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

23 July 2008

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

23 July 2008
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, all.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning voted to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) by six months.  The head of that Mission, Ian Martin, will be my guest at the noon briefing to talk to you about its work in a few minutes.

The Council then heard in an open meeting from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, who said that the priority in that country should be to stay the course and follow through on the implementation of the recent Djibouti Agreement.

He said that choices for bringing peace to Somalia could include re-hatting the African Union force currently on the ground, establishing an international stabilization force or having the Security Council establish a UN peacekeeping force.  He said that, given the favourable political context following the Djibouti Agreement, “it is time for the Security Council to take bold, decisive and fast action”.  We have his statement upstairs.

The Council has followed its open meeting on Somalia with consultations on that topic.

Then, at 3 this afternoon, it will hold consultations on the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

** Sudan

Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir met briefly today with the African Union-United Nations Joint Special Representative for Darfur, Rodolphe Adada, and other senior members of the UN mission’s leadership when he visited UNAMID headquarters in El Fasher.  According to the AU-UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur, the Sudanese President reassured the UNAMID leadership of the Government’s preparedness to provide security for UNAMID security and convoys.

Due to the President’s visit and airport closure associated with it, the scheduled arrival of the Egyptian engineering contingent has been postponed.  New dates are to be confirmed.  Meanwhile, the suspension of the temporary relocation of non-essential UN personnel has remained in place since Friday, 18 July.  Only about 300 people have been temporarily relocated from Darfur.

**Kosovo

On Kosovo, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Lamberto Zannier, travelled to Belgrade today to meet with Serbia’s Foreign Minister, Vuk Jeremić, and Serbia’s Minister for Kosovo, Goran Bogdanović.  He will travel this evening from Belgrade to New York, where he will present on Friday the Secretary-General’s regular report on Kosovo to the Security Council.

The purpose of Zannier’s introductory meeting in Belgrade today was to move forward with dialogue on the practical issues that the Secretary-General had highlighted in his last special report to the Security Council.  There is more information on Zannier’s meeting upstairs.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ross Mountain, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been visiting the North Kivu province since yesterday.  He is accompanied by the Congolese minister of planning.  Both men will be meeting with local authorities and representatives of UN agencies to assess the implementation of the security and stabilization plan for eastern DRC, which is a programme reached between the Government and various eastern armed groups.

Meanwhile, the UN Mission reports several violations by various armed groups of the ceasefire in the Ituri province.  On Monday, two local armed groups exchanged fire in the town of Tchey.  No casualties are reported, and the battle ended following the intervention of UN peacekeepers.  In South Kivu, UN peacekeepers intervened three times this week to put an end to gun battles between local Congolese groups.

** Cyprus

On Cyprus, Alexander Downer, the recently appointed Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus, is currently in New York for briefings.  He met with the Secretary-General earlier today.  Downer is expected to arrive on 27 July in Cyprus, and pay courtesy calls on 29 July to the Greek Cypriot leader and the Turkish Cypriot leader.  And you’ll recall that the Secretary-General met with both leaders as well, during his trip to Europe earlier this month.

** Myanmar

The Secretary-General, as we speak, is convening a meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar.  The meeting included a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, on his upcoming visit to the country, planned for mid-August.  This is the fourth meeting of the group, which was established last December.

** Lebanon

Yesterday evening, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) received a request from the Lebanese Government to help it put out fires some 25 kilometres south-east of Beirut.  The fires broke out Monday evening.

A UNIFIL helicopter was immediately dispatched to the area and assisted Lebanese fire-fighters in extinguishing the fire until late in the evening.  UNIFIL has since resumed its fire-fighting effort this morning with a second helicopter.

**World Trade Organization Talks

Turning to the World Trade Organization talks in Geneva, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, in a speech to the Trade Organization Committee today, said that the latest round of consultations were “constructive”.  But he noted that progress so far has been modest and uneven.  Yesterday’s discussions touched on a wide range of subjects, involving both agricultural and non-agricultural goods, subsidies and market access.

Lamy said it was time to move into more intensive consultations, and he invited delegations to engage each other over the next several days with greater urgency and a stronger willingness to compromise.

In other news, WTO has also welcomed Cape Verde as its 153rd member.  We have more information upstairs.

**International Telecommunication Union

The International Telecommunication Union is promoting a new global standard to help rescue workers identify and notify victims’ next-of-kin in emergencies.

Simply adding the Arabic numerals 01, 02, 03, and so on to a person’s nominated contact in the mobile telephone directory, such as "01father", "02wife" or "03husband", -- I am not sure of that order -- will help emergency workers in any part of the world identify contacts in order of priority and notify them.  We have a press release upstairs on that.

** Mexico Trip Announcement

The Secretary-General will head to Mexico on 3 August for his first official visit to that country.  The fight against AIDS will be a major focus of the three-day trip.  In Mexico City, the Secretary-General will open the XVII International AIDS Conference, being held for the first time in Latin America, with Mexican President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.  At the Conference and during its side events, the Secretary-General is expected to meet with world leaders, people living with HIV and community groups.  He will reaffirm that the AIDS epidemic is not over and that we need a long-term vision to respond.

