DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

5 December 2007

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

5 December 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Briefing by the Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.  We will have guests with the General Assembly Spokesperson today at 12:30, and I am expecting a statement attributable to the Spokesperson on Lebanon also.

**Security Council

Today at Headquarters, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, briefed the Security Council in an open meeting about the Court’s investigation into the violence in Darfur.

Moreno Ocampo told the Council that the Government of Sudan has not complied with its legal obligations and is not cooperating with the Court.  Two suspects, Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb, have not been arrested, and the Sudanese Government has taken no steps to prosecute them domestically or to transfer them to The Hague.

He added that he is preparing to open two new investigations –- one concerning the pattern of attacks against civilians, particularly the 2.5 million people forcibly displaced; and the other into attacks on humanitarian personnel and peacekeepers, with rebel involvement, as took place in Haskanita.

Moreno Ocampo will come here to brief you in this room at 1:15 p.m.

Then, at 3 o’clock this afternoon, the Security Council will receive a briefing, in another open meeting, from Serge Brammertz, the Head of the International Independent Investigation Commission dealing with Lebanon, in his last appearance to the Council in that post.  That will be followed by consultations, also on Lebanon.

The Commission’s latest report is out on the racks today.  In it, the Commission says that it is increasingly able to draw preliminary conclusions on an important number of aspects of the investigation of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.  And also, it has continued to support the Lebanese authorities in their investigations in 18 cases of targeted assassinations and bombings.

After that, Brammertz and his successor on the Commission, Daniel Bellemare, will come to the Security Council stakeout to brief you there and take your questions.  They will both make brief statements, and Mr. Brammertz will take your questions.

** Darfur Peace Process

The African Union and United Nations Special Envoys for Darfur, Salim Ahmed Salim and Jan Eliasson, yesterday met with the Foreign Ministers of Chad, Egypt and Libya and senior representatives of the Eritrean President.  They took stock of the political and security situation in the region, assessed the progress of the movements’ unification efforts in Juba and Darfur, and discussed possible options for the way forward. 

They agreed that the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) should be commended on their facilitation efforts, and that the movements should be encouraged to continue and finalize their work on the nomination of a negotiation team and the development of common negotiation positions.

They also discussed the worrying situation in Chad, and its impact on both the Darfur situation and Chad-Sudan relations.  And those talks, as you recall, took place in Egypt.

Eliasson today arrived in Khartoum to begin a week-long visit there to Sudan.  During the visit, he will spend three days meeting with the movements and members of civil society in Darfur, hopes to travel to Juba to meet with the SPLM Task Force, and he will meet with Government officials in Khartoum.

**Secretary-General Statement on Lebanon

As I mentioned before, we have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Lebanon.  The Secretary-General is extremely concerned about the continuing delay in the election of a new president in Lebanon, which has extended well past the constitutional timeframe.  Over the past few days he has spoken to key political leaders in the country to urge a solution, including Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Speaker Nabih Berri and Majority Leader Saad Hariri.  He believes it is now time for this matter to be resolved without further delay. 

The Secretary-General will remain in close touch with Lebanese political leaders who bear, both to the people of Lebanon and to the future of the country, the responsibility to find a solution.

Copies of that statement are available upstairs.

** Central African Republic

Out as a document today is the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Central African Republic.  In it, he says that preparations continue for an inclusive political dialogue to deal with the crisis brought about by rebel activities in the north-western and north-eastern regions of the country.  On the humanitarian situation, he says that conditions have stabilized following the signing of a peace agreement between the Government and the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity rebel group in April.  And displaced persons are returning to their villages.  This has brought the number of internally displaced persons to some 45,000, down from 65,000, while another 45,000 remain in refugee camps in neighbouring Cameroon.

The Secretary-General says that the recent encouraging prospects from the Brussels Donors’ Round Table can only be sustained in a stable political environment.  He welcomes the decision by the African Union and the European Union to extend and strengthen the mandate of the regional peacekeeping effort known as FOMUC, and preparation for the deployment of a European force in north-eastern Central African Republic to protect civilians.  He also appeals to local political actors to overcome their differences and start a credible dialogue.

