Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

13 February 2009

Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

13 February 2009
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 Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon, all.

**Statement on Rafiq Hariri

On the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attack that took the lives of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others, the Secretary-General shares the sorrow of the Lebanese people over the tragic loss of a man who stood strongly during his life for the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon.

This sad anniversary comes two weeks before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon begins to function on 1 March.  The Secretary-General reaffirms the commitment of the United Nations to the Special Tribunal’s efforts to uncover the truth, bring those responsible for this horrific crime to justice and end impunity in Lebanon.

The Secretary-General also calls for the full implementation of all Security Council resolutions pertaining to Lebanon.

**Statement on Iraq

The Secretary-General is appalled by the suicide bomb attack against Shia pilgrims near Baghdad today, and similar attacks targeting innocent civilians in the past days which have left dozens of people dead and wounded, including many women and children.  These acts cannot be justified by any political or religious cause and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.  The Secretary-General joins with the people of Iraq in rejecting these cruel and reprehensible attempts to reignite sectarian violence in the country.  He also calls on Iraqi leaders to work together in a spirit of national dialogue and mutual respect, as demonstrated during the peaceful provincial elections held last month.

**Statement on Gaza Board of Inquiry

We also had a statement issued last night.

The Secretary-General wishes to announce that the United Nations Board of Inquiry into incidents in Gaza has commenced its work in New York today, and is expected to travel soon to the region.  The Board is led by Ian Martin ( United Kingdom) and includes as its other members Larry Johnson ( United States), Sinha Basnayake ( Sri Lanka) and Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Eichenberger ( Switzerland).  The Board of Inquiry will review and investigate a number of specific incidents that occurred in the Gaza Strip between 27 December 2008 and 19 January 2009, and in which death or injuries occurred at, and/or damage was done to, United Nations premises or in the course of United Nations operations.  The Secretary-General expects that the Board will enjoy the full cooperation of all parties concerned.

The Board of Inquiry will report to the Secretary-General upon completion of its investigation.  The Secretary-General will review the report and decide, at that point, what further steps to take

** Gaza

Still on Gaza, a landmine clearance group working with the UN’s Mine Action Service has noted that a number of large aircraft bombs and white phosphorous projectiles have been gathered in an area inside Gaza City.  But the deminers say they will not know the true scale of the problem until more debris is cleared.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that teams have been collecting unexploded ordnance in Gaza City.  But due to restrictions on supplies crossing into Gaza, they do not have the materials necessary to destroy or isolate the ordnance.

Meanwhile, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that over 14,000 homes were totally or partially damaged in the recent fighting.  In an effort to meet the long-term shelter needs of the displaced, UNDP will see that 10,000 families get between $1,000 and $5,000 in cash aid, according to family size, current socio-economic status and level of home damage.

UNDP also says that, of the more than 400 schools that it assessed in Gaza, over 60 per cent had been partly or severely damaged.  Repairing damaged schools remains an urgent priority, UNDP says.  In the meantime, UNICEF has provided 10 tents as learning spaces in the hardest-hit areas.

OCHA also reports that aid workers continue to face difficulty in obtaining access to Gaza through the Erez crossing.  During January, for example, only 18 out of 178 staff requests were granted clearance.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) by four months, until 15 June.  The Council expressed its intention to outline the elements of a future UN presence in the region, taking into account recommendations that it expects to receive from the Secretary-General by 15 May.

The Council is just starting consultations on the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad, known as MINURCAT.  Council members will receive a briefing from the Department for Peacekeeping Operations.

** Zimbabwe

The World Health Organization (WHO), in reporting on the latest cholera statistics in Zimbabwe, said the figures showed that Zimbabwe’s cholera outbreak was still not under control.  I will remind you of those figures: more than 73,000 cases and 3,524 deaths.

WHO did report that there were an increasing number of cholera treatment centres opening all across the country, but that risks of flooding linked to the current rainy season would make access to some areas difficult.  Also, the lack of food and transportation and the fact that health workers were underpaid were further challenges for the humanitarian community.

Turning to the funding of the health sector, WHO says that, of the $73.5 million requested in the cholera appeal 2009, 21 per cent had been received until now.

** Liberia

The Secretary-General’s latest progress report on the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is out as a document.  In it, he notes that the Liberian Government has made steady progress in reducing poverty and on its reform agenda.  Limited institutional capacity remains a serious constraint, however; he urged international partners to continue their support during this crucial phase.

