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

5 November 2008

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

5 November 2008
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 Enrique Yeves, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon, all.

I would like to first welcome a group of visiting journalists from the German-American Journalists Exchange programme, sponsored by the Rias Berlin Commission, to the noon briefing today.  

**Secretary-General Press Encounter

The Secretary-General spoke to reporters this morning and extended his warmest congratulations to Senator Barack Obama as the next President of the United States.  Calling the occasion “an historic opportunity”, the Secretary-General said that he looks forward to working with the new administration to fulfil our common goals and enormously important objectives.  He said, “With a glad heart, I welcome this new era of partnership for change.”

The Secretary-General said that he is heading to Kenya today to attend the UN-backed summit of the African Union concerning the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  During that visit, he said, he will sit down with President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and encourage them to find a path to peace.

From Kenya, he said, he will join the Quartet meetings on the Middle East, to be held in the region this weekend.

The Secretary-General, asked about his views on President-elect Obama, recalled that the two of them had met and spoken on a range of mutual concerns while on the same plane flight in February 2007.  At the time, he said, they had discussed the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programmes and United Nations reform.

**Secretary-General Statement on Somalia

We have also a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Somalia.

The Secretary-General most strongly condemns the abduction of four aid workers and two pilots from an airstrip near the town of Dusamareb in Somalia today. 

The Secretary-General demands their immediate release.  He is deeply concerned about the worsening trend of killings and abductions of aid workers in Somalia.  He calls upon all parties to respect the neutral and impartial status of humanitarian staff, and to allow them to do their work bringing vital life-saving assistance to millions of Somalis, nearly half of the population, who are counting on this support for their survival.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) has condemned the resumption of heavy artillery fighting in the North Kivu town of Rutshuru.  The fighting reportedly broke out yesterday between the PARECO armed movement backed by local ethnic militias and anti-Government forces led by Laurent Nkunda.  The Mission says this latest violation of the ceasefire poses a grave threat to the safety of civilians and could worsen an already dire humanitarian situation.  It calls on all warring parties to immediately withdraw from Rutshuru so as to allow United Nations peacekeepers to continue the vital mission of protecting civilians.

The World Food Programme (WFP), meanwhile, says that it has begun handing out food to some 135,000 displaced people in six camps around Goma.  The agency says the handouts include high-energy biscuits for children at risk of malnutrition.  The donated food is expected to last about 10 days and will help to ease the squeeze on food supplies in Goma since fighting temporarily cut off many key delivery routes.  WFP is also stocking up on rations by drawing on a 1,000-ton reserve from its office in the South Kivu town of Bukavu.  It is expediting deliveries from Uganda and Tanzania, while another 1,200 tons of food will be brought in from its operation in Rwanda.  New supporting staff is also being flown from within the Democratic Republic of the Congo and from abroad.

** Sudan in Security Council

The Security Council this morning heard a briefing in an open meeting on the status of the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of the Sudan.  In a briefing, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet, introduced the Secretary-General’s recent report on the Sudan, which we briefed you on last month.

Mulet noted that no major ceasefire violations have occurred and that the overall security situation remains relatively calm in Southern Sudan and the transition areas, including Abyei, but he added that the status of the peace agreement remains a mixed picture of slow but continuing progress.

Mulet says there is an urgent need to focus on the issues that will enable the parties to reach the 2011 referendum and ensure stability after 2011.

International assistance will remain vital in numerous areas, including disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating parties and assisting in confidence-building, mediation, human rights and capacity-building.

The Security Council is holding consultations on the Sudan right now.

**Honduras/Guatemala

We have an update from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the response to flooding in Honduras and Guatemala.

Some parts of Honduras are still reachable only by air.  With more rain in the forecast, there is an increasing risk of further floods and landslides.  Last week’s Flash Appeal for $17 million is only 8 per cent funded, but a grant of $1.5 million has been released from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

Meanwhile, a Response Fund application is being prepared for flood relief in Guatemala, which formally requested United Nations assistance on Monday.

** Haiti -- Human Rights

From Haiti, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, just concluded a three-day visit to Haiti, this Wednesday.

Speaking to the media at the airport, she expressed her deep concern and sadness about the socio-economic situation of the majority of the Haitian population, particularly after the four hurricanes that struck the country in recent weeks.

