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

10 December 2009

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

10 December 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good Afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Press Conference Today

On press conference today, John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, will be here to brief you at 12:30 p.m. on his mission to Copenhagen next week for the Climate Change Summit, and he will also outline the new challenges to humanitarian action that result from climate change.

**Climate Change

As negotiations in Copenhagen continue, the Secretary-General is closely following the situation.

Delegates continue to work on a set of texts before Ministers arrive in Copenhagen this weekend.  The negotiations are focusing on new commitments for developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol and a new long-term cooperative deal under the Climate Change Convention, which will include key issues such as mitigation, adaptation, technology and deforestation.

The Secretary-General believes that negotiators have to get down to the business of solving problems and finishing this negotiation.  They owe the world that.

And tomorrow, the Secretary-General will send a message to the “Summiteers Summit to save the Himalayas” which is being convened in Copenhagen.  He will say the conference offers hope and will call on the world to work together to save the Himalayas.

**Human Rights Day

Today is Human Rights Day.  And in a message to mark this occasion, the Secretary-General says that no country is free of discrimination.  We see it everywhere, in many forms.  The Secretary-General also says that one of these forms is the rise of a new politics of xenophobia in some countries.

The Secretary-General stresses that abstract commitments are not enough to fight discrimination.  We must continue to confront inequality and intolerance wherever they are found.

A little later, the Secretary-General will open a special event on “Race, poverty and power”.  He is expected to say that racism and other forms of discrimination are not only human rights violations.  They are also major obstacles to economic and social progress.  He will say that we must overcome this mutually-reinforcing and destructive combination.

The event will take place at 1:15 p.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.

**Western Sahara

This morning, the Secretary-General spoke with the Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos.

The Secretary-General and Foreign Minister Moratinos discussed the condition of Ms. Aminatou Haidar.  The Secretary-General expressed concerns about her deteriorating health and emphasized that a solution needed to be found with the utmost urgency.  And he proposed possible steps to resolve the situation.

As you know, Mrs. Haidar has been on hunger strike since mid-November.  And as I already mentioned, the Secretary-General will be meeting with the Moroccan Foreign Minister tomorrow.

**Lebanon – Appointment

The Secretary-General has decided to appoint Major General Alberto Asarta Cuevas of Spain as Head of Mission and Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  Major General Asarta Cuevas will succeed Major General Claudio Graziano of Italy, whose tour of duty will end on 28 January 2010.  And the Secretary-General is grateful to Major General Graziano for his outstanding service and leadership of UNIFIL over the past three years.  We have more in his biographical information on Major General Asarta Cuevas upstairs.

**UNRWA

Karen AbuZayd, the Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), today visited the home of one of the Palestinian families who are being evicted from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.  Eight families are currently under direct threat of forced eviction, having been served with orders to vacate their homes.

AbuZayd said that the United Nations rejects Israel’s claims that these cases are a matter for municipal authorities and domestic courts.  Such acts are in violation of Israel’s obligations under international law.  She noted that the Secretary-General stated last week that the United Nations is “dismayed” at the continuation of demolitions, evictions and the installing of settlers. 

She said that the dispossessed and the displaced must see their losses acknowledged and their injustices addressed.  Peace is possible, but only if we insist on our universal humanity.  And we have her remarks in full upstairs.

**Questions from Yesterday

A couple of questions from yesterday.  I have some answers here.

I was asked yesterday how many UN staff were in Copenhagen for the Climate Change conference.  There are 477 people from UN Secretariat units and 309 from 19 specialized agencies and related organizations.

I was also asked yesterday about the situation in Guinea and what I can say is that the Secretary-General reiterates the need to avoid violence and to respect the rule of law in the country.  And he has instructed his Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, to remain actively engaged with national and regional stakeholders in the search for a solution that provides the people of Guinea an opportunity to elect their leaders in a democratic manner.  And as you know, Mr. Djinnit is working with President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso to support his mediation effort in Guinea.

**Move of Spokesperson’s Office

Some internal housekeeping:  As you may have already noticed, our office is in the process of moving to swing space in the first basement of the South Annex Building.

The dismantling of the reception area for the Spokesperson’s office will begin at 6 p.m. tonight and the dismantling of this press briefing room will begin immediately after John Holmes’ briefing this afternoon here.  So don’t stay in your seats too long or you might end up in a crate.

On Monday 14th, all the press conferences will be held in Conference Room 4, including the Secretary-General’s press conference at 11 a.m.

