Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

6 May 2009

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

6 May 2009
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.  I’m sorry for starting so late, but I know many of you were at the stakeout earlier.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Eastern Chad

The Secretary-General is following developments in eastern Chad with increasing concern.  The Secretary-General appeals to all parties to respect the humanitarian character of the operations of the United Nations and NGOs in eastern Chad, and to refrain from deploying forces in areas where humanitarian operations are under the protection of MINURCAT (United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad) forces.

The Secretary-General stresses that any attempt at destabilization through violent means is unacceptable and reaffirms that MINURCAT will act within its mandate and capabilities to protect civilians threatened by armed elements.

The Secretary-General calls on all States in the region to prevent their territories and nationals from being used to aid armed groups.  He urges the Governments of Chad and the Sudan to bridge their differences using diplomatic and other peaceful means available to them and to redouble their efforts to implement the Doha agreement.  This is a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

** Chad , Central African Republic

On the humanitarian side, humanitarian and security conditions have generally deteriorated in Chad, and they have worsened even further in recent weeks.  That’s the joint assessment from UN agencies working there.  The agencies say that delivery of aid relief goods to some 250,000 Sudanese refugees and 166,000 displaced Chadians could be compromised due to mounting insecurity.  As a precautionary measure, they are advising their staff to limit their movements to a minimum, most particularly in and around the towns of Goz Beida, Kerfi and Koukou.  These towns are all within 100 kilometres of the Sudanese border, where there are reports of tensions between Government and rebel forces.

Meanwhile, 17,800 new refugees have fled into southern Chad from the Central African Republic.  They join 60,000 of their countrymen and –women already living in Chad with UN assistance.  UN offices and agencies in the region are reviewing their strategies to deal with the problem.  A consequence of the overall humanitarian crisis appears to be an outbreak of meningitis in Chad that has claimed 128 lives out of a pool of some 1,160 people who contracted the disease since the start of the year.

** Sudan

On Sudan, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, arrived in Khartoum today on a five-day visit to review humanitarian programmes in both Southern Sudan and Darfur.

Tomorrow he is scheduled to meet representatives of the Government of Sudan, and will participate in a high-level committee meeting on the implementation of the Joint Communiqué on the Facilitation of Humanitarian Activities in Darfur.  He will then proceed on Friday to Southern Sudan, where he will meet UN officials and representatives from the government of Southern Sudan.  On Saturday he will travel to Darfur to meet with local leaders and aid workers.  He will also visit Zam Zam camp for internally displaced persons in North Darfur.  He will conclude his visit with a press conference in Khartoum on Sunday.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says the situation in Darfur in particular has been of great concern to the international humanitarian community, especially since 4 March, when the Government of Sudan announced a decision to expel 13 international non-governmental organizations and revoke the permits of three local ones.

**Secretary-General Appointment

We have an appointment this morning.  The Secretary-General has appointed Gregory B. Starr of the United States as Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security.  Mr. Starr will replace Mr. David Veness of the United Kingdom.

The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Veness’ committed service and tireless dedication, even after his resignation as the head of the Department of Safety and Security.  At that time, the Secretary-General asked Mr. Veness to stay on until such time as a stable succession could be ensured.

Mr. Starr brings to the job extensive experience managing global security operations of a civilian organization, developing security policy and setting organizational standards.  This decision was taken, mindful of the immediate need to tackle the heightened serious security risks facing the Organization around the world and of the profile of Mr. Starr that will enable him to take up the task immediately.

The Secretary-General intends to strengthen the performance-based accountability of this post.  Additional consideration was given to the importance of a cooperative relationship between the Organization and the Host Government during the crucial period of the Capital Master Plan at Headquarters.

Mr. Starr is currently Director of the Diplomatic Security Service and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the US Department of State.  We have more information on Mr. Starr in his bio upstairs.

