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

22 September 2009

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

22 September 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 Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon, all.

**Secretary-General ’s Summit on Climate Change

“Now is your moment to act,” the Secretary-General told the nearly 100 world leaders gathered today for the high-level Summit on Climate Change that he has convened.  With only 15 negotiating days left until the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the Summit aims to mobilize political will and strengthen momentum for a fair, effective and ambitious climate deal.

“Your negotiators need your direct political support and guidance to resolve core issues, to accelerate the pace of negotiations and to strengthen the ambition of what is on offer,” the Secretary-General told the delegations.  He added that a successful deal in Copenhagen will mean more prosperity, more security, and equity for the world.

He called on the leaders of the industrialized countries to take the first steps forward and called on leaders from developing countries to accelerate their efforts.  “All countries must do more -- now,” he said.

The Secretary-General warned that failure to reach broad agreement in Copenhagen would be morally inexcusable, economically short-sighted and politically unwise.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also addressed the Summit, followed by leaders of eight countries and a representative of civil society.  The opening session ended with the voice of the next generation, when a 13-year-old environmental activist from India, addressed the world leaders.

Delegations are now attending the interactive round tables of the Summit.  And in a few minutes, our guest at the noon briefing, Janos Pasztor, the Director of the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, will brief you on today’s events.

The Secretary-General will hold a press conference at 6 p.m. in Conference Room 4, after the closing of the Summit.  He will also have a press stakeout at 9:30 tonight, after the dinner.

Also, at 1 p.m., the Secretary-General will attend the luncheon of the UN Leadership Forum on Climate Change, organized by the UN Global Compact.  We have a list of participants upstairs.

**Secretary-General Statement on International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

We also have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the transfer of Grégoire Ndahimana to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

The Secretary-General welcomes the transfer, on 20 September 2009, of Grégoire Ndahimana, by the Congolese Government to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Ndahimana, a Rwandan national and high-level figure in the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), was arrested in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo by the Congolese Army on 10 August 2009.

Ndahimana was among 13 of the remaining fugitives indicted before the ICTR for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Rwanda in 1994.  Ndahimana’s arrest and transfer to the ICTR was facilitated by MONUC, at the request of Congolese authorities.

**Ad Hoc Liaison Committee

The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which coordinates and promotes donor assistance to the Palestinian people, is meeting today, here at Headquarters.

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe today delivered a message from the Secretary-General to that meeting.  In that message, the Secretary-General noted that the Palestinian Authority’s achievements in security, the economy, financing, reform and planning over the past two years are unprecedented.  The Secretary-General also expressed strong support for the Palestinian Authority’s plan to complete the building of the State apparatus for Palestine in two years.  He pledged the UN’s full assistance in that regard.  We have the full message upstairs.

And there will be a press conference on the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee at 1:45 this afternoon in this room.  Speakers will include the Prime Minister of Norway, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, and Quartet Envoy Tony Blair.

** Yemen

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that the situation in Yemen’s northern Sa'ada province remains volatile, despite an announced two-week suspension of military operations on the occasion of the Eid holiday.  This is the second failed ceasefire in less than a month.

Relative calm was reported in the city of Sa'ada at the end of last week, UNHCR says, but renewed clashes erupted over the weekend in several neighbourhoods.  During the brief lull in fighting some 1,600 people in the city of Sa'ada received assistance through UNHCR's local NGO partner.  The Agency’s stocks in Sa'ada are diminishing and establishment of humanitarian corridors for delivery of aid to this area remains a top priority.

** Afghanistan

Speaking yesterday in Kabul, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, welcomed the joint announcement by the country’s Independent Election Commission, and Electoral Complaints Commission on their agreement on resolving issues before electoral results can be certified.

Eide said that such cooperation is essential, adding that the Afghan people need to know the outcome of the election, including whether a run-off vote is required, without undue delay.

He called on the two Commissions to ensure a timely conclusion to the process while respecting international standards and the need for transparency.  “The final result of this election must reflect the will of the Afghan people,” Eide said.

** Sri Lanka

Following last week’s visit to Sri Lanka by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, the Secretary-General’s Representative on the Human Rights for Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kälin is set to make a five-day visit to the country, starting tomorrow.

Kälin’s visit is an important next step from Pascoe’s latest trip to Colombo, which will provide an opportunity to flesh out the specifics on the Government’s renewed commitment to moving all internally displaced persons out of the camps and home by January, and in fully implementing their 180-day plan.

** Somalia

The Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Somalia, Charles Petrie, has called on the international community to do more now, in order to plant seeds of durable peace in Somalia.

Petrie was speaking on behalf of the United Nations at a funeral service held on Sunday in Bujumbura, for the Burundian officers and soldiers killed in last week’s suicide bomb attacks on the Mogadishu headquarters of the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM.  He paid tribute to the valiant peacekeepers who gave their lives for peace in Somalia.  A full investigation into the circumstances of the attacks is being undertaken.

** Chad

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has welcomed a decision by Chad to relocate some 28,000 Sudanese refugees from the Oure Cassoni camp, in the troubled north-eastern border region with Sudan.

