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

3 October 2007

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

3 October 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 Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon, all.

**Statement on Korean Peninsula

The Secretary-General welcomes today’s announcement at the six-party talks in Beijing on the next phase of the denuclearization in the Korean peninsula.  It stipulates important measures and steps aimed at implementing the provisions of the agreement reached in February this year.

The Secretary-General is encouraged by this important step forward in multilateral diplomatic efforts towards a nuclear-free peninsula.  Given the vital importance of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, these efforts deserve strong support from the international community, in order to maintain the current momentum.  The Secretary-General encourages all the parties concerned to step up their work for denuclearization, as well as peace and security in the region, and to enhance mutual trust among them.

**General Debate

As you all know, the general debate wraps up today.  It has been an active and intense three weeks that began with a series of high-level meetings, convened by the Secretary-General, on Darfur, Iraq and Afghanistan.  There was a special meeting of the Quartet on the Middle East, as well as a high-level meeting of the Africa Steering Group on our Millennium Development Goals -- a clear signal of an important priority.  And, of course, there was the highly successful conference on climate change.  The goal was to galvanize our efforts, to coordinate our work under one roof -- the United Nations -- so that we fight global warming together, as one.  This, in itself, was a signal accomplishment.  It is a model of how the Secretary-General hopes to continue working closely with Member States and the General Assembly in the future.

We could see measurable progress and broad agreements on most of these issues during the general debate.  Over the course of the last week, the Secretary-General continued these conversations one on one with more than 130 Heads of State and Government, foreign ministers and permanent representatives.  Taken together, he believes that we have established a firm foundation for our work during the year ahead.  The priorities are clear: peace in Darfur, with a special emphasis on the deployment of peacekeepers to the region and the negotiations that begin in Tripoli on 27 October; on climate change, looking forward to the Bali summit in December and winning an agreement on global warming that all nations can embrace.  We want to reinvigorate the international community’s development efforts, particularly in Africa, where we need to find fresh solutions for the “bottom billion” of the world’s poor.  And, of course, we will pursue UN reform within the Secretariat so that we can better deliver -- more efficiently and effectively -- on all that is increasingly expected of us in this era of proportionately diminishing resources.

** Myanmar

A day after his departure from Myanmar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Foreign Minister George Yeo of Singapore today, in Singapore’s capacity as chair of the Association of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

They exchanged views on developments in Myanmar.  The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister both expressed ASEAN’s strong support for Mr. Gambari’s mission.  Mr. Gambari is now flying back to New York.  He will report to the Secretary-General and brief the Security Council and the President of the General Assembly upon his return.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning is holding consultations on Somalia and Guinea-Bissau, to consider recent reports by the Secretary-General on both countries.

On Somalia, the Council heard a briefing from the Secretary-General’s new Special Representative, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.

After that, Council members will consider the latest report on Guinea-Bissau, which was put on the racks at the start of this week.  Shola Omoregie, the Secretary-General’s Representative for that country, is briefing the Council.

Yesterday afternoon, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement condemning the “murderous attack” that was “reportedly committed by a rebel group” on African Union troops in Haskanita, in South Darfur.  The Council reiterated its support for the African Union Mission in Sudan, and underlined that any attempt to undermine the peace process is unacceptable.

** Sudan

According to the UN Mission in Sudan, a non-governmental organization’s truck was hijacked in North Darfur on Monday in the area of the Kassab camp for internally displaced persons.  The driver of the vehicle, who was taken by the hijackers together with the truck, has been located, but the vehicle is still missing.

Also on Monday, three armed men hijacked at gunpoint a UN vehicle in El Fasher.  Efforts to recover the vehicle are still ongoing.

The UN Mission also reports the hijacking of an NGO vehicle in South Darfur over the weekend.

Here at Headquarters, there will be a meeting of the troop contributing countries for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) tomorrow afternoon.  Then, at 11 a.m. on Friday, we expect to have Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno and Jane Holl Lute, head of the Department of Field Services, talk to you about UNAMID in this room here, 226.

** Turkey

We issued the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, on Turkey, yesterday.