**H1N1

On the Influenza A (H1N1) virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that the number of lab-confirmed cases has increased to 1,658. That figure includes 30 deaths.  Cases have now been confirmed in 23 countries, with Mexico still having the largest number of cases at 946.  WHO also noted increased cases in Canada, France, New Zealand, Guatemala, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

WHO added that it is still engaged in efforts to generate seed strains of the virus for manufacturers so that there can be progress on producing a vaccine.  The agency believes that such a seed strain will most likely become available during the second half of May for any manufacturer that requests it.

WHO also said it is talking to manufacturers about procuring vaccines for UN agencies ‑‑ as soon as they are produced ‑‑ for the benefit of people in developing countries.  It said it hopes to announce an agreement on that in the next few days.

** Afghanistan

On Afghanistan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, expressed his serious concern about reports of civilian casualties and fighting that took place in Farah Province, western Afghanistan, on Monday.

Details of the incident remain unclear, including the number of civilians that have lost their lives.  The United Nations is making every effort to help bring clarity to the situation, and Eide welcomes efforts by the Government of Afghanistan and the international military to do the same.

The Special Representative remains in close contact with General David McKiernan, the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and US Forces in Afghanistan, as investigations proceed.

** Pakistan

On Pakistan refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres today expressed deep concern over the safety of tens of thousands of displaced civilians and refugees in north-western Pakistan as the UN refugee agency prepared to step up its already considerable humanitarian assistance to the region.  As part of the UN response, UNHCR is already sending humanitarian aid items to new camps that they are helping to set up in the Mardan and Swabi districts.

The High Commissioner highlighted that the agency is also assisting authorities to establish two new reception centres and two more are planned for newly displaced people on the main routes adjacent to the conflict zone.

He expressed deep concern over the well-being of some 20,000 registered Afghan refugees who have been affected by the conflict in the Buner, Lower Dir and Upper Dir regions, adding that many have fled together with the local population.

Some have chosen to return to Afghanistan, with UNHCR assistance, and others have chosen to relocate to existing refugee sites in Pakistan.  The number of people so far displaced by the recent escalation of fighting between Government forces and militants is not yet clear.  Over the past four days, UNHCR has helped authorities register nearly 45,000 people and to establish 12 registration points for people fleeing the area.

The High Commissioner reiterated the UN’s appeal to all parties to respect humanitarian principles and to ensure the protection and freedom of movement of civilians caught up in the conflict, as well as the safe passage of relief goods and humanitarian workers.

**Security Council

Yesterday afternoon, the Security Council wrapped up a formal meeting on Nepal by adopting a presidential statement, in which the Council expressed its concern about the current political crisis in that country.  It underscored the urgent need for the Government of Nepal and all political parties to continue to work together in the spirit of compromise.

The Security Council yesterday also adopted a presidential statement expressing its deep concern over the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of Government in a few African countries.  It stressed the importance of expeditiously restoring constitutional order, including through open and transparent elections.

** Sri Lanka

On Sri Lanka, as of today, there are over 192,000 people who have fled the conflict zone in Sri Lanka, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  Of these, 190,355 are in temporary camps, while another 1,739 are wounded people in hospitals or their caregivers.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says, although the number of registered internally displaced persons has increased, it is not due to new arrivals, and there are still no reports of more people in transit for days.

Tonight, a 30 metric-ton food consignment is expected to be loaded aboard the International Red Cross boat that will sail to the conflict zone and deliver food to the civilian population still trapped there.  The consignment includes five metric tons of food for supplementary feeding and 25 metric tons of World Food Programme (WFP) food rations.

Meanwhile, as a result of increased humanitarian needs due to the large-scale influx of internally displaced persons from the conflict area, and the continuing high level of needs of those still trapped in the area of fighting, the humanitarian country team in Sri Lanka has re-prioritized its funding requirements.

** Iraq

On Iraq, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) today expressed their concern at the resumption of the execution of the death penalty in Iraq.  Twelve people were hanged in Baghdad last Sunday, and it is believed a further 115 prisoners are at risk of being executed in the near future.

