|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon all.
**Secretary-General in Brussels
The Secretary-General today addressed the inaugural Global Forum on Migration and Development taking place in Brussels, saying that, “as we have grasped migration’s powerful potential for good, old stereotypes have crumbled and new opportunities have captured our imaginations”.
He said that migration continues to increase -- driven by the age-old pursuit of a better life, as well as by increasingly understood phenomena such as climate change. The Secretary-General stressed that we can do a great deal to build a better migration experience, including by ensuring that people move in a way that is safe and legal, and which protects their rights.
The Secretary-General added that he will remain deeply committed to the Forum’s work, and pledged to maintain its link to the United Nations through his Special Representative for Migration and Development, Peter Sutherland, who was reappointed today.
The Secretary-General also met today with the European Union’s High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana.
He was asked afterwards by a reporter about Kosovo, and responded that any further delay or prolongation of that issue will not be beneficial for the Balkan States or for the European Union. At the same time, he asked the parties concerned not to take any premature unilateral actions, which may further complicate this already complicated issue.
We have that transcript upstairs.
The Secretary-General also held a press conference, in which, in response to a question, he said he was concerned about the ongoing situation in Pakistan. He stressed that the issue should be resolved peacefully, with respect for human rights.
Tom Koenigs, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, condemned today’s bomb attack in the Dihrawud district of Uruzgan Province, saying: “In no culture, no country, and no religion is there any excuse or justification for mass murder.”
He said he was especially concerned by the reports that a large number of children were among the dead from today’s bomb, adding that such utter disregard for innocent lives is staggering.
The UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has repeatedly stressed the need for all sides in this conflict to do their utmost to prevent harm coming to civilians.
We have Mr. Koenigs’ statement upstairs.
UNICEF also has a statement, saying that it is concerned by these incidents and the intimidation in some communities aimed at stopping families from sending children to school. Schools are a visible sign of reconstruction and progress, and there are those who perhaps fear such progress, UNICEF says.
The Security Council this morning heard a briefing on the latest developments in Guinea-Bissau by the Secretary-General’s Representative for that country, Shola Omoregie. He presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on Guinea-Bissau, which we flagged for you yesterday. The Council President may read out a statement to the press about Guinea-Bissau following consultations.
Also this morning, Council members discussed the work of the Sanctions Committee dealing with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and heard from the Chairman of that Committee, Ambassador Marcello Spatafora of Italy.
And Ambassador Peter Burian of Slovakia briefed on the progress of the Council’s working group on procedures and documentation.
On Lebanon, the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006), which is out as a document today, says that the Secretary-General is deeply concerned that Lebanon remains in the midst of a debilitating political crisis and faces ongoing attacks aimed at destabilizing and undermining its sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.
He says he is disturbed by the persistent reports pointing to breaches of the arms embargo along the Lebanese-Syrian border. He notes with concern that the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team, whose own report is also out as document today, concludes that the border is not sufficiently secure and that Lebanese capabilities are lacking.
We have an update on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. The Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that imports of food, fuel and cash met 70 per cent of minimum food and other needs last week, up from just 20 per cent the week before. Nonetheless, three quarters of Gaza’s factories are closed or operating at minimal capacity.
Meanwhile, border restrictions are preventing agricultural exports from reaching the market, while essential items like milk powder, baby formula and vegetable oil are in short supply.
And the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, warned of serious social, economic and humanitarian concerns unless all crossings return to their operational levels of a month ago.
On Somalia, the leaders of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) today made a joint call for concerted and coordinated international action to deal with the threat of piracy and armed robbery in waters off the coast of Somalia.
The joint appeal comes amid growing concern about the perils it poses for commercial shipping, fishing and other vessels and the delivery of humanitarian assistance needed by hundreds of thousands of Somali men, women and children.
The Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization, Efthimios Mitropoulos, and WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran warned that piracy off the coast of Somalia threatens regional sea lanes and endangers the fragile delivery line of food aid to Somalis already affected by the ravages of 15 years of civil strife, political instability and recurring natural disasters.
**Somalia/Yemen – Refugee Crossings
On Somalia-Yemen, the number of refugees dying while crossing the Gulf of Aden from Somalia to Yemen continues to rise. At least 367 people died in the first six months of this year, more than in all of 2006, according to the UN Refugee agency.
UNHCR says many of those who lost their lives were forced by smugglers to disembark in deep waters, and drowned while trying to swim to shore. Others were beaten to death by smugglers or attacked by sharks after being thrown overboard.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, William Lacy Swing, has condemned in the strongest terms the assassination of Floribert Bwana Chuy Bin Kositi, a regional leader of the Congolese Rally for Democracy political party. Kositi was found dead yesterday in Goma, the main town in the eastern province of North Kivu.
In his statement, Swing also urged Congolese authorities to ensure that this crime does not go unpunished, saying that this crime occurs at a time when a new peace drive is raising the hopes of achieving peace in the region. He said that this latest killing appears to be part of an emerging pattern of assassinating political and business officials in the eastern Congolese provinces.
We have copies of Swing’s statement upstairs.