Despite progress in security and the rule of law, significant challenges remain in strengthening judicial and correctional institutions and in developing the national army.  The postponement of elections in Côte d’Ivoire and the recent military coup in Guinea have added to unpredictability in the subregion; any negative security trends in these countries will have a major impact on Liberia.

The Secretary-General recommends that no further adjustments to UNMIL’s military and police components be made during the current mandate period.  Subsequent adjustments might be made during the third phase of the drawdown, which begins in September.

**World Food Programme -- Africa

The World Food Programme (WFP) today launched its first food voucher operation in Africa.  The programme is aimed at 120,000 people in urban areas of Burkina Faso, who continue to suffer from high food prices.

Under the programme, families will receive vouchers to buy maize, cooking oil, sugar, salt and soap in shops that have signed a contract with WFP.  WFP notes that vouchers can often be more effective than food distributions in urban areas where food is available but too expensive for many people to buy.  Vouchers also cut down on the cost of transporting and storing food.  There’s more information on that upstairs.

** Haiti

The World Bank has welcomed the Swiss Government’s return to Haiti of $6 million allegedly plundered by former Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier and his associates.  This came about after Haiti sought the help of the Asset Recovery Initiative, a joint World Bank-UNODC (United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime) programme.  The Initiative provided technical and diplomatic assistance for the resolution of this case.  It was launched in September 2007 by the Secretary-General, World Bank President Robert Zoellick and the head of UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa.  It facilitates cooperation between developed and developing countries in tackling corruption, asset recovery and the prevention of asset theft.

**Human Rights Council

Today the President of the Human Rights Council gave a press conference in Geneva.  He noted that today the fourth session of the Universal Periodic Review working group is wrapping up.  Thus, the human rights records of 64 States -- or one third of all 192 United Nations Member States -- have now been examined.

He reminded reporters that the overall goal of the Universal Periodic Review is to improve the human rights situation in every country, address human rights violations wherever they occur, and “shed light in the darkest corners of the globe”.

The President also announced that the Human Rights Council will hold a special session next Friday, 20 February, on the current financial and economic crisis.  This will be the tenth special session held since the body began its work over two and a half years ago.  

He also spoke of the fact-finding mission created by the Human Rights Council at its special session on Gaza last month.  He said he expected to announce shortly the head of that mission.  He also expressed his intention to appoint up to three additional experts to join the mission.  We have his full statement upstairs.

**Outer Space

Mazlan Othman, the Director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) has renewed her appeal to Member States and international organizations so that the UN’s Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines are fully implemented.  She said such action would be in “humanity’s common interest, particularly if we are to preserve the outer space environment for future generations”.  The Mitigation Guidelines were endorsed by the General Assembly in a December 2007 resolution.

Today’s statement comes in the wake of a collision 790 kilometres above the Earth of an inactive Russian communications satellite and an operational United States satellite.  The collision released a cloud of nearly 700 pieces of space debris, which usually remain in orbit for long periods and pose significant risks to spacecraft orbiting the planet.

**Press Conferences Today

Following my briefing, Enrique Yeves, the General Assembly Spokesperson, will be here with Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan and Chair of intergovernmental negotiations on the question of equitable representation and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Council, to brief you on Security Council reform.  I didn’t make up that title, it is what I have in front of me.

Following that briefing, at 1:15 p.m., Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein and President of the States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, will brief on the conclusion of the Special Working Group on the Crime of Aggression.

And at 2:15 p.m. today, John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will be here to brief you on his recent trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This is all I have for you.  We’ll try to make it fast if you want, because I would like to give, of course, the PGA Spokesperson the floor.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes, Michèle, is there any guidelines for the submission of the report of this inquiry committee into the (inaudible)?

Spokesperson:  The [Board of Inquiry] on Gaza?  Well, as far as I know, the [Board] will depart New York on the 19th.  This is the information I have.  I will try to find out for you what the exact duration will be.

[The Spokesperson later noted that the Secretary-General had said in is latest press conference that he expected the Board to report to him within a month.]

Question:  Sure, Michèle, two questions.  One, Zimbabwe.  And Sri Lanka.  In Zimbabwe, one of the MDC officials, Roy Bennett, who is going to be Deputy Agricultural Secretary, has been arrested on the day of the supposed beginning of the new Government.  Does the UN have any comment on this inauspicious beginning to working together?