The High Commissioner and UNAMI are concerned that, at present, the Iraqi justice system does not guarantee sufficient fair trial procedures, in accordance with article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iraq is a State party.  Under international law, the death penalty may only be applied in a very strictly defined set of circumstances, including the holding of a fair trial in which the minimum standards laid down by article 14 of the Covenant have been respected.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNAMI stand ready to assist the Government of Iraq in reviewing relevant domestic legislation, in light of international standards and Iraq’s international obligations.

**Palestinian Rights

The Secretary-General sent a message today to the UN International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace.  The gathering was held in Nicosia, Cyprus, under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

In his message, which was delivered by his Special Representative in Cyprus, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, the Secretary-General said Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must be resumed on all core issues without exception.  He added that he strongly supports a reinforced role for the Quartet.  And he stressed, once again, that he is “very disturbed” by the situation in Gaza, where life remains “extremely difficult”.  We have the full message in my office.

** Lebanon

On Lebanon, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy today attended the monthly tripartite meeting conducted by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with senior officials from the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at the UN position near the Ras Al Naqoura crossing.

The meeting discussed the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006), especially the violations of the Blue Line, with a view to preventing incidents.  Also discussed were the marking of the Blue Line and the issue of the village of Ghajar.

Le Roy acknowledged the efforts made at the tripartite forum on the issue of northern Ghajar in order to complete the withdrawal of the IDF from the area.  “I hope that the ongoing discussions on the basis of UNIFIL’s proposal of last year will lead to a speedy resolution of this matter,” he said.

** Rwanda

On the Rwanda judicial front, the trial of Dominique Ntawukulilyayo, the former prefect of Butare, has begun before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha.  The accused is facing three counts of genocide, including incitement to genocide.

Prosecutors say the former Government official failed to prevent, and even aided and abetted, and in some cases ordered, genocidal killings in areas under his jurisdiction.  He was arrested in France in late 2007 and extradited to the Tribunal a year ago.  He has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.

**Ghost Fishing

Large amounts of fishing gear lost at sea or abandoned by fishers are hurting the marine environment, impacting fish stocks and posing a hazard to ships.  That’s according to a new joint report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The study says that this problem is getting worse due to the increased scale of global fishing operations and the introduction of highly durable fishing gear.  One of the main impacts of lost or discarded fishing gear is “ghost fishing”, or the continued catches of fish.

To tackle the problem, the report makes a number of recommendations, including giving fishermen financial incentives to report lost gear and using new technologies to reduce ghost fishing.  There is more in a press release upstairs; we have, of course, more details there.

** Cyprus

On Cyprus, we have upstairs a statement from the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, which is hosted by, and whose work is facilitated by, the UN.  According to that statement, the Committee has agreed to establish an “Advisory Board for the Preservation, Physical Protection and Restoration of the Immovable Cultural Heritage of Cyprus”.  It has also agreed to compile the entire list of immovable cultural heritage of Cyprus; create an educational interactive programme that would allow young Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to learn about each other and the cultural heritage of the island; and undertake two restoration pilot projects.

**Hurricane Names

And then finally, the hurricane names Gustav, Ike, Paloma and Alma are being retired by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Hurricane Committee from the official name rotation.  This is a result of the deaths and damages they caused in 2008.

The names would have been used again in 2014 but have now been replaced by Gonzalo, Isaias, Paulette and Amanda.  There is a press release upstairs; it’s available.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

And then tomorrow, looking ahead, at 4 p.m., Ambassador Nirupam Sen, Permanent Representative of India, and Michael Clark, Senior Adviser to the President of the General Assembly, will be here to brief on the General Assembly’s upcoming Economic Crisis Summit with a special emphasis on Africa.  That’s for tomorrow.  So that’s it, that’s all I have for you.  Yes, Laura.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Michèle, has the Secretary-General decided whether to accept the invitation from the President of Sri Lanka to go there and see for himself the situation in the IDP camps?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General feels that, if it can save lives, he will definitely consider it.  At this point he has not taken a decision yet, and we have to see what is happening in the field and what is happening in terms of the humanitarian efforts already under way.

