and Switzerland, the Facilitators for consultations on international environmental governance.

That is it.

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