|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 Marie Okabe, Deputy 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
I see we have some guests. Welcome. Welcome to the United Nations. And we will, I am told, have a briefing by the General Assembly Spokesperson as well as soon as I am done.
And immediately after that, at 12:30 the Security Council President, Ambassador Michel Kafando of Burkina Faso, will brief you about the Council’s work over the coming month.
And as I mentioned yesterday, the Security Council held its first consultations for this month, and today they approved the programme. So, 12:30, Ambassador Kafando.
Let me start with a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General in support of the US Plan for Afghanistan, as announced by US President Barack Obama.
The Secretary-General welcomes the new United States plan for Afghanistan announced by President Barack Obama yesterday evening. He notes with appreciation the proposed approach to balance military and civilian efforts and the emphasis on strengthening the capacity of Afghan institutions and Afghan security forces in particular.
The Secretary-General strongly feels that institution-building is a long-term but necessary process that will ultimately ensure the sustainability of the international community’s joint efforts in Afghanistan. The United Nations remains committed to support all efforts to transition to increased Afghan ownership, responsibility and leadership in achieving lasting peace, stability and development in the country. And you can pick up this statement upstairs in the Spokesperson’s office.
There are two letters that have gone to the Security Council regarding appointments of Special Representatives of the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General has informed the Security Council of his intention, following consultations with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, to appoint Mr. Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria as Joint Special Representative of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), with effect from 1 January 2010.
Mr. Gambari succeeds Mr. Rodolphe Adada.
Mr. Gambari has had a long and distinguished career with the United Nations, having served, most recently, as the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the International Compact with Iraq and other political issues. He has also served the Secretary-General in pursuing the good offices mandate on Myanmar, as you know.
And his complete bio is available upstairs.
The Secretary-General has also informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Ms. Ameerah Haq of Bangladesh as his Special Representative for Timor-Leste and Head of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). Ms. Haq succeeds Mr. Atul Khare of India. The Secretary-General is grateful to Mr. Khare for his dedicated service and excellent leadership of UNMIT over the past three years.
Ms. Haq most recently served as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, and prior to that, as his Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan. In both cases, she also held the position of UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator. Her broad management experience in supporting complex mission deployment activities is expected to greatly contribute to her new role at UNMIT.
We have more information on Ms. Haq in her bio upstairs, also available in the Spokesperson’s office.
The latest report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations operation in Cyprus (UNFICYP) is out today.
The Secretary-General notes that, although considerable progress has been achieved in the Cyprus talks, the two sides have not yet considered in depth the role which the United Nations would be expected to play in support of a settlement. He says that planning by UNFICYP in that regard will continue to proceed in a flexible manner and be guided by the evolution of the talks and the views of the parties.
The Secretary-General recommends that the Security Council extend the mandate of the Force for six months, until 15 June 2010. Also, the report on the good offices of the Secretary-General on Cyprus should be out shortly.
The Secretary-General is now attending the launch of the report of the Commission on AIDS in the Pacific. In remarks at that launch, he is to say that the report gives voice to people living with HIV, and that it also argues that AIDS must be integrated within the broader development agenda. Next September’s summit at UN Headquarters on the Millennium Development Goals is an opportunity to highlight this formula, he is to point out. And we will have his remarks shortly.
**Special Tribunal for Lebanon
The Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Daniel Bellemare, met today in Beirut with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman.
Bellemare stressed the commitment of the Tribunal to pursue its mandate in total independence, fairness, objectivity and professionalism. He emphasized that the process he is leading is purely evidence-driven. And Bellemare indicated that the investigation is making progress and is proceeding at full pace. We have a press release with more details about today’s meeting.
**ICC – Bemba
And earlier today, the appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague reversed the decision on the interim release of Jean-Pierre Bemba. In August, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber II decided to grant Mr. Bemba conditional release until his trial. The Prosecutor immediately appealed that decision.
Mr. Bemba faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic, not in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. An ICC press release with further information is available upstairs.
And just two more things. Today is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. In a message, the Secretary-General says that in a globalised world, new forms of slavery, such as forced labour, human trafficking or sexual slavery, have taken shape. He adds that the majority of those who suffer are the poor and socially excluded groups, such as minorities and migrants.
Combating slavery means not only its direct prohibition by law but also fighting against poverty, illiteracy, economic and social disparities, gender discrimination and violence against women and children, he says. We have his message upstairs.
**Messenger of Peace
And this is an announcement for tomorrow. The Secretary-General will designate Grammy Award-winning songwriter and musician Stevie Wonder of the United States as a UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on people with disabilities.
Recognized for his philanthropic work through the U.S. President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, the Children’s Diabetes Foundation and Junior Blind of America, Stevie Wonder joins ten other UN Messengers of Peace who advocate on behalf of the Organization.