Question:  And when is he likely to decide?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know at this point.

Question:  Can I just ask one on Sri Lanka?  British Channel 4 has put forward a video shot inside one of the camps that’s apparently funded and has some UN involvement, in which people on camera say that there are dead bodies on the ground for two to three days, and that young women were being disappeared from the camp and were being used as, for “comfort women”.  What’s the UN’s response?  It’s a pretty specific report; it says it’s a camp, it has people on camera.  Does the UN... [interrupted]?

Spokesperson:  You already know I do not comment on press reports, Matthew.

Question:  That’s a video.  I mean, it’s a video of people saying UN people being...[interrupted].

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any response.  We’ve said, I think extensively; the Secretary-General has spoken yesterday about his own position on Sri Lanka and the humanitarian situation there, and we’ll just stick to that.

Question:  I guess I just want to know, is that an accurate... [interrupted]?

Spokesperson:  I have not seen it, Matthew.  I don’t think the Secretary-General has seen it either.

Question:  Thanks, Michèle.  Can I start by requesting that if the Secretary-General is travelling to Sri Lanka, that he takes journalists with him?  But my question is, yesterday during his monthly press conference the Secretary-General said he was asking Israel to pay reparations for damage done.  It would be nice if you could flesh out some of the details on this.  Can you tell us exactly how much the Secretary-General has asked for, what mechanism he’s used to make the request?  Is it in a letter?  And also, how long does Israel have to pay and how does the Secretary-General plan to enforce the request?

Spokesperson:  Okay, you’re asking me for details which I don’t have.  The principle of it is, of course, acknowledged; the Secretary-General talked about it yesterday.  It was acknowledged, I understand, by President [Shimon] Peres when he spoke earlier, also.  However, the actual mechanism, I don’t have the details yet; and as soon as we have them, we’ll give them to you.

Question:  Is there an actual figure, because we’ve been going with this 11 million that we took out of the reports but never actually said exactly how much he’s asked for.

Spokesperson:  I don’t have that number.

[The Spokesperson later added that claims for reparation or reimbursement are typically submitted through diplomatic channels.  As for the estimated replacement or repair costs for United Nations property lost or damaged in the seven incidents for which the Board found the Government of Israel responsible:  these are indicated in paragraph 94 of the Secretary-General’s summary of the Board of Inquiry’s report ‑‑ being estimated at “over $10.4 million” with respect to UNRWA property and “in excess of three quarters of a million dollars” with respect to UNSCO property, making for an estimated total of approximately $11.2 million.]

Question:  The President of Israel, Peres, just said that the Secretary-General is not responsible for the report, meaning the Gaza report, when he was talking about the problem.  Now, what does he mean by that?  Is the Secretary-General distancing himself from the report?  Is it his report?  Is it the UN report?  What does he mean by “the Secretary-General is not responsible...”?

Spokesperson:  I cannot interpret what President Peres says.  You should ask him for clarification of what he said.  The Secretary-General expressed yesterday the fact... he thanked Mr. Martin for the report and acknowledged all the work that had gone into it and...[interrupted]

Question:  It is his report?

Spokesperson:  Yes.  It is his report.  It is a report given to him by an independent commission.  Yes.

Question:  On the same issue, he [President Peres] also said that he doesn’t respect this report; he doesn’t accept it, and he doesn’t accept the committee which is formed.  According to the Secretary-General yesterday, he said that he’s conducting very conducive dialogue with the Israelis and that he will follow up on that through dialogue.  This does not augur well, I mean [inaudible]... what Mr. Peres said that while Mr. Ban Ki-moon said there is a conflict and there is disagreement among the two.  How...[interrupted]?