The Secretary-General regrets the loss of lives caused by a series of recent attacks in Turkey, including two bomb blasts in Izmir today, which reportedly left 1 person killed and 10 people wounded, as well as an attack on a bus on 29 September in south-eastern Turkey near the town of Beytüssebab in the Sirnak Province, which reportedly left 13 people killed.  The Secretary-General reiterates in the strongest terms his condemnation of violence in all its forms.

**Timor-Leste

The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) confirmed that Vicente da Conceição, alias “Railos”, was arrested early this morning for his alleged role in the events of the 25th and 26th of May last year.

Railos has been charged with violating articles 338 and 55 of the Penal Code, related to homicide, and is expected to appear in court in Dili later today.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Timor-Leste, Mr. Atul Khare, welcomed the arrest as a continued sign of the strong commitment by Timorese authorities to implement the recommendations of the UN Special Commission of Inquiry Report issued in October last year.

**Kosovo

Out on the racks today is the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

In it, he says that UNMIK has largely achieved what is achievable under Security Council resolution 1244 (1999); further progress now depends on a timely resolution of the future status question.

The Secretary-General urged the parties and the troika to do their utmost to reach an agreement that could be endorsed by the Security Council, adding that the UN will continue to assist the process.

He further noted the substantial gap between the parties, and said that consideration should be given to how to deal with the situation if the sides are unable to reach agreement by the end of the current 120-day period of engagement.

**UNMOVIC

The UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), whose mandate in Iraq was terminated at the end of June, has done considerable work over the past three months to dispose of its archives and other property, the Secretary-General says in a new report.

The report, which is out on the racks, said that every effort has been made to complete these tasks as speedily as possible and in a cost-effective manner, to minimize the charge to the Iraqi Escrow Account.

** Uganda

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that flooding is still continuing in Uganda.

Last week, the UN humanitarian air service flew in more than 10 tons of food and nearly 8 tons of basic household items.  For its part, UNICEF has provided emergency health kits to cover 10,000 people for 30 days.

OCHA says that the health of the flood survivors is of particular concern -- especially in light of the fact that the UN flash appeal that was launched nearly two weeks ago for Uganda remains only two per cent funded.

**UNHCR

In its annual refugee protection report, the UN refugee agency warns that security concerns are playing a larger role in asylum systems in an increasing number of countries, leading to a disturbing trend in which rights become peripheral.

Addressing the annual meeting of UNHCR’s Executive Committee, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller said that arbitrary detention, including of children, and the privatization of detention, is particularly worrying.

Also of concern was the growth of a class of “untouchables”, deemed undesirable for resettlement, including politically sensitive ethnic groups, elderly persons, large families or refugees with low educational levels.

We have more information on that upstairs.

**UNFPA

Last night, the Secretary-General addressed a gala hosted by the non-governmental organization Americans for UNFPA (the UN Population Fund).

He told those gathered that too many women die during pregnancy and childbirth, become infected with HIV and are subjected to violence because they do not have power over their own lives.  This is why UNFPA’s work is so important and needs to be understood and supported, he added.

We have the text of those remarks, as prepared for delivery, upstairs.

**UNICEF

UNICEF today announced a partnership with Special Olympics International to advance the rights of children with intellectual disabilities.  The two organizations will work together to advocate for health care, education, recreational sports and employment policies.

Today’s announcement was timed to coincide with the opening of the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai.  In a message to the participants, the Secretary-General highlighted the recent adoption by the General Assembly of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and its recognition of the important role sports can play in their lives.  He saluted the athletes and wished them a “record-breaking 2007 World Summer Games”.

We have more information upstairs.

This is all I have for you.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Reports are in from Myanmar that some UN staff members have been taken, you know, swept up by the Government.  So, I guess I’m wondering what is the UN system going to do about that?

Spokesperson:  Well, we can confirm that a UNDP staff member was arrested early this morning in Yangon.  In the early morning hours, authorities conducted a sweep of houses, apartments, in the Shwedagon Pagoda area, where the major protests occurred, and in this round-up, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) staff member, her husband and brother-in-law, as well as her personal driver, were arrested.  This is the information that we have.  We are following up on the issue and we are trying to secure her release.  UNDP will be sending a letter to the Permanent Mission of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations today to intercede for her release.  This is all we have so far on the issue.