UNHCR had been calling on Chad to remove refugees from that camp for a number of years, partly because of its location just 7 kilometres from the border, which was deemed too unsafe and often inaccessible.  UNHCR also suspected that Sudanese armed groups were recruiting children and weapons circulated all too freely inside the camp.

UN and Chadian teams are now evaluating a replacement site near the town of Bahai.

**AIDS

The AIDS, Security and Conflict Initiative, which is supported by UNAIDS, today released a new report that shows how HIV threatens international peace and security.  The new report suggests that the transition from war to peace can increase risks of HIV transmission as refugees go home, soldiers leave the army and relief agencies wind down their work.

It adds that, in many countries, laws and law enforcement drive the AIDS epidemic underground by criminalizing injecting drug use, sex work or homosexuality -- thereby ruling out proven HIV-prevention methods, such as needle exchanges and the promotion of condom use.

According to Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, the report’s findings underscore the importance of aligning efforts to prevent both sexual violence and HIV.  We have more on that upstairs.

**Billion Tree Campaign

The United Nations Billion Tree Campaign has hit its target of 7 billion trees, reports the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Today’s milestone was reached with the news that the Government of China has planted 2.6 billion trees as part of this unique campaign, bringing the total to 7.3 billion trees planted in 167 countries worldwide.

You can find out more in a Press Release upstairs.

**Special Advocate on Inclusive Finance for Development

The Secretary-General has designated Princess Máxima of the Netherlands as his Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development.

In her new role, Princess Máxima will work to highlight and promote inclusive finance for development to Governments and international institutions. 

She will also contribute to raising awareness -- among intergovernmental organizations, Governments, parliaments, civil society, the private sector and the media -- on the importance of developing inclusive finance to reduce poverty, equalize opportunity and achieve development goals, particularly the Millennium Development Goals.

**United Nations Environment Programme Goodwill Ambassador

And then Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen has been designated a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

In her new position, Gisele will help to inspire action to protect the environment.  She will also work to draw attention to some of the biggest threats facing the planet, including climate change and environmental degradation.

We have more on that upstairs.

**Treaty Event

And then tomorrow, the city of Rotterdam will be hosting a signing ceremony for the new UN Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea.  The event is being jointly organized by the Dutch Government, the city of Rotterdam, the UN Office of Legal Affairs and the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

The Convention, also known as the “Rotterdam Rules”, was adopted by the General Assembly in December 2008.

There is more detail on the Convention and tomorrow’s event in my office upstairs.

**Secretary-General’s Speech to General Assembly

The Secretary-General’s speech to the General Assembly tomorrow, entitled “Now Is Our Time”, is now available also in my office upstairs.  The speech is embargoed until 9 a.m. tomorrow, and must be checked against delivery.

**Media Accreditation Advisory

And a reminder again for tonight, that Media Accreditation advises that the press will need to be screened before they will be allowed at the stakeout area at the delegate’s entrance tonight after the working dinner on climate change.

So please start early to go through the different screenings that we have.

**Press Conferences Today

And then, you are already aware, we have many press conferences lined up today, both in this room and in Conference Room 4.  Most of the press conferences will focus on climate change -- the topic of the day.

We have an updated list of confirmed press conferences for this entire week available in this room and upstairs in my office.

And I can already see that our guest, Janos Pasztor, is here, but we’ll first go to your questions.  Let’s make it brief, because we’ll have our Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly before Janos.  Yes, Matthew.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Michèle, you mentioned the suicide bomb attack on AMISOM in Mogadishu.  I wanted to know whether, when the bombing took place, there were any UN personnel in the camp and whether the UN funds AMISOM’s operations in Mogadishu and if DSS has any role in protecting that facility?

Spokesperson:  Well, I’ve asked about DSS because you had asked that question earlier.  I don’t have an answer yet.  Were there any UN personnel at the compound?  Not that I know of, but I will find out for you.  You ask also whether they have… your other question?

Question:  Whether the UN is providing funding to AMISOM?

Spokesperson:  Yes, certainly it is providing support to AMISOM.  I can give you the details, as soon as I get the exact details.  But, you know, this has always been the case; I mean, we have always supported the AMISOM forces in Somalia.

Question:  And I just wanted to know on Sri Lanka.  I couldn’t figure this out.  What was the outcome of Mr. Pascoe’s advocacy for the UN staff members that have been detained for some months there?  What’s going to happen with them next?

Spokesperson:  Well, he did raise the issue when he met with Mr. Rajapaksa.  We don’t have the exact result yet, but he did speak about that issue when he met with President Rajapaksa.

Question:  The Government there has said that all that was asked of them was to sort of bring them to court and charge them with a crime.  Does the UN think that they’re immune or not immune?

Spokesperson:  Well, the UN is providing them with, as you know, legal support.  So the UN is certainly behind them on this.  And we’re going beyond legal support.  Whether they have immunity, I will try to find out for you.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  Thank you, Michèle.  Michèle, does the Secretary-General have any comment or how does he look upon the forthcoming meeting between President Obama, Netanyahu, Abbas?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is certainly following that with interest.  As you know, the Quartet is also meeting this week.  So I am sure this will be discussed at the Quartet meeting.  Yes.

