|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
Good afternoon, all.
**Press Conference Today
At 12:45 p.m. today, there will be a press conference in this room by the UK Ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry; Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; and UN Goodwill Ambassador, Actress Julia Ormond, on human trafficking.
**Secretary-General at Quartet Meeting
The Secretary-General is in Lisbon, Portugal, today, where he will soon be meeting with the other principal members of the Quartet dealing with the Middle East. They are US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, European Union High Commissioner for a Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner and, representing the EU Presidency, Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Filipe Marques Amado. They will be joined by newly appointed Quartet envoy Tony Blair.
The principals will meet at 6 p.m. Lisbon time (about an hour from now). Then, at 7:30, they intend to hold a joint press conference, in which the Secretary-General is expected to read out a joint communiqué on behalf of all the Quartet members. We’ll share that with you, once we get it. The Secretary-General will be back in New York tomorrow.
On the humanitarian situation in Gaza, UN officials on the ground continue to stress that the closures of crossing points into Gaza are coming at a terrible cost to people living there. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) notes that the layoff of 65,000 workers by companies in Gaza, following the lack of supplies there, could affect as many as 450,000 dependents.
And the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has identified $30 million worth of emergency projects for Gaza, and said that it will provide employment projects worth some 640,000 days of work for unemployed Gaza refugees. UNRWA further endorses the Secretary-General’s call for Karni crossing to be open to Palestinian commercial imports and exports. We have more details in a press release from UNRWA upstairs, and also on OCHA’s website.
**Security Council on Lebanon
Serge Brammertz, the head of the Independent International Investigation Commission dealing with Lebanon, today briefed the Security Council in an open meeting about the Commission’s consolidation of its work, which has resulted in a series of detailed reports totalling more than 2,400 pages. Brammertz said that a number of people of interest have been identified who may have been involved in some aspects of the assassination of Rafik Hariri, and common links have been found across a number of cases. He also warned the Council that the security situation in Lebanon has deteriorated, and stressed that the security of witnesses and people who cooperate with the Commission needs to be guaranteed. We have his remarks upstairs.
He then continued to talk with Council members in closed consultations. After that, Brammertz spoke to reporters, telling them that the Commission is ready to hand over its work to a tribunal when it begins to function. He added that more work needs to be done to complete the investigation, before indictments can be made.
**Security Council – Other Matters
The Security Council is also holding consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo today. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno is briefing the Council on the situation in the Kivu provinces in the eastern Congo. He gave an overview of the current situation there, as well as steps taken here and by the UN Mission on the ground, MONUC, to deal with it. Mr. Guéhenno will come to the stakeout in a few minutes. We’ll let you know when he comes out.
Also, the Presidency of the Council has informed us that any discussion of Kosovo in the Council has been postponed until tomorrow.
On Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, is wrapping up his most recent visit to Sudan, and the transcript of the press conference he had earlier today is available upstairs. Jan Eliasson briefed on the recently concluded meeting on Darfur held in Tripoli, Libya, and outlined the steps ahead on the African Union-United Nations political road map of the Darfur peace process.
He said the next meeting is planned in Arusha, Tanzania, starting on the 3rd of August and lasting up to the 5th or 6th of August, which will bring together leading personalities of the movements. The participants will discuss the coordination of positions, Eliasson said, adding: “We will require from all a cessation of hostilities, as we have already from the Government, and to begin normalization of the situation and preparations for the negotiations.”
He said: “We hope that, by the end of August, AU Special Envoy Salim Ahmed Salim and I could be able to recommend to Chairman of the AU Commission [Alpha Oumar] Konaré and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, respectively, that we send out invitations to negotiations before the end of August.”
** Sierra Leone
On Sierra Leone, just a few hours ago, the Special Court for Sierra Leone sentenced to lengthy prison terms three former members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council for their part in crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil conflict. These are the first sentences handed down by the Special Court.
Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu were each convicted on 20 June on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Court imposed single so-called global sentences of 50 years for Brima, 45 years for Kamara and 50 years for Kanu. They will be given credit for time served since their arrests in 2003. The Court ordered that the three men begin serving their sentences immediately.
** Central African Republic
Turning to the Central African Republic, a worsening security situation in the north-west has resulted in the displacement of nearly 13,000 people, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. UN agencies are on the ground, helping the neediest. In addition to food aid from the World Food Programme, UNICEF is providing “family kits”, which include buckets and soap, while the Food and Agriculture Organization is distributing farm tools and seeds.
On Afghanistan, actor Jude Law has just completed a “secret” mission to Afghanistan, where he took part in filming, as part of UNICEF’s preparations for the UN International Day of Peace, which is 21 September. Mr. Law and British director Jeremy Gilley visited schools and interviewed children, Government ministers, community leaders and UN officials inside and outside the capital.