Question:  Associated Press.  You said on Monday that Mr. Gambari called on authorities in Myanmar to “cease the repression of peaceful protest, release detainees and move more credibly and inclusively in the direction of democratic reform, human rights and national reconciliation”.  What response did he get from the leaders…?  And we know that he’s spoken with the Secretary-General since then, so we’d like even any sort of preliminary readout.

Spokesperson:  No, you will not have a preliminary readout because, first, Mr. Gambari has to report to the General Assembly -- his mandate is one of the General Assembly -- then to the Security Council, after reporting to the Secretary-General.  And he will meet the press and he’s willing to do this afterwards.  I cannot say anything more at this point.

Question:  There is some argument out there that the only way to resolve the problem in Myanmar is to get the Chinese on board.  What specific dialogue has Secretary-General Ban had with the Chinese, or does he have planned to get their full participation and get them at least on board with some of his ideas?

Spokesperson:  I cannot comment on this at this point because there were discussions, but we will let you know.  And, in fact, you can ask the question to Mr. Gambari directly.

Question:  Number one, with regard to Mr. Gambari, do you have any notion yet of when he will be reporting to the Security Council and to us, thereafter?  Would it be this Thursday?  Probably not tomorrow, but Friday? or is it likely to be into next week?

Spokesperson:  It will probably be Friday.

Correspondent:  It will be Friday.  Okay.

Spokesperson:  We are trying to make it as early as we possibly can, because I know you all want information, and since Mr. Gambari didn’t make any comments to the press when he was in Singapore, I think you will have the first shot at his comments.

Question:  In an unrelated item also, there is scheduled to be this Middle East peace conference of sorts in Washington sometime next month.  I saw references yesterday in the press to a conference to be held in Annapolis, Maryland, which is south-east of Washington.  Is that the same conference?  Has it been moved to Annapolis or is this something totally unrelated?

Spokesperson:  George, how do you expect me to comment on this?  This is a matter related to the host country of that conference.  I cannot possibly answer that question.

Question:  So it’s something for which I should contact the US Government?

Spokesperson:  Well, definitely not us.

Question:  I think Matthew followed up with the question yesterday on the meeting that Secretary-General Ban had with the North Korean representative and, out of that meeting, it became evident that Secretary-General Ban did not address the issue of auditors being allowed into Pyongyang.  Why is it that the Secretary-General has called for a thorough investigation and audits of various activities at the United Nations, yet he’s not pushing for something that he espouses to be something that he believes in?

Spokesperson:  I didn’t say he was not pushing for it.  What I said is that that simply did not come up during that conversation with the Foreign Minister.  This is all I said.

Question:  Is there a reason why it didn’t?  It seems like an issue of…

Spokesperson:  No, because there were other issues, like the summit, the Korean summit, which, as you know, the Secretary-General welcomed yesterday.  I mean there were other issues on the table that they felt were to be discussed as a priority.

Question:  I think the question, then, is why wouldn’t he… I mean you’ve got the man’s attention; you’re sitting in the room with him.  This is one of the outstanding issues that has existed between the United Nations and his country.  The United Nations has deep involvement in his country of various programmes.  Why not?

Spokesperson:  Well, he has been engaging them on that on other occasions, not on that one, specifically.  That’s all.

Question:  Do you know why Gambari would report to the General Assembly first when…  Is this a manoeuvre saying good offices belong to the General Assembly rather than the Secretary-General’s Office, to keep him from not going to the Security Council right away… the only body that could potentially take action against Myanmar…

Spokesperson:  No.  He was mandated by the General Assembly.  He first reports to the Secretary-General, then…

Question:  What mandate came from the General Assembly?  When?

Spokesperson:  The Myanmar one.

Question:  You mean as part of his job?

Spokesperson:  Of his job, yes.

Question:  You mean that that’s part of the job description?

Spokesperson:  Yes.  Yes, indeed.