Stevie Wonder’s designation will be officially announced at a press conference tomorrow here at 11 a.m. And there is a press release with more details on what is happening with that tomorrow.
**Press Conference Today
And as I mentioned, immediately after this we have Jean Victor, who is already here to brief you on the General Assembly. And then just to flag for you the 12:30 briefing again by the Security Council President, and later today, a press conference to launch the report of the Commission on AIDS in the Pacific.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
And tomorrow in addition to the press conference with Stevie Wonder which we just announced, at 10:30 a.m. there will be a NGO press conference sponsored by the Spanish Mission on the launch of a School Award called “Take care of your planet.”
And at 3 p.m., there will be a press conference by Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein and the President of the Assembly of the States Parties to the Rome Statute governing the International Criminal Court.
And that’s what I have for you. You have a question for me?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yes, on Afghanistan. In President Obama’s speech last night he called on the United Nations to help, be a partner in building civilian structures in Afghanistan. Is the UN up to the task, given the relocation of staff after the guest house bombing? What’s being done to wrap up, if you will?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, yesterday you saw the UNAMA [UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan] Special Representative’s press release, his statement. I think he has been quite vocal throughout the day talking about the tasks that UNAMA has been given by the Security Council. I think, besides the temprorary relocation of some of the staff due to recent security reasons, the UN is on the ground in the force that they can be, doing what it can. And just yesterday, I think we read to you here the activities by the UN Refugee Agency, which is out there trying to provide as much assistance for the people of Afghanistan. As you know, helping the people of Afghanistan is what the mission is there for.
Question: Just to follow up. Can you say the Secretary-General asked for $75 million dollars to beef up security and to bring people back into Kabul? Where does that request stand and is the staff any closer to coming back into the capital?
Deputy Spokesperson: The temporary relocation, as we mentioned, it is temporary, and as soon as conditions allow they will be back and operate as they need. But, in the meantime though, as you know, there are thousands and thousands of Afghan national staff who have been part of the UN operation in Afghanistan for decades, and they continue to do the valiant work in the field that is needed to carry out our work there.
Question: Obama had mentioned that the United States is intending to work very closely to boost the ministries as well, and that’s going to include possibly getting some members of the Taliban into representative power, so that they can disarm the terrorist networks. Kai Eide and the disastrous electoral process that recently took place -- what is UNAMA intending to do in terms of boosting or re-boosting the electoral monitoring system, where the UN can actually make a difference in ending the corruption and trying to create peace there?
Deputy Spokesperson: Details of that, I’ll have to get for you from the mission directly. I don’t have the specific details of what is being done to boost the electoral support capacity, but those details can be gotten for you from the mission.
Question: Just to follow up –- the time is short. He’s going to be sending those 30,000 troops in the beginning of January. So surely there is going to be a plan put in place about the electoral situation soon. So, if we could get that information I’d be grateful.
Deputy Spokesperson: Absolutely! Yes.
Question: I think our colleague asked about the status of the request for more money for the security improvements; where is that now? Is it in the Fifth Committee or…?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, obviously the request is with Member States. So, we’ll have to check. Maybe Jean Victor can later give us an update on that.
Question: Now that you’ve confirmed that Mr. Gambari is being proposed to the Council, or he’s informed the Council, I wanted to ask you two things. One is: what’s the thinking of the good offices role in Myanmar? Is it the Secretary-General’s intention to find another person, and if so, on what timeframe, given the elections? Also there are reports, including by African Permanent Representatives here. There was a candidate for the UNAMID post, that Nigeria threatened to pull its troops out of UNAMID and that’s why the job has been awarded to a Nigerian. Can you respond to that?
Deputy Spokesperson: On the latter, I have nothing to say. The intention to appoint is now with the Security Council, and the Security Council will respond to that. Sorry, what was your first question?
Question: Myanmar. What’s going to happen with that post and from what …?
Deputy Spokesperson: He will be looking for a replacement on that. In the meantime, the good offices mandate is still with the Secretary-General and will be continued.
Question: So Mr. Gambari will continue in that role for the next month?
Deputy Spokesperson: Mr. Gambari’s new appointment, intention to appoint, that is effective on 1 January, 2010.
Question: Thank you, Marie. Our colleagues here have raised some questions about President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan, and I have another aspect of that speech. The President did not mention an international conference on Afghanistan, I believe. Does the Secretary-General still think that we will be heading for an international conference on Afghanistan?