Question:  Michèle, in your readout on President Zardari’s meeting with UN Secretary-General, you stated that they discussed matters relating to UN Inquiry Commission on Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.  What are those matters that were discussed?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, it is an independent Commission.  And the two were appraised of the progress of the investigation, not the details, of course not.  But that’s what they discussed.

Question:  Where is this Commission now?  Is it here in New York, in Pakistan or in London…?

Spokesperson:  As you know, they have been working steadily on this.  They have not wanted to speak out as long as the investigation is ongoing, but I’m sure that we can get more for you once we get a little closer to some results.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

**Meeting between General Assembly President and President Obama

Good afternoon to all.

I’ll not be long.  I know that Mr. Pásztor is waiting.  I’ll start with the meeting earlier this morning between the President of the United Nations General Assembly and the President of the United States Barack H. Obama.  They met here at the Secretariat Building.  President Obama was accompanied by [United States] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Susan Rice, as you know, the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations.

The President of the United States congratulated Dr. Treki for his election as the President of the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly and said that the United States is looking forward to cooperating with him.

They discussed a number of important issues on the agenda of the sixty-fourth session, including the challenges of peace and security, climate change and development.

President Treki appreciated President Obama’s speech in Cairo, which was greatly welcomed in the Islamic world and opened the door for promoting more effectively the dialogue among civilizations, and stated that the General Assembly will support this objective.

He also expressed his support for President Obama’s efforts to promote peace in the Middle East and noted that progress on this front will be extremely encouraging for international peace and security.

Also praising President Obama’s speech in Accra, Ghana, Dr. Treki noted that with its vast resources, the African continent has great potential and needs to be supported through trade and foreign investment.

The President of the United States said that his Administration was according priority to and developing partnership with the African continent, with special focus on food security, development and governance.

The two leaders also discussed the efforts for the maintenance of peace and security in Africa, particularly the cooperation between all sides with regard to the situation in Darfur.

President Obama said that the aim of the special meeting organized by the United States with the top troop-contributing countries was to acknowledge the important contribution of peacekeepers and to discuss ways of making UN peacekeeping more effective.

Dr. Treki and the President of the United States also exchanged views on the Security Council summit meeting on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, to be held on 24 September under the US presidency of the Security Council.

President Treki expressed support for President Obama’s new approach to missile defence and disarmament.  The two leaders also discussed the important role of women in promoting the objectives of peace and security, and development.

A press statement is available in English and in French.

Just two other meetings.  After meeting President Obama, Mr. Treki also met with the Chinese Foreign Minister, His Excellency Mr. Yang Jiechi.  The Chinese Foreign Minister congratulated President Treki and stated that he is looking forward to working closely with Dr. Treki.

They discussed several priority issues during the forthcoming session of the General Assembly, in particular climate change, development and achievement of the MDGs.

President Treki, on that occasion, noted that preparation for the 2010 summit on the MDGs will be a main focus during the session.  He noted that the overall atmosphere was conducive to achieve progress on a number of areas.

Both leaders also discussed the importance of pursuing the efforts to reform the United Nations.

Finally, there was a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Belgium, His Excellency Mr. Yves Leterme.  Mr. Leterme and Dr. Treki discussed UN reform and dialogue among civilizations, among other important subjects.  They also discussed the importance of resolving the Middle East conflict.  Mr. Leterme expressed his support to President Treki and congratulated him on his election as President of the sixty-fourth session.

That’s all I have for you today.  Yes.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  You said that President Obama and the General Assembly President discussed several political and security issues of the region, in Africa.  Did that include Western Sahara?

Spokesperson:  Well, I have highlighted for you the main issues that they discussed.  Western Sahara is obviously part of the wider issues of peacekeeping in Africa, including the contribution that Africans make in keeping peace on the continent.  So, President Obama discussed with Dr. Treki the important meeting with the top troop-contributing countries from Africa.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  Two questions.  One is on the Host Country Committee of the General Assembly.  Are you aware of any complaints they have received of countries denied visas?  There has been some talk of some of the Iranian delegations denied visas, or is that something that we can get a readout of ‑‑ the complaints files of the Host Country Committee of the General Assembly?

Spokesperson:  I’ll certainly check that.  If I find something, I’ll come back to you.  I haven’t heard anything on that front yet.

Question:  Okay.  The Department of General Assembly and Conference Management is now in the Albano Building, in the swing-space building.  And it’s been confirmed, at least to me, that there has been a discovery of bed bugs in that building.  I’m wondering if this has been conveyed to the President of the General Assembly, or in any way, whether it can have any impact on the upcoming General Assembly meeting.

Spokesperson:  Matthew, I’m no specialist on bugs, but I think you have to ask that question to the management, really.

Question:  You listed a host of topics they discussed.  Did Afghanistan also come up in the discussion?

Spokesperson:  I mean, that is natural, because Afghanistan is part of the efforts on international peace and security.  So that would naturally be part of the wider perspective, certainly.

Thank you, very much.

* *** *

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