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

21 December 2009

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

21 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.

Welcome everybody to the noon briefing.  We’re doing it slightly differently today because we’re very lucky to have Bob Orr here, who is the head of Strategic Planning for the Secretary-General, and Janos Pasztor, who as you also know is Head of the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team.  They were both with the Secretary-General throughout in Copenhagen, and obviously intimately involved in the run up to the conference. And so, I think it’s a great opportunity for them to tell you a little bit about how it went, and to take your questions.

And I’ll be available when they finish for any other questions you might have on non-Copenhagen matters.

So, over to you.

[Briefing by Bob Orr and Janos Pasztor issued separately.]

**Capital Master Plan Update

Anything but Copenhagen! [laughter]  No there are no statements.  We will be putting out the highlights that will include a lot of material that I think I would otherwise have read out.  But I think given that the main focus was to have two real experts here for you to quiz, I think that’s much more useful today.  But one update, and that is: The Capital Master Plan office has informed us that the cameras that had been placed on the second floor and the media swing space area were removed over the weekend.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Why were they removed?

Spokesperson:  Why?  Because of concerns amongst journalists and people, once they realized…  First, let’s roll back a bit.  These cameras were in place during this period of maintenance and the renovation of the building.  When the journalists moved in, it became apparent that the cameras were not appropriately located, they were obtrusive.  And therefore the decision was taken to take them away.  And that’s what’s happened.

Question:  Is that area still under surveillance in any way, our area?

Spokesperson:  The cameras have been moved so that they’re not obtrusive to you.

Question:  So they’re still there?

Spokesperson:  The cameras have been moved so that they’re not obtrusive to you.  You can take a look and see.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  And then tell us what you think.  But they have been moved at the request of people who felt that they were not appropriately located.  People have listened and have taken some action.

Question:  I’m not sure where they were in the first place, but if somebody walks out of here, will the cameras see?

Spokesperson:  Out of this room?

Question:  Yes, out of the hallway over here.

Spokesperson:  Look, I don’t know the location of every camera.  Guys, maybe we’ll walk around and take a look.  I don’t know the location of every camera.

The cameras that are located near doors are there for that purpose, to look at specific doors, not every door, but specific doors that are located strategically.  And the camera does not rotate; it’s fixed in that position.  And it’s a normal security procedure anywhere.  You will see that in the bank, you will see that in other locations too, of course, in hotels.  These are not rotating cameras.  Yes.

Question:  I wanted to ask a question; the Syrians delivered a speech in the Fifth Committee on [Thursday], I think, and he called for the removal of Mr. [Terje Roed-]Larsen, who is the Special Envoy for the implementation of [resolution] 1559, and they said that he writes his reports without ever visiting Lebanon at all, and he only visits Israel.  Does the SG have any reaction to that request, particularly from the Syrians?

Spokesperson:  You mentioned this to me, I have asked about it.  I don’t have anything for you on that. 

Question:  So, I mean, like…

Spokesperson:  As I said, I don’t have anything for you on that.  I’ll try to see if I could get something.  But, at the moment, I don’t have anything.

Question:  At least can you confirm that Mr. Larsen has never been to Lebanon throughout this year, nevertheless he provided the two reports…?

Spokesperson:  I’m not familiar with his travel plans throughout the year.  I can check.

[The Spokesperson later said that, according to his office, Mr. Roed-Larsen consults regularly with Lebanese and all other relevant Arab interlocutors in the region and all States relevant to the implementation of resolution 1559.  At the moment, Syria had refused to be part of these consultations.]

Question:  Martin, do you have any response to these reports in the Israeli press, quoting some Knesset member also, that Palestinian human bodies were harvested for organs?

Spokesperson:  I didn’t hear the first part of your question.

Question:  That Israeli reports, in Israeli newspapers quoting one Knesset member saying that he is aware of a situation where Israelis harvested young Palestinian bodies for organs, so that they could be transplanted in Israel.  Did you read those reports?  And if not, when will the Secretary-General speak to the Israeli authorities about it?

Spokesperson:  First of all, I’m not familiar with the report, so I need to read them first and then we can follow up on it.

Question:  One, first just as a follow-up on Terje Roed-Larsen.  He is, you know, he is an Under-Secretary-General, but he also has another job.  So, I think he’s paid, it’s called “when actually employed”, the number of days he works.  I just wanted to supplement Khaled’s question and say, given what Mr. Orr has just said about transparency and the highest ethical and transparent standards, if we can just get how many days he was paid for this 1559 mandate, as well as knowing whether he went to Lebanon or not?  Just how much and how many days? 