At a press conference today in Kabul, Jude Law urged the world to commit to recognizing the Day, by observing a worldwide ceasefire and day of non-violence.
Tomorrow, at 10 a.m. here at Headquarters in Conference Room 4, the Government of Iraq will present the mid-year progress report of the International Compact with Iraq. This initiative, in partnership with the United Nations is supported by the World Bank and was launched at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, this past May. Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro will be joined by video conference by the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Barham Salih. We have a press release with some more details upstairs.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
Our guests at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Serge Malé, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Chad, and Chris Ache, UNHCR Representative in Sudan, who will brief on the situation of refugees in eastern Chad and in Darfur, as well as provide updates on humanitarian developments and challenges in that region.
This is all I have for you. Your questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: The Egyptian Foreign Minister has been reported today as saying the Middle East conference called for by President Bush will be taking place at the United Nations, on the sidelines of the General Assembly. Can you confirm this?
Spokesperson: No, I cannot confirm this. This is not organized by the United Nations. I will check for you where it will take place, but, as far as I know, a number of things will be happening at the same time here, so I don’t know where it will be scheduled. And, of course, we are not the ones organizing it.
Question: Let me re-ask my question of the last two days.
Spokesperson: Yes, I know, Benny. We have been in touch with the Ethics Office, with the Legal Office and we are still trying to get all the answers for you.
Question: I understand that -- I was told, actually, I will be given an answer outside of this briefing. I think that part of this briefing’s object is to put things on the record.
Spokesperson: Well, of course, Benny. I promised you I will. As soon as we get the answer, you will get it in the briefing. I think you were contacted just to let you know that we didn’t have your answer yet -- that’s why. Not because we wanted to have it on the sideline.
Question: You said yesterday about the G-77 letter… It’s been explained to me that the G-77 circulated a letter Monday morning and that nobody objected to it, and they transmitted it to the Secretary-General in the middle of Monday. Yesterday you seemed to… I just want to be clear, you seemed to say that either someone had leaked it, or you are disappointed that someone had leaked it prior to having been given to the Secretary-General.
Spokesperson: No, I said it appeared in the press before the Secretary-General saw it -- that’s what I said.
Question: OK, but when did he get it?
Spokesperson: I don’t have the exact time of when he got it.
Question: But it was after the press report came out.
Question: And here is this whole incident with the steam pipe -- totally not foreign policy -- has it impacted either the UN, or its funds and programmes, their work in any way?
Spokesperson: No, it has not.
Question: But the Empire State Building -- there are UN offices in the Empire State Building?
Spokesperson: No, they were not affected.
Question: In Iraq, the Sunni MPs, who have walked out of Parliament, have now decided to return. Is the Secretary-General satisfied with this move?
Spokesperson: He is still observing what is happening. This is something happening in Parliament in Iraq, and we are watching closely.
OK, thank you. Before I hand the microphone to Ashraf, I am glad that we have had a briefing without a walkout, and since many correspondents have complained about some of their own colleagues, I would like just to attract your attention to the code of conduct still in effect. You have received it by mail, it is on the table right here. This has been a standing agreement between UNCA and DPI since 1983. The code of conduct remains effective until UNCA and DPI have completed a review, and any agreed change will be communicated to any media representatives. If you have any questions or input for the review of the code, please contact Tuyet Nguyen, President of UNCA, or Gary Fowlie, Chief of Media Liaison and Accreditation, by 17 August 2007.
Question: What is it again?
Spokesperson: Did you receive it by mail? It’s in there. It’s a code of conduct that UNCA and DPI had agreed upon.
Spokesperson: Well, why don’t you just read it, Benny?
Correspondent: Well, you just read to us that stuff -- you could easily put it on the website for…
Spokesperson: It was sent to all of you. From what I gather, Gary Fowlie sent it to all of you.
Question: Well, but you could send all this stuff that you’ve been reading for the last 15 minutes -- also, you could send it to us, but still you read it. Why don’t you… [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: Are you done, Benny?
Spokesperson: Thank you.
Correspondent: Actually, on that… I think the person who walked out isn’t here. I think, as he walked out, he said something like: “This is a joke”, and he walked out. And I think his perception was that he wasn’t called on, based on the question he was going to ask. So I think, in the code of conduct, it also says, all correspondents have a right to ask questions.
