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

9 March 2010

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

9 March 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.


Good afternoon everybody, and welcome to the noon briefing.


**Guest at Noon Briefing


As I’m sure you have all seen this morning, a memorial ceremony was held for the 101 UN staff members who lost their lives in the Haiti earthquake, and as you also know, the Secretary-General spoke at that ceremony.


We have copies of his remarks available in my office, and we also have here as our guest today the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti, Edmond Mulet, to speak with us on developments on the ground.  And I’d also like to recognize Michèle Montas, my predecessor, as you well know, who is sitting, I think probably gratefully, in the front row rather than here.  But welcome to you too. 


And the floor is yours, Edmond.


Acting Special Representative:  Thank you, Martin.  Thank you very much, and good afternoon to all.


[Mr. Mulet’s briefing on Haiti issued separately]


**Secretary-General’s Travels


So just to carry on with the rest of the briefing, in response to questions I have been getting on the Secretary-General's travels, in addition to what he told you at the stakeout yesterday, I can now confirm that the Secretary-General is expected to visit Israel, the West Bank and Gaza following his attendance at the Quartet meeting scheduled on 19 March in Moscow.  And we will get back to you with more details when we have them.


**Secretary-General’s Appointment – Afghanistan


The Secretary-General has appointed Martin Kobler of Germany as his Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan.  Mr. Kobler will be responsible for political issues, including electoral and parliamentary matters, as well as issues related to peace and stability, security sector reform and human rights.  He replaces Peter Galbraith of the United States. 


With more than 25 years in the foreign service, Mr. Kobler has a vast experience in developing policies for conflict areas.  And he most recently served as Director-General for Culture and Communication in Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  We have more information on Mr. Kobler in my office.


**Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


Just a heads up on an event tomorrow.  At noon, the Secretary-General will meet with Rajendra Pachauri, the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  The start of this meeting will be recorded by UN Television.  And then, at around 12:30, Rajendra Pachauri and Robbert Dijkgraaf of the Inter Academy Council (IAC) will be here to brief you.


**United Nations Population Fund


The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has just announced that its annual Award will go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The Award is given annually to individuals and institutions for outstanding work in population and in improving the health of individuals.  The Awards are scheduled to be presented during a ceremony on 3 June at the United Nations.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


A couple of press conferences: at 12 p.m., in addition to the one I mentioned about the IPCC, at 12 p.m. tomorrow, Filippo Grandi, the newly appointed Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), will be our guest at the noon briefing.  And at 2 p.m., Marcela Villarreal, the Director of the FAO Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division, will hold a press conference about supporting women to respond to the challenges of food security.


So I’m happy to take a few questions. 


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I have three questions, but I’ll break them up if you want.  I wanted to ask first about the Congo and MONUC [United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo].  There is an interview with Zimurinda, the noted warlord accused of war crimes by Philip Alston, in which he says that the UN continued to provide him and his units assistance into January 2010, that is after the Alston report, after Mr. Doss said it was no longer taking place.  And he, one of his associates, Dieudonne, says that that assistance continues to come, and thank you very much to the UN.  So I am wondering, given all the statements that have been made about this particular individual, is Zimure… does the UN dispute his statement that he received assistance from the UN into January?  And if it doesn’t, how do you, how does the UN, explain the various statements that were made?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, I assume that you are referring to the Washington Post’s story, which is not just an interview, it’s quite a wide-ranging piece.  It’s not just an interview.  Well, first of all, MONUC reiterates that it is not providing support to Zimurinda or any units under his command.  And to come to the second point that you were raising, MONUC rations or other support may have reached units in Zimurinda’s sector during Kimya 2 and in January, contrary to MONUC’s intent.  No direct MONUC support was provided to him or his unit. 


Let me explain how this works.  When Kimya 2 was running, MONUC was providing, as I have mentioned to you before in connection with this present operation, providing dry rations, fuel and medevac, for example.  But most important of these was the food, the dry rations.  And when you had that operation running, Kimya 2 running, those supplies were being taken to distribution points; about 80 distribution points from which the FARDC, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, distributed further.  So, MONUC brought the food supplies to these distribution points, and then from there it was further distributed.  That process was going on up to the end of Kimya 2, and it continued for a couple of weeks into January. 


The reason for that is that you cannot just turn the tap off.  MONUC was not continuing to provide supplies into the system.  There were already material supplies in the system, for example, at these distribution points.  And from these distribution points, it’s being delivered out further by the FARDC.  And clearly, MONUC is not controlling that closely.  It cannot be monitoring every individual supply that goes out of those 80 distribution points.  So that’s very important, to understand the mechanics of it.  And just to reiterate, no direct MONUC support was provided to him or to his units.  What this Washington Post article does, it gives the inaccurate impression that Kimya 2 rations in the pipeline in January were directed to Zimurinda.  This is not the case.