Question:  Well, every UN official gets approved by the General Assembly as part of the job…

Spokesperson:  Well, it is a matter of courtesy for him to report to the General Assembly.

Question:  It doesn’t look that way, Michèle.

Spokesperson:  Well it does.  Right after that, he’s meeting the Security Council.  So there is no decision to avoid a decision.

Correspondent:  Oh, you didn’t say he was doing both.  I see.

Spokesperson:  Yes, one after the other.

Correspondent:  I see.  You didn’t say.  I thought it was just the Assembly…

Spokesperson:  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  You indicated that the Secretary-General praised the role of sport and, as you know, we have a bold programme here at the UN on sport for peace.  Is the Secretary-General attending the Olympics next year?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know yet.  I’ll check for you whether he will be.

Question:  This is about Afghanistan.  Yesterday, Canada’s Foreign Minister told the General Assembly about the appointment of a high-level envoy in Afghanistan.  What is the Secretary-General’s view on this?  Is he looking into the issue?

Spokesperson:  Well, I can check on that for you and I will let you know.

[The Spokesperson later said that the Secretary-General was considering the proposal and would discuss it further with President Hamid Karzai and other States.]

Question:  Sure, this is related to Jonathan’s question.  Yesterday, the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of North Korea, Mr. Choe Su Hon, said in an interview that he did with three of our colleagues that there was no need for the UN to send any auditors to North Korea and that they’re not accepting them.  And we’ve also heard that a letter to that effect has gone to the Board of Auditors, so I guess, since Mr. Ban himself had called for this and now the Vice-Minister of the country is saying we don’t want it, what is the next step?  First, can you confirm that the Board of Auditors got a letter and, two, what would the Secretariat say, now that a country has sort of pretty much openly rebuffed what he’d urged?

Spokesperson:  I have to say that efforts are continuing on that process.  That’s all I can say.

Question:  Is it on the letter thing, is it a legitimate question, to know if the Board of Auditors got a letter from North Korea…?

Spokesperson:  That, I cannot find out for you.  The Board of Auditors, as you know, is an independent body.  I don’t know whether they got a letter.  I will try to find out, but I don’t know whether I can.

Question:  And remember the old request of having them actually come at some point?  Either the Board of Auditors or the… can we get them in here now that everything’s cooling down?

Spokesperson:  Well, they keep on saying the same thing.  While an investigation is under way they will not comment.  This is all I am getting at this point.

Yes, Richard.

Question:  I know the Secretary-General’s expecting Mr. Gambari, but the pictures seen on CNN and elsewhere show the direct attack on protesters who are in the streets.  Does he believe that more stronger action is needed by the international community and not just statements condemning what’s happened?

Spokesperson:  At this point, we’re waiting for Mr. Gambari’s report.  He went there, as you know, on Saturday, dispatched by the Secretary-General on the specific incidents that occurred in Myanmar.  At this point, we cannot jump the gun and just decide on what Mr. Gambari saw and is coming back with.  I think it is important to know that Mr. Gambari met twice with Aung San Suu Kyi.  He met with the leaders, with the senior leaders of the Army and of the Government.  Let’s wait for him to come and give us his own sense of what can be done.  That’s all I have.  Thank you very much.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Thank you, Michèle.  Good afternoon to all of you.  Let me begin with the general debate.

**General Debate

As you know, the debate is set to conclude shortly.  All in all, 191 speakers were supposed to have addressed the Assembly, 189 Member States -- Djibouti, Mali and Saudi Arabia being the ones who did not make statements -- and two observers -- the Holy See and Palestine.  We had, all in all, 67 Heads of State, 25 Heads of Government, 4 vice-presidents, 13 deputy ministers, 66 foreign ministers, 2 other ministers, 4 deputy ministers and 8 chairs of delegation.

The President of the General Assembly is to deliver a concluding statement once the debate closes.  In this statement, he will briefly reflect on what Member States had to say in the debate.  He is expected to express his appreciation to Member States for their insightful contributions and for directly addressing the five priority topics of the current session, which are climate change, financing for development, countering terrorism, the Millennium Development Goals and management reform.  The President is also expected to stress that, on the main theme of the general debate, responding to climate change, Member States sent a strong political message that the time for talk had passed and the time for action had begun.  In addition, he is expected draw attention to the fact that many Member States endorsed the idea of drafting a road map to coordinate the actions of the United Nations system on climate change.  Furthermore, he is also expected to call on Member States to deliver on their readiness to take action at the December meeting in Bali.

