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

8 February 2010

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

8 February 2010
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.


Hi there, Kim, it’s Martin.  So, I think we’re ready to start here in New York.  And just for those here in the room; of course, as you can see, we have with us, via video link, Kim Bolduc, who is the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General [for Haiti], and humanitarian coordinator; and Kim also works as the Resident Coordinator and the Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for Haiti.


So, I’m going to hand the floor immediately to you, Kim, for any comments you may have, and then I’ll throw it open to questions.  And then for those here, obviously, at the end, I’m very happy, when Kim has finished, to take any other questions that you might have that are not related to Haiti.  So, Kim, the floor is yours.


[Briefing on Haiti by Kim Bolduc, Deputy Special Representative for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), issued separately.]


**Press Conference Tomorrow


Okay, just a couple of other points for you.  At 12 p.m. tomorrow here, there will be a joint press conference on sexual violence in conflict.  And participating in that press conference will be Asha-Rose Migiro, the Deputy Secretary-General; Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations; and Ms. [Margot] Wallström, who, as you know, is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict.


**Iraq


Ad Melkert, who is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, has strongly condemned the assassination of a female election nominee, Suha Abdullah Jarallah, who was shot dead in Mosul, just before Iraq’s electoral campaign is due to start.  And Melkert said that such incidents cannot be tolerated.  He said that campaign violence in Iraq must not be allowed to intimidate candidates or interfere with the right of every Iraqi to vote.  We have a press release with more information in my office.


**Sudan


And in his farewell speech yesterday in Khartoum, the outgoing Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ashraf Qazi, said that this year will be crucial for Sudan.  He commended the country on recent developments in the electoral process and the implementation of the peace agreement between the north and south.  Qazi acknowledged that many challenges lay ahead, and he warned against a reversal of the recent positive trend. 


And Qazi, as we have already told you, is leaving Sudan for personal and family reasons, and he will be replaced by Haile Menkerios.


**Darfur


Ibrahim Gambari, the Joint Special Representative of the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), is en route to Doha to provide his support to the ongoing Darfur peace talks.  He is expected to meet with Joint Chief Mediator Djibril Bassolé, members of the Qatari Foreign Ministry, senior Sudanese Government officials and rebel officials.  There are also planned discussions that will include Sudanese-Chadian relations as well as regional security.


So, that’s what I have for you, and I can take a few questions.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yes, I was wondering, the same question that Neil asked regarding UN staff in Haiti, if you have any update?  And also if you can tell use how many people died in the Christopher Hotel, and the numbers that you have?  I just want to make sure -- are they international staff or it’s international and local staff?


Spokesperson:  Right.  The latest figures -- and I will check when I get out of this briefing in case there has been any further update in the last few hours.  But the latest figures that I have are 94 confirmed deaths.  That includes four contractors; in other words, not staff members, but people who were working on UN business.  And there are eight people who are unaccounted for, and two of them, likewise, are contractors.  Now, the breakdown of national and international, I will provide later.  But those figures that I have cited are the combined total for international and national staff for the mission for MINUSTAH and for other people working for the broader UN system in Haiti at that time.  [He later said that the deaths included 76 international personnel and 18 national personnel, while unaccounted for personnel included two internationals and six nationals.]


And as to your question about how many people perished in the Christopher Hotel, we’ll try to find that out for you.  That, you cannot read from figures that I have.


Question:  Mine is a little related too, actually.  It’s still on Haiti.  Has the Secretary-General spoken with former President [Bill] Clinton about his visit to Haiti since… Can you update us on what’s happening there?  And I suppose some of us are broadly interested in whether or not the Secretary-General’s discussions about Haiti have touched on the subject of Haitian sovereignty or the possibility of some kind of UN trusteeship over the nation?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, to my knowledge, the Secretary-General has not yet had a debrief from President Clinton.  But I’m sure that that will come.  I know that President Clinton, when he was on the ground, was liaising very closely with our Mission staff, and I am sure that that information is also being fed back.  I would also note that from within the UN system here, from UNDP and from OCHA [the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs], there are people working directly with President Clinton’s team here in New York.  So the information flow is very constant. 


You asked about the role of the Haitian Government.  The Haitian Government is clearly in charge on the ground there.  It is a sovereign country with a sovereign government.  What the Government clearly requires is assistance to coordinate on an international scale the aid that is being received and the longer term prospect of reconstruction and recovery.  And that’s where President Clinton comes in; that’s where United Nations, through UNDP, for example, comes in. I think I’ll leave it there.


Question:  One piece of the question is:  I wonder what the UN is doing about the people who did survive or who have lost people, or are injured.  Is there a programme to be helpful to them and what does it include?  If you can give us a briefing, maybe, on this.  And then another piece of the question is:  I guess I read that the UNDP building basically, most of it didn’t survive the earthquake, but one area collapsed, and the people were recovered who were in that. I wondered if we could hear a little more about the situation in the different places; and if the UN is looking into what the conditions were of its buildings, and will there be an investigation of this to try to understand what lessons can be learned towards having more people survive in the future?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think all of those questions could easily have been put to Kim while she was on the video link; and I didn’t see your hand up at that point.  I did not see your hand up.  So, these are all questions that could directly go to Kim, I think.  And so, I’m not going to answer them now.


Question:  But she also did say that she couldn’t answer one of the questions she was asked about how many people survived and that that was for the Secretary-General, so.