** Iran – Human Rights
The High Commissioner for Human Rights is expressing deep concern at reports out of Iran that a man was stoned to death near Tehran last week. OHCHR is still trying to find out more information from the Government about the case, which reportedly involves a man and his female companion, who were imprisoned for more than 11 years for adultery.
The High Commissioner is calling on Iranian authorities to stop the execution of the woman involved in the case, as well as all such executions in Iran.
We have more information in the Geneva briefing notes upstairs.
Flood relief efforts in Pakistan have been stepped up as the water starts to recede. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Programme has provided almost 60 metric tons of food, while UNICEF has supplied the same amount of food for vulnerable children and pregnant women.
As for the UN refugee agency, it expects to deliver, by the end of the week, more than 250 tons of emergency supplies to Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. OCHA estimates that more than 2 million people were affected by the floods.
In Myanmar, the annual monsoon season began two weeks ago, resulting in floods in many areas. UNICEF has been able to distribute essential drugs, oral-rehydration salts, water purification tablets and family kits, in part because of supplies prepositioned from the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami.
And finally, floods have also affected the north of Sudan, and a multi-agency emergency response there is also providing essential supplies. UNICEF reports that the humanitarian community has distributed, among other items, plastic sheeting, blankets and cooking sets to more than 1,000 families.
** Nepal Appeal
The World Food Programme is launching an international appeal for $49 million to support Nepal’s peace process. This year-long recovery programme will assist over 1.2 million people in the country who continue to struggle daily with the effects of the recently ended 11-year conflict.
In addition to delivering food aid, the programme aims to provide quick-impact economic opportunities and to support community-based activities to contribute to longer-term food security in Nepal.
On counter-terrorism, 16 West African countries are set to meet with donors tomorrow here at United Nations Headquarters in New York to discuss a more targeted and regional approach to building their ability to fight terrorism, both within their borders and across the region.
The day-long informal meeting between the West African States and some 20 donor nations and international organizations is intended to give participants the opportunity to exchange views on the challenges faced by countries in putting into practice the various Security Council counter-terrorism resolutions, particularly resolution 1373 (2001), and by providers in delivering counter-terrorism related technical assistance.
**Guest at Noon Tomorrow
Our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, who will brief you on her recent trip to Austria, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana and Kenya.
**Secretary-General Press Conference
And the Secretary-General is now scheduled to have a press conference on Monday, 16 July, at 10:30 a.m.
This is all I have for you today. We don’t know yet where it will be. It might be this room; it might be a conference room. It’s not going to be a stakeout. No.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Welcome back Michèle. I wanted to say that tomorrow is the twelfth anniversary of Srebrenica. I am interested in whether the UN will do anything to commemorate that day or to address that date.
Spokesperson: Well, as you know, as we mark the anniversary of that horrific crime that took place there, the United Nations stresses once more the need by all States to act, to transfer to The Hague all of the suspects indicted for their involvement in the killings, notably Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić. The UN system, notably the International Criminal Tribunal [for the Former Yugoslavia], have tried to obtain justice for all those who suffered from the killings in Srebrenica, and the transfers are essential to achieving that aim.
So this is for our own statement on this. In terms of what will take place tomorrow, I’ll get back to you on the details.
Question: Thank you very much. Just one more quick follow-up. I mentioned to Marie last week, Mothers of Srebrenica are not recommending that Ms. Carla del Ponte come to the anniversary because of, as they say, her “broken promises” on Karadžić and Mladić. What do you think of that, whether the Secretary-General has any comment on that, and do you think that all these appeals for Karadžić and Mladić to be just brought to justice are enough to address these horrible crimes, as you said?
Spokesperson: The UN -- the Tribunal -- does not have the possibility to go and arrest those people. As you know, it is for the host countries of those people to arrest them. In terms of the invitation that you talk about, any group is free to invite whoever they wish. And if they don’t want to invite Ms. Carla del Ponte, it’s up to them.
Question: With regard to the Secretary-General’s remarks on the mosque situation in Pakistan, was he speaking on the basis of press reports or has he been briefed by the Resident Coordinator in Islamabad or by Pakistani diplomats in Brussels?
Spokesperson: As you know, when the Secretary-General travels, he is informed on a daily basis, on an hourly basis even, on situations like the one that was developing this morning. So he was certainly informed. As you know, he called for a peaceful solution to the confrontation.
Correspondent: No, I understand, but…
Spokesperson: He is informed on more than a daily basis.
Question: From which source [inaudible] are they basing his [inaudible] on the basis of press reports?
Spokesperson: No, not press reports.
Question: On some officials [inaudible] like [inaudible] Pakistani diplomats?
Spokesperson: We have a Department of Political Affairs who actually informs the Secretary-General on a regular basis on what was happening.
Question: There are reports from Cyprus that President [Tassos] Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader [Mehmet Ali] Talat are going to meet. Can you tell us when they are going to meet?
Spokesperson: I don’t have that information yet.
Question: Two things. That statement that’s upstairs, the Secretary-General on Pakistan, is that the final statement, or will he be reviewing the situation, giving more observation on that?