Question:  It also says that even from Amani Leo, the preliminary list of units to be assisted includes two under Zimurinda’s control.  So is the UN disputing that?


Spokesperson:  Zimurinda is ineligible for support and MONUC has made that clear to the FARDC commanders, and it’s made clear which units, which commanders the Mission can support, and which ones it cannot support.


Question:  Alain Le Roy, when he was here, I guess on Friday at the stakeout, was asked and seemed to indicate he would look into whether the 18 or 19 battalions that will be assisted by the UN in Amani Leo can be named so that this type of unclarity is… obviously, there is some dispute about which units Zimurinda controls.  The Washington Post thinks two of them, the UN says they don’t.  So, the question is, what are the units the UN is supporting?


Spokesperson:  You asked Mr. Le Roy, and I am sure he will get you the answer in due course.  As you know, today he’s had some other things on his mind.  As I said, it’s up to the FARDC to distribute from those distribution points.  That’s the first thing, and there are about 80 of these distribution points around the Kivus, where Kimya 2 was taking place.  And also, Zimurinda is a sector commander; that means he has a number of different battalions or contingents under his command.  It’s not just one battalion, but a number, and that’s why you cannot narrow it down to a specific unit.  From our perspective, we were providing the supplies, as MONUC does, to these distribution points, 80 distribution points.  And from there that’s were it was going further.  But no direct MONUC support was provided to him or to his units.  And importantly, MONUC is not providing support to Zimurinda or any unit under his command. 


Question:  My question is about the Secretary-General’s trip to Israel, and what is the purpose of his trip?  And could you specify the date of his visit to Israel, West Bank and Gaza? 


Spokesperson:  To answer the second question first, no, I can’t.  We’ll give you the dates when we can.  I’ve told you what I am able to tell you at the moment, and gone beyond what the Secretary-General told you at the stakeout yesterday.  That is that he will be visiting Israel, West Bank and Gaza immediately after the Quartet meeting, as you know, which is on 19 March in Moscow.  After that we will give you the dates and information when we have it.  This is something that’s still in the works. 


Question:  I have two questions.  First of all, Mr. Mulet just informed us that it is very possible that either President [René] Préval or the Prime Minister from Haiti will be here.  Do we expect anyone from other Governments or Heads of State, perhaps Secretary [Hillary] Clinton or anyone else to be present at the donors’ conference?


Spokesperson:  This is an event that is co-hosted by the United Nations and the United States, so I think it would be good for you to check with the United States State Department at what level they intend to be represented at that donors’ conference.


Question:  Also, my other question is there is, an unofficial Asian news source, Chinese Phoenix News, and they’ve reported that China has officially signed the Copenhagen climate accord.  Does the UN have any comment on that?


Spokesperson:  China today did officially inform the UN Climate Change Secretariat that it agrees to be listed under the title of the Copenhagen Accord.  And this follows a letter yesterday from India that it could also be listed.  And so that brings the number of parties to the Climate Change Convention listed under the title, the Accord, to 107. 


Question:  Two quick questions on the ceremony this morning.  At the front of the Trusteeship Council Chamber there was an array of candles.  Can you just confirm there were 101 candles representing the 101 people who lost their lives in Haiti?


Spokesperson:  That was the intention.


Question:  Second question is, during the Secretary-General’s comments, he’s referring to the 101 people that lost their lives in Haiti, and he says, “They came to Haiti from all corners of the world, from all walks of life.”  But, according to Mr. Mulet, there were 37 Haitians that died in the tragedy.  I mean, they didn’t come from any corner of the world, they came from Haiti.  Is this like a mistake in the Secretary-General’s speech, or does it implicitly indicate a sort of prioritizing of international staff over national staff?


Spokesperson:  That is absolutely not the case, and I think it’s really unfair for you to say it on a day like this, to bring that up.  In fact, if you read the speech carefully, if you’d listened to the speech carefully, he did actually say that it doesn’t matter whether people came to Haiti or were from Haiti.  He actually said that in his speech. 


Correspondent:  I must have been given a different version from the UN, but I have got it in front of me.


Spokesperson:  Read the entire speech.  You have to see these things in their context.  There is absolutely no intention to draw a distinction between any of our colleagues who died on that day, and I think you know that very well.