And then from Tuesday 15th onwards, we will be holding our daily briefing in the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium.

So that means we won’t have a noon briefing tomorrow, but my Office –- perhaps minus the furniture -– will be open as always and my team will also be available for any questions you may have tomorrow morning.  But, as always, we will be issuing the week ahead, and we will post the highlights of what would have been the noon briefing as well.  So you’ll have all the information you need.  I am told that we will be up and running in our new offices from 7 a.m. Monday in the first basement of the South Annex building.  And I also know that many of you are also moving and I hope that goes very smoothly for you.

**Security Council

One other thing I have been handed, which I would like to just read out is from the Security Council.

The Security Council began its work with an update on the work of the Sanctions Committee dealing with resolution 1737 (2006), concerning non-proliferation and Iran.  Ambassador Yukio Takasu of Japan, who chairs the committee, briefed Council members.

The Security Council then heard from Youssef Mahmoud, the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative for Burundi.  And he said that there have been significant advances in the peace process and in preparations for the 2010 elections.  However, he said, the funding of the electoral process is a challenge, with pledges made by international partners still needing to be disbursed.  We have his briefing notes and additional fact sheet on the work of the UN Integrated Office in Burundi upstairs.  And then the Security Council continued its discussion of Burundi in closed consultations.

So, I’m open for any questions.  Yes.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, does the UN have a statement in regards to the Egyptian government’s working with the Israelis to build a steel fence on the border to prevent any kind of daily items and goods to come to assist the Palestinian people?

Spokesperson:  We’ve seen those reports too, but I don’t have anything for you at the moment.  We’ll come back to you.

Question:  On the record, my name is Sylviane Zahil, we’ve never met.  Yesterday I had the pleasure to have a little interview with Mr. Alain Le Roy in French outside the place here.  And Mr. Le Roy told me that the new commander-in-chief of the UNIFIL will be Mr. Asarta.  At that time I didn’t know the name, how to spell it.  And I asked twice your spokesman to give me the exact spelling, because it will be the title of my newspaper in Beirut.  And he refused, saying that it has not been confirmed yet.  And I’m just wondering, if we want to have some information, exact information, how much do we have to… To whom do we have to call?  Who is responsible?  You have a spokesperson, is he responsible to answer or not?

Spokesperson:  As you know, I am the Spokesperson…

Question:  No, Mr. Farhan Haq, specifically.

Spokesperson:  On this particular point, as you know, you came in late, but I just read out the details of the appointment of Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas of Spain, and right after this, I am very happy to spell it out for you.

Question:  (Inaudible)…newspaper that they asked for this, after how do you write it, with double ‘s’?  With a ‘t’?  No, now I know because I have your statement.

Spokesperson:  Okay. We had a question here.

Question:  Yes, the Secretary-General expects what he calls a “robust agreement” coming out of Copenhagen on climate change.  And he indicates that it will be effective immediately.  Since it is not under a treaty form, how would it come into effect immediately?

Spokesperson:  There are a couple of aspects here.  You’re right, the Secretary-General sees this in two parts:  there would be a politically binding, if you like, a political agreement that would be reached by the leaders.  That’s what everyone is pushing for right now in Copenhagen.  That’s what these negotiations are all about.  And then following on, six months down the track, potentially or as long as it takes, but that’s what the Secretary-General would like to see within six or seven months to have a legally binding deal, treaty.  The two are not mutually exclusive.  One is following up and making the political commitments that are entered into in Copenhagen fully legally binding and often in domestic contexts where there are requirements for that. So, any decisions that are taken in this political agreement, for many of them, it will be possible to implement them.  For example, to start working on this fund, should that be agreed, the $10 billion, should that be agreed work could start on that very quickly.  And that’s certainly the aim.

Question:  And my second question.  You indicated that the Secretary-General is proposing some kind of arrangement to resolve the problem with Ms. Haidar.  Can you be more specific on that?

Spokesperson:  I can’t.  Obviously, I’m not going to go into the details of what steps he’s proposing.  But, I know that he is extremely concerned about Ms. Haidar’s health and that’s why he’s spoken on the telephone today with Minister Moratinos of Spain, and he will be seeing the Moroccan Foreign Minister tomorrow.  The details, I don’t really want to get into at this point.  He’s really working very hard to try to resolve this.  Further questions?

Okay.  John Holmes will be here at 12.30 p.m.

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