She cited the lack of access to food and drinkable water, as well as the conditions in Haiti’s prisons, as violations of the human rights of Haitians.

What is needed, she said, is a true partnership between the Government, the population and the international community.

Ms. Pillay met with the Head of State, President Rene Preval, and the Prime Minister, Michele Pierre Louis, as well as human rights organizations and members of Haitian civil society.  She also visited Cite Soleil, a poor and formerly violent neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince.

She noted the progress made on security issues, as well as the reforms of the police and the judicial system.

Pillay stressed the importance of the continued engagement of the Haitian Government to pursue these reforms, and the need of coordinated support from the United Nations agencies working in Haiti.

** Chad

On Chad, the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Susanna Malcorra, has begun a week-long official visit to Chad, during which she will be evaluating the deployment of the Mission to the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT).

Malcorra will be meeting with Chadian and international officials, the United Nations country team and she will visit both the Mission and EUFOR representatives in the north-eastern towns of Abeche, Farchana and Goze-Beida. 

**Peacebuilding Commission

A delegation of the Peacebuilding Commission is on a week-long visit to the Central African Republic.  Led by the Permanent Representative of Belgium, who chairs the country-specific configuration on the Central African Republic, the delegation is meeting with the Government and other key stakeholders.  They are discussing the country’s peacebuilding priorities and challenges, as well as the nature and scope of international support it needs.  There is a press release in French upstairs.

**UN-Habitat

UN-Habitat unveiled a $2 million fund to finance youth-led development projects around the world.

Talking about the fund, Anna Tibaijuka, the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, said that youth are the future of our cities but often are rendered voiceless due to unemployment, lack of education and other issues.

She added that, through this fund, we are at the forefront of a growing movement to place youth at the centre of sustainable development strategies.

There is more information in a press release upstairs, and this is all I have for you today.  Any questions?  Yes.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  United Nations Head of Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy said today that the Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will open fire on rebels trying to gain Goma.  Has the Secretary-General approved or authorized this statement?

Spokesperson:  Well, of course, you know it’s within the mandate that MONUC has, not only the mandate given by the Security Council, but also the rules of engagement that exist on the ground.  Which means that that mandate and the rules of engagement are quite clear and, if the civilian population is in danger; if the peacekeepers’ positions are threatened or if they’re fired upon, the use of force is considered legitimate and this is what I think Mr. Le Roy meant when he talked about a robust reaction to what was happening in Goma.  And it is for the protection of the civilian population.

Question:  A follow-up.  Will the Secretary-General recommend that Nkunda have an envoy at the upcoming meeting in Nairobi on 7 November?

Spokesperson:  Well, as far as I know, it’s going to be Member States.  Not the different groups that are part of the problem in the Congo.  Yes?

Question:  (Inaudible) Indian peacekeepers there?

Spokesperson:  Yes, Indian peacekeepers are there.  What did you want to know?

Question:  Are they safe?  I mean any injuries…?

Spokesperson:  No, no, no.  They’re safe.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Just one follow-up on that.  The report was that the injured peacekeepers were actually injured by FARDC.  Do you know all the injuries that these peacekeepers sustained, from where did they come from?  From Nkunda’s forces or from fleeing FARDC troops?

Spokesperson:  We can get more details for you on that.  But as far as I know, we have had no fatalities yet.

Question:  (Inaudible) and I just wondered if the United Nations can confirm who shot them?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have that information, but we can always find out from the ground whether they know exactly who fired on them.

Question:  And also, in Kosovo, there is a report that UNMIK [United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] is blocking the reconstruction of houses in and around Mitrovica by ethnic Albanians.  This is giving rise to some controversy about, in terms of return of IDPs [internally displaced persons].  Is it UNMIK’s position that you need UNMIK approval to reconstruct the houses and to move back to…?

Spokesperson:  Well, I can get more information from the Mission for you.  But I don’t have that information.

Question:  And then, also, there is this report that, maybe this is sort of a global financial crisis question, that the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund in the third quarter lost in value $4.5 billion or 11 per cent of its value.  Is that something that either Ban Ki-moon or his representative, the Controller, has any plans to either shift investing strategies or what…?