** Burundi

The Deputy Secretary-General today addressed the Burundi Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission here at Headquarters.

She said today’s adoption of a Monitoring and Tracking Mechanism for the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi is a critical step, not only for Burundi and its people, but also for the work of the Peacebuilding Commission.

She said that the Mechanism, the first of its kind, paves the way for a principled and active partnership between countries under consideration by the Peacebuilding Commission, the entire UN system and the larger international community.  It is a practical and powerful tool to ensure dialogue and enhanced coordination between key stakeholders, she added.

More information about the Mechanism is out on the racks.

** Chad -- OCHA

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is expressing its deep concern about the ongoing fighting in eastern Chad and how it is preventing humanitarian workers from reaching refugees and displaced persons. 

The conflict is threatening the delivery of aid to some 230,000 Sudanese refugees and 180,000 internally displaced persons, according to OCHA. 

There’s more information on this upstairs.

**Climate Change

Turning to the climate change negotiations in Bali, Indonesia -– after three days of discussions, one of the main concerns that has emerged is adaptation.  Speaking at a press conference today, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Yvo de Boer, said that failing to take action to address the impacts of climate change is effectively “a direct attack on the poor”, since they have the fewest resources to adapt.

He added that one way to address this is through the Kyoto Protocol’s self-financing Adaptation Fund, which would be enhanced through a levy on the Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism.  That Mechanism allows industrialized countries to earn emission reduction credits by investing in clean technology projects in developing countries.

** Greece –- The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Matthew Nimetz, was in Athens today, where he met with Greece’s Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, opposition leader and other officials.

Nimetz found heightened concern in the region about the possibility of deteriorating relations between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as a result of the “name issue”.  But, at the same time, there was recognition of the positive developments that could ensue if a solution is reached. 

The next round of direct talks will take place in the region for the first time, as opposed to in New York.  The first round will take place in Skopje, in January, and will be hosted by the Foreign Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  A further round will be hosted by the Greek Foreign Minister in Athens.

**Kosovo

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Joachim Rücker, today certified election results for the Assembly of Kosovo.

He said he was pleased that the electoral process is moving forward in a peaceful atmosphere.  That shows the maturity of the Kosovo people and the political parties, he added.

The balloting for the Assembly of Kosovo was held on 17 November, when the electorate also chose Municipal Assembly Members and, for the first time, directly voted for a mayor for each of Kosovo’s 30 municipalities.

There’s a press release from our Mission there.

**Secretary-General to Stakeout

As you know, the Secretary-General will be on the road again shortly.  But before he travels, he will speak to you at the Security Council stakeout.  And that will take place tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. at the Security Council stakeout.  I repeat, the Secretary-General will be at the stakeout tomorrow, prior to his departure on his latest travels.

**Questions and Answers

That’s what that I have for you.  Do you have anything for me?  Yes?

Question:  I understand that the Secretary-General is supposed to receive the report from Kosovo on, I believe, December the 10th.  Is there a meeting scheduled for that?  Or how is that going to happen, because I believe he’s not going to be in New York?  So is there a meeting –- or how will that happen?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The logistics of the transfer I don’t have details of.  But what I can tell you about the report is that it is going to the Council –- as far as I know, it will be transmitted to the Council on the 10th, immediately after the Secretary-General receives it.

As far as the meeting is concerned, I think you heard the Security Council President yesterday talking about that on their schedule of work for December.

Question:  In Afghanistan, there are media reports that Lord Ashdown would be taking over as the new United Nations envoy in January.  Can you let us know what’s the process being followed and when he’s taking over?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We have nothing to substantiate those reports that you’re referring to.

Question:  And when Mr. Gambari will be briefing us –- anything?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As of now, again, the Security Council President mentioned to you yesterday, I don’t think a date has been set for Mr. Gambari’s briefing to the Council.  We are working on the earliest possible time for him to brief you, based on his briefing schedule, either to the Security Council and/or the General Assembly.  And we’ll let you know.