Question:  I have a Darfur question but there is a UN corruption question I want to ask first.  Umoja, which is the ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning, Inner-city Press received these documents that seemed to, that indicate that the head of the programme, Mr. Paul van Essche, hired a colleague or friend of his, John Solem, who doctored his PHP, Personal History, to delete all references to Mr. van Essche having been previously his supervisor.  These are documents.  What I want to know is whether you can confirm that OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] was informed of this, if there is an investigation of this and when it will be finished, and what the penalties are in the UN system for altering documents in order to be able to hire friends and cronies?


Spokesperson:  Let me find out.


Question:  Now there is a new question in which the spokesman for the Sudanese army has chided or criticised UNAMID [the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] saying that they were, that in the course of being ambushed they ended up losing, the Government says to the SLA [Sudan Liberation Army] seven Landcruisers, 53 AK-47s and 10 communications devices.  And the Sudanese Government says this took place without a fight.  Sixty-one UNAMID peacekeepers essentially gave this materiel to rebels.  Is that true, and if so, why hasn’t the UN spoken about an incident in which this amount of materiel was lost?


Spokesperson:  I think, as you know, UNAMID issued a press release at the weekend strongly condemning what was an unprovoked attack on peacekeepers.  Let me walk you through what happened, if you would like me to.  On 5 March, an assessment investigation patrol departed from Deribat, Jebel Marra, to verify reports of recent fighting in the area.  And then at around 14:45 near an abandoned village of Karra, which is approximately 50 kilometres north-east of Kass, the patrol stopped at the sound of gunshots.  The patrol was then halted by an armed group claiming to be the Abdul Wahid faction of the SLA.  And the patrol witnessed a substantial group of rebels who were heavily armed with rocket-propelled grenades, with grenades, mortars and AK-47 rifles.  The rebels demanded the UNAMID team to disarm.  And as the negotiations between the UNAMID patrol and the rebel group continued, the rebel group grew in size, with four vehicles equipped with machine guns and anti-tank guns.  And communication between the patrol and UNAMID was lost.  And then at around 21:00, several hours later, the patrol members were released, but their weapons and all of the soft-skin vehicles and the communication equipment, radios, were withheld by the rebels.  And UNAMID is clearly trying to negotiate their recovery.  The patrol members returned to the UNAMID Kass team site the following day. 


Actually, it was 63, with two military observers, four police advisers, 56 protection force personnel, and one language assistant.  And as I said, they were on an investigation patrol, responding to reports of fighting, and that was their role to go out and do that.  And obviously, we’re also calling on the Government of Sudan to do all that it can to ensure the safety and security of UN personnel when they’re carrying out missions of this kind.


Question:  The Government of Sudan says they suggested this one route, and that UNAMID took a different route.  Is there any, is that the case?


Spokesperson:  I don’t know the answer to that.  I’ll need to find out.


Question:  The Government claims that they now control the Jebel Marra plateau.  If true, it would seem to be a major development following this peace agreement announcement that was made.  Can the UN confirm the Government re-taking control of the Jebel Marra plateau?


Question:  Has the Secretary-General made any comments about the terrorist attack on Pakistan yesterday in Lahore?


Spokesperson: No, he has not.  But as you also know, he has condemned in the past, and will continue to condemn, terrorist attacks.


Question:  But recently, since the withdrawal of WFP [the World Food Programme] and all that, the United Nations and the Secretary-General [are] more reticent to say anything about the terrorist attacks in Pakistan any more.  Is there a particular reason?


Spokesperson:  I would actually question your analysis.  This is not the case, and certainly it’s not the case that WFP and other UN agencies have withdrawn.  They continue to do work there.


Question:  Can you also verify reports that the United Nations has asked for the biggest space in the most secure compound in Islamabad, but it is not getting that space now?


Spokesperson:  I think you know what my answer will be to that.  We don’t talk about security arrangements.


Correspondent:  I have been here a long time.  In the past, every time anything used to happen, the Secretary-General used to respond.  Now, only what you say is that is what the Secretary-General has said.  [And] that’s it.


Spokesperson:  I fully respect that you’ve been here a long time and I know I’ve only been here a little.  But let’s be clear about it.  There are many things happening around the world, and the Secretary-General is trying, with the help of his advisers, to stay on top of developments around the world.  And he does this incredibly well.  Whether he responds to every single development everywhere in the world is obviously something that can be discussed further.  As I said to you, he has condemned terrorist attacks in Pakistan and elsewhere, and I am sure that he condemns this one too.


Thank you very much.


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