**Interreligious and Intercultural High-Level Dialogue

Tomorrow and on Friday, the General Assembly will hold a two-day High-level Dialogue on Interreligious and Intercultural Understanding and Cooperation for Peace.  This is to be at the ministerial or the highest possible level.  The two-day event consists of three plenary meetings and, on Thursday afternoon, there will be an informal interactive hearing with representatives of civil society on challenges of interreligious and intercultural cooperation and on best practices in this field.  We have a media advisory available on this event, which has all the details and the actual programme.  Please note the plenary sessions as well as the interactive hearing is open to the media.  The interactive hearing is scheduled to be in the Trusteeship Council Chamber tomorrow afternoon.

Although the list of speakers for the plenary sessions is still being finalized, I will try to get you some kind of an indicative list this afternoon, hopefully.

The overall theme of the two day event is “interreligious and intercultural cooperation for the promotion of tolerance, understanding and universal respects on matters of freedom of religion or belief and cultural diversity”.

Now a little bit of background to this event.  The background actually goes back to the 2005 World Summit and the Outcome Document where world leaders acknowledged the importance of respect and understanding for religious and cultural diversity, reaffirmed the value of the dialogue on interfaith cooperation and committed themselves to advancing human welfare, freedom and progress everywhere, as well as encouraging and promoting tolerance, respect, dialogue and cooperation at the local, national, regional and international levels, among different cultures, civilizations and peoples, in order to promote international peace and security.

Picking up on that commitment the Assembly on 14 March 2007 adopted a resolution -- that’s resolution 61/221 -- on the Promotion of Interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace. It was in this resolution Member States decided to convene this year, in 2007, a high-level dialogue. There was a special resolution to specify the date that this would be on these two dates.

What is important on this issue to note is that this is an initiative by all Member States.  You remember that there’s an Alliance of Civilisation initiative.  That’s an initiative by the Secretary-General.  This one is an initiative by the Member States.  It is their initiative to carry forward this issue of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in the framework of the General Assembly and this time, for the first time, they’re focusing on this issue on the highest possible level. Another important thing to note on this event has to do with the format, namely, that not only is it on a high level, but also that there is an interactive hearing part that allows for engagement with civil society.

The dialogue is expected to not only allow for an exchange of views but to strengthen the engagement of Member States, civil society and the UN system with the intention to look at ways and means to further develop initiatives in promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue.

If you’re interested in some of those ongoing initiatives, I must mention to you that there’s also a Secretary-General’s report out on the efforts of the UN system implementing that resolution that I mentioned on interreligious and intercultural dialogue.  That report is dated 25 September.  It’s out on the racks with the symbol A/62/337.

That’s all I have for you. Any questions?  Please.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Janos, with regards to Burma, how much did the Burma problem come up in the General Assembly?  We all understand how the Security Council is having difficulties in dealing with the problem because of internal differences among the nations.  What about the General Assembly nations and is the President of the General Assembly going to try to bring this out in the open and discussed as has often happened with other bloodshed situations in the world.

Spokesperson: I think you should probably look at it more from two angles.  There’s the formal channel and the informal channel.  The formal channel, within the Assembly is in the Third Committee under human rights issues.  This issue has been discussed throughout the years, meaning the human rights situation in Myanmar and for the past years resolutions have been passed on that and it is expected to be the case this year as well.  That would be more your concrete formal channel.  As regards the informal aspect, that would be that all of the developments that we see happening, including Mr. Gambari’s visit, happens at the time when there’s a general debate, at the time when heads of state, heads of government are here expressing their views in the general debate and, at the same, time engaging in bilateral discussions amongst themselves and also with the President of the General Assembly and, of course, the Secretary-General.  So, within that context, obviously, the issue of what is happening in Myanmar is on the informal agenda. And you also heard from Michèle that the President of the General Assembly is going to get a brief from Mr. Gambari as to his mission.  So, in that sense, I would say that the President is very much engaged and is keeping track of the situation.  As regards his role and powers and possible tools available to him, we’ll just have to see.  Please, yes.