While in Mexico, the Secretary-General will hold bilateral meetings with the country’s President and Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa Cantellano.  He also plans to address a joint session of the Mexican Senate and Chamber of Deputies; discuss climate change policies with Mexican officials; and reach out to the business community through the UN Global Compact’s Mexico network.

**United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

And in connection with the AIDS Conference in Mexico that I just mentioned, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reports that it will be launching a resource pack at that gathering to help with the fight against AIDS.  The pack will provide technical guidance concerning HIV-related education.  We have a press release on that upstairs.

**Press Conference tomorrow

And the guests at the noon briefing tomorrow will be members of the UN’s recently-established Internal Justice Council, who will brief on the Council’s activities and the implementation of the new system.

I will try to answer a few questions, if you don’t mind, because Mr. Ian Martin is already here with us.  Yes, Benny.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any announcement as to the appointment of a replacement for Nicolas Michel as Legal Adviser?

Spokesperson:  Not yet.

Question:  How about, since he’s going to Mexico, and there were a couple of Mexican candidates for another job -- the Human Rights Commissioner; does he have an announcement on that?

Spokesperson:  Not yet, Benny.

Question:  On the Thailand-Cambodia dispute, I was wondering what the Secretary-General is doing to defuse the tensions, and how concerned is he on this matter?

Spokesperson:  As you know, it was discussed by the ASEAN [Association of South-East Asian Nations] meeting and they decided that it will be a bilateral dialogue between the two neighbouring countries.  So, the Secretary-General has no direct involvement in that.  Yes, Tarek.

Question:  I am sorry if I missed that, but did you mention why the deployment of this Egyptian engineering unit was postponed?

Spokesperson:  It was simply because the airport was closed.  The airport was closed because President Bashir was visiting Darfur.

Question:  So, it can be deployed back?

Spokesperson:  Sure, it could be.  It’s just a question of days; it’s just a question of rescheduling it, that’s all.

Question:  Who are all the countries participating in the meeting on Burma today?

Spokesperson:  The countries participating are Australia, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Norway, Russia, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Viet Nam, the European Community and the European Union.

Question:  Do you have any details on the letter that Hassan Nasrallah sent to the Secretary-General?

Spokesperson:  Who?

Question:  The leader of Hizbullah.

Spokesperson:  We didn’t put it out, but it was sent to the Security Council yesterday and it should be coming out, I assume, as a document within the next two days.

Question:  Just to tag onto that; you mean what will come out is the Secretary-General’s letter which sums up those documents, those letters or the actual letters?

Spokesperson:  No, the Secretary-General’s letter summarizing those letters.

Question:  And also on the border dispute on the pagoda, there was a letter to the Security Council asking for the Security Council to intervene.  If you say, as you just did, that it’s a bilateral issue, doesn’t that negate at least...?

Spokesperson:  Well, you know, I think this is, in terms of the other issue of the letter that was sent to the Security Council, we just have to find out from the Security Council presidency what they are doing about this.  It has nothing to do with the Secretariat.  Yes, Tarek.  Let’s go quickly.

Question:  Okay, just a follow-up to this question.  Was this the first time for Mr. Ban Ki-moon to receive letters from the head of Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah?  Was it the first time to...?

Spokesperson:  Well, I can check for you whether it was the first time, I don’t know.  I’ll check for you whether it was the first time.

[The Spokesperson later said that the letter had gone to the Secretary-General’s facilitator.]

Question:  In Afghanistan, there are reports about UN offices getting attacked by missiles.  Is that something you can confirm?

Spokesperson:  No, not yet. I heard about it and we have asked for a confirmation.  We don’t have any at this point.

Question:  Just two things on Somalia:  One is, it’s being proposed, Ould-Abdallah has said there should be peacekeepers as soon as possible.  Does DPKO... is there any way to get a sense from them; I know that they have previously said that they didn’t think that it was ready or that there would be a big, big problem sending UN peacekeepers to Somalia.  Do they have any response to today’s call by other...?

Spokesperson:  It has to be first, a decision taken by the Security Council, and, of course, the Secretariat will do whatever is needed to actually implement the decision taken by the Security Council on this.

Question:  And then the last thing on the Djibouti talks; the talks that were in Djibouti.  Did the UN provide financial assistance to, not just the TFG [Transitional Federal Government], but also to the Alliance to Re-Liberate Somalia to attend the talks?  And if so, how much?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check on that.  I don’t have that information.

[The Spokesperson later said that the United Nations provided funds to support the talks, not individual participants.]

Question:  Do you have any idea about the last phase of the prisoners exchange between Lebanon and Israel?

Spokesperson:  No, we don’t.  We don’t have any more on this, except for the two letters which were transmitted to the Council.  I am going to invite Mr. Martin to come up.

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