Spokesperson:  We don’t go into the details of what strategies are adopted.  What I was given as an answer is that the Pension Fund has not suffered in any way from the financial crisis.  There have been fluctuations, but it hasn’t affected the overall value of the Fund.  But we can, of course, check.  You can yourself check and I can also, of course, call the Controller and try to find out.

Question:  Thank you Michèle.  You know, yesterday, Israel launched the first air strike on the Palestinians after the truce announced two months ago.  I was wondering if you have any comment on that; especially that seven or eight Palestinians were killed yesterday.  And also, the President of the Security Council told us yesterday, Michèle, that an invitation was sent to Tony Blair to come and brief the Council at the end of the month about the Quartet and what it is doing in the Middle East.  As the United Nations is a member of the Quartet, do you have any explanation for why Tony Blair has not responded yet to the Council?

Spokesperson:  I cannot speak for Mr. Blair.  Of course, Mr. Blair has his own spokesperson and I’m sure we can find out for you.  But it’s a question that is between the Security Council and Mr. Blair.  Maybe it’s just a question of time for him to answer the letter, I don’t know.  I don’t really know, and I don’t have an answer for you on that.  In terms of your first questions about the Israeli strike, the Secretary-General is concerned about the outbreak of violence in Gaza and also in Southern Israel, and he has urged and he is urging again for the full respect of the calm brokered by Egypt that has been in place for several months now and that has just been broken.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you Michèle.  In that press encounter with the Secretary-General this morning speaking about the United States elections, the Secretary-General expressed confidence in US-UN relations and that he looks forward to an era of renewed partnership and a new multilateralism.  I wonder if you could clarify now or later what “new multilateralism” means?

Spokesperson:  I think the Secretary-General has been very much speaking about the fact that so many issues right now know no borders, and that so many issues have an impact on the world as a whole -- the financial crisis being one of them, global warming being another one.  And those are issues that have to be dealt with more and more by concerted efforts by the international community.  So, what he is talking about is the fact that more and more issues are global issues.

Question:  Why “new” multilateralism?

Spokesperson:  “New” because it’s becoming more and more evident that those problems are worldwide problems.  When he’s talking about “new”, it doesn’t have the parameters of that.  And, as you know, this is one of the things that is being discussed -- that will be discussed -- in Washington with the G-20 meeting, and discussed in Doha, about the whole issue of the new partnership, a new multilateral partnership.  These are things being discussed all over, all around us.  It was discussed at the General Assembly meeting, definitely the other day when they were talking about the make-up of the institutions that deal with the financial crisis.

Question:  Yesterday, the Secretary-General met, was supposed to meet with the Frente POLISARIO head, Mr. Abdelaziz.  Is there any progress regarding the appointment of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General to Western Sahara?

Spokesperson:  Not yet.  There are still consultations going on. 

Question:  (Inaudible) in Cyprus …continue until November.  But you see, they don’t have any hope.  The newspaper (inaudible), they’re continuing the talk, but there isn’t any hope, you know, of the future.  So, what the Secretary-General can say that…?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General does not share that point of view.  He thinks that there is hope and that the talks are going to continue and they’re going to bear fruit.  As you know, he met with all the parties personally and he’s very confident that there will be a positive response.  Yes?

Question:  Yesterday, in the press conference of Ambassador Urbina, the President of the Council for this month, he made a comment that he said that; he questioned why DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] is training a new army in Timor-Leste.  He said, from his perspective, obviously, speaking in his national capacity, it made little sense who the army is going to be used against and, if so, he wondered about security sector reform being done by DPKO in Timor-Leste.  Do you know whether, I mean, has DPKO or Ban Ki-moon, is there an attempt, where possible, to wean countries or places like Timor-Leste of having an army, or does the United Nations always take the position that an army is necessary?  It’s, depending on where you are, he said, he wondered why the United Nations was doing this.

Spokesperson:  Well, in this specific case, as you know, I am not going to talk for the Costa Ricans who have chosen not to have an army.  I can only say this is up to the Government of Timor-Leste.  It’s not up to DPKO.  If DPKO is asked to train an army, DPKO will train any army, or to train the police, DPKO will do it.  I think it is a matter for Government, not a matter for DPKO.  DPKO actually had the mandate to train the army and that’s what they’re doing, and the police.