Question: Just a follow-up to this…

Spokesperson: Okay, go ahead.

Question: Would Mr. Gambari’s briefing to the GA be open or closed session?

Spokesperson: At this point I am not aware of Mr. Gambari briefing the General Assembly.  What we’re talking about is Mr. Gambari meeting with the President of the General Assembly.  And that is, of course, a closed meeting.  Yes, please.

Question: Two things, firstly, leaving aside for the moment Mali and Djibouti, whom we all expected not to speak, well… to some extent what happened with Mali, but in particular, why did so prominent and important a country as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia choose, ultimately, not to make a statement, and with reference to this meeting on Thursday and Friday, why is there no specific information and will there be in the media alert, perhaps, on the Friday sessions.  It ends with the close of business on tomorrow evening, Thursday the fourth.

Spokesperson: Okay, let’s take the second question first.  If you look at the media advisory, you will see that on the second page, in the program part -- and the reason why it’s a bit dense is to make sure that it fits on one page so that you don’t have to carry so many sheets of paper around, we try to do that, plus also, maybe try to save on paper -- in the bottom, it clearly indicates that Friday there are two plenary sessions, 10 to 1 and 3 to 6, so it is clearly there.  So what you’re seeing is a plenary session opening the whole two day high-level event tomorrow morning, then in the afternoon there’s the interactive hearing part and on Friday in the morning and in the afternoon there are two more plenaries for the high level participants.

Question: But there are no scheduled, specific scheduled speakers at those two plenaries on Friday.

Spokesperson: What I mentioned in my introduction to you is that currently the list of speakers is being put together, so I will try to have it. The moment we have the list of speakers, which, as I said, is currently being formulated with always more and more speakers added on to it, we’ll try to get it to you.  I was told that maybe this afternoon we’ll have some kind of an indicative list. That may not necessarily give you, though, who is speaking on Friday morning, Friday afternoon, but at least it’ll give you a list of the number of members, or the list of the Member States who are going to get involved in this debate.  As regards the first question, Saudi Arabia, what I do have on Saudi Arabia is that they do have a statement which is available on the floor in the GA Hall.  They did not address the GA.  Why, you would have to ask them.

Question:  So is that, then, I assume available at the documents counter as well…

Spokesperson:  That is available, yes.

Question:  Thank you very much.

Spokesperson:  Please.

Question:  Yes, you reminded us there that there are two bodies regarding civilization, one, the Alliance of Civilization and, two, the intercultural and interreligious dialogue.  What is the link between the two?  Is there any coordination and who is doing the coordinating?

Spokesperson:  Okay.  It’s actually not two bodies; it’s two initiatives.  One initiative, as I mentioned, the Alliance for Civilizations is an initiative by the Secretary-General and his high representative on that, Mr. Jorge Sampaio, is actually going to be here. He is going to speak at the beginning of the interactive session.  The interactive session opens tomorrow afternoon, as I mentioned to you.  The President of the General Assembly is going to chair that and open it, and then the second speaker on the list is Jorge Sampaio.  So there’s that linkage already.  As regards this high level event, what I mentioned is that this is part of an initiative by the General Assembly.  It’s part of an initiative taken by Member States which aims at having a framework for taking this issue forward.  So, these are two separate initiatives, but very much coming together.  If you look at the report that I mentioned to you which the Secretary-General has out on this topic, it includes references to the initiative on the Alliance of Civilizations.  So there’s definitely a coordination element there and it dovetails into what the General Assembly wants to do, or is planning to do as regards the interreligious, intercultural dialogue, taking it forward, and see how Member States want to go about this issue.  The input is supposed to be coming from this high level dialogue.  Please.