Spokesperson: From what I gather, I answer all the questions that you have. In the case of the press conference of the Secretary-General, I had 20 hands up of questions that could not be answered, because, even though the press conference lasted more than an hour -- the Secretary-General has said 45 minutes, he accepted to stay beyond that -- but he has other things to do. I cannot keep him here 2 hours until all the questions are answered. What I can say, I do not prejudge the questions of any correspondent. Thank you very much.
Question: Is there… One way is maybe get him to do… not have such a long gap between the press conferences.
Spokesperson: He has promised to do a press conference a month.
Question: And too, to make sure that people that… Maybe people who weren’t able to ask last time, it can be assured -- either by some list or in some way -- they can be sure that the following time they can ask. Is there any way?
Spokesperson: The first press conference, I had a number of people who complained that they had not been called upon. A number of them were called upon this time around, because I had their names. So I try to be as even-handed as I possible can. However, I do give regional choices. I do try to give as wide a range of types of questions I can possibly do to get a richer press conference for all of you. It is not for me.
Correspondent: I think through UNCA, maybe we can come up with an idea of how it can all work out.
Correspondent: I have a comment about the code. I think maybe it would help if the briefer explained before the presentation that he or she will answer one question from each caller, and follow-up questions should be delayed until everybody has had a chance to ask one question. Maybe it would help if the briefer does observe, or make that rule observed.
Spokesperson: Well, it was said when the press conference started with the Secretary-General that everyone would be allowed one question and one follow-up. The one follow-up meaning that sometimes you do ask a question and you don’t get an answer, and it is legitimate that there is one follow-up question…
Correspondent: I happen to have a follow-up question, but I will be happy to ask it afterwards.
Question: A technical question: some reporters here are accredited to the UN, but are not members of UNCA, which, as I understand, is not mandatory. Does this code of conduct apply to them?
Spokesperson: Well, I suggest that you discuss this with all your colleagues. This is not something for me to decide upon.
Question: I don’t want to discuss it with my colleagues. Since you presented this, I want to know whether it applies or not.
Spokesperson: It applies to everybody.
Question: I have a contribution to this. It says “the use of insulting language towards a person giving a press conference” -- I have never heard of being insulting towards whoever is giving a press conference. Secondly, sometimes the answers to some questions are an insult to our intellect. I wonder if anything can be done about that, too.
Spokesperson: I think you should be discussing among yourselves. I am not here to discuss the code of conduct, which is a product that was designed by UNCA members and DPI together. This is an open process of reviewing the code of conduct, so it is up to you to decide what you want to do with it.
Question: [inaudible] no censorship. I have a negative feeling about this.
Spokesperson: Yes, I suggest that you do say that to the person in charge at UNCA or to Gary Fowlie, who is in charge of accreditation.
Question: Can I insult Ashraf?
Spokesperson: No, you can’t insult him either. He is the Spokesperson.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
You are becoming very uneasy to please, eh?
**Security Council Reform
The Assembly President is chairing this morning an informal meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group on Security Council Reform to discuss the report presented in late June by the Ambassadors of Chile and Liechtenstein. In her statement opening the meeting, the President stated that this report is complementary to the five facilitator’s report of 19 April and that the two documents should be considered together. Recalling from the June report that “delegations expressed the view that, instead of further consultations, the next stage should consist of negotiations”, the President emphasized that, “for a meaningful intergovernmental negotiation process to begin, there should, first and foremost, be a clear willingness to enter in such a process from all interest groups. Only then would we need clarity on what kind of document such negotiations could be based upon.”
It is the President’s “considered view that the report under consideration can enable us to take a further step forward, but that it is neither intended nor suitable to serve as a basis for negotiations. In short, to be fruitful, any negotiation process would require strong ownership by the Membership.”
Copies of her statement are available upstairs, and both the 19 April and 26 June reports are available on the GA website.
**Thematic Debate on Climate Change
As announced earlier, the Assembly’s thematic debate on climate change will take place in little over a week, on 31 July to 1 August. The debate will consist of a day of interactive panel discussions and a second day of general discussion by Member States. The panel discussions are expected to bring together experts and spokespersons on a variety of issues, including the impact of climate change, mitigation and adaptation strategies, new technologies and finance. Participants will include academics, representatives from civil society and the private sector, as well as two of the SG’s Envoys on Climate Change.
We have upstairs the list of participants, the programme and a concept paper for the meeting; these are also posted on the GA website.
**Questions and Answers
Question: You indicated that the next stage would be a negotiating stage. Would that take place under this President or the next one?