Spokesperson:  We have been made aware of the reports, which are press reports, mostly.  We don’t have anything further.  So I will not comment at this time.

Question:  I also wanted to ask you, there are a couple of things.  It’s been acknowledged by the Sri Lankan Government that up to 40 civilians a day are dying in the conflict zone.  There have been various calls now from the European Parliament, [its] delegation for relations with South Asia, for the UN to get involved and even send peacekeepers.  And finally there’s a report that welfare camps, described by some as concentration camps, would be set up for people who leave the conflict zone, where they won’t be able to leave the camps.  Does the UN… What’s the UN’s thinking at this time?  I know that previously it’s not called for a ceasefire.  How is its thinking evolving?

Spokesperson:   As you know, the Secretary-General expressed his concern.  He raised that concern about Sri Lanka in the Security Council just this week when he briefed Council members on Monday on the results of his recent trip to Asia, during which, as you know, he held several discussions on Sri Lanka, including with the President of Sri Lanka.

The Secretary-General has the obligation to act in the face of a crisis affecting the lives of tens of thousands of people and to inform the Council on such issues.  And this is being discussed right now to see how much can be done to further protect the civilians.

Question:  Is there any way to be sure that no UN funds, whether it be UNDP or otherwise, are used to build what are described as concentration camps for fleeing refugees?

Spokesperson:  Well, we have very little information.  We have also heard those reports about the camps.  However, we don’t have any information from any source -- as you know, the UN is not there to verify the situation in those camps.  So we are still trying to find out more.

Question:  Yes, are there any plans to either consolidate or coordinate the work of this new UN Board of Inquiry in Gaza and the Human Rights Council’s ongoing investigation in Gaza?  And do you have any figures, or can you get us figures, on the budgets for both of these investigations?

Spokesperson:  For the Human Rights Council, I would suggest you address your question to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.  We can give you, of course, the numbers to call.

In terms of the UN investigation, those are two separate investigations.  One of them concerns the UNRWA facilities and the people who were affected by the bombing of those facilities.  As you know, we have the [Board of Inquiry] which is set to depart on the 19th.  And then one on the larger issue of the situation in Gaza and what occurred in Gaza at the end of December-beginning of January -- it is the Human Rights Council’s decision to cover that.  The two will eventually meet at some point.  But at this point they are separate investigations.  Yes?

Question:  Michèle, two quick questions.  The first is, I know that the statement last night about the Committee of Inquiry came out at the last minute.  Will you at some point put on biographical information about the four members?

Spokesperson:  We have them upstairs for you.

Question:  That’s great.  And on the question -- I know you probably know a good deal about Haiti and the recovery of money from Duvalier.  Could you give us a sense… this is the first time that I could recall that a deposed leader in… Haiti’s had significant sums of money that was stolen taken back.  Can you give us an idea of the scope of the money?  And do you think this will have a significant resonance -- I’m thinking particularly in Haiti -- to give a more positive spin to what the World Bank has been doing?  Because there’s been so much discontent or anger at the World Bank for doing so little in Haiti.

Spokesperson:  About the extent of the recovery, I have to say that the numbers that were advanced right after the fall of the dictatorship -- when there was an investigation that was carried on in Haiti with the help of international organizations -- the amount was definitely way above what we are talking about today.  This case has been going on and going through litigation for the last -- more than 20 years now.  I would say that Haiti can certainly use it.

Question:  About this committee going to Gaza to investigate for the United Nations, how… did you get any clearance from Egypt or Israel to let them cross there?  Another thing, are you doing anything regarding the stranded lawyers near the Rafah crossing for almost four days now?  They have not been allowed to cross by the Egyptian authorities.

Spokesperson:  I am not aware of the second incident you mentioned.

Question:  They’re lawyers who went there to investigate.  They’ve been stranded.

Spokesperson:  Well, the UN would not have much to do with this, you know.

Question:  It’s legal to prevent them going and investigating the crimes there?

Spokesperson:  Well, you know there are a number of things being done which are not legal according to international law.  In terms of access, we are hoping, of course, that the [Board] that was named by the Secretary-General will have full access.

Question:  In the past, Mr. Falk -- Richard Falk -- was prevented from entering Israel to investigate things.  Will that be the case again?

Spokesperson:  I cannot predict.  But, as far as we know, we have assurances that they will be able to go and conduct their investigation.