Spokesperson:  I cannot speak, once more, for President Peres.  All I can speak for is the Secretary-General, and I think he was very clear when he spoke yesterday to you about the specific issue of this report.  He says that he is going to follow up all additional cases on a case-by-case basis and he is going to do so... on an operational level.

Question:  But Peres has made it very clear that he doesn’t accept the report.

Spokesperson:  Well, the incidents did occur and there has been follow-up already.

Question:  But the Secretary-General did say he will have dialogue; he will solve this problem through dialogue; that Israeli officials want to improve things.  But the position of the President, “we will never accept it.  We don’t think we have to apologize”.  I mean, the basis that total rejection and refusal of the report; on what basis is he going to have dialogue with them?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General already expressed this yesterday, when he was speaking to you.  He already said there were objections from Israel and those objections exist.  They were expressed by President Peres.  It doesn’t mean that there has not already been follow-up on some of these issues, and they have been going on at the operational level.

Question:  My argument is if the premise is not accepted, if the basis of the report will never be accepted, how do we build our dialogue to solve the problems that took place in Gaza?  That’s my question.

Question:  [different correspondent]  Who is accountable for what happened?  This is the question.

Spokesperson:  I think the accountability issue was raised in the report and it was quite extensively covered in the report itself.

Question:  On the same issue, Shimon Peres said that the board overstepped its bounds when it conducted this investigation.  Does the Secretary-General think that the Board overstepped its bounds or does he stand behind it?

Spokesperson:  No, no, the Board respected its mandate.  Its mandate was clear.  It covered the nine incidents that occurred in UN premises, UNRWA premises in Gaza, and including the consequences in human lives and human casualties.  So that was the premise and that was the mandate of the commission, the Board of Inquiry.  The Board of Inquiry stayed within its mandate and covered its mandate.  That’s all I can say.

Question:  Considering Peres’ position today, is it safe to conclude that the Israeli Government refused to pay any reparations?  Did he actually say...?

Spokesperson:  No, there is no such thing.

Question:  Did they discuss this in the meeting?  Did they discuss...[interrupted]?

Spokesperson:  They did talk about the whole issue of the Board of Inquiry report, they discussed Gaza, they discussed the Durban Review Conference, they discussed a number of issues when they met this morning; the Secretary-General when he met with President Peres.  And in the course of their discussion the Secretary-General conveyed and supported a request from Judge [Richard] Goldstone for Israeli cooperation with the Human Rights Council’s fact-finding investigation.

Question:  What about the reparation issue?  Was that...?

Spokesperson:  The reparation issue is on the table.

Question:  Did they talk about it?  Did Peres say, “No, we’re not going to pay”?  Did he express his willing...[interrupted]?

Spokesperson:  No, no, nothing, I cannot talk for President Peres.  The issue was brought up, that’s all I can say.

Question:  To follow up on that.

Spokesperson:  Yes, sure.  That’s a lot of follow-ups on follow-ups!  Yes, certainly, go ahead.

Question:  The report also yesterday recommended that a separate inquiry to be carried out with regard to the 40 people also killed outside the compound because it’s not in their mandate to do that.  On what basis is the Secretary-General refusing to carry out any more inquiries when its own Board of Inquiry is recommending one?

Spokesperson:  Well, because that separate inquiry, as the Board itself said, is outside the mandate of the Board.  That’s all.

Question:  But they’re recommending a separate inquiry.

Spokesperson:  Well, a separate inquiry, but the Secretary-General is not going to consider another Board of Inquiry on events outside of UNRWA headquarters.  Those were the limitations and the specific bounds of the Board of Inquiry when they went inside; when they went to Gaza.

Question:  Can the Secretary-General legally ask for an independent inquiry into other incidents?  Does he have the politic to ask for such an inquiry?

Spokesperson:  Yes, but the problem is it has to be decided by [a body such as] the Security Council if such an inquiry is to take place.

Question:  Is he going to bring up this issue to the Security Council?

Spokesperson:  Well, he already sent a report to the Security Council.  How the Security Council will react to it, how the Security Council will decide to act, it’s something that concerns the Security Council.