Thank you all.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon to everybody.

I don’t have much information today, but I think you’re all interested in knowing an update on the Heads of State that are going to attend at the meeting next week.  So, we have the following Heads of State already confirmed for the meeting on the culture of peace on 12 and 13 November:

Saudi Arabia, Philippines, United States, Kuwait, Pakistan, Bahrain, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Qatar, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.  And from the United Kingdom, we have confirmation of the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and from India, the Minister of State for External Affairs.

That’s the list that I have available right now.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Can you confirm Lebanon will be participating?

Spokesperson:  Lebanon will be participating, yes.

Question:  President [Michel] Suleiman will be coming?

Spokesperson:  Well, yesterday I had Lebanon as a Head of State.  In my list that I have as from today, I don’t have it as a Head of State.

Question:  So, today it is not as a Head of State (inaudible)?

Spokesperson:  No, what I am saying it that I keep getting the list updated, as you know, it changes everyday.  And the list that I have just read is the most up-to-date.  That means the one that I have in front of me right now doesn’t list Lebanon as a Head of State.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Enrique. I think you have listed about 15 attendees for now or by now on the list.  Does the President think that the representation of 15 or 20 out of 192 Member States is adequate?

Spokesperson:  I have listed only the Heads of State.  We already have something like 40 or 50 delegations participating at different levels -- Foreign Ministers or Permanent Representatives -- and we still have some days.  You know, this is a meeting that is evolving very quickly in terms of participation.  So, I think the level of participation is going to be very high.

Question:  And you still think that 40 or 50 would be adequate out of 192?

Spokesperson:  Well, adequate is an adjective that you are using.  This is a meeting that has been convened and it is for the Member States to decide the level of participation.  Now, in such a meeting, having 20-25 Heads of State is already, I would say, a big success, taking into account that we had a meeting in the general debate only one month ago.  So, again, from the perspective of the President of the General Assembly, the participation is very good.  James?

Question:  Just some clarification.  You did say the Heads of State from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates?

Spokesperson:  Yes.  Do you want me to repeat the list again?  I said Qatar, I said United Arab Emirates.

Question:  Could you get to the names of the individuals that confirmed…?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have names of individuals.

Question:  The United Arab Emirates one contradicts a story that the national news agency put out his morning, which is that Sheikh Khalifa, who is the Head of State, as President was going to be sending the Emir of (inaudible) as his envoy.  So…?

Spokesperson:  Again, the list that I have is the list provided from Protocol to me and this is the most up-to-date list that I have.  I changes everyday.  And as our colleague was pointing out, we had Lebanon as Head of State until yesterday and today, it is not listed as a Head of State.  Again, all these questions I think you should ask them, if they are about particular countries.  You should ask the particular missions because they are the ones who really know who is coming at the very last moment.  But this is the one -- from the General Assembly information -- that we have showing the people who have confirmed that they are coming.  However, in these meetings, things can change very quickly.

Question:  Enrique, I’m sorry I came a little late.  But was there something about Iran also and their participation.  What are their plans?

Spokesperson:  No.  Not at the level of Head of State.

Question:  The Secretary-General said this morning that Mr. Bush is willing to participate.  Can you confirm this?

Spokesperson:  Yes, I said the United States is at the level of Head of State.  President [George W.] Bush already confirmed last week through the White House spokesperson their participation.

Question:  Another question.  Can we have more information on the upcoming meeting, more detailed information to write about it?

Spokesperson:  What kind of information do you need to know?

Question:  Background information.

Spokesperson:  Sorry?

Question:  Some background information.

Spokesperson:  Okay, then let me give you a little background information.  This is a meeting that was convened after the meeting that took place in Madrid on 16 to 18 July on dialogue among religions and civilizations.  At that meeting the idea was expressed to convene periodically.  The exact name of the meeting was the World Conference on Dialogue.  At that time, the participants decided to convene regular meetings at the level of the Member countries at the United Nations and that was approved during the deliberations for the items in the General Assembly work programme.  And under item 45 on “culture of peace”, a meeting was convened for 12 and 13 November for the Member States to participate in this meeting on culture of peace.  That is the basic background.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Enrique, regarding the possible participation of the Pope in this meeting, are there any recent developments?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any information on that one.