Question:  Would the change of the Government in Israel after the elections, how would that affect the investigation [Ehud] Olmert has promised Mr. Ban Ki-moon?

Spokesperson:  Well, I really don’t have a crystal ball and it’s very difficult for me to predict what’s going to happen.

Question:  Well, isn’t that the one... he promised soon conclusion to that investigation?

Spokesperson:  Yes, but you know I cannot predict.  Those are hypothetical questions.

Question:  Michèle, you said that this debris in space was a threat to spacecrafts.  But does it also pose a threat to people on Earth?

Spokesperson:  No apparently not.  They will be destroyed before they reach Earth’s surface.

Question:  As you know, the IIIC [International Independent Investigation Commission established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1595 (2005)] mandate will end by the end of this month, by the beginning of the Tribunal in The Hague.  Is the Security Council going to extend the mandate of the IIIC, because Mr. [Daniel] Bellemare said that the IIIC would continue working in Lebanon at the same time with the opening of the Tribunal in The Hague?

Spokesperson:  I cannot predict what the Security Council is going to do.  You’re asking me questions that I can’t really answer.  You have to address your question to the Security Council.

Question:  There is a report by the Secretary-General by the end of this month about this issue.  Is the Secretary-General going to ask the Security Council to expand the mandate of the IIIC?

Spokesperson:  Well, we have to wait on this.  And as soon as it’s out, of course, you will know.  And what the Security Council will do, I cannot predict really.

Question:  Two questions.  One about the access for the Secretary-General’s investigatory group, is that through Israel?  Is it through Egypt?  Will it be both?  Will it have access through both?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have the details, as you know.  Of course, as soon as they cross, I will let you know.  It’s supposed to occur around the 19th.

Question:  And then the second question is the aid workers who were having trouble getting in.  Is that Egypt and Israel both making it difficult?  Is there an effort to get them to be able to cross through either of those crossings?

Spokesperson:  I think most of the aid workers that we’re talking about are stopped at Israeli crossings.

Question:  Is there an effort to make it possible for them to cross?

Spokesperson:  Of course there is a constant effort in trying to get them through.

Question:  With Egypt as well?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  I just wanted to know if you have anything on this.  There’s a report by Human Rights Watch that the FDLR [Forces démocratiques pour la liberation du Rwanda], following this offensive by the Rwandans and Congolese, have killed some 100 civilians.  And also some reported abuses by Rwandan troops conducting the operation.  I have seen an article where MONUC [United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] is saying it has no information about this.  Is that true?  And are they… What are they doing to protect civilians, or to look into these claims?

Spokesperson:  As you know, MONUC is not involved in the actual operation being led there.  I’ve told you several times how the operation is completely outside of our own control.  In terms of the protection of civilians, we do as much as we can.  But there are some areas where we don’t have access.

Question:  No, no. I understand that they’re not participating in the offensive.  But I guess, so I guess MONUC’s position is that, even despite the Security Council resolution saying protect civilians, it’s unable to verify these pretty troubling claims of civilians smashed up by the FDLR?

Spokesperson:  Well, if it cannot enter the area, it cannot possibly verify, you know.  And, I can assure you they are doing as much as they can to have access to civilians.  As much as they can.

Okay, thank you all.  And I will give the floor to Enrique.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Thank you.  Yes, before we have Ambassador Tanin, I just very shortly wanted to underline that yesterday afternoon President d´Escoto chaired an informal plenary meeting to discuss the proposed modalities for the international conference on the world financial and economic crisis and its impact on development.

As you know -- and I already mentioned here before -- in the Follow-up Conference on Financing for Development, which took place in Doha last December, the more than 150 counties participating decided unanimously that the United Nations will hold an international conference at the highest level on the world financial and economic crisis and its impact on development.

They decided further that the President of the General Assembly will organize the conference, and that the modalities for the conference will be determined by March 2009 at the latest.

The purpose of yesterday’s meeting was to take the views of Member States of the proposal that the President had advanced, and to determine the appropriate procedure for moving towards revision and formal adoption of a resolution on modalities.

There are basically three core issues in the proposal that need to be determined immediately.  One is the dates of the conference at the highest level.  The second is the duration of the conference.  And the third is whether there should be an outcome document.

The President of the General Assembly hopes that by Tuesday morning on 17 February next week he would be able to circulate a revised draft that could be taken up formally by the General Assembly on Friday morning, 20 February.  You can read his full statement on the web page of the President of the General Assembly.