Question:  [inaudible]...not recommend a separate independent inquiry into the other incidents; is he going to recommend that?

Spokesperson:  [inaudible]... he’s said from the start that there is going to be... there is right now an inquiry being led by the Human Rights Council.  The Board of Inquiry that the Secretary-General set up was to shed light on what happened, the nine incidents that occurred in UNRWA premises, not outside of UNRWA premises.

Question:  Does he think, as a person, that an independent inquiry should be done?

Spokesperson:  I will stand with what was said yesterday and what I have been saying now.  Yes, Mike.

Question:  [inaudible]... Yesterday, the Secretary-General went to great pains to explain that this inquiry was about those nine incidents and that was it, and went on to say that it was relevant only if you were talking about these nine incidents.  Yet, he didn’t mention the 1,400 deaths, but he did mention Hamas rockets.  And then he said no further Boards of Inquiry on the outside events are going to take place.  You said that the Israelis had objections; would it be more accurate to define that as pressure or threats from the Israeli Government?

Spokesperson:  There was no pressure.  Of course, they said they had objections, but the Secretary-General still went on with the recommendations and submitting the report to the Security Council.

Question:  Well, a lot of this itself is classified “secret” because of, the Secretary-General said, internal workings of the UN, but can you see how the impression is given, with the Secretary-General providing a summary of the report, keeping the rest classified; you know, it just doesn’t seem to balance out when you have all the facts that something isn’t right here. What...?

Spokesperson:  I have here what the Secretary-General said.  He said the plight of Palestinian civilians in Gaza is reflected in the report of the Board of Inquiry.  This is what he said yesterday.  And he added, of course, that we should keep in mind that Israeli civilians in southern Israel faced rocket attacks by Hamas.  But he did talk about the plight...  I mean the report is about the plight of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.  The Board, of course, limited its work on the incidents, the nine incidents I mentioned and that the Secretary-General mentioned yesterday.  However, you know, he did talk about Palestinian civilians.  Why say that he did not?

Question:  Well, you know, but he was very specific about Hamas rockets into southern Israel, but no mention of the... The report, of course, specifies...[inaudible]..., but it talks about the nine incidents only.  I mean, this was a much bigger... I mean, the Secretary-General went to Gaza, he kind of saw the much bigger picture.

Spokesperson:  And he has talked about that.  He has talked about that over and over again.  But that was not, again, the mandate of that specific Board of Inquiry, which was limited to UNRWA premises.

Question:  Sorry, so then there is, the bottom line is why is the report then going to remain classified and then no further Board of Inquiry?  I mean, that’s what we’re getting...

Spokesperson:  He explained... No further Board of Inquiry into other incidents.  That’s his recommendation.  On incidents outside of UNRWA’s headquarters, this is not the mandate of that commission.  The Secretary-General is not going to set up another commission on the larger issue.  What he did stress yesterday ‑‑ and I think it is important to remember ‑‑ that he stressed the fact that the whole issue is rooted in a much deeper and larger issue in the Middle East.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  On UNRWA as well, in his meeting, did the issue... UNRWA has said that Israel doesn’t allow cash to UNRWA to pay its own staff members and to give small grants to Palestinians in Gaza Strips and also imposes, I think a tax; does not allow them to bring in materials as they do elsewhere in the world.  I’ve been told that the Secretary-General has raised this issue with Israel.  Did this issue come up, and what was Israel’s response?

Spokesperson: Not in this meeting, no.  Not that I know of.

Question:  And can we find out, from UNRWA I guess, whether this is still, this remains the case; the difficulty of getting... [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Of course, we can try to get that information for you.

Question:  Okay.  I have a non-, another Sri Lanka question, but I will, let’s play this one out.

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Thirteen years ago, in 1996, when Qana was attacked and 120 people were massacred in the UN camp, the UN has established that Israel was responsible and asked for accountability and compensation.  Until now Israel has not paid.  Did the Secretary-General raise this issue with Shimon Peres, who was Prime Minister at that time?