Question:  Are the discussions continuing with the Pope?

Spokesperson:  Not that I am aware of, or that the President of the General Assembly is aware of.  Jonathan?

Question:  Can you tell a little bit about the format, how it’s visually going to be?  Are we going to see, is it going to be closed-door stuff, or is UN-TV going to cover…?

Spokesperson:  No, no.  It’s a plenary meeting of the General Assembly and therefore you’re going to have the delegations -- whether they’re Heads of State or they’re Foreign Ministers -- come in and make their speeches on this particular issue.  And it is an open meeting and it will be broadcast and everybody will be able to attend.

Question:  And are there perhaps, some ancillary or sidebar or perhaps tied into this discussion, bilateral or trilateral discussions, do you have more specifics?

Spokesperson:  This is a normal meeting of the General Assembly, let’s be very clear.  So, in those meetings, what you have is the formal meeting of delegates coming and speaking and addressing the General Assembly.  And then bilaterally, since there are Heads of State, Ministers, Ambassadors, they take the opportunity to have bilateral meetings among themselves.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Yesterday, I asked you a question about what would come out of this meeting and what form -- whether it would be a resolution, a declaration, statement -- and you indicated that it’s up to the Heads of State, up to the Member States.  What would the President like to see come out of this meeting?

Spokesperson:  Okay.  Regardless of the final modality or whether it is a resolution or a political declaration, etcetera, what the President of the General Assembly would like coming out of this meeting is very clear.  He would like, in this particular moment of challenges and crises, whether its financial crises or other crises, this is a very good opportunity to go back to the ethical and moral values that are shared among the different cultures -- whether they are religions, whether they are philosophical, whether they are cultural -- and use those common values to address the political will that is needed to take action in the current crises.  That is what the President would like to have from the Member countries coming.  Obviously, this is a participatory process.  It is up to the Member countries to decide now whether they are going to come up with a resolution, with a political declaration, with a plan of action, with whatever they want to decide.  And that’s what the meeting is all about.  James?

Question:  A number of NGOs have criticized the (inaudible) dialogue because it is being hosted by Saudi Arabia, which they criticized for not allowing religious freedoms within their own borders.  And they said that the President of the General Assembly, by allowing Saudi Arabia to host such an event, is not standing up for principles, for example the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is (inaudible).

Spokesperson:  Let’s clarify the issues, because, to begin with, this is not a meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia. This is a meeting hosted at the General Assembly of the United Nations on an issue that has been approved as an item under “culture of peace” by the Member countries to be discussed at the General Assembly.  That’s why President d’Escoto had made also very clear from his point of view that, as President of the General Assembly, this is not a meeting about religions.  Meetings about religions only do not take place, as you know, at the UN.  They have their own dynamics outside the United Nations.  This is a political organization of Member countries. 

Here the idea is that the Member countries are going to discuss the common values that we have in our different cultures.  Whether they are from religions, whether they are from different cultures, civilizations, ethics, philosophies --from Confucius to Karl Marx -- to discuss what the President of the General Assembly believes is a very important issue: the values and heroic behaviours needed to face the current crises and to provide the much needed ethical values to international relations.  That is what the meeting is all about.  It has to be very clear, because there is a lot of confusion.  It is not a meeting on religions only.  Religion is an important part, it is a key part of the meeting, but it is just one among a much wider range of ethical values.

Question:  I’m sorry, a follow-up.  Can you explain exactly what the relationship is between Saudi Arabia and also when it was first announced?  You said it was following the direct continuation from the Madrid Conference, which was very much (inaudible) initiative and related to religion.  At what point was this event redefined as non-Saudi and non-religion?

Spokesperson:  It is not redefined.  Let’s clarify how the UN works.  You have different Member countries which put forward initiatives.  In this particular case, Saudi Arabia has put forward an initiative saying why don’t we have this meeting?  For other meetings or for other resolutions or for other discussions, you have different countries -- Costa Rica, Mozambique or China -- that come to the General Assembly.  And, if you remember well, because we have been going through this process together, the General Committee, which is the committee which discusses what are the items that are going to be discussed in the General Assembly, met, discussed and approved the idea of having this meeting under, as I said, item 45 of the General Assembly’s agenda, which is culture of peace.