Spokesperson: That’s right, that’s right.  And I’ve just answered because I had the figures and Kim did not have them in front of her.  So, I’ve just answered that question, just about one minute ago.


Question:  I know that the Arab ambassadors met with the Secretary-General, a group of them, at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.  Any read-out on the result of this meeting or what was discussed in it?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have a read-out for you right now, but I can get one.


Question:  [inaudible]


Spokesperson:  Of course.  You know the way to do it.


Question:  [inaudible]


Spokesperson:  You can send it to me, and I will forward it.  By all means.


Question:  Kind of related questions.  In Sri Lanka, the former chief opposition candidate, [Sarath] Fonseka, has now been arrested by the Government.  The Defence Minister has said, he has been quoted as saying, there will be no UN investigation; there is no need for an investigation of the events earlier in the year in the country.  And just finally, it’s also said that the Foreign Minister tried to reach the Secretary-General and it’s reported in the Sri Lankan press that he tried to reach the Secretary-General and was told to speak to Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar, to try to cancel actually the press conference by [Philip] Alston that was held in this room about a month ago.  I’m wondering, just from the last bit, whether Mr. Nambiar is, is either formally or sort of de facto, being put in charge of Sri Lanka policy for the Secretariat.  And I am also wondering whether there is any response to the opposition candidate being arrested given all the things that the Secretary-General said in the run-up to the election?


Spokesperson:  On the second part of your question, to do with the chain of command or the conduit for information, as you well know, DPA, the Department of Political Affairs, has people who look very closely as Sri Lanka and of course, within the Secretary-General’s immediate team, there are also people looking very closely at Sri Lanka.  I’m really not aware of the details of this phone call that you refer to.  I can find out about that. 


On the reported arrest; you know, of course we’re aware of the news reports, just the same as you are.  And we’re looking at this closely.  As we’ve said before, the peaceful conduct of the first post-conflict national election and its aftermath is of the highest importance for long-term peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.  And the Secretary-General has repeatedly appealed to all parties in Sri Lanka and their supporters to show restraint and to adhere to electoral laws and avoid provocative acts, not only in the election period, but also in the post-election stages.  And the Secretary-General reinforces these concerns that he has already expressed.


Question:  Is it fair to say, because the Government has already confirmed the arrest and said what he will be tried for, which is speaking to the press about war crimes, essentially.  So, I’m wondering, I heard all of the various parts where you said -- would the arrest of an opposition figure for having spoken about possible war crimes, go against, breach what the Secretary-General has been calling for there?


Spokesperson:  Well, you heard what I said, Matthew, and I don’t have anything else to add.  We’re aware of the news reports and we’re looking at it very closely.


Question:  On Mr. [B. Lynn] Pascoe’s visit to Korea, can you update us?  Who did he meet recently and who is he going to meet in North Korea?


Spokesperson:  At the weekend, Mr. Pascoe and the rest of his delegation were in Seoul, and they had meetings with officials from the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Korea and with other officials related to those who deal with the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea].  They have travelled on now to Beijing, where they’re also holding similar meetings before travelling from Beijing to Pyongyang, which they will do tomorrow.  I don’t have details yet of whom they’re going to meet.  But clearly, they will be meeting a range of officials to talk about, as we’ve said, a wide range of topics.  They will be staying until the end of the week, and then they return, via Beijing and Seoul and Tokyo.


Question:  So, we won’t hear anything about the progress until the weekend, maybe, or the end of this week?


Spokesperson:  I think that’s right.  As they come back from Pyongyang to Beijing, to Seoul and to Tokyo, they will speak to the media; or rather, Mr. Pascoe will speak to the media in each of those places very briefly, as I understand it.  And then he will, of course, as we’ve said, he will brief you on his return to New York.


Question:  There was a visit today by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to Moscow.  And Russia is also a member of the Quartet, like the United Nations, and I think that the Quartet has a position on those kinds of meetings.  So, I was wondering whether there is a reaction from the United Nations for this meeting between the Hamas leader and the Russians, and whether the United Nations is also considering having such contacts with the Hamas group, to further the peace process?


Spokesperson:  I’m not aware of that meeting, and I’ll have to look into it.  I’m not aware of that meeting.


Question:  The International Criminal Court has ruled that Abu Garda, a rebel leader in Darfur, will not face charges for the killing of peacekeepers in Haskanita in 2007.  At the same time the AU [African Union] is calling for an amendment to the Rome Statute which would allow the General Assembly to put proceedings like that against President [Omar al-]Bashir on hold, rather than only leaving that in the hands of the Security Council.  First, since this was an attack on peacekeepers, a very high profile one, and now the accused will not face charges, is there any response from the UN?  And also, does the Secretary-General -- I don’t know if you will answer that one or not -- but does he think that it is a good idea that the bigger body of the UN, the General Assembly, be given some role in International Criminal Court process, or is it fine to have it just be the 15 members of the Security Council?


Spokesperson:  First of all, as you well know, Matthew, the International Criminal Court is not a UN body.  It is an independent judicial body, and therefore its legal proceedings are not something that the UN has a role in, and neither should we comment on what is due process of law.  And on the second part of your question, the African Union is an organization for itself.  If it makes proposals within its own right, then it’s for the General Assembly to take up if it wishes to do so.  It’s a matter for the Member States to decide, and not for the Secretary-General.


Okay.  All right, thank very much.  Thank you.


* *** *

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