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

20 August 2008

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

20 August 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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.  I am going to quickly get through this briefing, because I know that people want to go to the Security Council stakeout.


**Statement on Algeria


I just wanted to flag to you that we are expecting a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the bombings in Algeria.


[The following statement was issued yesterday afternoon:


The Secretary-General condemns the terrorist attack east of Algiers earlier today (Tuesday) which reportedly killed at least 43 people, including civilians, most of whom were between 18 and 20.


The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the people of Algeria and in particular to the families of the victims.  He urges once again that the international community support the efforts of the Government of Algeria to combat terrorism.


The Secretary-General firmly believes that violence will not deter the people of Algeria from the path of peace and national reconciliation.


Since this statement was issued, two car bombs have reportedly killed 11 people in the city of Bouira.  The Secretary General is very concerned by these new deaths and once more condemns the use of violence.]


**Security Council


And in the Security Council today, as you know, you just heard Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe brief the Security Council in an open meeting on the latest developments in the Middle East.  I will not read the entire note into the record, but we do have his briefing upstairs.


And then yesterday afternoon the Security Council held an open meeting, following consultations, to receive briefings on the situation on the ground in Georgia.  Again, the briefings by B. Lynn Pascoe and by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet are available upstairs in the Spokesperson’s Office, as are the presidential statements that were issued in the formal meetings yesterday.


**Georgia -- Humanitarian


And on Georgia today, the World Food Programme (WFP) says it has now provided more than 120,000 internally displaced persons with wheat flour, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, high-energy biscuits and baked bread.  These include an additional 11,000 people today.


For the first time, WFP assistance has reached villages in the Kaspi district and Senaki town in West Georgia.  Food delivery to the district adjacent to South Ossetia was cancelled due to unexpected population movements out of the area.


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also notes improved access in recent days.  Humanitarian convoys are passing through existing roadblocks, and there is limited east-west access, enabling assistance to get to previously unreachable locations, including the overland route to the port in Poti, according to OCHA.


Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres has held talks with several senior Government officials since his arrival in Tbilisi yesterday.  Mr. Guterres also visited two collective centres for newly displaced people.


The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has six offices in Georgia.  The agency is in the process of boosting its current staff strength there and rapidly moving ahead with the distribution of aid items. And you can read more about this on the UNHCR website.


** Myanmar -- Gambari


I am also expecting an update on the activities of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, in Myanmar, which I will either have before the end of this briefing or put out immediately afterwards, if it has not come to me.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


Turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UN peacekeepers and Congolese soldiers have jointly deployed in the Ituri and Orientale provinces to protect civilians against the Lord’s Resistance Army and other armed groups.  The Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) adds that elements from the Ugandan rebel group recently attacked and pillaged villages in the region.  Another prominent threat to civilians in the area is the Ituri Patriotic Front, who regularly attack and pillage civilian properties.


The Mission reports other violent incidents throughout eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  And you can read all about that in the transcript of the Mission’s weekly press conference, which is available to you upstairs.


** Afghanistan


And on Afghanistan, Kai Eide, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, today launched a new anti-corruption report from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and called on Afghanistan’s people to stand up against corruption.


He said that corruption must be tackled from the bottom up by having the people, Afghan civil society and the media play a crucial role in supporting the Government’s anti-corruption efforts.  We have a press release upstairs with more details and the UNDP report is available online.


**United Nations Environment Programme – Marine Turtles


And from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), we have an update on marine turtle conservation in the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia.  More than two dozen signatories of a regional Memorandum of Understanding are meeting in Bali, Indonesia, from today through Saturday.  And you can read more about that in their press release upstairs.


And as I mentioned, we are expecting a statement on the bombings in Algeria and an update on Mr. Gambari’s programme in Myanmar.


And with that, I think I will stop, because Ambassador Churkin, I understand, is at the Security Council stakeout.  Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Marie, an Israeli writer has written a column in one of the Israeli newspapers, and he says what is happening in the West Bank is ethnic cleansing and what’s happening in Gaza is genocide.  Basically saying that the building of the settlements and so forth, will lead to that.  Does the Secretary-General share that view?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General’s view on the situation in the Occupied Territory was made clear again today by Mr. Pascoe’s briefing to the Security Council, to which I refer you.


Question:  And also a follow-up on another question which I had asked you earlier about this situation that has been created now in the India-Pakistan border and that the tensions are again growing, which weren’t until now because of the protest of the Kashmiris, at that point in time, Farhan had said that the Secretary-General was always ready to offer good offices.  Is that the same position?  Do you have any comment on the situation over there?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have no updates on that situation today.


Question:  Who is doing the monitoring as we were told?  Is UNMOGIP involved in monitoring the situation on the Indian side of the…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The UNMOGIP mandate is stated in its resolution by the Security Council and I have nothing beyond that.  Matthew?


Question:  Two Serbian ministers have spoken out against UNMIK apparently turning over buildings, vehicles and equipment to EULEX and said that, in doing so, the Secretariat and DPKO, I guess, are violating resolution 1244 (1999).  How much of the property of UNMIK has in fact been given over to EULEX and is the agreement with EULEX a public document?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not aware of the reports that you refer, but I was told just when I was coming down that we’re expecting the transcript of the briefing today from UNMIK.  So, let’s take a look at that to see if any of these issues are addressed.


Question:  But it doesn’t include this idea of how much stuff was actually given over.  It said it happened Monday and also if there is some kind of written agreement between UNMIK and EULEX; if that can be released…?


Deputy Spokesperson: We’ll ask UNMIK.


Question:  It’s now widely reported that Mr. Gambari has said that Ban Ki-moon will be going to Myanmar in December.  Is that the case or not the case?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the Secretary-General made very clear upon returning from Myanmar and following his discussions with the leadership there that he expects his good offices to be deepened and broadened through his continued engagement of his Special Adviser.  He also indicated his intent to return to Myanmar when conditions are right to continue the dialogue with the Myanmar leadership.  At this point, it is too early to confirm the Secretary-General’s calendar.  And on that note, I just got the update on Mr. Gambari’s activities in Myanmar, which I’d like to read into the record:


On his third day in Myanmar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, met with the Ministers of Planning and Health, with whom he discussed ways to address socio-economic conditions.  He also held 10 separate meetings with political parties and civil society groups, including members of the Central Executive Committee of the National League for Democracy (NLD), student representatives and elected individuals from the 1990 elections. The discussions focused on the need for inclusive national dialogue, a credible political process, and ways to address socio-economic challenges.


Yesterday, Mr. Gambari visited areas in the delta region affected by Cyclone Nargis.  He also held a meeting with a team representing the ruling State Peace and Development Council, where they exchanged views on a broad range of issues, including the release of political prisoners, the credibility of the political process and ways to address socio-economic conditions.


So that’s what I have on Myanmar.


Question:  Did his meetings with the NLD include any meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, or is he going to meet with her before he leaves?


Deputy Spokesperson:  On Aung San Suu Kyi, Mr. Gambari, as you know, has met with her on each of his visits as well as with Myanmar’s senior leaders on several occasions, and he looks forward to continuing his dialogue with all concerned.  And we’ll keep you updated on his activities on the ground while he is there.  Okay, and on that note, have a good afternoon.  Thank you very much.


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