|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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon on another snowy New York day.
**Press Conferences and Stakeouts
Just to flag for you, Ad Melkert [the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq], who is briefing the Security Council on Iraq, will now be going to the Security Council stakeout following consultations. We’ll let you know as soon as he is heading that way. I have asked for us to get briefed about that here. At 2 p.m., as we mentioned to you over the weekend, B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, will be here to brief you on his just concluded trip to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. That is 2 o’clock, here.
As I mentioned, Ad Melkert did brief the Council members today on Iraq. He discussed the de-Baathification process, and said that the UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) has consistently emphasized the due-process requirements and refrained from judging the outcomes. What eventually will matter most, he said, is the acceptance by the Iraqi people of the election result.
He also detailed the UN’s support for the elections. We have his remarks in the Spokesperson’s Office. And a statement by the Security Council President on Iraq is also expected. The Security Council also intends, following its consultations on Iraq, to adopt a presidential statement on Guinea, we are told.
** Côte d’Ivoire
For those who may have missed last evening, we did issue a statement in the name of the Spokesperson on Côte d’Ivoire. In it, the Secretary-General said that he and his Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire and the Head of the UN operation there are closely following the evolution of the situation in that country and keeps consulting with stakeholders after the public announcement, made on Friday by President [Laurent] Gbagbo to the Ivorian people, that the Government and the Independent Electoral Commission have been dissolved “to allow Côte d’Ivoire to go forward with trust to clean elections”.
The Secretary-General urges the Ivorian people to remain calm and avoid resorting to any action that could cause renewed violence. He also calls on the Ivorian political leaders and other national stakeholders to exercise restraint, avoid measures that could return the country to instability and resolve the current challenges related to the already repeatedly delayed elections through dialogue, within the framework of the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement.
And that statement was also issued this morning in French.
And in Côte d’Ivoire, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Choi Young-Jin, met with Prime Minister Guillaume Soro. Speaking to journalists after that meeting, Choi stressed the need to preserve the achievements made in the electoral process “during this delicate and sensitive moment”. He added that these achievements included the provisional electoral list. He said that a final electoral list must be established as soon as possible.
UNAMID, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, is calling on all parties to exercise maximum restraint following recent clashes in South Darfur and West Darfur. The violence over the past few days has left many people dead and caused thousands to flee their homes. The Joint Special Representative there, Ibrahim Gambari, warns that such confrontations may negatively affect the ongoing peace process. There is a press release on that upstairs.
There is also a press release from the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, who has expressed grave concern at the high casualty number among civilians and the massive displacement of Mogadishu residents amid fighting between Government troops and insurgents.
The United Nations and the humanitarian community call for respect for humanitarian personnel and humanitarian aid as increasing numbers of displaced people arrive in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan. There is a press release on this as well.
In Haiti, an emergency feeding programme is being launched by the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, infants and children under 5 years old who are living in makeshift shelters across Port-au-Prince will receive high-energy food supplements. With this programme, United Nations agencies hope to reach more than 16,000 women and 53,000 children within the next three weeks.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme says it will work to provide a fuller food basket to people in the greater Port-au-Prince area, following its distribution of two-week rice rations through its systematic distribution system. Outside the capital, WFP says it has reached more than half a million people with food assistance since the earthquake struck. The agency continues to scale up those distributions. The United Nations in Haiti says that, increasingly, aid efforts are looking beyond Port-au-Prince and that it is assessing how more assistance can be provided to those who have moved out of the affected areas.
Finally, two more things to flag for you on Haiti:
The Secretary-General together with his Special Envoy for Haiti, Bill Clinton, and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, will launch a revised flash appeal for Haiti, this Thursday. And that will be at 3 p.m.
And a memorial service in honour of UN staff who died in the earthquake will take place on Tuesday, 9 March, at 4 p.m. in the General Assembly Hall.
We will provide you with more details on both of these events as soon as they are available.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
For your planning purposes: at 11 a.m., the Permanent Representative of Chad [Ahmad Allam-mi] will be here to speak about the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT). Then at 4:30 p.m., the President of Guatemala, Mr. Alvaro Colom, will be here to speak to you about achievements and prospects of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala.
That is what I have for you. As I mentioned, Ad Melkert will be at the Security Council stakeout shortly, and we have Lynn Pascoe on the DPRK mission at 2 p.m. Anything for me?
**Questions and Answers
Question: You may have heard that the leadership of the Committee on the Protection of Journalists just issued a strong appeal to the Secretary-General to pronounce himself more strongly on the freedom of expression. [Summary of the Committee’s press conference is issued separately.] Knowing very well that the Secretary-General had done that on many occasions, they still insist on that. What do you think the reaction of the Secretary-General would be?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think I listened to a bit of the press conference, and it is obvious to me that they were thinking about approaching the Secretary-General directly on this. In such a discussion, I think they can discuss how best they would like the Secretary-General to move forward, and I am sure the Secretary-General would listen to their recommendations.