And then I also wanted to ask, just at the stakeout earlier today, the Iraqi ambassador said that the post that Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari has been carrying our for Iraq for the UN is now no longer needed, and that’s why Mr. Gambari was given a new job in Darfur, according to him.  Is that the case?  Is the UN not going to replace Mr. Gambari on the Iraq role?  Is that a role that’s now withered?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, the Iraqi ambassador speaks for himself.  I need to follow up.  To my knowledge, the Secretary-General is looking at a replacement.  But let me check.

Question:  Can you please find out if the UN has asked the Government of Sri Lanka to look into allegations of extrajudicial killings and the details of that request?

Spokesperson:  I’m not aware of whether that’s taken place.  I’ve seen reports, let’s look into it.  I’m not aware that any specific action along the lines you’ve mentioned has taken place.

Question:  Martin, could you tell us who the extra two parties are that are in the climate talks?  There are 192 UN Member States and they end up with 194.

Spokesperson:  Yes, I think one of them is called -- I think it’s the Cook Islands, and there is one other island as well.  So, quite small islands that are not… Niue, I think.  But we can check.  As far as I know it’s two small islands or groups of islands that are not in the United Nations.

Question:  I guess it’s a follow-up to Lucy’s questions, because it came up last week, this idea of Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar.  I think that the request made by the UN is by Special Rapporteur Philip Alston to the Sri Lankan Government to talk about this killing of people that were surrendering.  But, at the time, and John Holmes has confirmed that Mr. Nambiar communicated with those individuals before they came out with the white flag and were killed.  So, I’m wondering, I’ve seen that he’s back here, I’m wondering whether it’s possible to get an answer for what I asked last week from Mr. Nambiar.  What exactly was his role prior to these now UN Special Rapporteur-investigated extrajudicial killings?

Spokesperson:  Just to come back, the previous question I understood it to be some kind of new request.  I didn’t…

Question:  Anyway, it’s a request now by Alston.

Spokesperson:  Right.

Question:  I guess my only thing is to tie onto that.  There is an outstanding request to have the UN Secretariat Chief of Staff clarify what his role was in the events that Mr. Alston is now asking about.  So, I just wanted to try and reiterate… and there is also this question of… I’m sorry, about [Peter] Galbraith that came up last week, and Mr. Nambiar’s quote that he was fired.  I know that you’d said that now nothing can be said because Galbraith has challenged his expulsion.  I’ve heard from Galbraith, who claims that, who states that he began his action against the UN’s firing of him on 10 December, well before Mr. Nambiar was quoted.

Spokesperson:  Well, if I’ve said that I have nothing to say further on the Galbraith saga, then I think that’s going to remain the case for the time being.  As regards the other question you asked about Sri Lanka, yes, Mr. Nambiar is back in town.  Let’s see what we can get.

Question:  Is Mr. Christopher Ross going to brief the Security Council on Western Sahara any time soon upon the request of a number of countries, Costa Rica…?

Spokesperson:  I am not aware of that.  I know that there have been requests, but I am not aware of if or when that might take place.

[The Spokesperson later added that no Security Council consultations on Western Sahara are scheduled at present.]

Question:  Not any time soon because I assume the Security Council is not meeting any more for…

Spokesperson:  As I said, I am aware that there have been requests, the same as you are, but I haven’t heard of any specific schedule or indeed agreement to do so, mutual agreement to do so.

Question:  Can we get a background briefing as well, as reporters?

Spokesperson:  A briefing on?

Question:  By Mr. Christopher Ross on Western Sahara?

Spokesperson:  Let’s ask him.

Question:  We haven’t had one for almost a year.

Spokesperson:  Let’s ask him.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Any other questions?

Question:  I wanted to ask one, it came up this morning.  The outgoing Permanent Representative of Indonesia, now the Foreign Minister, said that Indonesia is… It’s sort of a complaint on his part that Indonesia contributed a ship to UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] to patrol the waters off Lebanon, but that now there is some dispute about whether the UN will reimburse them for the 23 days it spent bringing the ship to Lebanon and another 23 days that it spent taking it back.  And he said that this is somehow different than what’s done with land-based troops that are under DPKO [Department for Peacekeeping Operations].  Is there some way to know, one whether you know, is it true what… is there a difference in policy between land-based troops and naval contributions?  And what’s DPKO’s thinking in terms of disputing their request for reimbursement for this time?

Spokesperson:  Well, that’s a detailed question, so I will try to get you a detailed answer!  [laughter]  All right, okay.  All right, thank you.

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