Spokesperson: No, I didn’t say that the next stage will be the negotiating stage. This is what Member States -- the majority of Member States, at least -- spoke in favour of; that they want negotiations, rather than just continuing consultations. If it happens, I suspect it will happen not before the sixty-second session, but there has to be an agreement first on starting the negotiations. Everybody has to come on board and say: OK, we are convinced that we can negotiate. As far as the timeline is concerned, if they agree now, I suspect the more realistic timeline would be the sixty-second session. Most of the statements, this morning at least, most delegates said that we would like that process to begin at the sixty-second session -- as early as the sixty-second session.
Question: Ashraf, please give us some more light whether there is any kind of obvious division between the approaches to the Security [Council] reforms. And what about the position, for example, of Japan and the position of Germany? In recent past, G-4 initiative -- are they still close?
Spokesperson: I will not comment on the individual positions of Member States, but I can tell you that, this morning, until I came in, most everybody spoke in favour of what we call negotiations -- moving to the negotiation stage of the process. And the Africans, notably, were saying: “Yes, we can show flexibility, but everybody else has to show flexibility, as well.” So these are two positives you can take from this morning’s meeting.
Question: So the Africans are moving towards…?
Spokesperson: They are saying that we can show flexibility, but we expect flexibility to be shown by everybody else.
Question: Two questions. One is about this draft Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People. We had a briefing yesterday, which… When is the facilitators’ report -- there is some report being issued by the facilitators…?
Spokesperson: She is meeting the facilitator on this subject -- the Ambassador of the Philippines -- next week.
Question: And the briefer yesterday indicated that some countries are saying it should now be put off to the next GA. Is that on your radar screen? What’s the President’s position?
Spokesperson: Well, the General Assembly took a decision that a decision on the Declaration should be adopted before the end of the session, so…
Question: On this issue of the Office of the Special Adviser for Africa, to make the change that they are proposing, does it require GA approval?
Spokesperson: Do you give him the “if asked” questions? The G-77 letter was addressed to the Secretary-General, so, technically, this is a matter for the Secretary-General to respond to. The President will listen to Member States’ views and, if asked, will exert her efforts to facilitate a resolution on this issue. To answer your question more specifically, like I said before and I will repeat it for the umpteenth time, any change that involves the resources of the Organization, which were adopted in a budget document, involves approval by Member States.
Question: Prior approval?
Spokesperson: Well, if you want to change, you will go to Member States to seek their approval, so yes, it has to be prior.
Question: Getting back to the stage of negotiations, the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Group has been negotiating for 10 years. I sat with them for three years. Why are we reinventing the word “negotiating”, while it has been going on for 10 years? What is new at this stage at this time?
Spokesperson: They were not negotiating. They were consulting -- and maybe they have not realized that they were consulting when they got to this stage. So, now, they do.
Question: The Open-Ended Group, they were definitely -- I sat with them for three years -- they were negotiating very intensively, even to the point of exchanging, formalizing thesis of papers and trying to get an agreement. That is a process of negotiations.
Spokesperson: But you don’t enter negotiations until -- with all due respect to your previous experience, of course -- but, until you have something to negotiate on. All of the things that they had seen were just proposals thrown there to consult on. Once you enter the stage of negotiation, you have a basis and you negotiate on that basis. But these were ideas or proposals, so… I am not going to reinvent the wheel for them. If they say they were consulting, I only report what they say.
Question: I understand, but I am just trying to say that there were formulas for negotiations for 10 years. All kinds of formulas for the composition of the Security Council, as well as changing the rules of procedure, transparency, etc. And they were concrete formulas presented by geographical groups and groups of States. And the process of negotiations took place very intensively during all these years, so again, my question is: Why are they finding the word “negotiations” suddenly new?
Spokesperson: I assure you this is not a euphemism. I am not trying to duck the question. I will give you an example of what I mean. When the Secretary-General presents his budget, it’s a proposed budget. Until then, there is no negotiation. The negotiation only starts when the Fifth Committee gets in there, which is basically the Membership -- your counterpart, or equal to the Open-Ended Working Group. Again, the whole Membership. They get in there, and they look at these proposals, and then they decide to negotiate -- what to put in there, what to take out of it.
Question: I am sorry, I do not want to prolong this discussion. I suggest that you read all the reports of the Open-Ended Group. All these past 10 years. Negotiations did not take place only after the Secretary-General had made some proposal.
Spokesperson: I was just giving that as an example to…
Question: Negotiations took place after regional groups also made proposals, which was the case with the Open-Ended Group. Anyway, I will not prolong the discussion.
Question: So I guess, the question is, is there something to negotiate from the two documents you said would be on the website?
Spokesperson: No, no. It’s again -- the President has made it perfectly clear that it was not intended as the basis for negotiations. It is up to Member States to decide what basis to take in order to negotiate.
Thank you. Good afternoon.
* *** *