Deputy Spokesperson: I’m not sure what specific international conference you’re referring to, but the Secretary-General did issue a statement over the weekend while he was in Trinidad for the Commonwealth meeting, expressing support for the meeting that will be hosted by the United Kingdom. Actually, yes, it will be held in London, I believe on 28 January. And that is obviously a conference that is co-hosted by the United Nations and Afghanistan. So, in that sense, that statement is already out there.
I am going to stop now because in nine minutes the President of the Security Council will be here and I want Jean Victor to have his moment here. So, thanks. Have a good afternoon.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Thank you, Marie. I will be brief. And greetings to the visitors who are with us here today.
Question of Palestine and Situation in Middle East
In response to questions addressed to him yesterday by journalists, the President of the General Assembly H.E. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki stressed the need to establish a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East in accordance with United Nations resolutions.
On another question on the contradiction that exists between the objection of Arab States to General Assembly resolution 181 of 29 November 1947 and the current position in support of the resolutions before the General Assembly on the Question of Palestine and the Situation in the Middle East, President Treki underscored that the situation today cannot be compared to that of 1947. He explained that, at the time the Arab population in the historic land of Palestine amounted to more than 80 per cent of thee total population. In spite of this, the British government at that time abandoned the Palestinian Arabs in favour of the Jewish community, implementing the so-called Balfour Declaration. As a result, more than four million Palestinian had been expelled from their homeland and most remain in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, until today. The occupying power refuses the right of those Palestinians to return to their homes and property.
President Treki further indicated that a just peace can only be realized by establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Furthermore, he emphasised the need to continue on the path of reaching a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, in particular the Question of Palestine, leading to a just and lasting peace in the region.
Swiss Referendum on Minarets
During a recent noon briefing some of you asked if the President of the General Assembly has a position on the referendum in Switzerland regarding the minarets.
The President has followed the developments in Switzerland with serious concern. The referendum on banning minarets has created an extremely regrettable and unfortunate situation. The freedom to manifest one’s religion in worship is a fundamental human right. And any incitement to discrimination on the basis of religion should be prohibited by law. All efforts should be aimed at improving the relations between cultures and religions. The President adds his voice to all those from all over the world who are deeply concerned by the results of the referendum. The President hopes that the government of Switzerland will take responsible steps to prevent the further negative consequences of this deployment.
**Questions and Answers
Question: What’s on the President’s schedule after the debate on Palestine? What is he going to tackle the next few days or weeks?
Spokesperson: I will have to check the specific of his calendar, but he still has quite a lot to do, even after the debate, because there are so many other important issues on the agenda of the 64th session. But, I can come back to you with some specifics later on. Yes.
Question: Can you give us an update on whether funding requests from the Secretary-General is the $75 million for security in Pakistan and Afghanistan?
Spokesperson: I will check with the Fifth Committee and come back to you on that.
Question: Does the President have any reaction to Obama’s speech on increasing troops in Afghanistan? Does he support this war?
Spokesperson: President Obama only spoke yesterday, I’ll find out. The President has been, as you know, very engaged with the ongoing agenda at the plenary at the General Assembly on the Question of Palestine. So, I’ll come back to you on that if he has any reaction.
Question: Generally speaking, he believes that increasing, you know, American troops in Afghanistan is a positive step for the Afghan people?
Spokesperson: Let me get his views, if he has any, so we can ascertain that. Yes, Matthew.
Question: Yesterday here the spokesperson for the Secretary-General said that, for the Associate Administrator of UNDP, there is going to be a woman candidate and most people interpreted this to mean it will be an internal candidate from Costa Rica, Rebeca Grynspan. I’m wondering, given that the African Group has written to the Secretary-General saying that they believe that post should be to an African, given UNDP’s role in Africa, whether President Treki has any view on the need for an African representative at that level at UNDP.
Spokesperson: I’m not privy to matters regarding the list and the gender of candidates that might or might not have been short listed for this position. But, as we have said earlier on this podium the question of the appointment of the UNDP Administrator is indeed a question where the General Assembly’s role comes into play. But, when it comes to this number two position in UNDP that may be less so. So you may…
Question: Does he have a view? I mean…that’s all I’m asking.
Spokesperson: I’ll check again. But, this really is a question for the Secretariat. But, I’ll check if he has a specific view on the question of the number two. He may or he may not.
Question: Thank you.
Spokesperson: No further question? Yes.
Question: What is the reaction of the President of the General Assembly regarding the ban on minarets construction by Switzerland?
Spokesperson: I’ve just read it to you; I’ll give you the statement right away. He has a very…
Question: (Inaudible)…General Assembly voted recently on a resolution on respect of religion or something like that.
Spokesperson: I hear you. The President of the General Assembly has just made a statement on this issue. So the President of the General Assembly has a position and he speaks on behalf of all Member States.
Thank you, and have a good afternoon.
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