Spokesperson: You’re talking about his speech in… what are you talking about? His speech?
Correspondent: The situation in Pakistan. The statement that you said, there is a statement upstairs.
Spokesperson: It’s not from the Secretary-General. As I said earlier, it’s a statement that was issued…
Question: The Secretary-General has not said anything as yet?
Spokesperson: He had called for a peaceful end to the crisis.
Question: Is that the final observation?
Spokesperson: We don’t have a statement today on this. We have a statement from Tom Koenigs, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, which you will find upstairs.
Question: But that’s on Afghanistan.
Spokesperson: Oh, yes, that is on Afghanistan, I’m sorry, on Afghanistan. On Pakistan we don’t have anything new today. I’m sorry.
Question: Two questions. One is just, some people are now saying that the Office for the Special Adviser for Africa may be merged into the Office of the LDCs and Small Island States. Is that, can you, is that being under consideration?
Question: It is under consideration?
Question: The other one. Our colleague, Edie Lederer, has a story today that quotes the previous USG for Management saying that the UNDP whistleblower approached in mid-2006 with information about North Korea and UNDP and that he’s now informed the Head of the Ethics Office. So I’m wondering -- he’s given his consent. The whistleblower has consented to the UN speaking about his case. Can you confirm that Mr. Benson has received this from Mr. Burnham and, if so, what’s taking so long in terms of making a decision if he is a whistleblower and providing him with protection?
Spokesperson: Well, as you know the issue of whether he’s a whistleblower or not is in the hands of the Ethics [Office] and I cannot second-guess them. They will be answering on the status…
Question: No, I understand that. Are they going to make that decision within 45 days of I think, 5 June, he filed his materials with them. There’s some concern that, even while it’s pending, some retaliation took place. That’s why I’m asking.
Spokesperson: Well, I can check on that for you, but as far as I know, they have the 45 days to decide.
Question: Any more new appointments made by the Secretary-General?
Spokesperson: Not today. No. I don’t have anything today.
Question: Talking about the Lebanese border issue between Syria. Is that report that officially came to us today, was there any anecdotal evidence that there are breaches of arms and weapons crossing that border, since the Syrian side is always denying that? So, far there are only allegations, there is no single case or example.
Spokesperson: Well, I invite you to go and look at the report. The report stands for itself.
Question: As you mentioned, they worry about a situation that is not totally secure. But it seems that this wording is a problem for the Syrian side, saying that, you can worry about it, but show us evidence, is the Syrian Government’s stance. Can you show, is it shown in this report that…?
Spokesperson: Please read it. You’ll have all your answers, I hope.
Question: On the same subject, you mentioned that the Secretary-General remains concerned about reported violations of the Lebanese-Syrian border. Was… this is in addition to the report, these are new violations?
Spokesperson: No, no. This is the report. Probably all of you had it beforehand, but it didn’t come out officially until today. That’s why we flagged it today.
Question: Oh, okay. So are there any new reports?
Spokesperson: Not that I know of.
Question: Okay. Just to move a little further east. There are reports, can you confirm reports that the Secretary-General is about to appoint former Lebanese Minister Ghassan Salame to succeed Ashraf Qazi in Iraq?
Spokesperson: Well, as far as I know, at this point, the appointment of someone is under consideration. But, as far as I know, there have been absolutely no decisions taken.
Question: When does Mr. Qazi’s term expire?
Spokesperson: I’ll check on that for you, but it should be soon.
[The Spokesperson later told the reporter that Mr. Qazi’s contract expires on 5 August 2007.]
Question: And one final question on Iraq. Are there any proposed changes to either downgrade or beef up the UN’s presence there?
Spokesperson: Well, as you know, the Secretary-General has been talking about this a lot, expressing his concern and the need that he feels. And he has been expressing this since he met in Sharm el-Sheikh with, a number of people about the possibility of increasing UN presence.
As you know, the security issue remains. The security concerns remain, and there has been really no specific decision to increase, but they are getting stronger on the humanitarian side, and the advisory side, which is what the Compact was about.
Question: I’m sorry to follow up about the Lebanese issue. The Secretary-General also expresses concern based on reports of violations of this border. When you mention the reports, do you mean news articles or what kind of reports?
Spokesperson: The report that I’m talking about was issued today. It’s on the racks. And you can find it on the racks today.
Question: So, it doesn’t mean that he has some evidential anecdotes –- one or two or three –- that makes him concerned?
Spokesperson: No, what we’re talking about is the report that you have on the racks and that you can consult and read about.
Question: On Iraq, what’s the position of Mr. Ban Ki-moon to the hot debate in Washington now on withdrawing US forces from Baghdad? Does he think such a step in the right direction would help to… would worsen the situation, or would help to set up stability in Iraq?
Spokesperson: You’re asking whether the Secretary-General would…
Question: No, there’s a debate now in Washington about withdrawing the US forces from Iraq. So I’m asking about the position of Mr. Ban Ki-moon. How does he think about such a step? Is it for increasing stability, does he think withdrawing US forces from Iraq would increase stability or…?
Spokesperson: We don’t have a position at this point on that.
Thank you very much.
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