Spokesperson:  That issue was not raised that I know of, but I can find out for you whether anything has happened since.

Question:  This money hasn’t been paid every time...

Spokesperson:  I’ll check on that issue.  Yes.

Question:  Can we assume there is no progress at all after the meeting between the Secretary-General and President Peres this morning?

Spokesperson:  I mean, it was dialogue, of course.  I don’t know whether you can talk about progress or lack of progress.  I think the Israeli objections had been expressed by the Permanent Mission and they were expressed again by President Peres.

Question:  No, but he said we had a problem with the UN and they were overcome, he said.  How were they overcome?  That’s what Peres said.  The first few words when he come out at the stakeout; we had a problem with the, in the UN, but they were overcome.

Spokesperson:  I have to find out the clarification, what he meant.  Or find out yourself what he meant.  I don’t know what he meant.  I cannot interpret whatever any Head of State says here.

Question:  [Inaudible back and forth]

Spokesperson:  In the meeting, as far as I know, I can try to get more for you, but as far as we know, the conversation took place where each side expressed its concerns.  Whether you call that progress or not, the fact that there is a dialogue, I think, is always good.

Question:  [inaudible]...progress...overcome, that means it’s finished?  That’s what I am asking.

Spokesperson:  I cannot interpret what Mr. Peres meant.  Yes.

Question:  Does the Secretary-General consider it over and done and finished...?

Spokesperson:  Of course not.  The situation in Gaza is not over and finished.  I mean the situation in Gaza and the case of the civilians in Gaza, the humanitarian consideration, access to basic goods, access to reconstruction material, all this the Secretary-General has been calling for; opening the crossings, nothing is done and over with, of course not.

Question:  Is he going to present this report to the Security Council on Thursday?  Will he be at that meeting and will he be making recommendations?

Spokesperson:  As far as I know, the Thursday meeting is not specifically about the report.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  Michèle, yesterday at the stakeout, Gareth Evans, former Australian Foreign Minister, said that in his meeting with the Secretary-General the issue of Sri Lanka and the responsibility to protect had arisen.  Did it?  I mean, can you confirm that?  And does the Secretary-General think that this responsibility to protect concept now applies in Sri Lanka?  Has he asked Ed Luck to get involved?  And also, has a team to visit the conflict zone, as has been promised, has a team been named by John Holmes or OCHA?

Spokesperson:  I can get that information for you.  The responsibility to protect, as you know, is a concept which has not yet become an effective mechanism, doesn’t have an effective mechanism to carry out that General Assembly resolution.  The Secretary-General and Ed Luck ‑‑ you mentioned his name ‑‑ have been working on the mechanism, to create the mechanism, to make that concept an active one.  Whether it could apply in this case, I could ask for you whether this was discussed.

Question:  Okay.  On a totally different matter, a letter has emerged from Mr. Adlerstein of the Capital Master Plan confirming something that had been earlier, I think, denied by the Secretariat that these security risk assessments that were supposed to be produced for the swing spaces and for this building, in fact have not been produced.  But now they claim they will be done by the end of June.  What’s the explanation of the earlier statement that these were either done or were not necessary?  And there is a reference to the CEB meeting of 4 April in one of the letters.  Can you confirm that this issue came up and how does this impact...[interrupted]?

Spokesperson:  I cannot confirm it at this point.  I can ask, of course, Mr. Adlerstein to answer your question.

Question:  Just a question on the Secretary-General’s feelings on this, you mentioned this 192,000 people now displaced in Sri Lanka.  He doesn’t think that the Security Council was absurd on the matter, not even placing it on the official agenda?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General does not decide for the Security Council.  He does not have an opinion on what the Security Council decides.  What he has done is act himself in the limit of his capacity as Secretary-General, to try to improve the situation.  So that’s all I can answer.  I cannot answer on the Security Council.

Thank you so much.

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