As for the Secretary-General, as you said, he has been very vocal in terms of pushing for freedom of the press and journalists’ rights. He made a very strong statement in the message on the observance of World Press Freedom Day. And I am sure he will continue to do that on that day and other occasions that he has a chance to do so.
Question: The news report that the UNICEF Envoy in Gambia has been expelled, I don’t know whether you have details on what led to his expulsion from Gambia?
Deputy Spokesperson: I looked at the press reports and I checked with UNICEF, as that is the agency that was named in the reports. UNICEF does confirm that their representative has been expelled but that they have no further details on that. So we will have to wait for more information from them. That is all I can get for the time being.
Question: Just shortly, is there any movement towards Matthew Nimetz [the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Greece-former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia talks] leaving for the region? And is the Secretary-General this time, as some new reports are suggesting, expecting from the sides more concessions or compromises, like in the case of, for example, Cyprus.
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing further on that issue today, but I can follow up and see what we have.
Question: Okay, just one more: is there any fear in the United Nations that this issue of the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is becoming sort of frozen stuff that is not moving forward? It is 17 years now…
Deputy Spokesperson: As you know, we do have Mr. Nimetz working actively on this, so unless I hear anything further on that I have nothing further to say other than that the Secretary-General, through Mr. Nimetz, is obviously working continuously on resolving this issue.
Question: On Myanmar and Darfur. On Myanmar: Amnesty International has put out a detailed report on the Government’s basic crackdown on ethnic minorities. I know that the Secretary-General put out a statement on the release of an NLD [National League for Democracy] official, but they are saying that sometimes, what they call the oppression of whole groups of Myanmar is not sufficiently addressed. They have a recommendation saying that the Secretary-General should use his good offices to deal with this issue of ethnic minority groups and religious minorities. I want to know, does he understand? I have heard Mr. Gambari before saying that that is outside of his mandate. What is the good offices of the Secretary-General… does it deal with that issue and does he have any response to the Amnesty International report and who is going to fill the post [inaudible]?
Deputy Spokesperson: On Myanmar, I do have something on that. But before that, I seem to recall that you had a question on Friday that I have an answer on. I just looked at you and remembered you had a question. I know what it was. I think you asked why there was an Assistant Secretary-General at the Compact-signing ceremony on Friday. Actually, there were two Assistant Secretaries-General at that ceremony, both of whom do not have Under-Secretaries-General to whom they report. That is why they were represented at the Assistant Secretary-General level, and that is the answer on that.
For the report on the fresh attacks on the Karen, the Secretary-General is aware of the latest reports. He remains especially concerned in regard to the fate of innocent civilians, and underscores the obligations of all concerned in this regard. And as he has said repeatedly, including publicly in Myanmar, he calls for an immediate cessation of any hostilities, and urges all concerned to work towards a peaceful resolution.
Question: About the Compact: Martin was going to look into it and give a response on why the Compacts are not being made available on the Internet to the public at large.
Deputy Spokesperson: Because it’s a Compact between the Secretary-General and his senior officials to the staff and, therefore, it is available to the staff to see on the Internet.
Question: Are the beneficiaries of the Compact the staff, or “We the people” at large?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing beyond that.
Question: We happened to have had a briefing recently on the conditions in Gaza. I have heard about the electoral plans, that they are in real trouble. I wondered if you have anything on that? And I also wondered about the Goldstone Report. I know that there have been meetings with the Secretary-General. Is there any information on when this is taken up again?
Deputy Spokesperson: Today, I don’t have any further updates from Gaza. If there are, we will send them to you later. On the Goldstone Report, we await Jean Victor Nkolo, the General Assembly Spokesperson, to tell us what the next…
Question: Do you have a readout of the George Mitchell meeting with the Secretary-General a few days ago?
Deputy Spokesperson: We did and if you can follow up in our office, it is right there for you. Okay? No other questions? Last one.
Question: You indicated that the Special Representative has met the Prime Minister in Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. Soro. What time did they meet? Because the Government was supposed to be set up at 4 o’clock local time this afternoon. Has this been the case? Has the Government been established, to your knowledge?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t know what time. I believe this was yesterday, however. Okay?
Question: A question on Darfur. It was reported that Mr. [Djibril] Bassolé, the Joint AU-UN Mediator, has written to Ban Ki-moon saying he wants to resign. Can you confirm that?
Deputy Spokesperson: No, I cannot.
Question: And also that he is going to Australia at the end of August. Is that something you can confirm?
Deputy Spokesperson: We have no travel announcements that far ahead.
Question: [inaudible] the Western Sahara says he will go to the region to [inaudible]. I was wondering, do you have any update on that?
Deputy Spokesperson: We can follow up. I don’t have a date for you right now.
All right? So, Ad Melkert at the stakeout and we will see you back at 2 o’clock for Lynn Pascoe. Have a good afternoon.
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