It is not that it has changed in the process, it is basically the rules as we have them in the UN, how they should be followed.  Once it comes to the General Assembly it is an event for the whole Assembly to deal with, and the President of the General Assembly has the mandate to moderate and to provide leadership to such a discussion.  But this is an event now hosted at the UN General Assembly and by the President of the General Assembly.  Matthew?

Question:  Sorry, some non-religions questions.  The first one is that earlier today, Ban Ki-moon made a statement about the election of Barack Obama (inaudible).  Has Mr. d’Escoto Brockmann, does he have any views, what are his views and does he think it’s good for the UN system?

Spokesperson:  Obviously, the President of the General Assembly congratulates Senator Barack Obama for his election as the next President of the United States, and he also would like to especially congratulate the people of the United States for the high participation in the elections last night, which is always a very good sign of political responsibility.

Question:  Nothing more than that, in terms of what he might think of the difference of US approach to the UN?

Spokesperson:  No, the President is not going to comment on policies on each particular country, as you know.

Question:  And the other one is, in Canada, there is a press report that, and the headline is “UN water adviser devastated by visit through Albert oil sands”.  This woman (inaudible) has said various things about oil sand in Canada.  Is there any relation between her relation with Mr. d’Escoto as a senior adviser and this trip or she just now going to be described as a UN adviser to Mr. d’Escoto…?

Spokesperson:  No, the nature of the relation has not changed, as I mentioned before.  She is an adviser of the President of the General Assembly on issues related to water and he takes very much into consideration all of her advice and positions.

Question:  This article kind of implied that she’s going to report back to him.  Is he aware of that trip?

Spokesperson:  I can check more details for you on that particular issue. Jonathan?

Question:  You mentioned the Pope, I am just wondering about any other non-State actors who may be participating in the meeting.  I guess, maybe it sounds silly to ask this, but there perhaps some groups that have nefarious reputations like Al-Qaida, is there any outreach to groups that are actually dead-centre in why there is conflict and why there is killing in the world.  Has there been some sort of outreach to any…?

Spokesperson:  No.  Let’s clarify.  This is a meeting of the General Assembly, and as such, it is a meeting where Member countries participate.  So, we have 192 participants and the Vatican is an observer, and as such, the Vatican can participate in such meetings.  So, that is the framework, and this is a meeting of the General Assembly, so that is how it is going to work.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  You answered my question as to what the President of the Assembly would like to see come out of the meeting.  Does President d’Escoto intend to submit any concrete suggestions or proposals to the membership?

Spokesperson:  He is obviously going to have some opening remarks and will address the Member States on how he views the whole situation.

Question:  (Inaudible) how is it different from the UN’s Alliance of Civilizations meetings, generally speaking?

Spokesperson:  Well, this is a meeting of the General Assembly.

Question:  But there is another initiative of the UN and it brings (inaudible)?

Spokesperson:  Okay, let’s put the whole thing in perspective.  This is not black and white.  There are several initiatives at the UN and outside the UN addressing the issue of dialogue among civilizations, religious dialogue, etcetera, etcetera.  And this is part of a cycle in which one of the issues was, as we have been saying before, the Madrid meeting which took place in July, and that was based on dialogue among religious groups and cultures, but mainly among religions.  The different religions were there and they had a dialogue.

They decided to put forward a proposal to the General Assembly of the United Nations to have a meeting of the Member countries of the United Nations to discuss these issues.  And it has been approved to have such a meeting.  So it is not that it is different; it is part of the same dynamism that is taking place in the UN and outside the UN to address these issues.  And as I have been saying, but I will repeat it, President d’Escoto sees the Madrid meeting not only as a point of arrival, but as a point of departure where we talk not only about tolerance and dialogue, but about working together, the different cultures and the different ethical and philosophical values that we have in our cultures and religions to work together to address the challenges that we’re facing in today’s world.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Is the Secretary of the Alliance of Civilizations participating in the arrangement for this meeting?

Spokesperson:  The whole UN system which is dealing with these issues participates at some degree or level.

Question:  The whole UN system including the agencies?

Spokesperson:  All the agencies will participate as they participate in all the meetings of the General Assembly, and the issues that are related to the different agencies will be addressed by them, obviously.  No more questions?  That’s enough for today, then.

* *** *

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