And if you have any questions not related to the Security Council, which I see, we have some.  So, yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Late last year, the General Assembly President had declared that “policies in the Palestinian territories appear so similar to the apartheid of an earlier area a continent away”.  And he also called for “a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations”.  My question is, is the President planning to take any concrete steps while in office as President to move this campaign he recommended forward?  And will he be planning to attend the Durban II conference next month -- in April?

Spokesperson:  The President is discussing all the issues remaining in the agenda for his presidency right now with the Member countries, to see what is the best schedule to discuss them.  That is basically where we are on that particular issue.  Matthew?

Question:  Enrique, earlier today at the Security Council stakeout, a Russian Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said it’s his position that an issue like the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka, that the Secretariat’s been reporting on, may not be appropriate for the Security Council, but could be discussed in other forums.  And when asked what that meant, he said: “Like the General Assembly”.  Is there any… is, is the President of the General Assembly aware of what’s been taking place in Sri Lanka?  Is he, is he… I guess I’ll leave it at that.

Spokesperson:  Well, certainly the President of the General Assembly is very well aware of what is going on in Sri Lanka.  But as far as I know, up to now, there has been no request by any Member country to discuss this at the General Assembly.  I would say that, as you know, the agenda and the issues that are being discussed at the General Assembly are a matter for the Member States to decide.  And I have no information that anybody has asked for that particular issue to be included.

Question:  I honestly don’t understand -- I don’t know what the process is.  If a Member State makes such a request, is there -- do they then have to go to a committee to get it on the agenda?  How does an item such as -- that’s blocked in the Security Council end up being discussed in the General Assembly?

Spokesperson:  That is very simple.  As I told you -- as I’ve been explaining in the past, they go to the General Committee.  Then they make this proposition at the General Committee.  And they decide there whether it’s appropriate to take that particular issue in the agenda of the General Assembly.  And actually, next week -- I don’t have the date now with me -- we are going to have a General Committee meeting, where there are already some proposals for the Member States to discuss.  I can give you a full brief if you want on Tuesday when we come back from this long weekend.

Question:  Why hasn’t the PGA issued a statement related to the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri in Lebanon?

Spokesperson:  Say that again?  I couldn’t hear you.  I’m sorry.

Question:  Today is the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri and there is an international investigation about this.  And the PGA hasn’t issued any statement or comment about that.

Spokesperson:  As you know, the President of the General Assembly normally doesn’t issue any statements on ceremony or commemorations on any particular issue.  As you know, it has not been his practice in the past to do that.  He normally refers always on the issues that are directly related to the General Assembly work.  Okay?

Question:  Enrique, as you’ll recall, before the President’s trip to Qatar, I asked if you would get a qualification from him of how he understands -- with special reference to Gaza -- the differences between two words: “war crimes” and “genocide”.

Spokesperson:  That’s correct, and I have not checked.  I apologize to you, and I will do it this week and I will come back to you next week.

Question:  What is the progress of the international expert groups on the global crisis?  What was the progress?  Do you have any idea where they are with their assignment?  And then do you -- will you get a copy of the draft agenda of the international conference that you mentioned on Tuesday?

Spokesperson:  Well, there are both things related.  And I gave already an agenda, which is available online.  I can go very quickly over it for you.  As you know, once the financial crisis started, the President of the General Assembly asked a group of experts to discuss the issue coordinated by Dr. Joseph Stiglitz.  Then they decided they were going to have four meetings before this cycle that will end up in this summit that we are hoping to have roughly at the beginning of June.  And the timetable, as I said, it’s available online.  This is the modalities that I was referring to before, that they are discussing now that we will need to discuss next week.  Basically, how long is it to be taking place, the summit, whether it’s two or four days?  When precisely?  As I said, the idea of the President will be the first week of June, but this is something for the Member States to confirm.  And the third was on what kind of outcome document we will have from the summit.

The group of experts met already -- the first meeting was in January, on the 5 and 6 January.  During this month of February, they have been working in groups.  Then on 9and 10 March, there will be the second plenary meeting of the Commission of Experts.  Then on the 20th they will release the preliminary report of the Commission.  It will be presented to the Member countries on 25 March to have an interactive dialogue to get their feedback on their inputs.  Then on the 28th, there will be a third meeting of the Commission of Experts introducing the elements. On 6 April, we will have a revised preliminary report of the Commission of Experts. And then we will have the conference, in theory if it’s approved, in the beginning of June.  As I said, this is available online.  But if you need it, I have a copy here for you.