Question:  To follow up on Afghanistan again, what’s the normal process being followed when you appoint a new United Nations envoy to a country like Afghanistan, as far as the process being followed?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, this is a very hypothetical question you’re asking.  The Security Council would have to decide whether such an envoy would be necessary.

Question:  To follow up on Afghanistan, there’s a story of a United Nations or United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan map of safety in the country that the Times of London has published that says it has become less safe since 2005.  Does the United Nations -- has it confirmed that that is its map, and what does it have to say about declining security in Afghanistan?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think in terms of security, in terms of the recent public remarks on security in Afghanistan, I believe the press conference that the Mission had on Sunday did make reference to it.  I can’t get into specifics.  In terms of any reported map on security, I doubt that that’s something the United Nations could confirm or deny, since it’s a security issue.

Question:  Just, in light of Mr. Ocampo’s remarks to the Council –- and also, we had the press conference here with Human Rights Watch and other groups, in which Human Rights Watch was pretty critical –- was somewhat critical of the Secretary-General for, for, in terms of speaking out on particularly Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb and the need for President Al-Bashir to arrest them.  What is, what is –- I saw his speech yesterday to the International Criminal Court parties where he mentions Darfur.  But is it his position that President Al-Bashir and the Government there should arrest and turn over Harun and Ali Kushayb?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think he was crystal clear in his remarks two days ago to the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statue on the International Criminal Court, and I quote from him.  He says, “I urge all Member States to do everything within their powers to assist in enforcing these warrants”, and he refers to these warrants issued by the International Criminal Court.

Question:  Is that something in his disc… I mean, in his discussions with President Al-Bashir.  Is it something that routinely comes up?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As you know, the Secretary-General has been in discussion with the Sudanese parties on a number of issues and he has, as you know -- also in his remarks from the other day, I just want again to quote that “the overarching principle is clear”.  He says, “There can be no sustainable peace without justice.  Peace and justice, accountability and reconciliation are not mutually exclusive.  To the contrary, they go hand in hand.  And so the work of the International Criminal Court goes hand in hand with that of the United Nations.  Our struggle for peace cannot succeed without your efforts for justice,” and he refers that to the International Criminal Court.

Question:  Marie, during the meeting in Annapolis, do you know if the Secretary-General met with the Vice-President –- Vice Foreign Affairs Minister of Syria and discussed the matter of the election in Lebanon?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’d have to check that for you.  I don’t have the list of all the bilaterals he had in Annapolis.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later told the reporter that no such meeting took place.]

Question:  Marie, there are indications that the Special Envoy for the Secretary-General to Western Sahara has given the parties the dates of 6 to 7 January for meeting again in Manhasset.  Is that a fact?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing to announce at this point on that.

Question:  Will the United Nations special envoy on -- Special Adviser on -- Iraq/Kuwait be addressing the Council on Tuesday?  It says Iraq-Kuwait consultations.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I would have to find out who the briefer would be for a meeting.  Usually what happens is even though we get a programme for the whole month, what happens is the night before, on the eve of the next day’s programme, we get a programme that confirms the specific items, and usually that’s when we can confirm who’s the briefer.

Question:  Marie, does the Secretary-General intend to give an end of the year press conference?  And when?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think right now the next time you will get to speak to him is tomorrow at the stakeout, before his departure to Bali and other stops that we’ve announced.  So at this point, I don’t think I’m in a position to tell you.  But tomorrow’s stakeout is an opportunity for you to ask questions.

Question:  When you said, maybe it’s more than a week ago now, maybe I misunderstood it, about -- that either someone from Procurement or the Department of Field Support would be coming to talk about the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur sole source contract.  When is that going to happen?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think we’ve made that request, and Michèle has mentioned to you that as soon as the Fifth Committee deliberations were over, they were prepared to come here.  So I can follow up on that for you.

Alright.  There are no other questions?  Have a good afternoon.

* *** *

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