Question:  The dialogue of Civilization, of the Alliance of Civilization has a secretariat, here, established secretariat.  Does the intercultural and interreligious dialogue have a similar secretariat and what is the coordination the two secretariats?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know of the interreligious, intercultural dialogue having a secretariat, but again if you read the Secretary-General’s report, there is a mention of a coordinating body or rather of a focal unit within the Secretariat and, if I remember correctly, that is the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination within DESA that has been designated for that, because this resolution that I mentioned to you which called for the interreligious, intercultural dialogue calls on the Secretary-General to designate a focal body within the UN system dealing with this issue.  That’s what the report is all about. But as I said, this interreligious, intercultural dialogue is basically a process.  It’s not a body, it’s not an entity.  Matthew.

Question:  I’m sorry to ask about this, but I wanted to get to the bottom of it.  On this issue of FYROM and the Republic of Macedonia, it’s been reported that people, I don’t know if it’s organizations or Greece itself, have asked for some action to be taken on what was said.  Are you aware… I don’t know exactly how that would work.  If a Member State, I guess a Member State would be the one to do it.  If they had some kind of a complaint, how would it work out in the GA to… what action could they get on a complaint?  I saw an interview where the President of the Assembly in a newspaper called Dnevnik, he said that no consultations had been needed because it was his political assessment, apparently, to, that this was the name to use.  I guess I’m wondering is that true?  Did he…  The other side seems to say that the use of “ Republic of Macedonia” violated UN resolution 817 and 847.  So it’s kind of a… I wonder what more…  as the general debate ends, have any either complaints or requests for action been filed?  Does he intend to continue to use the name that he used and is it true that he didn’t consult anyone or saw no need for consultations in the use of that term?

Spokesperson:  We’re not aware of any kind of complaints filed, and as regards this whole issue, the statement that we had last week on this continues to stand and I did mention that the President has no further comments on this issue and he feels that he has said everything he wanted to in that statement.

Question:  Does he say... is he going to use the same phrase again?  I guess that’s my question.  I’m asking, I don’t really, it’s not clear to me from his statement…  His statement wasn’t clear to me, whether… I now see that he said that he used it in March, excuse me, in May 24, so does that imply that throughout his tenure this will be the term that he’s going to use?

Spokesperson:  Matthew, all I have is the comment that we had last week on this issue.  I don’t have further comments on this and neither does the President at this time.

Question:  I guess, it’s like, it seems like a fair question.  He probably knows that he’s going to keep using it, it seems like he is.  It would seem like if he is, to say that’s what he’s going to call it.

Spokesperson:  This seems to be a hypothetical question, in a way, what’s going to happen in the future.  As I said, what happened last week, for that we issued a statement and in a follow-up we did say that there is no further comment from the President.  He feels he said everything he wanted to as regards this issue in that statement.  That statement is in line with what he has been saying from 24 May onwards.  If you remember, the statement clearly relates back to his acceptance speech, where he talks about upholding the dignity of each and every Member State, so there’s a clear continuity there.

Question:  The other thing is on this Host Country Committee, now that the general debate is ending, is it your understanding… no country raised any issue about gaining access to the facilities, including Bolivia?  No complaints raised?

Spokesperson:  I’m not aware of any complaints.  I’ve not been told of any. We’ve been checking on this since you have been asking, but I’m not aware of any.  And I think we talked about this that it said in the Journal that there’s a meeting coming up and if there’s anything, that should come up there.

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Please.

Question:  I would like to quote from Asharq al Awsat, the Middle East paper. “The General Assembly would have been overlooked had it not been for the media and political storm that accompanied Ahmadinejad’s visit to the US.”  How would the President of the Assembly react to this comment?

Spokesperson:  That the General Assembly…

Question:  Would have been overlooked had it not been for the visit of the President of Iran and the press.

Spokesperson:  I think that’s absolutely a distortion of the fact.  I mean, the very fact that you are all here, not necessarily in this room, that all of you,  members of the UN Correspondents, Association are regularly here covering what is going on in the UN and “running around” looking at the various speeches, looking at what is going on.  I think it’s unfair to you, not just to the President or to the Member States to say that this all would have been overlooked.  That would be kind of degrading your work I think.  So, I would categorically reject that, both as a UN staff member and as the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.  That’s just not true.

Thank you very much for you attention.

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