Question:  Just a follow-up, because I had a second question, which was do you know what the President’s plans are in terms of attending the Durban II conference in April?  Is that something that he is planning to do or yet to be determined?

Spokesperson:  It is not in his schedule right now.  But we are making the planning of the different events that he is going to attend in the coming months.  But right now it is not in his agenda.

Question:  Two things.  One, I thought you had mentioned that the President had gone to Qatar more recently for some fundraising for Gaza.  Was there something there?  Could you say what that was?

Spokesperson:  Yes, I said last time, but I’m very happy to repeat it again.  The Sheikha of Qatar invited the President of the General Assembly to a fundraising event for schools damaged in Gaza.  And the President was very glad and happy to attend this fundraising event, which was on television in Qatar.  And he attended the programme with the Sheikha, and also with Bob Geldof.  And I understand that the fundraising was around $10 million.  But I don’t have the precise figures with me.  We will have to check.  That’s what the President was doing there.

Also, at the same time that he was there, he took the opportunity to discuss with the Sheikha her participation in a meeting that is going to take place -- I don’t have the date right now with me -- in around three or four weeks, next month actually -- on children in conflict.  I think it’s 19 March.  I’m doing it by heart, I’m not sure, but I can confirm that for you.  And she’s supposed to be attending this conference here.  It’s a high-level dialogue.

Question:  And I wondered, in that general meeting will there be any issue raised about the fact that the border crossings still remain closed in general to Gaza.  Is that something that the President is keeping his eye or that Member States have brought -- raised -- for the President?

Spokesperson:  Certainly the President is following it very closely, but it is something for the Member States to discuss.   I’m going, as I said before, on Tuesday I will provide a comprehensive review on what are the new upcoming issues that some Member countries have put forward for the General Assembly to discuss during this presidency.

Question:  Enrique, I came in a little late, so you may have mentioned this.  But the meeting of the Commission of Experts that’s chaired by Joseph Stiglitz will be closed -- is that, what two days, on 23 February?  Is that it?  I may have gotten the days wrong.

Spokesperson:  No, I said that the first meeting took place already on 5 and 6 January.  I announced it here, but it was in the middle of the Gaza crisis and it obviously didn’t get much attention by the media.  But now in February, the working groups of that Commission -- they split in four working groups -- are doing their work.  And they are going to meeting again on 9 and 10 March.  That’s the idea.  And, as I said, I have here the full agenda and the full planning in case you need it, I can provide it to you.  But it’s online, too.

Question:  Will those be closed meetings, 9 and 10 March?

Spokesperson:  They are by definition closed meetings, because it’s a group of experts discussing among themselves.

Question:  Will they be meeting with the PGA or the press at any point?

Spokesperson:  They are in close contact with the President.  And the President attended the first meeting.

Question:  The press?

Spokesperson:  The President of the General Assembly?

Question:  No, the press.  Will they be giving press conferences?

Spokesperson:  Most likely, yes.  Last time, we were about to do it, but as I said, it was right in the middle of the Gaza crisis and I didn’t sense much interest for them to be here by the media.  But certainly they are all very happy to talk to you.  And I am going to take only one more question because I don’t want to delay Ambassador Tanin any longer.

Question:  I’m sorry to ask this just when you answered that.  How is that PGA and Stiglitz process coordinated?  The Economic and Social Council ‑-we had a press conference here earlier in the week where they described a whole ‑- it seemed a very similar, but entirely separate process to have high-level meetings about the global financial crisis and financial regulation.  Is there any -– I couldn’t understand from the President of ECOSOC’s answer ‑- is there any coordination between those two processes?  Is it one process?  Or is it two? What’s the connection?

Spokesperson:  Indeed. Indeed, there is -- we are not talking about two different things.  We are talking about, I think, the same thing.  And they are having -- not only working together, but some of the ECOSOC members are participating in the Commission of Experts.

Question:  So they have something like 27 April.  She was making a big deal about 27 April event, high-level meeting on -- and I just couldn’t…

Spokesperson:  Let me check that back for you.  Because we have many meetings of different groups, regional, etc.  But we are not talking about two different things.  ECOSOC and obviously the General Assembly they are all working together in this major effort.  It’s a very complex issue, as you can imagine.  But they are all working in coordination.

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